I watched Claire run out of the room, feeling worn out, but not surprised. I could only imagine how it must feel on her end, learning that she’d been manipulated in the worst of ways at a pivotal and already tumultuous time in her life, and by people she had trusted, at that. It didn’t matter that it had been to save our lives...it was still a betrayal.
And I was living proof of that.
“Do you think she hates me?” I asked aloud, to no one in particular.
“No, lass,” Jamie said, in barely more than a whisper. “She doesn’a.”
I looked at him then. His eyes were full of pain and regret, but there was also surprise, and dare I even think it...love. It was a little intimidating, to be honest.
“Is it truly you?” he asked in wonder.
I nodded, tried to smile. “Yeah. If I’m being honest, I sometimes wondered if it was really true myself. But after coming here and meeting you, seeing that you’re... real I gotta say I’m pretty convinced.”
“And...and your...you parents. They…told you?”
I felt my smile become easier, more sincere, and I took a step closer to him. “When I was a little girl, my Mami and Papi would help me say my prayers. ‘Bless Mami, bless Papi, bless my cat, Freddy...and bless my mother and father.’ Since before I can remember, they would remind me that I was loved. That you didn’t choose to give me up. Uncle Raymond would visit sometimes and tell me stories about you. You were like the heroes in a storybook.”
Jamie smiled, his eyes full of tears. “Ye canna know how often I thought of you...imagined you. Imagined what it would be like...if you were here,” he reached out slowly, as if giving me time to pull away, and touched the side of my face. “We never forgot our wee Faith. Christ... mo nighean leanaibh .”
Jamie pulled me into his arms, and I stiffened only momentarily before sinking into his embrace, my arms going around his middle. His hand gently cupped the back of my head, like I was something small, and precious. He was whispering words in Gaelic that I didn’t understand, but they made me smile regardless.
“I used to draw pictures of you,” I said into his shoulder. “I had a photo of Claire, but nothing of you, so I’d try and imagine what you might have looked like. But I know now that I never got it right. You’re better than what I imagined.”
He chuckled, and pulled back to look at me. “Bree likes tae draw. Like my own mam did…” he shook his head in wonder. “Christ, wait until we tell her...tell Bree.”
I wondered how Brianna would take it. If she might feel threatened at all, but couldn’t bring myself to say that aloud. “Look, Jamie, I know that you and your family have this life here, and I’m not looking to...disrupt that at all. You have to know that I don’t expect anything from you...I…”
Jamie frowned and shook his head, putting his hands on my shoulders. “Faith...lass...ye are family. If ye’re a disruption, it’s one we’re grateful for. Just as I’ve always been grateful of the disruptions that were yer mother and sister. Those two create wonderful chaos wherever they go, and I expect ye’re no different.”
I chuckled, scrubbing the tears off my face with my sleeve, but the job was suddenly taken over by Jamie, using his thumb to wipe them gently away. “Do you think Claire feels that way?” I asked.
“Claire’s had a shock, a leannan . Perhaps...perhaps ye should speak tae her, aye?”
I gulped, not sure if I was brave enough for that. But he was right, I needed to talk to her, and there was no sense delaying the inevitable. “Where do you think she went?”
“Where she always goes when she needs tae think. Her garden.”
There’d been a time when my herb garden had been my own little sanctuary away from the rest of the world. Even in my own time, since planting, and watering, and pulling weeds didn’t change no matter what century you were in. But then there’d been a time where it had ceased to bring me comfort, after the unfortunate death of Malva Christie.
But Jamie had started me a new garden at our new Big House, and I was learning to recapture that sense of peace that could only come from getting my hands dirty.
I came to it now, while my mind and heart were like a raging storm. But I did not put my hands into the soil. I simply sat at the little stone bench that Jamie had made for me and stared blankly at the neat rows of herbs.
I could hear the footsteps approaching, too light to be Jamie, too short to be Bree.
She sat beside me, unspeaking for a while, and we just sat, watching the sun rise higher above the horizon.
“Good soil here,” Faith ventured, leaning down to pick up a handful of it. “What sort of fertilizer do you use?”
“Horse dung,” I replied.
“Ah. I noticed you don’t have any cattle.”
“Cattle aren’t common in these parts just yet.”
I could see Faith nod from the corner of my eye. “Oh? If you could get your hands on just a bull and one or two cows, you could start a herd fairly easily. And having a bull around to pull plows would be easier and faster than the mule.”
I glanced at her from the corner of my eye. “You know a lot about cattle?”
She smiled and shrugged. “My dad was a cattle farmer.”
Her dad .
I tried to shove away the resentment I felt, but it was hard. I tried to look at this beautiful young woman and replace her face with the tiny one I’d memorized thirty-four years ago, but it was hard.
“Who was she?” I asked. “Do you know?”
Somehow, Faith seemed to know exactly what I was talking about. “I don’t,” she said sadly. “I wish I did. All I know is that both she and her mother died in childbirth there at the hospital. I visited the grave, once.”
I felt surprise at that. “You did?”
She nodded. “It sounds morbid, I know, but I wanted to see it. It was the summer after I graduated high school. A couple of friends and I traveled to Europe, and I knew I had to go there. It was so weird, looking at it and knowing that it was meant for me. I left flowers, for the little girl buried there. And I...I found something there.”
My head snapped up. “You did?”
“Yeah. It had been raining a lot, the ground washed out. I was digging around the marker, clearing away the mud, and I found a little spoon, buried.
I felt the breath leave me, a wave of sorrow washing over me. “An apostle spoon.”
She nodded. “Yeah.”
“Did you keep it?”
