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Willow wasn’t wrong.
“Probably upper class, more freedom to move around as well.” He mused to himself as they walked.
“How soon can you get some uh, costumes, sorted?” He asked her as they walked towards the laboratory and he swiped his key card and let them in, taking off his jacket and moving around the corridors to his own private laboratory. He had the funds to pay for it so no one bothered him.
“You’re as much to thank as I am, Willow.” He said to her with a small smile as he pushed his door open and let her in.
“So I whittled down calculations and everything, a photo booth idea was good but didn’t quite seem practical. So.” He went to his desk, ignoring the beeping computers as he gestured to what looked like a control of some sort.
“You click the dates, adjust the frequency and just like that you’re off.” He said to her,
“You just have to stand on that pad.” He said and smirked a little, he was giddy and it was easy to tell.
He looked to the computer and ran some scans and checks.
“It measures everything. Body temp, critical life supports, everything and makes sure it’s safe to go from here to there and such.” He explained and smiled. He would never attempt it if it wasn’t safe, he knew that much and he was clever enough to know that dying for an experiment had little results except people thinking you were incredibly stupid! He set his gaze to Willow, he wondered how she would be, dressed up in Victorian attire like a proper lady from the region and he snorted slightly but didn’t comment, as if embarrassed for thinking of her that way.
“It’s ready to go whenever we are.” He explained and finally sat at his desk.
“I’ve ran every possible scenario, there’s no risk to life or health.” He said to her, almost reassuringly but mostly just factually. He ran a hand through his hair again, as if still coming to terms with what he had discovered right then. What they had discovered. He couldn’t wait to see her face and he looked her over,
“Will I need to change anything?” He asked, maybe he would need a haircut to get rid of tousled curls or something, he wasn’t a history expert. He stretched a little in the chair and his limbs itches with the need to just get going.
While Willow didn’t voice her impatience, she wanted nothing more than to get out of this coffee shop and make their way towards his lab so that she could see the machine that Justin built to transport them through time. A part of her still couldn’t believe his achievement but she was confident that he would have checked everything enough for everything to work safely. For now she was sure that she was doing a good job of remaining calm but she was not sure that she would be able to maintain the façade in the lab. Then it would become more real.
She smiled, showing an element of relief when he agreed on the time and he ignored her instructions to stop drinking caffeine, reaching for the mug and finishing the contents of it. Willow chuckled to herself and shook her head, finishing the rest of her water. Hopefully they would be making a move soon because she was not sure how much longer she could wait to embark upon this unique adventure.
[b “I actually have access to a rather extensive collection of genuine Victorian attire. We could initially borrow some items from that collection. I have it on loan from a museum so I can include a chapter about Victorian fashion.”] She laughed again and looked up at him and nodded with enthusiasm when he suggested it would be a good idea to make a move. She did not hesitate to rise from her seat and followed him out of the café with haste, nodding in gratitude at his chivalry. Outside they discussed some of the finer details about what to expect and how they might fit in.
[b “We would probably need to decide which class we are going to slide into. The working class is extremely poor at this time and I think it would be best to avoid being mistaken for one of them. While it is the focus of my study, immersing ourselves into a workhouse environment can be dangerous. We need to make sure that was protect ourselves from poverty and disease or we might not make it back.”] Her tone was enough to indicate how serious the situation could be if they found themselves mixed up with the wrong people. [b “More than anything we just need to be careful about what we say. We could easily find ourselves mixed up with historians, inventors, scientists…all important to us today but we need to remember that they might have completed their work yet and we shouldn’t influence or change anything. I suppose it could be quite dangerous if we find ourselves messing with history.”]
Once they arrived at the lab she waited for Justin to follow the appropriate procedures that would grant them access. Her skin itched with anticipation and the butterflies in her stomach erupted at the thought of seeing his accomplishment. She had not said it yet, but she was extremely proud of him and she wanted to take a moment to voice that. [b “Justin, I just wanted to say that I think you are amazing. The dedication you have shown in pursuing this has been admirable and I find you to be an inspirational person. I’m proud of you.”]
Justin eyed the female when she said she was going to cut him off from caffeine and he made a tutting sound.
