This is what I saw, Magnus standing in the kitchen holding a baby in his arms. His smile was wide. Emma was beaming. Chef Zach was cooking. I enjoyed the scene, domesticated and cheerful. Like a home. With Magnus as the center of attention.
Magnus held that baby like he loved to hold babies. That was one of the things about loving him — it slammed into me all at once but also in pieces as time went by. A Big Bang Theory of bursting hot love with meteorites of love pummeling me after. I guess it was a little like what he was telling me this morning in the shower. He loved me already, really loved me, but when I trusted him enough to run, he really loved me more.
That’s how I felt all the time — more and more and more.
“So you’ve met Ben?”
“I have met him. He is a verra braw wee bairn who will become a strong warrior.”
Emma’s eyes went wide. “Right now we just want a happy baby, no warriors.”
Magnus smiled. “He is a braw bairn.” He nuzzled his face to the baby’s cheek. Ben smiled at him. “Nae a warrior, a chef like his dad.”
Magnus passed the baby back to Emma and asked me, “Where is Madame Barbara?”
“She’s upstairs, in her room. I’ll go up and rouse her for breakfast. Back in a moment.”
* * *
Ten minutes later I held Grandma’s hand leading her into the room. “Hey Grandma, I have someone here who wants to see you. It’s Magnus—”
My grandma looked up, directly at Magnus, and said, “Magnus Campbell? Why you haven’t changed a bit!”
He swept her up in a bearhug then dropped her to her feet. “Madame Barb, tis good tae see ye again.”
She looked up at him with a hand on each cheek staring into his eyes. “It’s like no time has passed at all.”
He said, “Twenty-five years has passed, but also, no time at all, because I’m a time-journeyer, Madame Barb. I jump around through time. That’s why ye remember me verra well.
“Ah, now see, there’s a magic to it. I should have known. And you’ve married my Katie?”
“I have, even before I met you. We were already family when I came tae live with ye in Maine.”
“It makes perfect sense.”
I laughed. “Grandma, a second ago I had to remind you where you are and now you’re accepting Magnus’s time travel story as a fact, easy as that?”
Grandma sat down, and Zach delivered a plate of waffles in front of her. “History is a circle, my dear, and memories have holes. Did you know Stephen Hawking died on the 300th anniversary of Galileo’s birth? Also, that there are numbskulls in this world who believe the world is flat? So yes, time travel through worm holes in space, entanglements in each other’s lives. It makes perfect sense, and forgetting things we already know is ludicrous, yet it happens. The world is a mystery and many times magic is the only explanation.” It was a beautiful sentiment, and I found myself so excited whenever she said things like this — wise or funny or weird. Because moments later her mind would wander away and the lucid moment would be gone.
Magnus laughed outright. “Worm holes in space is an excellent metaphor, Madame Barb. I missed listening to you and Jack all those long nights in Maine talkin’ about the mysteries of the universe. You made me believe I could understand orbits and time and threads but I journeyed again and realized my understandin’ was mistaken.”
“You never did figure out the dates?” I asked.
“Nae. I just journeyed from place tae place with nae sense of it until I arrived here last night as if twas nae the hardest thing in the world.”
Zach, with a flourish, presented a large stack of waffles in front of Magnus, at least eight. He poured maple syrup on it.
Magnus said, “Perfect!”
Zach held up a finger, “Wait,” and spiraled whipped cream on top.
Magnus’s face was hilarious. His eyes so big I thought he might have an excitement stroke right there. He ate, shoveling big bites, smiling, and moaning happily.
I continued from our earlier conversation. “Except in Los Angeles, you came there right on time.”
“I dinna, I arrived four days early.”
“What did you do?”
“I lived on the side of the river in a camp.”
“Oh my god, Magnus, you lived in a homeless camp in Los Angeles?”
“You looked so fresh when you entered the club!”
“I kept m’clothes in a backpack and changed intae them just afore I saw ye there.”
“Wow, that’s impressive. You’ve seen a side of Los Angeles I’ve never seen before.”
“Aye.” His eyes rested on Barb. She was staring into space, fidgeting with her food. “How are ye, Madame Barb?”
She said, “Do you know when Jack will be back? He’s been gone overlong...”
Magnus nodded and turned a sad smile in my direction.
“Grandma, do you need Chef Zach to make you anything else?”
“No dear, tell Katie I went back to my room.” She stood from the table and looked around confused. I started to stand but Magnus beat me to it.
“Madame Barb, tis me, Magnus Campbell, I will walk ye tae your room tae rest.”
“Ah, Magnus, that is very good, I love it when you say ‘ye,’ but I bet all the girls tell you that.”
