As she sat there with her eyes closed, she thought about the day she found the key. Her memories were bright and vivid, and even though it was five years ago, it felt like yesterday. She then started thinking about Meredith, who suddenly seemed so close it was if she could smell her sweet lavender perfume.
‘Hang on a minute,’ she blurted, I can smell her perfume.
Slowly, she opened her eyes and glanced around. Nothing had changed, but it sure felt as if something was different. She was convinced something was going on, so stood up, and again looked around. As she stood there, the aroma of Meredith’s perfume filled her nostrils.
Even though her surroundings hadn’t changed, and she was still seemingly in her time, going on gut instinct, she called, ‘Meredith, are you there?’ Even though there was no reply, she was sure something was going on.
Just then, she heard some rustling in the trees behind her, so called again. Still there was no answer. Then she heard an almighty bang that sounded like a shotgun. With her nerves jangling, but curiosity calling, she shouted, ‘Who is there?’
Seconds later, a tall elegant man, dressed in an upper-class Victorian outfit appeared through the trees. ‘I am so sorry. I did not know anyone was in the woods today. I am here hunting the wild boar with a few friends. Thank heavens our shots didn’t hit you.’
Trying not to show her tangled thoughts, Rebecca smiled. ‘I am the one who should be sorry. I went for a ramble and ended up here. Now I may be lost.’ As she smiled, she heard an instantly recognisable voice. ‘Meredith,’ she called.
‘Madam, are you an acquaintance of Meredith?’ She has travelled here from the Americas where she lives with her Mother and Aunt Rebecca.
Just this one sentence had scrambled emotions and unable to hide her surprise, she blurted, ‘what, Meredith lives in the Americas?’ Now with so many questions converging on her thoughts, she sat there staring into space. Suddenly, she noticed the man’s expression, and realised she must have been pulling faces. She smiled, and said, ‘sorry if I seem vague, I think it must have been the gunshot.’
He narrowed his eyes, frowned, and said, ‘Yes, and she has lived there these past ten years. You appear to know her well, and yet you seemed unaware that she lives in the Americas. Let me call her,’ he said, turning. ‘Meredith, come hither please my dear. There is a lady here who knows you.’
Seconds later, Meredith appeared through the woods. Rebecca stood up to greet her, but was instantly aware that she had a distant, somewhat bemused appearance. As she looked at her, she could see the woman’s brain working. Meredith tentatively offered her hand, and Rebecca knew there and then that something significant had changed. It was her Meredith okay, but clearly, this woman didn’t recognise her.
‘I believe that I know of you. You are familiar. However…’ she said, with her head slightly to one side, and her eyes uncharacteristically narrowed.
Although Rebecca could sense something wasn’t right, she didn’t feel at all uneasy certain there would be a simple explanation. She stepped forward, and offered her hand. ‘I am Rebecca. I too know you, although I now believe our paths may have only crossed gently.’
Meredith smiled. ‘Rebecca, you share the same name as my beloved aunt. I must say that I adore the expression you used – our paths crossing gently.’ The woman glanced to the ground, clearly thinking. ‘I know of you, although until this day, you were only a story.’
The gentleman looked confused, and noticing this, both Rebecca, and Meredith went to speak at the same time.
‘You go first Meredith.’
Turning to the gentleman, Meredith said, ‘my aunt Rebecca told me of this meeting some years earlier. Harold, you know well that many persons dismiss her stories as just that, stories. I, on the other hand, have always engaged and cherished each one of her tales. It would seem, as is often the case, her telling of future events was again accurate.’ She then turned to Rebecca and said,’ we have a lot to discuss my distant friend. We are to have luncheon by the lake, and I would be delighted if you joined us.’
Although the man nodded, he was clearly perplexed.
‘I will explain all, Harold, in due course.’
As Rebecca was trying to work out what was going on, a bizarre thought consumed her consciousness. ‘This might be an absurd question, Meredith, but I need to ask. The big house on these grounds is there, isn’t it?’
Shaking her head, she said, ‘I do not know of the house you speak. There have not been any dwellings here about since a horrid plague took many lives. The unfortunate souls were buried within this land, and there was a covenant setting it as a sacred site.’ She narrowed her eyes, and said, ‘Although, I suspect you are aware of the plague if my aunt’s words are true. At this stage, I have no reason to doubt they are.’ She squinted, and with an unusually hesitant tone, she whispered, ‘Future girl.’ Again, she appeared deep in thought. ‘There is an aspect that my aunt spoke of that I found confusing. She recommended I show you something in the stream, and assured me that you would understand.’ The woman then stood and offered her hand to Rebecca.
On their way to the stream, Rebecca’s curiosity was at bursting point. ‘Did your aunt say anymore?’
Nodding, the woman said, ‘I will explain when we arrive by the pool in the stream.’
From the way that Meredith answered and by the look on her face, it was clear to Rebecca that this woman was as confused as she was.
A moment later, they arrived by the stream, and bizarrely it was the exact point where Rebecca had cleaned the key she’d found all those years earlier. Chilled by this, Rebecca turned towards Meredith, no knowing what to expect. She lifted her palm in a questioning motion.
The woman pointed towards the pool, and said with a distinct air of uncertainly, ‘Please, Rebecca look at your reflection in the pool.’
She clambered down the bank, just as she did all that time ago. She then leant forward, and with a deep intake of breath, shrieked. The reflection was not hers. Unsure what to think, she twiddled her hand through the water, and again stared at the distorted reflection. Now at a complete loss what to think, or say, she turned towards Meredith.
She beckoned Rebecca to join her. ‘I am not sure that I will ever understand this. However, my aunt said that if you had failed to avert the plague in sixteen-twenty-three, your appearance would change. Clearly that is the case, as we know the plague took many lives.’ She again seemed to go deep into thought. ‘She explained to me that your Mother’s family were affected by the plague, and subsequently, your father married a different woman. Although you are clearly Rebecca, the mother you know was never born, and therefore, your appearance is dissimilar. Now the next part, I did not understand, so please forgive my attempt to explain.’ The woman appeared to be considering her words carefully before speaking.
Distressed by this woman’s words, Rebecca took a deep breath, and tried to control her emotions. Eager to know more, she said, ‘It is okay, Meredith. I am certain all will become clear.’ Although troubled, she was sure there would be a resolution, there always was. Even though this was not her Meredith, she could feel the same goodness of character and was reassured by this.