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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Contest Entry · #2090940
A woman's strange encounter with someone claiming to be Queen Anne of England from 1700
Word Count 2000

Her thick glasses, her old-fashioned clothes, and her unidentifiable accent all gave off the impression she was from another place, another time. Perhaps she was. A time traveler.

Nah, I thought to myself, chuckling. But she certainly looked out of place. If we were at Mardi Gras or if it were Halloween, sure, but not here in Georgia in March. I tried not to stare; willing my eyes to stay straight ahead. But I couldn’t help myself and found my head naturally drifting in her direction. She seemed lost, or as if she were looking for something…or someone…or I was imagining things. Most likely that was the case. My old man had always accused me of having a wild imagination. I suppose so, because one day, after a big fight about what church to go to, I imagined that I never had to speak to him again. And I hadn’t to this day. But I digress, the point is, I have quite the imagination. She’s probably an actress on the way to a show or maybe one of those Renaissance festival workers…or one of those Renaissance restaurant workers. Perhaps she was simply a very unique stripper-gram…VERY unique.

I couldn’t shake the idea that I’d seen her before, but that seemed almost impossible. Certainly I’d have recognized a portly dark-haired woman wearing a dress from, what…the 1600’s? Maybe the 1700’s? Who knew, but it wasn’t from the 1900’s and certainly not more recent, at least not the style. As a natural-born shopper, I’d been in every store from Target to Tiffany’s and I’d never seen a getup like that…especially that crown. Tiffany’s sold tiaras, but not full-fledged crowns and that’s definitely what this was.

I tried to hear her accent once more above the din of the city street…what was that? Definitely European of some sort.

My phone interrupted my train of thought. “Courtney,” I grouse, looking at the screen.

Smiling just before I put it to my ear, “Courtney! Hey, sweetie!” Distracted, move on from the strangely dressed woman, losing myself in the crowd, hoping perhaps my ever-perfect sister won’t be able to follow. But no matter where I wandered, she continued to chatter in my ear. Phones are strange like that.

“Let’s get coffee.”

“Courtney, I’m kind of busy.”

“Fine. Tonight. Dinner.”

“I mean with life. I’m kind of busy with life, like all the time.”

“No, beloved sister of mine. We’ve not talked in too long and we’re going to talk. Consider it your sisterly obligation to me.” She chuckled in my ear.

I didn’t respond in kind.

Her voice took on that annoying sing-song quality it had when she was dangling something irresistible in front of me. “We can meet at the outlet mall…”

Drat that sister of mine. Sure, I could go without her, but my husband was always trying to get me to spend time with my family, “It’s the fragrance that makes life sweet,” he’d say.

I’d respond by telling him he hadn’t smelled my family lately. In truth, he hadn’t been near my family in the almost five years since we’d been married. I’d met with my sister erratically, but my mother had passed on and my father and I weren’t on speaking terms. Some harsh words were passed between us not long after I took my wedding vows I haven’t looked back since. He tried to call a few times, but some things simply weren’t to be forgiven. He needed to understand that.

In any event, my husband, whose other hobby is keeping me out of stores, wouldn’t dare turn stand in my way if I told I mentioned I was meeting my sister at the outlet mall. He might even call to increase our credit card limits, just to keep me out longer. I smiled at the thought. Yes, we were in debt…heavy debt, but we both had good paying jobs and it would only take us a year or so of frugal living and no shopping to pay off the debt, if we ever decided to.

“Fine, Courtney. I’ll meet you Saturday at ten.” I hung up, torn between whether to be elated or annoyed. Arbitrarily, I chose annoyed.

I waited anxiously for my sister. It was nearly ten. The stores were about to open. Where was she? I scanned the parking lot of cars, slowly starting to fill. She needed to hurry. I had a purse full of plastic magic money cards and I planned to use them in every store in the mall. I might even decide to be generous and charge a little something for my dear little sister. After all, it is because of her that I’m here with hubby’s blessing, as expected. He’d told me to go out and enjoy my sister’s company, even if it meant spending more than he’d like. Of course, spending more than he’d like me to consisted of pretty much anything over the price of a nice lunch.

Her car pulled into a space not too far from me and she waved before getting out. Why did she always do that? And then comes that obnoxious, flashy smile of hers. She’s always so chipper. I feel fairly sure she’s on uppers most of the time. After all, one can’t be that happy that often. Then again, my husband frequently called me his “little sour puss.” Maybe my sister simply inherited the genes I’d left in the womb, the happy, friendly, outgoing genes. You know, the ones that make everyone either love you or hate you. I prefer my own genes. Most folks just didn’t care for me either way. It made life simpler that way.

Pasting on an obligatory smile. “Courtney.” I give her a brief hug.

“Daddy sends his love.”

“Where do you want to start?”

“Wherever makes you happy.”

“Tiffany’s it is.”

Courtney giggled, “I should have guessed. Luckily for you, you married a doctor.”

