© London Stereoscopic Company/Getty Images – Found at NPR.org
William Shaw was stepping out of the pub on Northumberland Street near the Charing Cross railway station when he quite literally collided with his next wife. He’d been looking at his pocket watch and calculating how much time he had left to catch his train, and she had been rearranging the parcels she was carrying as they had begun to slip from her hands.
“Oh, I am terribly sorry, Sir. I didn’t mean to…”
“Think nothing of it.” He bent forward to retrieve the parcels that had fallen to the pavement when they ran into one another.
Handing them back, he executed a small bow. “Mr. William Shaw at your service.”
It was difficult for her to return the courtesy given she was once again laden with physical burdens. “Miss Julia Witherspoon, Sir. Thank you for returning my parcels to me.”
“Please, you seem to be having difficulty. May I assist you?”
The offer was generous, but she was hesitant to accept the help of an unknown gentleman, even one with such apparent good breeding. On the other hand, her employer wasn’t particularly forgiving and she was already late.
“Very kind of you sir. I’ve been purchasing provisions for my employer and must meet my train to return to his domicile.”
“I would be honored to carry your parcels to your train, Miss Witherspoon.”
Thus the immortal Mr. William Shaw, for that was the nom de voyage he used these days, accompanied his future wife to Charing Cross. She was unaware of this, of course, though she found him quite charming and amusing.
He, on the other hand, was absolutely sure they would wed before the year was out (and was satisfied he was missing his own train for the right reasons). He had buried twenty-one, or perhaps twenty-two brides since he began his long journey through the corridors of history, the last one a mere two decades ago.
The future Mrs. Shaw would make a comforting companion to share the next fifty or sixty years with. He had a feeling that the 20th century was about to begin on the right foot.
I’m leveraging characters I first introduced in the flash fiction piece Traveling the Road Back, a tale about an immortal named William Shaw who, a century prior, made the mistake of letting his wife and one true love Julia board the doomed HMS Titanic. It takes decades, but he finally invents a time machine so he can go back to the early 20th century and save her life.
I’ve gotten more than one request to expand their story, so I wrote this in an attempt to “try out” writing about turn-of-the-century (20th century, that is) London and the first meeting between William and Julia.
How did I do?