Copyright © 2005, Claire
Reviews For THIS TIME FOREVER by Claire Hope
This Time Forever is such a compelling book because you can’t help but get swept up in the story the author is telling. Claire Hope’s descriptions of the battlefield are so eerily accurate, it’s almost as if you can smell the gun smoke or see the wounded. Ms. Hope’s characters are well illustrated; I found myself getting furious right along with Gloria at Clayton’s authoritative demeanor. Equally clear are Clayton’s feelings of frustration when Gloria won’t confide in him. How she can possibly expect him to believe that she’s from the future annoys him to no end. Claire Hope gives readers a passionate love story combined with a wild adventure. Neither this book nor this author should be missed. This Time Forever is without a doubt, a keeper!
Reviewed by: Jaymi
Sample Chapter For THIS TIME FOREVER by Claire Hope
Spotsylvania National Park, May, 1991
The feeling wouldn’t go away. She couldn’t shake the premonition that she shouldn’t have come on this trip at all.
“What a thrill it is for us to have real nurses here today,” a portly woman in a starched white gown said. She showed the two newcomers around the small cabin. “You’ll be able to show us the proper way to treat our wounded.”
“If they really were wounded,” Janice replied.
“Of course! No one ever gets hurt during these pretend skirmishes. It’s a Civil War re-enactment, but it’s important to be as historically accurate as possible.”
“Of course,” Gloria agreed. A sudden shiver ran down her spine. Gloria blinked in surprise. Where did that come from? That sudden, unexplainable urge to flee gnawed at her again, her stomach tightening into knots.
Nonsense, she firmly told herself. This will be entertaining and educational. There is nothing to fear. Her mind yelled back—liar.
Gloria tried to shake her panicky feeling by looking around the cabin.
There were no windows. Rough-hewn benches lined the walls. Tables were set up in three places around the room with washbasins, pitchers and bandages on each, along with a small assortment of bottles and crude instruments. She moved and bumped into one of the small tables with the hoop skirt of the period costume she was wearing. Sighing with frustration she moved out of the way and bumped into the wall behind her.
How did women ever get anything done in these contrap-tions?
She looked down at the front of her gown and gasped in dismay, pulling up the neckline of the flowered organza mate-rial to cover more of her exposed skin.
Janice, wearing a pretty blue gown with matching bon-net, tsked slapping Gloria’s hands away. “You’ve got a dyna-mite figure, Gloria,” she said to her friend while re-adjusting the neckline, “Show it off!”
Gloria rolled her eyes. Typical Janice, a perpetual social butterfly. Leave it to her to be on the lookout for good-looking men at a Civil War re-enactment.
When Janice was satisfied that Gloria’s charms were showing to their best advantage she took a look around.
“This is it?” she squeaked, picking up a bandage. “This is all we have to work with?”
“This is all they had to work with,” the woman in white said. “Authentic, isn’t it.”
“No wonder so many died,” Janice whispered to Gloria.
The sudden boom of cannon fire startled the women.
“Let’s go out and watch,” the lady in white suggested, her eyes wide with excitement. “It’ll be a few minutes before the first casualties arrive.”
They stood outside the doorway of the crude cabin in the oppressive sunshine and watched the fighting start.
It looked like a scene out of a movie. Blue coated men with large rifles ran from one side of the park, men in the rear pointing exploding artillery, the burned-out shell of the origi-nal Chancellor’s house in the background, a silent testimony to the real battle that had been fought here over one hundred years ago. Gray coats charged from the other side of the park. Gloria held her breath as they clashed in the middle, the sounds of guns barking and men yelling ringing in her ears.
She shivered in the hot, humid air. It all looked so real, so barbaric. She could not imagine how it would feel to run up to someone, look them in the eye, and kill them.
“Here come the first stretchers!” the woman in white called. “Let’s get to work ladies!”
The women went inside, stretcher-bearers following right behind.
An injured man was set on a bench in front of Gloria. The man in gray moaned.
“My shoulder,” he whispered.
“Let’s take a look.” Gloria peeled the cloth back from the wound. To her relief the skin was healthy. She looked up at the man and he winked. Gloria laughed with relief. “I guess I forgot it’s just a re-enactment.”
“A pretend wound still needs a bandage,” the man pointed out.
She took some gauze and wound it around the man’s shoulder.
“That’s very realistic fake blood.”
“We get it from the local theatre group. Washes out real good, not like ketchup. Ketchup stains.” He sat up when she was done.
“We wouldn’t want your costume to get ruined.” Gloria smiled.
“Thanks.” The man smiled back, and then he hopped off the bench and walked back into the warm sunshine.
Gloria shook her head in wonder. That’s the easiest gunshot wound I’ve ever treated.
“This is easier than ER!” she called to Janice as another stretcher was laid before her.
