Charlotte sat on the park bench gazing up at the towering bridge. All the stories she had been hearing over the last few weeks. Her brother, Philip and cousin Stuart hadn't been able to talk about anything else on the voyage across the Atlantic from Liverpool. And her uncle had only made it worse. Carrying on about following Stuart's namesake up the bridge in the storm, thinking he was saving him from commitimg a terrible act such as suicide, when a rope snapped and he fell into the portal and ended up in 20th century New York, where in turn he met Kate. It seemed completely ludicrous to her. But there was something about the bridge. She felt drawn to it for some reason, and couldn't take her eyes off it.

At 15, Charlotte was a striking beauty with silky golden hair, she was wise for her years and had grown up fast losing her father, and looking after her sickly mother for the last few years. She was headstrong and stubborn, and was told more like her Uncle than either one of her parents. Oh, she hated to hear that. Uncle Leopold...he had been her legal guardian for the last 6 years, taking on her and her brother even though her father had tried to kill him. She loved him. He had been good to her and treated her like she was his own, but she felt she was no longer a child and found his continuing coddling her like a child irratting and highly unnecessary.

She had wanted to stay behind in England where everything she knew and loved was. Her mother, Balinor, her horse and of course Gareth...her true love. But no, it was not to be. She was in New York, a whole ocean separated her from the only boy she had ever loved. And this was Uncle Leopold's fault.

New York in the summer was hot and humid, and it was full of people. Strange people. Americans. Of course, aunt Kate was American, but she was wonderful. No, these Americans were different. And because her aunt and Uncle were so busy preparing for some presentation or something, Charlotte was given the task to look after the boys. Philip, her younger brother who was 6 and Stuart, her cousin who was 5.

They would run up and down the stairway at Uncle Millard's townhouse. They weren't used to the confines of a house. At Balinor, they had acres of land for them to play freely. But in the city it was different. Charlotte would try to entertain them but there was only so much she could do and then her Aunt's head would peek around the door of the study, "Charlotte, please keep the boys quiet. Your uncle is trying to rehearse his speech. I suggest the park. "

And so Charlotte had found herself here at the park situated under the Brooklyn Bridge. Being a young woman, it wasn't appropriate for her to be out on her own, so Otis had accompanied them. The boys played happily.

Charlotte opened her pocket book and pulled out the worn letter, that hadn't left her side since she left Balinor. She unfolded it and sighed as she read it again. Gareth's words of love.

Otis was reading the paper, but kept an eye on the boys who were running back and forth, kicking a ball. Something Leopold had not been allowed to do as a boy, in public. But these boys had been raised differently. Leopold allowed them to play, to be boys. Philip ran over to the bench, "Otis, Charlotte...look, it's our ship. It must be going back to England." He pointed out to the East River at the massive vessel slowly making it's way out of New York.

Charlotte looked up and longed to be on the ship, "I wish I was on it, instead of being here with you."

"Miss Charlotte." Otis gave her a look.

"Well, I do. I will never forgive my uncle for dragging me here against my will." Philip already bored with the adult conversation turned back to the game with Stuart, but as his eyes scanned the area, Stuart was nowhere to be found.

"Where's Stuart?" Charlotte had gone back to her letter, and looked up casually. Otis much more attentive stood up and had a look around the park Stuart was nowhere to be seen. His first thought was kidnapping. He was Leopold's heir. There had been cases in the past, where huge sums of money had been exchanged for children of royal families or families of wealth. Stuart's sudden disappearance did not suit well with him and all, and a look of extreme worry crossed his face, as he continued to scan the park for the lad.

"He was just here,Otis. You saw him didn't you?"

"Miss Charlotte, you take the north end of the park, take Philip with you. I will scour the southend, and find a policeman."

"He's just hiding. I'm sure of it." Charlotte couldn't believe anything had happened to him and just thought Otis was overreacting. As adults tending to do.

"I don't want to take any chances, Miss." He didn't want to alarm the child and turned to her smiling, trying to sound reassuring. " I'm sure you are right."

