CHAPTER 2

As March turned to April and April to May, Elyse continued coming home on the weekends to attend play rehearsals and to read from her grandfather's journal.

On Saturday, May twenty-second—the day after spring midterms—play rehearsal was held at one in the afternoon instead of in the evening, as one of Mrs. Barker's granddaughters had "an event," as she put it. She would, therefore, be attending that in the evening instead. And, since she was planning to spend the bulk of the afternoon with her family beforehand, the rehearsal would not only be earlier than usual, but would be shorter, as well.

Elyse's mother didn't have any special chores for her to do that day; so, she dressed in a new pair of indigo denims; a lightweight sea-blue T-shirt bearing the phrase Born to be Wild! with the W crossed off and an M written above it, and, on the back, a picture of a creature that was half tiger cub (front) and half orange tabby (rear), with a caption balloon that read: Mrrrooww! A pair of sea-blue and white athletic shoes and white cotton gym socks completed the outfit.

Thus clad, she spent the morning in the attic, reading from her grandfather's journal. She wanted to get through as much of it as possible, just in case there was something so interesting that she might like to share it with Mrs. Barker. The quiet hours of the evening after dinner she planned to spend studying and doing homework.

She had gotten to the entries that dealt with the final preparations for the wedding, although her grandfather hadn't written anything about the wedding itself until the day after it took place. On the night before the wedding he had written about how nervous he was. He wasn't sure how good of a husband he'd make, but he was determined to do his best to make Fran happy. Elyse couldn't help but smile. This whole experience was making her realize that old people really were young once, too. She'd heard people say that before, but—like most young people—she couldn't really imagine it. Now, however, she was finding that she could.

On the morning after their wedding, Grandma Fran was still asleep—in the new bed that Grandpa Bob had bought and had put in the master bedroom of their equally new house—so he decided to get up and write a few lines in his journal. Outside of mentioning how wonderful Fran was—which made Elyse blush from head to toe—he mentioned how upset he was with Matt for skipping out on the reception so soon. He planned to have it out with him when he got home. For the time being, though, he just wanted to enjoy his honeymoon, which they were planning to spend at Niagara Falls. Their train was leaving at noon, sharp.

Elyse went forward a few pages. . . Grandpa Bob had written about half a dozen lines each day during their honeymoon, while Grandma Fran was sleeping or bathing or . . . whatever.

Eventually, Elyse found the entry that told about the scene Sarah Ashcroft had witnessed between Grandpa Bob and Matt at the hardware store. It occurred on Monday, May 17th. The journal entry did mention that Sarah was there, and Grandpa Bob expressed wonder as to why she had picked that day—of all days—to come to the store to see Matt, when she could have seen him anytime while he and Grandma Fran were away.

It occurred to Elyse that maybe—because Matt had been less than cordial toward her recently—she wasn't comfortable with the idea of being alone with him; and, without her grandfather there to run interference for him, Matt might have resorted to using his underlings (the teenaged boys) as a shield, to prevent Sarah from saying anything really . . . personal. But Elyse was merely speculating: Mrs. Barker's script did not include Sarah's reasons for going to see Matt that day.

The things Grandpa Bob wrote next bore out—for the most part—what Mrs. Barker had put into her script: He talked about how he had bawled Matt out for leaving the reception so soon, telling him it was inexcusable behavior for a best man; then, thinking that he understood how his friend felt, Bob had tried just about everything to convince Matt that a really worthwhile girl wouldn't be put off by something as insignificant as a bum leg—and that included Sarah. Matt didn't exactly yell back, but he did say —quite tersely and almost heatedly—that Bob just didn't understand. Bob then asked Matt how he ever could understand if Matt didn't explain things to him.

After catching sight of Sarah, the two men moved into Bob's office for privacy and Matt gave his explanation. Elyse caught her breath as she read it, and her heart stopped beating for a moment; it then resumed beating—rapidly.

Putting the satin ribbon in place, Elyse gently set the journal on the floor, walked over to where Matt Stanford's footlocker stood and stared at it, her heart pounding with anticipation—and trepidation.

