But none of that answered the question of why Rose had kept this a secret in the first place. The only travel she did now was between countries, across oceans; Etta felt certain of that. So why had she disappeared, as Sophia had claimed? And how many of her stories were actually true, not invented to lull a restless little girl to sleep?
I need to get back.
She’d woken up on this ship to find that all of her carefully conditioned composure had flown away, and what she’d been left with was raw instinct and will. She’d felt wild and unhinged at the time, but she’d proven to herself, if no one else, that she was willing to fight. Protect herself. Now she needed to use every ounce of her drive to survive at all costs; to channel her unwillingness to crack under pressure, and form a plan to get home.
Home…Her time. New York City.
Etta stuffed her feet into the tight shoes and slipped the earrings back on, pausing only to make sure they were secure. The slight weight of them would be a reminder of home, her mom, Alice, the debut…
Alice. Etta was a time traveler—could she get back to that moment when she’d fought with her mother and Alice? Could she use her ability to go back in time, leave the concert, and take Alice and her mother away with her?
Could she save Alice?
Etta had always known the direction her life was heading; she’d fought to stay on that path each and every time she picked up her violin. Her future was the stage, performances, recordings.…And yet, there had always been a tiny quake in the certainty of that vision. Opening the door even a crack into this was enough of a temptation for her imagination to rip it open and step inside. What would it be like, she wondered, to go wherever, whenever she wanted to?
To stand in the heart of a long-dead empire.
To cross continents and see the wonders of the world before they disappeared.
To sit in the audience in Vienna’s Kärntnertortheater, listening to the debut of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony.
To beg a lesson from Bach in his years at Leipzig.
To save Alice.
What choice was there, other than to learn as much as she could, so she could get back to that moment in time? She had to put up with Sophia’s smirks; with the sickening thought that she might be staring into the face of her instructor’s murderer, or someone who’d had a direct hand in it.
I can make it, Etta thought, bending to pick up the parcel. I can make it back.
And she’d fight every step of the way if she had to.
SOPHIA WAS SITTING ON THE EDGE OF THE BED WHEN ETTA stepped back inside.
“Did you get lost?” she snapped, leaning her face over the bucket again. After the taste of fresh air, the smell of bile and vomit was enough to turn Etta’s own stomach. “How is it, exactly, that you are perfectly fine and I—”
Etta turned away as Sophia heaved. She unwrapped the parcel, sliding the strings off, until she was left with a pile of linen, cotton, and silk. And something that looked suspiciously like a corset.
“What do I do with all of this?”
“Take off your soiled gown and see for yourself,” Sophia sniped. “Start with the shift—the flimsy thing that looks like a nightgown. Next the stockings, which you’ll need to secure with garters. And yes, you must wear them.”
Someone had cut the front of her gown, and the corset-like garment beneath it, after pulling her out of the water. It was split nearly all the way down to where it met the dress’s skirt. It should have been easy enough to pull off, but the wet strings of the corset had become tangled and knotted when she’d pulled Nicholas’s jacket over her for cover. Once she had them loosened, it was easy enough to pull the pieces apart, drop them to the ground, and wiggle out of the remains of the sodden, bloodstained skirt.
You can do this.
Her mom’s words floated through her mind. Etta can handle this.
She could. She would.
“What question did you decide on?” Etta asked, reaching behind her. The underskirts were the main thing dragging her down; there were two thick layers of wool tied together, separate from the dress. They slid down her legs, smacking against the ground. She braced one hand against the coarse wooden paneling on the wall and stepped out of them and the stockings. She was left standing in what looked like a long, thin cotton nightgown—with nothing else beneath it. Her face burned as she glanced over at Sophia.
“Change your shift and bring me the other stays. I’ll lace you up again,” Sophia said. “And again, yes, you need it. Twenty-first-century girls have no waists to speak of, apparently. The gown won’t fit correctly otherwise.”
Etta scowled. “Yes, Your Majesty.”
“I rather like the sound of that, thank you,” Sophia said. “No waist, but able to recognize her social betters. Perhaps I can work with you after all.”
Etta rolled her eyes.
For whatever modesty it would give her, she turned her back on Sophia and tugged the shift over her head, replacing it with the clean, dry one. She threaded her arms through the sleeves, smoothing the fabric down when it caught and twisted at her knees.
Sophia stumbled ungracefully in the direction of her trunk. Etta caught a brief glimpse of more fabric before the other girl found what she was looking for—a long thin needle, carved from bone.
“Slide your arms through the straps of the stays,” Sophia said. “These lace in the front, so you can do them yourself from now on.”
“Great,” Etta muttered. “Can’t wait.”