When Daniel Wilson, oldest of five children in a troubled family, joined the military, he expected to see combat in Iraq. But it comes as quite a shock when a Rupee minted a century and a half ago transports him to that dangerous time in war-torn colonial India. After he meets and falls in love with Vir during his visit to 1857, he faces the greatest challenge of his life. He knows he may ultimately lose Vir because he belongs in a different time. Still, he wants desperately to keep his love alive despite threats of violence from both wars.
FOR AS long as Daniel could remember, he had always supported his family. At eighteen, he worked a five-days-a-week factory job to offer financial support. When he was younger, he’d helped raise his younger siblings while his father worked away from home for months at a time. His mother suffered chronic fatigue syndrome, and as much as she battled her condition, Daniel knew her weak disposition left her feeling helpless. Regardless of her struggle and inability to always be there for them, his memories of his mother were good ones. She loved all her children and supported them as best she could.
Still living at home in a tiny apartment in a complex filled with families like his, Daniel had long ago grown to resent his life. His father, now unemployed and with no interest in finding work, angered Daniel. On top of that, his sister Ester had fallen pregnant. At seventeen, she relied on their parents for support, which in turn put more pressure on Daniel. Pressure was pushing him into a corner he couldn’t get out of.
Of all his siblings, his brother Peter showed the most promise. At sixteen, he was bright and top of his class. Daniel always encouraged Peter to think about university, something his father disagreed with. Carla, at thirteen, also excelled, and Daniel watched from the sidelines, encouraging her to do her best. The baby in their family, John, at nine, was spirited and often got into trouble. Daniel often came to John’s assistance when their father picked on him.
With his father constantly at home, Daniel wanted nothing more than to escape. His father’s belittling and nitpicking wore Daniel down. Daniel had no way of dealing with his father’s abuse. If he confronted his father, it made problems for everyone, so Daniel kept his mouth shut. His mother quietly offered support out of earshot of his father, but it was never enough for Daniel. His strong resentment was slowly eating away at his desire for life. But he couldn’t abandon his family any more than he could stand up to his father. Life for Daniel felt out of his control, and he had no hope of it changing anytime soon.
ON THURSDAY, July 7, 2005, Peter made plans to visit a university he was interested in applying to. Afraid to let him travel on his own, their mother had insisted Daniel take the day off from work and accompany him. Worried about the number of accidents on the motorway, she asked them to take the train, and they reluctantly agreed.
“Please be careful, watch the traffic, and call me when you get there.”
“Mom, we’ll be fine. What can two boys like us get up to?”
Daniel’s mother gave him the look that informed him she knew exactly what he could get up to.
“Don’t worry, Mom. I’ll make sure Daniel doesn’t get into any trouble,” Peter told her.
She smiled while Daniel punched Peter in the arm.
They stood in the foyer outside their apartment and ignored the chaotic sounds from within. His mother stood in her dressing gown. She had risen from bed to see them off. She looked tired and too old for her forty-eight years.
“Be careful and call me,” she told them.
“We will, as soon as we get there.”
They hugged their mother, and Daniel told her to go back inside. She watched as they made their way to the lift but returned inside before the lift arrived. Daniel and Peter messed around as they made their way outside and began the trek toward the train station. While just another day in what Daniel thought was his shitty life, today was important for Peter.
Arriving at the train station, Daniel told Peter, “Put your wallet and phone inside your backpack. Don’t want it pinched while on the train.”
“You’re as bad as Mom,” Peter laughed.
Daniel shook his head. “Shut up.”
When the train arrived, they got on and found a seat. The ride into the city was boring, and they bantered about how screwed up their lives were.
“Well, at least you’re getting out,” Daniel told Peter.
“Yeah, thanks to you.”
“Don’t worry. When you’re making millions, I’ll be moving in with you.”
“Like hell! But don’t worry, Danny, I’ll have your back no matter what.”
Daniel always thought it was his younger siblings he was sacrificing his life for. Sitting beside Peter and seeing a boy with dreams bigger than his, Daniel knew his sacrifice was worth it.
“Just work hard. Make Mom proud.”
“And Dad,” Peter added.
“Screw Dad. If he had his way, he’d have you working in some dead-end job, making you pay off all the ‘hard work’ he put into raising you. Loser.”
“Dad tries, Daniel. I know you and he don’t get on at all, but he does love us.”
“Yeah, only if we live up to his expectations. But I guess they’re not that high anyway, so it’s not too hard to do that.”
“Daniel. Don’t talk like that about Dad. I know you both have issues, but he’s our father. Once he’s working again, things will get better.”
Daniel didn’t bother to argue. His resentment toward his father was more personal than anything else. Daniel did not often make it into the city, so being able to spend the time with his brother made him happy.
When they finally arrived at the university at ten that morning, they found a bench and sat down. Daniel retrieved the snacks he had packed for them and his phone from his backpack. He handed Peter his snack, then opened his ziplock bag and pulled out his beetroot sandwich.
“That is so gross,” Peter said, looking at the soggy pink-stained bread.
Daniel looked over at Peter’s beef-filled sandwich. “At least mine doesn’t have half a cow in it.”
“Whatever, loser,” Peter said and chomped down into his sandwich.
Daniel rolled his eyes, and biting into his own sandwich, he looked at the screen of his phone and was surprised to see seventeen missed calls.
Showing Peter, he said with his mouth half-full, “Do you think Mom is worried?”
