Chapter Twenty-Five

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The candles burned down again to almost nothing. By this time, it was three o'clock in the morning, and Marigold needed to think about sneaking back into Finch's house.

We dressed in silence. I watched as she fought a losing battle against her hair, struggling to tame it before she finally just left it down, put her hat atop her head, and shrugged.

Carefully, we moved the dresser away from the door, and I managed to get her down the back steps and outside without Best knowing.

So much of what would happen in the days ahead had been decided for us by history, it seemed, but the one thing I hadn't decided yet was whether or not I had to destroy the book, or if it was something Marigold would have to do after the train took me away.

I didn't know if I could leave such a weight upon her, risk that she might not be able to bring herself to do it. It was, after all, her life story, and it would be the only thing she'd have left to hold on to once I was gone.

Gone. How could I ever be gone from Marigold now?

What if I just stayed? What if she risked it and came with me? What if I'd already altered things so much in my time here that there would be a different outcome for us than there had been for Charles Kelly and Jasper Wilson?

I could argue either way, and that was the blessing and the curse of my nature. After all, she only existed because of the errors in judgment another man in my place had made in a previous cycle of the wormhole. A decision I could not possibly judge him for now, since I was guilty of the same thing.

What if Marigold ends up carrying my child after last night, and I just leave them both behind?

My God, what have I done?

We stood in the light of the waning moon, holding each other close and kissing in the middle of this early Christmas morning when we heard a sound that shattered us both.

Off in the distance was the sudden, unmistakable, singular wail of the Aurelia Belle.

"No!" Marigold cried.

I feared she might wake Best, and so kissed her again to silence her. Then I did the only thing I could do.

"Wait for me," I pled, and I hurried back up the stairs, grabbed my backpack and the book from the nightstand, and then ran back outside.

I was dressed in my 1880s clothing; that was how I'd have to go back to 2015.

There was no time for anything more now. My time in Wishing Cross was up a week earlier than either of us had expected.

"No," she cried again.

"Come on," I took her hand and pulled her along with me.

"Keigan, I can't," she objected, struggling to free herself from my grip. "I can't watch you leave."

"You won't even give me a chance to say goodbye?" I asked as we hurried across the street and over to the station. "Please, don't take that from me, not after tonight, after everything. Besides, we have to decide what we're going to do with the book, and we have to hurry, Marigold, the train is almost here."

"But I don't want to say goodbye."

"I know." I was devastated at the thought of leaving her. "I know."

The place was deserted at this hour, no one expecting a train, least of all the only person meant to board it.

I stood on the platform at Wishing Cross with little more than I'd brought with me. In fact, I was missing my Grandfather's' pocket watch and had no chance to retrieve it. Not that I wanted to. I had already decided to give it to someone I felt deserved it more than I did, for all the good he'd done for me.

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