Ever drifting down the stream- Lingering in the golden gleam- Life, what is it but a dream?"

Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass


Matthew's head was spinning. His eyes gauzy and unfocused. He blinked. Pulled his hair from his eyes. Tried to focus on the bulls eye. But the room kept spiraling. He thought it was happening again. Being sent back? Being sent somewhere else? Away from Mary? Before he even found her?

He got slightly scared. But no. He was just crocked.

The cat calls from the sidelines brought him back to this reality. "Dude. Get going and don't hit Chris. The dartboard is behind you." Melisa, herself not at all stable, turned Matthew around. They fell briefly against each other and laughed.

Right." Matthew's voice only slightly slurred. He needed to stop the shots soon.

He shook his head and gripped the missile more tightly. Pulled his sleeves up. Closed his eyes and refocused again. The chants and claps of his new mates cheering him on. He had no idea he was any good at darts. But it turns out he was. Well… before he got blind drunk on the Empty Glass game and could no longer even see the small red inner bulls eye.

A few hours ago, he had no idea know what the EG game was but he didn't want to let on. He has spent the last three months not letting on. Trying to fit in. Needing a job desperately. Lying about his birthdate. So confused and worried he hardly knew if he was coming or going.

And then he decided he had to just start fitting in. He had lucked into a job. So when the other law clerks and retainers took a cab for a bender at the local Red Lion he joined them. And when he finished his first pint he put it on the table. Everyone else pointed and hollered in raucous tandem "Empty Glass!" Turned out he had to touch the pint to someone else's shoulder before placing it on the table. As he failed to do so, he had to go to the bar and buy a fresh pint and down it one.

Matthew made sure to touch Claire's shoulder before putting the second pint down. And he switched to vodka and whisky so he wouldn't have to drink an entire pint again. Should he fail to touch. Which he did as he slowly lost his senses.

Along with everyone else.

They proceeded to try to answer the pub trivia questions on the screen above the bar. Matthew immediately answered "Barchester Towers" to a question on the clergy in literature. That was acknowledged by rounds of applause and knocks on the bench table.

His next answer also came swiftly but quietly, almost a whisper as if saying out loud was too painful. "King Cepheus"" when the question asked "who in Greek mythology was Andromeda's father?" His lower lip quivered and he bit his upper to hold in the heavy sigh he felt form in his windpipe. His stomach churned.

His new friends couldn't believe his expertise. If they saw his discomfort he hoped they chalked it up to the drink. It was too private to explain to people who'd never understand anyway.

But he soon lost favor with his obvious confusion with regards '80s rock bands and the English 1966 FIFA World Cup victory. They humorously drowned down his attempts in boos and hisses.

"What were you?" Richard said, leaning in and breathing a rather horrible mix of bitter ale and vinegar chips in his direction, "born under a rock?"

No, Matthew thought, just in a previous century.


Mary could not believe she was doing this. What would Granny Violet say? Her mother? Sybil, of course, would urge her on. Edith probably make a snide comment and call her a slut again.

Mary put all thoughts of her family from her head. She was in this new life now. She had no idea how, or why. But one thing she realized very soon into her stay in 21st century London was that women had a lot more freedom to do what they want, when they want, and who they want to do it with than she had ever thought possible.

And such morality minders as Edith no longer ruled women's lives. She was her own woman. Her past was not going to destroy her here.

And it was liberating.

When she accepted the job at the vintage store, desperate for some stability in a situation that had none, the owner found her knowledge of early 20th century fashion remarkable. She used her only asset to her advantage, and Mary excelled at this job. She met many new friends in the associates and clients of the store.

They were with her now, telling her that a small red one would be perfect on her shoulder blade. They would stay with her and support her through the inking. She had already changed hairstyle and her clothes, so why not?

Antoinette was all for Mary getting a series of butterflies all along her right arm. "So delicate and beautiful. They would look gorgeous with a sleeveless dress."

But Mary demurred. She had no idea about such things except that everyone at the shop except her had some. And after she got over her initial shock, the idea of getting one herself took hold.

Mary watched the others get flowers or quotes on their arms and ankles. She took the plunge, warned by Shirley about the needles and small amount of blood. Because hers was so small, the pain was not that bad.

And she wore a low cut tank shirt so that everyone could later see it at the restaurant they all walked to afterward.

"To think when you first walked into my shop, you didn't even know how to undress yourself." Shirley had laughed that off as a joke, but Mary knew the truth of it.

For she had no Anna to serve her hand and foot anymore.


They walked into the shop to find some jewelry before the meeting with their friends and the dinner with her father to come.

Matthew wandered around finding it particularly odd to see a duplicate of his own bowler hat on display. He glanced at the price tag and puckered his lips in amusement. He continued to stroll around until his attention was drawn to the tall woman in a sleeveless shirt pointing past him towards the back wall.

"I think the Dior is over here." The voice pleasant and mellifluous. Perfect diction. But the blur of blue and black that swept past him took his breath away.

Matthew's head spun around. He knew her.

