Disclaimers: Please See Chapter One
Muriel touched her diving partner’s shoulder with the end of her fish net and pointed to the right of an embedded gun turret on the Gulf floor.
Lenora nodded her head, indicating that she saw the giant devil ray, or Manta Birostris as it is more correctly known.
While sharing the distinctive deltoid shape and tail of all other Atlantic rays, the giant devil ray, which attains a maximum breadth of over twenty-one feet between pectoral fin, wing tips, i.e.; has one distinctive feature-twin cephalic fins resembling ‘horns.’ Located on opposite ends of the creature's mouth, directly in front of the ray's side-mounted eyes, the small cephalic fins aid the fish in steering and also push food into the ray's mouth, automatically retracting toward that orifice whenever coming into contact with any object. Once retracted, the fin remains taut until the object is consumed. It is in this manner, Lenora had experienced first hand, that the giant devil rays occasionally became entangled in anchor chains.
Both women knew the giant devil rays usually inhabit shoal waters within a few miles of the mainland, but in the northern Gulf of Mexico, they are generally found offshore in clear, more tropical waters away from the muddy discharge of the various rivers.
The women had watched the devil ray from the deck of the ship for several days. They were delighted with the chance to view the creature’s feeding pattern. While these creatures may be found at various depths, they frequently surface to bask and to feed, by swimming open-mouthed through whatever schools of small fishes or planktonic crustacea they may meet. While visible along the surface, the ray had shown no aggressiveness towards them, even when they approached it closely in the small runabout on several occasions. However, Muriel had cautioned Lenora about swimming too close, or disturbing the large creature while underwater.
“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Lenora broke the silence.
“Yes, it certainly is.” Muriel adjusted her facemask. “Did you know they are still hunted in some tropical regions for their livers, which are boiled into oil, and their skin is used as a primitive abrasive?”
Lenora snorted, “If they catch them doing that in the Gulf, not only will they confiscate their boat, but fine them and they’ll serve at least a year in jail.”
“I know, but some tropical countries aren’t as keen on preserving our seas or its inhabitants.”
“That’s a crying shame.”
“Yes, hopefully though before they are all gone, marine research will prove their value to mankind before it’s too late.”
“You would think they’d be content with seeing the rays. Look at that devil rays' skin. It is covered with small tubercles and does have a texture reminiscent of sandpaper, but how could anyone want to kill it for its skin?” Lenora shook her head in disbelief.
“I agree, but this giant ray is an exception. Remember, the smaller rays are caught and its tail passed off as scallops at a lot of restaurants up and down the ocean seaboard.” Muriel pointed the net pole towards the opening of the turret; a big grin covered her face. There scooting back into the darkness of the hatch of the gun casement was a four-foot octopus. Muriel changed directions and made for the opening. She moved the net handle to her right to attempt a quick catch of the darting creature. “Gotcha,” she yelled into the facemask.
Lenora smiled at Muriel’s skilled actions in capturing her quarry, but quickly became defensive when she spotted a shark moving towards the gun turret and the unsuspecting marine biologist.
Muriel twisted the net around the pole again so the octopus couldn’t escape when she caught a movement out of the side of her eye. Just as the shark opened its mouth, Lenora rammed the butt of her spear gun hard against its head, just in front of its eye. The stunned shark jerked its head away and quickly turned and disappeared behind the ship.
Lenora motioned with her thumb for Muriel to surface as she followed closely behind keeping vigil for the shark.
The marine-biologist laid her captured prize on the diving platform and eased herself up next to the net. She quickly removed her fins and tossed them over the rail onto the deck, and just as quickly unbuckled her tanks and lowered the pack carefully to the deck. The young scientist turned to take Lenora’s spear gun from her outstretched hand and set it on the platform. She removed her facemask as Lenora swung her feet onto the platform and removed hers.
“Thanks, Lenora, but why didn’t you just spear the darn thing; it was about to make me its lunch!”
The captain stood and tossed her fins over the rail. “It wanted your octopus, Muriel, not you. That species isn’t a man-eater and you know it. I saw no reason to wound it to attract other of its relatives that might not feel the same way about us.”
“Yeah, I guess you’re right. I wasn’t about to give up this beauty though,” she said excitedly as she held the net up by the handle and placed it over the rail onto the deck. “I’ve not come across any species of octopus this size in the gulf. This is a real discovery.” She sat on the railing and started removing her wet suit before her feet hit the deck.
By the time Lenora swung over the rail and stood up, Muriel was stepping out of her wet suit and quickly picked up the net and started towards the cargo hatch. Before she could take two steps, Lenora grabbed the back of her bathing suit, causing Muriel to almost drop the net.
“What the---?” Muriel’s bewilderment was apparent.
Lenora squared her shoulders. “You know the rules; take care of the equipment and shower before you go below.”
Muriel smiled ruefully at the young captain. “I’ll make you a deal, I’ll prepare dinner if you’ll take care of the equipment and let me get my catch below.”
“Okay, but you still have to shower.”
Muriel dashed over to the shower and placed the netted octopus on the deck. She pulled the shower cord, cutting on the water and clipped the ring on the shower railing. The shapely body stood under the spray and quickly removed both top and bottom of her suit and allowed the water to run through the pieces as she squashed it, finally holding it from under the water and squeezing out the water. The woman stepped to the guide wires and rails holding up the rigged shower and neatly placed the two pieces over the closest rail. Grabbing the shampoo from the wire basket on the side of the shower, she squirted a liberal amount in her hair before replacing the bottle in the container. Her hands were going rapidly in several directions to get a good lather, which ran down her shimmering body.
Lenora’s eyes fasten on the nude body.
Although Muriel’s eyes were closed to prevent the shampoo from entering, she sensed Lenora’s continuous stare. Might as well give her something to really watch, she giggled under her breath.
My goodness, my goodness, Lenora licked her lips and began to breathe heavily as she watched Muriel run her hands over her body, giving her breasts several caressing motions before lowering them to her lower regions for several quick swipes before returning to her breasts.
Muriel opened her eyes and grinned at the woman who let the wet suit drop to the floor. Hmm, she would have to show interest when I am so anxious to get below. “You want to join me for a quick shower?”
“Muriel, if I joined you, there wouldn’t be a quick shower.”
A gentle giggle escaped from the marine biologist and she made a puckering motion with her lips and then blew the kissing sound towards Lenora. “You can have this,” she rubbed her hands up and down her body several times, “anytime you want it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.” Lenora continued watching as Muriel turned off the water and reached for one of the towels on the make shift clothesline a few feet away.
The shapely woman quickly dried off her body and tossed the towel back over the clothes-line. She removed an oversize tee shirt from the line and pulled it over her body. She winked once at Lenora, turned, picked up her captured octopus and quickly disappeared down the cargo hatch to her laboratory.
Muriel staggered back against the rail, exhaling slowly, shaking her head. “Well, old girl, that little display should stow any doubts about our marine biologist.” It was several minutes before she forced her thoughts back to the equipment.
True to her word, Muriel prepared a very nice dinner for them. Both women knew it was only a matter of time before there was something physical between them, but neither wanted to rush; even though both were beginning to feel burning desire.
The research continued with daily dives and container after container being labeled and stored in the large laboratory. The women worked well together, and were becoming good friends.
The marine-biologist was making some of the most exciting discoveries in her career. Her research of the man made reef at the bottom of the clear Gulf waters was going so well; the only thing which pleased her more was blooming relationship with Lenora.
“Lenora, look at this test tube,” she held the tube up to the light for viewing.
The captain moved in closer and pressed against Muriel’s back, extending her head over the biologists' shoulder. “Another of your unusual discoveries?”
Muriel felt the heat race through her body and had to focus on holding the tube firm, instead of tossing the specimen aside and jumping the erotic captain right there on the cold floor. “Yes, it’s very bizarre and should not be here in the Gulf.”
Lenora reached an arm around Muriel, placing her hand around Muriel's wrist and gently wiggled it causing the sea water in the vial to move, making the specimen swim up and down the test tube. “Hmm, I don’t recall ever seeing a sea monkey that looked like that.”
“Probably because this species has evolved beyond imagination.” Muriel lowered the vial and eased her wrist from Lenora’s gentle hold. She walked back to the rack and placed the tube in its slot.
“What’s your explanation?”
Muriel ran her hand through her hair, and then shrugged her shoulders. “I’m not sure. So much is just coming into scientific knowledge.” She sat down on the stool.
“You have a theory don’t you?” Lenora leaned over the table and stared into the vials in the rack.
“Maybe, but not one I can prove.”
“Lenora, back in 1977, scientists used the submersible Alvin to study the sea bottom on the East Pacific Rise near the Galapagos Islands. To their surprise, they found large populations of bottom-dwelling organisms surrounding volcanic hot springs in the ocean crust, about 6,000 feet below the sea's surface.”
“You’re telling me they found life 2,000 meters down?”
“They did not expect to find such abundant life at that depth, where there was no phytoplankton to support the food web. Phytoplankton could not grow because light did not penetrate to that depth. Studies showed that bacteria living on chemicals in the hot springs provide the basis of the food web for this deepwater community. Some scientists now suggest that life on the earth may have started near such hot springs.”
“Goodness! I’ve seen a lot of unnatural and unexplained things here in the Gulf and other parts of the world’s oceans, which still hasn’t been explained. This newly found species of sea monkeys of yours would have to be added to the list, along with your octopus.” She bent down and looked at the vial once more.
“There is something very unnatural about this area, Lenora. Something that has me mystified.”
Lenora stood and turned to face the marine biologist. “Mystified?”
“Yes, besides the unusual sea creatures, there was that gull that acted so strangely as we left the harbor. And you can’t tell me the mist that covered this boat the other morning wasn’t something you could explain away. Heck, Lenora,” Muriel threw her hands up as she stood and walked around the room, “even your instruments didn’t register or show that massive fog, and then it just dissipated as quickly as it came.”
“You’re right about that; not even the hourly weather forecasts had anything about fog or turbulence in the area. That has me stumped, too.”
“Have you noticed how smooth the waters are here, but when you look out a few hundred yards, you see the waves forming?”
“You are very observant, Muriel.” Lenora scratched her nose, “I’ve never seen that particular anomaly before myself.” She bent down and removed the remainder of the specimen bags from the cooler and looked directly into Muriel’s eyes. “Didn’t want to worry you, but I don’t think the instruments were working properly that morning.” She walked towards the table.
“You’ve checked them out several times since then, haven’t you?”
“Yes, including twice that morning before we made our first dive. However, I still don’t think they were working that particular morning for some reason.”
“You ever have that happen to you before out here?”
“Nope. Nothing close to that, but don’t worry, I can navigate this ship with a sextant and the stars if necessary.” The mariner chuckled in hope of putting Muriel a little more at ease about the mist.
“I’m not the least worried about your navigation skills, nor would I be on any ship on which you might be the captain.”
Lenora turned towards Muriel again. “You’re very kind. You want me to help you with anything else before I go start some dinner?” The captain turned back to the table, and set the seal-lock bags down next to the others.
Muriel reached over and carefully picked up the bags and placed them into the tray next to the microscope. “No thanks, Lenora. You’ve been wonderful to do the things you’ve done these past two weeks. You ever want to come work at the Institute, you’ll have a job,” she smiled at the captain.
“And give up all this,” she laughed, holding up her hands, which were giving off a pungent smell. She wrinkled her nose from the stench and started washing her hands at the sink next to the table.
“No, I suppose you’ll never have cause or reason to stray far from the sea,” Muriel muttered, looking a little disappointed.
“Never is a strong word, Muriel,” Lenora blushed, as she dried her hands and laid the towel over the sink. “Who knows, should the right cause or reason appear?” Her green eyes looked away from the scientist, fearing she would see the longing there.
Muriel lowered the bag back into the tray and turned to look directly at Lenora. “Would a person be a valid cause or reason?”
Lenora turned and walked to the stairs. Halfway up the steps, she turned her head slowly and said, “You already know the answer to that Muriel,” and disappeared without waiting for a response.
Muriel gasped, “Dumb son-of-a-snail,” her conscience argued, pricking her for her doubts.
Throughout dinner, she had experienced the strange sensation of being split in half. One part of her enjoyed the food and conversation, while her other half focused totally on Lenora. She had cooked for her, encouraged the experiments, and assisted her at every stage. She cared for the equipment so she could devote her time to the laboratory when they weren’t under water, and had probably saved her life from shark visits twice in the last week. Now Lenora stirred her senses as no woman ever had, filling her with longing that affected her like a delicious madness.
