***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.***
I had never been looked after in such as a way as my Robin looked after me after my accident. He vowed he would not let me out of his sight, and that was how it was. Much to my dismay, he took time away from his work to see to me. I was worried that he would be reprimanded by his employer, but he assured me that he had plenty of personal days to use.
Robin wanted me to also take some time from my work. I was reluctant at first, but it was taking more time for me to recover from my experience. "I won't have you going in and slaving over a hot stove until you're completely better," Robin said, giving me a soft kiss. I was moved beyond words at such love and concern for me.
I still missed Lenora dreadfully and remained in a state of brooding. Nevertheless, Robin was always there when things were at their gloomiest. I had told Robin everything that had happened whilst in the spirit world, so he reminded me of everything his grandmother had said. Lenora was alive and that somehow, some way, Tyrone would find her.
That day came nearly a fortnight after my spiritual adventure. My mother was beaming when she came knocking on my door. "Alina, Robin! Oh, my dears, I have such wonderful news," she said as Robin escorted her inside.
"We could use some of that," Robin said. "What's going on?"
"We found Lenora last night. She had a regular army there to retrieve her," said Mother.
"Oh, Mother! Is she well? Please say she is unharmed," I begged, taking my mother's hands and squeezing them.
"She is all right, darling. We felt it was best that she settle in with Tyrone and the children, but she will be around to see you later today or tomorrow. Forgive me for not telling you last night, but it was very late by the time the dust settled. I wanted to tell you the news as soon as I possibly could," said Mother.
The day passed as if in a dream. I was so anxious to see my sister again and to know that she was truly well. My heart was beating wildly when the doorbell rang. I could not get my feet to carry me to the door, so Robin answered it instead.
She looked like an angel as she entered the house. I had told myself I would not weep, but I forgot everything upon hearing her voice. "Och, Alina! Robin! How I have missed ye both!"
The next thing I knew, Lenora's arms were around me and I clung tightly to her. I was afraid that if I let her go, she would disappear. "Lenora! Oh, my beautiful sister! Oh, Lenora...Lenora..."
She held me firmly and rubbed my back. Then, with a gentle touch, she wiped my tears and smiled again. "All right now. It's going to be all right. I'm going to take ye over to the sofa and I'm going to sit right here beside ye. There now. It's all right." She spoke in low, comforting tones, keeping her arm around me as she led me to the sofa.
"How did it happen, Lenora? How was it that we were made to believe you had passed?" I asked, attempting to collect myself.
As Lenora told her story, I listened, feeling my heart squeeze. It was difficult for her to explain, and I was horrified at the extreme measures these people had gone to for revenge. I pitied Allen just a little after it was explained to me that he was ill. It was hard for me to understand mental illness, as it was not looked upon the same in my time as it was in this day. Even so, I hated them all for taking Lenora from us, for putting us all through such grief and torment. Her loss was devastating enough to me, but it was so much worse for her children and for Tyrone.
I was weeping again by the time Lenora's account of things was completed. I could only imagine the horror she endured at their hands. She squeezed my hand and rubbed my back once more, and I was amazed that she was offering me comfort when she should be the one being comforted.
"Ye and Robin must be married now." I was glad when Lenora changed the subject. It would be good for her to resume a normal life and put all this behind her.
I glanced at Robin and shook my head. "We decided to postpone, as we did not feel right moving forward while everyone was mourning," I explained.
"Well then, we will have to remedy this," Lenora said, her lilting tones matching her twinkling eyes. "Now that I'm back, we will move this onward as planned."
I laughed, feeling the weight of the world being lifted from my back. "I could not agree more."
"Amen to that," Robin said.
"Champagne!" Mother said, clapping her hands. Robin and I exchanged grins of glee as Mother gave a toast to our upcoming nuptials.
We were all feeling sedate and comfortable, for the champagne flowed freely. "One thing we must do is take ye shopping, Alina." Lenora's statement penetrated my wandering thoughts.
"What?" I asked absently.
"Shopping, Alina!" Lenora said, laughing. "The ladies and I are going to take ye for a makeover."
"A done-over, dear," Mother said.
I sat up straighter, my eyes widening. "Och, but I--"
"No buts!" Lenora grinned. Then, her expression sobered. "Not that ye don't look beautiful now because ye do. However, it would be wise for ye to have some things that will help ye blend in with the time ye are in now. Another thing to think about is that we would not be wanting the knowledge of the existence of time travel to fall into the wrong hands."
