A few days later, Sophie was sitting at the kitchen island with half a dozen pumpkins and a sharp knife when Matthew and I came in from our walk. The weather had turned colder, and there was a dreary hint of winter in the air.
"What do you think?" Sophie asked, turning the pumpkin.
It had the hol ow eyes, arched eyebrows, and gaping mouth of al Hal oween pumpkins, but she had transformed the usual features into something remarkable. Lines pul ed away from the mouth, and the forehead was creased, setting the eyes themselves slightly off-kilter. The overal effect was chil ing.
"Amazing!" Matthew looked at the pumpkin with delight.
She bit her lip, regarding her work critical y. "I'm not sure the eyes are right."
I laughed. "At least it has eyes. Sometimes Sarah can't be bothered and just pokes three round holes in the side with the end of a screwdriver and cal s it a day."
"Hal oween is a busy holiday for witches. We don't always have time for the finer details," Sarah said sharply, coming out of the stil room to inspect Sophie's work. She nodded with approval. "But this year we'l be the envy of the neighborhood."
Sophie smiled shyly and pul ed another pumpkin toward her. "I'l do a less scary one next. We don't want to make the little kids cry."
With less than a week to go until Hal oween, Em and Sarah were in a flurry of activity to get ready for the Madison coven's annual fal bash. There would be food, free-flowing drink (including Em's famous punch, which had at least one July birth to its credit), and enough witchy at least one July birth to its credit), and enough witchy activities to keep the sugar-high children occupied and away from the bonfire after they'd been trick-or-treating.
Bobbing for apples was much more chal enging when the fruit in question had been put under a spel .
My aunts hinted that they would cancel their plans, but Matthew just shook his head.
"Everyone in town would wonder if you didn't show up.
This is just a typical Hal oween."
We'd al looked dubious. After al , Sarah and Em weren't the only ones counting the hours to Hal oween.
Last night Matthew had laid out the gradual departure of everyone in the house, starting with Nathaniel and Sophie and ending with Marcus and Miriam. It would, he believed, make our own departure less conspicuous-and it was not open to discussion.
Marcus and Nathaniel had exchanged a long look when Matthew finished his announcement, which concluded with the daemon shaking his head and pressing his lips together and the younger vampire staring fixedly at the table while a muscle in his jaw throbbed.
"But who wil hand out the candy?" Em asked.
Matthew looked thoughtful. "Diana and I wil do it."
The two young men had stormed out of the room when we broke up to go our separate ways, mumbling something about getting milk. They'd then climbed into Marcus's car and torn down the driveway.
"You've got to stop tel ing them what to do," I chided Matthew, who had joined me at the front door to watch their departure. "They're both grown men. Nathaniel has a wife, and soon he'l have a child."
"Left to their own devices, Marcus and Nathaniel would have an army of vampires on the doorstep tomorrow."
"You won't be here to order them around next week," I reminded him, watching the tail ights as they turned toward town. "Your son wil be in charge."
"That's what I'm worried about."
The real problem was that we were in the midst of an acute outbreak of testosterone poisoning. Nathaniel and Matthew couldn't be in the same room without sparks flying, and in the increasingly crowded house it was hard for them to avoid each other.
Their next argument occurred that afternoon when a delivery arrived. It was a box with BIOHAZARD written al over the sealing tape in large red letters.
"What the hel is this?" Marcus asked, carrying the box gingerly into the family room. Nathaniel looked up from his laptop, his brown eyes widening with alarm.
"That's for me," Matthew said smoothly, taking the box from his son.
"My wife is pregnant!" Nathaniel said furiously, snapping his laptop closed. "How could you bring that into the house?"
"It's immunizations for Diana." Matthew barely kept his annoyance in check.
I put aside my magazine. "What immunizations?"
"You're not going to the past without every possible protection from disease. Come to the stil room," Matthew said, holding out his hand.
"Tel me what's in the box first."
"Booster vaccines-tetanus, typhoid, polio, diphtheria- as wel as some vaccines you probably haven't had, like a new one-shot rabies preventive, the latest flu shots, an immunization for cholera." He paused, stil holding out his hand. "And a smal pox vaccine."
"Smal pox?" They'd stopped giving smal pox vaccines to schoolchildren a few years before I was born. That meant Sophie and Nathaniel hadn't been immunized either.
Matthew reached down and hoisted me to my feet. "Let's get started," he said firmly.
"You aren't going to stick needles into me today."
"Better needles today than smal pox and lockjaw tomorrow," he countered.
"Wait a minute." Nathaniel's voice sounded in the room like a cracking whip. "The smal pox vaccine makes you contagious. What about Sophie and the baby?"
"Explain it to him, Marcus," Matthew ordered, stepping aside so I could pass.
"Not contagious with smal pox, exactly." Marcus tried to be reassuring. "It's a different strain of the disease. Sophie wil be fine, provided she doesn't touch Diana's arm or anything it comes into contact with."
Sophie smiled at Marcus. "Okay. I can do that."
