Katherine's Time Capsule

Katherine's Time Capsule

A Story by Miki

A Historical Fiction story about a woman named Katherine.


I walked through the door and gave my umbrella a light shake before closing it. I hurried to a small table at the back of the room, propping my umbrella and bag up against my chair, and waved over a young man who was scurrying from table to table. I ordered a coffee and he frowned, scribbling my request on a small pad of paper. He stuck out his tongue in concentration and made an impatient noise as I changed my mind and instead requested a cup of tea and a scone. After he finished writing, reread what I had ordered, then asked "Anything else?"

"No, thank you." I replied, twisting my wedding ring anxiously. He rushed away, presumably towards the kitchen.

I fidgeted with the flaps of my hat and glanced around the shop; it was nearly empty, save for a few customers here and there... A weary woman sat in a corner, hunched over her cup, staring at it blankly, as if it signified something more than simply a cooling cup of coffee. An overburdened mother was tending to a child of maybe three, a grim set to her mouth whenever he threw something across the table at his sister. A balding man, a few tables down from myself, had a newspaper open in front of him, scrutinizing the weekly news; absent minded, he dumped half of a sugar container into his coffee as he leaned closer to the paper, absorbed in whatever it was he was reading. After he finished reading the article, he set down the sugar and took a swig of his coffee. He immediately spat it out in his cup. "Yuck!" he shouted; realizing he had exclaimed it aloud, he glanced about, giving the evil-eye to a young woman nearby who had looked up in surprise at his statement. I quickly pulled my gaze away from him and fixed it on a small family of crumbs living on the floor.

"One tea and a scone..." A voice said above me.

I looked up at the young man from before and smiled, "Thank you."

He set my tea in front of me and a small plate, on which sat my scone. I took a sip of my tea, glancing outside. The weather had worsened after my arrival and fat raindrops hit the windowpane, a storm threatening to begin.

I set my tea down and reached into my bag, extracting a dingy old box. Using the box, I pushed my tea and scone farther away from me. I stared at the box for a moment. I remembered this box; my father gave it to me in my younger years. The outside was made of some kind of metal, but the inside... I twisted the lock open and grasped the lid. I pried the lid from the bottom and flipped it back; it made a small thump as the edge of the lid made contact with the table.

I ran my hand along the inner lining; the fringe was made of a dark blue velvet material. The cloth was slightly stained and the box had the strong scent of the earth.

Inside the box laid an envelope and a gorgeous hat pin; I picked up the pin and admired it. It was pure silver, encrusted with five small emerald gemstones, and simply sparkled, even under the dim lights of the shop.

I replaced the pin in the box and lifted the envelope out. The paper was rough under my fingertips and smelled of parchment, ink, and the faint smell of roses. I unsealed it and slipped out the letter concealed within.

May 15, 1909

Dear thirty-four year old Katherine Blaine,

This afternoon, on the date of my birth, exactly sixteen years ago, I sit on the veranda and write you this letter, though I suppose once eighteen years have passed, you will be me. It feels quite unusual, writing a letter to myself, a strange feeling I can't quite express in words... I suppose I will start off with how I first began writing this odd letter:

I overheard a conversation about this strange device called a time capsule, and decided to create one of my own. Escaping from my parent's watchful eye, I wrote this letter, collected my single most valued possession, and buried both in a box under a tree, 150 steps north and 402 steps east of my house. If I kept my personal promise to myself, you will have located this capsule and dug it up after exactly eighteen years, and you will be reading this on the date of your birthday. I know not what will, or has, come to pass in these eighteen years, but I sympathize for any loses, and thank the stars for your happiness.

My name is Katherine Blaine, I am sixteen years old, and the date of my birthday is May 15, 1893. I was born, and currently live, in a peaceful town in Louisiana, and I'm very happy with my loving, yet often overprotective parents, Helen and Frank Blaine, and my dear younger sister, Clara.