Had Lenora guessed how much she wanted her? While part of her discussed favorite movies, tastes in music and books, another part desired her in more ways than she’d ever imagined. Her heightened emotions put a whole new spin on her purpose. In addition to completing the research and the successful results of the different experiments, finding a way to keep Lenora in her life was a high priority.
Outwardly composed, she trembled at the thought of losing Lenora. How could she live without her, without the robust beauty of her smile, the comfort of her companionship, the excitement of her touch, the thrill of her anticipated kisses? And if Lenora intended to make love to her, how could she not give in?
From the heated looks Lenora had given her through dinner; the deliberate way her hands had brushed hers, and the ticking muscle at the base of her jaw, she gathered Lenora's need was as great as her own.
Once she’d removed the dishes and only the customary candles remained on the table, an expectant stillness hovered in the galley.
“Muriel.” Lenora’s voice caressed her.
Lenora rose to face Muriel in the candlelight, and the intensity of her need burned in her eyes.
The silence crackled between them.
For a split second that seemed like an eternity, Muriel was frozen as she realized Lenora’s intentions.
Lenora grasped Muriel’s hands and, with excruciating slowness, glided her fingers over her wrists, up her arms and around her shoulders, as if she were a blind woman, taking in the shape of her.
But Lenora wasn’t blind. Her dark, passion-filled gaze explored her face, holding her spellbound. She dropped Muriel’s hands to her back and skimmed her waist and hips before cupping her bottom, clutching her against her body and claiming her lips. Muriel yielded to her like clay to a potter.
Twining her fingers through her thick hair, Muriel opened her lips to Lenora. She tasted of wine and chocolate and burning need. Through two layers of clothes, her breasts, tense and aching, rubbed against Lenora’s chest
In one fluid movement, without breaking their kiss, Lenora picked her up and carried her from the galley into her cabin. She placed her gently down on the double bed and lay beside her. Soft light cast a subdued glow, and the scent of frangipani blossomed on the air. When Muriel pulled her gaze from Lenora’s, she discovered the source of the perfume. Beneath her, soft petals of fragrant frangipani in white and pink were scattered across the sheets. Muriel knew every last blossom from the large walk-in cooler had been used to make this bed of seduction just for her. On the nightstand, a grouping of pillar candles threw shimmering light across the bed. The profusion of candles and petals, revealing the romantic nature of the commanding and pragmatic woman, delighted her. Lenora had planned the evening down to the last detail, and this thoughtfulness caused Muriel’s needs to burn hotter.
Lenora cradled her face in her hands. “Are you sure this is what you want? If not, I’ll stop whenever you say.”
Muriel closed her eyes against the passion flaring in hers. Was she sure? Without question, her body wanted Lenora. And her heart loved the mariner beyond measure. But her head tormented her with doubts about loving a woman who may not want to settle for a life with her.
The two-thirds majority won. She opened her eyes and gazed directly into Lenora’s, experiencing again the sensation of falling forever into their greenish depths. “This is what I want.”
Lenora kicked off her shoes and drew Muriel against the length of her with a low moan of satisfaction. Muriel could feel how much she wanted her as her own hand felt the taunt nipples pressed into her chest. With a deep, shuddering sigh, she pulled back enough to undo her buttons and remove her shirt. She traced the outline of the two scars just above her shoulder blade.
“Not a pretty sight,” Lenora murmured in a matter-of-fact, if breathless, voice.
“Seen them every time we went diving, and wanted to kiss them even then. They’re beauty in selflessness and courage.” She dropped a light kiss on the puckered skin over Lenora’s heart. “That’s what these remind me of.”
With deft fingers, the mariner undressed her. A wave of giddiness spiraled in her, rising like vapor from a hot street after a midday summer rain. Dazed, Muriel watched Lenora enjoying the sight of her.
“Do you have any idea how unbelievably beautiful you are?” Lenora said with awe as her fingers brushed her check. “Your skin is as smooth and soft as these.”
Lenora scooped pink and white petals in her palms and rained the fragrant blossoms across Muriel’s bare flesh. Lowering her head, she breathed in the sweet scent and nuzzled her breasts, tracing the edge of one nipple, then the other, with her tongue. As shivering sensations shot through Muriel, she dug her fingers into Lenora’s back until the need to be closer overpowered her. Slipping her hands between them, Muriel unsnapped Lenora’s jeans and tugged off her remaining clothes.
The euphoria of lying skin to skin, unhampered by cloth or modesty, brought back her dizziness with a vengeance and when Lenora slid her fingers between her legs, agonizing pleasure detonated through every cell of her body.
When she gasped with delight, Lenora nibbled her ear. “That’s only the beginning.”
Although the length of their bodies joined, Muriel longed to feel Lenora inside her. “Now,” she begged.
Lenora kissed her again, deeply, positioning herself above her and gently parting her thighs.
When Lenora’s tongue entered her, her heart leaped, faltered, and then matched the pulsing beat of her movements. Muriel drove her higher and higher until her entire body was inflamed by the feel of the tongue now joined by two fingers, by Lenora’s voice calling her name and the stark and sensuous pleasure mirrored on her face.
Instinctively, she angled her hips toward Lenora, awed at how perfectly their bodies conformed, as if in some distant, primeval past, they had been one, then broken, and now at last were fused to their original state.
Lenora’s gaze never left hers as she whirled into dizzying heights, battered by responses that flung her weightless, timeless, over the edge of reality into star-studded space, where nothing existed but the two of them. Both cried out at climax, the groans ringing in their ears were their last conscious thought as the women yielded to pure sensation.
Back to earth, Muriel nestled, sated but weak, in the crook of the mariner’s arm. Lenora’s even breathing fanned her ear, and for the first time in her life, she felt complete.
Lenora propped up on one elbow regarded her with half-closed lids while her hand traced lazy circles on her breast. A lock of hair fell across her forehead, and the beautiful lines of the face she’d come to love transformed into a smile filled with promise.
Before Muriel could voice her love, Lenora reached for her again. “I told you this was only the beginning.”
Talk could wait.
She rolled willingly into Lenora’s arms.
Sex with Muriel had been astonishing. The images ignited the aching soreness between her legs and caused her tender breast to become ridged against the tight diving suit.
Muriel leaned over and claimed another kiss, their hundredth of the morning, shook her head and sighed. “Even though I’m sore, it’s the nicest soreness I’ve ever experienced.”
Lenora grinned, “My sentiments exactly.”
“We could go back down to your berth and ease the soreness out of our bodies.”
Lenora gazed into the blue orbs, “We did that most of the morning, honey. We only have time for one quick dive before lunch.”
“I’m teasing you horribly, darling. Take no notice. I certainly shan’t.”
Lenora grinned. “Good.”
Muriel planted several kisses just below Lenora’s ear before she pulled her mask into place. “You ever make out underwater, Captain?”
Grinning, Lenora responded, “No, and I’m looking forward to that experience with you, but not here. I need to keep an eye on the shark situation. They seem to be conjugating closer to the scuttled cruiser for some reason.”
Muriel removed her facemask. “Are you concerned for our safety?” She asked anxiously.
She frowned momentarily and shrugged. “Not really. Haven’t you noticed the man-eaters have only ventured close to us when you went beyond the shadow of the sunken vessel? It’s as if they sensed something and that the water closer to the hull wasn’t safe.”
Muriel sank back onto the deck. “Great; now you tell me,” she said slowly, feeling her way into the chilling thoughts.
Lenora hesitated before going on. “Perhaps it’s the depth, but we aren’t that deep-I don’t know, but something isn’t right here.”
The marine-biologist shrugged and her expression was one of bleak bewilderment. “When everyone started getting into diving back in the fifties, the tables for safe depths were written by the U.S. Navy," Muriel said. "When I started diving, there were so many improvements with the aqua lungs and the gear, that deeper depths posed no problems. We aren’t diving any place close to our limits, so what are you saying?”
Lenora pulled at her right ear. “Haven’t you noticed that the sharks get real excited when you follow a fish or species away from the reef? They dart back and forth in a frenzy and I suspect they would attack in droves if we swam another twenty yards out,” she reiterated flatly.
Muriel’s eyes turned to search the waters beyond their diving area and saw a dozen or so fins breaking the water off in the distance. “That certainly looks like death circling out there,” she pointed to the fins.
“Ninety-eight percent of the deaths in skin-diving occur while spear fishing, and through carelessness,” she said dolefully. “Thankfully, we aren’t spear fishing, and you are the most careful diver I know, so I feel safe in continuing the research. But thank goodness we only have a few more days,”
“I’ll be glad when we complete the collecting, too. I have a deep, unexplained awareness of something that makes my skin crawl,” Muriel’s body shivered.
Lenora watched the sharks for a few moments and then checked the spear gun again.
“Honey, when diving you discover a world so alien to your sensibilities, you truly begin to understand why deep water diving has been compared to the aloneness, the vast blackness of outer space. The vast darkness I feel about this situation has my sensibilities on edge. I’ve already expressed my concerns about this area, so why don’t we go down and get those crustaceans and let this be our only dive today.”
“I’ll go for that,” she stood and extended a helping hand to the marine biologist. “Muriel, don’t wander off from the reef today, okay?”
“Fine, and let us make it a quick dive.”
Lenora took the dual shot spear gun down and watched the sharks swim directly towards the reef and veer off about the same distance. She placed her body between the sharks and Muriel, who had gone under a large gun and was scraping crustaceans from inside the broken barrel of the weapon, but she too, keep checking the location of the man-eaters.
Back on board, they bagged and labeled all the samples Muriel had collected and finished two experiments Muriel had started the day before. The marine biologists logged extensive details in her journal and entered exact disciplines on each test performed on her laptop computer.
“Want to catch the sunset tonight, Muriel? The colors were just starting to pop as I came below.” Lenora wiggled her eyebrows at her lover.
“You betcha’. Would you get us a couple bottles of soda and I’ll join you on the hatch in two shakes?”
Lenora nodded agreement and dashed up the steps two at a time.
Muriel grinned and typed the last sentence on the laptop, saved the contents, shut the computer down and lowered the screen until she heard a gentle click.
The two women settled themselves into the hatch cover, drinks in hand, and waited; an expression of complete contentment covered both their faces.
The sky was filled with strange colors that evening. Muriel and Lenora had never seen such an array of shades of violent and orange, before the sun dropped behind the horizon.
They ate an early dinner and spent the best part of the night making passionate love before they drifted off.
Startled into alertness for some unknown reason, Lenora eased out of bed, only to have Muriel open her eyes and place her hand on her lover’s nude back. “Where are you going?”
Lenora turned and smiled, “Not quite sure, but something woke me. I’m going to get dressed and go check the instruments.” She stood and took a deep smell, then turned towards the now sitting marine biologist. “Do you smell that?”
Muriel took a deep sniff. “All I smell is the salt air, Lenora.” She stood and went to the porthole and took another deep sniff. “Still only salt air. What do you smell?”
Lenora had pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and was tying her tennis shoes as she looked up. “It’s the odor of turbulence in the gulf---like the pungent smell just before the eye of a hurricane.” She ran her fingers through her hair and opened the cabin door. “Muriel, please get dressed and join me in the wheelhouse.”
Muriel’s eyes clouded with foreboding, but still she calmly nodded. “Certainly, I’ll be right there,” she said, looking around the room for her shoes. The clothes on the floor were quickly scooped up and tossed on the bed, while she dropped to the deck to check under the bed for her shoes. “Not under here. Now where did Lenora toss them last…oh, yes,” she arose and scampered to open bathroom door. “I could have sworn they hit the shower curtain…ah hah, inside the shower.” The marine biologist returned to the bed and started dressing.
Lenora slowed from a trot to see a dozen or so dolphins break the surface and veer directly away from The Athena, followed by various schools of bluefish. “Dang, it seems as if all the creatures are attempting to put distance between the ship and---,” she didn’t finish. Her eyes grew wide as she caught sight of wall cloud that appears to hang underneath the main cloud base. She knew it was associated with the main updraft of a storm. If the wall cloud persists for more than a few minutes and appears to rotate, it is a sign of a possible waterspout. Before that thought cleared her mind several waterspouts headed towards the ship, then suddenly changed direction, whirling frantically and suddenly dropped into the gulf. “Muriel, you need to get up here,” she yelled.
“Coming,” her lover responded, “only a minute more.”
Lenora opened the wheelhouse door as her eyes continued to focus on the western horizon. There in the distance appeared to be a bank of white fog closing on the ship. The captain flipped switch after switch, until she had turned on all the instruments in the cabin. Going from one piece of equipment to another, she became frustrated when none of them seemed to be working. When she turned the key to the ignition and pushed the starter button, the engines did not roar to life as expected. Her hands went to the anchor levers and hesitated. “Please, let the anchor hoists work,” she prayed and pushed both levers, at the same time, to the up position. There was a rough, grinding sound from the wenches, but the anchors remained on the bottom. “And I was about to thank you,” she blinked skyward and again checked the instrument panels only to find the expensive, most up-to-date equipment, still did not work.
