Prisoners of Time: Time to say goodbye

Story IV

Chapter 1

December 12th, 1882

Ramona Ferguson's funeral was a small, unobtrusive affair. She would have demanded it that way. Phineas purchased a modest-sized tombstone made from the finest marble and adorned it with a beautiful colorized likeness of her as a young woman in a gold painted oval frame. Under her name were the chiseled words,

'Mother, friend, and loving confidante. Until we meet again, my bonnie lass.'

Although his remains weren't there, Phineas had baby Breannan's name carved and the 1-year he had lived. Ramona's plot was situated under a cherry blossom tree, because it was her favorite kind.

Jeffrey, Katrina, Susan and Bobby attended, along with a few other associates from Voyager Academy and some of Phineas' neighbors. The entire service was a blur to Phineas. He was so intent on correcting the past that everything spoken was an unreality to him. But he still had no way of knowing if his intervention would prevent her death or hasten it. It was now a giant leap of faith.

Jeffrey held Phineas' hand the entire time to support him, but when the pastor ended his sermon and the first shovelful of dirt was tossed into the grave, his grip slipped out and he wandered off. Jeffrey did his best to remain stoic. He didn't want Phineas to see him weep. It was becoming tedious. When Phineas told him Ramona would be laid to rest in the scenic Greenwood Cemetery of Brooklyn, Jeffrey had wanted to bawl. That was where his parents were buried, with one flat headstone and cheap, sloppily carved names and dates.

Jeffrey's aunt Elizabeth claimed she couldn't spare the expense; she would need all the funds leftover by her brother Bill to raise Jeffrey. Elizabeth was a terrible guardian, and cared very little for Jeffrey's well being. When Jeffrey had found out she planned to send him to a boarding school in Europe so she could marry her businessman lover, Thomas – that was when he ran away and eventually joined the Hester Street Kings. Jeffrey only once returned to his old Brownstone home, but found the building sold, and the new owners said that Elizabeth had moved out West with her husband. It was hard to feel any sadness over her departure.

Jeffrey kicked loose stones around and stared at the other monuments. He questioned the meaning of life and death…and time travel. Phineas still kept him in the dark about his chosen date for the Omnichron's first voyage. He would only say that it was a monumental event in the history of New York and warned that it might be a little dangerous. Jeffrey was used to dangers, and a fifty-year difference in time meant little to him. They were still on his home turf.

After the burial Phineas greeted and thanked all those who attended and they slowly went back to their carriages. Phineas felt a hand on his shoulder and turned.

"Professor Garth! What a surprise! I mean I didn't expect you to…you didn't have to…" Phineas stammered.

Garth patted his shoulder. "Now, now, Phineas, it's alright. I make it a point to be available for all my students. She was like a mother to you. That's incentive enough for me to pay my respects." Garth stared at the tombstone and his brow furrowed. He released a long sigh.

"Professor, is something wrong? Are you okay?" Phineas was concerned. The man was seventy-two years old, but as far as he knew, still in good health. Throughout the service Garth's face was downcast and somber, his large eyes focused on the headstone. Though Phineas hadn't expected anyone to be cheery, it was unusual, considering Garth barely knew Ramona.

"Can I give you a ride home, Professor?"

"Oh no, I'm traveling with Bobby and Susan. Phineas, the baby…how did he die? Was he sick? I remember that year well. It was a horrible winter."

Phineas put his chilled hands in his coat pockets. "Ramona talked about the Great Fire of 1835, somehow she was caught up in it and…well she never gave me the details and I didn't want to press her."

Garth's expression saddened. "I see, such a shame for her. A tragedy for the little one to never experience life. But…later in her life she came to regard you as a son, I'm sure that gave her a sense of belonging."

"Yes, it did. She loved, and was loved, most dearly by me."

~V~

After Garth left with the others, Phineas realized Jeffrey had disappeared. He followed the winding cobbled path, which led to a giant pond and fountain in the center of the cemetery. He spotted him alone and crying on a bench. Phineas sprinted over and slid beside him.

"Jeffrey, I was worried when you left. I didn't mean to ignore you; I just had to talk to the others."

Jeffrey wiped his nose with his sleeve. "It's okay, Bogg. I understand. I wanted to be alone anyway."