Upon actually looking more closely, he could see the hair was not entirely blue but streaked with blue highlights. The rest was silky black. Shoulder length and curled around her ears.

She had cut her hair. Had changed its style and color. Had…he could not believe his eyes even as he hungrily took it in …. She had a small tattoo on her upper shoulder. A heart. A deep red heart. Small yes, but observable to the naked eye. He could not look away. He rather openly stared. And swallowed. Taking it all in. He could hardly believe it.

Her clothes were vintage, he now knew to say. But, he observed 60s mod with a clinging mini skirt and tights. A form fitting tank top. Red ankle length boots.

He took all this in in his glance. It was her. Definitely her. After six months of looking. Of almost…. He swallowed…. Almost giving up and just getting on with this new life he found himself in.

Mary. He turned to speak to her. "Mary." His voice warm, as familiar as he could make it.

She, however, ignored him. Patently, intentionally ignored him.

Frustrated, he shook his head.

"Mary." Louder. In her direction. His actions earning him a dirty look from his female companion. He shook his head and ignored her.

Drawn back to Mary. Mary knew him as well as he knew her.

He had not changed as much as she. His trip through the looking glass or HG Wells time machine or whatever it was that brought him (and now thank God he found her …Mary) into this 21st century London only resulted in some changes of clothes. And knowledge of future history. And yes, he had to admit the appearance of a brand new…

And… oh maybe that's why she was ignoring him. For Susanna was making a beeline for him. Throwing her arms possessively around his shoulders, even as he could not break his stare at Mary.

Susanna clearly wanted all his attention. And she determined to show up this shop girl.

"Matthew darling" Susanna kissed his cheek, then wiped away the red lipstick with her fingers, leaving to her satisfaction though, a streak of possession. "You know I must have these." She turned to Mary.

"How much?" She thrust out her hand to show the pearl and diamond inlay earrings.

Mary sniffed and made a show of looking them over closely. Then assessing, it seemed to Matthew, just how much to charge by giving his companion the once over from head to designer Jimmy Choo shoe toe. "Givenchy. £400." Almost daring her to haggle. Mary then smacked her lips and looked bored.

Matthew knew that look well. The icy dismissive stare. He tried again to get her attention. "Mary." He said her name under his breath quietly, urgently.

She turned. Cold black eyes meeting his confused azure. "I think your girlfriend wants to buy the earrings. We only take cash or cheque I'm afraid." Blankly, she blinked and turned away from them and towards the register.

His open mouthed gawp stared back. Disbelieving in her indifference. But he was forced by the circumstances to go along. Susanna persisted she wanted them.

He did as she wanted.

He paid the cash. Mary cocked an eyebrow and took the pound notes.

Susanna said, gleefully, aware that his attention was turned back towards her. "Let's get going. Missy and Philip will be waiting at Claridge's for us." And she pushed Matthew towards the door of the vintage clothing store. "Ta…" Susanna's hand waved backward in Mary's vague direction.

He stopped at the door. Stared back before closing it behind him. He called out decidedly loud so Mary could not help but hear. "I'll be back Mary. I know you know me. I'll be back…and" He put his hand through hair and scratched his scalp. "…I'll try to …." But the door closed before he could finish and Susanna's arm thrust itself through his own and guided him away from the store and towards the street.

Behind the counter, Mary, with shaking hands, eased herself onto a chair behind the counter.

"Oh Matthew, my love." She thought. "Of course you followed me. To the ends of time it seemed…" But considering the beautiful aristocratic blonde at his side, "You've obviously done better without me."


Six months previous: July 1914

Let's not pretend this isn't the answer to every one of our prayers. Cora said.

I'd have to tell him.

Cora's face fell. Oh... is it absolutely necessary?

If I didn't, I'd feel as if I'd caught him with a lie.

The words spun in Mary's head even as she made her way around the ballroom floor. On Matthew' arm. Everyone looking. Pointing. Speculating.

Matthew's slip of a mischievous smile indicative of how much he was enjoying himself. He leaned in towards her ear, making her shiver. "We seem to be the center of attention." Even his voice danced and warbled. Previously he had slid up behind her, put his hands a bit too daringly on her bare shoulders and kissed her neck. Whispered that he demanded the next dance.

Mary noticed Rosamund's look of pained disdain at Matthew's attentions. She had wanted a Duke for Mary. Not some country solicitor.

But Mary ignored her aunt for once. Took Matthew's proffered arm and let him take her onto the dance floor.

He was so in love.

And she was going to have to break his heart.

Her eyes drifted away from him. Shadowed. She could no longer look him in the face. Knowing what she knew. He would despise her. What was it she called herself to her mother...'damaged goods?'

The careless whispers in London Society had not yet reached his ears. Perhaps it would tonight saving her the pain of being the one to tell him.

Tell him how a man had forced his way into her room. A man, a foreigner at that, who then died in flagrante delicto.

The society women would have only half the story. But it was the salacious half. That she had taken a lover. Would they snicker and hold their fans to their mouths at that, when they told him? The cover up that followed. The lies. Matthew kept unaware.

No, it had to come from her own lips. The events of that night. The dead weight she could still feel when she closed her eyes.

