Chapter 1: Out of Time

This is the post excerpt.

Surely this is a mistake…

‘Okay, Olivia, stay calm,’ I told myself. ‘What is the last thing you remember?’

Mama and Papa had a lovely ball at our estate last night. There were so many guests, all the beautiful ladies in their gowns, the handsome men…and Alexander was there. We’re to be engaged once our parents have made the necessary arrangements. I’m sure our engagement ball will be even grander than last night.

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‘Keep your mind on the task at hand, silly goose,’ I chided myself.

After the ball I went upstairs to my dressing room. Nellie helped me out of my gown and turned down the bed linens. I climbed into my soft, warm bed and fell asleep to thoughts of my engagement celebration.

And now I’m…HERE…wherever here is.

I looked down to find that my nightgown had been replaced by tattered pants and an unseemly shirt. ‘I would die of embarrassment if Alexander saw me like this!  I’m dressed worse than a stable boy,’ I said aloud as if someone were there to hear me.

I didn’t think it possible, but my surroundings were even more bleak than my outfit.

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There was a cloth sack standing upright as if suspended by invisible tethers from heaven, a strange box, and a hearth. The grounds were green and well tended but with no signs of a kitchen garden or hedgerow maze. ‘And no signs of a gardener, cook, or chambermaid,’ I sighed.

There was a small cottage nearby. Surely whoever lives there can help me find my way home. I knocked on the door and waited but was met by silence. ‘A lady should wait to be invited in,’ Mama’s words echoed in my head.

‘I’m sorry, Mama, no one answered the door and I truly need help. I won’t disturb their belongings – I’ll just wait quietly until they return. They’ll forgive my breach of etiquette. Is there etiquette for my current situation?’

I felt the panic rise again so I took a deep breath and opened the door. I found myself in the strangest room I’ve ever seen. There was a small, white chair in the corner so I sat down to wait.

‘How could anyone live in a place like this?’ I mused as I shifted uncomfortably in the cold, hard chair. The cottage was barely two paces wide. There was a freestanding washbasin with odd metal ornaments on it and next to it some sort of glass chamber. I wondered how the occupants slept in here…perhaps standing upright in that glass chamber? I wanted to ask them when they got back but Mama’s voice reminded me it was not polite to do so.

I waited for what seemed like an eternity and still no one came. Finally my curiosity got the best of me. ‘I know I said I wouldn’t touch anything, Mama, but what harm is there?’

I reached out towards the ornaments on the washbasin. They were cool to the touch and two of them seem to move. I turned one slowly and yelped in surprise when cold water rushed out. ‘How curious,’ I thought, ‘a washbasin that fills itself?’

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I opened the door of the glass chamber and found more metal ornaments. Not wanting another soaking, I stepped aside before touching them then watched in wonder as water rained down from above.

It was then I noticed that the seat of the chair concealed…another washbasin?!   When I touched the metal ornament on the back of the chair the bowl below emptied with a whoosh. I laughed nervously and thought how I would have no need of a chambermaid in this strange place.

When it became clear no one was coming back to the cottage I splashed my face with water and took a long drink from the tall washbasin. Then I went outside and sat on a nearby log to contemplate my next step.

‘Oh Mama and Papa, you gave me the best tutors. I can do math and speak Latin. I can sew and paint, sing and play the harp. And none of that is any help at all in this situation.’

 

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