Chapter Twenty

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All the way back to Mr. Best's home, I pondered Marigold's words.

She knew the name of the train, the fact it had to have been named for her mother. Did she have any idea as to why? Was she even supposed to know?

My mind went back to things Seymour had rambled at me when he was dictating notes, showing me the schematics. Phrases like polluting the timeline and interfering with history haunted me. I was no genius let alone a scientist; I had no idea what I was doing here. I was an uncertain time-traveler with no clear plan how to proceed.

Maybe it was time to finally seek outright advice from the only person in this time I believed I could trust.

As Mr. Best ladled some sort of soup I didn't readily recognize into the bowl before me, I inhaled deeply of the steam rising from it. It didn't smell bad; food in general just made my stomach turn at the moment.

I couldn't help but wonder how Marigold was doing over at Prudence Finch's; if the woman were bossing her around in the manner to which she was accustomed, or if she were taking a kinder, milder approach given what the girl had been through.

I doubted she took a mild approach toward anything, but all I could do, for Marigold's sake, was hope.

"She'll be all right, Mr. Wainwright," Best said, as if reading my mind. "Prudence may be blunt and brash, but she's got a good heart beneath it all. Otherwise, I never would have taken Marigold to her, as fragile as she is."

"She's stronger than she seems," I replied.

Best nodded in agreement. He sat down at his place and began to sip at his spoon.

"True. Otherwise she'd never have survived the life she's lived so far. You've got a lot on your mind, son," he began, reaching for the cutting board; he set it down between us and started slicing bread upon it. "Want to talk about it?"

"I'm at a loss, Mr. Best," I said truthfully, rubbing my hand against the five o'clock shadow on my chin. "I believe Marigold has a right to know the truth about her lineage, the reason her father has always treated her so differently."

"So sure you know the truth, are you?"

"It's all in the book," I replied. "Would you like me to show you?"

"No," he said hastily, then repeated the word much more gently. He set his bread down and sighed. "No, thank you. It's probably better if I don't know the finer details. I know enough."

"Well, would you tell me once and for all what you believe you know, please, so I can see if what is written in the book matches with the things your wife knew?"

He shifted uncomfortably. "I've already told you what I know. It supports what you believe, and what you claim the book indicates about Marigold's parentage."

I sat back in my chair. It was one thing to read one man's suspicions in a book, and another's declarations of love and circumstantial evidence to support a theory I desperately wanted to be wrong...but I couldn't doubt the truth now, no matter how much I wished to.

"She was never supposed to be born," I whispered. "Don't you see? J. Howard Fox was never supposed to have found his way through time to Wishing Cross, let alone father a child here. And there's more. I know you don't want to hear it, but I think that you should."

He steeled himself.

"He wrote that he was going to find a way back in time...to before Aurelia's death, and a way to take her and Marigold back with him, to his own time."

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