Charlotte headed towards the foot of the bridge, now towering straight above her calling out his name. It was late in the afternoon, and the park was fairly deserted, people had gone home for their dinner. Philip looking in all the nooks and crannys where he could hide. Then it hit her. The stories, Uncle Leopold's ridiculous stories. Stuart wanting to go see his uncle Charlie. She looked up, and saw the small figure climbing up the scaffolding. She screamed.

"Oh, my god, Stuart." She covered her mouth and Philip followed her gaze.

"That's Stuart. You were supposed to watch us, Charlotte. Uncle Leopold is going to be awfully mad."

"Philip, be quiet." Charlotte tried to think. "You have to go get Otis. No, wait....yes, get Otis and go fetch Uncle Leopold. I will climb up and get Stuart."

"But you're a girl."

She quickly tucked her dress up into her undergarments. She couldn't let anything happen to Stuart. Philip looked up at her in amazement. "You're showing your underpants...that is so bad."

"Philip, go now. Do you hear me? We have no time to waste."

Philip looked up at Stuart still climbing and then turned and ran as fast as he could to find Otis.

* * * * * *

Leopold paced the floor of the study, trying to recite a speech that Kate had written for him. He couldn't concentrate. He missed the noise of the children. Kate had sent them out. And that is where he wanted to be... out. The children were a major part of his life and he preferred their company over the stuff shirts he was encouraged to conduct idle chit chat with, because of his position as Duke of Albany as well as being an inventor.

They had only been in New York for 5 days, and already his social calender had been full due to Kate's incredibly Public relationship skills. All well and fine, but he had wanted to take the children to Central Park, to the museums...and of course to see the Bridge. He could just make out the top of it from his bedroom window and had seen it as they had arrived in New York harbor. But he had yet to lay eyes on it up close. And he was longing to once again.

Kate looked up from her daily planner, and saw him in a daze...seeing the need to feed him the next line.."I am grateful...."

Leopold continued. "I am grateful for this honor...." he stopped. Kate gave him a look,

"Leopold, this isn't that difficult."

"I think being grateful for this honor is all that is needed to be said. For it is the truth." He shook the paper in his hand, "These are words. They are not my words, Kate. They are your words and I do not feel them, therefore I should not speak them."

"Then write your own god damn speech, Leopold. But you have to say something besides that you are grateful."

Emily had been playing on the floor with a wooden horse on wheels, pushing it between Leopold's legs, he smiled. She babbled, "Horsey under bridge, Papa."She gazed up at him and he couldn't resist. Squatting down next to her making neighing sounds, which made Emily smile and giggle. Ignoring Kate.

She threw her hands up, "I give up. You are still a stubborn Duke, who does whatever he wants." But she wasn't mad, she smiled as he joined him on the floor. Placing her hands over his. "I love you, Leopold Mountbatten, and for some reason I'm sure the city of New York will love you too tomorrow, speech or no speech."

He leaned over and gently kissed her, "You're coming around to my way of thinking. I will not embarrass you or the Mountbatten name at this god forsaken luncheon tomorrow, I promise you."

Uncle Millard walked into the study and heard Leopold's last words, "You have never been at a loss for words, my boy, in the past, I'm sure tomorrow will be no exception. Of course often those words are not the most appropriate but that has never phased you in the slightest."

Leopold smiled, "Why Uncle, as always it's a pleasure to have your input on these matters." All of a sudden the door swung open and Philip ran into the room out of breath Otis behind him.

Leopold looked at the grief stricken face of his nephew, he was in tears, "Uncle Leopold," he ran to his arms and Leopold held him tightly.

He looked past him at Otis, "Your grace, it's Stuart. And Miss Charlotte, You must come quick."

Leopold couldn't imagine what had happened but he immediately got up, Philip looked up at him, "He's climbed up the bridge, Uncle Leopold. I think he's going to jump."

Kate immediately stood up, covering her mouth, "Oh, my god, Leopold. This can't be happening."

Leopold turned to Kate placing a comforting hand on her arm, "I'm sure he will be fine. You stay here with Emily. Stuart and I will be back before you know it." He turned back to Philip, "You look after your aunt and cousin."

"I want to go Uncle Leopold, I want to jump off the bridge too."

"No one is jumping off any bridge, Philip." He wasn't too sure about that, as he ran out the door, and mounted the horse that was waiting for him. He raced off down the street towards the bridge hoping he was not to late.