“Victorian?” He was distracted by her words as he thought about it. He didn’t know history too well, he’d dabbled but he wasn’t talented and an expert by any means. If it was what Willow wanted then of course, he would submit to whatever she wanted.
“Victorian it is.” He said to her with a broad smile as he drained the coffee still in his mug.
“So how do we do this? I suppose we would have to dress like them and pick some point in the era where we can easily fit in and explore the people there.” He thought for a while and honestly he drew a blank. His gaze lingered on the dregs in his coffee cup thoughtfully as they settled. Justin ran a hand through his already messy hair, Victorian era meant being a gentleman. Money was never an object for Justin, his parents had left him a wealthy pair of life insurance payouts not that he ever really used it. Simple was fine for him but if he was the sort to want a fancy house and a fancy car and all the rest of it, he could have if he wanted but he just didn’t want any of it. Still, he never went without really and he did his best to make sure those around him didn’t go without either.
He looked to Willow,
“We should get going then Hm?” He wanted to start already. She was right, they wold fit in far better than somewhere Greek or Italian, best to play it safe for now. Besides they had all the time in the world, they could discover other places- times. He needed to keep correcting himself on that one. He stood and grabbed his coat, bundling into it clumsily and smiling to Willow, his excitement still being the forefront of his emotions right then. The laboratory wasn’t a far walk. He sighed quietly and shoved his hands in his pockets as he went outside with Willow, holding the door for her.
“What should we expect from Victorian era?” He asked her and wondered how they would end up fitting in.
He walked with Willow and kept quiet, for the most part.
She laughed as the woman working in the café corrected the amount of coffee he had and shook her head as Willow leaned forward to pull the mug of coffee away from him.
[b “Okay, six in one hour is not healthy bud. I’m cutting you off.”] With that she leaned back and looked him over, still unable to determine the difference between his caffeine high and his excitement for his breakthrough. While she was also excited about the prospect of visiting history, like [I really] visiting history, she wanted to make sure they were smart about this and were completely prepared to deal with every possible outcome.
Willow pulled her bag over her head and placed it down on the ground and ordered a glass of water from the woman behind the counter. She would have been worried about people overhearing their conversation but out of context, the whole think might not have made sense at all. It seemed that Justin was cautious about someone overhearing too so he kept his voice low. She bit her lip as she listened to his ideas. Each one of them just as appealing as the last but he highlighted the issues she would have identified too. She found it quite humorous to hear him jitter from one thought to the next. This was definitely the work of caffeine [I and] excitement.
[b “I think your right to be cautious about where…when…we go. We have to make sure that we blend in and that we do not attract too much attention to ourselves while we are there. If we get noticed, we could get integrated into history somehow and change the past…or the future.”] She shook her head as she tried to wrap her mind around all of this, not really sure of the best way to put everything into a sentence. However, she had already decided where she wanted to go.
It was the easiest place for them to blend in and avoiding disease would be easier than avoiding persecution in another time where they might appear out of place. They could protect themselves against many of the diseases with modern day injections and inoculations and they already knew the cause of cholera which meant that they could avoid it easily. While she had been thinking, her water had been brought over to her and she took a sip before speaking to Justin.
[b “I haven’t stopped thinking about this since you caught up with me before my lecture. I think Victorian Britain is the best bet. I already know so much about it, so I know how to fit in, we can avoid the appropriate things, wear the right clothes and we already have the British accent. That would be hard to explain away if we went to Egypt or Greece. We can test out the machine and I can [I really] see what is was like. It would offer me so much insight for my publication.”] She took a breath and another sip of her water and began to speak again. [b “Besides, we already know London. It’s going to be hard for us to get lost there. What do you think?”]
Willow was genuinely interested by his opinion because they would be going nowhere if it had not been for him in the first place. She hoped that she did not sound selfish in her reasoning because this was his discovery more than it was hers and he deserved a say in where they travelled. At least she knew that there was no one else she would rather go on this adventure with.
“Uh- maybe two?” Justin said as Willow entered and glanced to her.
