” Randall dinner!” Alex called from the front porch.
“If you don’t come in & get washed up your in so much trouble.” she finished.
No answer came.
“Where is that boy?” she asked herself as she walked around the house towards the pasture area where there were three yearling colts grazing.
Randall liked to stand and scratch the ponies thru the fences or else pretend he was a Indian brave trying to steal a pony from the Army.No sign of him here either.
“Hmmm I wonder if he went down to the barns?” Alex said aloud to noone in particular.
She passed one of the ranch hands a older man who went by the name of Dusty.
” Hey Dusty you seen my brother hanging around?”
The man looked up, spit a brown stream of tobacco juice out and pointed to the barn.
” He’s in thare, I told him not to go messin about cuz we got fresh paint on the walls but you know how boys are” he replied.
“Thanks Dusty, by the way Jo says dinner is ready you better go clean up and eat”
He grunted a reply as she went into the cool dimness of the barn.It as still full of that new wood and paint smell, and she breathed deeply enjoying the fresh clean smell.
A scuffling noise drew her attention to the loft ,where a puff of dust was falling thru the few beams of light coming in from the doors.Alex climbed the ladder as silently as possible,sure enough there was Randall covered in paint and straw.
“What are you doing?” she asked him.
Randall jumped a foot and then yelled “What the hey! Alex you scared the devil out of me?”
“As if I could” she replied.”Aunt Jo is gonna tan your hide. You got paint all over yourself.”
She walked a bit closer and saw what he had been looking at,a nest with five newborn kittens!
“I found mama kitty’s nest.” Randall said,as he stared at the tiny mewling kittens.
“Yes you did,now lets go eat and leave them be or she’ll move them and you won’t see them til the eyes open”
The two of them climbed down the ladder and went in the house for dinner,sure enough aunt Jo was pretty mad at him for getting paint everywhere,but decided that extra chores were better than a whipping.
Later after dinner was over & the kitchen cleaned up Alex decided to go visit her friend Lindsay who lived on a neighboring ranch.Lindsay was an amateur inventor of sorts and you never knew what she would come up with next.
“Aunt Jo,I’m going to visit Lindsay.Is it ok if I ride over?” she called down stairs to her aunt.
“I suppose just be careful going down that road with Domingo,he spooks easy.” her aunt replied.
Saddling up Domingo and leading him out of the paddock,she mounted and was just about ready to leave when a cloud of dust followed by a car horn made her pull up.
“Hey, hey, wait up don’t go no where.” a familiar voice yelled.
With a screech and more dust an old truck halted just shy of hitting the fence.Out jumped Lindsay, with her glasses sliding down her nose and her hair in braids that always looked as if they were trying to come undone. They had been friends for ever it seemed.
“I was just about to head over to your place.” Alex told her “Let me go take off Domingos tack and I’ll join you on the porch.”
A few minutes later the two girls were chatting in the shade of the wide porch.
“So what brings you over here in such a rush?” Alex asked as they sat in the chairs that lined the front porch of the house.
“I had to come show you what I did.” Lindsay said” I been working on it for ever.”
“Working on what, learning to drive?” a sarcastic voice said.
Randall had just come out with a bucket of dirty water, aunt Jo must have made him scrub the entry way as part of his extra chores.
“Never you mind little boy with a bucket.” Lindsay sneered ” Just go away and find someone else to bug.”
Randall stuck out his tongue, then threw out the water and went back inside.
“So what did you want to show me?” Alex asked.
Smiling Lindsay looked around to make sure that pesky Randall was nowhere to be seen and said “You got to follow me, I don’t want to take any chances with it.”
Raising an eyebrow Alex followed her friend off the porch rather trepidaciously; knowing Lindsay and her inventions the possibility that something could go wrong or even blow up was very real.When they reached the field behind the house Lindsay pulled something out of her bag.
She smiled from ear to ear and said proudly “Here it is!”
All Alex saw was what looked like an ordinary belt buckle.”Uh I don’t want to burst your bubble,but I think belt buckles have already been invented.”
“Oh ha ha” Lindsay said “It isn’t a belt buckle silly its a time travel device.”
Alex just looked at her,”A what?”
Lindsay smiled “You remember when we were learning about the Russian revolution and you said that you wished you could go back in time and bring the whole family here where they would be safe?”