Elyse had asked her father one weekend exactly how Matt's footlocker had come into their possession. He had told her that, at the age of seventy, Matt had begun to deteriorate mentally and had voluntarily put himself into the local nursing home. At that time, he was occupying the house that had once belonged to Bob's parents, Phillip and Agnes Stanhope, with whom Matt had lived since the death of his own parents in the car accident. The Stanhopes had left the house to Matt in their will.

Before leaving for the nursing home, because he was alone and childless, Matt had asked Bob to take charge of his personal belongings and to dispose of them as he saw fit. Bob had, in turn, asked his son, Bill—the town's sole estate attorney—to help him out with the disposition of Matt Stanford's property—the footlocker being the single exception. Bob insisted that Matt's footlocker remain in the custody of the Stanhope family until Bill was instructed otherwise . . . and thus it had been.

As Elyse now knelt before that footlocker and slowly opened it, the first thing that caught her eye was a sketchpad—the very item she had come to find. Her dad had never said anything about Matt being a sketch artist. If he had, she would've gotten into the footlocker weeks ago and looked for the sketchpad sooner. Under the circumstances, Elyse thought, it's probably just as well that he didn't mention it. . ..

The pad was enclosed in an extra-large zipper bag, very probably for protection against aging and wear and tear. Since Matt had turned seventy in 1993, he might very well have put it into the bag himself before he left home . . . or maybe Grandpa Bob had done it when he brought the locker here, to this house.

Elyse picked up the sought-for item, unzipped the bag and removed the pad. With trembling fingers, she pushed back the cover. Once again, she caught her breath. This time, however, her heart began its rapid beating immediately.

The first sketch in the book was of a young woman; and, written in the bottom, right-hand corner of the page—in a very artistic hand—was the name Elyse. After reading her grandfather's journal entry, Elyse had expected to find this picture, simultaneously hoping and dreading that it might actually be . . . a picture of her. She was not disappointed; but she was confused . . . and a little bit frightened. . . .

While Matt was recovering from his injuries in France, whenever he was delirious with pain and fever, he had a recurring dream—about a young woman named Elyse. He had fallen in love with the girl of his dreams and couldn't see himself ever wanting to be with anyone else. As soon as he was able to get his hands on pencils and paper, he had done a preliminary sketch of her. After he returned home, he bought a sketchpad—the very one Elyse was holding—and drew a better, more permanent picture.

That was what Elyse had found written in the journal—the thing Matt had told Bob in his office at the hardware store that day, resulting in the conversation Sarah had heard after the two men emerged. Elyse could only speculate that it wasn't until later that Matt actually showed her grandfather at least one of the two sketches, if not both.

Bob Stanhope might have thought his friend Matt was a little "nuts"; but, as far as anyone knew, he had never again bothered him about dating. As he had said, he understood Matt, even if he didn't necessarily understand the situation, or believe that Matt would ever find his "dream girl".

As she looked at the sketch—which was truly a work of art—tears threatened to come; but Elyse blinked them back. Why me? she wondered. Why in the world did Matt Stanford dream about me? —or was there another woman named Elyse alive at that time and Matt just never met her? Is it true that everyone in the world has a twin—even if they don't live in the same era? Was that Elyse my twin?

The part of Elyse that had fallen in love with Matt Stanford wished with all her soul that the girl in that picture was her and that she could find a way to go back in time to meet him. From all that she had learned—both from her father and from Mrs. Barker's play—Matt had never married. He must have spent his entire life waiting for the mysterious girl in his dreams to appear . . . but she never had.

What a waste of an exceptional life! Elyse thought. But . . . what if it really was me? What could I do to make Matt's dreams come true and keep him from dying a lonely old bachelor?

Looking for more answers, Elyse took the sketchpad with her back to her grandfather's footlocker, set it on the floor beside her, opened the journal once again and continued reading until it was time to go to play rehearsal.

When Elyse returned home later that afternoon, she greeted her mother and told her the rehearsal had gone well. She then hurried upstairs to her bedroom, shut the door, and gazed at her reflection in the full-length mirror attached to it. After several minutes of serious contemplation—with a heartfelt prayer thrown in for good measure—she turned away from the mirror, her lip quivering and her eyes full of tears. Sighing heavily, she hurried downstairs to the basement to fetch her rucksack.

(*)

"So, Bob," Matt Stanford was saying, as he sat on an upside-down wooden crate in the attic of his newly-married best friend's new house, "what makes you think she'll show up today?"

