***WARNING!!! My stories often contain strong language, sensitive issues, and, at times, other content that could be construed as offensive. Beliefs and viewpoints of characters are not necessarily the beliefs and viewpoints the Author holds in true life.***
My life returned to its usual constant routine once I arrived home from France. My days were filled with reading the newspaper, preparing and eating breakfast, and going to work. In the evenings, I studied recipes, read for pleasure, practiced magic, or worked with Alchemy. I often painted or sketched. I socialized with my colleagues fairly often. Life was busy and full, but I was homesick, especially for my mother.
I often suffered from episodes of melancholia. As winter settled over the town, my sadness deepened with the falling of each snowflake. In my time, winters were harsh and death clamed more than one life. The infirm or very young were the ones stricken most often. Winter held much darkness for me personally, for my father perished in that season, as did my second father and baby brother. Although I arrived in this time amid the warmth of Summer, it was on a dreary day in Winter when my time and my mother were lost to me.
"Och, Mother! How my heart cries out for thee." My cheeks were awash with tears as the wind carried flakes of snow here and there. A little part of me died each day without my mother's presence. Day by day, I was losing hope that I would ever see her again.
I found, with ease, the book that Georgie spoke of on the plane. I read it again and again, devouring every word and hoping it would somehow give me a clue to how to find Mother. I found more books that my mother had authored and read them voraciously. It was not difficult to find Mother's books, but finding Mother proved to be a great fiasco.
I spent hour upon hour on my telephone attempting to unearth a place of residence. It was daunting, at first, to speak to a disembodied voice. I am accustomed to speaking to a person face to face. It felt peculiar to hear a voice and not see an accompanying face. I learned that many of the voices sounded annoyed that I had the audacity to bother them with my request. This strange clan called Directory Assistance brusquely informed me, more than once, that there was no listing for one Mathilda Blankenship. Time after time, the strange box went dead in my hand before the voice inside it wished me a good day. It saddened me to be learning that proper manners were not the norm in this odd time.
I bought a map and located Aurora Skies but had to concede defeat. It was quite a distance from Dragon Valley, and without a proper carriage and winter upon me, I was not going anywhere any time soon.
I was in the midst of a self-pitying tine of brooding when my telephone rang. I had no reckoning that my life was about to change as I put the strange contraption to my ear. "Alina Blankenship," I answered distractedly.
"Hello, Ms. Blankenship. I was given your number by your place of employment. My name is Robin McIntyre. I'd be interested in speaking with you, as I'm looking to hire a chef for an evening." I was brought up short at hearing a deep, masculine voice in my ear. He spoke in a warm manner, making me feel as though I'd swallowed a bit of warm honey.
My brows raised toward my hairline. "A personal chef for an evening, you say?" I asked, surprised. It was not often that my colleagues or I were contracted out on an individual basis.
"Yes. You see, my mother is arriving from out of town to visit me. She'll be arriving the day after tomorrow, and I'd like to surprise her with a nice gourmet meal. I just moved here recently, and she...well...she's worried about how I'm settling in," said Robin, a smile in his voice.
Hearing this caused a pang of sadness come to my heart. I would give anything to have my mother worrying so about me and arriving to be with me. I fought down the melancholia and affixed a smile to my lips, needing to conduct myself in a professional manner. "Your mother appears to be very loving."
"Oh, she is," said Robin, the smile in his voice deepening. "She's one terrific lady. I want to give her a wonderful dinner, and your employer says you're the best."
A flush of pleasure crept into my cheeks, and this time, the smile on my lips was genuine. "I am honored. It is not often that the restaurant staff is called upon for personal off-site service."
"I know, and I do hope this isn't too much of an inconvenience. I'd be willing to pay you more than adequately for your extra time if you agree to take the job," said Robin. "I'd like to meet with you as soon as conveniently possible."
"I have some free time now," said I, my curiosity about this man rising. He sounded so warm and honest, and I could sense that he loved his mother greatly.
"Great! If you'd be so kind as to give me directions to your house, I'll get there as soon as I can," said Robin.
I hesitated, feeling my cheeks aflame. "I...erm..."
"Is something wrong, Ms. Blankenship?" Robin asked, concern lacing his voice.
"'Tis not proper for a gentleman to call on a spinster whilst she is home alone," I said.
