Part Two, Chapter Seven; In the Days Between - Part Two.
This chapter explores Julia’s life in the future. Julia (aka Faith)
has been separated from Claire in their journey thru
the stones and arrives in 2007. A nurse at the hospital she is rushed
to quickly takes responsibility for her, accepting her as her own child. Part Two finds us about two and a half years after Julia arrives in the future.
You can find previous chapters here.
New Years Eve, 2010; Boston, Massachusetts.
Nurse Katie Campbell
I hated parties like this. The only people I knew were the host and hostess, my cousin Michael and his wife Tiffany, and their immediate family. They were all occupied with their hosting roles, leaving me to float aimlessly from room to room in search of meaningful conversation.
Sitting in the corner of a plush sofa in the family room, I absently listened to the coverage of the ball drop events in New York City. All of the children had congregated here too, leaving me in ample company, albeit noisy. Julia adored her older cousins and had no interest in me. I could have left the state all together and I don’t think she would have cared, as long as I was back by bedtime.
The countdown clock read two hours to midnight. If I just stayed here and hid among the children, would anyone notice? A tall, dark haired man sat down on the other end of the couch and I mentally sighed. I’d have to find a new spot soon.
“You look like you’re having about as much fun as I am.” He commented. I turned and found him looking extraordinarily bored.
I cocked an eyebrow and raised my glass of wine, “I don’t know what you mean, I’m having the time of my life.”
A huge grin spread across his face, making me realize with a start just how handsome he was. There were worse people to crash my hideout.
“So, how do you know Michael and Tiffany?” Came the standard, safe question.
“He’s my cousin,” I answered for the fiftieth time tonight, “his father is my uncle.”
Recognition lit his face, “Ah, so you’re Katie.”
“And you would be?” I asked pointedly over the rim of my wine glass.
“Luke Murray, sorry.” He had the good grace to look a little embarrassed. “My son Max and I live across the street. Michael’s talked quite a bit about you.”
Ah, yes. The neighbor Tiffany tries to hook me up with every time we visit. According to her, we were perfect for each other.
I responded dryly, “And Tiffany about you.”
He laughed, a deep, resonant sound that sent an electrical current up my spine.
So what if he’s attractive, Catherine Anne. He also has a kid and lives on a completely different continent. Ignore it.
“It seems they’ve been conspiring against us.” He commented.
“I would have used the word matchmaking, but conspiring works too.”
He grinned unabashedly, “You’re not quite what I imagined you’d be.”
I snorted, “Neither are you.”
Somehow I had always imagined an overweight, balding man in his forties, despite Tif’s gushing descriptions. Luke Murray was about as far from out of shape as a person could be. He wore a loose fitting shirt, but I could tell he hid abs of steel beneath. The jeans he wore could hide many a fault, but I would bet my life his calves would rival Hercules himself.
No chance, no way. Get a grip.
Julia ran past me squealing with glee as Jake, Michael’s middle child, chased her around the couch. She launched herself into Luke’s lap shouting, “Save me from the dragon, Prince Charming!”
Luke didn’t even flinch, but hoisted her over his shoulder as he stood and charged after the fire breathing beast. He skillfully set Julia down and tacked Jake in one fell swoop. The eight year old boy erupted into a fit of giggles as Luke tickled him.
“Let the princess go or I'll… I’ll…” he punted. Then, seized with an idea, held the squirming child upside down and shook him gently, looking very much like someone trying to empty a piggy bank of its coins. “Or I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll tickle you until you cry for mercy!”
Jake quickly surrendered, and he and Julia scurried off to join whatever game the other children were playing.
“Mike said you had a daughter, right?” Luke asked with a huge grin, and I found myself grinning right back as I nodded.
“She would be the fair maiden you just rescued,” I laughed.
His eyes grew wide with astonishment, “That adorable sweetheart is yours? She told me earlier that I was her Prince Charming because my shirt matched her eyes. Oh, and that she had extra shoes packed in case she loses one at the party tonight.”
“You should be flattered, she doesn’t pass that title out to just anybody,” I felt my cheeks grow warm. Prince Charming, indeed.