Not even the onboard weather computer would come on and hadn’t sent a forecast for print out since around midnight. The mariner knew parent storms often are observable on Doppler radar and could be forecast. However, there was no mention on the last received Doppler forecast to indicate any inclement weather visible for this area at all. She flung down the computer paper and went back to the instruments, again, pushing button after button without one instrument responding.
The captain’s eyes raised from the panel to see two more water spouts emerge from the fog bank and head towards them. Waterspouts form over, or move across, the coastal waters or intra-coastal waters and become a hazard for small craft. They are treated as tornadoes over water.
Lenora wasn’t sure the waterspouts could do damage to The Athena, but she had never seen waterspouts behave as the two previous ones had. Again, the spouts moved slowly, but then picked the speed of a tornadic spout as it approached place where the two previous spouts swerved. Following almost the same path, they veered, and within moments dropped into the gulf as if they had never existed.
“Okay, so what has your panties in a wad, lover?” Muriel questioned as she entered the wheelhouse, pulling her sweatshirt over her head as she joined Lenora at the wheel.
“I don’t have any on, but if I did, those would certainly cause a few wads,” Lenora pointed to three more waterspouts moving rapidly towards them.
“Holy Mackerel!” The marine biologist stepped to the wheelhouse window and pressed her face into glass. “Those look like tornadic waterspouts, Lenora.”
“Yep, and I’m guessing 98 knots or better,” Lenora thumped the radar again.
“What will 113 mph or greater do to this ship?” Muriel quickly turned her head to check Lenora’s response.
“Watch them, Muriel. I think you’re about to add another baffling experience to those you have already experienced on this trip.” The captain pointed to the spouts, which had almost reached the position the other’s had before veering away.
Muriel turned back to the glass. Her eyes became larger and her mouth dropped open as the waterspouts change direction off and within moments dropped like as sack of rocks into the gulf waters.
“What in the world? How?” She turned towards Lenora. “What is going on, Lenora?”
“I don’t have a clue. Not about those, or the mechanical instruments that aren’t working,” she slammed her palm against the wheel. “Not that they would help at this time, because…”
“Because?” Muriel asked.
“Because, because-just because, Muriel,” she threw her hands in the air. “I’ve never been in this kind of weather before, and this whole damn trip has been filled with one unexplained event after another.” Her hand went up towards the window. “Like those three new spouts breaking that fast ascending white fog, or cloud cover, if you want to call it that, coming upon us,” utter desperation sounded in her voice.
Muriel’s head turned to see three new spouts bearing down upon the ship, only to veer off and drop into the gulf as the others before them. “You’ve been a mariner all your life, Lenora. You must have some idea.”
The captain let out a long, spew of air before she stepped forward and pulled Muriel into her arms. “Honey, I’m neither an oceanographer nor a meteorologist. I don’t have any explanation for this.” Lenora tightened her hold on Muriel, who returned the embrace. “Here comes the fog,” she nodded towards the window and the approaching white mist.
“It’s much thicker than the other day, and it is so-so,” Muriel didn’t finish.
The white fog encompassed the ship completely. The women held each other close as the dense haze moved away from the ship, leaving a watery mist on the windows. The lovers watched as the fog continued to move away from the vessel until the mysterious mist stop about fifty feet from the boat. The water around the boat was as slick as a sheet of glass. There were no ripples or waves breaking the surface of the gulf waters, not even a bubble or an air pocket could be seen. There was no wind, no sound; only the silence of the mist.
Within moments, Muriel pointed to the water. “Lenora, look at that,” she pulled out of her lover’s arms and went to the starboard window. The captain joined the mystified marine biologist, and together they watched as the waters around the ship started to move. Slowly, in a counter-clock wise motion, the gulf encircling the ship began to rotate until it made a waterspout. The rotating water came with a few feet of the ship, but never touched the ship as it rose fifty feet high.
“You can say that again.”
“Holy Mackerel!” Muriel repeated the exclamation.
The wall of water circled the ship until it was spinning so fast that the water became a blur.
“Merciful heavens,” Lenora muttered.
“Heaven protect us.” Muriel eased closer to Lenora.
The ship began to bob in the water, but didn’t turn as the whirling spout went faster and faster. Just as quickly as it began, the counter-clock wise motion of the water ceased. The water dropped back into the gulf, which was once again became as smooth as glass.
“Look,” Muriel motioned toward the fog bank, which was now gently closing the circle once more around the ship.
“My god,” Lenora finally gasped in an uncharacteristically strangled voice.
Moments later the vessel was encased in the white mist once more. This time, the mist penetrated the exterior of the wheelhouse until the women could barely make out each other’s images only a few inches away. Just as quickly as the mist had entered, it dissipated. The fog bank eased away from the vessel and back into the western direction from which it had come, and slowly disappeared from sight.
“Dumb son-of-a-snail!” Muriel threw open the wheelhouse door and stepped onto the wet deck. “What in torment is going on?”
Lenora joined Muriel, but didn’t remove her stare from the area where the foggy mist had disappeared. “I wouldn’t even venture to guess.” She scratched her head with one hand and placed her other arm around Muriel’s shoulder. “Are you okay?”
“Okay, as in scared shitless, or terrified as I never have been before?”
“Either,” she turned and placed her both hands on Muriel’s shoulders.
The silence stretched between them and Lenora could almost hear the uncertainty bouncing around her lover’s mind.
The scientist pronounced, slowly, as if in a trance, “Phenomena like that don’t just happen, Lenora. I think it’s time to cancel the last few days of the research and get out of here.”
Lenora shook her head in agreement. “Agreed. You need to stow your experiments safely, and I’ll try and get the engine started.”
“Give me an hour; then I’ll come prepare us something to eat. You think you can bypass some switches or something to get the motors running?” She asked, as she followed the captain back into the wheelhouse.
Lenora began flipping switches again, but none of the instruments would come on. “I don’t know, Muriel,” she said as she again turned the key of the ignition to ON, and pressed the starter button. The motors roared to life. “What the hell?” Lenora looked at her companion with amazement and then began to flip the other switches once more. Nothing-mechanical came on, not the radar, or any of the other equipment, but Lenora didn’t care as long as the engines responded.
“At least the engines are working. Can you get us back to port without the locator or the radar?” Muriel questioned, as she breathed a sigh of relief.
“Lady, I can navigate this tub under any conditions. I don’t need these modern pieces of crap,” she ran her fingers across the instruments. “As long as I have my sextant, we’ll be fine; even then, I can get us back by the stars if I can’t take a good reading.”
“I’m relieved to hear that.”
“I can raise the anchors by hand, if they don’t--,” she said, flipping the switch on the anchor and raised the lever to Up. There was a screeching, clanging sound as the hoist began to reel up the anchors. “Way to go, baby. I knew you wouldn’t let me down.” Lenora patted the wheel.
“Good, I’m going below. Call me if you need me, or if…,” she pointed towards the now clear, western sky.
“Just get your stuff battened down, okay?”
Muriel nodded and disappeared from the roundhouse as Lenora continued to watch the horizon; muttering inaudibly as she flipped switches or pushed buttons unsuccessfully.
For Muriel, the next hour was closed to torture. She found it difficult to concentrate and her timing was off in everything she undertook. Several times she had to re-strap this or that piece of equipment or container containing the weeks of research. She was pondering the strange sensations she had experienced topside. Her emotions were in a tizzy as the feeling that something was definitely out of sorts lingered as she worked. Finally, she was satisfied that the research was secure. She hurried up the stairs, pulling the hatch cover firmly in place and latching it down before she scurried to the galley.
“Hope you like scrambled eggs and juice.” Muriel handed the plate and glass to Lenora. “Neither the toaster, microwave, or the coffee maker would work, so, there is no coffee or toast.”
Lenora accepted the plate, “Thanks. I’m not really fond of toast anyway. Whole wheat bread will be fine, but I sure miss not having my morning coffee.” She took the glass offered and stepped aside as Muriel moved to the wheel. “The magnetic compass is working, so keep it on an easterly course, and steer towards that dark cloud off there on the eastern horizon.” Her glass filled hand directed attention to a vicinity off in the distance.
“The instruments still not working?” Muriel asked, as she checked the compass and glued her eyes on the area Lenora had pointed out to her.
“Nothing modern is working, just the old girl’s original instruments. Barometer, compass, and anchor wenches, which have always run off the secondary engine and batteries. I’ll take a sextant heading and plot our course as soon as I can swallow these eggs.” Lenora sat down at the stool next to the door. “Have you eaten?”
“Yes, I ate mine below,” Muriel turned and gave Lenora a quick smile. “Good thing the stove worked, or we would be having cold sandwiches for breakfast.”
“Never did have the heart to change out the original stove. It looks so ancient compared to all the modern appliances, but it was made especially for that galley and has always worked like a charm.” Lenora took a bite of the wheat bread and chewed hastily.
“At this point, Lenora, I’m glad you allowed most of this ships equipment and details to stay as they were originally,” Muriel turned her head towards her lover, “don’t eat so fast, it’s not good for you.” Before Lenora could open her mouth, Muriel leapt in first and rushed on anxiously, “I’m no mariner darling, and if you get strangled, I’d run your beautiful ship aground or worse; I’ll pile it onto some jetties or dock,” she smirked and again, looked down to the compass and back out to the imaginary spot on the horizon.
Lenora couldn’t keep from grinning as she slowed her chewing. After swallowing, she gazed at the back of the woman who had only days before become her lover. Her lover. She swallowed on a suddenly dry throat, aware that her mind had gone blank even as her stomach turned a perfect somersault. “Muriel,” she finally croaked.
The marine biologist turned her head, “Yes.” Their eyes met, and held. There was no need for words; their feelings were transmitted with their eyes.
Lenora stood and set the plate and glass on the stool, never breaking eye contact with Muriel. She walked slowly to her companion, her hand caressing the side of her face before her fingers lifted Muriel’s chin slightly and they kissed.
“This has been so sudden,” Lenora’s dry throat croaked, and she heard herself speak in a way she had never before attempted with anyone. “Muriel, I…ah, we---.”
Muriel leaned into Lenora’s lips once more. After a time, their lips parted. “Lenora, words are not necessary right now, nor is time a factor. I think we both know this is a forever thing between us, so let’s just take it as it comes.”
“Take it as it comes and go forward together,” relief was tangible in Lenora’s voice.
Muriel’s lips once again sought Lenora’s, “Together forever, no matter what comes,” her hand went up and pushed a strand of hair off Lenora’s face. “If you’ve finished eating, what about that sextant reading?”
“Right!” Lenora leaned in and gave a quick kiss before she unlocked the cabinet below the instrument panel and removed the box containing the sextant her aunt had given her many years before. Every time she used the instrument, she experienced a kaleidoscope of unexplained, conflicting emotions. This time was different; there were no conflicting emotions, only reassured calmness of her ability with the instrument. She smiled as she raised the sextant, and left the cabin to go onto the deck.
Muriel watched as Lenora held the instrument to her eye and take several readings and then write them on a pad. Together, forever, she thought as she observed her lover. “Somehow, forever just doesn’t seem long enough.” The young woman could sense the different direction in which her mind was racing. “But, forever will do for a start,” she said as Lenora reentered the wheelhouse.
“You say something to me?” Lenora asked, as she placed the sextant back into the handcrafted case and returned it to the cabinet.
“Just asking if you have the readings you need?”
Lenora reached over the instrument panel and pulled out a map. “I’ll be able to tell you exactly where we are in two shakes of a sea-cow.” The captain laid out the grid on the table on the backside of the cabin, and pulled out her box of instruments. Finding her protractor, her fingers moved it across the map quickly and efficiently. Checking the readings from the sextant once more, she went back to the map. A ruler went down and a line was drawn to the inlet at Pensacola.
“Correct the heading 15 degrees and come to a new heading of 137 degrees southeast, Muriel.”
The marine biologist looked down at the compass, and turned the wheel to make the adjustment the mariner had directed. “Southeast heading of 137 degrees,” she repeated as she checked the compass again.
Lenora joined her at the wheel. Holding up the map for Muriel to see, she said, “Here is where we are,” she pointed to a dot she had made on the map, “and if we stay on this course for about an hour, we should be about here,” she pointed to a second dot she had placed on the grid. “I’ll take another bearing when we reach this latitude/longitude.”
Muriel nodded as Lenora tapped the pencil on the surface of the map.
