Encircled by a large park, the grounds around the cave hadn’t changed much in five hundred years. However, the path they’d traced to reach to cave such a short few weeks before led them quickly to a small gravel parking lot and Samantha’s red Fiat.
“It’s all true,” Laura said, running her hand over its shiny surface.
“Yes,” Samantha said. She showed Laura how to open the door and buckle her seat belt. Soon they sped along at speeds that made Laura’s eyes grow large.
“Wow,” Laura said, several times. The car frightened her a little, but she rather liked it, too.
“This is nothing,” Samantha said. “We’ll go a lot faster once we reach the highway. We’ll pass the spot where your village stood in about an hour.”
“Can we stop?”
“We don’t have time today,” Samantha said. “We need to arrive in York before your brother gets back from school.”
“I thought we were going to London.”
“In the morning. Tonight I’m taking you to your sponsoring family. You will live with them.”
“Not with you?”
“Oh, no. I’m only a guide. These witches and their two children have trained for many years for the honor of hosting and teaching you.”
Laura’s mind burst with a thousand questions, but Samantha refused to say any more. She insisted that Laura pay attention to their surroundings and absorb as much as she could. She stopped at a red sign, then turned left.
Laura counted. The sign had eight edges. Octagonal, she remembered. She could make out the word ‘stop,’ though the letters on the sign were different that any she had seen before. Samantha had told her that modern children all went to school from the time they were small. Laura had never been taught more than a few basic reading skills, plus a little Latin and math. She had a lot of catching up to do.
It hit her a week later, just how much she needed to learn. She’d returned from meeting with the London Council of Witches, and begun joined her brother in the Primrose family home. The mother, Heather, looked a lot like her old surrogate mother, Mary Agnes, with a portly figure, grey hair always tied in a bun, and round, smiling face. On the other hand, George, the father, had a trim figure, with black hair and a narrow face much like her own. They had a son a year older than David, named Titus, and a daughter, Wendy, two years her junior. Wendy was too young to turn witch yet, but she was already a thorn in Laura’s side.
Wendy, skinny and dark-haired like her father, had no interest outside of boys, makeup and fashion. She whined constantly about having to share a bedroom with Laura, who “had no taste, knew nothing about life, and was absolutely and completely a total bore.” She retreated behind her cell phone and computer, chatting endlessly with friends.
Laura ignored her. She smiled at the way David, who shared a room with Titus, had taken to his new life. He tackled everything with gusto, following and emulating his new ‘brother’ like a baby duckling.
Heather, who asked her to call her ‘mum,’ had a warm heart and knew exactly what to do with a nascent witch hailing from the distant past. ‘Home school,’ she called it. A blend of regular schooling, outings to learn about modern life, and witchy knowledge, would bring Laura up to speed in no time, she promised.
The lessons started immediately. Heather did most of the teaching. George helped occasionally, though he spent most of his day at the office, where he worked as a financial advisor. David and Titus helped her too, but Wendy just scoffed and put in her ear buds any time Laura came near.
Laura didn’t have time and energy to worry about her new ‘sister.’ Just dealing with the rush of people surrounding them in a store or on a bus left her exhausted, let alone adjusting to riding in busy traffic, or figuring out a computer.
That first Sunday, they visited Matthew, as promised. David came along, rushing into his friend’s arms when they arrived at the cave. They laughed and shared stories about their week. They practiced the new way of speaking with David, who had already picked up a fair amount of modern speech.
Matthew showed them around the park. He had spent hours between his lessons, exploring and stretching his legs. Laura took deep breaths of clean air, trying to wash the scent of the city out of her nostrils. They climbed the same cliff as before, and, for a moment, she thought they were home in 1508.
However, when they returned to the cave, it still had the modern furnishings. She knew for certain, then, that they had entered the twenty-first century, and would never again live in the sixteenth.