Clockwise, p.7
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       Clockwise, p.7

           Lee Strauss
I GAPED AT NATE, AGHAST. I spun around and called out to heaven, “You’ve got to be kidding! As if things aren’t bad enough, you have to let him come along?”I paced in small circles, trampling the grass, which was very uncharacteristic of me when I returned. I was usually poised, on my toes, ready for anything.

  “What just happened?” Nate said, still calm. Sure he was calm now, but just wait. “Is this some kind of practical joke?”

  I stopped pacing when my pointy heels sunk into a mossy part of the forest floor and faced him. I could see the wheels behind his eyes working; he was trying to figure out how his buddies had gotten him to the middle of the woods without him realizing it. Also, probably, why it was suddenly mid afternoon.

  “Um, no,” I squeaked out, still trying to process that I was back in 1860, and Nate Mackenzie was there right in front of me!

  “Okay, guys, come out now.” His eyes darted from tree to tree. I could see the panic forming. “Did they put something in my punch?” His voice took on that high edge that accompanies confusion.

  “Oh, no,” I moaned. My dress. I was wearing a totally inappropriate dress. And high heels! Could this day get any worse?

  “What’s the matter?”

  “Nothing, it’s my shoes.” I took off one shoe and slammed the heel on a nearby boulder.

  “Casey! What are you doing?”

  “I’m, (bang) knocking (bang) off (bang) my heels.” Success. I started with the next one.


  “Because,” I said in a voice suggesting he should know, though I knew there’s no way he could know, “these are totally inappropriate for what we need to do next.” This was exactly why I never wear heels. I was going to kill Lucinda when I got back.

  Just then, I heard the faint clop of hooves and the din of voices. I grabbed Nate’s hand and pulled him to the ground out of sight. Wow, Nate’s hand was in my hand. A surge of electricity shot through my body. Mercifully, he pulled his hand away.

  “What’s going on? Casey, this isn’t funny anymore.”

  “Shh.” I put my finger to my lips. He cocked his head, hearing the voices now. Two men with top hats and cloaks with coat tails rode casually on the trail by our hiding spot. One of them said, “Abraham Lincoln will be the next president, mark my words, and then there will be hell to pay in the south.”

  “Role players?” said Nate. I gave him a stern look and returned my finger to my lips. When the riders were out of sight, I got up and motioned for Nate to follow me. I’d had time to get my bearings and I knew how to find my stash. It would take a long time to get there, especially in my heel-less, slippery, totally inappropriate shoes.

  “Casey, what’s happening? How did we get here?”

  I pushed low branches out of the way and let out a long breath. “Okay. It’s just I don’t think you’re going to believe it.”

  “Try me.”

  I was glad I couldn’t see his face. “We’ve gone back in time.”

  “Whoa. Say again? I don’t think I heard you correctly.”

  I stopped and turned to him. He slanted his head and bent toward me slightly, not wanting to miss what I had to say. His eyes were imploring, and his face ruggedly handsome…


  “Oh, sorry. Um, I said, we went back in time.”

  “We went back in time. Really?” He stood up straight. The muscles in his jaw tightened. He didn’t believe me. Fine, don’t believe me. Make this day suck even more. I turned around and kept walking. He followed. Nate didn’t like the silence, or maybe he just didn’t like not being in control. I pulled the pins out of my up-do and let it fall down my back.

  “Okay, Casey, say I believe you. But why should I? There could be a perfectly good explanation for this.”

  “It’s mid afternoon,” I said.

  “I see that.”

  “So, just a short while ago,” I paused and remembered, we were dancing, “it was dark. Night-time.”

  “Okay, so as a joke they drugged me, and it lasted several hours.”

  “Not a very funny joke.”

  He ignored me, “I woke up in the middle of the woods, somewhere in Massachusetts. We’re still in Massachusetts aren’t we?” I nodded. “The guys didn’t feel like waiting for me to wake up.”

  “The guys?” I said.

  “Yeah, Tyson and Josh. I should have known they were up to no good when they dar…”

  I stopped and swiveled around on one slippery shoe. “They dared you? That’s why you asked me to dance? A dare?”

  The truth registered with my head and made a knife cut right into my heart. I Hate Nate. I spun back around and plowed my way through the bushes.

  “No, Casey, I meant…”

  “Oh, just drop it.”

  We rounded a corner and I saw the lilac grove. I sighed. Home Sweet Home away from home. I pushed through the bramble into the center, Nate on my heels.

  “If you don’t believe me,” I said, “then why are you following me?”

  “I don’t know. You look like you know where you’re going.”