“Honey, can you keep this heading while I go below? I want to see if I can brew us up some java. There is an old fashioned, top of the stove, coffee pot stowed in the galley someplace and I need some coffee.”
“Sure, but please don’t make it as strong as you normally do, Lenora, or if you do, make mine half cream. Okay?”
Lenora wiped her finger across Muriel’s cheek. “Okay, I promise it won’t be too strong.” She stepped to the wheelhouse door. “The intercom isn’t working, but if you pick up that round tube to your left,” she pointed to the ancient bell type instrument on the wall, “the one marked galley, and blow into it first, I’ll be able to hear you if you need me for anything,” her hand went up towards the western horizon.
Muriel acknowledged her instructions with a nod and placed her hand on the old intercom system. “Is this one of those “just whistle” things?”
“Yep, just whistle,” Lenora pucker her lips and shook her head as she left.
The ship maintained a steady course towards Pensacola and the harbor that Lenora called home. The couple stayed in the wheelhouse, often embracing and holding each other for comfort.
“You ever experience anything similar to what we went through back there?”
“Can’t say that I have, Muriel.” Lenora checked the compass again, and looked out to sea. “I did go through a, characterized by eyewitnesses along the Panhandle as the most powerful hurricane in living memory to hit the gulf coast. It caused extensive property damage throughout the Panhandle. Nowhere was the storm's fury felt more forcefully than at the lighthouse on the peninsula, but it wasn’t the first time it had to be rebuilt.”
“We don’t have many hurricanes off the California coast, but the forest fires, mud slides and earthquakes are enough.” Muriel slipped her arm around Lenora’s waist. “The gulf coast has experienced a lot of destructive weather, hasn’t it?”
“Yes, including some red tides and some massive tidal surges.”
“They had several doses of red tide in Port St. Joe, didn’t they?”
“Uh-huh, almost wiped out the town a couple of times, then they had the fevers and that ended its reputation as a popular tourist or industrial port.”
“I visited St. Joe last summer when we did a weeks research at the national park there. It’s a beautiful place and the scallops we harvested were the size of quarters almost,” she smiled. “Not any sting-rays tail for this girl.”
“Bet you wouldn’t have been able to tell if the scallops were from a sting-rays’ tail if you hadn’t scooped them up yourself,” Lenora grinned.
Muriel swatted Lenora’s arm and stuck out her tongue. “Probably not.”
“Have you ever been through a tidal surge, Muriel?” Lenora asked as she placed her arm around her lovers shoulder.
“Only once. We were vacationing at an Island resort off the coast of Louisiana,” she allowed. “It came up from nowhere, almost like our fog and the waterspouts.”
“You talking about that surge off Terrebonne Parish?”
“Yes. During the afternoon, northerly gales inundated the resort with water from Lake Pelto, a coastal estuary north of the barrier island. Then, following a reversal of wind direction marking the storm's westerly passage, the island was submerged beneath a massive tidal surge. That surge carried many of the approximately 140 human victims at least six miles inland. The Storm's wind and waves continued to pound the island well into the following day.”
“How did you and your family escape?”
“Fortunately for us, we were aboard a large sailing schooner my dad had hired for the week. We lost one member of the crew overboard and all of us suffered massive bruises and abrasions from being tossed about.”
“It didn’t seem to be a deterrent to your becoming interested in marine life.”
Muriel eyes glazed, “It only made me more curious as to the oceans power and imposing mysteries.”
“I’m glad you love the sea, Muriel. I don’t think I could live without being close to the water.”
“Hmm, seems we were made for each other,” Muriel sighed as she snuggled into Lenora’s chest. “Hey, isn’t that a fishing boat?”
Lenora glared at the vessel, with hopes of recognizing the craft. “Yes, but I can’t distinguish the name yet. Grab the binoculars; maybe we can see her markings.”
Muriel reached over and picked up the instrument and placed them to her eyes for a moment. “Can’t make out the name, maybe you can,” she passed the binoculars to the captain.
Lenora focused the glasses several times before she responded, “Sea Finch,” she lowered the binoculars. “It’s an older trawler though. Must be out of Mobile or some Louisiana port.”
“You want to try to contact them?” Muriel asked.
“They seem to be headed away from us, probably towards the Mexican coastline to fish. You might try the radio, though. Turn to channel 18, that’s …”
“I know what channel that is, but if you know where we are, why bother?”
“You’re not curious to know if they experienced anything unusual?”
Muriel gazed after the trawler for several moments before speaking. “Lenora, if my suspicions are correct, the phenomena we went through was for us alone.”
“Yeah, I get that feeling too,” she fell silent.
Muriel didn’t move from her position against Lenora’s chest until she spotted a sea gull. “Hey, a gull.”
“Land should be coming into view--,” she chuckled and pointed directly ahead. “Land ho, Muriel. There’s the coast, and look there, it’s the lighthouse.”
“Never said you weren’t the best navigator,” Muriel squealed with delight.
Excitement filled both women, as the ship made its way closer to the entrance to the harbor. The passed several shrimp and fishing trawlers, which hailed them with several toots of their whistles and exchanged waves when in seeing distance.
“Funny, I don’t recognize any of the boats, Muriel. They are heavy laden with a type of net at I haven’t seen in years.”
“Don’t see any sailboats out and this is a nice, sunny day,” Muriel added. “Hmm, Lenora, wasn’t that lighthouse red, white and blue when we passed it the other day?” The marine biologist directed her comments to the open mouthed captain.
“It’s back to the bright blue and white color that it used to be years ago,” Lenora exclaimed and raised her hand to the horn to give her usual greeting to the lighthouse keeper and his family. She waited, and repeated the greeting again, but there was no response from the signal house. “Funny, they always return my greeting. They must be in town or something,” the mariner scratched her head before turning back to navigating the harbor.
“Lenora, I thought there were condos on that stretch of beach over there,” Muriel nodded to the peninsular ahead.
“There was, I mean, there should still be there.” The eeriest feeling rushed over Lenora as she glanced about the harbor. Nothing was as she had left it some three weeks previously, and her stomach began doing flip-flops. Nothing seemed right.
“What in the world?!?” Muriel caught her breath.
“There’s my dock, and my sailboat is tied up where it always was, but the deep sea charter boats aren’t on the other side.” Lenora swallowed hard. She slowed her approach to the pier and caught sight of a slender woman standing on the dock. The woman’s hand was up to her eyes as if to shield them from the sun’s rays.
“Muriel, you’ll need to tie up the bow lines, and…” before she could finish the woman on the dock motioned for them to throw her the lines. “Can you toss the lines to her?” Lenora asked.
“Sure. You take care of things here while I get us tied up.”
“Thanks for your help,” Muriel called to the young woman, who smiled, as she tugged the heavy line over the piling of the wharf.
Once the ship was moored, Lenora hopped off the boat onto the dock and walked towards the young woman standing at the side of the piling with Muriel.
“Hey, thanks for…” Lenora never completed her appreciation. There standing before her was the image of her aunt. Only the perfect image of a photograph that sat on Lenora’s dresser that had been taken of her aunt when she was in Paris for her twenty-ninth birthday.
“Lenora, Muriel, you both have been through a very unusual experience. But it isn’t anything compared to what I’m about to explain to you.” The young woman placed her hand on each of their shoulders. “We need to talk, but not here.”
“We can’t leave the experiments or…”
“Everything will be fine, Muriel. The boat will be fine. You both are fine. You just need to accept what has happened, and…”
“What do you mean, accept what has happened? Who are you and why in the heck do you look like my aunt?”
The woman dropped her hands and faced Lenora directly. “Lenora, I am your aunt. I stood on this very spot when you pulled out of here three weeks ago and told you I’d be here when you returned.”
Lenora shook her head in disbelief. “What kind of sick joke is this?”
Isabelle’s desire to touch Lenora, to hold her close and reassure her, to keep her fears at bay, was almost overwhelming, but she refrained and spoke calmly to her niece and her companion.
“Lenora, and Muriel, both of you need to remain calm and let me explain fully, but we need to do this in private.” She turned and walked towards the steps up the pier to the sidewalk. “Come, Lenora. Muriel, you too, this involves all three of us. Lenora, you need to drive, but don’t take Duval Street, they are putting in new storm drains.”
Lenora and Muriel stared at the disappearing woman before they both dashed up the steps and caught up to Isabelle as she crossed the road and entered the parking lot. She stopped when she approached Lenora’s truck. Just as Lenora and Muriel started across the road, a fuel truck of uncertain lineage and a Model T clanged past.
“What the?” Lenora watched the two passing vehicles turn left into the fuel storage road and disappear from sight.
Parked next to Lenora’s truck was another truck, several years older than hers, but still in excellent condition. However, The Institute’s new van was no place in sight.
“Come on you two, there is much to tell,” Isabelle made a hurrying motion to the two women.
“I’m not going anywhere with you, until I know what’s going on and who in the blazes you are,” Lenora planted her feet in the pavement directly in front of the woman.
“Lenora, don’t be difficult. You will understand in time.” She reached for the door handle and pulled it open, “Get in Muriel, and I’ll try and clear everything up on the way home.”
Muriel and Lenora looked at each other with puzzling expressions on their faces.
Finally, Muriel turned to the woman as if she had a revelation of sorts. “Ma’am, although I don’t recognize you, you do seem familiar even if you are dressed really peculiar , and your hair is cut in a style of long ago. One question seems relevant.”
“And what is that, dearest Muriel Davenport?”
“What year is this?”
“Why, Muriel this is nineteen-thirty-six.”
“I’ll explain fully once we are home, Lenora,” Isabelle motioned for Muriel to enter the cab of the truck and climbed in beside her. The stunned captain remained standing at the side of the vehicle, her mouth open, and a stunned _expression on her face. Shaking her head, she circled the back of the truck and snatched open the door.
“My aunt has always been a little weird, but if she has paid you to pull a big hoax on us, you have earned your money this day,” she snapped as she slid in behind the wheel. “I’m not one for a public scene, so I’m going to take you to the house, and dump your butt on the steps. When I get through with Aunt Isabelle, she won’t be playing any more of her weird games on me.” The key was jabbed into the ignition and the engine roared. Lenora slammed the gear into reverse and started to back out but stopped when another old tanker truck breezed by them.
“How in the hell did she get Hall’s Tanker Lines to bring those antique trucks out of their museum?”
“They aren’t out of the museum, Lenora. But it can wait until we get home.” Isabelle smiled at Muriel, and patted her hand, as it rested on her blue-jeaned knee. “You’re having an unbelievable revelation aren’t you, Muriel?”
“I’m feeling really strange, but no, I don’t really believe you.”
“Both of you are acting really odd, and it is not the least bit funny, and I want it to stop.” Lenora dragged her hand through her hair in a gesture of furious confusion. She had to swerve the truck, as a car rounded the circle on the town square and failed to stop. “Look out you dummy,” Lenora shouted at the woman driving the other vehicle. “No wonder women drivers have a bad name; she ran the stop sign.”
“There isn’t a stop sign installed there yet, Lenora. They won’t put up signs on Duval for another two years,” Isabelle spoke calmly.
“So you say,” the driver mumbled as she pressed in the clutch and shifted gears.
As the truck completed the circle and began its trip down the paved street, traffic became increasingly heavy. Lenora gasped as a string of shinny, old cars and trucks breezed by them in both directions.
The trip to the house didn’t take as long as it normally did, but Lenora felt Muriel’s elbow gouge her when they turned in the drive, for there on the mailbox in beautiful script, were two names: Benegan and Davenport. Although the mailbox stunned Lenora, she wasn’t surprised to see her aunt’s vintage Rolls Royce parked in her driveway.
Lenora pulled around the black vehicle and slammed on the brakes before the truck entered the garage. She jumped out of the truck, and was into the house before the other two women had exited the vehicle.
“Aunt Isabelle, where are you?” Lenora shouted from room to room. When Muriel and the young woman entered the kitchen, Lenora was coming in from the back porch. “She isn’t here!”
“Yes, I am, Lenora. You had best sit down before you loose it.” Isabelle pulled out a chair for Muriel. “I’ve made lemonade for us,” she went to the ancient model refrigerator, even though it looked brand new, and removed the pitcher and set it on the table next to a tray with glasses already sitting on the table.
“Sit down my ass! And where in the hell is all my stereo equipment and that new big screen television I bought only last month?” She slammed the screen door shut as she stepped into the kitchen. “Where did all this antique stuff come from, and what happened to my side by side refrigerator?”