"Because," said Bob from his perch atop his military footlocker, "—in my dream, she said it was the exact same date in 2010 as what I'd written in the journal: May twenty-second. It was a Saturday afternoon and she came up here specifically to read my journal." He shrugged and shook his head. "Why she wanted to read my journal, she didn't say."

Having come straight to the Stanhopes' house from the hardware store, both men were dressed in their work clothes: long-sleeved cotton shirts with buttoned cuffs; sturdy, loose-fitting slacks; hobnailed boots; and cotton work socks. The color for the day was charcoal grey.

When the two men had come home from work a little after 2:00, Fran had fed them a late lunch, after which they had gone upstairs to the attic to await the arrival of their greatly-anticipated guest.

Matt was fidgeting and antsy. "How long are we going to sit here and wait?" he asked impatiently.

Bob gave his friend a crooked smile. "As long as it takes."

"How does Fran feel about this? —especially since you closed the store for the rest of the day because of it."

"She hasn't said much of anything," Bob replied. "She pursed her lips when I told her about my dream, but . . ." he shrugged, "—she seemed willing to indulge my fancy." He then took a deep, but silent breath while gazing at his friend and then ventured, "Matt, if she does show up, would you please try to maintain a certain amount of . . . decorum? —especially if she is 'the girl of [your] dreams,' as you like to put it. You might scare her if you come on too strong right off the bat."

Matt looked at Bob askance. "What do you take me for, an idiot? Even if she has feelings for me (which isn't very likely), I wouldn't—"

Matt stopped speaking as the air in front of the two men seemed to shimmer, and then a form took shape. An instant later, Elyse appeared—with her grandfather's journal lying open in her right hand, and her left thumb pressed against the symbols on the page. Dangling from her left arm was an oversized, white plastic bag bearing the logo Walmart, and a large, olive-drab, canvas rucksack covered her back.

Her chin quivered, and it was evident to both young men—who got quickly to their feet—that she was trying to talk but was too overcome to manage it.

"Whoa!" said Bob, taking both the journal and the plastic bag from her and setting them carefully on the attic floor, after which Matt helped her off with the rucksack and placed it beside the bag.

Bob then reached out, put his hands on Elyse's shoulders and gazed down at her with concern. "I expect this is a bit of a shock, Elyse, but . . . you really are here. It's Saturday, May 22, 1948; and, I guess I'm your grandfather . . . or will be someday." With a tilt of his head, he then indicated his friend, who was now standing beside him, and said, "This is Matt Stanford. I suppose you know who he is, too."

Elyse nodded mutely as her grandfather removed his hands from her shoulders. She was an intelligent young woman; and, under most circumstances, she was outgoing, friendly and gregarious. At the moment, however, she was tongue-tied and gazed with trepidation into the bright blue eyes of her grandfather's best friend. He was an inch or two shorter than Grandpa Bob, but he towered over Elyse nonetheless. And oh, he was handsome! Elyse didn't think she'd ever seen anyone that good looking! No wonder Sarah Ashcroft waited so long before deciding to marry Richard Kingsley!

"Hello, Elyse," said Matt calmly, trying (Elyse could tell) not to let his emotions show.

"Hi," she said in a quavering voice, feeling uncharacteristically shy. Then, returning her gaze to her grandfather—which was a lot less daunting than continuing to look at Matt—she said, "I really wasn't expecting anything to happen." Then, indicating the plastic bag and the rucksack with an outstretched hand, she added, "But I brought a few things along, just in case I really did come here and ended up with no way to get back to my own time."

Bob had a somewhat bemused look on his face as he said, "That didn't happen in my dream."

"I was pretty sure it didn't," Elyse replied. Her voice was still quavering. "But then . . . it probably wasn't meant to be prophetic—just advisory, or preparatory . . . for all of us." She bent down, picked up the journal from where Bob had placed it and said, "I read the entry that you wrote . . . I guess it was this morning . . . and decided to do what you wrote and see what happened. Part of me was hoping I'd actually come here, and part of me was hoping nothing would happen." She made a stab at a shrug but was too stiff and nervous to pull it off. "Anyway. . . as I said, I got ready . . . just in case—" she indicated the bag and rucksack again, "—took a chance, and here I am."

