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Open Features: Time Shift

...She kissed him back, but soon pulled away and said urgently, “Tom mustn’t see us together. He’s vowed to kill you again, -if you ever come near me. But as we’re soul mates, we’re destined to be together. So hopefully one day we’ll break through the time barrier that’s keeping us apart and then we’ll be together, forever.”...

Joy Bassetti Kruger tells a time-spanning tale of love and murder.

As Paula wanted to soften Cameron up before asking him to take her to their Cousin Celia’s wedding that afternoon, she decided to prepare his favourite breakfast. This was why she slipped out of the house early and went off to the patisserie to buy a half a dozen fresh croissants.

When she arrived back home, she called out, “Hi Cam, are you up yet?”

“Yes I am, but where’ve you been? I’ve looked everywhere for you.”

“It’s a surprise, so will you please come and sit down for breakfast out on the patio,” she said, as she took the croissants out of the warming drawer and folded them inside a napkin to keep them warm.

Cameron immediately tucked in by spreading a couple of croissants with lashings of butter and honey. Then eyeing the stewed green apples with cloves, his favourite breakfast time treat, he helped himself to a large bowl full.

Paula watched him eat, hoping the food would put him in a good mood so he’d agree to take her to the wedding in his car; a large air conditioned one, which was more comfortable than her old jalopy.

At first she tried flattery, telling her brother that she approved of his new haircut. Then she said she thought his new blue cashmere pullover matched his eyes exactly. She even went so far as to say that his skin looked good, now that he was using the new moisturizing cream for men that she’d recommended.

As Cameron smiled and looked pleased, this was the point where she asked him to take her to the wedding. But instead of agreeing to take her, he said, “Sorry Paula, but I don’t think so. You go. You enjoy these family gatherings and you can wear that new frock you bought last week. I’d forgo the hat though, as it’s a rather silly arrangement of feathers and fluff.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that hat and what’s more I happen to like it. You can be so mean sometimes, Cameron. Anyway the invitation is for both of us and Celia even wrote a note saying that she hoped I could persuade you to bring me, as she didn’t like the idea of me driving so far on my own.”
Glaring at her, he said, “It’s not that far and you drive those sort of distances nearly every other day to go to your classes.”
After some further argument and also looking at her watch for the umpteenth time, Paula eventually said, “Please, Cameron. Don’t force me to go to Celia’s wedding on my own; it kind of makes me look desperate.”

Furtively glancing at his sister, he said, “Stop nagging me Paula and I’d say that tagging along with me, would make you look rather more desperate than simply going there on your own. Anyhow, you already know that I no longer do weddings.”

“But it’s this afternoon Cameron and I can hardly ask anyone else at this point. Please change your mind. I’d really like to go and I’m certain they’d all love to see you again. Anyway, I thought you liked Celia and I also think she’ll be upset if you don’t go to her wedding.”

“I do like Celia, but weddings have become a no go area for me and you know that very well, Paula.”

“Now you’re being paranoid, Cameron. Look, I don’t imagine that anyone there is going to try and get you to marry them the way that Susan woman once did at Harriet’s wedding. They all know by now that you’re a confirmed bachelor.”

Feeling a trickle of sweat run down the small of his back and getting angry because Paula was being so persistent and also because she was rubbing it in a bit, Cameron walked away in a huff.

Then a while later when Paula again tackled him and begged him to go with her, he eventually gave in and said, “Okay, if you stop nagging me I’ll take you, even though I know I’ll probably regret it.”

In the end, in spite of his earlier misgivings Cameron seemed to be in a very good mood on the journey. This ensured that he was pleasant to people when they got there and not his usual slightly controversial self. In fact at both the church and the reception, he was content to sit and watch the wedding proceedings without complaint.

So seeing as he seemed happy, Paula eventually got up from their table and said, “If it’s alright with you Cameron, I’m just going off to say hi to some people that I haven’t seen in a while.”

At that same moment several other people at their table also left to do some serious networking, but for now Cameron seemed happy to sit at the table all on his own.

He watched with interest as his various relatives tried their best to be polite to each other and even sniggered when a favourite aunt, who’d had far too much champagne and was giggling like a school-girl, almost fell off her chair.

