Chapter Ten

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I was expecting Nicholas to take me back to town straight after breakfast, instead he went off to work on his painting. He hadn't said a word about when he would take me, and I was determined not to bring it up.

He had allowed me to read one of his books from the bookcase, and I was quite content curled up on the sofa in the living room.

A couple of hours had passed and it was time to stretch my legs, so I asked Nicholas if it was okay if I went for a walk around the farm. Being so absorbed with painting, he answered with a grunt, which I took as a yes.

As I meandered across the open land, he sat on the back verandah, no doubt with one eye on his painting and the other on me.

It was a glorious day; not a cloud in the big blue sky, and almost too warm to be wearing long sleeves and a skirt.

I felt another sense of deja vu as I strolled further from the house, towards the back of the land, as I did... or would do in the year 2019.

The headstone stood in the distance; cleaner, less weathered, and more obvious that it was a headstone. This time, though, I decided not to go to it. It was something Nicholas had not yet discussed with me, and I didn't think it was my business to approach it uninvited. So I changed direction, walking back towards the house.

The walk helped me clear my mind and free myself from distractions, so I could decide on what to do after Nicholas dropped me off in town. The first thing I'd have to do would be ask around to see if anyone knew where Mr. Valentine lived. Then I would have to hitchhike a ride to Mr. Valentine's residence, find an excuse to enter his house, find where he's hung the painting, then reach out and touch it, fingers crossed I get sucked back into it.

I sighed heavily. And exactly how was I going to pull all that off?

I reached the cottage where Nicholas was still sitting on the verandah, focused intently at the canvas. A gentle breeze sent the smell of oil paint my way, and I screwed up my face in disgust.

"How do you stand the smell of the paint all the time?" I asked him.

"What smells?" he replied, obviously not taking much notice of what I was saying.

"The paint."

"I can't smell anything."

"Do you always turn into a zombie when you paint?"

"Sometimes you can smell the chickens from here."

I rolled my eyes, giving up. I knew I wouldn't get any sense out of him, so I decided to go inside for some water. Just as I was about to turn, something caught my eye. He had added something to the painting since I'd last looked at it. It was a woman in a white blouse and burgundy skirt, standing in the distance. Was it his mother or me? I'd probably never find out.

~

After pouring myself a glass of water, I settled back onto the sofa and continued on with my book. I had picked out Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, a favourite of mine.

I didn't know how long I'd been engrossed in the story before I heard Nicholas enter through the back door. Pulling my eyes away from the page, I watched as he approached me, tilting his head slightly to see the cover of my book. One corner of his mouth twitched upward.

"My mother loved reading the Bronte sisters' novels," he said, as he sat on the armchair across from me.

"I do, too. They're such an inspiration. I read Jane Eyre when I was thirteen and it was then I knew I wanted to be a writer. All my dreams of being a teacher went out the window," I chuckled.

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