A/N Thank you for taking the time to click the link. If you read this and have an opinion, feel free to leave it in the review. This is a new story that is still percolating and evolving. Getting an idea of how it is working will help me know what direction to take this...to the trash bin or continuing Lady Downham's tale. I hope you enjoy it! ~Dee
Cover image courtesy of Gregory Szarkiewicz at
If someone had told me that I would have ended up here, in this place, I would never have believed them. I would have thought them nonsensical or daft, deranged even. I supposed I could be locked in some dream world, or perhaps it was I who was delusional and foolish. What did it matter? The facts persisted to present themselves to me. The people whom I inadvertently bumped as I took in my foreign surroundings were flesh and blood, with demands, needs, and complaints of their own. Therefore, I could no longer doubt my senses.
In earnest, I tried to convince myself that these ladies and gentlemen surrounding me were mere figments of my imagination, but if I ignored them, they persisted until I acknowledged their presence.
Even the generous Lila Cummings prodded me with questions. Frustrated and unable to answer many of her inquiries, I refused to acknowledge her as she poked my arm and pinched my cheeks. However, when she poured something called Coca Cola over my head, I relented, for I did not wish her to douse me with any more substances. The wretched liquid discolored my lovely, white silk gown. The moment it began drying, it became sticky, marring the delicate fabric so that there was no hope of restoration.
"Oh!" I screamed quite indelicately. "What have you done? You have ruined my gown. What have you to say for yourself?" I realized how trivial this sounded, but I could not restrain the question. My nerves were frail as I teetered on the edge of insanity.
Lila, with a smug smile, quipped, "I have succeeded in making you speak. Now, you can either tell me what's going on and who you are, or I shall see how you like iced tea dumped down the front of your dress."
Well, I could not deny that she had indeed forced me to speak, but I was not foolish enough to tell her that I had been in my garden, wandering the grounds, when I blinked and found myself in this ungodly city.
After arriving here one day ago, I acknowledged one important fact about this world. I doubted even a society such as theirs, with its many conveniences and inventions, as fascinating as they were, could fathom the truth. Howbeit, I would have to explain myself somewhat or else Lila might, what was the phrase she used, 'throw me out on my posterior'. The actual word she used was much too vulgar to repeat.
As Lila went to the rectangular door, opened it, and removed a pitcher of liquid, which I assumed was the iced tea, I held up my hand to stay her actions.
"One moment, please. May I have the courtesy of changing into dry clothes?"
"I guess you don't have any luggage, which means you need to borrow my clothes. Come on," Lila exhaled, exasperated. She walked into a bedchamber that looked as if a horrid wind had blown all of her wardrobe around letting the clothing fall once it stopped blowing. She picked up an item from a basket upon the floor and held it out to me. "Here, put this on."
"I cannot wear that."
"Fine," she said, throwing the garment onto her bed. "Either wear your soda drenched gown or go naked. I could care less." Lila, then walked out of the room, leaving me standing amidst the mess.
"This is entirely lacking propriety," I mumbled holding up the piece of material that resembled a towel more than clothing. I struggled out of my dress, unused to undressing myself, and turned the soft material around and around. A large opening was on one side, two sleeves and a belt, which hung from its center, were all that made up this frock. Once on, I recognized it to be a robe. Well, at least I thought it was a robe.
In the parlor, Lila sat on a sofa with her back to me. She turned as I entered the room.
"Now you don't look so stuffy," she said and then turned to face the frame with moving pictures on it. "Spill it, sister." She patted the cushion next to her.
"I beg your pardon?" Scanning the room, I found no glasses or bowls to spill. I thought momentarily that pouring liquid over each other was some sort of ritual, but pushed that thought aside.
Lila rolled her eyes. "Tell me where you're from, and I can take you there."
"Oh," I mumbled, before saying, "I live in New York City." I cringed, waiting for her to call me insane. I knew it would be nigh impossible to return me to my home. Hopefully, my answer would suffice.
"Okay, so, let's get you a taxi, and drive you home." She slapped her thighs and stood, as if the quandary were settled.
"I do not know what a taxi is, but I doubt it can take me home."
