She’s glad that this trip takes place in the middle of the night; or at least begins there. She has felt it coming all day. It’s a kind of nervous energy that makes her leg twitch and drives Myka to spend hours practicing her fencing footwork. Back and forth she moves, across the narrow space between the bookstore and the building next to it. She doesn’t even have her foil, no need for it. She is a bundle of energy that cannot be tamed and she’s struggling to keep herself anchored in the here and the now.
She has to move, has to do something. Her body will start to fade and then she’ll be gone if she doesn’t. Her father thought that fencing might tire her out some, slow the process to a simple crawl, but Myka’s moving back and forth in time more and more now. Her father hits her when she disappears at times that are inopportune (like she can control them), and when she reappears, naked and alone and has to sneak back to the house. He hates that she isn’t normal.
The words are on her lips when her mother comes in to turn off the bedroom light at ten o’clock. Myka is putting away The Fellowship of the Ring when she catches her mother staring at her. She’s not fully there, she realizes, and turns sad eyes towards the woman who never stops her father.
Myka sometimes wonders if her mother loves her. Or if the sickness that Myka has has made her so impossible to love that she’s going to be alone forever.
There’s always the woman in her future. The one with the sad brown eyes and the loving smile. The one who always hugs Myka a little too close and tells her the most amazing stories when she finds herself lost in time. Myka wants her mother to be more like that, instead of simply ignoring Myka in favor of Tracy.
Tracy is the favorite. Always has been, since the day she was born and Myka ended up in the room full of statues.
She doesn’t say anything to her mother about how this one is going to be a bad one. She’s learned to recognize the signs now. She’s nine, she can handle it herself.
Her stomach aches and when she curls in bed, her head swimming, Myka is grateful that she’s able to at least pretend to be normal. She’s just sick, for a fleeting moment.
It happens as she blinks her eyes, lashes fluttering shut before they snap open again and she’s so cold and she hates this so much.
It’s daytime when she is and she shivers despite herself. The day is warm, but her clothes are gone and she’s outside. Myka gulps, like she sees the kids in the movies do, and looks around herself. It has to be an alleyway. They have one next to the bookstore where Myka likes to play play pirates and practice her fencing. This one is wider, there are doors and people walking by. No one glances at her and she realizes that it’s because there’s a hand pulling her behind a heap of garbage. She wants to scream, but the shout dies in her throat. There are tight and serious fingers - small fingers, a girl her own age - that are drawing her into the shadows where she cannot be seen.
The girl stares at her with dark eyes that almost remind Myka of the woman from the future, despite the fact that she knows that this is the past. “Why are you naked?” the girl demands, pulling off her jacket and throwing it at Myka. She speaks with an accent that Myka has only ever heard on television, and her dress indicates that Myka has ventured far outside of her current lifespan. She looks like someone out of masterpiece theatre, and Myka is grateful that the girl isn’t running away from her.
She’s so far in the past that Myka thinks that telling the truth won’t hurt. “I have a disease,” she explains, tugging the jacket over her shoulders and sighing happily when she finds herself wrapped in it’s warmth. It’s long enough to be a dress, and Myka’s glad. Usually she ends up stealing clothes or just hiding until someone finds her. This time, it might be different. This time she isn’t afraid to tell the truth, and somehow that makes her feel brave. “It makes me move through time.” she screws up her face and sighs as dramatically as she can, “I hate it because I can’t control it.”
But Myka isn’t brave. Every time this happens she wants to curl up and die. She’s getting used to it, getting used to going to the doctor with her wicked smile and the shots that don’t do anything. Myka feels like she’s spent half her life in a hospital and the other half not even in her own time. She’s nine years old and she has no friends because they think she’s too smart, too weird. Even in fencing class, they stay away from her.
Myka beats them all. It’s what she has to do to be the best.
The girl’s eyes widen and Myka has a terrifying moment when she remembers how her father once let her stay up and watch Monty Python’s Holy Grail and how their eyes had gone all wide right before they started shouting ‘A Witch! Burn her!’ Myka doesn’t want to be burned. It sounds painful.
The hand that had clasped her own and then had hurried let go is back on Myka’s. She’s greeted with an excited smile when Myka dares look up through her curls to see this girl trying desperately to hide her delighted look and not really succeeding. “Uncle Charles writes tales like that!” the girl says excitedly, “You must meet him and mummy.” She’s got Myka by the hand, dragging her across the alleyway and into a crowded street. Myka blinks for a moment, taking in the scene before her, before the girl is pulling her up the road and around the back of a house.
The street is tightly packed with carts and people. There are women walking about with parasols and the whole thing looks like it’s out of the Vick-Tor-ian (Myka still has trouble with that word) time period. So before there are cars, but definitely after there are horses. It smells bad, like soot and smoke and poo. Myka wrinkles her nose and steps around a questionable puddle, her bare feet unused to the hard-packed earth and cobblestones beneath her toes.
The house is modest, there’s a fence that they don’t go through, instead cutting around another alleyway and into the back of the building, where the girl finally slows down enough for Myka to get her bearings.
“What’s your name?” Myka finally works up the courage to ask. She’s trying not to sound terrified, because she’s never been this far back before. This can’t be a major life event - not of her’s.
