You will be the death of me.
- Time is Running Out
I leaned back in my chair, arms crossed, tapping my foot compulsively against the leg of my desk.
Dying of boredom. Hardly alive. Zombie mode.
My history book was open in front of me, a portrait of Robert G. Shaw staring back at me. It was only six minutes and one...two...three seconds into class and my overly enthusiastic APUSH teacher already had me frustrated to the point that made physical "education" seem appealing. It made me inwardly groan when I remembered that I still had an hour and twenty-three minutes left of slow torture.
Kill me now, spare me this misery.
I was doing some thinking (an action that occurs more often than people seem to think it does), as I watched my unappealingly flabby history teacher prance dramatically in front of the room, droning on and on about Robert Shaw. Oh, excuse me, Colonel Robert Shaw. Forgetting his rank is like blasphemy!
What was I doing in an AP class anyway? I should be in study hall, sharpening pencils and practicing group dynamics with all the other burn-outs of tomorrow. What was I doing in this particular first period, besides catching up on sleep and slipping Muse-emanating earphones up my sleeve?
Sing, Matthew Bellamy, sing!
I rolled my eyes when my teacher started wielding a small American Flag in the air and shrunk lower in my seat. Peace, however, never lasts too long, and approximately thirty seconds later, my teacher declared war.
The sharp call of my name brought me out of my thoughts.
"Alexandra Janeiro!" Mrs. Pearl barked. Yeah, her name? So menopause.
I sat up straight and looked over my history book.
"Yeah?" I called to her from the back of the room, where all the bad kids sit. "I go by Alex." I hated Alexandra, to me it sounded so vulgar because I was named after Alexander the Great, go figure. About whom, I might add, no acceptable movie was yet made. The latest one was just about how gay he was.
"Eighteen your old young ladies are old enough to not fall asleep in class, especially young ladies that supposedly care about their grades." She smirked like she was just oh-so-clever, and my nerdy classmates snickered around me.
I plastered a smile on my face, hoping desperately that I wasn't grimacing. After all, she who angers you, conquers you, eh?
"With all due respect, ma'am, this particular young lady was paying attention." I protested. She glared at me.
"Oh?" She smiled, like a cat at a canary. "Then you wouldn't mind answering a question."
That's the zinger moment. Every teenager experienced one of these. It's when you have no idea what the teacher was muttering on about and they call you out of thirty-something other kids to answer their pointless questions.
"Sure." I mumbled, bravado gone.
"When was this brave soldier, Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, may he rest in peace, killed?" She asked, her lips poised in a stony smirk.
Really, rest in peace? The Sign of the Cross would be a nice touch, Pearl.
I smiled at her, but inside I was panicking. Desperately I widened my eyes, thinking I would see more with them, and searched my history book. My mind was roaring. Quickly! Quickly!
"Well?" The teacher pressed again, folding her arms over her saggy chest. "We're waiting." She sang.
Cool it, Pearlie.
More snickers from my classmates.
After two more seconds of scanning, my eyes landed on a tiny phrase under his picture. Date of Birth: October 10, 1837 and right next to it, his date of death.
Those who seek shall find.
"July 18, 1863." I replied, triumphantly but just as coyly as she had.
She narrowed her eyes for a brief second. "And how long had this extraordinary young man lived?" She asked huskily.
I glanced down at his picture. She was clearly in love with him. Quickly I did the math in my head.
"He was 25 years old." For a reason I can't understand, I almost choked on my saliva when I realized what I had just said.
I could care less about this guy, but it kind of shocked me that he had died so very young. Satan's Mistress nodded, assigned me extra homework on my 'buddy' Bob Shaw, before going off to condemn another innocent soul.
I muttered words under my breath as I crumpled the sheet of homework she gave me. I was bound to develop anger issues, sitting in her class.
Whatever, I argued. It wasn't my fault that I didn't know his death date, not every one of us can be Civil War geniuses, you know? Frankly, I don't give the slightest care about the guy. He led the 54th regiment, wow, so what? That's about as important as Sarah Palin's political opinions. Why does this woman ask me historical questions all the time? She must think I TiVo the History Channel every night, just because my dad is a history dean at Harvard.
What's a regiment, anyway?
I pushed the stupid thoughts out of my mind and stared up at the black board. So Old School, MC Hammer would love it.
But wait a second, was it just my imagination, or did it begin swirling? The room was spinning around me and everything went black.
Have you ever gotten out of bed and felt a rush in your head and your vision darken and swirl? Yeah, I thought it was one of those, but ten seconds later I opened my eyes only to find myself standing. The scary part was that my skinny jeans, black Converse high-tops, and Vans t-shirt had all been replaced with a soft pink, lacy dress, and a tight whalebone body-cage in which I could barely breathe in.
But another frightening part was that I heard music playing around me, a blend of violins and violas, maybe Mozart, and I knew thatI was definitely not in Kansas anymore. I couldn't believe it; I was in the middle of a large, fancy, old-fashioned room with thick Persian carpets and plaster-carved walls.
Ladies in fancy, lacy dresses swirled around me, fluttering their delicate fans at gentlemen in starched uniforms. For a moment I thought I was interrupting a History Channel movie shoot, and that some Spielberg wannabe would come out and yell at me for ruining their shot.
But there were no cameras, and no microphones. Why would there be? Where was that stupid blackboard and my Go Girl-drinking history teacher? My head was hurting, and I pulled the hair on my scalp.
