The day was a formidable one at best with the downpour of rain and the occasional streaks of lighting that stretched across the expanse of the skies along with the ominous rolls of thunder. Looking out the large window that covered the entire wall of one side of the den, Piper yawned, sinking deeper into the cushions of the comfy sofa, the book she was reading perched on her chest. It was such a dreary day that she could not help feeling sleepy again even though she’d risen later than usual that morning.
Her normal days of vacation almost always consisted purely of unwinding and downtime, or doing precisely what she felt like doing. This year, she had chosen a week at the beach, and the forecast called for rain nearly every day. Of all the times to choose a beach vacation! Still, the house was lovely with a beautiful oceanfront view, and it was true that she loved the beach no matter the time of year or type of weather. Come winter, fall, spring, or summer and in rain or sunshine, the soft lull and roll of the tide’s waves were always an inspiration and peaceful interlude.
In the background, soft strains of Chopin’s Nocturnes played as Piper attempted to continue reading her book, Wuthering Heights. It had always been one of her favorite classics, and she was determined to read it again since the last time had been when she was only twelve years of age. She was now twenty-four, so rereading it was a long overdue endeavor on her part. In this dreary, rainy weather, she could easily picture the haunting heather strewn moors described in the story. And as dark a character as Heathcliff was, he was still an intriguing one to which Piper was immensely drawn. She picked up her coffee, hoping it would help to keep her awake, at least long enough to complete the current chapter.
It was less than an hour later when Piper gave up her quest to stay awake, placing the book face down on the coffee table and turning to settle more comfortably on the sofa as she pulled down the yellow afghan that lay across the top cushion. Lulled by the soft music, the pitter patter of rain, and the warmth beneath the afghan, she quickly fell into a deep slumber.
Was she dreaming? She must be dreaming, she thought. She could smell the mustiness of damp earth and heather that bloomed across the moors and stretched as far as the eye could see. It was no longer raining, but she could tell that the rain had only all too recently stopped. And she no longer was inside the beach house. Where on earth was she and what exactly had happened?
She realized, much to her amazement, that she was not dressed in the comfy jeans and t-shirt that she had lazily donned that morning. Instead, she wore a soft, printed muslin gown that flowed all the way to her feet and covered much of her arms as well. There was an intricate pattern of embroidered flowers dispersed throughout the dress's pattern and delicate wisps of lace were attached here and there to accent its loveliness - or perhaps to hide the fullness of her breasts. Beneath the hem of the long dress, Piper saw her feet, but instead of being covered in the navy colored Converse tennis shoes she normally wore, they were encased in silk textured shoes. While lovely, they were not at all what Piper was used to wearing, and she quickly noted their flimsiness. What on earth was going on?
Glancing up and looking as far in the distance as possible, her body creating a full circle, she searched for any sign of the ocean. No ocean. No sand. No waves. No seagulls. No beach house. Only moors and heather as far as the eye could see. Confused, she rose and took a step forward, heading to a nearby group of rocks. While the skies were still mostly overcast, there was a humid heat that hung in the air as sunshine peeked relentlessly through the clouds. She was unused to wearing so much clothing, especially in the warmer weather, and quickly sought the comfort of the slight shade created by the rock formation.
As she reached the spot, she leaned against the largest stone and deliberately pinched her arm with a force with which to be reckoned. She must be dreaming! But instead, she only winced at the pain she felt from the strength of her fingers on her forearm. What the devil was going on? Had she leapt through some crazy tunnel of time to land in England amidst what appeared to be the nineteenth century? Her mind raced as she searched for answers, but she could not deny the situation in which she found herself or the clothing that she wore. She was about as far away from the ocean in South Carolina as possible. Instead, it appeared she was somewhere in England – and, even more perplexing, in an entirely different span of time.
Settling her mind on that which she could not ignore, Piper began to realize that this all too apparent transition might not be the worst thing. Had she not always felt misplaced in the twenty-first century? It was true: she did indeed feel as though she had been been meant for somewhere else in another century, even as much as she loved her Southern roots, family, friends, and home. A slight smile tugged at her lips. Dream or no dream, she was going to make the best of the situation. After all, perhaps she’d stumble across someone as handsome as Heathcliff. Yet, she could not help but wonder how long it would take for her to do just that. The day would eventually end and where would that leave her?