Yeah,but we were 14 then & I thought the actor who played the Tsar was cute.””Alex replied .”
” Well if this works, you could meet the real thing.” Lindsay stated.
“What do you mean?” Alex asked.
Lindsay was almost hyperventilating with excitement.
“Ok calm down, what are you gonna do with this…. time travel thingy?”
We are going to rescue the Tsar of Russia & his family.”Lindsay stated firmly.
“Ok so uh let’s say we do this,we get away with it and return a family from the 1900’s to the 21st century don’t you think they will suffer a bit from culture shock?”Alex was a very practical person and this just seemed somewhat far-fetched.
Lindsay didn’t say anything she just let it sink in that this crazy idea might just work.
Alex spoke 1st” If this works,& we really can do it,we got a lot of planning,not to mention how are we gonna explain to my aunt about 7 house guests that don’t even speak English.”
Lindsay let out a sigh of relief “Whew I was hoping you would say yes.” “Don’t worry I have been researching things all winter ,I been working on this since last spring you know.”
Alex looked at her friend’s face; she was glowing with excitement.
” Alright, then when would we actually do all this?
“Tomorrow morning meet me at the creek bed between my place and here ok.”
“Tomorrrow! Wait , what, …. how am I …. !” Alex stuttered
Lindsay looked at her ” Don’t worry I have been thinking on this for a very long time. I have it under control.”
“That’s what I’m worried about.” Alex muttered as Lindsay got in the truck & cranked over the engine.
She waved then put it in gear & drove back down the long drive to the road. Alex walked to the porch & sat down thinking. Catching sight of Dusty and some of the other cowhands she had a brainstorm.The men who worked here were heading out early in the morning to ride fence lines & repair any that were damaged. Randall at 13, was old enough to go & lend a hand.
“Hey guys wait up a minute.”
She laid out her idea to the men and waited to see if they were agreeable.
” Randall would really be an asset to you tomorrow. That’s a lot of fence to check & well he needs to learn to do it as well as anything else right?”
Dusty spoke up 1st” If he goes out with us,he better listen cuz the range ain’t no place to be a knucklehead”
“I think he will Dusty he watches you all go out and I think he just wants to be given a chance, so will you take Randall with you”Please.”
“Ok he can come along.” A cowboy called Bill said.
Alex grinned from ear to ear ” Thanks a bunch guys,I’ll tell him so that he’ll be ready to leave when you do.”
That was taken care of, Alex ran into the house and quickly explained to her aunt what was going on
“I guess so, I just hope Randall realizes that those guys are gonna be working on the fences they ain’t out playing.”
A loud whoop and a blur of denim was the answer”You mean they are going to let me go out with them? For real? No joke?” Randall hollered “Whoo hoo, all right.”
He ran upstairs to grab his stuff.Pounding back down to the front room he grabbed his boots and flew out the door towards the barn.
The next day after her chores were done followed by a big breakfast,Alex told her aunt she was going to meet Lindsay for the day.
A couple of hours later the two girls were standing by the creek which, due to the heat of the summer, had very little water in it.
“Ok from what I have determined if we show up at say midnight their time we should be able to get the whole family out before their guards even know they are gone.”
Lindsay hadn’t been kidding she had really thought the whole thing out.The little device was set for July 15,1918.
“Ok hold my hand so we don’t get separated in time.” Lindsay said.
Alex did and felt a tingle as the air around them seemed to shimmer and waver like hot pavement in the sun.A few momments later they were standing in the dark.
“Where are we?”Alex asked
“Shh listen, I think I hear someone moving around.” Lindsay whispered.
A light appeared under the door and they both heard foot steps.All at once the door opened & the two friends were face to face with … Tsar Nicholas II!
“Who are you?” he asked in heavily accented English.
“You speak English?” They asked in surprise
A woman spoke from the other room in Russian.The Tsar turned and answered, also in Russian. Then to the girls he said” My wife inquired as to who I was talking to.”
“Your majesty please you must gather your household together we are here to rescue you from this place”Alex told him.
His blue eyes twinkled as he looked at them,even now they seemed like kind eyes yet they wore the haunted look of a man who has seen great hardship and suffering.
“Please your majesty I speak the truth.I know your son is gravely ill, we have very little time.”