Then a moment later, he noticed that the lights in the marquee suddenly dimmed down to a feint glow and that candles which appeared out of nowhere began to flicker in the breeze. This did puzzle him, but it didn’t bother him. But then as he peered through the haze of candle smoke, he suddenly sat up and took note. For it now appeared that he was attending a completely different wedding. The strange thing was that when he scrutinized the guests there more closely, he thought he recognised some of them. He also realized from the clothing they wore that he’d somehow managed to stumble into a previous era, where the women all wore long silk or taffeta frocks and the men were dressed in tail suits, high collared shirts and bow ties.

This puzzled him completely, but he remained at his table and watched what was going on with added interest. Although there seemed to be a lot happening around him, nobody spoke directly to him, but he soon began to feel that he was part of the gathering, anyway.

Then because he was usually fairly accommodating and even considered to be a little laid back, he took an interest in how the guests interacted with each other. He also noted their quaint mannerisms as they mingled and greeted each other, the women often using their fans to hide a smile, or a parasol to extricate themselves from a tricky situation. For a time he also listened to the music played by a quintet that was seated up on a raised podium. He thought the arrangement was by Bach, but he wasn’t certain. Meanwhile, all around him guests continued to chat, shake hands and greet each other and several children sat in a circle nearby and played a game of, -I wrote a letter to my love and on the way I lost it.
It was only a little later when the bride and groom got up to dance their first waltz together and other couples joined them out on the dance floor, that he suddenly became entranced by a certain woman in blue, who had a beautiful smile. -Gosh, but surely that’s Darcie, he thought after a moment. –How on earth can this be happening? -This must be some sort of vision from another lifetime. -I don’t understand it at all and it’s actually quite scary.

Once the music stopped playing, lengthy speeches followed and Cameron listened in fascination to the strange old English phrases that the speakers used. He also joined in with the various toasts and had his glass recharged several times by a passing waiter. In other words, in spite of his previous apprehension he enjoyed himself and definitely felt included in the festivities.

Then all at once the lights brightened again and the scene returned to the present time. And as Cameron now emerged from a type of mental fog, he realized that Dawn, Celia’s bridesmaid, was tugging at his sleeve and asking him to dance with her. But feeling stunned because he didn’t understanding how he’d gone forward in time again, he didn’t actually hear her say the words, but rather lip read them. Then instead of trying to cover up for his momentary lapse, Cameron simply stared up at Dawn in amazement. He realized she was watching him closely, but as he was too busy going through some mental gymnastics to make sense of it all, he was unable to reply. So now with his brain still reeling, he searched for an explanation for the sudden time shift he’d experienced, as well as a reason for his appearance at the other wedding and his sudden reappearance now at Celia’s wedding.

While he was still trying to fathom it all out, Dawn asked, “What’s up with you Cameron? Are you sure you’re okay?”

Returning to reality with a bump now and feeling worried that she might have spotted something unusual about him, he said, “Of course I’m okay. How could you even ask me such a question?”

“There’s no reason, really. It’s just that you seemed so far away and you had this really strange frown on your face, as if you were trying to work out a very difficult puzzle.”

Trying desperately to divert her focus away from him, he said, “My frown was due to that strange looking object that you’re wearing on your head.”

“Oh come on Cameron; the hat’s not that bad. And now for being so rude about my hat, I insist that you take me out onto the dance floor for at least a couple of dances.”

After dancing with Dawn for a time, thankfully an old boyfriend of hers cut in and Cameron excused himself and went back to his table. Paula had returned there by now and as she was sitting there on her own and looking a little lost, he felt obliged to keep her company.

She moved up closer to him as soon as he sat down, then slipping her arm through his, she said, “Cam, I’ve just heard the most amazing piece of family gossip.”

For the next half hour or so she then went into detail about how Uncle Harry had ditched his wife of forty years and taken up with a blonde bimbo. But feeling bored by the drama of it all, especially since Paula insisted on telling him everything in minute detail, he surreptitiously glanced at his watch and longed to be at home. But when she mentioned that their great grandparents had been married in the same church as Celia and Donald and said that their wedding reception had been held in a type of open marquee on the very spot where they were now seated, he sat up and took note. For the moment he stared directly in front of him, not trusting himself to look at Paula. Then he swallowed hard and immediately thought back to the strange incident he’d experienced earlier. Then to get a little more information on the subject, he said, “Really Paula, but that must have been something like a few of generations back.”