"Elyse," Bob asked her, "how much of that journal did you read?" The look in his eyes told her what he wanted to know—and that he was concerned. He realized the importance of asking her questions and keeping her talking as a means of calming her down—especially since they had no way of knowing, as yet, whether sending her back to her own time would be possible . . . assuming she wanted to return.

His tactic began to work: Elyse's voice was no longer quavering as she gazed into his eyes and said, "I've read just about everything up through today's entry; so, I know about the recurring dream Matt had while he was in France, recovering from his injuries after his plane was shot down." She then looked shyly at Matt as she said, "I know that your dreams were about a blonde-haired girl named Elyse and that you had them whenever you were delirious with pain and fever. . . So, after reading about that, I got into your footlocker and found your sketchpad. I saw the picture. It . . ." She was going to say, "freaked me out," but she knew that that term would confuse the two men, so she said instead, "It . . . came as quite a shock. I expect that, when Grandpa Bob told you about his dream this morning, you thought there might be a chance that the girl you dreamt about back then and sketched so . . . awesomely was me." She swallowed the lump in her throat, and—once again in a quavering voice—asked, "It was, wasn't it?"

Matt exhaled heavily and gazed at Elyse with a look that she was unable to interpret. "Yes, Elyse, it was," he said with a single, affirmative dip of his head. "You look exactly like the girl in my dreams." He smiled wanly. "I think I'm probably as disconcerted as you are, though—especially since you're Bob's granddaughter. . . May I ask how old you are?"

"I'm twenty right now, but I'll be twenty-one on July third."

"Well, your age jibes with Bob's dream," said Matt, now tipping his head to one side thoughtfully. Then, with an impish smile, he asked, "How does it feel to see your grandfather as a young man?"

Elyse swallowed and said, "Not as strange as you might think: Grandpa died when I was five. I barely remember him as an old man—although, there's a photograph of him and Grandma on the mantle above the fireplace. It was taken by my dad on their forty-fifth wedding anniversary. Since they didn't live to celebrate their fiftieth, Dad had it blown up t and framed it."

"So, I'm not alive in 2010?" Bob asked.

Elyse bit her lip and shook her head. "No, you're not," she replied. "You died of a heart attack when I was in kindergarten. You were seventy-one at the time. Grandma died less than a year later, so I don't remember her very much, either. . ..

"And Matt," she continued after a short pause, "you passed away shortly after she did, and you were in a nursing home for a few years before that. Even if you were able to attend both of their funerals and I met you, I don't remember you specifically. I met lots of relatives and family friends that day. If you were there, you were just one of many."

"That's all . . . really depressing," said Bob.

Elyse nodded. "Yes, it is," she said, "—which is one of the reasons I decided to try to come back here . . . aside from wanting to know if I was the girl in Matt's dreams. If I can—if it's possible—I'd like to try to change things. I'd like all of you to live to be at least eighty, so the new version of me who'll be born in 1989 will have a chance to get to know you during her lifetime."

"The 'new version' of you?" said Bob. "What's that all about?"

"There's a time travel theory called 'the butterfly effect'. Basically it says that if you go back in time and step on a butterfly, it can change things in the future. My coming here and talking to you is a lot bigger than just stepping on a butterfly."

"So, you think that, just by coming here, you've already changed your own future?" Bob queried.

"Yes. I've probably created an alternate timeline or an alternate reality . . ." She shook her head. "Even if we found a way for me to go back to my own time, I don't think I'd return to the same world that I left." She looked at Matt and asked with a tremulous voice, "If, the first time around, you died a lonely old bachelor because the girl you dreamt about never turned up, would my coming here change that?"

A soft smile formed on Matt's lips. "That would depend on you, Elyse." He sighed and then said, "If we, by mutual agreement, decide to spend the rest of our lives together, then yes, your coming here would definitely give me a reason to hang on longer to my life—and possibly keep me out of that nursing home altogether. . . If, on the other hand—after spending some time together—we decide that a relationship between us wouldn't work . . ." He shrugged. "I'm not sure. Would I remain 'a lonely old bachelor' and never marry? Or would I get on with my life and try to find someone else?" He shook his head. "I can't answer that question. . . Still, the fact that you're here has already had a definite impact on my life: I'm no longer going to spend my time wishing and hoping that the girl of my dreams will turn up someday."