"Do you always do everything he tel s you to do?"
Nathaniel asked Marcus with contempt, unfolding from the couch. He looked down at his wife. "Sophie, we're leaving."
"Stop fussing, Nathaniel," Sophie said. "You'l upset the house-the baby, too-if you start talking about leaving.
We're not going anywhere."
Nathaniel gave Matthew an evil look and sat down.
In the stil room Matthew had me take off my sweatshirt and turtleneck and then began swabbing my left arm with alcohol. The door creaked open.
It was Sarah. She'd stood by without comment during the exchange between Matthew and Nathaniel, though her eyes had seldom left the newly delivered box.
Matthew had already sliced open the protective tape wrapped around the molded-foam container. Seven smal vials were nestled within, along with a bag of pil s, something that looked like a container of salt, and a two- pronged metal instrument I'd never seen before. He'd already entered the same state of clinical detachment I'd first detected in his lab in Oxford, with no time for chatter or a warm bedside manner. Sarah was welcome moral support.
"I've got some old white shirts for you to wear." Sarah momentarily distracted me from what Matthew was doing.
"They'l be easy to bleach. Some white towels, too. Leave your laundry upstairs and I'l take care of it."
"Thank you, Sarah. That's one less risk of contagion to worry about." Matthew selected one of the vials. "We'l start with the tetanus booster."
Each time he stuck something in my arm, I winced. By the third shot, there was a thin sheen of sweat on my forehead and my heart was pounding. "Sarah," I said faintly.
"Can you please not stand behind me?"
"Sorry." Sarah moved to stand behind Matthew instead.
"I'l get you some water." She handed me a glass of ice- cold water, the outside slippery with condensation. I took it grateful y, trying to focus on holding it steady rather than on the next vial Matthew was opening.
Another needle entered my skin, and I jumped.
"That's the last shot," Matthew said. He opened the container that looked like it was fil ed with salt crystals and careful y added the contents to a bottle of liquid. After giving it a vigorous shake, he handed it to me. "This is the cholera vaccine. It's oral. Then there's the smal pox immunization, and some pil s to take after dinner for the next few nights."
I drank it down quickly but stil almost gagged at the thick texture and vile taste.
Matthew opened up the sealed pouch holding the two- pronged smal pox inoculator. "Do you know what Thomas Jefferson wrote to Edward Jenner about this vaccine?" he asked, voice hypnotic. "Jefferson said it was medicine's most useful discovery." There was a cold touch of alcohol on my right arm, then pricks as the inoculator's prongs pierced the skin. "The president dismissed Harvey's discovery of the circulation of blood as nothing more than a 'beautiful addition' to medical knowledge." Matthew moved in a circular pattern, distributing the live virus on my skin.
His diversionary tactics were working. I was too busy listening to his story to pay much attention to my arm.
"But Jefferson praised Jenner because his inoculation relegated smal pox to a disease that would be known only to historians. He'd saved the human race from one of its most deadly enemies." Matthew dumped the empty vial and the inoculator into a sealed biohazard container. "Al done."
"Did you know Jefferson?" I was already fantasizing about timewalking to eighteenth-century Virginia.
"I knew Washington better. He was a soldier-a man who let his actions speak for him. Jefferson was ful of words. But it wasn't easy to reach the man behind the intel ect. I'd never drop by his house unannounced with a bluestocking like you in tow."
I reached for my turtleneck, but Matthew stil ed my arm and careful y covered the inoculation site with a waterproof bandage. "This is a live virus, so you have to keep it covered. Sophie and Nathaniel can't come into contact with it, or with anything that touches it." He moved to the sink and vigorously washed his hands in steaming-hot water.
"For how long?"
"It wil form a blister, and then the blister wil scab over.
No one should touch the site until the blister heals."
I pul ed the old, stretched-out turtleneck over my head, taking care not to dislodge the bandage.
"Now that that's done, we need to figure out how Diana is going to carry you-and herself-to some distant time by Hal oween. She may have been timewalking since she was an infant, but it's stil not easy," Sarah worried, her face twisted in a frown.
Em appeared around the door. We made room for her at the table.
"I've been timewalking recently, too," I confessed.
"When?" Matthew paused for a moment in his work of clearing up what remained from the inoculations.
"First on the driveway when you were talking to Ysabeau.
Then again the day Sarah was trying to make me light a candle, when I went from the stil room to the orchard. Both times I picked up my foot, wished myself somewhere else, and put my foot down where I wanted to be."
"That sounds like timewalking," Sarah said slowly. "Of course, you didn't travel far-and you weren't carrying anything." She sized up Matthew, her expression turning doubtful.
There was a knock at the door. "Can I come in?"
Sophie's cal was muffled.
"Can she, Matthew?" Em asked.
"As long as she doesn't touch Diana."
When Em opened the door, Sophie was moving soothing hands around her bel y. "Everything's going to be al right," she said serenely from the threshold. "As long as Matthew has a connection to the place they're going, he'l help Diana, not weigh her down."
