"Mama?" Ashley asked, looking up from the low stool upon which she sat before the fire, her schoolwork balanced across her knees.

Helen lifted her head from the medical records covering the surface of her desk to look at her daughter. "Yes, darling?"

"In which year was the Battle of Hasting's fought?"

She'd known the answer… once. "I can't recall. Ask your father."

Ashley turned. "Papa?"

John looked up from his customary chair in the corner where he'd been correcting his student's coursework. "Yes?"

"In which year was the Battle of Hasting's fought?"

"Does it not say in your text, Ashley?" he asked pointedly.

"But surely you know, Papa…?" Helen recognized the sweet tone for the attempt at manipulation it most certainly was.

Fortunately, so did her husband. "And what would be the benefit of my providing the answer?"

The young girl stared at her father in silence for several long moments in which he steadily returned her gaze. Finally defeated, she sighed dramatically. "Very well, then. If I must…"

John chuckled.

Ashley glared at him. Without another word, she reached down to the book lying at her feet and began to search for the answer.

John caught Helen's eye over their daughter's bent head and winked. Their silent exchange was interrupted, however, as Ashley's governess appeared in the sitting room doorway.

"Excuse me," she said, "But it's time for Miss Ashley to come to bed."

Her husband glanced down at the pocket watch attached to his waistcoat. "Why, so it is."

The child protested, "But I'm not finished yet."

"You can finish in the morning before class," Helen suggested. "Now… Wish us goodnight and get yourself to bed, darling."

Knowing from experience the futility of argument, Ashley nodded, "Yes, ma'am," before gathering up her schoolwork. She stood and, after a quick kiss on the cheek for John and a hug from Helen, followed her governess from the room.

Finding themselves alone in the wake of their daughter's parting, Helen turned back to John. Only there was something wrong. Instead of sandy brown waves of hair, he was grown suddenly bald, his waistcoat and jacket replaced with a loose silk shirt, and the Victorian study around him….

Helen woke with a start, the bright sunlight streaming through the window of her bedchamber dissipating the last vestiges of her dream, contrasting sharply with the cold reality that confronted her every waking minute of the day.

And the first few of those minutes were always the worst…. Especially when she would dream. And forget. And then be forced to remember….

To lose them again.

Tempted for the merest of seconds, Helen glanced towards the bottle of pills lying on the table beside her. One more and she would quickly succumb again to slumber, perhaps even to resume her interrupted dream. At least, for a time.

Until she must wake again.

Or, she could take a few more…. And then there would be no waking….

But no.

The fleeting thought was gone as quickly as it had come. She never would; she never could. And not simply because Helen Magnus did not quit.

No, she had to go on living. And fighting. And trying.

Because her life was all that remained of theirs.