"That's what I figured," Elyse said, nodding. "Your life would be changed regardless, just from having met me." Turning to Bob, she then said, "As for you and Grandma Fran . . . if I stay here, I'll have plenty of time and opportunity to get to know you. But, as I said, I'd like to try to change things so that the two of you will live longer, and the new version of me will have a chance to know both of you better, too."

"What do you plan to do if you stay here? —become a doctor or something?" Bob asked.

Elyse shook her head. "No, Grandpa Bob! Don't you understand? Since I've forewarned you, you don't necessarily have to die of a heart attack. If you take better care of yourself, you could still be alive in 2010. If you don't smoke, watch your diet and get a regular annual physical—including an electrocardiogram to be sure your heart is strong and healthy—you could change your future, God willing." She then turned her head and looked at her grandfather's friend. "The same goes for you, Matt."

Her grandfather asked, "But, what would be the point of my living longer if Fran's going to die, anyway?" He looked truly despondent.

Elyse said quietly, "She died because she missed you; she couldn't go on without you. If you live longer, she probably will, too . . . unless, of course, God still wants you to die at seventy-one." She shook her head. "I can only be an instrument of change if God is willing to let me."

"Why else would you be here if He wasn't willing?" Matt asked soberly.

Bob broke in and said, "It seems to me that, despite the fact that you're my . . . granddaughter—man, it's hard to wrap my mind around that idea! —a lot of this is centered around you and Matt."

Matt nodded. "I agree," he said, turning to Elyse. "First of all, I dreamt about you four years ago; second, Bob dreamt about your coming here just this morning and I was in his dream, too; and third, you read Bob's journal entries that described both of our dreams, saw my sketch of you, and decided to try to come here. . . Too many coincidences to be coincidences, as far as I'm concerned."

"Me too," said Elyse. "I think God wanted me to come—to . . . be with you." She was privately amazed at how bashful and reserved she was feeling. It was so unlike her!

"If the two of you were meant to be together, why didn't God just have you born during the same decade?" Bob asked rhetorically. He shook his head. "It doesn't make any sense."

"I have a theory," said Elyse.

"You do? All right, granddaughter of mine—let's hear it." Bob appeared to be mildly amused.

"There may be something about me that Matt needs in his life; and there may be something about him that I need in my life. But, in order to fully become those people, we had to be born in our respective eras. . . If I'd been born in the 1920s, like you two, I wouldn't be who I am. And the same holds true for Matt: if he'd been born in the 1980s, he wouldn't be the same person, either. . . To a great degree, we're all products of the culture and society in which we live and grow, so my guess is that Matt and I were both looking for something different from what exists in our respective times. We just didn't realize it—consciously, at least."

"Until now," said Matt, gazing at Elyse with a warm light in his eyes. She gratefully turned her head when her grandfather said her name.

"Elyse, don't you think it's a bit soon to be getting this serious? You two just met! Even if it was 'meant to be', you need some time to get to know each other."

Elyse sighed and said, "Grandpa Bob, I intend to spend some time getting to know Matt; in fact, I'm looking forward to it. We're not planning to run off to Las Vegas on a whim or anything like that. . . But, the truth is—" she paused to swallow the lump in her throat before saying, "I'm already in love with him."

"What?!"

"Was it all the stuff Bob wrote about me in his journal?" Matt asked quietly, a look that was an interesting mix of soft amusement and serenity on his face.

"Partly," Elyse replied as she again looked up at him shyly. "There were photos, too . . . although they really don't do you justice."

Matt then asked, "Why did you start reading Bob's journal and looking at photos of us in the first place?"

Elyse smiled softly and told the two men about Mrs. Barker's play, along with revealing the fact that Mrs. Barker was the daughter of Sarah Ashcroft Kingsley.

"Kingsley?" said Bob, sounding taken aback.

"Yes. She married a man named Richard Kingsley." Elyse shook her head. "I'd never heard of him before."

Bob guffawed; Matt chuckled. "He's my cousin," said Bob. "My mom was a Kingsley before she married Dad. I was named after my uncle Robert, Rick's dad. Uncle Rob and my mom have always been close." He looked at Matt and said, "I've wondered for some time now why Rick looks at you with such unguarded loathing . . . Now I know."

