A Shadow in the Past, by Melanie Robertson-King
When a contemporary teen is transported back in time to the Victorian era, she becomes A Shadow in the Past…
Nineteen year old Sarah Shand finds herself in Victorian Era Aberdeenshire, Scotland and has no idea how she got there. Her last memory is of being at the stone circle on the family farm in the year 2010.
Despite having difficulty coming to terms with her situation, Sarah quickly learns she must keep her true identity a secret. Still, she feels stifled by the Victorians’ confining social practices, including arranged marriages between wealthy and influential families, and confronts them head on then suffers the consequences.
When Sarah realizes she has fallen in love with the handsome Laird of Weetshill, she faces an agonizing decision. Does she try to find her way back to 2010 or remain in the past with the man she loves?
When Sarah’s eyes flickered open, the frantic girl and her wrecked car were nowhere to be seen. Instead of the asphalt surface ofKendonald Road, Sarah lay sprawled out on a narrow gravel lane.
Sarah’s chest felt as if her father’s entire herd of cows had run over it. She gasped for air and tried to prop herself up on her elbows, but collapsed as stones gouged her arms.
Using her last ounce of strength, Sarah hauled herself to her feet. Her head throbbed as if it were about to explode, and something wet and sticky ran down the back of her neck. Dirt and blood covered her rugby shirt and jeans, and her trainers were gone. Sharp gravel bit into her stocking feet as she staggered, trying not to fall. Sarah was surprised she was able to stand. She was certain the impact with the car had broken her legs and maybe even her back.
She wiped her hands on her shirt and cried out in pain. Dirt and blood covered her palms, and her knees felt like they’d been scraped with sandpaper. Her chest hurt with every breath, and she wondered if her ribs were broken.
Barely able to make out a faint light shining in the distance, Sarah stumbled toward it, thinking it was the yard light near her father’s barn. She clapped her hands over her ears in an attempt to block out the incessant ringing, but it didn’t work.
Sarah blinked and stared at one of the ghostly trees lining the roadway. The trunk expanded and contracted before her eyes as if it were breathing. A gust of wind rasped through the branches, and a sudden cry of a long-eared owl made her jump. Shivering, Sarah crossed her arms and rubbed, but pain shot all the way to her fingertips, forcing her to stop.
At the narrow stone bridge, she stopped and rested. As she stood there trying to catch her breath, the bridge began to vibrate, and black smoke filled the air. A shrill whistle pierced the silence, drowning out the ringing in her ears. Sarah wheeled around and gasped. Off in the distance she saw the tiny speck of a headlight. It grew larger and brighter as the train drew closer and thundered beneath the bridge. Sarah watched the disappearing train and tried to understand what she had seen. There was no railway line near her house, only a flat dirt trail leading to the village.
Soon the smells of freshly cut hay, manure, and farm animals replaced the lingering aroma of the train’s oily coal smoke. If the barn was this close, she was almost home. Drawing closer, she heard horses snorting and the scrape of hooves pawing at stall floors. Her parents did not own horses. Other than Murphy, the only animals on their farm were beef cattle, sheep, and a few barn cats.
Stumbling away from the barn, Sarah turned to face a sprawling three-storey building. It looked like Weetshill but it couldn’t be. The Weetshill mansion Sarah knew had no roof, and trees grew inside its crumbling walls. The slate roof of this building shone in the moonlight as if it had been installed yesterday, and glass sparkled in enormous windows that should have been gaping, dark holes.
Sarah touched the heavy oak door and jerked her hand back as though she’d burnt it. Like the rest of the building, the door was real and in nearly new condition. She reached for a thick cord hanging from a bell by the door, but her head began to spin, and she lost consciousness.
“Did you hear that, Granda?” Robert put down his newspaper and strained to listen.
“Not a thing.”
Robert tried to go back to his newspaper but couldn’t concentrate. He walked to the front door, disengaged the lock, and pulled the creaking door open. “Is there anyone out here?” he called into the darkness as he stepped out for a better look.
Robert stubbed his toe against something on the step and looked down. At first he thought it was a pile of rags, but then he saw a bloodied leg. Squatting alongside the rumpled heap, he reached out and stroked the matted hair. The disheveled figure flinched at his touch and moaned.
“Archibald, Mrs. MacEwen,” Robert called out. “I need your assistance.”
His grandfather, holding his cane over his arm, shuffled into the great hall. “Whatever are you bellowing about, Robert?”
“I found this laddie collapsed outside the front door. He’s been badly hurt.”
The housekeeper appeared behind the old man. “Och dearie me,” she murmured as she crouched down. “Bring him in into the library, and put him on the settee.”
Robert lifted the injured boy and carried him to the library. Blood and dirt covered his suit after he placed the lad on the sofa.
“Poor laddie has met wi’ an awful fate. I dinnae ken what. Just that it be awful,” the housekeeper jabbered as she covered the body with a blanket.
The shape under the blanket groaned, and a hand worked its way out from under the cover. A muffled voice asked, “Wh-here am I?”
“You’ll be fine. Can you tell me what’s happened to you?” Robert asked.
“I have no clue.”
“What is your name?”
“You’re not a laddie after all,” the old man exclaimed.
“Of course not. I’m a girl!”