Half expecting him to not believe them ,they were surprised when he gave a nod and beckoned them to follow him.Speaking in rapid Russian to his wife he quickly explained what was happening.She stared in shock at the two girls from another time and then merely nodded.Getting up she left the room returning several minutes later accompanied by her children and the servants who had remained with them.
“Ok everyone needs to grasp hands.” Lindsay instructed & Nicholas repeated these instructions to his family in Russian.The air seemed to shimmer again and a few moments later they all found themselves blinking in the bright light and ankle deep in creek water. “Welcome to America your majesty” Alex said
The Tsar looked around and stepped out of the water.
“Vhere are ve?” he asked.
“Well your majesty you and your family are in the great state of Montana.” Alex told him.
The whole group looked around them as they too stepped out of the warm shallow creek.They appeared fearful as if afraid that it was all a hoax and the guards would jump out at any minute.Then the faint peals of a bell reached their ears.Alex & Lindsay knew it to be Aunt Jo’s dinner bell.
“If you’ll all follow us up to the house,that’s my aunt calling everyone to lunch” Alex informed them.
Alex knew her aunt would be helpful but just how does one explain the sudden appearance of 11 people from thin air?
Lindsay glanced at her watch”Yipes it’s after 12 my folks are gonna wonder where I am.”
She turned towards the little group huddled together beside the creek”Welcome to Montana USA .” she said with a smile and turned to untie her horse which had been tethered by a small stand of trees.
“Call me later.” Alex hollered as her friend rode off.
It was time to introduce the Russian royal family to the ranch.
“Aunt Jo, I brought some guests with me for lunch.” Alex called as she bounded up the porch steps.
“Did you now well the more the mer…..” her voice trailed off when she came to the door and saw just how many guests there were.
“Oh my” she took a quick head count and then yelled into the house “Eleven more for lunch Miss Laura.”
An unseen Laura hollered back “How many you say?”
A short grey haired lady came from the kitchen wiping her hands on her apron.”Oh! Well I can add another cup of water to the soup then I guess. Come on in and wash up.” Laura said with a cheerful grin
Nicholas turned to Aunt Jo and gave a slight bow” Thank you madam for the hospitality.”
Jo laughed “You sir are very welcome.”
As the group filed by Jo took in their pale faces and the grayish cast to the Tsarevitch’s face.
Pulling Alex aside she stated firmly “Alexandra Jean what have you & Lindsay done?”
As Alex stood there trying to figure out where to begin, Jo waved her off & said “Tell me later.”
The Tsar was a cheerful dinner guest & even with the slight language barrier had all of them laughing..The family all seemed surprised by the fact that despite the number of people, (with the ranch hands there 20 at the long table), there more than enough food to go around. The children drank glass after glass of cold milk and the youngest daughter could not seem to get enough butter for her bread.The Tsarina had asked for a cup of hot tea & Laura brought not only a cup and extra tea bags, but a small pot of hot water as well.
Randall stared at everyone & his sister could see the questions in his eyes.”Later” she promised.
When everyone was finished Laura started to clear the table, the four Grand Duchess’ tried to help,only to rebuffed “Nonsense, you just got here, I’ll let you help tomorrow.” the older woman said cheerfully.
Alex of course jumped up to help & even Randall seemed eager to assist
“Ok who are they and where did you find them?” he inquired in the kitchen.
“I’ll tell you later ok, just help me with the dishes for right now.” Alex told him.
“Deal?” he asked
“Deal!” his sister said
Aunt Jo showed their guest to the spare bedrooms and the bathrooms so they rest and clean up.She looked the Tsar right in the eyes and asked “What’s wrong with your son? He looks peaked.”
His eyes closed momentarily then “He has the bleeding sickness,and he injured himself badly last veek.We are unable to help him.”
Jo frowned “Well a nap and and a hot bath for now, I can deal with the other later.”
Once their guests were settled Jo sat down with Alex and the whole story unfolded.
“So you see Aunt Jo I couldnt bear the thought of history staying the same,they were innocent victims who didn’t deserve to be killed like that”
Jo sipped her iced tea lost in thought, she looked into her niece’s eyes
“I can’t be mad ,your heart is in the right place, but that boy is very ill, hemophilia, Alex you have no idea what that means.”
Laura came in the room with the phone in her hand “Call Doc Patterson,if anyone can be trusted to help and not talk about it, it’s her.”
