“Are you a—”
“A ghost? That is the only conclusion I can reach, unless you have another suggestion we can entertain. I’ve put a lot of thought into it, and the possibilities are quite limited. Any suggestions, Jerry?”
“No, nothing, Your … Majesty?” He led the way out to the living room area. Still shaken, he looked over his shoulder to see if she was following, which she was.
She smiled. “Officially, it is, or was, ‘Your Imperial Highness’, but among my dear friends I was Anastasia, Ana, or even, to those who dared, Shvibzik—‘Little Imp’.
Jerry wandered into the kitchen, sleep still clouding his eyes, and started the coffee maker with Colombian roast. This was no time for decaf. “‘Little Imp’?”
Jerry leaned back against the counter, waiting for the much-needed coffee. “Your English is excellent, for a Russian princess.”
Ana leaned forward, her elbows on the kitchen island. “My great-grandmother was Victoria, Queen of England. My mother insisted that we be fluent in both languages, in addition to French. As for my title, I am, or was, in fact, a grand duchess, not a princess. I always thought of princesses more as characters from fairy tales.”
“Sorry. My Russian history is a bit weak, to say the least.” The single-serve coffee filled the cup behind him.
“Please don’t worry yourself over it, Jerry. I neither asked for the title, nor did I ever really enjoy using it except in play. Call me Ana, please. And you may not know Russia’s history, but I do not know Russia’s predstavit—present—so we both have much to teach each other.”
Jerry glanced at the wall clock. Eleven o’clock. “Um, unfortunately I have to be at work soon, Ana, so I guess the lessons will have to wait. Make yourself at home. It’s been almost a hundred years since your … since you were … it’s a new millennium but ghosts still aren’t all that common. Matter of fact, you’re my first.”
“It’s my first time, too. What year is it, Jerry?”
The sadness in her voice broke through Jerry’s confusion. “The year? Now? 2014.”
“20-14? Two thousand and fourteen?” Her sadness became deep loss. Her entire demeanor deflated. Her shoulders sagged, her head hung down, and her clasped hands trembled.
“I’m sorry, Ana. What I’m trying to say is that you might not want to let anyone else see you. Hell, I don’t even know if anyone else can see you.”
“I understand. I’ll stay here, Jerry. I have a great deal to think on. To the world, it has been nearly a century since my family was murdered, but for me it feels much more recent.”
“I hadn’t thought of that. How much do you remember?” He sipped his coffee, welcoming the heat as it pushed a little against the damp of Victoria’s winter. “I’m sorry. Would you like a coffee?” He nodded at his own steaming cup.
“No thank you. I’m not sure I can.” She frowned, thinking about his question. “I remember quite a lot, but as a wise man once said, ‘I do not know how much I can’t remember.’” She leaned closer to Jerry, her voice lowering. “I’m boyashchiysya—afraid. I don’t think I should be here. Why am I? Where am I?”
“Where? That’s easy. Believe it or not, this is Victoria, British Columbia, Canada—the city named after your great-grandmother. As for ‘why’, I have no idea, but we’ll figure it all out. In the meantime, relax. You’re safe here.”
© Timothy Reynolds