Lila rubbed her forehead and gave me what could only be called an exasperated look. Those unruly, red curls hung in front of her green eyes. If I had my ladies maid, Roberts, I would instruct her to tame Lila's wild tresses.
"What is your name again?" she asked me.
With eyes wide, Lila gaped at me. "Is lady your first name?"
"Certainly not!" To think my name is lady was quite ludicrous.
"I don't know how you all address one another in your house, but in my world, we don't go around saying, lady this and sir that. Not going to happen. So, what's your first name?"
"We are not acquainted and I see no reason that you would need to know my Christian name." Although Lila had been helpful, I did not know her and was certainly not familiar enough with her to be on a first name basis.
"Look lady, you're in my house, wearing my robe, and will at some point eat my food. If you want to remain here, you will tell me your Christian name." If I did not know better, I would say she mocked me. As her ire rose, it became increasingly evident that if I wanted to remain in her good graces, I had to forego certain formalities.
"There's no need to become angry. I am Beatrice Downham."
"Thank you. Okay, Beatrice, we need to get some things straight. My boyfriend is coming over in about," she checked her time piece, "half an hour. You need to chill out, or stay out of sight. His friend is coming too, and I really don't want to have to explain," she motioned up and down with one hand, "you."
"I will not intrude. I can chill out, as you say."
"Great! I'm going to take a shower and get ready. You…just stay out of trouble."
Lila walked the short hallway and disappeared behind a door. I heard water running and things being moved.
It would be necessary to take my leave once these gentlemen arrived, although I had no idea whether they were gentlemen or not. I did not wish to explain myself to them, either, as I was not certain what had happened or how I came to be in this city with its strange carriages and informal citizens. It confounds me as to how one moment I was strolling in my garden and the next I found myself standing near a street with carriages passing me at unthinkable speed. The noise pierced my ears. Blaring sounds emanated from the carriages, rumbling erupted overhead, and the clacking of thousands of feet upon the ground overwhelmed my senses. It was as if a candle were blown out catapulting me into another place.
Pulling my attention away from my predicament, my stomach beckoned me to tend to more immediate needs. I had not eaten for a day. In fact, my last meal had been at my dining table with my husband. My mouth watered thinking of the scrumptious supper Mrs. Hughes had prepared that evening: a lovely cream soup, roasted pheasant with potatoes and creamed peas. The bread pudding completed our supper. I went to the gardens the next morning instead of breaking my fast. Now, my stomach thought it a huge mistake.
In the kitchen, I opened what I supposed was her icebox and started when the inside of the icebox illuminated. I shut the door and then reopened it. Closing the door slowly this time, I noticed the interior darkened when the door was almost closed. Unwilling to ponder the lighted icebox, I chose instead to rummage through the cupboards. Surely, Lila had to have some biscuits or bread.
As I grabbed a box labeled, Ritz, the front door opened. I froze. It must be Lila's boyfriend and his guest. Their voices entered the room before they did. Not knowing what to do or where to go, I sat on the floor holding the box of Ritz. Something metal landed on the counter above my head.
A deep, male voice asked from above me, "Well, hello. Who are you?"
I had been discovered.
With as much dignity as I could muster, I stood, pulled the lapels around my throat, and curtsied. "Beatrice Downham. I'm pleased to make your acquaintance." I used the informal greeting; foregoing the proper form of introduction as such customs seemed unwarranted here.
The gentleman pulled away as if startled. He blinked a few times before laughing.
"What is so funny?" I demanded.
Another gentleman stood behind the first and said, "Never seen you around here, Beatrice. I'm Parker and this laughing clown is, Troy, Lila's more pitiful half."
Mr. Troy, ceased his laughter and punched Mr. Parker in the arm.
"What? It's true," he said to Mr. Troy and then looked at me. "Where is the little princess?"
"Princess?" I asked. She did not appear to be of royal blood, but maybe in their world she was. "Do you mean Lila?"
Mr. Parker smiled at me. He had lovely, straight, white teeth. I could not recall seeing teeth so pristine. My face heated, and I touched my cheek.