“Yes you’re right Cam, it was. But instead of all this fancy food that we’re eating and the jazzy music that the band’s playing, they probably ate wild boar and danced sedately to classical music played on those old fashioned instruments, which sound all kind of hollow and sort of tinny.”

Just at that moment a lively bunch of guests bumped into their table and while Cameron mopped up their spilt drinks, he said, “You’re probably right Paula. I also somehow think that people back then had better manners than this mob. There were set rules of engagement, so people knew what was required of them. Life was also more gracious and everyone dressed more appropriately, with the women all wearing lovely long, flowing, silk or taffeta dresses, while carrying fans or dainty lace parasols. They also wore their hair either in ringlets or piled up on top of their heads, instead of these horrible short bobs, that the girls wear these days. Even the men dressed better, as they wore elegant tail suits. I admit though that some of them did look a bit like walruses with those huge, bristly sideburns and moustaches of theirs. What I’m trying to say here, is that there was less sloppiness and definitely no jeans and T shirts back then.”

“Gosh Cam, I didn’t realize that you were so sensitive, but even so, since when do you know so much about fashion from way back then?”

“I don’t, but when our table went for a loop, an image from the past suddenly sprang to mind,” he lied.

“Really, I’d say that’s most unusual for you, Cameron. Are you certain you’re okay?”

“Yes, but I don’t understand why people keep on asking me that question.”

“I guess it’s because you seem rather more distracted than usual, old boy.”

Cameron gulped, but then for fear of having to explain himself further, he let the matter go. However, he did wonder about what had happened to him earlier and he also tried to work out for how long he’d seemingly been away from Celia’s wedding. He also speculated as to whether the other wedding had been that of his great grandparents and wondered how he’d managed to attend their wedding, considering there was a huge generation gap.

Paula meanwhile went off to socialize again. But Cameron didn’t notice her leaving the table, as he was still mentally trying to deal with the enigma of how and why he’d managed to slip in and out of the past. -Perhaps I’m a time-shifter, someone that can slip in and out of various time zones, he thought. -Or maybe I even imagined it all, because I’m becoming a bit bored. –But on the other hand, I felt that I knew those people there. So possibly I did attend that wedding after all. -Then there’s that other crazy memory, which surfaced last week, while we were looking through those old family photograph albums, when I distinctly felt that I’d actually attended some of those ancient weddings. -So who am I? -Am I Cameron? -Or possibly that other guy in the photographs that looks exactly like me, except for the huge sideburns he sports.

While he was still trying to find some answers the lights dimmed and again flickering candles appeared all around the marquee. Then in a moment, the woman in blue he’d seen out on the dance floor earlier, came over and sat down next to him and said, “I’m so glad that you’re attending this wedding, Cameron. I’ve missed you terribly and I really wish we could be together again,” she whispered as she pressed a calling card into his hand. She then immediately got up to leave, and said anxiously, “Sorry, but I must go now. Tom will be furious if he sees us together. By the way, I still think you ought to have married me when you had the chance, then we wouldn’t have to secretly meet this way at various family weddings.”

She got up to go and as she slowly drifted away from him, she blew him several kisses, which he acknowledged.

The lights came back on almost immediately and the candles soon disappeared again. Then because he felt as if he was coming out of a trance, Cameron gave his head a shake. -Goodness me, what was all that about, he thought. Then looking down he opened his hand and read Darcie Howard’s calling card, which strangely enough was very real.

At that moment Paula returned to their table and as her voice broke into his reverie once more, to his astonishment she was saying, “Gosh Cam, Celia’s inherited a table cloth that’s around ninety to a hundred years old. It was embroidered by a woman called Darcie Howard, who was apparently a family friend. It’s spread out on the table over there under the wedding cake. You should take a look. It’s beautiful, with lots of intricate stitching and plenty of those tricky little love knots.”

Feeling astounded by what Paula had just told him, Cameron said, “Well, I guess it’s about time that I went over and said hello to the family, so perhaps I’ll walk down that way and also take a look at the table cloth you mentioned.”

He walked over and talked to various relatives for a time. Then he congratulated the happy couple, but as soon as he could manage it, Cameron slipped away. He felt edgy and had a tremendous desire to see the table cloth his sister had described.

