The first time it happens, the war has been over for several years. Hemlines are going up, hair is getting shorter, women are getting the right to vote, and Diana has discovered that she does not like staying put. The last one actually surprises her – she’s spent her life on an island where she knew every single person and up until the last few days, had never felt the urge to leave. And yet here she is, intent on seeing every inch of this new world, moving from city to city and country to country.
Later, she won’t be able to recall where it was she was heading when the young man sits down across from her on the train. What she does recall is the absolute green of the countryside that’s rushing past, dotted with a stray sheep or two. She also doesn’t notice that she’s being studied with amused curiosity until some time has passed.
She studied him as he studies her. He’s tall, slim, and blond in a stylish suit and hat of a dark blue shade with white accents. There’s some sort of a pattern on the brim of his hat, but she can’t quite make it out. The word that comes to mind as she looks at him is ‘fast’ which is odd since they are both sitting still.
“Travelling far?” The young man finally breaks the silence after a few minutes of cautious studying.
“Here and there.” Diana hedges cautiously, as she’s learned to do in this world of man.
The man laughs. “I join you in that, sister. There doesn’t quite seem to be anywhere to stop any more.”
“Did you fight in the war, then?” Diana asks, in exchange to his slightly odd statement.
He laughs again. “I’m not much of a fighter, but I do still somehow always end up involved. I guess everyone has something that needs to go from here to there.”
“So you’re a messenger?” Diana guesses.
“That I am.” He says, after another laugh and shakes his head. “My stop approaches, sister, I wish you the best on you travels. And some day, you may find this conversation as funny as I do.”
Diana frowns. “I’m sorry, have we met?”
“Now we have.” He says with a smile, and disembarks, leaving Diana feeling slightly unmoored and rather confused over what just passed.
Diana gets the God Killer back on Friday, April 16th 1937. It took her five years of casual and two years of intense searching to finally find someone who is willing and able to re-forge her sword for her and she was most certainly not counting each day and minute. She knows, deep down, that is only a sword, but she still feels like it should done with skill and care. And even though she only wielded it for a few days, it feels like a part of her.
The man who is recommended by a friend of a friend of a colleague of a cousin of a lover is middle aged, with scarring on his face and arms, and walks with a pronounced limp. His shop is in the middle of nowhere and Diana had sent her order ahead, feeling twitchy the entire time. But his reputation had seemed solid and word of mouth had promised that she would get her sword back in the best shape possible.
Diana tries to make small talk with the man when she picks up her sword, but he does not seem to be interested. When her eyes fall on a photograph of a beautiful woman that he has standing on his desk, he glowers and turns the portrait away from her.
She walks away unsettled, but happy to be reunited with the sword.
It remains sharp no matter what kind of stress she puts it through.
It’s 1944 and she’s given up hope for the future and for humanity. It’s war after never ending war and the atrocities make her wonder if there is anything left to even fight for. The London street she’s on has been mostly destroyed and abandoned from the bombings, but she spots a pub that has somehow remained opened.
Surprisingly, it’s not empty inside. A young man, barely more than a boy, is sprawled on a table in the back, several empty tankards around him. A woman with wild hair that’s escaped the braid she had half of it sits at a table, casually reading a book in a back corner. Several more young men and women seem to be engaged in a drinking context of some sort, completely silent as they drink.
Diana ignores them all and walks over to the handsome bartender, deep into his own mug. She also ignores the rather phallic theme for the wood carvings around the war.
The bartender glances up from his mug and studies Diana for a moment.
“Darling, some wine for the lady!” He bellows to the woman in the corner. She glances up from her book only to glare at him.
“Beer is fine.” Diana quickly says. “I would even prefer it.”
The bartender studies her for another moment before making a decision, nodding, and filling up a tankard for her from the barrel behind him.
She spends five days in the pub, as deep in to her mug as anyone else there. No one else comes in or out during that time and there is no sound from the outside. She should find that stranger, but she’s too busy trying not to care.
Diana hates driving. She is surprised to discover this about herself, but she really, really dislikes driving. She blames this partially on the fact that on her third attempt at getting herself from one end of Pennsylvania to the other, she gets into a rather spectacular car accident with the angriest housewife in the entire state.
It also does not help that she can’t figure out why each country and each region seems to have their own rules for driving, but the woman is really blowing things out of proportion.
“Look what you did to my car!” Diana is pretty sure her scream can be heard in the next county over.
“Ma’am…” Diana tries again.
“Don’t you ma’am me!” The woman bellows, stalking towards Diana. “Do you know who I am?”
“No, ma’am, I am terribly sorry…” Diana tries.
“You should be sorry!” The woman cuts her off. “Look at what you did to my new paint job!”
Diana glances down and winces. The woman’s blue car has a row of peacocks painted on the back bumper, and one of them is less of a peacock now and more of a brown smudge about the same color as the rental Diana was driving.
“Let me pay you back for damages.” Diana says in one quick breath before the woman can cut her off again.
“Hmph! Do you think money will make this better?” the woman demands.
“Well, at least you’ll be able to get your car fixed?” Diana tries. “I’m really not sure what else I can do for you – I’ve already apologized and told you that it was an accident.”
