Here’s part 4 of the story that Keisha Page and I co-wrote about a meeting between our two heroes. Separated by 200 years and the Atlantic ocean, they discuss the very different cultures they inhabit. See Keisha’s The Word Mistress blog for the same encounter from the perspective of Alex, hero of Rhythm of Love. My hero is the Marquis of Aldridge, from A Baron for Becky. If you want to start at the beginning, here are links to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 on my blog.
Alex smiled. “Transportation is vastly different now. We have cars; they’re combustion powered wagons that can travel many hundreds of miles in a day. Imagine if a wagon were pulled by three hundred horses all working together. It’s kind of like that, but without the actual horses. I can drive to Denver in two days, if I stop to sleep. Faster if I fly.”
“You can fly?” Aldridge does his best not to look skeptical. How many brandies has Alex had?
“Not me. I get into a machine called an airplane, and it flies. The airplane can get me to Denver in about four hours.”
Alex slid the rest of his brandy across the table toward Aldridge.
“You may need this. An airplane can fly from New York City to London in less than eight hours.”
“Eight hours? I find that difficult to… I mean no insult, friend Alex, truly, but… Eight hours?” He pushed the brandy back towards Alex. “In truth, I appear to have had more than enough. Men from the 21st century. Machines that fly. Carriages that need no horses.” He shook his head slowly.
“It may be I have fallen asleep on my horse and am dreaming this whole interlude, but this is certainly the best dream stew and most unusual dream conversation I have ever had. Perhaps the dream will let me visit this New York of the far future. Will you give me a tour, Alex?”
“I would be honored to give you a tour! There’s so much for you to see! Skyscrapers and elevators and the Brooklyn Bridge. I kind of can’t believe I’m having this conversation, because it’s so, well, surreal, but yes, Aldridge! Let me show you the wonders of the twenty-first century. And if you thought the stew was good, just wait. There’s so much food for you to try!”
“Better than this stew?” Aldridge grinned. “You can keep your roast peacock and turtle soup. At the end of a day’s ride, there’s nothing better than good plain hearty fare like this. And the bread is superb.”
“Tell me about your children, Alex. How many do you have? And what are they named?”
Alex’s eyes softened and he smiled as he says, “I have three. My Ella is seventeen. She’s going to be a senior this year. She wants to spend the summer after she graduates in Europe, and I’m not so sure that’s such a hot idea. I know I’m an overprotective father, but I’m not sure she’s as ready to conquer the world as she thinks she is. Leslie and Ella’s mom both tell me that I need to let her go, but I’ve been overseas. I know what the guys there are like.”
Alex shifted in his chair. “My son Ryan is twelve. He’s almost taller than his mom already. He’s gonna be a beast. He’s on the track team and the wrestling team. He’s the fastest kid in his grade, too.”
“Samantha is ten. She is something else, man. Spoiled rotten, but I wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve gotten to spend a lot more time with her when she was younger than I did with Ella, and it made such a difference. I’ve been able to give my kids everything they’ve ever needed because of my job, but I’m not completely convinced that missing out on months of their lives at a time was worth it. What about your kids?”
Aldridge swirls his brandy in his glass. It really is an excellent drop. “I have three, too. I think my world is very different to yours, Alex. I missed the Grand Tour myself. Napoleon, you know. But in our world, it is the men who are sent off to see the world, and the women stay home.
“My Antonia — I say mine, but I did not know of her existence until she was six years of age, and to this day she knows me only as an uncle. I would not for the world attract the attention of the gossips and scandalmongers by telling anyone of our closer bond. But — ah Alex, what a girl!
“She’s smart, she’s kind, she’s every bit as lovely as her mother. I feel very privileged that they let me see her, and be an uncle to her. And anything my name and title can do to smooth her path… Her stepfather won’t ask, of course. But it is hers, nonetheless.” Undoubtedly his smile is every bit as soft and silly as the one Alex wore when talking about his girls. Antonia is ten, too. The same age as Alex’s youngest.
“And I have two boys. I was luckier with them, or perhaps kinder to their mothers would be more the truth. With each one, when I found my mistress was with child… I take precautions, Alex. I would not have you think I am careless, but they don’t always work. Well, twice now, I’ve found my chere aimee a husband who will welcome my child as his own.
“I would give a great deal to be in your shoes, and to be able to acknowledge them without hurting them and their families.”