[b “Six, actually.”] The elderly woman behind the counter put in and Justin flashed her a look. He huffed and didn’t know why it mattered honestly. He’d barely slept and coffee kept him awake and somewhat alert, besides his system was used to dealing with high amounts of caffeine. He looked to Willow across the table and then outside to the busy streets, that bustled with numerous people shifting from lecture to lecture or job to job.
“I’ve been giving it some though, where do we go?” He asked her in a hushed voice. They needed to figure everything out before they just jumped in a machine headed for wherever or rather, whenever. His hair was sticking up in all directions from running his hands through it so often but he didn’t seem to mind in all honesty, there were bigger issues to greet right then than his appearance.
“I mean there’s Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, Ancient Egypt- All with very good scientific studies and then there’s Queen Victoria times.” He wasn’t a history expert like Willow.
“I suppose we shouldn’t go too far back, we at least want to fit in slightly whilst we are there.” He said to her. Ancient Egypt they would no doubt be executed for looking so different. Ancient Rome they would be okay as they could say they were from foreign lands but even still, from what he knew there were a lot of crucifixions back then and he didn’t fancy his chances. He looked to Willow.
“You’re the history expert, you should choose.” He pointed out to her with a small smile. It only seemed logical, really, because she knew everything much better than him right then. His eyes traced over her, as if trying to work out what she was thinking right that moment. He felt so familiar with her but so distanced at the same time. It was a curious situation to be in and no amount of books he read would explain the pitch in his chest when she was around and why no book could explain what it was she done to him when she was around. He hated and loved it at the same time.
“Wherever you like! Perhaps nothing too dangerous though and I’m not sure what’s safest.” He said to her with a small shrug, trying to play it cool but he had always failed at being cool or anything like that. Justin was book smart, he always had been but he wasn’t exactly street wise and his reading of books and science had been a good escape when he was younger. He was older now and everyone always told him to live a little or loosen up. It usually fell on deaf ears though because he wouldn’t have known how to even start such a process. He very rarely seemed comfortable in anyone’s presence, Willow was one of an extremely small amount of people he felt at ease with and the only woman.
Willow could not remember a time she had ever seen Justin so excited about anything. He was behaving like an excited child who had just been informed they were taking a trip to Disneyland and she could do nothing to hide the smile it brought to her face. She was happy that he was displaying such emotion, especially since he had spent most of the year professional and calm. This was a new side to him; one she hoped she would have the opportunity to encounter once more. The Justin she knew would never have suggested that she should ditch a lecture for an adventure but this was not just any normal adventure and she understood the importance of what he was saying. Deep down, they both knew her job had to come first in this instance.
Willow chuckled as the man listed the array of places and times they could visit. It was then that it dawned on her. She could [i finally] get to know what it was truly like to walk along the streets of Victorian Britain. She knew exactly where she wanted to go and though her reasons were due to selfish intrigue, she also wanted to ensure that they went to a time she knew much about. They would have to wear the correct clothes and talk in a particular way, behave in a particular way and it made sense to go somewhere that Willow knew inside out. Victorian Britain would be their destination and she could not have been more excited about the prospect.
After the initial excitement subsided, Justin seemed to accept that her lecture was important and insisted that she should meet him at the coffee shop and she nodded intently. She had no intention of wasting any time as soon as she fulfilled the duties of her role here. The moment her lecture was over she would be ready to jump into whatever adventure awaited them. She was just glad that it was with Justin. While they had become close professionally over the year, she had grown fond of his mannerisms and awkward quirks. It's what made him Justin and if she thought that he had [i any] interest in women she might have asked him on a date long before now. However, it had been clear from the beginning that he was married to science and that relationships and women had never even crossed his mind.
[b "I promise, the [i moment] my lecture is over I will be there."] With that, he retreated to wherever he was planning on going. Knowing him, he would head straight for the coffee shop and spend the next hour twiddling his thumbs waiting for her. If he was anything like her, he would be far from productive if he was this excited. Willow watched him walk off for a moment, a smile dancing upon her lips as she turned towards the building and retreated inside.