"Well, in that case, she is performing her morning toilette." He raised his eyebrows and looked at Mr. Troy. "You from England?"
"I reside in New York City." Or at least I used to.
"Ah, but you were born in England, right?" Mr. Parker scratched his head.
"No, I was born in Connecticut."
"As in the United States?"
Now, it was my turn to look confused. "Do you know of another Connecticut?"
Mr. Parker grinned. "No, Beatrice, I don't. It's just your accent sounds a bit British."
"Well, I can assure you I am not British. If you'll excuse me, I am not properly attired. It was a pleasure to make your acquaintance Mr. Parker," I curtsied. "Mr. Troy."
Hidden now behind the chamber room door, I heard their deep voices rumble. Occasionally, laughter erupted. Then, I heard Lila's voice as she greeted Mr. Troy and Mr. Parker. Her boyfriend whistled and then footsteps approached the door my ear was pressed against.
Lila opened it, and I nearly fell into the hallway.
"What are you doing?" she asked, clothed in only a towel.
I averted my eyes. "Lila, I will leave you to dress." Opening the door, intending to take my leave, Lila pushed the door shut. My gaze darted to her face.
"I told you to chill out and stay away from them."
"Forgive me, I thought you told me that you did not want to explain my circumstances, not get into trouble, and that I should chill out."
"You did not have to explain anything for I answered what questions they asked. And I am chilled out. You see?"
"No, I do not see! I meant stay out of sight! Not introduce yourself." She turned her back to me and opened the dresser drawers. With clothes in hand, Lila dropped her towel.
I must have blushed five times.
"Are all the people here as free with their bodies as you are?" I stared at the door, considering if I should leave.
"Oh, Beatrice, you have the exact same equipment as I do. Relax. I'm not gay. I just don't want to go back out in a towel in front of Parker."
What did being gay have to do with undressing? Her manner of speaking confounded me.
When I turned round, she was clothed, or partially clothed, in short pants, a shirt with small sleeves, and stockings upon her feet. With damp hair, she left the bedchamber and greeted Mr. Troy with a most brazen kiss. I stood in the doorway gaping at their display, feeling my cheeks burn, when Mr. Parker's gaze fell upon me. He smiled slowly and lifted his chin as if to say, 'join us'.
Leaving the safety of the bedchamber, I joined them in the parlor. I sat in a chair as far from the men as possible in this tiny space and snatched a blanket from the back of the chair, as I had forgotten about my lack of proper attire. Suddenly, quite humiliated for my lack of modesty, I pulled the blanket over my legs and up to my chin.
"Are you cold, Beatrice," Mr. Parker inquired.
"No, not at all."
"You just like wrapping up in blankets, then?"
"Yes. Yes, I do."
He turned his vivid blue eyes back to Lila and asked her, "Where did you two meet?"
"I found her, hysterical, turning in circles on the street corner. She nearly got ran over by a taxi when she spun right into the street." Lila sat upon Mr. Troy's lap and dangled her legs over the arm of the sofa.
"So, you don't know her?"
They talked of me as if I weren't in the room. It unnerved me.
"Nope. She looked pretty harmless. Maybe a little coo-coo. I thought she was an actress, wearing the fancy get up that she was. But she insisted she was not."
"I am right here," I said, unable to hold my tongue any longer.
"Of course you are. I just wanted to ask Lila how she met you. So, where in this city do you live?"
"I do not live in this city. I live in New York City."
Mr. Parker glanced at Lila and then at Mr. Troy.
"Right…but this is New York City."
My skin chilled and the room swam a bit. "I think I misheard you, Mr. Parker—"
"Parker is my first name. Bennington is my last name."
"I beg your pardon, Mr. Bennington. I thought you said we are in New York City."
"Call me Parker. And yes, that's what I said. You don't recognize the city you live in?" He chuckled.
I stood, forgetting my attempt to protect my respectability as I let the blanket fall to the ground. I had come to accept that I was no longer in a familiar setting. I would have understood and even agreed that I was on another continent. But this could not be my home. Unless…
"Parker," I began, "what is the year?"
He looked at Lila and then at me.