In three months time, in August, I am to be wed to a charming fellow named Ralph Elmer... Katherine Elmer, can you imagine it? I'm positively delighted! Three months just do not seem to pass quick enough! I suspect Mother and Father's approval of the marriage is mostly due to Ralph's monetary influence, though, but I would adore him even without all that. He gave me a rose this year for my birthday, do you remember? It was a lovely, enchanting rose; dew drops still clinging to its petals. It was the most thoughtful and wonderful gift anyone has given me.

I have always enjoyed gardening, and I planted many roses in the yard. Oh, how furious Mother always was when I came in the house, my beautiful white gown dirt stained from tending to my garden. "You're covered in filth, Katherine! What were you doing outside again?!" she would say every time, as if reciting from a script. Then, as if on queue, Clara would walk in the room, overhear Mother scolding me, and she would point at me and laugh silently. As much as I love my sister, she really does madden me, more often than not.

I studied from all sorts of books in secret, while no one was paying me any mind. Of course, hiding all these books from Mother was extremely taxing, but I managed it day after day. My favorite was the Mathematics book I hid under the rose bush behind the house, and I would often sneak out to the veranda to read it, and then reread it after I had read it the first time. When Mother discovered my secret, she disapproved, as expected. She claimed it, to be "unladylike" and "unrefined." So I took up cooking, sewing and knitting, to please Mother, though I still fled, whenever I had the opportunity, to read.

Inside this time capsule, I have placed my favorite hat pin, a gift from my mother. It is my most treasured possession, and it disheartens me to even think of parting with it, but I am creating a tradition, that I hope you will keep. Every eighteen years, on the date of your birthday, you are to read what you wrote eighteen years before and place it back in the capsule, then you are to write a letter to your future-self, and place your most valued possession in the box and rebury it. Where you bury it is of your choosing, for you may have moved far from where you first lived, in Louisiana.

Happy birthday,

Katherine Blaine

I dried my eyes on my coat and folded the letter, shoved it back in its envelope, then replaced it back in the box... So much had changed between now and then, it was almost unbelievable. I stared at my, probably now ice cold, cup of tea in the center of the table.

I drew out an envelope, piece of paper, and a pen from my bag and I set them on the table in front of me, then paused.

What was my most valued possession? I narrowed my eyebrows and frowned. My gaze was drawn to my wedding ring, which I was absently twisting, as it had become a habit over the eighteen long years. I smiled sadly at my ring; I had grown accustomed to the gold band I wore on my ring finger, rarely removing it from my finger, afraid I may misplace it. I gave the ring another twist, glanced around the the shop, then pulled off it off my finger... I gently laid my wedding ring in my time capsule.

I pulled a piece of paper closer to me and began writing my letter:

May 15, 1927

Dear fifty-two year old Katherine Elmer,

Today is May 15, 1927, exactly eighteen years since I wrote my last time capsule letter; I'm sitting at a table at the far end of a coffee shop, my only company a glass of cold tea and a scone. A terrible storm was brewing outside, so I decided to take shelter here, finally glad I brought an umbrella to work, for once.

My name is Katherine Elmer, though my maiden name is Blaine, I am thirty-four years old, and the date of my birthday is May 15, 1893. I was born in Louisiana, and currently live in the bustling city of New York.

First, I would like to remark on how much my life has changed in the past eighteen years. When writing my letter in 1909, I had no idea that so many things would, or could, have occurred. For better, or for worse. In September of 1909, I married Ralph Elmer, as I had dreamed of doing three months earlier. We lived together happily and in 1911, we had our first child. Will, is his name. Will is now seventeen, and has left home to seek his own fortune. I also have a daughter, born in 1915; Julia is twelve and is currently waiting for me back at the apartment.

I began discovering odd new trends in art, music, and even literature. In 1913, Ralph and I attended the concert of a man named Igor Stravinsky in Paris, leaving our son, Will, at home with a housekeeper. The music Stravinsky played was strange, and the dancing even stranger; I didn't know exactly what to make of it. Many people around me hissed and booed, others shouted and whistled, and the people on the stage continued nonetheless, even when fistfights in the crowd broke out.