“Yeah, too bad he’s not a brain surgeon, though,” I snarked. “We’d have twice the money we do.”

We headed toward “the happiest place on earth”—at least in MY opinion.

“Sis, you really need to come. I’m serious. Dad’s getting up there and we don’t know how many more birthdays he’s going to have.”

“Oh please.”

“I’m serious. He loves you and he misses you.”

“He stopped loving me the day I left the church and decided to become Protestant.”

“That’s not true. Of course, he was hurt. The church means everything to him, but that doesn’t mean you don’t.”

“Courtney, if I went to see him on his birthday, it would be his last.”

“It won’t kill him to see you and it certainly won’t kill you to come see him. Make an old man happy.”

“Is that the real reason you wanted to meet with me, Courtney? To talk me into coming to Dad’s birthday party?” Her neck is turning red…”COURTNEY!” I raised my voice a bit louder than intended, embarrassing her more than me, “I thought you just wanted sister-bonding time.”

“I DO!” She protested.

“No. I should have known you had an agenda…plying me with trips to the outlet mall. I’m done. Tell Dad I didn’t say “Happy birthday.””

Courtney appeared close to tears as I walked out.

I knew better. I really did, but I went to shopping anyway…and now I’m talking to myself again. Not paying attention, I bump into the strange woman with the stranger dress.

“There thou art, love!”

“Excuse me?” She’s strange and off her rocker, clearly.

“Might we have a word with thee?”

I looked around. “Who’s “we”?”

She ushered me to an out of the way corner and peered into my eyes with an intensity that scared me.

“Um. Look. I have to get back to my sister, Courtney. She’s expecting me.”

“No, she is not and speaking with a wicked tongue will cause thee to rue the day thou learned to speak at all.”

Oh geez. Nuuut caaase…

“Thou shalt listen to me and what I have to say. I know this will sound crazy, but it’s the honest truth. I am Queen Anne of England.”

I chuckled…either an actress or a nut case. Either one, I really dug that pearl necklace. It’s better quality than I’m used to.

“I have travelled here from the year 1700. I have cometh to warn thee.”

I was intrigued, amused, and a bit creeped. “Warn me about what?”

“Thine relationship with thine father.”

“Seriously? Courtney hired you to harass me too? Well, she wasted her money because I’m not going! What? Is Dad having a Renaissance themed birthday party?”

“Mine own sorcerer sent me here to warn thee, to right mine own wrong. I cannot travel backward in time, only forward, so I have cometh to warn. We have travelled equal paths, thou and I. We each separated from our fathers in the most wicked of ways, allowing our passion for our heavenly Father to separate us from our earthly one. Lo, we mustn’t allow anything to separate us from God, but to squabble on earth over prayers and covenants, is not the way to divinity.”

“Look, Courtney wasted her money on you.”

“I most certainly am NOT a lady of the evening. I am Queen Anne of the House of Stuart and thou shalt listen to me!”

She had a sense of power that held my tongue this time.

Straightening her dress, “Our lines are parallel, but you must cause a divergence in order to get us both back to the right path.”

“Look, if you have daddy issues…”

“Quiet! You have never been able to bear a child, have you?”

“How do you know that?”

“I told you, my sorcerer sent me to you because of our paths, parallel and now convergent. I have been pregnant eighteen times and have only once held a child in my arms past the age of one. But my beloved William Henry, Duke of Gloucester, my one child to survive, has passed on after his twelve years of ill health. I mourn his short life, but I know that his short life and the briefer lives of my other three children who did not survive infancy, as well as all my still births are a curse on me from the Lord for the wicked way I treated my father over religion. He loved me and I allowed pride to get between us. I cannot have children again, but it is not too late for thee. Turn from your ways. Go to your father. Reconcile and you shall find your womb bountiful.”

I stood stunned. Unsure of what to say…if there was anything to say.

“I must take mine leave, now. Consider…”

Consider, I did. I couldn’t get the strange woman out of my head. I did a little research that evening and found everything she’d said to be true, but then, who couldn’t use Google these days? I’d pondered talking to my husband about the odd event, but knew he’d not only think I was crazy, but still encourage me to spend time with my family, chastising me for almost missing my father’s birthday again.

I thought about the similarities between Queen Anne and I. Whomever she was...time traveler or not, nut case or not, she was right about the parallel paths our lives, and especially our wombs, had shared. I’d lost four children, not having been able to even lose one in childbirth yet. The heartache ate at me. I couldn’t imagine suffering it another fourteen times. I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.

I rubbed my empty stomach in thought. I’d made up my mind. Whomever she was, I’d allow her to be my divine intervention, giving myself an opportunity to heal not only my past family hurts, but to helpfully prevent future ones. I took a breath, pulling my cell phone from my pocket.

“Hey, Courtney?” Pause. “Yeah." Pause. "Don’t make a big thing of it, but Dad's birthday party? I’ll be there.”
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