To my chagrin, I heard Robin's laughter on the other end of the line. His deep, rich laughter caused my heart to misfire and I clutched the side of the table to keep my balance. "I'll keep it on the up and up, I promise. Strictly business, Ms. Blankenship, I assure you. It would be less gentlemanly of me to insist that you come out in this fowl weather to meet me elsewhere, don't you think?"
"Strictly business, Ms. Blankenship. I don't bite," Robin said, the smile never leaving his voice.
I found myself unable to refuse. I gave him my address, and within a few minutes, his sleek horseless carriage rolled up in front of my house.
My breath caught in my throat the first time I looked upon his visage. Och! He was so handsome with warm, twinkling eyes. His smile brought more light to my simple rooms than a thousand lanterns could bring. When he took my hand and brought it to his lips for a gentle kiss, my skin tingled with pleasure. "Robin McIntyre, Ma'am. Pleased to make your acquaintance."
"Alina...Alina Blankenship," I stammered, feeling my cheeks warm with color. "I...ah...please enter." I could not tear my eyes away as Robin stamped his feet upon the rug to rid his shoes of snow. "Would you accept some coffee...or anything else?" Och! I sounded like a naïve schoolgirl.
"Coffee would be great," Robin said with an easy smile.
"Please sit down," I said. For the first time, I was quite vexed over my meager furnishings. It was clear that this man came from money as people were fond of saying about the rich. As unfamiliar as I am with this time's way of fashion, I could see that this man's attire was well made. He carried himself as a wealthy man would, but there was no arrogance in his demeanor.
Robin lowered himself to the sofa and stretched his long legs before him as I busied myself making coffee. "So, Ms. Blankenship, tell me about yourself."
"There is very little to tell," I said, ready with the story I told everyone. "I lost everything I owned in a fire and needed a new place to settle. I arrived here with very little and am only a woman attempting to make my way here."
"Ah," said Robin. "Somehow I get the picture there is a lot more to you than you say."
My cheeks flushed and I looked down at the brewing coffee rising higher in the pot. "I am what I am. What of you, Mr. McIntyre?" I asked, wanting to divert the conversation from myself.
"I arrived here about a month ago, having transferred onto the police force here."
"Police...constable. Oh!" I said in alarm.
Robin chuckled. "Hey, don't worry. I rarely arrest beautiful women."
Beautiful? Me? I turned my back so he would not see the flush of color in my face that constantly seemed to be there in his presence. However, his next words made me turn to him without realizing it until it was already done.
"Hey, I knew you looked familiar. Aren't you the one who got a fine for doing street art at a neighbor's house and thought you were going to be executed?" he asked.
Instead of my face flaming, it felt as if all the blood drained away. I gasped and covered my face with my hands. I was mortified when I felt tears slide down my cheeks and a sob shake my body.
The next thing I knew, I was in Robin's arms and he was comforting me. "Hey, I'm sorry! I didn't mean to upset you. It was just...well...apparently they never had an arrest go down quite like how yours did. It's not often someone thinks they'll be executed for vandalism, faints, and speaks in old English terms. Then when your employer told me about your skill in cuisine, I was intrigued and had to meet and then hire you. Please forgive me for being an insensitive jerk."
I should have pulled away but could not bring myself to do so. The rich tones of Robin's voice settled over me like a down comforter, and his embrace was so warm. What he said next made me lose my head completely. "There is something about you that is not of this world and that intrigues me. You...you're from the past...aren't you?"
I felt my knees begin to give way and panic rise to my chest. I knew I would have to leave immediately if my story was uncovered. Even in this seemingly enlightened age, stories of time travel would get one locked away in an asylum for being addled. However, Robin's arms tightened around me, his soft whisper warm against my ear. "There is nothing to be afraid of. I understand more than you know. I won't hurt you, Alina. I promise. I would like to be your friend if that is desirable to you."
My first instincts were to deny his claim, but his eyes bore intently and earnestly into mine. "I do not understand how you came to this conclusion, for I always tried to be careful of myself. Have I erred somehow?"