"I know how you feel. I almost didn't want to have all these people, but they were paying their respects. I appreciate them very much."

Phineas glanced at their surroundings; the usually lush and green scenery was coated with a layer of fine snow and the trees were bare and spindly. Were it not so breathtakingly gorgeous it would have spooked him. He pulled Jeffrey's collar and scarf tighter around his neck and buttoned up his coat from the middle.

"You're going to catch a bad cold or pneumonia."

Jeffrey shrugged. "I spent a whole winter in a drafty old warehouse and crates. I can take it. I've even slept in Ralph's doghouse next to him for heat. I won't get sick."

Jeffrey's hostility bubbled to the surface. It often happened whenever he was caught in an emotional state and Phineas was still learning how to deal with the boy's temperament.

"Jeff, is there something you need to tell me?"

Jeffrey crossed his arms and turned aside. "No. Just leave me alone for a little while. Can you do that, Bogg? Just this once? I doubt Drake and Mikey will be coming in here anytime soon! Even though they should…six feet under!"

Phineas sighed and wrung his hands. He put on a pair of tan gloves. "I'm sorry. I guess I have been putting the 'guard' in 'guardian' a little too much, haven't I?"

Jeffrey made a hint of a smile, but couldn't look him in the eye. He didn't know why he was suddenly mad at him. It wasn't fair to Phineas. With Ramona gone and Phineas enmeshed in his quirky inventions to quell his grief, the Manor might as well have been a tomb. At least with the Hester street gang he had boys his own age to pal around with. But they were trouble and he knew it. He always knew it. Jeffrey just couldn't wait to continue time traveling. Patience was a sorely tested virtue with him. But in a way, he and Phineas shared the same sentiments.

Phineas once told him, "I'm not a man known for being patient." And Jeffrey had seen him at his worst, throwing books and inventions across the lab when he felt they were useless, cussing under his breath when they backfired. There were nights when Phineas would go out on the town to unwind, and Jeffrey wondered if he were playing the vigilante hero or simply getting stewed in the Lower East Side and draining wallets from heady games of poker. Phineas never lost a game yet. But these behaviors weren't commonplace for him. Jeffrey could just imagine his father saying, "Phineas is an upstanding man."

On the night they finally perfected the Omnichron, Phineas put an arm around him and said, "With this invention, and our ability to travel through the ages, we have to remember what's most important. People. Jeffrey, no matter what you do in life, you have to think of all the interesting people in front of you, who really need your help. Heck, we're Voyagers, kid, we got responsibilities."

Phineas lowered his hat and raised his collar as the winds increased. "Jeffrey, I realize this is the last place you want to be and I told you before that you didn't have to come if you were uncomfortable. I trust you enough now to be alone in the Manor, and with Ralph as a watch dog you would have been safe."

Jeffrey finally looked up at him surprised. "No, Bogg! I had to come! Ramona was so good to me. We were really starting to build a relationship. She was like my grandmother. It's not just her…" Jeffrey swallowed the lump in his throat. All his energy felt spent. He pointed back with his thumb.

"Bogg, my parents are here. Just behind us in that sloppy little knoll."

Phineas didn't think the day could be any more miserable, but now it was. He pursed his lips and rose, then walked to the overrun patch of weedy grass. He nearly passed over the grave and stared at the plot disdained.

'Mother – Father – Jones, Died 1881.'

Jeffrey joined him. "Pretty damn stupid, huh? My aunt Elizabeth I told you about…she got this done before she left with all their money to California. I wouldn't be surprised if that witch buried them in one coffin!"

Phineas clenched his fists. "It's not stupid… it's pathetic. And unacceptable! That wretched woman!" He swung around and knelt to Jeffrey's height. "I promise you, as soon as we do what we have to do with the Time Machine, I will have some of the nicest tombstones carved out for them. William Jones was a fellow Voyager, and they deserve it, for bringing a wonderful kid like you into this world."

The tears Phineas held back all morning came to the fore. Jeffrey trembled and enveloped him in a long hug. "Bogg, you're the best. I…I love you."

Phineas grinned and wiped his eyes. "I love you too, kid." He stood tall. "Come on, it's time to get ourselves together and delve into history."