She wasn't even sure how she had managed to make it through an entire lecture. Her mind had been swimming with the possibilities the two of them now faced and every time she mentioned someone or something in the past, she reminded herself that she could met them or experience things that no one else could. For the first time in a year, she dismissed the class early, wanting to get to that coffee shop as quickly as possible. She waited for the last student to exit, willing them to hurry as she closed down her laptop and turned out the lights. Locking the lecture hall, she grew more impatient and her pace had quickened into a light jog until she reached the door of the cafe.
She spotted Justin from outside and smiled to herself as she gave herself a minute to catch her breath before pushing on the door. The bell above it alerted everyone to her presence and she made her way to the corner Justin had commandeered and lowered herself to the free chair. [b "How much of this stuff have you consumed?"] She asked, eyeing the coffee in front of him. Caffeine and excitement were not a great mix.
“To Hell with the lecture! You can live what you’re talking about. We could go to Ancient Rome, ancient Egypt! We could find out if Jesus was even a real person!” Justin was buzzing from head to toe, excited like a child. He looked at Willow and realised his mouth was running away with him. What a lovely smile she had, what a calming presence. It some how settled him and put him at ease, though he wasn’t sure why. He did like her, he had for a while. He adored her ever since she had introduced herself and he remembered thinking how stupid he had been to barely glance up from his computer screen, but this was business and he had to keep it that way.
He seemed like an anxious child ready to play out his new toy.
“Okay! I’ll meet you at the coffee shop on the corner after your lecture!” He buzzed and gestured. It was the only decent one around and he usually went there for coffee so she knew it well enough.
“Meet me after!” He said before darting off.
The coffee shop was dead, most people at work and it gave him peace to think as he stirred the black coffee in front of him. Where would they go first?! Ancient Rome? Egypt? Greece? He didn’t know but he was sure as hell ready to find out! He watched the minutes tick by on the clock and must have gone through at least three coffees, all of them black with a half spoon of sugar. His mind was running quicker than he could keep up with. He had made the single most amazing breakthrough with Willow.
They could find out so much, and he wouldn’t sell out to greedy corporations either. He’d always said he would never become a man that would do that. His parents would be so proud of him, if they were alive of course but Justin has no one, perhaps that was why he drowned himself under a flood of work constantly, to keep from lingering. But it had paid off. This time all his hard work had paid off. Still, he had to wonder and he couldn’t help but picture Willow’s face when she ended up speaking with Julius Caesar or Cleopatra or Queen Victoria. He bet his bottom dollar it would be a total picture.
She had helped him massively and yet he remained so cold with her usually, he knew he was doing it but he couldn’t give into emotion. Professionalism always came first for Justin Gallway. It was just how he had always been, his entire life. His eyes swept the coffee shop, it was only him, a couple of other students and the elderly woman serving. He looked to her as she approached with a coffee pot and topped him up with a fair smile before pottering off once more. He wanted to share this with Willow and no one else yet. They would have a tidal waves of interviews and articles and he couldn’t even think about them right then.
He leant back in the chair and tried to come to terms with the magnitude of what he had accomplished. He had broken through the walls of physics and time and had somehow made it so that he could see some of the greatest moments in history. Pompeii, the construction of the pyramids, even the miracles of Jesus if the man had existed! And he didn’t want anyone else by his side but Willow. He flicked through his phone, making sure to run his calculations over and over in his head and he was so sure he hadn’t missed anything. He was itching to get back and try it out. But he would wait for Willow because she had every right to venture with him into this great unknown.
Willow lived on campus for the time being, knowing that she would need to be as close to work as possible because of the publication that she was writing. Before this, she lived an hour away from campus and she would not have been able to spend as much time in the library if she had to travel so far, every time she wanted to research a book. Her place was small, but it was exactly what she needed. Luxuries were not needed in her world. She was a simple woman and the single life meant that a studio apartment worked for her fine and it wasn’t as though she ever had company to concern herself with. If she ever spent personal time with friends, they would always go out or go to their place.
The short distance definitely made her morning commute quick and relaxing. The chill was not as strong as she had expected on this particular morning which she was pleased about as she had forgotten to pick up a jacket. The taste of rich coffee brushed her lips and danced along her tongue as she walked through the main entrance of the university campus. As the coffee slid slowly down her neck she allowed herself to close her hazel eyes for a moment and enjoy the taste of the amazing blend she had come to favour. A smile threatened the corner of her lips as she walked close to the building and she composed herself as she threw the empty take away cup into the nearest deposit.