Miriam appeared behind Sophie. "Is something interesting happening?"
"We're talking about timewalking," I said.
"How wil you practice?" Miriam stepped around Sophie and pushed her firmly back toward the door when she tried to fol ow.
"Diana wil go back in time a few hours, then a few more.
We'l increase the time involved, then the distance. Then we'l add Matthew and see what happens." Sarah looked at Em. "Can you help her?"
"A bit," Em replied cautiously. "Stephen told me how he did it. He never used spel s to go back in time-his power was strong enough without them. Given Diana's early experiences with timewalking and her difficulties with witchcraft, we might want to fol ow his example."
"Why don't you and Diana go to the barn and try?" Sarah suggested gently. "She can come straight back to the stil room."
When Matthew started after us, Sarah put a hand out and stopped him. "Stay here."
Matthew's face had gone gray again. He didn't like me in a different room, never mind a different time.
The hop barn stil held the sweet aroma of long-ago harvests. Em stood opposite and quietly issued instructions. "Stand as stil as possible," she said, "and empty your mind."
"You sound like my yoga teacher," I said, arranging my limbs in the familiar lines of mountain pose.
Em smiled. "I've always thought yoga and magic had a lot in common. Now, close your eyes. Think about the stil room you just left. You have to want to be there more than here."
Re-creating the stil room in my mind, I furnished it with objects, scents, people. I frowned. "Where wil you be?"
"It depends on when you arrive. If it's before we left, I'l be there. If not, I'l be here."
"The physics of this don't make sense." My head fil ed with concerns about how the universe would handle multiple Dianas and Ems-not to mention Miriams and Sarahs.
"Stop thinking about physics. What did your dad write in his note? ' Whoever can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead.'"
"Close enough," I admitted reluctantly.
"It's time for you to take a big step into the mysterious, Diana. The magic and wonder that was always your birthright is waiting for you. Now, think about where you want to be."
When my mind was brimming over with images of it, I picked up my foot.
When I put it down again, there I was in the hop barn with Em.
"It didn't work," I said, panicking.
"You were too focused on the details of the room. Think about Matthew. Don't you want to be with him? Magic's in the heart, not the mind. It's not about words and fol owing a procedure, like witchcraft. You have to feel it."
"Desire." I saw myself cal ing Notes and Queries from the shelf at the Bodleian, felt once more the first touch of Matthew's lips on mine in his rooms at Al Souls. The barn dropped away, and Matthew was tel ing me the story about Thomas Jefferson and Edward Jenner.
"No," Em said, her voice steely. "Don't think about Jefferson. Think about Matthew."
"Matthew." I brought my mind back to the touch of his cool fingers against my skin, the rich sound of his voice, the sense of intense vitality when we were together.
I picked up my foot.
It landed in the corner of the stil room, where I was squashed behind an old barrel.
"What if she gets lost?" Matthew sounded tense. "How wil we get her back?"
"We don't have to worry about that," Sophie said, pointing in my direction. "She's already here."
Matthew whipped around and let out a ragged breath.
"How long have I been gone?" I felt light-headed and disoriented, but otherwise fine.
"About ninety seconds," Sarah said. "More than enough time for Matthew to have a nervous breakdown."
Matthew pul ed me into his arms and tucked me under his chin. "Thank God. How soon can she take me with her?"
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves," Sarah warned. "One step at a time."
I looked around. "Where's Em?"
"In the barn." Sophie was beaming. "She'l catch up."
It took more than twenty minutes for Em to return. When she did, her cheeks were pink from concern as wel as the cold, though some of the tension left her when she saw me standing with Matthew.
"You did good, Em," Sarah said, kissing her in a rare public display of affection.
"Diana started thinking about Thomas Jefferson," Em said. "She might have ended up at Monticel o. Then she focused on her feelings, and her body got blurry around the edges. I blinked, and she was gone."
That afternoon, with Em's careful coaching, I took a slightly longer trip back to breakfast. Over the next few days, I went a bit farther with each timewalk. Going back in time aided by three objects was always easier than returning to the present, which required enormous concentration as wel as an ability to accurately forecast where and when you wanted to arrive. Final y it was time to try carrying Matthew.
Sarah had insisted on limiting the variables to accommodate the extra effort required. "Start out wherever you want to end up," she advised. "That way al you have to worry about is thinking yourself back to a particular time.
The place wil take care of itself."
I took him up to the bedroom at twilight without tel ing him what was in store. The figure of Diana and the golden earring from Bridget Bishop's poppet were sitting on the chest of drawers in front of a photograph of my parents.
"Much as I'd like to spend a few hours with you in here- alone-dinner is almost ready," he protested, though there was a calculating gleam in his eyes.
"There's plenty of time. Sarah said I'm ready to take you timewalking. We're going back to our first night in the house."
Matthew thought for a moment, and his eyes brightened further. "Was that the night the stars came out-inside?"
I kissed him in answer.
"Oh." He looked shyly pleased. "What should I do?"