Walking over to the table in question, he stared at the cloth in awe. -Now why do I recall Darcie working on this very cloth, while it was still stretched over a wooden embroidery frame? -Why, I can even remember how she complained about all those little love knots and compared them to our rather stormy relationship. –Heavens, this is all so confusing. I also don’t understand how or why I know about any of these things, anyway. -Or why it all seems so important to me. -I actually think there’s something very strange and disturbing going on around here at the moment.

Still feeling confused, Cameron pulled out a chair at the cake table and sat down. Then for a time he simply stared into space. He also tried desperately to summon up some memories from the past, almost forcing them to return to him. Then as memories of Darcie slowly began to surface in his mind, he recalled that they’d been lovers. He also had the oddest notion that he’d died protecting her honour, -on more than one occasion, which was actually quite disturbing.
Then as the flickering candles suddenly reappeared, the mood in the marquee changed again and Cameron found himself staring down at the same tablecloth, but a very different wedding cake. He looked around anxiously to see what was going on and then he spotted Darcie standing close by and smiling at him. Unable to resist her now, he got up and pulled her behind a bank of potted palms and whispered, “Quickly Darcie, come over here and give me a kiss.” Then he drew her into his arms and kissed her passionately.

She kissed him back, but soon pulled away and said urgently, “Tom mustn’t see us together. He’s vowed to kill you again, -if you ever come near me. But as we’re soul mates, we’re destined to be together. So hopefully one day we’ll break through the time barrier that’s keeping us apart and then we’ll be together, forever.”

Hanging on to her hand, he said, “Yes my love, but now that I’ve found you again and recall all our passionate affairs, as well as all those secret little liaisons when we were forced to meet outside in other peoples’ gardens; how we hid away from Tom while I stole kisses from you; how I risked everything for you and twice got shot for it, then the least you can do is to stay here with me for a little while longer.”

Suddenly from out of nowhere, Tom appeared. He had a gun in his hand and he shot the two of them at point-blank range.
There was a sudden gasp from the crowd and as people gathered around them, Cameron was clearly heard to say, “Please stay close to me, Darcie. We mustn’t be separated again.”

Meanwhile in the present time zone and alongside the other wedding cake, a different crowd of frightened onlookers stared aghast at Cameron’s limp body.

A confused woman then shook her head and said, “Gosh, I actually saw a strange looking man with big whiskers and sideburns shoot at Cameron. It was just a momentary glimpse that I caught, a trick of the light, I suppose. But then he completely disappeared again and only Cameron was left lying here.”

Celia admitted to seeing the same vision, but then she added, “Yes, and just as he was shot, Cameron asked a woman he called Darcie, to please stay close to him. I caught just a flicker of the look on her face when he said it, before she too disappeared. So what’s going on here? This is all terribly strange and mind blowing.” Then bursting into tears, she sobbed, “But why Cameron and why here at my wedding?”

When the investigation team arrived the guests began to demand some answers. But it was difficult to say what exactly had gone down, as the forensics people were baffled by the blood spatter. There being only one body, but two different blood types at the scene.

The police questioned the guests closely, but due to their unusual claims as to what they’d seen, or thought they’d seen, and the conflicting statements they gave about what they thought had actually happened at the time, the police concluded that all the guests were tipsy, and that they’d had far too much champagne to drink.

Meanwhile outside on the lawn, a strange looking old woman dressed in a dark blue satin gown, sidled up to Paula and when she’d taken her aside, she said, “Please believe me when I tell you that what has happened here tonight, is actually for the best, my dear. You see Cameron and Darcie have been lovers through the ages. They’re also soul mates and if it wasn’t for Cameron’s reluctance to ever get married, but his constant desire to be with her, Tom would not have had to shoot him out of jealousy, on two separate occasions in the past. However, now as they’ve been shot simultaneously, they’ll hopefully remain together forever and Tom will be out of the picture for good.”

Paula looked down at the woman in astonishment and as she struggled to come to terms with her most unusual claim, she closed her eyes in concentration for a single moment. Then when she’d managed to focus her thoughts, she said, “But who are you? And how do you know this for a fact?”

Then stopping short because there was nobody there, Paula looked all around her. But the strange old woman with the wispy grey hair, seemed to have disappeared. Feeling confused, Paula continued to search for her in the darkening shadows of the night. Then in the distance, she caught a mere glimpse of a dark blue satin gown, before it completely disappeared into the twilight.


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