It there was one thing Willow prided herself on it was her professional persona. Her golden-brown hair fell just below her shoulders in lose curls with some of it tied back with a small clip which complimented her delicate face which was barely tarnished with any form of make-up. She wore a grey suit that was tightly fitted to the contours of her slender body and her sensible flat shoes allowed her to be comfortable and at a height she felt safe with. She caught her reflection in the window and stopped for a second just to check her appearance. Just as she was about to start making her way into the building she heard her name being called out and she stopped, turning around to find the source.
Within seconds her eyes fell upon Justin and a smile found her face. Justin was a fellow employee here at the university and he had been working on something that no one else would dare dedicate their time. He seemed to be confident that he could find a way to travel back in time. They had become close colleagues and with her interest in history he was quick to share the focus of his scientific exploration. At first, she had been sceptical, but he seemed to sure that he could deliver and figure all of this out that she couldn’t help but hold out hope. He promised her that he would take her back in time one day.
She barely had time to respond to him at first. His tone was urgent, and his demeanour was different, and he had taken hold of her arm in what she could only detect as excitement. Her eyes widened as he spoke claiming that had succeeded in his aim.
[B “You did it? You [I actually] did it?”] She watched as he quickly remembered his mannerisms and drew back his hand so that his professionalism was his front once more. She laughed quietly as she saw his embarrassment. [b “Justin I can’t believe it. This is amazing and you [I should] be excited.”] She extended her arm and allowed her hand to rest gently on his. [b “I’m all in but the university are going to be so mad if I cancel this lecture.”]
Justin Gallway was old before his time. He spent most of his time buried under paperwork, often losing track of how long had past. He forgot to eat usually but tonight was different. He’d actually gone back to his small apartment and microwaved a meal. It was better than nothing, besides he was a grown up. He ran a hand through his hair as he spooned in the meal, staring at the white bird full of equations. He was missing something. Every other thing matched up so what was he missing? His machine was almost perfect but he was missing an element and he couldn’t figure it out. This is why he hated coming home, he lost focus. He showered, and slept for a grand total of four hours. By 5am he was back in the lab.
A computer beeped in the background somewhere but Justin didn’t seem to notice it as he flicked through some notes. He sighed and rubbed away any tiredness that lingered in his eyes.
“Wait.” He breathed and checked his calculations before and then adjusted something, running it through the computer as it whirred into action. It flashed up codes and all sorts of symbols.
He’d done it.
He’d actually done it.
All of the hard work and it was successful. He darted around his laboratory, checking everything a thousand times and double checking even after that. There were no mistakes, he had actually done it! He could go back in time. He could meet Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth the first, Julia’s Caesar! They could go back in time and see how Jesus had come about, was there man behind the myth?! His heart was pounding in his chest. He needed to calm down but he was beyond any sort of shock, he’d made a huge breakthrough.
He stopped and took a few deep breaths. He checked the time, Willow would be heading to that lecture and he didn’t intend to let her make it. He shoved on his coat in a whirlwind and grabbed his phone, heading out and locking up. He darted down the streets towards where he knew Willow would be headed. He caught sight of her face amongst the crowds.
Willow was pretty, and he was never any good at talking to women. He’d spent years reading books and doing experiments but socially, he was inept. Besides, she was a colleague. Never mix business with pleasure. No matter how tempting it was because Willow had become his muse, almost. He was the most amount of human contact he had and she was very good at calming him when frustrated. He almost tripped but caught himself as he ran to her.
“Willow! Willow!” He caught up to her and took hold of her arm as he caught his breath, he wasn’t particularly athletic either.
“We did it. This morning I saw the mistake. We actually did it.” He said, staring at her. It was the happiest he had been in months, no longer tormented by what was wrong and why it wasn’t working.
“We need to try it! Please! Forget the lecture, we’re going to live it! We’re going to live history!” He babbled excitedly and then remembered he was a scientist. He straightened up and let go of her, clearing his throat. He rubbed the back of his neck nervously, as if embarrassed if his show of emotions.