“Granda, please. You’re not helping.” Robert pulled over the ottoman. Looking at the girl’s face, he saw a pair of emerald green eyes framed with long, thick dark eyelashes. In spite of all the dirt and blood covering her skin, he could see that it was smooth and feminine. He sat down and took one of the scuffed and scraped hands in his. “Do you know what has happened to you?”
“I need to call my parents. They need to know I’m all right,” she mumbled.
Robert raised his arm and waved to his servant. “We need Doctor Burnett. Can you see that he’s summoned?”
“Aye, Sir. Straight away.”
“Wh-who are you? How did I get here?” She asked, rubbing her eyes as she spoke.
“I don’t know. I heard a noise and found you on the doorstep. You might not have survived the night out there on that cold granite slab.”
Streaks of dirt and blood covered the young man’s brown wool suit. Sarah shivered as she realized the blood came from her body when he carried her into the house. “Where am I?” she asked.
“Weetshill mansion,” he answered.
A knock on the door preceded a balding, rotund man sporting mutton-chop sideburns. He looked like a character straight out of Dickens in his white shirt, black tie, and gray trousers topped with a black jacket and green waistcoat. “Sir, you called?”
“Doctor Burnett has been summoned. Show him in the moment he arrives, Archibald,” Robert instructed.
Sarah’s eyes darted about the room. “Did you say Weetshill? That can’t be. That place is a ruin. Please, I need my mobile so I can call my mum, let her know I’m okay.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. A mobile what?”
A shock of dark curly hair fell onto his forehead as he leaned down to look at her. Sarah stared into his golden-brown eyes, attempting to make sense of his question. Everyone she knew had a mobile phone of some brand or another. Her iPhone was brand new, and if she lost it, her parents would be well miffed with her. “Can I use your landline to call my parents?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about.” Robert answered.
Sarah grimaced as she struggled to sit up. Every part of her body hurt, including her hair. She had not felt this sore since the morning after an end of term party inGlasgow. “Who are you?” she asked again.
“Robert Andrew Robertson, grandson of the Laird of Weetshill,” he said, extending his hand toward her.
Did he say Laird of Weetshill? “That’s an odd name.”
“Not at all, Miss Sarah Shand. I was named after my maternal grandfather,” he replied.
“Sorry. I wasn’t making fun. It just caught me off guard, is all.” She couldn’t remember telling him her name, but she must have, or he wouldn’t know. Staring into his eyes, she wiped her dirty, sweaty palms on her shirt and held her hand out in return.
“Where do you live?” he asked.
“On my parents’ farm at Gordonsfield,” she answered. Her stomach quivered.
“Gordonsfield? Where is that?” he asked.
“Gordonsfield Farm near Kendonald.”
“I do not know of such a place. Perhaps this Gordonsfield you speak of is in another shire?” he asked with an arch of his brow.
“No. It’s not far from here. It’s on the next road past theKendonald Road.”
He wrinkled his brow. “Gleanstane, the Christies’ lands, are in the area you speak of,” he replied, stroking his chin.
Sarah had heard of Gleanstane before, but when? She remembered her father saying there had been a big house at the bottom of the far side of the hill where the stone circle stood. What happened to it? She remembered some barns and a cottage but no big house.
“But, it doesn’t make sense. I know where I live, and it’s Gordonsfield Farm by Kendonald!” Sarah flinched and shrunk back as Robert reached for her face.
“Don’t be frightened. I’m only going to brush your hair out of your face,” he said as he tucked a lock behind her ear. “Pardon me, but what manner of clothing are you wearing? It’s certainly not proper clothing for a lady.”
She lifted the blanket and looked at her filthy clothes. Her torn rugby shirt looked as if she had played a match and lost. “I don’t understand. How did I get so dirty?”
“You don’t know? You’ve not been in an accident, have you?”
“I-I don’t think so. I don’t remember. My head hurts, but I don’t know why.” Sarah touched the back of her head with her left hand and winced. “I don’t suppose you have any Paracetamol.”
“I’m afraid I don’t know what that is. Your legs appear to be hurt as well,” Robert said. We best get your injuries seen to and get you cleaned up and into some proper lady’s clothing. I’ll summon Mrs. MacEwen, our housekeeper. She’ll look after you.”
“I don’t want clothes from you.” Sarah snapped. She snatched a newspaper from the coffee table and unfolded it. The masthead read The Aberdeen’s Journal. She’d never heard of it. It took her a few minutes to focus on the rest of the front page, but finally, she found the publication date. The month and day were right, but the year was 1886. Sarah’s stomach lurched, and a wave of blackness consumed her.
About the Author
I consider myself a romance writer but write in other genres, too. Currently, ten of my non-fiction articles have been published, with one being a feature cover article.
My father was a Home Child who came to Canada through the auspices of The Orphan Homes of Scotland. My article Always a Home Boy is his and his siblings story. I also speak to local historical and genealogical societies on the subject of Home Children.
I love to read but now that I’m writing, I have to be careful what I choose. I don’t want things from other people’s writings finding their way into my own work. So, to that end, I try to read from totally different genres. I don’t think I could write it effectively, but I love to read crime fiction – Ian Rankin, Stuart MacBride, Val McDermid, PD James, and of course, my good friend Chris Longmuir.
My other interests include genealogy, especially the study of Home Children, photography and travel – particularly Scotland because of my kinship with my father’s homeland. It was on a trip to Scotland, that I had the honour of meeting The Princess Royal.
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