“I’m deeply flattered,” he assured me, placing a hand over his heart in over dramatic sincerity. “I’m just glad I’m not the one who has to tell her she can’t have a pony for Christmas.”
I laughed, thinking of the spoiled creature who lived at my brother’s house. “She already has one.”
“Hello again,” Luke said as he stepped into the doorway beside me.
I smiled in greeting. We had gone our separate ways to attend to our respective children in the last hour, but somehow both wound up back in the media room. “Still here?” I asked.
He groaned, rolling his eyes. “Max is a night owl and having the time of his life. Me, on the other hand…”
“I found Julia sound asleep in the corner of the laundry room with the dog.” I commented, shaking my head at the memory.
“Smart girl,” he chuckled.
She certainly had the right idea in disappearing. If our bed hadn’t been used as the coat depository, I would have vanished with her in tow long ago, claiming it was her bedtime. She may have protested, but, as she was the youngest child still in attendance, I didn’t think anyone would have thought much of it.
“Five minutes!” someone shouted drunkenly.
I sighed, “At least it’s almost midnight.”
The crowd in the media room was thick and Luke moved to let someone exit the room, looking after them in envy of their departure. “Can I get you a refill?”
“Yes, please,” I answered, all but shoving my glass into his hand.
Maybe it was the wine or maybe it was the festive, holiday spirit, but the close proximity of a certain Luke Murray was doing strange things to my adrenaline levels. He stood beside me, leaning against the back wall of the room as we watched the final minutes of 2010 tick by. I was hypersensitive to the brush of his sleeve against my arm, the smell of his cologne, his nonverbal reactions to the people around us.
He tipped his head in my direction, commenting, “You know, it’s good luck to kiss a redhead on the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.”
“You’re making that up,” I replied as my heart thundered violently in my chest.
He chuckled, “Maybe the redheaded part, but not the rest.”
I frantically tried to think of something witty to say, but before I could, the tv announced that it was ten seconds until midnight and the room around us got considerably louder.
Luke leaned closer and his breath tickled my ear as he asked, “May I?”
Nine, eight, seven…
I looked at him, breath catching in my throat. His face was wonderfully near mine, his eyes asking in such a way that I nodded without really realizing I had until his face drew closer still.
Six, five, four…
Slipping my arm between him and the wall, my hand rested in the curve of his lower back. Luke responded in kind and drew my body to his. He was wonderfully solid, his unwavering strength and concentration supported me in a way I’d never felt before.
Christmas Morning, 2013; Boston, Massachusetts
“Mooooooom, Max won’t share his candy!” Julia’s voice floated up the stairs.
“It’s not my fault you ate all of yours already!” The teenager responded, followed by loud footfalls in the living room below as Max presumably evaded his stepsister’s reach.
Luke groaned, pulling me closer. His words were jumbled and run together with sleep. “‘Mnotreadyforthis.”
Another volley sounded between the siblings and I grinned when Julia switched to Gaelic. I could hear them clatter up the stairs and braced myself for impact.
“Yeah, well, same to you!” Max shouted as the door to our bedroom flew open and Julia launched herself onto the bed. She scrambled over Luke to my side, scurrying under the blankets.
“Your hands are freezing!” I protested as she latched herself onto me.
The bed shifted again, less violently this time, as Max climbed aboard and began to poke her from the relative safety of the other side of the bed. Julia reared up, flinging the blankets off and sending an even colder blast of air into my warm cocoon. She lunged towards him and put just enough pressure on my abdomen to make the babe within me turn somersaults in complaint.
“Oof,” I groaned.
Julia froze, looking down at me in concern. “Did I hurt the baby?”
“No,” I answered, “but he isn’t overly pleased with being tackled this early in the morning.”
“Neither am I,” Luke said gruffly, peeking out of one eye.
“She!” Julia insisted, then patted my growing bump. “Sorry.”
Max grinned sheepishly but made no move to leave, echoing, “Sorry.”
“Go back down stairs and we’ll be there in a minute,” I pushed the eight and a half year old bulk off of me. They did so without complaint, leaving us alone once again.
I rolled onto my side and pressed myself against my husband, melting into him as he curved himself around me. His hands instinctively gravitated towards his child, whispering “Merry Christmas” to the both of us.