Isabelle rounded the table and stood before her niece. “Lenora, I want you to sit down and remain silent until I explain what has occurred. If you have some doubt about who I am, the last time we sat at this table I said, and I quote: ‘You have my solemn promise that after this charter tomorrow, I will not place any more requirements on you for this decade,’ and I placed my hand tightly over yours and told you, ‘You’ve been my life, Lenora.’ You’re not going to like what I’m about to say to you, nor do I expect either of you to understand. However, in time you will come to accept it, for it is your life and your reality from this moment forward. It was your reality from the moment you entered that time warp portal you experienced in the silence of that strange mist earlier this morning.”
“How did you know about that?” Muriel asked her words barely audible.
The expression on Lenora’s face matched the sound in Muriel’s voice and her knees began to buckle. Isabelle caught her arm and helped her to a chair.
For the next hour, Isabelle explained to the two young women how they had been caught up in a time warp that had taken them back in time to the year 1936. She also explained how she had made the trip back in time twice before herself, and that both Muriel and Lenora would make the same journey again in about seventy years or so.
Both women were stunned and speechless. They eventually moved into the living room and sank down on the divan for Isabelle to continue her briefing.
In time, she said, they would come to accept their new lives, with new paths and adventures together. They would even in years to come, see themselves at an early age, but would not be allowed to make contact with their young selves, for obvious reasons.
Isabelle explained that the time scale of the universe is very long compared to that for human life. It was therefore not surprising that until recently, the universe was thought to be essentially static, and unchanging in time. On the other hand, it must have been obvious, that society is evolving in culture and technology and that Muriel would be a contributing factor in the marine biology’s expansion and growth of the future. Lenora would be responsible for the development of some of the most advanced navigation instruments ever used. Their purpose in life had changed and they would help to shape history and make it a little better because of their being there.
“The three of us are going to live history, and in some cases, you two will be contributing authorities and assist in refined understanding of the physical world,” Isabelle’s speech slowed as Muriel jumped up from the couch.
“I’m going to be sick,” she held her hand to her mouth.
Lenora pointed to the hall, “The bathroom is the first door on the right.” She stood as her lover ran down the hall. “I’m not feeling all that good myself,” she said to her aunt. “This is just so hard to believe, and yet...”
“You and she will have to take it slow, Lenora. This is a lot to digest in such a short time. You have been taken from the world you knew, and tossed into an era that you know little about.”
“Lady, I’m not sure I can accept this phenomenon, or that it even occurred, much less try to understand how it fits into our current framework of life.”
“I may have explanations for a few examples but perhaps not all of the accounts that are known or you have witnessed. We will just have to work through this together. Muriel will find this more difficult than you, Lenora. She no longer has her family and you and I are all she knows now.”
The young sea captain stood still, and stared at the woman calling herself her aunt. “If I’m having a difficult time accepting this situation: you as my aunt, who happens to be three years younger than I am right now, and in a period that that I know little about, how do you expect me to be much support to a woman I have known less than a month?” The confusion on her face spoke volumes as she plopped down on the divan.
Isabelle slight smile remained fixed on her face as she leaned forward in the oversized chair. “Because you’re life partners, and you love each other.”
Lenora’s eyes cut to the woman’s sitting opposite her. “And you know this beyond any doubt?”
“No doubt what-so-ever,” her aunt’s tone was protective, and unyielding.
“I beg your pardon?” Muriel said faintly as she reentered the room, a washcloth still clutched in her hand.
Isabelle sat back into the chair and sighed. “I’ve lived this time before, and it has been clear from the beginning of my life with Lenora, that we would be together during this time,” her voice was steadfast and uncompromising. “Face it my darlings, how would I have known about the mist, you two becoming involved, or that I was to select you, Muriel for this research program?” The elegant head bent slightly to the side and she waited.”
Lenora reached over and patted Muriel’s shoulder as she sat back down on the sofa. “Are you okay””
“No, I’m not okay. My entire world has been turned upside down!” she screeched.
Lenora’s comforting hand stopped it’s patting, and quickly withdrawn from her lover’s shoulder.
Isabelle sighed with the effort of analyzing Muriel’s feelings before she spoke. “Been there, felt that, and yes, your world may seem topsy-turvy right now, but you are okay. You both are okay, and exactly where you belong.”
“How so?” Muriel shouted, and stared intently at Isabelle.
Isabelle sighed again, and shook her head as she slipped off her right shoe and pulled her foot and leg up under her. “Muriel, you are in the right era, and you will fit right in given a little time to accept this reality.”
The marine biologist held up her hand and shook her head. “This is nuts!”
“Maybe so, but this time is where you are and this time is where your life will stay until you…”
“Until I…until we,” her finger waved back and forth between Lenora and herself, “Until we what?”
Isabelle cocked her head. Her eyes shifted from Muriel to Lenora and back again, uncertain she should get technical with the two women.
“Until we what?” Muriel repeated.
Isabelle sighed again and shifted her thoughts. “Both of you stop worrying, or theorizing about what has happened.” Her foot dropped with a thump to the floor.
“Muriel, don't worry if your theory doesn't agree with the observations, because they are probably wrong. But if you’re attempting to disagree with the possibility of the law of thermodynamics, you are in bad trouble.”
“Isabelle, I’m a scientist. As a scientist, I will not argue about human progress any more than I would with the unexpected, or unexplained specimens that I have come across in my research.” Muriel sank back deeper into the back of the sofa. “You obviously know something about the laws of thermodynamics, so I’ll not debate the theory that disorder has increased with time, for this certainly is mayhem as far as I’m concerned. Like the argument about human progress, which indicates there must have been a beginning…”
“And that beginning is here and now for you and Lenora,” Isabelle interrupted the scientist.
“What in the hell are you two talking about?” Lenora asked in a bleak tone.
Isabelle extended the palm of her hand towards Muriel for her explanation.
Muriel’s eyes shifted to Lenora. She explained her theory in detail then looked at Isabelle.
“Exactly,” Isabelle stated. “The expansion of the universe is like the time reverse of…like the collapse of a star.”
“Wait a friggin’ minute!” Lenora threw up her hands in a halting manner. “Thermodynamics, theory of disorder increasing with time, mayhem, human progress, beginning-where in King Neptune is there any realism for what we are experiencing-for our existence right now?”
Isabella studied her niece with sympathetic eyes and slowly shook her head. “Honey, it is like the time reverse of a black hole, and so contains unexplained events in space and time, with time going upward, and the space directions horizontal.”
“Huh?” Lenora grunted.
A discernible shadow descended over Muriel’s face and her eyes darkened and became distant. She knew Isabelle was attempting to explain when we look out at the universe we are looking back in time, because light had to leave distant objects a long time ago, to reach us at the present time. She wasn’t sure Lenora would understand any of the explanation…she was having difficulty believing what she knew scientifically herself.
Muriel stirred sharply and grimaced. “She isn’t a scientist, Isabelle, and even I have difficulty in believing this time warp theory.”
Isabelle placed both hands in her hair and shook the strands vigorously. “Lenora, let’s say that space and imaginary time are indeed like the surface of the Earth. There wouldn't be any singularities in the imaginary time direction, at which the laws of physics would break down. And there wouldn't be any boundaries to the imaginary time space-time, just as there aren't any boundaries to the surface of the Earth. Do you follow me so far?” Isabelle waited for Lenora’s response.
“Are you saying that time has no boundaries and that someplace out there,” Lenora’s hand waved into the air, “someplace out there in the stars, the same cosmos I get my sextant readings from, there is time on different planes or time warps, which can repeat over and over again?”
“Yes, sort of-well, kind of. This absence of boundaries means that the laws of physics would determine the state of the universe uniquely, in imaginary time or as it happened to you and Muriel, a slightly different time period.” Isabelle said casually.
For a split second that seemed like an eternity, Lenora was frozen as she pictured the celestial heavens splitting and shooting back time zones from her beloved stars. She sighed and stretched back on the couch, but not before she caught the glitter of tears in Muriel’s eyes.
“It means, we are stuck in this time period for the rest of our lives, or until we experience another time warp, Lenora. We’ll never be as we once were,” Muriel said, her eyebrows semaphoring that realization.
“Is that true?” Lenora asked anxiously, but sank back on the sofa as she saw the reality reflect in her aunt’s eyes.
“True, neither of you will ever be the same again. But you will both accomplish more than you would have ever dreamed possible,” her voice was childishly enthusiastic as Isabelle felt her heart warm toward both women. What a relief. I think they are beginning to believe, Isabelle thought as she again raised her hands to her hair and shook it briskly.
“Well, it’s getting late and I should go.” She stood and slipped her foot back into the shoe. “You’ll find some cold chicken and potato salad in the frig for your dinner. I’ll come back tomorrow afternoon and we can chat some more.” Isabelle walked to the sofa and leaned down and hugged her niece then squatted down next to Muriel’s legs. “Muriel, trust me, even though you will miss your family, you will come to love this time. We’ll become such great friends.”
“Really?” Muriel’s question was as direct and lacking in edge as any of Lenora’s guileless questions.
“Certainly.” Isabelle patted the marine biologist’s knee.
“Benegan, you can go peel a…an ell!”
The kneeling woman broke into laughter and stood. “That’s the spirit,” she said as she reached the front door and paused. “My numbers are on the telephone stand, Lenora, if either of you need me.” She stepped through the doorway, but stopped and returned to the door. “You’ll find proper clothing and shoes in your walk-in closet ladies. There is a stack of records in the phonograph cabinet; a dozen or so on the Mills Brothers and others that I know you both enjoy. I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon as I have a board meeting in the morning.” With that, the stately woman turned and closed the door.
Silence filled the room.
The two bewildered young women did not stir from the sofa. Both were deep within their own thoughts.
Finally, Muriel shuddered and shook herself, as if to throw off the unpleasant imagery that had suddenly invaded the room.
Lenora’s head snapped around to see Muriel place her hand over her mouth again. “Are you going to throw up again?”
Muriel didn’t answer, but jumped up off the couch and ran for the bathroom.
Concerned for Muriel, Lenora found herself leaning against the closed bathroom door. “Muriel, do you need any help?” Before the toilet stopped being flushed, she heard the sounds of Muriel heaving again. Her forehead rested against the bathroom door as she called softly again, “Muriel, are you okay? Can I come in?”
“NO,” was the response from inside the bathroom. “I need to be alone. Please go away,” Muriel asked before she started heaving again.
Lenora stood up straight. “Okay, I’ll go pour us another glass of lemonade. It might help settle your stomach.” She waited for a minute for a response, but only heaving could be heard. Her head nodded up and down as she turned and walked slowly down the hall towards the kitchen.
The mariner sat at the kitchen table and turned the glass slowly with her right hand. She hadn’t drunk any of the liquid, but occasionally had picked up the cold glass and rubbed it against her forehead.
“That looks like it might work,” Muriel pulled out the chair and sat down. “My head feels like it’s about to explode.” She picked up her glass and proceeded to rub it against her forehead. “Goodness, it is cold.”
“If you keep doing that long enough, it will help to deaden the throbbing,” Lenora sat her glass down. “You can’t possibly have anything left in your stomach; do you want something to eat?”
Muriel lowered the glass to her lips, and took a sip of the lemonade. “No thanks, I’ll just drink this slowly and hope it stays down.”
Lenora mumbled okay and took a sip of the cold beverage herself. “If you feel the way I do, then why don’t we put on a record, go onto the back porch and just sit for awhile?”
“Okay, but Lenora, how about we don’t talk about this anymore today,” Muriel stood up slowly and pushed the chair back. “What else do you suppose Isabelle has in the form of records, besides the Mills Brothers?” She picked up her glass and held out her hand to Lenora, who stood and accepted the offered hand.
“You select, and I’ll pull them out of the cabinet,” Lenora gently pulled her companion towards the living room.
They set the glasses on the table next to the Victrola stand. As Lenora squatted in front of the cabinet and opened the door, Muriel opened the instrument cover. Her head swayed back and forth with disbelief. “This machine is in mint condition, Lenora.”
“So are these records,” she remarked as she handed two selections to Muriel.
“The Mikado. No, my head isn’t in mood for that right now,” she handed that particular record back to Lenora as her eyes read the label of the second selection. “Beethoven! Not up to his music today either,” she handed the record back to Lenora, who in turn handed her two more recordings.
Glancing at the first record, Muriel nodded approval as she placed the second recording on the stand for future playing. “Now how do…” she mumbled as she removed the recording from its protective covering and placed it on the turnstile and turned the RCA instrument on. “Look, Lenora, the arm is automatic and we won’t have to place it on the record for it to play.”
Lenora rose from the squatted position with two additional recordings in her hands, which she placed on top of one stand beside the machine. “It doesn’t allow for a stack of recordings to be placed on it, so we’ll have to come in and change the record once we get tired of hearing this one,” she said as the sound of Franz List came from the machine.
