Called One Summer In Cork, this story was written by Christine Kannapel, from the MA in Creative Writing Programme at UCC. Catch up with previous episodes at teh links below. In this fifth episode, Julia and Rory reach their destination and are handed a change of clothes...
EVERYONE was dressed as Sarah was; well, in the clothing from the era.
An old man sat on the steps of St Anne’s Church, his hands displayed outwards as he begged for bread. Nearby, children squatted under the shelter of a tree, hugging a wolfhound. Sarah led us down a side street, which grew into an avenue of sorts that was less populated. The few people we did see were dressed finely, in capes designed for the wet cold.
Sarah’s father’s house was separated from the others; its face square and as crimson in colour as St Anne’s Church.
A girl of about 15 opened the door. For a minute, she didn’t notice Rory and I, because she and Sarah were sharing an intense stare. It was as if they were speaking telepathically. Then she jumped, startled at the sight of Rory and me.
“Please take these two to the Blue Room and see if ye can’t find them proper clothing. Herself can use one of my mother’s old dresses,” Sarah said. The girl was still, her gaze lingering on the two strangers standing awkwardly before her.
“I’ll call ye for dinner, which will be shortly. Then ye can meet my father,” Sarah called after us as we followed the girl up a set of finely varnished stairs.
The girl opened the door to the supposed ‘Blue Room’.
“I’m Kate by the way,” the girl said. “I will come back with clothes and fresh water for the basin, sir and madam.”
The room was certainly blue, but neither Rory nor I could appreciate it. Instead, we fell onto the bed, staining it with our damp bodies. We listened to the rain fall, and I wished for Gin Gins as my stomach turned.
“We time travelled,” Rory said, more to himself than to me. “How the hell did we time travel?”
“I don’t know, I really don’t know.”
“How are we going to get back?”
“We are here in May, right?”
“We left on the summer solstice. So not only did we travel to a different year, but to a different month.”
“So maybe if we light a bonfire and throw herbs into it like Maeve did, and then find that pool and jump into it after the sun sets, all on the summer solstice, we can go back?”
“You mean forward.”
“Yeah, forward. Whatever.”
Rory rose and started pacing with his hands on his hips.
“Did you say the way she looked at me? And how the carriage driver stared?”
“You were basically naked, Rory. So was I, for this time period.”
“Yeah sure, but it wasn’t jus that. There’s something else. Sandra...”
“Sarah, you mean.”
“Okay. Well, she kept asking about the well and said not tell anyone about us being by it. She was all suspicious, like.”
“Witch trials aren’t a thing any more, are they?”
I could hear the fear in my voice.
“I don’t know! Because I don’t when the hell we are!”
“Sarah said something about marshes being where Grand Parade is. Do you know when those were pushed back? That would give us an idea of when in the18th century we are.”
Rory stopped pacing, then made a low noise of frustration.
“Gah!” he shouted, pulling off my dress. “It’s too tight!”
There was a clinking and clattering as the Gin Gins I had stowed away from Maeve’s purse fell to the floor. The candies looked like marbles wrapped in silver as they raced towards the edges of the room and underneath the bed. Rory picked one up and held it up, as if he were inspecting a precious gem.
At that moment, Kate walked in carrying clothes in one arm and a bucket of steaming water in the other.
“Oh Jesus!” she shouted, though it sounded more like “Jays-us.”
“Excuse me, sir and madam, I meant to knock.”
She started to back away.
“Oh, no, sorry,” I rushed.
“Have you not seen a half-naked man, before?” Rory snapped.
“Not one of decent breeding,” she snapped back. “I’ll leave ye two to it then, sir, madam.”
Kate splashed the hot water into a washing basin, threw the clothes onto the bed and walked out.
Fortunately for Rory, there were some 18th century style pants and a shirt buried under a simple brown-green dress for me.
I held up the dress, examining it and its components. How on earth was I supposed to wear it? I’d never laced-up a corset before in my life.
Rory splashed himself with the steaming water from the basin and then scrambled, pulling on his clothes with urgency.
“So much for ladies first,” I said, splashing the water on my own self, enjoying its scalding temperature.
Once dressed, Rory fell onto the bed sighing with relief.
“Turn away,” I said.
“Oh,” he said, flopping over to face the opposite side of the room.
Quickly, my fingers running over themselves, I stripped, my eyes glued to Rory’s back to make sure he didn’t peak.
My new, 18th century, shift was on, which was a light and somewhat scratchy fabric, but the corset, I couldn’t manage.
“Rory, I need help.”
He turned towards me, slowly, as if frightened of what he might see. Dressed in his 18th century finery, it was like he was one of those overly handsome men from a period drama. I blushed at my silliness.
“I have no idea how I can help, but it can’t be too different than shoe laces, yeah?”
He laced me up slowly, and not slowly.
“A little harder, er tighter?” I asked.
He snorted; I elbowed him in the stomach.