  “I do.” I dragged off the twig thatch and revealed the hole. I pulled out the goods, enjoying the stunned look on Nate’s face.

  “If this was a practical joke,” Nate said, “then you’d have to be in on it.”

  “How realistic is that?”

  “Not very,” Nate admitted.

  I took a swig from the water jar. Ick, even worse tasting than before, but it was wet. I offered it to Nate.

  “Ew.” He spit out the water.

  “Hey, don’t waste that. You don’t know when we will be able to get more.”

  “Fine, I’ll play along. What’s next in the game?”

  I sat down on the log, stretched my legs out and threw off my stupid shoes. My feet ached. I supposed curling up and having a nap was not on the agenda. Nate sat on the grass across from me.

  “So, any food? Did the guys at least pack me a lunch?”

  I threw the burlap bag with the dried beef at him. “Help yourself.”It wasn’t the same as the stuff you buy at the convenience store, but it seemed to hit the spot. He didn’t complain. I lay down, putting my hands behind my head and closed my eyes. I needed to think. Think, think, think. I was here with Nate. Maybe this would be a really short trip, and before I knew it, we’d be back, and he could beat up his friends for pulling a stupid practical joke and leaving him alone in the woods with me, the gullible loser.

  We'd have to stay close because to get him back I'd have to be touching him, skin to skin. If I wasn't so freaked out, I'd be happy about that idea. I waited. Nothing. Nate took his cue from me and lay down, too. I guessed he’d resigned himself to just waiting it out, for his guys to get bored of the joke and pop out of the trees.

  The sun started its trek downward. My stomach growled. I pulled the burlap bag to my side and looked in it. All the beef was gone.

  “You ate it all?”

  “Wasn’t I supposed to?”


  “Hey, chill out. This can’t last much longer.”

  Oh yes it could. It could last much, much longer. We were out of dried beef, but still had a few raisins, which I munched on. We were almost out of drinking water. The sun was a quarter way down. It would be dark in a couple hours.

  My stomach growled again and I knew it was time for action. I took the hatchet and dug a small hole. I scoped the bushes for dry branches, leaves, dead moss, anything that would burn and placed them in the hole. The whole time I was aware of Nate watching my every move. He didn’t understand survival the way I did. And I didn’t care if I was parading around in bare feet and a saffron dress!

  With the edge of the hatchet and the flint, I created a spark. Blowing softly, I managed to get the dead moss lighted. Soon the whole thing was aflame, and I added bigger twigs and branches to keep it going.

  “You’re a Girl Scout?”

  I ignored him. When the fire was burning on its own, I picked up the slingshot. I f
ound a small stone and waited. After a few moments a quail scurried across the far end of the grove. I took careful aim and shot. Bingo.

  “Wow!” said Nate. I’d momentarily forgotten he was there. He watched me use the hatchet to chop the head off, pluck the feathers and again with the hatchet, slice a line down the stomach and dump the guts out. Wasps came out of nowhere, and I shooed them away with my hands.

  “They love the smell of blood,” I explained.

  “All the girls I know would be freaking right now,” Nate said, admiration evident on his face. A first. I threw all the innards but the gizzard and heart into the fire, which responded with loud hissing. Then I chiseled a sharp point at the end of a stick, which I used to impale the little carcass along with its organs. Couldn’t afford to waste any chance at protein. I held the bird over the fire to cook it.

  “Where’d you learn to do all this stuff?” said Nate. More admiration. That’s right, pile it on.

  “Here, in the past.” It was amazing what hunger and the drive to survive could give you the will to do. I admitted it took quite a few tries before my hunting chops were up.

  “Oh, right. Time travel.”

  I ignored his sarcasm, and spun my stick. The meat was giving off a strong, mouth-watering aroma.

  “Kind of like a big marshmallow roast,” said Nate. “Good idea.”

  “Thanks.” I decided to tease him. “Where’s yours? You don’t expect me to share, do you?”

  He seemed startled by that. “Um, well…”

  I pointed to the slingshot. “Go for it.”

  He walked over and gingerly picked it off the ground. He examined its crudeness. “You didn’t pick this up at Wal-Mart, did you?”

  Uh, no. He found a small stone, crouched low, mimicking my earlier performance, and waited. A quail sprinted across and he shot. Miss.

  “I’m rusty.”

  “Rusty implies that you have previous experience,” I said smugly.

  “Okay, I suck. Is that better?”

  “Marginally.” I licked my fingers and, after his third miss, I had pity.

  “Now that you can feel the speed at which the stone moves, aim a fraction in front of the bird. They’re fast.”

  Nate threw me a look, which I couldn’t read. Gratitude or annoyance? However, it worked. He hit it.

