Chapter 2 - Sunset

Bethany remembered. On the ill-fated night that she found Q, she had already spent a full-day volunteering in the convalescence home for returning soldiers in her village. This was on top of the chores she had to perform at home that were necessary to keep a small farm running. So, when she saw the naked man sitting beside the road, she was too exhausted to be surprised, shocked, or even curious.

It was a given that she would help him, bring him home, feed him, and call the doctor. Letting him stay on in her home, that did require some thought, however. Her parents had passed, and her brother wouldn't be returning from the war. They would be unchaperoned, and her reputation would be ruined. There were worse things in the world, she thought.

She had regretted that decision for decades.

When she had first presented the offer to him, he had scoffed. The continuum would recant, he insisted. This wasn't even the correct century that he had requested. It was all a big misunderstanding.

After his initial examination, Dr. Mueller had pulled her aside. A coping mechanism, obviously, he said. To escape from the atrocities that he must have witnessed in the war. He would check with the Veteran's Affairs office and see if he could deduce his identity, determine which Home he had wandered away from. Why he was naked he couldn't explain. He would bring some clothes by.

That first week had been surreal, for both of them evidently. He was shocked by every chore she asked him to assist with on the farm. She was shocked by the lack of calluses on his hands, and more so on his feet. They resembled the baby feet of Mrs. Miller's six week old grandson. Soft, tender, pink, thin skinned – as though he had never had to walk a step in his life. The hands were obviously those of a gentleman, and Bethany was confident that someone, somewhere was looking for him. But even the landed gentry had to walk.

Such aggravation he caused her. And…such pain.

But, today was a good day. Today, she could remember why she let him stay. That didn't happen often. Punishment was no longer served on him alone. She was caught up in the backlash, an innocent bystander. Actually, she was being used more as a means to prolong his pain. The Q may maintain that they are advanced, but ruthless was a more apt descriptor.

She sipped her coffee, remembering. A year apart for every day they had spent together. A millennium left to serve. Exile. The universe open to her and no one to share the marvel of it all. She noted the purples, pinks, and blues of the October sunset. The effiel tower presented a beautiful view this evening. And, Q was right, it was orange.

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