“Much easier!” Janice agreed with a grin, wrapping a ban-dage around the head of her patient.
Gloria patched up the next soldier brought in, who had sustained a fake wound to the leg. The next had a wound to the side of his head. Then another soldier was laid before her, with stains on his chest.
More and more bodies piled up inside the small cabin. Men with lesser ‘wounds’ lined the walls standing; the worst cases were brought in on stretchers. Men even sat on the floor while waiting for attention.
The air became stuffy, the odor of smoke, sweat, damp wool and gunpowder mingled together unpleasantly. The heat of the day plus the close confines of the cabin and her heavy dress combined to make the cabin stifling. Sweat trickled down the back of her gown. She hastily wiped her wet hair out of her face, the pretty hat that matched her outfit long ago for-gotten, thrown into a nearby corner to be trampled on.
“It’s getting awfully hot in here,” she muttered under her breath, hurrying from one man to another. “Somebody open the door please!”
A young man who was holding his arm pushed the wooden door open. Gloria swallowed hard, her eyes adjusting to the light, for there were large numbers of wounded men waiting to get inside. How many people do these re-enactments anyway?
“What is going on out there?” she muttered, sighing and pulling at the material of her gown.
A pair of sweating soldiers carried away one stretcher as another was set down before her.
“Are we having fun yet?” she called to Janice with a weak smile, but Janice was too busy with her own patient to an-swer. This is what I get for letting Janice talk me into doing some-thing adventurous on our day off from the nursing seminar.
“Next time we go shopping at the mall!”
Gloria’s head spun suddenly, so dizzy she thought she would fall. She grabbed the side of a nearby table and closed her eyes until the wave of dizziness subsided.
Where did that come from? I need a break.
She lifted a part of her gown and wiped her grimy face. The man on the stretcher moaned loudly, writhing in pain as he clutched his side.
“My, you’re quite the actor, aren’t you,” Gloria remarked with a sigh, realizing a break would not be coming anytime soon.
She would just have to tough it out, as she had done nu-merous times in the emergency room of the hospital she worked at.
“Well you’re wasting your time with me. I’m not associ-ated with any theatrical groups around here; I’m just a nurse. Now lay still so I can put your bandage on.”
She pulled back the soldier’s hand and her whole world tilted wildly. Blood gushed out of a large, gaping wound in the man’s side.
“Oh my God!” she cried, her heart rate accelerating alarmingly. “You’re wounded! How did this happen?”
“Help me,” the soldier moaned.
“Of course!” Gloria blinked, then sprang into action. “Janice! I need your help! We’ve got an injured man here—I mean really wounded! I need antiseptic, sutures, silk—hurry!”
To the man she said, “Don’t worry, we are real nurses. You’re going to be fine.”
“Can’t help you now, Gloria,” Janice called from across the room. “Got my hands full.”
“Janice, I’m not kidding! This is real blood. We’ve got to call an ambulance or he’ll die!”
The man moaned again. Gloria’s hands were red with his blood as she tried to staunch the bleeding.
“Hang in there,” she gritted out of clenched teeth. “I’m not going to let you die.”
She looked up and yelled, “I need an ambulance—now!”
“The wagons are being loaded now for the hospital,” the woman in white said from Gloria’s side.
Gloria whirled to face her and gasped in alarm. The woman’s pristine white dress was spattered with blood.
“My God, not you too,” Gloria choked, her head suddenly so dizzy she had to grip onto the side of a table for support.
This can’t be happening. These people aren’t supposed to be hurt.
She closed her eyes against the vertigo. A moan from the stretcher brought her back from the brink of darkness.
“What is going on here?” she screamed at the woman. “Why are these men getting hurt?”
“This is war,” the woman explained with a frown. “Men get wounded and die.”
“This is a re-enactment of a war!” Gloria cried, turning back to bandage the side of the soldier as best she could.
When she was done the stretcher was removed and she faced the other woman again.
“People are pretending to fight, they shouldn’t be getting hurt. This is ridiculous!”
The other woman eyed her in bewilderment. “Pretend? What are you talking about?”
“Nothing.” Gloria turned and dismissed the woman, an-other injured man put before her.
“Please be pretend, please be pretend,” she chanted under her breath as she pulled back the bloody cloth on the man’s leg. “Oh, God,” she moaned, closing her eyes, another wave of dizziness threatening to engulf her.
There was a gaping wound in the man’s upper thigh, the white of bone showing through.
“Hang in there fella,” Gloria gritted out, working to save the leg, using the crude instruments as best she could to sew the wound up.
Stubborn determination that had sustained her through many a disaster in the emergency room came in to play now to help her. She would do everything in her power to save this man’s life.
When she was sure she had done everything she could for the soldier she called for the next stretcher. This time it was a young soldier, not more than fifteen, with a bloody bandage on his arm. Gloria cut away the material from his arm and sucked her breath in sharply.