"He's in love with Sarah?!" Matt queried rhetorically, his eyebrows rising. "Huh. Interesting. I hope they'll be very happy together."

"Anyway," said Bob, "you were telling us about this play Rick's daughter wrote . . ."

Being totally surprised by the discovery of her relationship to Richard Kingsley, Elyse said, "Oh, yeah; right." She took a deep breath, exhaled and said, "About an hour or so after I read one of the flyers (which said that the play was a historical piece about Bristow), I decided I wanted to be in it. It wasn't 'til I'd finished breakfast that I made up my mind. I was afraid it might be boring, so . . . I waffled a little. . .

"Ironically enough, when I got to the audition, I was handed part of a script for the role of Sarah Ashcroft. My scene consisted of dialog between Sarah and Matt, so I thought it was all about them. Mrs. Barker then said how appropriate it was that I would audition for a part in a play about my own grandfather. That's when I realized it was supposed to be a tribute to the two of you. Your relationships with the women in your lives were of secondary importance, even though Sarah was Mrs. Barker's mother. . . I'm pretty sure most of what's in the script was stuff that Sarah told her daughter when she was a teenager."

"Who's playing me?" Bob asked, a look of curiosity on his face.

"My cousin, Larry. He looks exactly like you, so it's a perfect role for him. Remarkably, he even sounds like you. . . I knew when I saw the photographs of you in the albums that Larry resembles you, but I didn't know what your voice sounded like until now. . . It really is amazing!"

"I wish I could see his performance!" said Bob with raised eyebrows.

"So do I," said Matt. "It would be interesting to see a grandson of yours who's a dead ringer for you. . . Anyway, who's playing me?" Matt queried, looking a little distressed.

"A guy named Eddie Langston," she said. "He's a couple of years older than I am—kinda cute, but immature." Shaking her head, she added, "—and he's not much of a kisser." Bob chuckled; Matt looked relieved. "Anyway, it was playing the role of Sarah Ashcroft that got me interested in learning more about the two of you. So, I came up here to the attic while I was on spring break from college in March and got into Grandpa Bob's footlocker to see what I could find. I've read from the journal every weekend when I've been home for rehearsals. Little did I know what I was in for. . .."

"When did you realize you'd fallen in love with me?" Matt asked quietly.

"When I saw the sketch," she replied, "—even though it scared me half to death to think that you might've actually dreamt about me." She sighed. "It was such a gradual process . . . I had no idea it was happening. Photographs, this journal, the play . . . it all added up and grew into something so strong and so real . . . Then, when I saw the sketch, I realized that I'd fallen head-over-heels in love with you and hadn't even known it. I knew I felt something, but because you'd lived in the past and had been dead for several years, there wasn't much point in acknowledging that I felt anything."

"When did you find the sketch?" Matt asked.

"Just today. . . I read about the argument Sarah witnessed between you two at the hardware store the day after Grandpa Bob and Grandma Fran got back from their honeymoon—which was, I guess, this week . . .Wow! . . .

"Anyway, I read the whole thing, including the summary Grandpa Bob wrote of the conversation you two had in his office once you noticed Sarah was there. . .

"The fact that your dreams were about a girl named Elyse—whose name just happened to be spelt the same as mine—really got my attention.

"Then, after I saw the sketch, I sort of . . . freaked out." Shaking her head, she explained, "Sorry. That's a late twentieth-century expression that basically means, you're so surprised or frightened that you're ready to faint dead away, or to go into hysterics."

"I can imagine your feeling that way," said Matt sympathetically. "Believe me, I understand better than you might think. . .You see, even though it occurred to me that Bob's granddaughter—if she did turn up today—might be the same Elyse that I'd dreamt about (especially since the rhyme said something about dreams coming true), I didn't really expect anything to happen. I was totally surprised when you actually appeared—as surprised as you obviously were."

Elyse nodded. "Even though I was freaked out by the thought that you might actually have been dreaming about me, I knew—deep inside—that you had. I felt it instinctively. So, I wanted—more than anything—to meet you and find out if our meeting was destined in some way . . . and I think it was, as I said. . . . My mom says that coincidences are miracles in which God wishes to remain anonymous."

"In this case, though," said Bob, "it's kind of hard for God to remain anonymous. I doubt very much that you would've been able to come here without God's intervention: What are the chances that something I saw in a dream would actually make time travel possible?"