“No...it felt wrong, somehow, removing it from the grave, so I buried it back again. Do you wish I had?”
I thought a moment, then shook my head. “No. I think...I think I like that something was left there...for her,” I winced, wondering if that would hurt her feelings somehow, but I couldn’t help but still feel an attachment to the baby I’d held in my arms.
“I get that,” she said. “That’s why I left it.”
“Is Faith really your name?” I asked suddenly. “Or is that just what you told us?”
She chuckled. “It’s really my name. Raymond is who named me that, not Mother Hildegarde. My middle name is Marie, after my mother, Maria.”
I smiled. “That’s pretty.”
“What would you have named me?”
My smile fell, and I winced. “I never had a name for you. Jamie and I...we couldn’t make up our minds. Your middle name might have ended up being Ellen, after Jamie’s mother. That’s what I named Brianna. I’m sorry.”
I felt a warm hand cover mine, and I jumped, looking down at it. It looked so much like mine.
“Don’t be sorry,” she said. “None of this was fair, I know. My parents knew that, too. Before he died, my Papi wanted me to tell you how sorry he was, but how grateful.”
“Your parents sound like wonderful people,” I said, amazed that they could be so generous, sharing their child’s love with ghosts. I couldn’t help but think of Frank, how he coveted Brianna’s love, held it prisoner from Jamie, no matter that Brianna’s heart was plenty big enough for both.
“They were,” she said. “I hope it’s some comfort, at least, to know that I lived a pretty good life.”
It was a comfort. An immense one. The people who raised her could easily have been abusive, or neglectful, or simply never told her about her real parents at all. I was incredibly grateful, so why did I also feel this ugly feeling of jealousy?
I realized then that this must be precisely how Jamie had felt about Frank, and I suddenly felt very sorry for the fights we’d had over it.
“You said you were sick,” I said. “Why? What was wrong?”
“Congenital heart defect,” she replied. “I managed to avoid open heart surgery, and they were able to use catheterization to repair the holes in my heart. I’ve been going strong ever since. Doctors say I’m a walking miracle.”
“So if we’d kept you,” I said. “Even if I had survived Brianna’s birth…”
“I’d have died,” she said simply. “Even if you’d taken me to the 1940s with you, they wouldn’t have had the right knowledge yet to fix me. I know how this must feel to you, but I truly believe that Raymond was just doing what he thought he had to to save us all.”
“But why? ” I asked. “ Why do all of this to save us? Who assigned him as God?”
Faith chuckled. “I’ve asked myself that several times, but there are some mysteries to that man even my dad didn’t understand.”
I took a breath, gripping the edge of the bench a little too tightly, and forced myself to relax. “Then why did Raymond give you to the Sosas? Why not get you the surgery you needed, then bring you to me?”
Faith looked like she’d been expecting that question. “Well, the thing is Raymond can’t stay in any one time for very long. Don’t ask me why, because I don’t know. And I would require medical help for many, many years. He left me in the care of his trusted friend, my father, Anthony. He’s a traveler too, like us. He came from 200 years in the future, like you did. But...200 years into... my future. So like, 2100s. He didn’t like to talk much about it though. He met my mom in Honduras in the early 1980s, and he stayed.”
“Like me,” I echoed, amazed, as I always was, when I learned of yet another traveler. This was the first, however, I’d ever heard of one so very far into the future.
“After being raised by them from infancy…” she continued, and I held up a hand.
“No, it’s alright, I understand,” I said, and I did . They’d raised Faith, and loved her as their own. Of course they wouldn’t dream of giving her up once her heart condition was healed. And truth told, as turbulent as my own life had been, it was the kinder option for everyone.
“It’s okay if it still hurts, though,” she said.
I smiled. “You’re just like Jamie. He always somehow reads my mind.”
She grinned back. “You’re very expressive. People have often told me that I wear my heart on my sleeve, so I get it.”
“So now what?” I asked her. “Now that you’re here…”
“Look, it’s as I told Jamie, I don’t expect anything out of you. I came here with the simple desire to meet you, to get to know you, and let you know me.”
“Will you leave?” I asked, trying not to let too much emotion show on my “glass face.” If Faith wanted only to meet us, and then return to her own time, it would be completely understandable, and the last thing I wanted was for her to feel like she was being guilted into staying longer than she wanted to.
“Do you want me to leave?” She asked, her voice small.
The emotion I’d been trying to reel in since she sat down crashed out of me like water from a broken dam. I turned in my seat, wrapping my arms around her. And for the first time, I felt something like I felt when I would feel her move and kick inside me. My heart and body knew what my brain had tried to rebel against. She was mine. My child, who I grew beneath my heart, who Jamie and I created together. Ours.
“I don’t want you to go,” I whispered into her curly hair. “ Please don’t go.”
“I won’t,” she cried, her arms tight around me, almost crushing. “...m...Mom?”
I pulled back, looking into her eyes, seeing myself there. With Bree, I’d always seen Jamie. It was incredible seeing me .
“I want to know everything,” I said. “Your life, e... everything .”
She chuckled. “I uh...I brought my baby book.”
I gasped, having for some reason not considered that, living as long as I had without the gift of photographs. “You have pictures?”
Faith nodded. “Yeah. And I’ll tell you anything you wanna know. I uh...I want to know you, too. Raymond told me some things, but it’s not the same as...as knowing you.”
I gave a watery chuckle, jumping to my feet and pulling her along with me. “I’ll tell you. We’ll tell you all of it. But for now, you’re eating breakfast, because you’re still healing.”
“ Yes, Mom…” she droned playfully.