“What is going on out there?” she shouted, grabbing an in-strument to work on the wound. “What are you people doing to each other out there? You aren’t supposed to really be kill-ing each other! This is supposed to be fun!”
“War is never fun, ma’am,” the soldier said solemnly.
“But this isn’t war,” Gloria argued as she worked. “This is a re-enactment.”
“I think you are mistaken, ma’am,” the soldier replied, wincing as Gloria splashed alcohol on his wound. “I been in this here war a year now. This here’s for real.”
Gloria paused, searching the boy’s face.
“How old are you,” she asked nastily. “Fifteen?”
“I’m eighteen, ma’am!” the boy declared. “And I know what I’m talking about.”
“Janice!” Gloria yelled, her hands continually moving.
“What year is this?”
“Gloria, what a silly question.” Janice laughed.
Gloria shot the boy a triumphant look.
“It’s 1863, silly.”
The instrument in Gloria’s hand clattered to the floor. She stared in horror at the soldier and the solemn look in his eyes went right through her soul.
“Oh my God,” she muttered, bending over his arm again. “Please let this be a dream. Let this all be a horrible dream and let me wake up at the hotel.”
When she was done wrapping up the arm she stumbled over to where Janice was working.
“Janice, what the hell’s going on around here?” she grabbed the woman in the blue dress by the arm. “Why did you tell that boy it was 1863?”
But when the woman turned it wasn’t Janice anymore. The woman who stood before her was a stranger. She looked at Gloria in confusion.
“Because it is,” she answered.
“Who are you?” Gloria demanded, her head spinning.
“My name is Hester.”
She shook the woman, shouting into her face, “What did you do with my friend! She was here a minute ago. Where is Janice? And it’s Nineteen ninety-one. We are in the middle of a Civil War re-enactment that has gone terribly, horribly wrong!”
The cabin was suddenly quiet. Gloria looked frantically around at all the pitying faces staring at her. She felt as if her heart would beat right out of her chest.
“Gloria,” Hester took her shaking hand, speaking softly and slowly, as if to calm a frightened child. “I think you need to go outside and get some fresh air.”
“Yes, yes—I think you’re right,” Gloria agreed, shaking. “I’m going to the nearest phone to call for police and ambu-lances at once.”
She stepped around and over the wounded and burst through the doorway to the outside, closing her eyes and tak-ing in great gulps of air.
Then she opened her eyes. And screamed.
Bodies littered the ground as far as the eye could see, gray and blue clad bodies lying side by side. Cries from the wounded echoed through air that was pungent and thick with the smells of gunpowder, smoke and death. Thunder rolled and lightening flashed in the distance.
For the first time in her life, Gloria fainted, crumbling to the earth like a puppet with broken strings.
When she next awoke she was back in the cabin. It was twilight; a few oil lamps had been lit on tables around the room.
“Where am I?” she asked, her voice sounding thick, trying to sit up.
“Take it easy,” a voice said from beside her.
Gloria looked over to find a man in Confederate uniform sitting next to her.
“You had quite a spell. Rest awhile until you get your legs back.”
“Where’s Janice?” Gloria asked, rubbing her eyes. Man, if this is what fainting feels like I hope I never do it again.
“Janice? Who is Janice?”
“My friend. The other nurse, who was here helping.” Gloria felt strong enough to sit up and swing her legs over the side of the cot.
The man smiled the way Gloria had smiled at numerous dazed patients before.
“The other nurse helping us is Hester. She’s been my as-sistant for almost a year now.”
He patted Gloria’s cold hand in comfort.
“The first day is always the worst, but you’ll get used to it, you’ll see. After a few days you’ll fit right in.”
Gloria eyed the man strangely. This guy is nuts.
She slowly pulled her hand out of the man’s grip. “I’m sure I will.” She smiled back. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’d like to go outside and get some air.”
“Oh yes, that’s a good idea,” the man agreed. “The fight-ing is done for today, it should be safe for you to step outside.”
Gloria got to her feet, willing for her knees to stop knocking.
“I’m sure it is.”
Boy, when I get back to the hotel I’m going to let Janice have it. Imagine, deserting me in this strange place, and with a crazy man, no less! I know she thinks I should get out more, but this is ridiculous!
Gloria shook off his helping hand and walked unsteadily to the door, thinking only of getting back to the safety of the ho-tel. But when she stepped outside, letting the door slam closed behind her, she stopped short, staring at what she thought had been a nightmare. She didn’t even feel the rain that drenched her in seconds.
“This isn’t happening,” Gloria mumbled, her senses in a state of riot, for there before her, was the very same battle-field she’d thought was only a dream. “This just isn’t possible! God help me, I’ve got to get out of here before I lose my mind!”