I knew she was right. Before Lenora went missing, I had been thinking about ways to alter my wardrobe and appearance to fit in better and had even tried numerous times. I went to the clothing store but soon became overwhelmed. Mother and I had always made our own things. Visiting a seamstress was more than what we could afford. Seeing what a modern clothing shop offered was more than I could handle on my own. I always fled before I had even gotten started.
"All right, Lenora. You know best in these matters. Just please forgive my lack of experience in this," I said uncertainly.
"Now, don't ye worry. We'll take very good care of ye, and ye will have a wonderful time," Lenora promised.
When Lenora said she was bringing in the ladies to help, she was not lying. The next weekend, I made my way to Aurora Skies and was helpless to say even one word of protest when Lenora, Starr, Taylor, and Hope escorted me to the roaring best, all of them laughing and chatting excitedly.
"Oh, wait till we get done with you!" Hope said, sliding in beside me. "Robin won't recognize you."
"He'll have a heart attack for sure," Starr grinned. "My brother is toast."
"Perhaps this is not a good idea. I do not wish to bury Robin before we are even wed," I said a little shakily.
Everyone laughed and I tried to smile but could not manage it. "It's just an expression, Alina," Taylor said, still laughing. "What we're basically trying to say is Uncle Robin will love seeing you out of all those layers. Well, most of them anyway. He won't see you out of ALL of them until your wedding night."
"Ah!" I said, feeling my face warm with color. "Forgive my ignorance."
"No worries," Hope said, patting my shoulder. "You'll have the time of your life. I promise. Now, move it on out, Lenora!"
"Yes, Ma'am," Lenora said, making the beast roar.
I listened to the happy chatter but did not contribute much. My mother told me more than once that sometimes it is best to just listen and I felt this was one of those times. That lasted until a big, booming explosion hit my ears. "Hey Lenora! There's your song," Starr said. "It's great they still play it after all this time."
My mouth went dry as the unmistakable verses of "Sweet Lenora" was being sung by Mr. Landgraab. I had heard him sing it in person when I'd visited Lenora, and it was always very beautiful. He had written it for her after the loss of her first husband and son. Now, it was coming from the front of the roaring beast and I was frightened. "L-Lenora...?" My voice quivered as I uttered my sister's name.
"What is it, Alina?" she asked.
"I-I...That is...who has taken Mr. Landgraab and forced him to sing from this...this box?" I asked.
Everyone went silent for an eternally long moment, the only sound being that of guitars and singing. Then, laughter erupted, drowning out the music. Everyone was wiping away tears as Starr finally gasped out, "That's the car radio, silly! Grandpa isn't trapped anywhere. It's only the radio."
I shook my head in confusion. "I do not understand."
Taylor and Hope launched into an explanation of buildings called studios and how things were recorded, which made them able to be played over sound waves that made it possible for hundreds and thousands of people to listen to at the same time. Starr could see that I was still very confused, so she reached for her phone while Lenora softened the sounds. "Yes, Grandpa Wolfie. We have a little...situation," Starr said. She laughed as she repeated what I had told Lenora. The next instant, the phone was in my hand. "I have Grandpa on the phone. He wants to talk to you."
Slowly, I lifted the phone to my ear. "H-hello, Mr. Landgraab. This is Alina."
"It's Wolfie, dear. In fact, it's Grandpa Wolfie to you since you are almost officially part of the family anyway," he said. I heard the hint of laughter in his voice.
"I'm sorry to bother you, and I hope you were not taken away from something important," I said haltingly.
"It's okay, Alina. Starr explained what happened. I swear I'm all right and nobody is forcing me to sing anywhere against my will. It looks like you need an education on how music is made available in this time. If you and Robin want to meet me tomorrow morning, I'll take you on a tour of the studio and then show you the radio station. We'll make a day of it," said Wolfie.
I was overwhelmed by his generosity. "Thanking you kindly, but I would not wish to impose."
"No imposition and I won't take no for an answer," he said. "Now, you go and enjoy your day."
I gave Starr her phone and sat in stunned silence. "He was so nice to me."
"Well, of course he was," Lenora said matter-of-factly.
"I...feel so stupid," I said, ducking my head.
"Well, you shouldn't," Taylor said, looking at me over her shoulder. "It's understandable that you'd be confused about things here. You'll get it and it'll all be second nature. Cut yourself some slack."
"She's right. Hell, you have more courage than most people put together. I mean, I don't think I'd handle it so well if I had to learn to live in a different century. You're doing great and you'll learn more and more every day. Now, let's just enjoy the day and get you ready to knock Robin's socks off."
I refrained from asking how socks can be knocked off another person. However, I could not refrain from asking another question. "This beast that we are riding...how is it that it can move without horses?"