The doctors say that she probably has three or four trips like this in her. Big trips where she goes someplace outside of her own timeline. She’s sad that she can’t control it, but seeing what has to be England what has to be one hundred years ago is probably worth it.
The displacement has made her far more practical than most nine-year-olds.
“Christina,” the girl says with a smile. She’s in a white dress and looks like the first girl that Myka has ever actually wanted to be friends with. She’s not used to it, but when the smile is easy and Christina’s hand is warm in her own, Myka just lets the question come, “What’s your’s?”
Myka wonders if she should lie, she’s so far back in time that it probably won’t matter, but she’s always had a name she always gives when she’s not sure. It’s safer that way. They don’t call her parents, or her husband - she thinks it’s a husband anyway - and so far it’s worked out. “Anita,” she says quietly. “Anita Jones.”
Christina’s eyes are piercing and really don’t believe her and Myka can’t help but hang her head a little bit in shame as Christina doesn’t say anything at all. She just turns and knocks on the door and lets the woman who answers it wearing servant’s clothes tut at her and her dirty dress.
“Who’s your friend, miss?” the servant asks. She speaks differently from Christina. Her accent seems harder, rougher. Myka isn’t sure she likes it.
“That’s Anita,” Christina explains. Myka is really impressed, for someone who can’t be much older than Tracy, Christina is really amazing at lying and bossing people around. She supposes that growing up with servants (instead of being expected to be them for her parents) must have something to do with that. Watching Christina, Myka resolves to find a way to earn a lot of money solving puzzles and saving the day in the future, so she can have a servant to boss around.
“Someone stole her clothes, so I told her I’d loan her one of mine.” Christina’s eyebrow dares a challenge, but the maid says nothing and merely nods her head. Myka opens her mouth to point out that that’s really not what happened, but the maid just takes Christina at her word and disappears leaving the two of them alone at the back steps of the house. Christina seems to approve of this vanishing act and drags Myka up the stairs and into a bedroom.
It is very old fashioned.
Okay that’s not entirely true. The bed frame is made out of metal and Christina jumps up and over it and it makes a loud squeaking noise that Myka is sure would drive her crazy if she had to sleep on it for even one night. She bites her lip and hopes it’s not a multi-day adventure as Christina makes her way over to the wardrobe that dominates the entire room. Myka wonders if it leads to Narnia.
Because Peter and Lucy and them were English, and Christina clearly is too.
“Thing is,” Myka tries to explain as Christina rummages for a dress-thing… or something. Myka has no idea what the garments that are being thrown on the bed even are. She’s used to jeans and a t-shirt. Maybe a flannel shirt on top of it. It’s 1989, not that big a deal.
This is 18-something. She hopes they won’t make her wear a corset. She’s read about them in her mother’s books on feminism. They sound awful.
”I’ll just disappear in a little while anyway… you don’t have to go nuts or anything.”
“Go nuts?” Christina can’t be more than seven, Myka knows what it’s like talking to Tracy (more and more annoying these days) but she’s forgetting that this isn’t last year or even five years ago, that this is well over a hundred years ago and there’s no way that an English person would know what that meant.
“Uh…” she begins, biting at her lip and frowning. She doesn’t know what to say, how to explain it in such a way that it would make sense. “Just don’t uh… If you’ve just got a nightgown or something easy.”
Christina, Myka will later swear, looks a little bit upset that she can’t play dress up using Myka as an over-sized Barbie. If they even had Barbies in this day and age, and she’s pretty sure that they didn’t.
They find a nightgown that looks a bit more like a dress than pajamas and Myka pulls it over her head and grins at Christina who grins right back. “Do you end up in different times often?” She asks, eyes wide and curious, “Does it hurt?”
Myka shakes her head. “It just makes me feel sick and I have to go to a place where people won’t see me disappear,” she explains. “My dad says that I leave piles of clothes around when I vanish.”
Realization dawns in Christina’s eyes and she nods knowingly. “That’s why you didn’t have any clothes!” she’s delighted and Myka’s glad for that.
She had no idea why she’s here, in this particular moment in time. The big trips, the doctors said, would always have meaning. She doesn’t think that sitting on Christina’s bed in 18-whatever was really what they meant.
“Where is your mom?” Myka asks, looking around Christina’s room for a picture - painted or maybe a photograph? Did they have them back then… she can’t remember.
Christina shrugs, “She’ll be back soon.” Her eyes narrow conspiratorially, “She was at the observatory, looking at a star chart.”
Myka opens up her mouth to reply, but there’s the sounds of footsteps hastening up the stairs and Christina’s jumped off the bed and is bounding towards the door shouting for her mother. Myka gets off the bed slowly, not wanting to be rude. She lingers in the doorway for a minute before turning around it, watching Christina bounce on the balls of her (really uncomfortable-looking) shoes.
The woman at the top of the stairs is tall and has kind eyes. Brown eyes. Myka’s mouth drops open and the woman is there again - younger. Less sad looking somehow.
She wants to say something. The words are there. She tries to say them but they’re caught, welling up in her throat as she feels herself vanish once again in the blink of an eye.
It’s ten thirty on a Saturday in her bedroom when Myka opens her eyes again. She throws her head back on the pillow and grins. “Wicked,” she says.