My dear Ralph, our child, and I moved to New York in 1914, a year before Julia was born. We moved into an apartment and lived comfortably. We heard of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austria Hungary throne, and his wife, Sofia later that year in late June.

Years passed, worrying over the Great War that was waging across the globe, worrying over expenses, safety, and the economy. I was hired for an accountant job and Ralph studied for a position as a lawyer. We were comfortable. Content. Happy... Then on April 6, 1917, the United States of America entered the Great War, and Ralph left to fight for the cause.

The war continued for about a year and a half, until November 11, 1918. All the U.S. soldiers were sent home, but Ralph never returned. A soldier had knocked on my door one day, notifying me that my husband had died in the line of duty. I didn't ask how he died; I didn't want to know. They wouldn't even let me see his body when they brought it home. There was a closed-casket funeral in honor of Ralph and the other deceased soldiers who died during the war.

I received a letter from my sister, Clara, in the early 1919's, explaining that both Mother and Father had died of influenza, though it didn't go into details. I rushed to my sister's side and, feeling like the world was crumbling down around me, I helped prepare our parent's funeral.

When I returned home, I began noticing slight changes. Everyday things that you would likely brush off as a "passing trend," but seemed to stick. Women wore short dresses, their large hats replaced with more modern ones, or even no hats at all... Even I participated; it was new and exciting, a welcome change, and an easy distraction from my own thoughts, I think...

Friends and neighbors encouraged me to attend "talkies," which were movies with sound. Movies with sound? It seemed preposterous, but I went to see these "talkies," nonetheless, just to see what my friends were going on about. I was stunned, I had never seen something so strange as "talkies," it was an odd sensation to watch a movie and hear voices and sound effects; I always assumed they would be silent.

In 1920, the 19th Amendment was passed, which gave women the right to vote... Having the right to vote was, I suppose the best word I can use to describe it is, amazing. The 19th Amendment gave those of us could not express our opinions, freedom. It gave us the opportunity to speak our minds, to speak for ourselves; to state our opinions, disregarding any rules that were holding us back before!

Well, I won't bore you any longer with this letter, I apologise for the length... I hope life has been going well for you, and I hope your luck turns around soon if it hasn't.

Happy Birthday,

Katherine Elmer

I folded my letter and slipped it into the envelope sitting on the table. I set the letter in the box, and taking one last glance at my wedding ring, I closed my time capsule. I took a deep breath and blinked away tears. I dropped my pen in my bag and stood. I pulled my bag over a shoulder, snatched my umbrella up before it toppled to the floor, and carefully tucked my time capsule under my arm.

I paid for my tea and scone, neither of which I had finished, and opened the shop door. I stepped out and shielded my eyes from the blinding sunlight. The pavement was still wet from the rain; I stepped into a large puddle of water and looked down. In the puddle, I saw my reflection; I saw a young woman who looked determined. A confident, capable, independent woman. I smiled.

When I got home, I decided, I would call Clara and talk with her; it didn't really matter what we talked about, just anything that came to mind. Then Julia and I would visit my old home in Louisiana and rebury my time capsule.

I looked up and spotted my car. Pulling out my keys, I strode over to it, placed my belongings in the passenger seat, and hopped in. I started the ignition and gripped the steering wheel. I took one last glance at the shop I had just exited; it was a new building, just recently opened. "Caffe Reggio, huh? I'll have to remember this place." I nodded to myself, making a mental note of the name and location, promising to actually eat more of my order next time I visited.

My gaze slid to my time capsule, resting innocently on the seat next to me. I smiled, then focused my eyes on the road ahead of me and pulled out of my parking spot.

© 2012 Miki

Author's Note

Sorry I haven't written anything in a while, haha. ^_^" I've been working on a new book of mine, that I think is actually going pretty well, plus I've had schoolwork to do. Anyway, this is a story I wrote for an assignment in my Modern World Studies class; I enjoyed writing it and wanted to share it. Hope you like it, tell me what you think! :3 Thank you!

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Added on November 22, 2012
Last Updated on November 22, 2012
Tags: historical, fiction, 1909, 1927, time, capsule, WWI, Great War, 19th Amendment



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