There was more laughter as Lenora maneuvered the beast around a bend and stopped at a building with "BP" clearly visible. "Instead of telling ye, we'll show ye," Lenora said.
I watched intently as Lenora removed what she called a gas cap from the side of the beast. With a twist of her wrist, she snapped something into the hole where the cap had been, which she called a nozzle. "This pump moves a liquid called gasoline into the tank. Think of it as fuel or food. Once this tank is full, I disengage the nozzle and put the cap back. Inside the car, there is a gauge which tells me how full the tank is. When it is low, I simply put more gas into it."
"Intriguing," I said.
"The modern age is a wonder, Alina," Lenora said, putting the cap back into place.
Our next stop was a clothing store, one that I had visited before but fled from. The ladies dragged me to what they called the women's section. Expertly, they surveyed the racks critically, moving hangers around quickly. Soon, I was holding an armload of clothing and Hope was steering me toward a fitting room. "Now, try each one of these on and come out so we can see. If you need help, just holler, okay?"
I gulped, nodded, then scuttled toward the fitting room, feeling like a specimen under a magnifying glass. It took hours, but we finally settled on some things that I felt comfortable wearing. I was glad to see that none of them were vexed at how long it took.
"Hair is next!" Starr proclaimed.
I was nervous at first but I soon relaxed as the woman did things to my hair that I never imagined could be possible. When she was finished, I looked in the mirror and could not recognize myself.
"Lunch!" Taylor proclaimed.
I was in high spirits as we finished our meal. Even the strange looks I received from other customers didn't dampen my mood. The ladies thought it best that my manner of dress be explained by my having just arrived from the Renaissance Fair and had not gotten time to change. t thought we were finished, but when Hope said what she did next, the ladies whistled, cheered, and gave me devilish grins. I wondered if I should be afraid to find out what Simtoria Secret was.
The answer was yes when I realized what merchandise was sold there. I squawked indignantly, put my hands over my face and turned in the direction we'd come in. "Och! It is indecent! It is improper!"
"Well, of course it is, dearie," Taylor grinned. "You have to have a trousseau for your wedding night, after all."
"B-but...but..." I stammered.
"No buts, Alina," Lenora said, her eyes dancing. "Ye have to please your man, after all."
"Here, here," Hope grinned.
I goggled, slack-jawed, as I was measured by a saleswoman, who handed me things to try on. "You have a lovely figure, dear! Your young man is a lucky one," she said.
I blushed as I was herded toward the fitting room. I donned the first lingerie set but just stood there with my arms crossed protectively in front of me.
"Alina! get your carcass out here so we can see!" Starr yelled.
"I--I cannot. It is indecent," I protested.
"Naturally," Hope said. "It's what it's supposed to be. Now, front and center!"
I reluctantly opened the door, knowing my face was at least three hews of red. "Just...explain to me why I am doing this," I whispered.
Hope grinned. "It's for seduction purposes. It's to...how do I put it? It's to increase your man's desire for you. See, when he sees you in that, he'll be encouraged to give you a night of passion you will never forget."
"So...so Robin will not think me a common whore for wearing...uh..." I looked down at myself.
"No way, woman!" Taylor said. "He'll say you look hot and then, your virginity will be out the window."
"It's normal to wear these kinds of things for the man ye love," Lenora said. "They are seduction outfits meant only to be seen by him."
"And by us here and now since we're helping you get prepared," Starr laughed. "But once you get all this home, it should be only Robin who sees you in them."
"Well then, I reckon it is all right since they are meant to be special only for Robin and me," I said.
"You learn fast," Hope said.
The more things I tried on and the longer we looked through the shop, the more I was enjoying myself. Nobody could say I was not prepared by the time we finished our shopping.
"Well ladies, it's been quite a day. Want to stop for drinks before we head home?" Lenora said.
"Why not? You know I'll never say no to that," Starr grinned devilishly.
By the time I arrived back at Lenora's, I was pleasantly intoxicated. I do not recall the last time I had so much fun. While we women had our outing, Robin had his own with the menfolk, but they had not returned yet. I hummed cheerily as Lenora and I sat in her living room and waited for the men to arrive. I could not wait to show Robin my new look and to get his reaction. The lingerie, however, would have to wait. There would be plenty of time for that.
Author's Note: I'd like to thank PiazzaGirl for the use of Starr and Taylor Slayer, and also for Hope McIntyre. Mentioned but not pictured was Wolfie Landgraab. Her stories are amazing and I'd highly recommend them. You can find them by clicking the links below.
"A Race Against Time"
"Romance on the Horizon"