Robin's arms stayed around me, his big hand rubbing my back soothingly. I felt myself relaxing in his strong embrace, unable to pull myself away. "You've handled it very well. Well, the biggest thing was the street art incident, but from what I gathered, it's little things. See, I always do my homework...research...before I hire someone to do a service for me. I grilled...interrogated...questioned your employer thoroughly about you. He said you were very closed-mouthed about your life but that you seemed out of sync sometimes with simple technologies and other stuff. Well, it fascinated me so I was on a mission to scope you out, meet you, and hire you."
"I still do not understand," I said, shaking my head. "You do not find me addled? You do not seek to accuse me of...devilry or witchcraft?"
Robin threw back his head and laughed long and hard. "Devilry? Oh, Alina, we're all guilty of that at some point in our lives. Addled? No way! In fact, I think you're beautiful and courageous. Witchcraft? I knew you were a witch from the minute I walked in. You enjoy doing Alchemy. You have a cauldron, and I can sense magic all around you. You see, I'm a warlock myself and am quite familiar with the concept of time travel."
"I still do not understand. I-I--"
"Here, let's sit down. I'll tell you my story if you tell me yours," Robin said. To my surprise, he deftly poured the coffee and managed the cups easily while leading me over to my own sofa. As we sipped our coffee, he told me of how his Great-Great Grandmother Holly had been charged with traveling to the present day from the distant future where she was to write books and begin the legacy of producing heirs to educate the world about keeping the environment safe. "So you see, although technology and other stuff is great, it sometimes hurts the natural resources. If that keeps up and we don't make a difference, the world will not be worth living in down the line. Although the major responsibility usually falls with the firstborn in every generation, which is my sister Starr this time out, we all do what we can to help," he said, ending his tale.
I stared at him, openmouthed and unable to say anything. He took my silence as a sign to continue. "Then, there's my Aunt Lenora and Uncle Tyrone who have their own mission. See, history often repeats itself, and somewhere down the line of time, being artistic and creative in any way is illegal. They have to keep art and music alive and make sure all the magic isn't bred out of the world or destroyed."
"'Tis...'tis overwhelming to think on," I said once I finally recovered my voice
"Yeah, tell me about it. Anyway, that's how I know about time travel and how I easily figured out that you're not from this time. Now that I told you about me, what about you?" said Robin.
"I instinctively felt I could tell this man anything and that with him, I would not have to tread carefully. A ball of tension loosened up inside me as I began my own tale. By the time I was finished, I was weeping. "And so, my mother has not found me and I have been unable to locate her thusly. I...I am in sore need of a friend right now. You are the first one to whom I have been able to confide in."
"I'll be your friend, Alina. You can ask me anything you need to, anything at all. just think of me as your time traveling tour guide, okay?" Robin said, smiling easily.
I grinned through my tears. "I am beholden to thee. I be thanking thee for such kindness."
"Well then, I'd say we're doing each other a good service. My mother and I will get a lovely dinner and I get to be in the company of a beautiful woman," said Robin.
I laughed and wiped my tears with the handkerchief he lent me. "You have great faith in my abilities without speaking with me about my qualities or sampling my wares."
"I think we should remedy that," Robin said. "Will you have dinner with me? Then we can talk about the menu and your fee."
"'Tis much too cold to be meandering about. I shall prepare something here and we shall talk if thou art willing."
"Fine," Robin said.
Robin and I chatted easily as I prepared a meal for us consisting of salad, stead and baked potato, and cobbler for dessert. it felt as though I were reuniting with a dear friend who had been away on a long journey. While we ate, Robin proclaimed that I cooked like an angel and that he would be proud to serve my cooking to his mother.
I was sorry to see our time come to an end, but Robin finally said he needed to return home to finish some work. Before leaving, he gave me a chaste kiss on the cheek and said he'd be looking forward to seeing me soon. Tomorrow would be spent shopping for ingredients and doing some preparation so there would not be as much to do the day of the big dinner. After I bade Robin farewell, I closed the door, feeing a soppy smile form on my lips. I could not explain the mad thumping of my heart and how warm my insides felt, but I found I liked it.
Author's Note - I'd like to thank PiazzaGirl for allowing me to use Robin McInture for my story. If you have not read her blog, I'd highly recommend it. Her story is amazing. You can find it here.
Alina is now a Line Cook (Level 5) in the Culinary Career. During this chapter, she received a promotion to Ingredient Taster (Level 4) and another promotion to reach her current level. She is at Level 8 of the cooking skill.