The risk to tell him all to gain all. Or nothing.

Their eyes met. Matthew moved in to kiss her. She said instead, "Excuse me for a moment."

His eyes wounded but trusting. "I'll get us some punch." His gloved hand let go of hers. But his gaze watched her until she left the ballroom for the side corridor.

Then she hurried outside. Hardly able to breathe. The street empty except for some partygoers strolling around the Mall across the street. She made her way over and lost herself in the crowd. She wanted to be by herself.

"I must tell him…" She told herself over and over. "I must…" But how? His distress. Disbelief. Anger? Horror? Women like her were women that men like him did not marry. But that was nothing compared to losing his love. She had spurned him openly at the party that same evening she took Pamuk to her bed. She had seen Matthew's frown. His disgust at being thrown over.

He'd never love her again.

And that she could not take.

So she would tell him and let him go. Free him to find someone worthy of his love. Of being his wife.

Tears formed. She wiped them away as she aimlessly walked the Mall. Buckingham Palace's lights twinkled in the darkness. The cool night air making her tremble with goose pimples.

She would let him go and he would be better off without her.

Suddenly the air turned warm. Arid like a desert. A whirl of dust formed in front of her. Mary tried to step around it. But it enveloped her.

When she could see again, she was blinded by sunlight. Midday sunlight. And noise reached her ears. Loud music. Screaming children. And people. Lots of people. Dressed in the most indecent of under drawers and chemises to Mary's mind. And less…. She walked past a woman wearing practically nothing at all except the barest of materials covering her bosom. A brassiere as Mary had read in a fashion magazine, designed by Mary Phelps Jacob. But she had dared never wear one.

"Hey there honey," the woman asked in what sounded to Mary like an American accent. "Are you doing some kind of those costume dramas from TV? Can I get a picture with you?" And she pulled out a long stick with some kind of mirror on the end of it. Then threw her arm around Mary's shoulder. "Smile." And then a click and a "thank you…." And the woman walked on, leaving Mary bewildered and disoriented.

Where was she? How did she get here?


Matthew had been unable to find her. He walked the streets of London day after day. The hours after the ball being the most frenetic. He had come back with their punch but she was no longer in the ball room. He thought maybe she had gone out for air on to the balcony. Had hoped so anyway. That way, perhaps, they would have some privacy. He'd be able to kiss her and hold her as he had wanted to do all evening. But Rosamund and Granny Violet's judging eyes preventing any such forwardness.

But Mary was not on the balcony. He asked some of her London acquaintances. They shook their heads and suggested he find Cora. Cora did not know either. Both went in opposite directions looking in all the rooms for her.

It was as if she had disappeared from the face of the earth.

Finally when all the guests had left, Sybil was informed. No one had wanted to spoil her fun and everyone assumed Mary had just retired upstairs with a headache. But Cora had checked her room more than once. It remained empty.

Sybil was alarmed. Perhaps the police should be called? Robert squashed that idea. It must be that she had told someone where she had gone and that person failed to relay the information to the family.

But no one really believed that. Matthew would most certainly have been informed. She would not have left the ball without telling him.

No something had happened. Someone had spoken to her. Rosamund said she'd call everyone she knew.

The family, upon his urging, had returned to York and to Downton. He would keep them informed by telephone. He stayed in London. Walking the streets day and night. Asking everyone from Sybil's ball had they seen or heard from Mary.

Also trying to work out the missing puzzle pieces. Trying to figure out what he had done to make Mary run away.

Unfortunately the gossip got out. Mary had run off from Sybil's ball. Right under Matthew's nose. The snickers as he asked questions became more and more obvious.

They seemed to know something he did not. 'The Bolter' some were already calling her. Run away to America to escape some kind of notoriety that Matthew had no clue discerning.

He knew nothing about it. After scouring London for days, he traveled down to Southampton to see if she was there, about to board one of the luxury liners. Of course it might have already sailed. And nothing could be confirmed for a few weeks. He had tried to send a Marconi gram but didn't know which shipping line or destination.

He was beginning to despair. Returning to London, he did not know how to proceed. It kept him up nights. Insomnia was now regular occurrence.

Late one night, ten days after Mary's disappearance, Matthew walked along the Mall. Across from the house where they had last danced. What had made her run away from him? What had he done? What was all the sniggering about? No one would tell him.

Mary was ever the enigma to him.

He walked, in a stupor, when a sudden haze of dust and wind caught him and blinded him. When his eyes opened again, he stood in the midst of a crowd of people, most ignoring the man in a suitcoat with waistcoat and high collar. And a bowler hat.

Matthew tilted his hat and scratched his head. "Where the hell am I?" his first coherent thought.


I really want to know what you think of this! Please!
and so my rather silly time vortex story begins…. Remember this is meant to be taken with a wink and a smile—hand wave the details away please. Although not a long story it will actually get more serious as we go along—with Pamuk and WWI resurrecting themselves so to speak… and confessions will be made…and decisions about what to do now.

It will be continued on June 27 MM AU Day organized by Patsan.