Once Muriel has adjusted the volume control, both women picked up their lemonade and walked hand in hand to the back porch and a freshly painted double rocker. They remained there for several hours, taking turns changing the records and filling their glasses.
They didn’t talk much, just watched the water in the bay roll to shore, or the skiff tied up to the dock bob up and down. Occasionally, a fishing trawler would pass out in the channel as gulls circled the boats in hopes of snatching a piece of bait from the deck surface.
Finally, Muriel turned to Lenora. “We should eat something, and I don’t know about you, but I could use a nice long hot shower.”
“Not sure the food would stay down, but the shower sounds heavenly.”
“We need to eat a little, Muriel,” she rose and offered her hand to seated woman. “Just a few bites will do a world of good.”
“Okay, but only a bit of potato salad. Not sure the chicken would stay down,” her hand went up to Lenora’s.
After a light dinner, the women made their way to the bedroom. There were two robes laid out on the top of the bedspread, which Muriel fingered as she sat gently down next to the silk garments. “You aunt has excellent taste.”
The mariner slipped off her shoes and tossed them to the right side of the bed before she picked up a green robe. “She has always been a lady of elegance and high fashion. At least she didn’t attempt to sissify me with this,” she said as she tossed the robe over her shoulder. “I’ll shower first, but you’re welcome to join me if you want?”
Lenora’s quizzical gaze caused Muriel’s lips to turn slightly upward, however, she shook her head and sighed. “Neither of us is up to that tonight, so, you go ahead and shower. Wonder if Isabelle thought about a toothbrush for me?”
“Knowing my aunt, bet you’ll find every toiletry you normally use…well, maybe not an electric shaver,” she gave a half smile as she turned and left the bedroom.
The scientist washed her hair and then just stood under the shower until she felt the water turn cold. Even then, she stood under the shower for several minutes before she got out and wrapped her chilled body in a large oversize towel. Her hand went up and wiped the moisture from the mirror. Drops of water ran down her face as she stared at her image. Numbness and yearning flickered in the eyes staring back at her: Her eyes were stunned and numb and at the same time, as she leaned closer to the mirror, she felt intense separation, anxiety and a desire to recover her past…to be back in a time where she had a loving family, and her life made sense and had purpose.
Muriel closed her eyes and stood erect. Momentarily, she jerked off the towel and started rubbing her wet hair briskly and drying off her cold body. “I’m lost,” she whispered to herself, as she completed the task and lifted the silk robe from the wooden knob on the door and pulled it onto her body.
In bed, she kissed Lenora, then placed her head on her lover’s shoulder and drifted off into an uneasy sleep.
In the early morning hours, Lenora wiggled her hand as it came to her forehead. Her eyes opened and she lifted her head. Muriel had left the cradle of her arm and was not in the room. She pulled on the robe as she made her way to the living room in search of the missing woman.
When the screen door to the porch squeaked and a dark face peered around it, Muriel beckoned. “Join me.”
Lenora sat down next to Muriel and placed her arm around her shoulders. “You couldn’t sleep?”
“Want to talk?”
“Hmm.” Lenora’s foot gently pushed against the floor, causing a slight movement in the rocker.
They stared out into the night. Off to the side, the crickets were chirping as the tide came in pounding the shore gently at first, and then crushing against the retaining wall at the dock.
The eastern sky began to light up before either spoke.
“I’m not sure I can handle this, Lenora.”
Lenora’s hand tightened on Muriel’s shoulder. “Are you referring to us, Muriel, or to this damn time warp thing?”
Muriel leaned over and kissed her lover’s cheek before she sank her head into Lenora’s neck. “The time warp thing,” she kissed Lenora’s neck. “You and I were meant to be, Lenora. It’s the only thing that has any substance or reality.”
“You can count on me being here for you, Muriel, always. No matter what comes, I’ll be by your side. I’ll help you, and you’ll help me. We’ll make it together.”
“You have my solemn promise, love.”
“I’m feeling very, very, disoriented, and very frustrated.”
Lenora sighed, “My sentiments exactly.” Her lips brushed the top of Muriel’s hair. “We’ll make it, Muriel. Together we’ll make it through and somehow, someway, we’ll have a life of meaning together.”
“I’m going to hold you to that promise, Lenora.” She raised her head and their lips met.
Lenora kissed Muriel’s nose and then her forehead before she returned to her lips for a long, lingering kiss.
“We should go back to bed for a while, Muriel. The horizon is just lighting up and we need to rest for a few more hours.”
The scientist sat up. “I think I can sleep now.”
“Good,” Lenora rose and extended her hand to Muriel. Once standing, Muriel’s arm circled Lenora’s waist, while the mariner’s arm reached around her lover’s shoulder as they reentered the house and closed the door.
“You have got to be kidding,” Lenora danced out of the closet, her arms outstretched.
“Turn around and let me see the back,” Muriel requested from her perch on the foot of the bed.
Lenora sashayed around twice, stretching her arms out and to model the clothing she had adorned.
“Well those trousers are certainly flared enough, not tight like your jeans,” she giggled.
Lenora’s hands went to her hips. “They certainly are flared. Even this shirt,” her hands flicked the top up and down, “is floppy.”
Muriel scooted off her perch and stood. “Mine fit about the same way, and yet, they are exactly my size.” She twirled around a few times and stood before the mariner.
Lenora’s eyes gave Muriel’s clothing the once over. “Hey you look really good in that outfit. But, you look great in anything.”
“Thanks,” Muriel stepped close to Lenora. “Want to know what else is nice about these tops?” Lenora ran her finger down the front of the blouse.
Lenora licked her lips as Lenora quickly slipped the garment from over Lenora’s head and stepped back, gazing at the braless chest of her lover, before she ceremonially allowed the blouse to drop to the floor. *I don’t know who’s who here.
“Mine, comes off just as quickly,” she said, pulling the blouse over her head and dropping it beside Lenora’s. Her finger wiggled for Lenora to join her at the foot of the bed, which of course, the mariner did immediately.
Lenora looked down at the 1930’s bra. “No snaps in the front, huh?” she said, reaching around her lover to locate the hooks and their lips met.
After fumbling with the hooks for seemed to be an eternity, the garment finally popped open. Lenora’s hand immediately went under the bra and cupped Muriel’s full breasts. “Jumping sea horses, honey, you have such nice…”
“You certainly enjoy caressing them and I find your attention to them very stimulating.”
“It is my pleasure Muriel, my pleasure. Sorry you only have a hand full with mine. They're so small, guess you feel cheated.”
Muriel’s hands went to cup the small mounds. “They fill my hands and my mouth can only suckle so much,” she squeezed the breasts and pinched the nipples until Lenora squirmed.
“You’re asking for it,” Lenora reached around and sank her hands into Muriel’s buttocks as she pushed her to the bed.
Later, Muriel pulled the covers up over their sweaty bodies and sank into her favorite position on her lover’s shoulder as slumber ascended.
The sun was directly overhead before either moved.
“What time do you think Isabelle will be here?” Muriel tightened her hold on Lenora’s right breast, before she released it only to gently circle the areola with her fingertip.
Lenora reached down and pulled Muriel’s leg from atop her patch and pulled it up to her waist. “We certainly don’t have time for another round of that, even if I could find the energy.” Her lips sucked on Muriel’s lower lip.
“Not enough energy, huh? Well, I think I could stand a little nourishment myself.” Her tongue started down Lenora’s chest before it stopped on a mound.
“Oh, god I’m in love with a sex fiend.” Lenora’s hands went to her lovers’ hair.
They did not hear the Rolls pull into the driveway, or the woman use her key to enter through the kitchen door, but both almost fell off the bed at the pounding on the bedroom door.
“Okay, you two, I’ll give you three minutes to dress and get to the table. I brought Chinese for us to eat and I’m starving,” Isabelle chuckled and pounded on the door twice more before humming her way down the hall to the kitchen.
Muriel lay back on the bed. “At least she didn’t come into the room.”
“Sweetie, don’t try and get used to her. I’ve tried for over twenty years and she is still weird as hell,” Lenora sat up and scooted down the covers to her lover. “You were delectable.”
Muriel grinned, “And so were you.”
“Think you could stand something a little more solid?”
“The Chinese sounds good. Will she consider a robe to be dressed enough?”
Lenora bent down and kissed her lover. “Don’t care what she considers; robes are what she will get.” With that, the mariner scrambled off the floor went to the hooks for their bathrobes.
A late lunch had been eaten and the containers placed in the trash before Isabelle settled back in her chair.
“I’m not going to load you down with a lot this afternoon,” her napkin went to her lips again. “You’ve been through enough for now, but I do need to caution you about the bereavement process that will hit you both.” Isabelle’s eyes moved from one woman to the other.
“The bereavement process?” Lenora asked.
“Yes, Lenora. During the next few weeks, maybe even months, you both will go through the bereavement process that one goes through when they experience someone or something they have lost.”
“And we’re to go through this too?”
“Yes, Lenora.” Isabelle glanced at her niece, but her eyes returned to Muriel. “However, it will be Muriel that feels the effects of this experience the most.”
Muriel‘s hand reached over and patted Lenora’s. “I’ve begun to experience it already.”
The mariner’s instincts were to grab hold of Muriel and try and protect her.
“You can best help her and yourself Lenora, by knowing what will come about and how to spot the indications of the process.” She folded the napkin and placed it on the table in front of her.
“Okay,” Lenora clasped her free hand over Muriel’s.
“This time warp has removed you both from the lives and from the people you knew and loved. Your initial phase will be of shock and numbness. You will have difficulty in processing the information of this massive loss. This will make you numb and you will feel stunned.”
“Went through that last night in the bathroom after showering,” Muriel squeezed her lovers’ hand.
“That was only the beginning, Muriel. You’ve only just begun the initial process, which will be followed by a combination of intense separation anxiety and disregard or denial of the reality of the loss.” Isabelle got up from the table and went to the pantry and returned with a brown bag full of coffee beans. She placed a quarter cup of beans in the grinder and turned the handle. “This engenders a desire to search for and recover the lost person, persons or life. Failure of this search leads to repeated frustration and disappointment.” The tray under the grinder was removed and the coffee placed in the strainer inside the coffeepot. Isabelle took a match from the drawer next to the stove and lit the gas burner before she placed the coffee pot on the stove. Three cups and saucers were removed from the cupboard and placed on the table before she sat back down.
“You both will have difficulty planning future activities and will probably become depressed.”
“You’re saying we’ll become easily distracted and have difficulty concentrating and focusing,” Muriel squeezed lover’s hand again, this time Lenora flinched. “Sorry, honey, I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“You didn’t; just surprised me.” The mariner rubbed her partners arm gently.
“The last phase sometimes overlaps to some degree with the one just discussed.” Isabelle stood and went to the stove, turning the gas down so the flames wouldn’t shoot around the bottom of the pot.
Your feelings about safety and security will be…how do I say this…reshaped. You will internally incorporate the changes that have occurred in your life as your new reality, your new life.”
“You mean accept this weird happening and don’t blow out our brains because we’ve been warped into a different era?”
Isabelle looked at her niece. “Neither of you will do bodily harm to yourselves, but you both need each other to reshape some things in your lives.”
“Isabelle is talking more about me, then she is you, Lenora.” The young scientist stood and wrapped a pot holder from the rack beside the stove around the coffee pot handle and poured the cups almost full.
“Yes I am, somewhat.” Isabelle sipped the coffee. “Hmm, just right. Neither of you take cream or sugar, do you?”
“No,” they answered simultaneously.
“Good,” she placed the cup back on the saucer. “In a couple of days, I’ll take you to get your driver’s license, and you’ll need to sign some papers at our attorney’s office, including your…oh, that can wait. You’ll find money in the top drawer of your dresser if you need cash. I suggest a sailing trip down to the Caribbean next month be considered, to get to know each other better and to have a chance to se an older part of this era before we take it on full force.
“Take on this era full force?” Lenora asked.
“Yes, you need time together, and time to see people and places as there were in 1935.” She looked from her niece to Muriel. “I mean, you need to experience a little more of this era in a place that you won’t be recognized or questioned so much about.”
“I still don’t get this!” Muriel said as Lenora nodded in agreement.
Isabelle finished her coffee and stood up. “I love you both, and I’ll be here to help you through this changing and difficult time in every way I can. But right now, you need to just take it easy for a time. Just relax and when you feel up to it, you might want to bike down to the library and catch up on the periodicals to see the fashion and what’s happening in our world right now.”
“Bike down?” Lenora asked.
“Neither of you have a proper license yet. Everything is set, but this is Saturday and the driver’s license department won’t be open until Monday. I’ll be here to take you both, then you might want to go for short trips around the area to become adjusted to the here and now.”