  “Yes! Dinner.”

  I refused to help him with the plucking and gutting, but enjoyed watching him struggle. I had to admit he did pretty well for his first effort. His bird was roasting nicely, and he seemed very pleased with himself.

  “Good job,” I said.


  Dusk glowed with an orange hue. After throwing more branches onto the fire, I took the clothes from the burlap bag and created a makeshift bed for myself, lying on the bag, using the ivory dress with the little bluebells stitched on it as a blanket. Nate watched with great interest.

  “You look serious.”

  “What do you mean?”

  “You look like you intend to stay here the night.”

  “It's a good possibility.”

  He lay down on the grass opposite me, the small fire a careful boundary.

  “Well, at least it's a beautiful night. Look at all those stars. I don't remember a night so bright with stars like this.”

  “That's because there's no light pollution.”

  “Right.” He rubbed the very sexy stubble growing on his chin. “So, say I go along with your story,” Nate said. “Where are we?”

  “Just outside of Cambridge.”

  “And, uh, when are we?”

  “It’s 1860.”

  “How do you know?”

  “Because that's when it was the last time I was here.”

  “Which was?”

  “A couple weeks ago.”

  “A couple weeks?”

  “That's what I said.”

  “Uh huh. Okay. So what’s happening in America in 1860?”

  I thought of Sara Watson and Robert Willingsworth. “Abolition is a big issue. It’s hard for many to imagine a functioning economy without slave labor. The women wear these humongous hoop slips under their dresses, totally inefficient, just another example of fashion restricting women in the name of beauty. And, of course, Abraham Lincoln gets elected president on November sixth.”

  Nate chuckled. “You know your history.”

  I shrugged. “Wouldn’t you, if you were me?”

  “Anyway, it’s been fun and all that. Haven’t been punk’d like this before, but time’s up,” Nate said. “Let’s go.”

  Time's up? He had no clue. “Go where?” Couldn’t he see we were in the middle of nowhere?

  “Back to the dance, home, wherever. We’re not really going to spend the night out here are we?”

  I let out a frustrated breath. “Well, if you want to go, feel free.” The moonlight reflected his perfect face, the newly forming shadow of facial hair and his deep set intelligent eyes. He made a point of looking every direction, the reality of our situation seeping in. I rolled over, my back to him; otherwise, I might never get to sleep. I couldn't believe I was spending the night with Nate Mackenzie (sort of).

  We woke up early and finished off the water. Nate didn't spit it out this time.

  “No guys?” I couldn't help but say.

  “No. I'm going to pummel them when they show.”

  We were out of food and water. We had no choice but to head out. I picked up the dress I’d used as a blanket and tried to shake out the wrinkles. I hid behind one of the bushes, but it wasn’t exactly a changing room.

  “Turn around,” I said. Nate was confused, but did it. I struggled with the zipper at the back of my dance dress and managed to pull it down. That’s one good thing about having long limbs. I slipped out of the dress, and pulled the ivory one over my head. It was tight.

  And short.

  “Oh, no,” I gasped.

  “What?” said Nate, turning.

  “Don't look!”

  “Oh, sorry. What are you doing?”

  “I'm changing my dress. I can't go out there looking like that.”

  “Looking like what?”

  “Like I just came off a dance floor in the 21st century.”

  The ivory dress was too short. Why couldn't I just stop growing! I tugged harder, attempting to do up the buttons at my chest, but it was too tight. Then it dawned on me. I'd grown! I was giddy. Finally I had grown in the area I'd wanted to grow. But still, I had a problem with the dress not fitting. I slipped back into my yellow dance dress. Nate's suit was a bit ruffled from his night sleeping on the ground, but he still looked great, and my heart stubbornly fluttered.

  “Let's go find a bus,” he said.

  “A bus? You still don't get it, do you?”

  “Oh, right. We're back in time.”

  I covered my face with my hands. What a mess! It was bad enough when I had to scout and sneak for my own survival, but now I had HIM, an unbeliever. We were out of food and water, dressed in a way that would get us thrown into jail. Well, me anyway. Not to mention how unacceptable it was in 1860 for a girl my age to be accompanied by a boy his age without a chaperone.

  “Casey? Are you okay?

  No! I’m not. “I’m fine. Look, here’s what we’ll do. I know of a place near here where we can get some clothes.”

  Not the Watson farm. I didn’t like to steal from them.

  “Yeah, I wouldn’t mind getting into some jeans, watch a game on my flat screen.”

  “We’ll have to pretend that you’re my brother.”


  I could tell that the only way he was going to believe me was if he saw it for himself.

  “Let’s go.”


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