“Didn’t Mom tell you not to speak with your mouth full? What you’re eating looks worse half digested.”
Daniel opened his mouth wide and ate the rest of his sandwich with exaggerated movements.
“Pig,” Peter said.
Peter then pulled out his own phone and, grinning, showed Daniel the number of missed calls he had also received from their mother.
Peter looked at the screen, smiled, and said, “Better ring her.”
“There are messages. I’ll check them.”
Daniel dialed the service to retrieve his messages. The first was in fact from his mother. Her voice was near hysterical, and the message was a frantic one. The second message was much the same, and Daniel put the phone on speaker so Peter could hear them. They watched each other as they listened to her pleas for them to call her.
“Something has happened,” Peter said, the tremor in his voice noticeable.
On the third message, they heard their mother again, crying and pleading with Daniel or Peter to answer their phones or to call her back. The call was at 9:03 a.m., well over an hour ago. Peter quickly checked his own missed calls, and seeing similar messages to Daniel’s, he said, “Danny. Call her quick. You know what she’s like.”
Peter’s voice scratched down Daniel’s spine as fear crept through him.
Daniel called home, but no one answered. He shook his head. “No one’s home.”
“Shit, shit. Call Ester.”
Daniel dialed Ester’s number. It rang and went to her voice mail.
“Ester, this is Daniel. Is everything okay? Call me.” Daniel hung up, got up from the bench, and paced in front of Peter.
“Shit, Daniel, I don’t like the feel of this. What’s going on? Why would Mom be like that?”
“I don’t know. Maybe something’s happened to Ester?” Daniel told him.
“You don’t think it’s the baby?” Peter asked.
Daniel shrugged. He had no way of knowing. His phone rang, and he looked at the screen, which showed Ester’s name.
“Ester, is everything all right?” Daniel answered immediately. Peter flew up from the bench, the sandwich on his lap forgotten as it fell at his feet.
Daniel put the call on speaker again and pulled Peter back down. They sat on the bench together, listening to Ester sobbing on the other end of the line.
“Where are you guys? Is Peter with you?” Ester stuttered between breaths.
They were both anxious now.
“I’m here, Es. What’s happened?” Peter asked, his voice no longer strong, and all Daniel could do was listen.
“We’re at the hospital.” She started crying again before their father got on the phone.
“Are you boys all right?” he asked, his voice harsh and cold.
“We’re fine, Dad. What’s happened?” Peter asked.
Daniel could not bring himself to speak. He felt it deep in his bones, the way Ester had been crying and the harshness of their father’s voice.
“Where the hell are you two? Why didn’t you answer your phone, Daniel?” He was practically yelling now, and Peter looked up as Daniel continued to stare at the phone he was holding.
“It was in my bag. I told Mom we would ring her when we got here. What’s happened?”
“You’re in the bloody city. Don’t you know what’s going on?”
His father was starting to get on his nerves, and not wanting to fight with him in front of Peter but knowing he had had enough, he snapped, “Shut the hell up, Dad, and tell us what’s going on.”
“Your mother. She’s dead.” His father’s cold, heartless voice rang out around them, and Daniel almost didn’t believe him.
“What the hell…?” Daniel felt his world tilt.
“There were three bombings in London this morning. As soon as your mother heard, she started calling. If you had answered your bloody phone, she might be alive now.”
“What happened, Dad? How did she die?” Peter asked disbelievingly.
“She had a stroke, died before we could get her to the hospital. It’s all your fault—”
Daniel couldn’t bear to hear his father continue and did the only thing he could do—he hung up on him. The world around them slowly filtered in. In the distance, the sound of sirens filled the air, the same sounds they had heard earlier but had paid no mind.
Now Daniel began to take note of their surroundings. He noticed the faces of people and the fear in their eyes. Seeing a man passing them, Daniel called out to him.
“Hey, do you know what’s going on?”
“Apparently there’s been a bomb attack on a bus in the city and also the underground. There’s not much more being said. I’m heading to the café. They should have coverage of it by now.”
“Okay, then, thanks,” Daniel told the stranger.
He remembered his mother’s panic over the 9/11 attacks four years previous. Since that time her fears for her children had grown. Daniel had tried to reassure her over the years, telling her that nothing like that could happen to them. He was wrong. His mother’s need to protect them and keep them from danger had failed her in the end. Although Daniel and Peter were fine, she had died thinking they were not. His body shook as the realization of what had happened took hold.
Why of all days had it been that day? She had insisted they take public transport. Daniel could not begin to process the fear she must have felt and the blame she must have endured when she’d heard about the attacks. Daniel’s age-old arguments resurfaced. Why did their mother have to be so scared of life? Why did she let her fears control her? What had made her that way?
“It wasn’t our fault,” Peter whispered.
Daniel suddenly remembered Peter next to him. He turned to his brother, and seeing the tears falling down his cheeks, he embraced Peter. He ignored his own tears as more people around became aware of what had happened.
Why was this happening to them?
“It wasn’t our fault,” Peter repeated.
However, Daniel could not respond. In the back of his mind, all he could hear was It’s entirely my fault.
Michelle Rae lives in lovely Adelaide, South Australia. She began writing fan fiction for her son in 2007, which led to bigger and better things. Writing LGBT stories became her passion after discovering the genre in 2008. Determined to write her greatest story, Michelle dedicates endless hours hoping to achieve this dream. In her spare time, Michelle likes to drink tea, eat peppermint chocolate and keep the last of her sanity intact.