Muriel exhaled, “It’ll take a lot of getting used to, Isabelle.”
“But you both will come through it fine. I’ll expect you both to dinner tomorrow night at my house. Rose Marie is the world’s greatest cook,” her face lit up at the mention of the name.
“Who is Rose Marie, Aunt Isabelle?”
Isabelle was a little astonished, but realized she had never mentioned her Rose while Lenora was a small child. “Rose Marie is my partner, darling. She’s a teacher over at the high school. We’ve been together since college and she is looking forward to the niece I’ve talked so much about over the years.”
“Hmm.” Muriel muttered and started to say more but decided against it.
The bewildered look on Lenora’s face must have shown because Isabelle stopped in the open doorway. “It’s a long story, Lenora. I’ll go into detail sometime next week when we go off to Mississippi, and New Orleans to check out some of your holdings there. But, for now, please don’t discuss the time travel experiences. Rose Marie does not have a clue about any of this.” With that, she turned and left without further explanation.
“Weird. I told you my aunt was really weird. I never heard her mention a partner my entire life. Never even saw a photograph, and that I’d have questioned for sure. Really weird!”
“Think all this era warp stuff might have had something to do with her weirdness? I’d say she has cause, wouldn’t you?” Muriel finished her coffee, stood up and placed both their cups and saucers into the large two-compartment sink.
“Yeah, guess your right, but she is still weird as hell.”
The women spent the remainder of the day trying on the extensive wardrobe filling not only the bedroom closet but the spare bedrooms as well. They finally settled on floppy shirts and baggy shorts, then barefooted, settled down with iced tea on the back porch in adjoining rocking chairs and watched the shrimp and fishing boats chug by periodically.
Both were deep in thought. Their personal lives changed forever or, so it seemed. They felt immense loss; loss of families, loss of their previous surroundings and vocations. Most of all, loss of their sense of belonging.
“There is a pressure in my chest, I know I am upset but, I am not sure how to even describe the emotion I am feeling. I just haven't been handling everything as well as I thought I could. I now realize I have just been suppressing it all and it has now all come to the surface.” The mariner’s voice barely above a whisper, all tranquility was gone.
Muriel’s heart had begun to beat in what abruptly turned into an angry irregularity tattoo. “Me too. Here is what I do know, Lenora. I know that what is going on with us right now is not our fault.” Muriel’s hand reached over and gently rubbed the forearm of her lover.
Lenora’s eyes glanced in Muriel’s direction. “I’ve always considered myself strong. I was stupid enough to think that I would be able to handle everything and anything. I feel as though my heart is pumping and beating so fast it is about to beat out of my chest. I am so upset that my head is just boggled.”
“I know what you’re feeling, hon. I can't think straight either. I feel like screaming, yelling, crying, dying, giving up, giving in. I don't know. I can't explain it any words... and that is all they really are is words.” Muriel’s fingers entwined with Lenora’s and tightened.
Again a long time passed before either spoke. Neither of them knew what to say, but, they knew they would be there for each other. What else did they have now, except each other?
“Lenora, I’ve had hallucination in the past. Some of those visions; and this includes those from early years on, had me accessing and interacting with the past. The encounters all had a distinctly different feel to them. There was no mistaking the difference between the 'here and now' encounters and those that were bridging other times.” Muriel squeezed her lover’s hand.
Lenora returned the grip and lowered her head. “I’ve had some images or visualizations myself. Strange ones of me being in a different place and a different time,” she looked towards Muriel again. “And, I…I’ve had different images of being there with a woman who resembles you. Only I didn’t realize your features until last night in my dreams.”
Not surprised by the revealed revelation of her lover, she nodded. “Honey, that makes two of us.”
“Guess we’ll have to figure this out together,” Lenora stood and pulled Muriel to her feet and directed her towards the double rocker so she could sit nearer to her.
“You’re the scientist. You have any ideas about how…” Lenora couldn’t finish.
The young marine-biologist placed her arm around Lenora’s shoulders. “I still have not figured out how this can be. Paradoxes rear their heads every time I think about some of the dreams which were not just observatory but interactive. My feeling is that we must be joining or merging with someone already there, or maybe another incarnation of ourselves in another time. Hell, this is all difficult to believe, and I seem to be living it right now. I just don’t know how this is happening, although, my dreams have had wearing different clothes of the period involved.”
“You mean you feel comfortable in these old clothes, or at least they don’t feel so …so…”
“Outrageous,” Muriel offered.
“Actually, we may adapt to this time period better than you think,” Muriel leaned in and kissed Lenora’s ear. “Besides, what could be better than having a lot of money, knowing what will happen in years to come and a beautiful woman beside you?”
“Mmm,” Lenora’s head leaned over onto her lover’s shoulder. “Well, all that and being in the time period we were in three weeks ago would be better.”
Lenora awoke to find herself in bed alone. She stirred about, and called Muriel’s name. No answer. She went into the bathroom and grabbed the robe of the back of the door and pulled it on as she made her way into the kitchen. There on the table was a note propped up between the salt and peppershakers. Gone for a run, be back soon. Coffee would be nice. Love, Muriel
Folding the note and placing it in the robe pocket, she looked out the kitchen window. Not seeing Muriel, she moved to the side cupboard and pulled down the glass jar that held the coffee beans she had seen her aunt remove the day before. Lenora placed the coffee pot lid under the grinder and inserted the beans. A few turns later and the ground beans were forced onto the lid. “That ought to be enough for a pot,” she said as she dumped the coffee into the metal holder inside the pot, then held the percolator under the faucet and let the water run until the lid began to rise on the pot and coffee grounds ran over the brim.
“Damn. I don’t know if I can get used to not having modern appliances. Nothing like dumping in the filter and pouring in the water.” Lenora took the pot outside and poured the mixture on top of a flowerbed surrounding the porch. After cleaning up her mess, she filled the pot half way up and placed it on the counter. Her hand wiggled the stem until she found the slot in the bottom of the percolator and placed the round canister on top of it. She ground more beans, this time using a soup bowl to catch them. The canister was filled and the top replaced over the beans. After plugging in the contraption, Lenora wiped the counter down and rinsed out the bowl, turning it down on the sideboard.
Taking another peak out the window, she saw her lover come into view on the other side of the cove. “Just enough time to get dressed I guess.” Her hand pulled the sash on the robe loose as she headed back to the bedroom.
“I’m back,” came the call just as Lenora walked back into the kitchen with a towel over her shoulder.
“Good morning. Did you have a nice run?”
Muriel bent down and placed her hands on her knees and inhaled deeply several times. “Yes, thanks.” The runner looked up. “You’re dressed. I was thinking maybe you could take a shower with me and wash my back.”
Lenora kissed her lover, slipped the towel from her shoulder and draped it over her lover’s neck, then walked to the cupboard, removing two saucers and cups. “You don’t need help, and besides, I’m still tired from last night’s three showers.”
The coffee came out of the spout in a strong dark color.
“But, I might be tempted to get all hot and sweaty,” Lenora’s eyebrows wiggled up and down in a suggestive manner.
Muriel smirked unconsciously. “You better had.” She wiped the towel over her wet face and neck.
“Want to drink our coffee first?” Lenora asked as she set the two cups on the table and pulled out a chair for Muriel.
Smiling, the runner placed the towel around her neck again and sat down.
Muriel shook her head and forced herself to swallow the brew. One sip was all it took. She placed the cup back on the saucer.
Lenora closed her eyes and swallowed hard. “Phew, that will cause hairs to sprout on your chest.”
“I believe you’re right on that, but honey, I don’t want you to have hairs on your chest. Guess I need to teach you how to make coffee in a percolator, huh?”
“Guess you should,” she frowned. Standing, she removed the cups and poured out the strong brew. “Think half a cup of hot water would help?”
“It might, but why don’t we just use some milk.” Muriel stood and walked to the refrigerator. “Just pour half a cup, and we’ll top it off with this fresh cream.” She returned to the table and sat down, placing the pint bottle on the table.
They talked as they finished off the morning coffee and decided to bike into town and look around after their shower.
It was after lunch before they removed the bright, new bikes from the garage and peddled down the oyster shell drive.
“Dumb son-of-a-snail,” Lenora muttered weakly and stopped her bicycle.
Muriel braked and straddled the bike. Backing up to where her partner was standing, she asked what was wrong.
Lenora nodded to the sign above the factory, then pointed to street sign on the opposite corner. Each bore the name Benegan. .
“Think they belong to your aunt?”
“Not a common name, even back in…,” Lenora interjected dryly as she ran her hand through her hair. “Probably. Somewhere in the back of my mind I seem to remember that my family had a shoe factory that produced boots and other military footwear during WWII,” she interjected. “Come on, let us check out Main Street and if you’re up to it, we can peddle down to the docks.”
“Sure. You want to check on your boat?”
“Ship, Muriel. It’s a ship. Yes, I want to check on her and my sailboat also.”
“Ship, boat, what the heck difference does it make?” Muriel stuck out her tongue at Lenora and pushed off.
“That building there on the left is the Daughters of Charity, Pensacola Hospital which was opened back in 1902. We know it as Sacred Hearts in our time.”
“Isn’t Sacred Hearts over on…”
“It was moved from 7th in the sixties .”
“Over there on the right is the Pensacola News Journal which John Perry combined with the Daily News & Journal in the old Saenger Theater.” Without missing a beat, Lenora continued. “The theater was built for $500,000, using some material from the old Opera House.”
“Guess we won’t get to go to the opera house then,” Muriel pulled along side Lenora who had stopped at the entrance to a modern looking bridge.
“We’ll go to the new opera house later on.” The sea captain let her gaze drift from one side of the bridge to the other. Escambia River Bridge to Milton had opened ten years previously with 10,000 cars crossing in the first 12 hours. They would take a trip down the newly completed highway in a vehicle soon, Lenora decided.
“The new opera house?” Muriel asked.
“Yes. It’s next to the library”
They peddled on past Armstrung-Newport; later Armstrung Cork, which was also one of her aunt’s holding, and to her later surprise, one of hers’ as well.
They slowed down as a fire truck pulled out of the old Fire Department, which had received its first motorized equipment, a 55-gallon tank only ten years before, which replaced all previously horse-drawn equipment. The building had been rebuilt five years before when a destructive hurricane damaged the old building, along with the wharf, which they were pulling onto, as well as most of the ships docked there.
“Well, your ship looks like it did when we pulled up to the pier a few days ago,” Muriel said sincerely.
“Need to go aboard and see if the equipment we started out with is still there.” Lenora told her and flipped the bike’s kickstand down with her new deck shoes and walked to the edge of the dock.
“Good idea,” Muriel followed suit and parked her bike next to Lenora’s.
“Hopefully, the laboratory, equipment and experiments are still intact. But the young scientist couldn’t shake her uneasiness. Her discomfort increased as Lenora hopped over the rail and extended a hand up to help her down.
“Don’t get your hopes up, darling. Even if everything is still as we left it, it’s doubtful any of the equipment will work.” Lenora squeezed her lover’s hand as they walked to the secured hatch.
They stood there, not daring to move that cover back. Finally, Muriel pulled her hand free and moved to the side of the hatch. “Please help me push it back, Lenora.” She clenched her hands into fists several times to try and keep them from shaking.
“Okay,” the captain bent down, “we push on the count of three.”
The hatch cover moved quickly back on its rollers. Muriel ran her hand across her forehead but did not make any attempts to move down the steps.
Lenora nudged her shoulder; “I’m going to check out the wheelhouse while you’re below. Come up and join me after you complete your survey.”
The scientist’s tongue moved across her dry lips, as her head nodded.
Lenora turned and walked up the side of the ship towards the wheelhouse.
Following an intensive examination of all the modern equipment, both women recognize that nothing worked, except the original equipment aboard the vessel.
Because the experiments had been sealed in seawater, Muriel realized she could still salvage most of them, even if she didn’t have the expensive testing ability the laboratory equipment Isabelle had supplied for her weeks before would have provided. The marine-biologist clutched her hand written notes to her chest as she moved up the stairs and pulled the cover back into place.
They silently sat on stools in the wheelhouse. Deep in thought, they wondered what they were to do with the knowledge they possessed. What were they to do about with both the marine and laboratory technology that hadn’t been invented, yet? Both women were filled with questions that did not seem to have an answer…and possibly never would. But somehow each knew that Isabelle was the key and probably knew most of the solution to their questions, their lives, and the uncertainty that surrounded them.
They stepped onto the pier and stopped beside the long, sleek sailboat. Muriel asked if she wanted to go aboard to which the mariner replied not now, maybe later. Going aboard the sailing vessel would only lead to more disappointment and confusion.