"That was my question, too," Elyse admitted, "but, I decided to take a chance, anyway, believing that—just maybe—God was behind this whole thing . . . every aspect of it: the dreams, the play . . . all of it. If He wasn't, I doubt anything would've happened; and if it hadn't, we all would've felt a little foolish, gotten a chuckle out of it, shrugged, said, 'oh well,' and walked away more disappointed than any of us would've wanted to admit."

"I agree completely," said her grandfather. "But, since you are here—very possibly to stay—we need to have a talk and decide how to handle this situation. Fran and I would love to put you up, but we need to figure out what to tell my parents. Outside of college and the War, Matt's been living with them since his folks died, so they'll have a vested interest in learning all they can about the woman he loves. We're going to need—"

"—a cover story," Elyse finished for him.

"A 'cover story'? What's that?" Bob asked

"Something spies use when they can't tell the truth about who and what they really are."

"Oh, really? And how would you know that?" her grandfather asked with bemusement.

"Books and movies." Elyse didn't bother mentioning television shows because she knew that television, at that time, was still in the developmental stages.

"Bob," spoke up Matt, "we've been up here for over an hour. Don't you think we ought to head downstairs and introduce Fran to her granddaughter? Maybe she can help us come up with a . . . 'cover story' for Elyse."

"Sounds like a plan," said Bob, looking as though this whole situation was a little over his head.

Elyse smiled. He might be her grandfather someday; but, right now, he was just a twenty-five-year-old newlywed with a problematical best friend and a twenty-year-old lovesick young woman on his hands. Somehow, though, Elyse knew he was up to the challenge. Bob Stanhope appeared to be a take-charge kind of guy . . . and he was almost as good-looking as Matt: his eyes lit up when he smiled, and he almost had dimples. . . At that moment, Elyse felt like the luckiest girl in the universe, being able to see her grandfather as a young married man. And as for Matt . . .

"Are you coming, Elyse?" Bob asked, standing in the now-open doorway with the Walmart bag and the rucksack in his hands.

"Huh? Oh, sorry. I was just . . . lost in thought."

"Well, find yourself again and let's go!" said Bob, swinging one bag-filled arm in the direction of the stairs.

"Grandpa Bob," Elyse said quietly, biting her lip, "could you give Matt and me a minute?"

"Alone?"

Elyse nodded. "Please, Grandpa Bob. I really do appreciate all your concern and input—" She shook her head yet again as she realized that use of the word "input" didn't become widespread until the latter stages of the computer age, and thus—like "freaked out"—would have no meaning for the two men. Therefore, after that last shake of her head, she said, "—that is, all the thoughts and feelings that you've shared with me; but, there are some things that Matt and I need to address just between the two of us."

Bob sighed. "All right. In the meantime, I'll drop these off in one of the extra bedrooms and get Fran busy making some lemonade." He paused. "In fact, . . . which bedroom is yours? —in the future, I mean."

"First door on the right as you leave the attic stairs," Elyse replied.

He tipped his head. "Okay, then; until further notice, it's yours in this time period, too. I'll see you both downstairs . . . in a few minutes." He looked at Matt meaningfully as he said the last part.

"Thanks, Grandpa Bob," said Elyse. "I really appreciate this. And we won't be long, I promise."

"I'm going to hold you to that, young lady!" Bob then turned and departed, bags in hand, leaving the attic door ajar; Elyse sidled over and closed it. She could hear her young grandfather sigh loudly from a few steps down.

"What did you want to see me alone for, Elyse?" Matt asked, gazing down at her.

"I . . . I want you to kiss me, Matt," she said softly, looking down momentarily and blushing.

Matt smiled softly. "Gladly. But . . . I don't think Bob would approve."

Elyse sighed and rolled her eyes. "I know he wouldn't; that's why I asked him to give us some time alone. . . Thing is, if I'm going to stay here—leave my home, my family, my friends, my college education and everything else behind—I need to know that I have a good reason to."

"If you're going to stay . . ." said Matt, panic rising. "Elyse, I thought—"

"At this point, Matt, I want to stay, but . . . what if . . . what if when you kiss me, there's nothing there? Feeling the way I do about you, I doubt that's going to happen, but . . . sometimes it does. . ..

