Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The Hands of Time (The Hands of Time: Book 1) by Irina Shapiro

Chapter 2
I had to admit that the village of Newton Ferrers was charming.  Situated just ten miles outside of Plymouth, it was a perfect example of a picturesque fishing village that hadn’t changed too much over time; with most of the buildings clinging to the sides of Main Street and the heart of Main Street, being the Dolphin Inn and Pub.  All life spread out from there.  Dozens of quaint shops catered to the locals as well as to the tourists, and the narrow, winding streets all led either to the river or to the center of town.  The Bradford Inn, where we would be staying for the next several weeks, was located on the outskirts of the village and could have easily passed for an eighteenth century house if one chose not to notice the modern light fixtures or the desk with a computer on it in the parlor boasting Wi-Fi.  There were no TV’s in the rooms and the décor was strictly authentic, with sturdy four-poster beds and elegant wooden dressers and tables in mahogany and walnut. 
Our rooms were wallpapered in old-fashioned patterns, and clashed hideously with the bedspreads and matching drapes so lovingly picked out by Mrs. Bradford, who claimed to have had them replaced just last year.  She was a sweet old lady who provided a full English breakfast in the mornings and supper, only if ordered no later than noon.  She needed time to prepare.  Lou and I ate breakfast at the inn, dinner at the Dolphin and lunch wherever.  She was working at the manor most afternoons, and I spent time exploring the village and trying not to think of Michael.  I had to admit that coming had been a good idea.  I felt strangely removed from reality, and the charm of my surroundings helped to cushion me from the acute pain I felt when in the vicinity of my former husband.  Lou congratulated herself on being right, and we did our best to enjoy the trip.
My room was directly across the hall from Louisa’s and faced the rear of the building.  It was decorated in shades of mauve, and was actually rather cozy if one ignored the multitude of colors and patterns crammed into one small space.  I liked to leave the windows uncurtained at night so I could see the ruin of the castle rising mournfully on the hill in the distance.  It was just a husk of a tower jutting against the sky, but it fueled my fantasies and helped me get to sleep. 
I woke up early one morning and watched the sun rising behind the crumbling edifice, the empty windows momentarily flooded with a blaze of crimson light, turning the gray stones to just a black outline against the rising sun.  I decided to ask Mrs. Bradford about it.  My guidebook didn’t say anything, and I was curious as to the history of the place.  I came downstairs and poured myself a cup of tea, since the coffee Mrs. Bradford made was virtually undrinkable.  She erupted from the kitchen with a tray of bacon and eggs and a rack of toast already smothered with butter. 
“You’re up early today, lovey.  Is your sister still asleep then?”  She deposited my cholesterol-fest on the table and stood with her head to one side, clearly expecting a nice chat. 
“She’s still sleeping, I think.  Mrs. Bradford, I was wondering about that castle on the hill.  Who did it belong to?”
“Oh, that.  It belonged to a local family called Whitfield, I believe.  They were quite wealthy, but not titled.  Made their money in trade.  Not much is known about them, except that one of them was a traitor and met with a gruesome end.  No one has lived there since the seventeenth century and the castle fell to ruin.”
“Can I go explore?”  I loved ruins and the prospect of wandering around an old castle perched on a hill overlooking the vista of village, river and the Celtic Sea held great appeal.
Mrs. Bradford gave me a disapproving look.  “I wouldn’t recommend it, dear.  That place is not safe.”
“You mean it’s a hazard because it’s crumbling?”  I was curious to see it and wouldn’t be easily dissuaded.
“No.  The stones are not going anywhere.  It’s the kids.  They hang about the ruins after school, drinking and doing Lord only knows what.  The place is full of syringes and worse.  Those hooligans like to pick on tourists too, give them a fright, if you know what I mean.  Stay away.  If you long to see a nice castle, take a day trip to Windsor or Leeds.  They’re lovely, with furnished rooms and gift shops.  Perfect for Americans.” 
“Thank you, Mrs. Bradford, I’ll certainly mention that to my sister.  I’m sure she’d love to take a little trip on the weekend.  May I have more tea?”  Mrs. Bradford waddled back into the kitchen to make another pot of tea, and I tucked into my breakfast disappointed.  I wanted to see the castle, but not if I were stepping on syringes and looking over my shoulder for hoodlums waiting to give me a scare.  I would have to find something else to do today since Lou would be gone for most of the day.  I would certainly mention the idea of going to see the places Mrs. Bradford suggested.  I would really enjoy that, and anything that would take my mind off my problems would be a welcome distraction.  I would just take a walk down Main Street today and look for some souvenirs for mom and dad. 
I was just turning the corner to reach my room when Louisa burst out of her room looking flustered and annoyed.
“Totally overslept.  Can you believe it?  Why didn’t you wake me?”  She gave me that accusing older sister look and swept past me down the hall.  “Meet me at the Dolphin at 6pm,” she called over her shoulder as I heard her feet thundering down the carpeted wooden stairs, the front door slamming behind her. 
“Will do,” I mumbled to myself and entered my room.  I looked around until I spotted my sketch pad and a box of charcoal.  I wouldn’t go explore the castle, but no one said I couldn’t draw it.  I hadn’t drawn anything in months due to lack of inspiration and desire, but at this moment my fingers were itching to hold a piece of charcoal and capture the sinister beauty of the jutting walls of the ruin, outlined against the pristine background of a cloudless June sky.  I took my supplies and left by the back door, finding a nice, shady spot in the garden where I had an unobstructed view of my subject.  I sat down on a comfortable wicker chair, positioned my pad in my lap and began to sketch.  My fingers flew over the page, first outlining the ruin and then filling in the texture of the stone, the narrow slits in the tower that offered glimpses of the sky, and the jagged chunks of what remained of the wall. 
The Hands of Time
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Genre - Time Travel Romance/Fantasy
Rating – R
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