“The only girl that matters is your granddaughter, Kaitlyn, and I think tis how I won her.” He offered my grandma his arm and walked her upstairs to her room.
As soon as they left Emma said, “Are you so happy to have him home Katie?”
“I am, I can’t believe it.”
Quentin walked in just then. “Magnus is up?”
“You helped him up the boardwalk last night?”
“Yeah, he was a wreck.”
He stood in the kitchen watching over Zach’s shoulder, and then he picked a blueberry out of a bowl and tossed it in his mouth. “Traveling from 1492 must be cray-cray.”
I rolled my eyes. “1702, I keep telling you this.”
Quentin said, “Now I’m court-ordered, quit drinking, it makes it harder to understand. Whatever — medieval times.”
Zach said, “You’re off the date by centuries.”
Quentin said, “Don’t matter. When I hear history stuff I think dinosaurs, pirates, blah blah blah, and World War Two. Basically only the important stuff.” Magnus came down the steps. “Right boss?”
“You are perfectly right, Master Quentin. My friends the deanosewers are truly noble creatures.”
We all laughed. “How do you know about dinosaurs, Magnus? Most discoveries are... Wait, let me add the Natural History Museum to the list.” I jumped up and got my list and sat at the dining room table, a new warm cup of coffee in front of me, jotting ‘NHM, NY,’ under ‘the zoo,’ and ‘Disney World.’
Emma was sitting at one of the barstools, the baby settled nursing under her shirt. “I love that you guys accept this whole time-jumping thing as totally normal.”
Quentin said, “Either I can work for a crazy man in a skirt with no idea how to work a car, or I can work for a superhero, costume-wearing, time-jumping, magic guy. I vote for the latter. Way cooler.”
“Thank ye Quentin, I haena any idea what a superhero is but I like the sound of it.” Magnus asked for another plate of waffles.
Quentin said, “Add the movie Thor to your list, Katie.”
Magnus asked, “Madame Emma, you daena believe me about the time-journeys?”
She said, “I mean I do, I guess, it’s the only way to explain it, but still... It can’t be true. That doesn’t happen. You can’t just jump through time. But I have seen you disappear and reappear months later. I don’t know, I don’t believe in magic; I believe in God. I don’t know how to explain it.”
Magnus nodded thoughtfully. “I daena ken either, Madame Emma. I have the feeling I have gone against natural law and wonder what will happen tae my eternal soul. What price will I be expected tae pay?”
“Oh, Magnus, I didn’t mean it like that. I wasn’t—”
“Tis okay, I daena mind ye saying it. I am of the same opinion. I dinna ask tae do it, but I have done it now, many times. I pray asking forgiveness every day.”
“Maybe you’ve been chosen?”
“Tis nae God’s handiwork. Feels mighty devilish.”
I decided to change the subject and asked, “While we have you all here, I wanted to remind you not to speak of this outside our household.”
Quentin said, “Definitely not. No one can. As a matter of fact, as head of security, I think you should ask for non-disclosure agreements from everyone you’ve discussed it with so far.”
“So far, outside of this group, it’s only Hayley, and she told me to be quiet about it. So I think she’s safe. But I’ll get some printed in the morning. And speaking of things to do… What about going on a trip, Magnus?” I looked at the list in front of me. “We could drive south, stop at Kennedy Space Center, and drive all the way down to the Keys...”
Magnus’s face drew down in a frown. He shook his head back and forth sadly.
“Why are you looking at me like that?”
He took a deep steadying breath.
“Seriously Magnus, why are you — you aren’t — you can’t — are you leaving again? What are you...?”
He continued to look at me quietly.
“No, you aren’t. You can’t.”
He reached in his pocket and pulled out a ring with some very old iron keys and placed it on the table between us.
“What is that? Magnus, no. You put that away and don’t you even...”
Emma watched me quietly. Chef Zach was looking from me to Magnus. Quentin stared at his coffee mug.
“I must away again.”
I watched him for a moment. I was about to start screaming or maybe leap across the table, like with Braden, like a full-blown Banshee.
But I somehow held myself together. “Can everyone leave us alone for a moment?”
Quentin looked down at his watch. “I’m leaving, shift’s done. Ted is outside Boss. I’ll be back tonight at seven.”
“Aye, Master Quentin, I will see ye tonight. Come early if ye need food first.”
Chef Zach deposited some plates into the sink and asked Emma, “Want to take Ben for a walk on the beach?”
“I’m in my pajamas and yes.” They stood and Emma put the baby in a sling and they went out the sliding doors to the deck.
This entire time Magnus watched me and I tried to look anywhere else.