"It happened to my sister, Heather, when she was kissed by her first high school crush, Steve Alt. She really had the 'hots' for him; but when he kissed her good night at the door after bringing her home from a dance, she said there was nothing there—at all. . . It wasn't because he was a bad kisser: she said his technique was fine. There just wasn't any . . . spark, so they never went out again. . . Then, when she was in college, she met Brad—her husband. The first time he kissed her, she got weak in the knees and just about collapsed. . . Now, I'm not saying that that does or should happen to everyone; but . . . if there's absolutely nothing—not even a tiny tremor of feeling between us—there wouldn't be much point in my staying here, would there? . . . I just want to be sure, 'cause there's a lot at stake here—for both of us."

"Yes, I guess there is," Matt agreed. He moved closer to her and took her chin in his hand. Then he lowered his head and placed his lips on hers, closing his eyes at the same time. Soon, he took his hand from her chin and wrapped his arms around her. She then wrapped her arms around his waist, dropping the journal in the process. The kiss grew deeper, sweeter and more passionate with each passing moment. Like a carnival ride, it came to a slow, gradual conclusion, leaving Elyse breathless and weak in the knees. Still holding onto her companion, she collapsed against his chest.

"Oh, Matt!" she sighed.

Matt kissed the top of her head and said, "My dream just came true, Elyse—every bit of it. It even felt the same."

Elyse raised her head, looked up at Matt and recited, "'So that dreams may come true at last, send Elyse to the past.'"

Matt smiled. "The rhyme in Bob's journal. That's what I meant about suspecting that you might actually be the girl I dreamt about. That rhyme had to mean something."

Elyse nodded and said, "Yes, it did. That's why I came. I knew about your recurring dream; and this morning I read the journal entry Grandpa Bob wrote about his dream, so . . . I had to give it a try. I was really scared . . . especially since I had—and still have—no way of knowing if I could ever get back. But I needed answers. I had to know." She shrugged. "Maybe I'm just too curious for my own good."

Matt smiled and said, "I'm glad you're curious; I'm glad you wanted answers. I love you, Elyse Stanhope. I have for five years."

"I love you, too, Matt . . . although, when it comes right down to it, I think we both (more or less) fell in love with the idea of each other. Grandpa Bob is right: we do need to get to know each other better, on a more personal level."

"Yes, we do; and, like you, I'm looking forward to it."

"Even knowing that I love you and that God planned for all of this to happen, it isn't easy to leave my entire life behind and start a new one here, in the past. It really is scary!"

"I'm sure it is; and I'll do everything I can to make it easier for you."

"I know you will; otherwise, I wouldn't want to stay . . . if going back were actually an option."

"I'm glad to know you trust me. So . . . how about telling me your full name? With a first name like 'Elyse' your middle name is probably just as beautiful."

Elyse shook her head. "Not really. It's just 'Marie'. I'm Elyse Marie Stanhope."

Matt smiled. "The French would love that—except for the Stanhope part. 'Elyse Marie' . . . It's beautiful. My middle name is—"

"Bryce. I know. It's a matter of public record." There was just a hint of a smile on Elyse's face.

"You have me at a distinct disadvantage," said Matt, also with a slight smile.

"Maybe," said Elyse with a shrug. "Thing is, though . . . I don't know that much about you personally. The dialog in the play was limited to public records and what Mrs. Barker learned from Sarah. Grandpa Bob didn't put much detail about you in his journal, and what my dad knew about you personally would probably fit in a Little Golden Book."

"Then I guess we'll learn about each other as we go."

"Isn't that the way most couples do it? Anyway, even though I don't know everything about either the past or the future, what I do know may come in handy as time goes on."

"I don't doubt it. But, for now, we need to head downstairs and relieve Bob's mind."

Elyse nodded, retrieved the journal and said, "Just don't ever tell him about that kiss, no matter how much he presses you. It's just between us, okay?"

Matt smiled. "I promise. From this day forward, my relationship with you takes precedence over my friendship with Bob." He shrugged. "He may not like it at first, but . . . once he realizes how much we really love each other, I think he'll understand. After all, Fran's been number one in his life ever since he met her; so, he'll really have no right to complain—and I'll remind him of the facts if he does. Now," he said as he opened the door, "let's go."