The woman studies her head to toe. “You really don’t know, do you?” She finally asks, a little bit calmer than previous.
“Ma’am?” Diana asks tentatively, not wanting to set off another tirade.
“Hmph!” The woman snorts one more time, turns around, and storms back to her car, ignoring Diana’s shouts of offers to pay.
Diana is left standing at the side of the road, alone with her rental and a sense of very, very deep confusion over what just passed.
When asked in the future, Diana will deny with every fiber of her being at being at Woodstock, two different Beatles concerts, following Bob Dylan, sneaking into a VIP section of a Rolling Stones concert, and somehow ending up hanging out with the Beach Boys. It’s an odd few years and about halfway through she figures it would be more interesting to just see where life will take her.
It also makes it easier to digest the other work she does. Three weeks in a war zone, three weeks throwing herself into a random music scene. She has much better luck with one than the other.
There’s a young man who she notices who seems to end up at a lot of the same places that she’s at. Pretty, with long golden hair and piercing blue eyes. They cross paths enough times that on the third time she hears him sing, she tells him that he should be on stage as well.
“I’m not really one for the fame and lime light.” He responds, handing her back the cigarette they’re sharing behind the venue as the rhythm of the music can still be felt through the stones behind them. “I just love the music, and here and now is the place to be for it.”
Diana takes a drag before passing it back and considering this. “Maybe a back-up singer somewhere? Those always seem to come and go.”
“Maybe.” He said, considering. “My family is a bit picky about what I do and where I’m seen, though.”
Diana nodded somberly. “I wish it wasn’t so – maybe things will change in the future? For you and everyone.” She pauses. “Your voice really should be heard.”
He spends the rest of the night serenading her outside the building, his voice never going sore and never running out of songs for her.
Diana falls in love with Paris in the 70s and settles down there for a good three years. Even as she moves on, she still finds herself making Paris her base more often than not and by the turn of the millennium has given up pretending that it hasn’t become her new home.
She runs into the woman a few months after she first moved there, however. There is nothing as refreshing as wandering around a market in the morning, in her opinion, and she’s studying some sunflowers when a tall woman, with long wavy hair down below her waist stops next to her in front of a flower stall. She had dark, deep eyes that feel like they capture and threaten to drown Diana when she makes eye contact. The word ‘timeless’ pops into Diana’s mind as she glances at her, but she’s not sure why that would be the appropriate term. Out of time almost seems more appropriate – the woman’s flowing clothes and loose hair have never been something that could be described as classic, unless you were calling back to ancient times. Something about her also nags at the back of Diana’s mind, but she can’t quite place it and the woman’s eyes are already throwing her off enough to make it hard to focus on another weird thing.
“Are they for your lover?” The woman asks, gesturing to the sunflowers with her arm and glancing at Diana. “That’s not a popular choice I’ve found, but they really should be. Loyalty, longevity, and happiness are good traits for a relationship.”
“N-no.” Diana responds, slightly thrown by the intensity in the woman’s eyes. “Just looking for something to brighten up my table.” She pauses. “There hasn’t really been anyone for a while who I’d bring
“Ah!” The woman says and begins to pull various flowers to build a bouquet. “It’s always good to brighten up our lives. Because if we don’t, who will, right?” She winks at Diana and pulls a few more flowers. “Here. Happiness and memory, longevity and hope. And some gladioluses.” She glances down at the bouquet. “Yes, that’s most certainly your flower, Diana.”
Diana blinked and glanced down at the bouquet that had been thrust into her hands. “I’m sorry?”
“It’s on the house.” the woman reassures her. “You need something bright.”
Before Diana can respond, the woman has moved on to another customer.
When Diana goes back to the market the next day – and the one after that and the one after that as well – she can’t find the flower stall anywhere.
The flowers last a month without wilting.
Etta Candy outlives two husband, three children, one grandchild, and all but one of her old friends. Diana makes it a point to visit her every day when it becomes obvious that the end is close at hand. Etta’s mind is sharp as a tack to the end, even as her memory gets wobbly and she gets a bit confused about why Diana is so young.
The day she dies, Diana does not cry.
The hospital she was for those last few weeks has a garden in the back, and Diana makes her way there and sits on a bench, arms wrapped around herself and eyes focused firmly on her knees. She’s not sure how long she’s been sitting like that when a small white dog, covered in black spots runs over, places his paws on her knees, and licks her face.
Diana lets out a startled laugh, the dog barks joyfully and licks her face again.
“Spot!” A voice carries across the garden, and a tall, pale middle aged man jogs up to Diana and the dog. “I’m so sorry about that…” The man glances at Diana’s face, blinks, and then quickly recovers. “Miss. Sorry. Spot, bad dog!”
Spot cheerfully barks and licks the man’s hand.
Diana cannot help but laugh. “It’s all right, I think I needed that.”
The man looks at her thoughtfully. “Bad news?”
Diana shakes her head. “An old family friend passed on. She was kind of…the last of a group of people. And it feels like the end of an era and I’m not sure how I’m supposed to feel. It’s been so long but it still feels so new to me and I’m sorry. I’m not sure why I’m telling you this.”