On the way back to the house, Lenora took a short cut and stopped briefly at a construction site that was to be the Spearman Brewing Company, which would open the following year. “Well, we’ll have thirty years to acquire a taste for this brand,” the captain said, turning back to her bicycle.
Muriel gazed at the sign. I’ve only seen her drink a few times, but I’ve never heard of this brand. “Acquire a taste?” The woman looked surprised, but refused to give this new discovery another thought as she peddled quickly to catch up to her partner.
“Yeah, it was only a favorite here in the South, and disappeared before either of us we were born.”
Muriel looked back at the sign. “If that’s the case, why did you stop there?”
Lenora threw out her arm to indicate a right turn. “I was surprised by the construction in progress.” The mariner glanced both ways before she speeded up and made the turn.
Checking out the traffic, Muriel also sped up to catch up with her partner again.
“Surprised by the construction?”
“Yeah, kinda. You see, I built a gypsum plant and warehouse on that property six years ago. Aunt Isabelle gave me the property for my twenty-first birthday and I had all the buildings torn down for the new enterprise. Thought the new industry would help the economy and jobs for the area.”
“Well, perhaps in thirty years you can do the same,” Muriel said.
If Lenora felt distress over the discovery, she didn’t let on.
The women exchanged looks, but decided not to utter assurances or insecurities. After all, they were beginning to accept that whatever the future contained, it would come about in its own way.
Several days later, both women were back at the boat removing the equipment and instruments that hadn’t been invented yet. The nautical equipment was boxed and taken to a sealed locker inside the shipyard in Pascagoula, Mississippi that belonged to Lenora.
The laboratory paraphernalia and the bio-marine experiments were sealed into airtight containers and removed to the new marine laboratory that was being built adjacent to the old ice house. The cooler that once produced ice for the outgoing shrimp and fishing boats had been converted to a cooling room for the sealed experiments with which Muriel would continue her research sometime the later part of the year.
Isabelle picked them up for dinner at her home, asking them not divulge any of the past two weeks of their life, as Rose Marie was not a part of the repeat process and would find the tale not only unbelievable, but very upsetting. When Muriel asked why and how she was going to explain them away, she was told her life mate only knew that her niece would be moving from San Francisco with her partner and they would all be going on a trip to Europe the following spring.
Their stomach churned at the sight of the lovely, Jean Harlow looking teacher. Her platinum blonde hair shone in the moonlight as she waved to the arriving women. Her bright blue, slinky dress was cut on a bias. It had spiral seaming and was backless. She was not only beautiful, but extremely intelligent. Neither were certain they could pull the deception off, but because of Isabelle’s last minute plea, they both agreed to the plan.
Rose Marie Teabor held her hand over her mouth as if, Lenora thought, it had somehow stuck to her lips, but at the introduction, her demeanor altered radically.
“My gosh, you look so much like Isabelle’s photo of her sister, that you could be sisters instead of aunt and niece.”
“Sweetheart, there is only a year difference in our ages, but I assure you, I am her aunt.” Isabelle slipped her arm around the taller woman’s waist. “Aren’t you forgetting your manners? After all, we did invite them to dinner.”
“Oh, my! Forgive me,” the teacher said, grasping Isabelle’s arm. “Please come in and welcome to our home. “I’ll pour the four of us some wine, and you can tell me all the gossip of Seattle and your long car ride here.”
Meeting Rose Marie’s gaze, Lenora said, “Thank you for having us,” and switched her eyes to those of her aunt’s.
Isabelle nodded and led the way up the stone steps of her prestigious home. At the front door, a fierce, unexpected wind tugged and pulled at them. As the front door closed behind them, the wind’s roar diminished.
A fire blazed brightly in the outside fireplace as they stepped on the terrace. In the absence of wind on this side of the home, the place seemed welcoming. Lenora said lightly, “You have added a wall on the south side of the terrace. It looks great.”
Startled, the teacher quizzed, “You’ve been to our home before?”
Isabelle responded before Lenora could answer. “She was here ten or so years ago after my graduation, and the year after the original terrace was built. She hasn’t been here since then and the terrace has undergone several changes, as have other parts of the house.”
Rose Marie nodded and smiled.
The women enjoyed the terrace meal, and Muriel and Lenora found themselves enjoying the bubbly individual that kept patting Isabelle’s hand and refilling their wine glasses. Each knew they would all become very good friends, and eventually, the teacher would know about the mist and the time back step. Would she understand, was still uncertain. They talked for hours about the situation in Europe and the up and coming trip, with Rose only being told that it would be a combination business and pleasure trip for Lenora as she was going to attempt to get two engineers to move from Germany and France to work in two of her companies here.
Lenora’s puzzled look towards her aunt was answered when Isabelle leaned over and whispered, “I’ll go over that with you later.”
The younger woman only shook her head and picked up her wine glass. Best not to know just what it is I’m going to be up to next year, I guess.
The wind began to pick up, and Isabelle suggested they take coffee in the sitting room.
“Please tell me why you two would want to go on a sailboat to Cuba by yourselves?” Rose Marie asked as she set the coffee laden tray down on the table.
“Cuba?” Muriel asked and looked towards Isabelle.
“Oh, my. I’ve spoiled your surprise, Lenora. It was suppose to be a secret, darling. My niece wanted Muriel to experience her masterful sailing skills and to visit the Island as, well…a honeymoon type trip.” Isabelle said with what might have been a twinkle of humor.
Lenora picked up on the satire and merely shrugged and picked up Muriel’s hand.
Muriel turned sideways on the sofa and gazed at her lover. “Honeymoon? Cuba?”
“Yes, I thought we should have some time together and this will be as good a time as any, since we’ll be living here for a few years. You said you wanted to meet Hemingway didn’t you?”
Silence followed, but Muriel did not attempt to break it, knowing that the Rose
Marie had no idea about the time travel and that parts of their conversation probably seemed strange.
Outside the storm raged. Rain, flashes of lightning and booms of thunder pounded against the stout stone walls as if the wind, fire, and sound would devour them. Inside, silence reigned a few moments longer, and Lenora continued to finger Muriel’s hand.
At last, Muriel nodded and said, “Such an arrangement would provide a number of benefits, including some snorkeling on the south side of the Island.”
“Snorkeling?” the teacher asked.
“Swimming with a mask on to see underwater, darling,” Isabelle answered placing her cup on the table and taking her lovers hand in her own.
“What about the honeymoon we had in the Gulf, Sweetheart?” Muriel said with an edge to her voice, squeezing Lenora’s hand a little tighter then necessary.
“Well, nothing can ever be better than that, but I thought you deserved a special trip for our official commitment. Don’t you?” Lenora asked with perhaps the slightest touch of irony. “May I take it then that you have no objections to the arrangement?”
Three of the women seemed to stop breathing as they awaited Muriel’s answer. In the silence, Lenora glanced at Isabelle, but her aunt had wrapped her arm around Rose and kept her eyes on Muriel.
Taking a deep breath and exhaling, Muriel said, “I do want to discuss one other matter with you, Lenora, a matter that is of importance to me. Nevertheless, ‘tis a proposal that, if put into action would meet with little resistance.”
“GOOD!” Isabelle jumped up, almost knocking her lover on the floor. “Good, now it’s not a secret and I’m out of the doghouse. Right?”
Lenora leaned in to touch Muriel’s lips softly. “You need not guess, darling. I want your hand in a commitment, marriage or whatever you will consider. I love you, and I vow that I care for you more strongly than I have thought it possible for any woman to care for another,” she whispered so that only Muriel could hear.
“So it is love between us now, is it?” Muriel whispered back.
Another silence fell before Lenora said, “From the moment I laid eyes on you, I believe so.”
Muriel smiled, then leaned in for a deep kiss. Her lips continued to the side of Lenora’s face and to her ear where she whispered, “It is love, and yes, I do love you.
But we need to talk about this marriage idea, don’t you think?”
Lenora abruptly stood, pulling Muriel up beside her. “We had a wonderful dinner and we’ll have you over soon, but could you please take us home, we have some issues to discuss.”
Isabelle eyes went from woman to woman and stood. After hugs all around, the three women drove down the long lane.
Around nine-thirty the next morning, Isabelle stepped into her niece’s kitchen and handed each woman a passport, which also had a birth certificate, folded neatly inside.
Unfolding the certificate, Lenora studied the document briefly before she nodded and said, “Well, at least I kept my true age, even if I seem to have now been born in Charleston. How about you, Muriel.”
“Yes, same age, but my birthplace is listed as San Francisco.” They both looked at Isabelle who was shifting her weight from one foot to the other.
“Well, it was the best I could do and keep the facts as true as possible. If you look at the passports, you’ll see they are about a year old and ready for the trip next spring.
Hey, it’s all official. I had them in my safety deposit box, and couldn’t get to them until the bank opened this morning.” Her shoulders shrugged as she picked up her purse from the table and motioned for the women. “Did you study those drivers’ handbooks I left on the table Saturday?”
“We read them, but study them…no!” Muriel swatted Isabelle as she headed for the door and the drivers license exam. Fortunately, for the young scientist, she only sat behind the wheel of the shinny, new, green Packard and the examiner sat in the seat beside her and never had to start the vehicle. It was a good thing for she had never driven a straight shift in her life. Lenora on the other hand drove her aunt’s new Packard around with ease.
Isabelle never revealed the arrangements of the test. However, the examining officer would be seen driving around town in a new pickup truck, which he said was given to him by the estate of a deceased relative.
Lenora pulled the Packard slowly onto the scenic highway. This was the fifth day of combining driving lessons and viewing scenery. Today, Muriel was going to learn to use the straight shift of the beautiful car if the transmission had to be replaced. A few miles down the road, the mariner pulled over and changed places with Muriel.
The gears grinded into place and the vehicle jumped forward as Muriel let off on the clutch too quickly. “Not a word, Lenora. Don’t you dare say anything,” the driver hissed.
Hands went up into a defensive position. Almost snickering, the passenger turned her head to look out the window just as the car made another lunge forward.
“Damn, when do they invent automatic transmissions and power steering? Never mind, don’t answer that,” Muriel floored the gas peddle and the car burned rubber and swerved back and forth on the right side of the road.
Before long they were on a subsidiary highway along a creek. The name Crooked Creek did it no justice at all. It wasn’t just a sandy trickle they had seen several days previously, but this was a gorgeous, tree-fringed, full-blown river, a place of breeze and birdsong and, that rarity in Florida, perfect peace. The women were enjoying the view and the peace, for they knew it would not last much longer. Crooked Creek was scheduled to be the outer edge of a huge new airport, the size of Tampa’s, serving a community that did not even exist yet. Crooked Creek was in the heart of the Panhandle, the part of Florida the visiting hordes didn’t know yet, and the two women wanted to keep it that way for a long time to come. They stopped by the creek and ate a picnic lunch before heading back into town.
It still amazed Muriel as she looked out the passenger window of the slowly moving Packard. Lenora had taken a different way home for the last few days, giving the scientist a good background of the area she loved. Most of Pensacola’s past can be discovered in the Pensacola Historic Districts. They explored Pensacola’s past in the museums and among the restored historic buildings, restaurants and shops in these districts. Pensacola’s historical district is divided up into three district sections. The first is the North Hill Preservation District which occupies fifty city blocks and contains architectural style homes and buildings of Queen Anne, Neoclassical, Mediterranean Revival, Art Moderne, and Craftsman Bungalow.
Muriel wasn’t certain, but the second, the Seville Historical District, which occupied a 36 block area and included Victorian homes, Restaurants, museums and shops was becoming her favorite. The last, the Palafox Historic District was the commercial heart of Pensacola which includes a combination of entertainment, services, substances and shelters was her least favorite.
Yesterday, the four of them had gone to the Pensacola Historical Museum. Isabelle had helped finance the historical exhibits, which ranged from the prehistoric to present. Muriel found the exhibits astounding and didn’t want to leave, but Rose Marie had made reservations for them at Quina House for an authentic Creole supper prior to going to the theatre.
They attended the Saenger Theatre, which seats 1794 and is located downtown Pensacola on Palafox Place. The theatre was built during the days of Vaudeville and silent films by New Orleans architect Emile Weil who also built other Saenger Theatres in Mobile, Alabama, Shreveport, Louisiana, and New Orleans. In 1981 it was re-opened after being restored by contributions from the Pensacola Community. Its Spanish and Renaissance architecture made the historical theatre an elegant show place for Broadway touring shows, contemporary jazz artists, the Pensacola Symphony Orchestra and other shows. It was to be a favorite haunt of the quartet off and on for the next three years.
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