I felt panicked and weak in the knees. I was wobbling, and almost collapsed into my own poofy skirts when a convenient arm swerved around my waist and pulled me up, leading me to a window in the corner of the room, giving me a view of the "driveway" of this large estate.
"Welcome to the Civil War, kid." A boy's voice laughed at me.
It's easier to allow yourself to be angry then scared, so I straightened up and glared into his face, but he only grinned back at me. He was young, maybe just a year older than I was, nineteenish, dressed in the same gentlemanly outfit as the other men, and the same style of shiny black shoes.
He wasn't very tall.
"Who are you?" I demanded, grasping him by the brown-silk lapels of his jacket. "And where is my history book? My school makes us pay for those if we lose them."
The boy smiled tightly into my face, unhooking my fingers from his vintage Hugo Boss.
"My name is Marty, and you are standing in the sitting room of the Shaw residence in Boston, Massachusetts. The year is 1861, the sky is blue, the weather is 82 degrees-" He was mocking me, and I cut him off.
I was always being mocked, and if what he said was true, ("very likely") then I don't have to take this if I wasn't even born yet.
"Why am I here? How did I get here? I don't want to be here!" I whined at him. I must have sounded quiet annoying since he grimaced. Not that I care.
"I'm part of a secret organization, Flux Capacitor Inc. It's named after this catchy piece of machinery which is what makes time travel possible." I tried to stop him but he carried on without a pause. "I'm what you would call a rookie, and I chose you to be the lucky first person under my supervision to go back in time. I picked this particular moment in history because I noticed that you didn't exactly 'leap for joy' when your nice teacher announced that you would be studying about the future colonel, Robert Shaw." He smiled again, but I blinked hard.
"What? Are you listening to yourself?" I asked flatly. "If time travel was possible, Einstein would've invented it."
He smiled. Why did he smile so much? "He influenced a friend of mine, actually."
Is this guy for real?
"Get me out of here." I whispered through clenched teeth.
"Sorry, no can do, not until you proved yourself worthy of it." He replied as simply as if we were discussing the 82 degree weather outside.
"Why!?" I muttered loudly enough for a few nearby ladies to turn around and flutter their annoying fans at me in shock. Marty smiled nervously at them and grabbed my hand, leading me further away from the. When we were out of their earshot, he released me.
"I'll help you." He persuaded. I wanted to kick him.
"I'll tell you everything you need to know." He responded, pulling a sleek communicator resembling an iPhone out of his pocket and handing it to me. "You'll be able to contact me with this; just don't use it in public."
I snorted. I was not going to resort to this so easily. "Right."
He was smiling as he calmly slipped the Communicator into some invisible pocket in the many ruffles of my pink skirt. "Speaking of Robert Shaw," He said, glancing down at his pocket watch.
"We weren't speaking of him…"
"He should be appearing any moment now." He stood on his toes and looked over my shoulder. Like I said, he wasn't very tall.
"Why are all these people here?" I asked.
"His parents are throwing a party for him, for coming home safely." His eyes followed a young lady who walked past us. I snapped him back to attention. He can flirt later. "Poor guy, so many very eligible bachelorettes are here, and he doesn't know any of 'em."
Suddenly all conversation was hushed and replaced by a steady applause and flirtatious giggles from the young women. I stood on my tippy toes to see over the heads of people across the room. Their stood a hesitant looking young man, dressed in a Union officer's suit, his brown hair visible under his matching cap, smiling nervously around the room. He was young, and attractive, something about his eyes captivated me. Marty chuckled his annoying laugh behind me. I snapped my head at him.
"What?" I demanded.
He smiled. "Don't get too involved. You're not going to be here forever," He later added, his voice full of pity," and neither is he."
"Who is he?"
"Your favorite Colonel Robert Gould Shaw." He replied with a small smirk. I stared back at the young man, who loosened up a little and was shaking the men's hands, who were slapping him on the back and congratulating him.
"Why is everyone so excited?" I asked.
"He was just promoted to colonel of the future 54th regiment." He explained.
"He looks too young for a colonel." I said.
"He is." Marty told me. "He's 23."
My breath caught in my throat. "But that means he only has two years to live!" I gasped.
Marty nodded solemnly. "Of all the stupid things you will do, make sure you don't tell him that."
I chose to ignore that because fuming took up too much energy when wearing a corset.
Robert was getting closer to us; clearly his destination was the exit.
"The book's portrait doesn't do him justice." I mused at Marty. Robert was much, much more attractive.
I mean, he was tolerable.
Marty ignored my comment. "You're to report at the sign-up for his regiment tomorrow morning at ten."
I blinked. "Question Mark."
"You're joining the army." He said cheerfully.
He looked a little disgusted. "No, no. Who'd give you a gun? No, you get to follow him around with something resembling a clipboard and run errands for the guy." He explained.
How typically sexist – making me a secretary.
"Yippee." I muttered sarcastically. "If I do this, when can I go home."
Robert was a few feet away from us now. Moving past the next gentlemen, he shook hands with Marty, and nodded at me, before trying to avoid the gushing, flirtatious, desperate fan girls, and briskly walked outside.
Behind me, Marty sighed.
"Congrats, Alex." He said. "You just shook hands with a legend."
"That was about the corniest thing you could have said just now…"
I turned back but he had vanished.
And just like that, I was alone again.
But for some odd reason, I did not feel lonely. And I was still unsure of why I was taking serious news so easily, for only ten minutes ago, I found out that time travel…