“I have that kind of face.” The man says wryly and gestures to the bench. “May I sit with you?”
Diana blinks and nods. Spot takes that as permission to climb on to her lap and the man winces again.
“I’m sorry, my wife has tried to teach him manners but I’m afraid I’ve just let him do whatever he wishes for too long.” He sat down next to Diana. “Do you want to tell me about her?”
Diana opened her mouth to say no but instead found the words spilling from her lips. She talked about Etta in her youth, and how much help she was to her when she first came to London, and her life and work and family and children afterwards. She found herself talking and couldn’t stop as she went through Etta’s life, so vibrant and full of courage, right up to her final years. She talked until she ran out of words and sat there, petting Spot and staring out, now at the flowers.
The man sat with her through the story, listening without comment or judgement. When she finally finished, he got up, and brought her a glass of water and waited while she finished that too.
“She sounds like she was an amazing woman.” he said softly, as he finally got up to go. “Her memory will not be forgotten.” There was something oddly final in those words.
He nodded formally to Diana and whistled for his dog to follow. With one last lick, Spot jumped off of Diana’s lap and trotted after his owner.
Diana sat and watched him leave, thinking of nothing in particular. At the edge of the garden, the man met with a young woman in a billowy summer gown and long, corn silk hair flowing freely in the wind. He gestured behind him at Diana, and the woman nodded gravely in her direction.
Diana sat in the garden as dusk finally painted the sky dark, watching the flowers bloom.
Diana cannot decide how she feels about the Japanese bullet trains, so she finds herself riding them over and over again in order to come up with an opinion. It’s on one of these trips that she finds herself staring at a young man who looks oddly familiar. She runs his face past her long memories of friends and lovers long gone – or still around and pointedly dodging her phone calls, but that’s a different issue that’s vexing her – and comes up blank. Finally, she assumes he just has one of those faces – long, with slicked back blonde hair.
When he stands up, the feeling that she knows him does not fade. Tall and wry, in a blue pinstriped suit with white detailing, she notes, he looks like he’s built for speed but also like he almost stepped out of a different time. That almost dislodges a memory, but it feels like it’s just been too long.
The man glances back over his shoulder before leaving the train and notices Diana starring at him. He smiles and nods to her as he exists past her.
“Good voyage, sister.” His voice carries behind him as he leaves the train, leaving Diana sitting in her seat, still slightly confused by the experience.
It’s getting more and more annoying to move on each time, but Diana’s cover is heading into her fourth decade and she’s been setting up a niece who is set to inherit and everything is ready except she’s not. She hasn’t really had to kill off an identity before now and as she sits in the café in Paris, she’s still finding the idea rather hard to stomach.
She wonders what she’ll have to do as technology will keep marching on and it gets harder and harder to keep her anonymity and long life a secret. At least she doesn’t currently have a lover to have to abandon or try to convince that she’s not mad. The thought makes her angrier than she expected and she glares down at her coffee.
She’s so lost in her thoughts that she doesn’t the woman who sits at her table for a few moments.
“I’m sorry, they’re all full up and you looked like you could use a friendly ear.” The woman is middle aged, with her hair braided up around her head and a sweet, musical voice.
Diana tucks her glare and unhappiness as deep as she can and smiles at her. “Of course, except I hope you don’t mind if I skip on the use of the friendly ear.”
The woman leans over her own coffee and smiles at Diana. “Are you sure? I’ve found that I am often a font of useful information and inspiration. And I have found in my rather long experience that there is no problem that is not made better for sharing with willing ear.”
“I refuse to believe it is that long of an experience.” Diana says with a smile.
“Oh you charmer!” The woman laughs. “I’m telling my sisters what you said – they’re always the first to remind me that I look the oldest. But you know how siblings are.”
Diana shakes her head. “I have none, I’m afraid.”
“Oh, that’s too bad!” The woman says with some sympathy, but it also feels like she’s tucking this bit of information away for later and for a moment Diana feels slightly uncomfortable. But the woman takes a gulp of her coffee and the feeling goes away. “Now, why the long face? It doesn’t suit you, I think.”
Diana stays vague about her issues, formatting them as more of having no idea what to do with her life at this point. They talk for a few hours and Diana finds the time well spent, even if the woman refuses to say anything concrete. She was, however, not exaggerating her knowledge base. Diana is surprised to hear that there does not seem to be a single event that she has not heard of it or had some opinion on.
They part as the sun begins to set and as the woman walks away, Diana wonders if there’s a museum that’s hiring somewhere. That would be something to do – and she already knows enough about ancient civilizations to actually be of help. Maybe even something local here in Paris.
Diana falls asleep on the plane from Kansas to Paris. She rarely sleeps on planes – or trains or ships unless the trip is over a day long – usually choosing to stare out the window or work instead. But the exhaustion of the last few days finally catches up to her and she passes out in her seat, glass of wine precariously held in her hand.
She sleeps through the man who walks past her seat, turns around, and glances down at her. She sleeps through him removing the wine glass from her hand and tucking her blanket in around her. She sleeps through him brushing her hair out of her face and the way he fondly looks down on her as the moonlight glints through his silver grey hair.