“Don’t you wish you could go back?”
“Go back where?”
“To a better time.”
Cassie thought on this for a long moment.
“There hasn’t been a better time,” she finally replied, her eyes on her bare, dirty, feet.
A warm wind washed through the two girls; it was almost comforting.
“Besides,” Cassie continued, “time travel isn’t real. We’re… stuck here.”
Tanya looked upon the vast emptiness before them, and after them. Father would be making his rounds soon. She sighed.
“I know. I just like to pretend.”
The girls carried on with their shovelling in silence, until father had came and left.
“Where were you before this?” Tanya asked. She had always been one to speak out of turn, but even for her, this was bold.
Cassie kept her eyes on her work, her heart thumping. She couldn’t tell if it was excitement, or fear, or an oddly pleasant mixture of both.
“You were somewhere. We all were.”
Cassie shivered, growing uncomfortable now. “I was no where. Or – well, I don’t remember.”
Tanya shook her head as if to say she understood completely. “I was somewhere. Somewhere beautiful. That’s where I’ll go back to. When I build my time machine.”
Cassie flinched. Angered by something she could not describe.
“Stop being a fool and work. He’ll be back before you know it and you’ll have no progress to show for yourself.”
“I will you know; build it.”
“Shut up!” Cassie directed her eyes right into Tanya’s now.
“You can come with me Cassie. I’ll take you with me, I promise!”
Tanya leaned into Cassie but Cassie’s stiffened body pulled away.
“I’m not going anywhere, Tanya. I’m a Child of Mercy and so are you. This is where we belong. Now stop your daydreaming and get back to work.”
The next morning the girls awoke to find that their number had been reduced to 12. Tanya’s bed appeared un-slept in, although the other girls could swear they had seen her turn it down with the rest of them. No one had heard a thing. No one had saw a thing. There was no note left behind. No good-byes. No explanations.
Tanya was simply gone. Vanished. She hadn’t built a time machine. Cassie was sure of that. If time had been turned back, Cassie herself would be back at home by her mother’s side, singing a lullaby to her baby brother – wouldn’t she?
© Shyla Fairfax-Owen