Looking down at the ground, she realized there was a blanket spread with a picnic basket atop it. From where had that come? Strange, but it was as if she had been expected. Carefully taking a seat on the blanket, she opened the basket to find refreshments: a portion of bread, a wedge of cheese, a pear, and a bottle of wine along with two small glasses. Two glasses? Was she supposed to have a guest?
Nestled inside the basket, beneath all the food and wine, was also a leather bound book. Removing everything, she picked it up and opened it. No surprise there: Wuthering Heights. Well, since the book was published in 1847, the period in which she now found herself had to be somewhere during the latter half of the century. This was incredibly interesting, to say the least. Now if only her expected guest would arrive. She was more than anxious to learn for whom the second glass might be intended – or if it was just an extra glass and nothing more.
Settling more comfortably upon the blanket, Piper pulled the stopper out of the wine bottle and poured herself a glass of red wine. It was fruity, yet spicy, and satisfied her thirst while also relaxing her. Anyone would be a little anxious under the circumstances, she reminded herself. Pulling off a piece of the bread and nibbling at the cheese, she found that she was much hungrier than she knew. The morning’s coffee had done little to satisfy her appetite.
Strangely, she was rather calm despite all things considered.
Growing more accustomed to her situation as the sun rose high in the sky, nearly blinding her, she peered across the vast moor. Raising her hand and blocking as much of the light as possible, she spotted a distant, tall rider upon a black horse. The rider drew nearer to where she sat until she could hear the horse's strong gait at his approach. Piper’s heart began to beat rapidly, and to steady her nerves a bit, she downed the small glass of wine and then quickly poured herself another generous measure of the same.
As the rider drew nearer, he steadied the horse. She could easily see that he was indeed a strong version of Heathcliff but also different. He had darkened skin, windswept brown hair, crystal blue eyes, and only the slight semblance of a smile upon his stern lips. The biggest difference she could discern was that his clothing was fitted to his lean body, and not at all poorly in appearance. No, this gentleman appeared to be very much just that: a gentleman, and more than likely, a wealthy one. He removed the hat he wore and nodded at her as the black stallion stopped just inches from her blanket.
“Good morning,” he said, his voice deep and melodic.
‘Good morning,” Piper murmured. Was that her squeaky voice she heard? He must already think her a moron.
“I am Barclay. Are you new to our village?”
“Yes. My name is Piper. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” she said, fully aware of the Southern drawl that surfaced as she spoke. There was no denying she was not from England.
He smiled, and Piper thought that him quite handsome. With a keen and full awareness of him, she smoothed the errant red curls that swirled about her face and make herself a bit more presentable.
“That’s no British accent,” he smiled. “Are you from the colonies?”
Piper smiled. “Yes. From Charleston…or you may still know it as Charles Towne,” she quickly added.
“Ah, yes. A wonderful city. My shipping company stops in port there frequently. I should have recognized your accent.”
“Where are my manners? Would you care for some refreshment? Perhaps a glass of wine? It’s rather warm today.” Piper pulled the extra glass from the basket, immensely happy that it was obviously intended for this man. She watched his lean frame easily dismount the tall horse.
Barclay strode to the edge of the blanket and knelt before her, accepting the glass of wine with a broader smile and a ‘thank you’, his strong fingers brushing hers. Up close, she could see that his beautiful blue eyes twinkled with undisguised mirth. She was suddenly very happy she had on the soft gown opposed to jeans, a t-shirt, and tennis shoes. Hopefully, he would not ask any questions she could not truthfully answer. After all, this was an unexpected journey of sorts, and she certainly had no clue what the next minute or hour would bring.
“Bread? Cheese? Fruit?” she asked, feeling inordinately silly, but offering it all to him with her Southern and gracious manners.
“No, thank you,” he said. His voice was rich with the strength of his accent. Just being this close to him brought an awareness with it, and despite the warmth of the mild day, Piper shivered.
“Did you not bring your wrap, miss?” he asked. "Would you like my coat?"
Piper looked around, unsure of her answer, but then she spotted a lovely lavender shawl behind her on the ground. Picking it up, she playfully pulled at its decorative fringe.
“Oh, I’m all right – not really cold,” she responded with a smile to match his.
“Aye, indeed. ‘Tis the loveliest of days. I’m so thankful to take Maisy out for a ride this morning after all the rain this week.” Barclay downed his wine, and Piper quickly offered him another glass.
