Caitlin took several steps out, into the square, and then turned and faced the church, hoping that perhaps she would recognize its façade, and that it would give her a hint as to where she was.
It did. She was hardly an expert on architecture, or history, or churches, but some things she knew. Some places were so obvious, so etched into the public consciousness, that she was sure she could recognize them. And this was one of those.
She was standing before the Notre Dame.
She was in Paris.
It was a place she could not mistake for any other. Its three huge front doors, ornately carved; the dozens of smal statues above them; its elaborate façade reaching hundreds of feet into the sky.
It was one of the most recognizable places on earth. She had seen it online before, many times. She couldn’t believe it: she was real y in Paris.
Caitlin had always wanted to go to Paris, had always begged her mother to take her. When she had a boyfriend once, in high school, she had always hoped he’d take her there. It was a place she had always dreamed of going, and it took her breath away that she was actual y here. And in another century.
Caitlin felt herself get jostled in the thickening crowd, and she suddenly looked down and took stock of her clothes.
She was mortified to see that she was stil dressed in the simple prison garb that Kyle had given her in the Colosseum in Rome. She wore a canvas tunic, rough against her skin, crudely cut, way too big for her, tied over her torso and legs with a piece of rope. Her hair was matted, unwashed, in her face. She looked like an escaped prisoner, or a vagabond.
Feeling more anxious, Caitlin again looked for Caleb, for Sam, for anyone she recognized, anyone that could help her. She had never felt more alone, and she wanted nothing more than to lay her eyes on them, to know that she did not come back to this place by herself, to know that everything would be al right.
But she recognized no one.
Maybe I am the only one, she thought. Maybe I am really on my own again.
The thought of it pierced her stomach like a knife. She wanted to curl up, to crawl back and hide in the church, to be sent to some other time, to some other place—any place where she could wake up and see someone she knew.
But she toughened herself. She knew there was no retreat, no option but to move forward. She’d just have to be brave, to find her way in this time and place. There was simply no other choice.
Caitlin had to get away from the crowd. She needed to be alone, to rest, to feed, to think. She had to figure out where to go, where to look for Caleb, and if he was even here.
Just as important, she had to figure out why she was in the city, and in this time. She didn’t even know what year it was.
A person brushed passed her, and Caitlin reached out and grabbed his arm, overwhelmed with a sudden desire to know.
He turned and looked at her, startled at being stopped so abruptly.
“I’m sorry,” she said, realizing how dry her throat was, and how ragged she must have appeared, as she uttered her first words, “but what year is it?”
She was embarrassed even as she asked it, realizing that she must have seemed crazy.
“Year?” the confused man asked back.
“Um…I’m sorry, but I can’t seem to…remember.”
The man looked her up and down, then slowly shook his head, as if deciding there was something wrong with her.
“It’s 1789, of course. And we’re not even close to New Year’s, so you real y have no excuse,” he said, shaking his head derisively, and marching off.
1789. The reality of those numbers raced through Caitlin’s mind. She recal ed that she had last been in the year 1791.
Two years. Not that far off.
Yet, she was in Paris now, an entirely different world than Venice. Why here? Why now?
She racked her brain, trying desperately to remember her history classes, to remember what had happened in France in 1789. She was embarrassed to realize that she couldn’t.
She kicked herself once again for not paying closer attention in class. If she had known back in high school that she’d one day be traveling back in time, she’d have studied her history through the night, and would have made an effort to memorize everything.
It didn’t matter now, she realized. Now, she was a part of history. Now, she had a chance to change it, and to change herself. The past, she realized, could be changed. Just because certain events had happened in the history books, it didn’t mean that she, traveling back, couldn’t change them now. In a sense, she already had: her appearance here, in this time, would affect everything.
That, in turn, could, in its own smal way, change the course of history.
It made her feel the importance of her actions al the more.
The past was hers to create again.
Taking in her elegant surroundings, Caitlin began to relax a bit, and even to feel a bit encouraged. At least she had landed in a beautiful place, in a beautiful city, and in a beautiful time.
This was hardly the stone age, after al , and it was not like she had appeared in the middle of nowhere. Everything around her looked immaculate, and the people were al dressed so nicely, and the cobblestone streets shined in the torchlight. And the one thing she did remember about Paris in the 18th century was that it was a luxurious time for France, a time of great wealth, one in which kings and queens stil ruled.
Caitlin realized that the Notre Dame was on a smal island, and she felt the need to get off it. It was just too crowded here, and she needed some peace. She spotted several smal foot bridges leading off it, and headed towards one.
She al owed herself to hope that maybe Caleb’s presence was leading her in a particular direction.
As she walked over the river, she saw how beautiful the night was in Paris, lit by the torchlight al along the river, and by the ful moon. She thought of Caleb, and wished he was by her side to enjoy the sight with her.
As she walked across the bridge, looking down at the water, memories overcame her. She thought of Pol epel, of the Hudson River at night, of the way the moon lit up the river. She had a sudden urge to leap off the bridge, to test her wings, to see if she could fly again, and to soar high above it.
But she felt weak, and hungry, and as she leaned back, she couldn’t even feel the presence of her wings at al . She worried if the trip back in time had affected her abilities, her powers. She didn’t feel nearly as strong as she once had. In fact, she felt nearly human. Frail. Vulnerable. She didn’t like the feeling.