My husband was leaving me again, and I literally just got him back, and yes, I was about to cry. I didn’t remember signing on for this, loneliness hadn’t been my plan. “Explain it to me.”
“When I left Talsworth I had just killed the two guards. I couldna stay tae find Sean. On Lord Delapointe’s desk there was a vessel and also the ring of keys to the prison cells. I stole them both. If I can return tae the castle, I could steal in with this key and get tae Sean in the prison. Free him and—”
I took a big gulp of coffee. “How would you get back to the right time? You haven’t figured out timing, only location. You don’t even know if—”
“When I return tae Scotland, the timing has been consistent. Only hours have passed, at most days. Without fail. Tis why I am confused by the mechanics.”
“Since you left you’ve been in Los Angeles, in Maine, here in Florida, months have passed since I came back without you.”
“Tis true. I canna explain it. In Scotland my time has been a straight slow line. Here tis faster. I canna control it. But when I go tae Scotland, my time is nae different.” He looked down at his napkin and adjusted its placement on the table. “But it daena matter how much time will pass. Tis all I know that I must go back. Sean is my brother. I must return and free him, or if tis too late I must ride with the Earl’s army against Lord Delapointe.”
“Wait, he’s not dead?”
“Nae, you knocked him senseless but he is nae dead. I must return tae make it so.”
I dropped my forehead to the table and rested it there on the cool wood. And then I spoke while my face was pressed to the surface. “You just came home.”
I raised up and pushed the hair off my face. “I do not like being alone. And I really want to give you an ultimatum, but I won’t because I honestly believe you would go anyway, that you would pick this instead of me. So I won’t force it because I can’t bear to watch you choose it over me.”
His brow drew down. “I found ye first.”
“I guess you did but it still feels a lot like being a second thought.”
“I had the key tae save Sean in my sporran, and all I could think of was getting home tae ye. If he died, I may never forgive myself.”
I blew out a breath of air. We were across the table from each other in a face off. I leaned out my hand and he took it beside his plate.
“I will always choose ye, Kaitlyn.”
“Yes, I know. I’m sorry about what I said. So when?”
“I would need tae leave three days on.”
I nodded slowly. “So I guess going to Disney World is out of the question.”
“I haena any idea what ye are talking of, but aye, tis nae possible. I will come home though and this time I will have this whole tragedy finished so I may bide.”
“Okay. Yeah. Okay.” I looked sadly down at my arms stretched across the table meeting him halfway. “Want a party? The gang would probably like to see you. That way I can prove you aren’t a figment of my imagination.”
“I would like a party. An ice cream party. Chef Zach promised me we could make it in a machine.”
He jumped from his seat. “Stay right there. I want tae talk tae ye about the numbers.”
He disappeared into our bedroom and returned a moment later with his sporran and dropped it with a thud to the table. He opened it and pulled out the vessel and sat in a chair beside me.
He twisted the vessel and strange markings glowed in a ring around the middle. Magnus aligned a few of the markings and the vessel hummed and vibrated.
He gently rolled it to the table.
“I didn’t notice it do that before.”
“Twas quite shocking when it came tae life. Lady Mairead haena fully explained the workings, I had tae discover it for myself.”
We investigated it without touching because there was no need for an unnecessary time jump. “What do the markings mean?”
“I daena ken the purpose. But I found some similarities tae the numbers I recite when I jump.”
He gingerly tapped the middle ring. Then twisted and turned it. “See the markings here? Tis a number. And this blank spot? I have guessed at its purpose. I canna ken their meanin’, but I have gotten closer tae the pattern.”
“It’s a lot like you know more and understand less.”
“Much like it. Studyin’ with your grandpa Jack I learned tae use longitude and latitude and with an equation I can go to exact locations, tis a help.”
He added, “If I jump, daena grab my arm.”
I nodded solemnly.
He pushed at one of the rings so the markings shifted.
I asked, “Does the ring turn easily?”
“Tis verra easy until the vessel grabs ye.”
He tapped the ring and the markings shifted again. “I was wonderin’ if ye would be able tae make sense of it.”
I read the markings and came up with nothing. “We need an expert, but I don’t know who. Neil deGrasse Tyson? Bill Nye? Elon Musk? I don’t know who it would be.”
Magnus explained how he came up with the numbers and then how he tried the different numbers to see which would work.
“You jumped each time for the science of it?”
“To see if the numbers were true.”
“So the science.”
“Aye, if tis the word, then that is what I did.”
“Have you figured out how to make it not hurt so badly?”
“I have not. But if I prepare for the trip, the right clothing, some food in my sporran, tis nae so bad.”
“I’ll help you pack then.”
I started another list:
“This time you should take a horse.”