I opened my eyes slowly, looking at my surroundings. I screamed in utter terror as I realized what had happened hadn't been a dream at all. The fancy drapes were covering the large windows. I screamed even louder, my heart beating much too fast for my own good. Someone ran into my rooms and wrapped their arms around me.
"Elle," a voice whispered. I managed to look at the person who was holding me. Joseph Bayes. I wrapped my arms around him and buried my head into his chest, letting him rock me back and forth. "Are you alright? You look as if you've seen a ghost." He nervously stroked my hair.
"Nothing," I began, taking a deep breath in. "I'm sorry if I scared you, Mr. Bayes." Joseph stared at me. He half smiled. If only he knew where I should truly belong, maybe he wouldn't have been smiling.
Breakfast was quite an event. Rodger looked angrier than usual, his eyebrows furrowed and refusing to eat the greasy bacon. All the food seemed heavy, so I settled for honeyed toast and a cup of scalding tea. I began remembering my old breakfast routine.
Darren and I were always running late for work, so we usually only had a couple of granola bars. But when we were free from work, we would sit down in the patio of our apartment and enjoy a bowl of Froot Loops and soy milk. I smiled, thinking of the days before Misty became Darren's harlot.
"I DON'T WANT TO EAT NO DAMN FOOD!" Rodger shouted, running up the stairs. "I DON'T WANT TO END UP FAT, LIKE MR. BAYES!" I giggled at the comment, but stopped immediately when Mrs. Bayes gave me a dirty look.
"Miss. Benson," Joseph began. "Would you mind checking up on Rodger?" I nodded and climbed up the stairs. I walked down the dimly lit hallways, staring at the portraits of Joseph's family. I shivered with terrible delight as I thought of ways these people had died.
Rodger was sitting down in a hallway, leaning on a wall. His head was buried deep in his legs, the sounds of sobbing coming from him. I sat down, leaning against the wall. Rodger reminded me of how much I wanted to be a mother.
I gently began stroking his black hair. Rodger stopped sobbing and looked up at me.
"Who are ya?" Rodger asked, wiping the tears away from his eyes and face. "Yar Elle, aren't ya?"
"Yes," I said, smiling at the little boy. "I'm Elle. Why are you so sad, Rodger?"
"Ma mum died this day, two years ago. I... I want to go and see 'er. But Mr. Bayes says he's busy."
"Let me go ask Mr. Bayes if I can take you," I said. Rodger's face instantly lit up. Rodger silently led me down the stairs and into the large dining room.
"Mr. Bayes," I began uncertainly. "Do you mind if I took Rodger to the graveyard? He says you're much too busy."
"Miss. Benson," he began, standing and walking toward me. "Let me finish my breakfast and I'll be more than happy to go with you. Rodger, go get dressed. You too, Miss Benson." Rodger and I ran up the stairs and into our rooms. I dressed quickly, but I couldn't get my shoulder length hair to fit into the black bonnet, so I let it loose. I hoped Mr. Bayes didn't mind.
The walk to the cementery was a long one. I was freezing underneath my shawl and dress. Rodger held my hand tightly as we went into the cementery. A twinge of sadness overcame me as I remembered my own parents' death.
It had been a cold day. I was at school, talking to my friend during a lesson, when I was called into the principal's office. My grandpa was waiting and he had swollen eyes and a sullen face. He burst into tears when he saw me. I ran over to hug him.
"Elle," he said, trying not to cry. "Your parents are dead." They had died in a fire at my house. They had left a candle on, and it fell onto the floor. Engulfing the entire apartment.
I was given to my grandpa, my only other relative. That night, sitting in my grandfather's living room, pretending to watch TV, I realized that I had to stop looking at the past and focus on th future.
"Elle?" Joseph's voice shattered my thoughts. "Are you alright? You're crying." I wiped my tears away, but it didn't help at all. Joseph looked at me.
"I am?" I asked. He must have thought I was some bonafide idiot. "I was just remembering my parents, that's all." Joseph wrapped his arms around me, and I did the same.
Back at Joseph's house, I began trying to figure out how to get back home. I decided to retrace my steps. I was going to have to go back to the brothels. Lovely. I waited until everyone was asleep to leave the house. Walking in the darkness, I began thinking of things. Of Misty, Darren, and surprisingly, Joseph.
I took a deep breath as I passed the noisy brothels, looking at the rising sun. I had been walking for hourse. I walked all the way down to where I had woken up. There was a lake next to it. Maybe that was a portal back to my world.
I took off my shoes and stepped into the lake.
"Elle?" the familiar voice of Joseph yeled. "ELLE!" I put my other foot into the lake, letting the hem of my dress get wet. Something suddenly pulled me out of the water and pushed me onto the ground. "ELLE! You could have drowned! What are you doing here? I came looking for you when you didn't show up at breakfast!"
"I wanted to take a swim," I lied. I didn't even KNOW how to swim. I shivered, looking into Joseph's blue eyes.
"Elle! You're a bloody idiot! Do you know that people who swim in here have NEVER come out?" I pushed him back and stood up. Joseph gently grabbed my arm. "Elle, I'm sorry. Let's just go back home and talk for a while."
I sat in front of Joseph's fire place, wrapped in a huge shawl and holding a steaming cup of tea. Joseph came into the room, sipping his tea. He sat in the armchair next to me.
"Elle," he began. "What where you REALLY doing at the lake?" Joseph stared at me.
"I... I was trying to leave," I began. "Joseph, I need to get back home. I have a job and a new place waiting for me. Thank you for everything, Joseph, but I have to go." Joseph leaned in a little closer to me.
"Elle, I can't force you to stay, but before you leave, tell me a little about yourself." I spilled my guts out to Joseph. My parents, my grandfather, Darren, and Misty. I found myself crying again, Joseph coming over and holding me.
"Elle, it's alright," he began. "Please, stay here. Just for a few more days."
"I have to go, Joseph," I said, standing up. Joseph blocked the entrance to the hallway.
"I'll go with you and see that you arrive safely, then." Uh-oh. I was going to have to bring Joseph to modern day San Franscisco.