History was far from simple. It was the complexities of the stories and the varying interpretations of events that happened so long ago that had seduced Willow to explore history as part of her degree. She had spent many of her years in education falling over volumes and records, enriching her knowledge of different periods and found herself longing to live among the people she had read about in books. Once she found a period she had become obsessed with, she chose a specialism and began to study the Victorian era in a new level of depth, learning about the societies that existed as well as the dark side of history. It was a time of disease, death and poverty as well as a period of prosperity for the country under the reign of Queen Victoria.
Even now she spent her morning surrounded by books, the smell of old vellum finding her as she explored the workhouses of London and Liverpool through the pages of the university library’s collection. The experiences of those forced to work in such conditions still shocked her and as she read about the number of people who found themselves living in such poverty, she found herself imagining the buildings in front of her and the manner of the kind of people who ran them. What she wouldn’t give to go back and see it all for herself and save even one person from such a fate. She laughed to herself as she mused over an impossible scenario and turned the page carefully, running her fingers over the veins of the new page. She imagined herself standing over the man who wrote the diary she had read, wondering what motivated him to report on the true horrors of the workhouse. As an inspector of the facilities, he could have easily lied and allowed people to continue to exploit the lower class. Clearly this gentleman was a much better human being that most of the bourgeoisie had been back then. Greedy and desperate to profit from the despair of others was something that was void from his nature. What she wouldn’t give to meet him.
She took one last look at his signature. J.Hughes sprawled at the bottom of every page written by hand before rising from her positioning in the study area. Willow stretched out like a cat before she leaned over and switched off the dim light that offered her more visibility. Once she was satisfied should could start her departure, she placed the book on top of the others she had asked to see for research purposes before lifting the heavy pile and moving towards the main desk of the deserted library. It had been full of people hours ago and many came and went in the time she had spent with her small collection. She had missed dinner again, researching through to eight ’o’clock and the library was about to shut.
[b “I’m sorry if I have kept you here. I forget the time when I am reading.”] She placed the books down on the desk and smiled towards the gentleman she had come to know as Harrison. He was a retired man who still felt the urge to work so found himself volunteering in the university library so he didn’t become restless at home. It was something she admired about him and she had taken the time to get to know him since she spent most of her days here when she wasn’t giving lectures.
[I “Nonsense. If I were at home I’d only be watching reruns of TV shows. Besides, the library closes at eight, you have only missed that by five minutes.”] He said as he pointed at the clock. After the brief exchange between them she told him which books she had finished with and which of the books to keep reserved for her. She was not quite finished with Hughes yet and wanted to spend a little more time learning about him and become to understand him a little better. Not only that, but she had become rather hypnotised by the cursive nature of his handwriting and wondered if she could ever get bored of looking at the beauty of it. When she was confident that Harrison had separated the books effectively she wished him goodnight and made her way out onto the darkened streets. The darkness was finding them a lot earlier now that the final month of autumn had descended upon them yet she wasn’t quite sure that she felt the chill of coldness just yet. That didn’t mean that she ventured outside without her coat though, just in case she got caught in rain or whatever strange turn the weather might take. The weather in England was completely unpredictable.
That night she would order a takeaway to her university building and spend the night reading through the publication that she had started to write. She was one of the youngest professors at the university and she planned on publishing her own book about the era once she had completed all of the research she needed to make it successful. Willow pulled out her phone and punched in the number for her local Chinese restaurant, placed her order and made her way home with nothing on her mind except her appetite to write and her need for sustenance.
Like most evenings, she ended up falling asleep on the sofa with her laptop sitting upon her extended legs and it was the heat from the fans of the machine that roused her from her sleep at 3am. She let sound of annoyance and gave her eyes a minute to adjust before hitting the safe button and closing the laptop. She had a lecture to deliver in five hours and sleeping on the sofa would not permit her a good night sleep. It took every ounce of willingness in her body to finally stand up from the sofa and move to her room where her sleep was a lot more peaceful. Right on cue, her alarm sounded at 7am and she went about her morning routine with ease and relaxation before brewing herself a coffee to go and she was on the road, wondering what adventures that day might bring.
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