From Chapter Two: Duncan Robert
(He describes an unusual event that happened when he and his girlfriend, Reggie, were house sitting for some friends.)
Toothbrush in my left hand, I reached over with my right hand to open the small casement window to the side of the small sink. Pushing the window out, I looked down over the sill, expecting to see the large backyard vegetable garden.
Instead, I was looking out on a small, carefully manicured garden from another time and place, a time closer to the origins of the house. I could see flat green fields extending far beyond the boundaries of the garden. Within the garden, I could see people strolling, dressed in clothes from that other era, talking quietly as they stopped to examine the flowers and blooming shrubs that were there now. Closest to me were a man and woman, and the first thing that caught my attention was the woman’s slowly twirling parasol. It was shaped like a small white gazebo with a tassel on top. It competed in size with the swaying side bustles of her skirt, which stopped just short of her ankles, leaving her small feet exposed. I followed the flat panel of the center of her dress up to the bodice, which was fitted tightly to her narrow frame, forming slight wrinkles at each rib. The print of her dress was small enough to be almost indiscernible, but looking closer I could detect violet-colored flowers edged in pale green.
Further up, I could see her neck and the lower half of her face, both powdered white, and her narrow tinted lips. As her lace-gloved hands shifted the parasol, I got a profile view of a tower of tight blonde curls topped by a tiny-brimmed straw hat, adorned with deep purple grapes, shiny red miniature raspberries, overlaid with a trailing of honey suckle vines that bobbled at her slightest movement. Fascinated by the combination of the hair and the hat, I wondered how both were attached–the hat to the hair, the hair to her head. My attention could not have left her if the man had not moved to take her arm, guiding her toward another display of flowers, and the couple stopped, now directly beneath my window.
Before I could do more than get a quick glance at the man’s muted yellow waistcoat and matching knee-length pants, I froze. She was lifting her head to bring her slightly slanted blue eyes to mine. I turned my head and looked at her, through the opening between the small glass double doors of the casement window, my hands on the round knob handles, my toothbrush clasped tightly, toothpaste suds in my half-opened mouth, dribbling down to my blue and white striped Eddie Bauer pajamas. I hung there, breathless, between worlds. Could she see me, I wondered, without comprehending how I could see her. She stopped, her lips slightly parted, her eyes not fully catching the sight of me.
Whether or not she saw me, I saw her. I saw directly into her eyes. I didn’t think I could break my gaze away. She looked away first, turning to her partner, searching his face questioningly. Still, I stood, toothpaste suds dripping down my chin, bare feet feeling the cold tiles of the bathroom in this world. A breeze through the window lifted the ends of my hair. I saw the same breeze gently move the tassel on top of her parasol. Both of them turned their faces up toward my window and then away. My eyes didn’t connect with hers again. He held her arm, steering her along the path. The parasol again hid her face from my view. I stood there a moment longer, watching them. I looked out at the larger scene, seeing a flock of birds rise from the far field and move low over it. Finally, I closed the window, leaning my head against it for a second, quieting my breath, wondering if I would open it again.
“When Duncan Robert did open the window again,” Miles said, “all was normal outside, the usual vegetable garden there, along with the owner’s cat, lying in wait for unsuspecting birds. Duncan Robert didn’t know how to understand what he had seen or why he had seen it; all he could do was record it.”