Piper studied the tall horse. She was a beautiful, strong one. When she returned her attention to Barclay, she found his blue eyes intently watching her, as if summing up the measure of her worth.
“You must have been expecting someone,” he said. “I hope I haven’t intruded.”
Piper arched her brow and looked at him questioningly, and he added, “The extra glass?”
“Oh! It’s only for someone who comes along in need of such, like you.” Piper smiled. “I’m glad I could offer you refreshment.”
Barclay nodded and smiled as he looked down into his glass.
“Will I see you tonight?” he asked.
“At the Pennington’s ball?”
Piper looked down at her lap before she responded. “I hope so,” she responded with all sincerity.
“Aye, I hope so, too,” Barclay said, his blue eyes sparkling as he continued to intently watch her.
“But for now,” he slowly rose, and again, Piper could not help but notice the fine physique he cut in his handsome, well-tailored riding attire, “I have to return home.”
He tipped his hat as he placed it back upon the thick waves of hair. “Until later then.” It was a statement and not a question; he fully expected to see her at the dance that evening.
“Yes, until later. It’s been a pleasure to meet you,” Piper smiled, thoroughly enchanted in the moment and with the man before her.
“The pleasure is all mine, I assure you,” Barclay said as he mounted his horse and galloped away, one final smile upon his handsome lips.
Ah! The embodiment of a hero straight off the pages of a book, Piper thought to herself, immense pleasure filling her. Where were the men like this one in the twenty-first century? She had certainly not stumbled upon any of them in all her years. Taking up the lavender shawl, she wrapped it around her shoulders and then leaned back upon the solid rock, sighing deeply as she closed her eyes. What an unbelievably romantic day and amazing man!
And then suddenly, as if fate was cruel in a twist and manipulation of time, she opened her eyes and found herself lying back on the comfy sofa, her book and coffee mug on the table in front of her, dressed once again in her jeans and t-shirt. Surprised, she quickly stood and realized she had dropped the afghan. As she stooped to pick it up, further amazement was hers: it was not the knitted, yellow afghan she’d pulled from the back of the sofa earlier, but the lavender shawl in which she’d wrapped herself just prior to returning to the present day and time.
It was true! Here was proof that she had not imagined the last hour or two of time. Barclay was real. But as quickly as joy had encompassed her, disappointment also flooded her at the realization that he was betwixt the centuries in another place. Saddened beyond measure that there would be no Barclay and no evening, Piper made her way to the kitchen where she poured herself another cup of black coffee before settling back on the sofa. It had finally ceased raining, and the sun was now peeking through the clouds.
Piper did not know how long she sat there, contemplating the strange events of her morning, but at some point, she heard footsteps on the front porch. Quickly she rose, fear a palpable thing as she turned the handle to open the door wide. As she did so, she stepped onto the threshold and into the gleaming afternoon sunlight. The sunshine was unexpectedly so bright she could hardly see her hand in front of her. As she attempted to shield her eyes, she stared directly into blue eyes that she already knew.
“I’m so sorry!” A deep, familiar voice said. “My rental agent must have been confused. I did not realize anyone was in the house this week. I‘m the owner and wanted to check on a plumbing issue. I apologize for disturbing you.”
Piper could only stare in wide-eyed wonder at the man who stood before her. He was the spitting image of Barclay.
Finding her voice, she said, “It’s all right. I’m Piper McCloud, and I’m here for the week, but you are welcome to come in and do whatever needs doing.”
“That would be great. Again, I'm so sorry for the inconvenience. I’m Barkley Grimball.”
Piper was not surprised. His name was close enough, she thought as she shook his extended hand.
“Please come in, Barkley. Might I offer you some refreshment? It’s a very hot day after all.”
He smiled and nodded. “That would be great. Thank you.”
Stepping aside for him to move past, Piper turned her face toward the sun to feel its full effect. She was strongly aware of the profundity of a privilege life had just granted her. It was a gift far larger than anything for which she could ever deign to ask, and she could not wait to see on what journey it would take her. However, in her heart, she was already certain she knew precisely what the outcome would be.
As she reentered the house, a beautiful, knowing smile lit Piper's face much like the sunlight in the blue skies. She no longer felt misplaced. Her world had suddenly spun in the perfect fashion, and all was right in every conceivable way.