The clouds had been rolling in and everything seemed to be getting dark. But Stuart was not afraid. All he had thought about was the bridge for the last few weeks, and now here he was climbing to the very point his father had fallen from all those years ago. He didn't once look down, so he didn't see Charlotte frantically trying to catch up.

Something had come over Charlotte as she climbed the scaffolding. Her fear of heights had vanished momentarily, but when she glanced down at the rough water below and the park she had just been quietly sitting in, she felt a bit woosey and continued to climb after her cousin. She was gaining on him. She had been riding horses since she was a toddler, and then had two little boys to contend with the past 6 years and today it seemed to come in handy. She wasn't a dainty little thing like her mother, she was strong and able to climb with little effort. As she reached the plank Stuart stood on, she noticed he was just gazing at the water below and taking in the view of New York from this height.

She didn't want to startle him but she was cross, "Stuart, what were you thinking climbing up here?"

"I wanted to see what it was like. What it was like for Papa when he followed Stuart up here on that stormy night."

"You weren't going to jump were you?"

He turned and laughed, "No."

"Well, that's a relief. Now come on, we must get down. Philip went to fetch Uncle Leopold and he will not be pleased with either one of us In fact, you could get a thrashing."

"You are lying, Charlotte. He's never thrashed anyone."

"Well, today could be the day, Stuart." She reached for his hand, "Come on, take my hand, come away from the edge, I will help you down."

"I don't need your help. I got up here all by myself. I can get down by myself as well."


As Leopold rode through the streets towards the park, the clouds opened up and a downpour seemed to appear from nowhere, he rode on ignoring the rain in his face, making his vision limited. But he knew this street like the back of his hand. And nothing could keep him from his son. He couldn't help but think this was his fault. Telling him about that night, was a mistake. Stuart was 5 years old. He didn't know the difference between fairy tales and reality. Everything seemed so magical to him. And these stories could only confuse him more. What was he thinking?

He pulled the horse up to the base of the bridge. Looking up into the blackening sky, he couldn't make out any figures. But there was no hesitation.He dismounted and began the long climb, a climb familiar to him. How ironic the night was turning out much like the night he had fallen through the portal a little more than 6 years ago. The only difference was the person he was following was his 5 year old son and his 15 year old niece. This shouldn't be happening.

As he got closer to the top he spotted the lace of Charlotte's petticoats, "Charlotte, Stuart...."he called out. The wind began to pick up and Charlotte thought she heard something. She leaned towards the ladder that had brought her, and was relieved to see a hand reaching up over the edge.

"Uncle Leopold, I wasn't looking just for a minute...Stuart was so curious." Charlotte desperately trying to explain the situation to him, but because of the wind, he couldn't make out a word she was saying.

Stuart quickly turned, with the ruckus going on around him, and as he did, lost his balance, the laces of his shoes catching onto the wooden plank. He slipped, just as Leopold pulled himself up. Charlotte immediately reached for Stuart, throwing herself down onto the plank, grasping his hand.

The rain pelting down into his face, Leopold moved slowly towards them, but Charlotte was panicking, and it happened so fast....the wind picked up. The plank was loose, Leopold felt it move as he put his weight onto it. The 3 of them were too much for the platform. Stuart tried reaching up to pull himself up but in the process, managed to pull his cousin closer to the edge. The plank now tipping even more. Leopold knew the only way to save them from the fall was to get himself and Charlotte off the plank.

"Charlotte, you must let go of Stuart. Your weight is causing the plank to tip and it will snap." Charlotte looked back at him apprehensively,

"He'll fall if I let go."

"No, he won't fall, he's light enough to pull himself up onto the plank. You must let go and slowly back away from the edge."

But Charlotte, was too frightened now, the plank tipping a little bit more with every minute that passed.

As his body dropped closer to the waters below, Stuart's mind began to race with drawings of portals and the bridge he had seen of his father's. He looked below, and smiled. He wasn't afraid. With a tug he pulled on Charlotte's arm, the plank snapped, Charlotte screamed. It happened so fast Leopold had no time, He watched his son fall, Charlotte still grasping on to his hand tumbled after him. Leopold had no other choice, he jumped from the structure, muttering "Forgive me, Kate.".