Not sure how I got talked into this, but...
|Constantine and I materialized in the back room of what would soon be the renowned Clockwork Teapot. According to my orientometer, it was June 3, 1891. I looked at my watch and was dismayed to see the digital numbers just rolling over and over on its face. It struck me that digital equipment would probably be problematic, since they relied on energy in ways that would be difficult to control and maintain whenever they were exposed to travel through Aether. I reached into my vest pocket to check my pocket watch. It was a sturdy design, simple and reliable clockwork. Granddad had made sure I wound it every three days at the same time to keep it running just as it should long before he gave it to me a week before his "funeral". There was still so much I hadn't figured out, but I knew I could trust my grandfather, and that there was much to be done over the next few weeks before I could travel the Aether at will.|
I peeked out from behind the curtain separating the stock room from the serving area. It was midday, and everyone sitting in the tea room was dressed in fine fashion. I looked myself over one more time. My bell crown hat sat squarely on my head, my black cravat was tied in a loose bow, the fashion of the day, and the silver-gray vest contrasted quietly with the black frock coat and dark gray trousers. No one noticed me step out into the tea room and take a seat close to the counter that ran the length of the back wall. The young lady standing behind the counter had her back to me as I sat down and picked up a copy of the London Times that the previous customer had left behind. As she turned around, I caught her eye and she smiled sweetly. She came out from behind the counter to take my order, and looked genuinely surprised when I asked her for a cup of Earl Grey with cream. "Oh, you're an American, aren't you?" she said simply. "Why yes, I am. I was told I could get a good cup of tea here, so I decided to come in." She smiled again, "You've come to the right place, sir." She stepped away smartly, returning to the counter, preparing my tea.
I looked over the newspaper, trying to look interested in what the press had to say, while I kept an eye on the front door and windows. The young lady came back with my tea. "Just as requested, sir, like I said, you've come to the right place," she leaned down quite close to me then, whispering, "and at just the right time, I might say also." I snapped my head to look at her, startled. Her bright green eyes sparkled with mischief, and her smile widened as she said, "Give it about 2 minutes, and we'll get it all done, love." With that, she stepped into the storage room and immediately returned with a broom, and pulling a small rolling table. She walked past me, leaving the rolling table next to my right leg, starting to sweep at the front of the counter. I found myself admiring her figure absently for a moment, when she held up three fingers on the handle of the broom. She dropped one, then the second, and finally the last.
A commotion from the street spilled suddenly into the front door of the tea room. A man in a plaid suit and brown bowler hat rushed through the door, followed closely by another man in a bright blue suit with black velvet lapels wearing a rather worse-for-wear silk top hat. They ran towards the counter as the young waitress stepped back towards me, clearing the way for them, funneling them towards the opposite end of the counter. As they ran that direction, the front door opened again, and I saw Gloriosky and Spaulding enter, obviously giving chase. Both men were wearing similar dark blue pinstripe tailcoats and black bell crown hats. As they ran towards us, the young lady stepped backwards towards my table, appearing to trip over her feet and onto the top of the table. As she "fell over", I gave the rolling table a push with my foot as I stood up to catch her. Gloriosky and Spaulding ran afoul of the table, bowling it over and falling to the floor against the counter. Recovering swiftly, the young lady rolled towards me into my arms, and pushed me back through the storage room curtain. She looked up into my eyes, shining her dazzling smile. She stood on her tiptoes and pressed her lips to mine in a kiss that took me quite by surprise. "My name is Emily, and you should get out of here now." She looked at Constantine, and back at me...her eyes widened and her smile got even broader...she kissed the top of the clockwork cat's head and said, "You'd better get him out of here, kitty..." as she turned back towards the tea room. As she went through the curtain, she began a cockney tirade at the top of her lungs, "Ere, you lot! What do you mean chasing in 'ere like a passel o' monkeys!"
I listened to Gloriosky and Spaulding begin to sputter their apologies as I placed my hand on Constantine's head. "Miss Emily Puryear, I do hope we'll meet again" I whispered as we entered the swirling Aether.