Alex jumped up and hugged the older lady “Now don’t go getting clingy girl I got things to do.” Laura snapped playfully.
The exhausted Romanovs slept thru the rest of the day into the night.Lindsay stopped back over and was helping Alex with her evening chores.
“So Jo seemed to take it alright then I see.” Alex just nodded
“She even called up Dr. patterson to get her to come out and check on Alexei to see if there is anything that can be done for him.”
As they walked to the house the passed a heated checker game at the bunk house “I done crowned you!” Dusty’s voice carried on the clear night air.
“You did not! You old cheatin dog you.” Bill countered.
“Evening guys” the two girls said as they came up.
“Evenin’ urself” the men replied.
Dusty looked up and asked if Alex had remembered that they had a load of wild mustangs coming in the next day.
“Oops no I forgot,you needed the corral fence checked didn’t you?” Alex said
The old man nodded “Dontcha worry ’bout it ur brother took care of it for ya.”
“Randall!” both girls exclaimed.
“What?” a voiced said they turned around to find him standing there.
“Now are you gonna tell me what’s going on” he asked.
The trio went up to the porch and Lindsay filled him in on the details.
“So the boy, the one who can’t walk, he’s like a..a prince or something?”Randall asked
“Wow! that is so cool,and he’s around my age too!”
Laura appeared at the door with a platter of cookies and a pitcher of cold milk.
“Lindsay your mom called she said you might as well stay here tonight,she don’t want you riding back in the dark.”
“Thanks Laura.” Lindsay replied.
As soon as the cookies,& milk were finished the kids went to bed. It had been a long day but even though both girls were tired they knew that this was only the beginning of what promised to be really good summer!
The next morning came,& with it the promise of a hot day.As soon a breakfast was over Alex, Lindsay & Randall took the family on a tour of the ranch.Everyone except for Alexei & his mother went.Nicholas was impressed by the size and efficiency of the whole operation.The girls were a bit taken aback by the noise of the wild mustangs as they were unloaded into the corral.
“Vhere do they come from?”asked the youngest daughter.
Randall told her that they ran wild all over the west and once in a while they were rounded up to be adopted out.Alex saw a cloud of dust coming up the road and guessed it to be the Dr. arriving to check on young Alexei.Sure enough a few minutes later Aunt Jo hollered for Alex to bring Nicholas and come to the house. When they got there Nicholas was introduced to the Dr.”Vill you be able to help my son?” he asked.
“I think so, I would like to examine him if I may.”
Nicholas nodded and led her up to the room where his son lay unable to walk and in a great deal of pain.Several minutes passed before they returned.
“This is the most severe case I have ever seen,why has this child not been treated before now” Dr. Patterson asked tersely.
Alex gave her a condensed version of events & to her credit the Dr. took it in stride.
“Ok so I am treating a child from almost 100 years in the past with drugs from the 21st century.”
She just sat there for a moment.”I’ll do everything I can for your son,but the damage from earlier episodes ,I can’t undo.”
Nicholas took her hand & said “Thank you for vhat ever you vill be able to do.”
They were taught how to give the injections of clotting factor which would help to stop the bleeding into young Alexei’s joints.
A week later Alexei was romping around with Randall like any normal teenage boy.The girls went out to look for eggs in the chicken house & Alex laughed until her sides hurt when they tried to milk the old cow. Anastasia who did not like to be laughed at said something angrily in Russian and stormed off to the house.A few minutes later Nicholas was there to see what had prompted his youngest daughter to behave so.
“I am sorry your majesty” Alex said wiping her eyes ” It was funny especially when this ole cow kicked the stool out from under her.”
She doubled over with laughter again at the thought.As if picturing it himself Nicholas was soon laughing as well.
“She is that vay, she vill be calm down soon.” He didn’t return to the house but stood watching his children enjoying themselves free from fear for the 1st time in a long time.
“Alex I vould like a vord if I may.” he asked.
Alex sensed bad news coming and rather reluctantly followed the man back to the wide front porch and sat down in a chair next to him.
“I know that you thought you were doing a good deed vhen you brought us all here.” he stated.
Alex started to protest but he held up a hand to silence her, “I am grateful to you and to your family for all you have done, but ve do not belong here in your time.”
Alex was stunned “Your majesty please don’t ask me to take you all back,they will kill you, all of you with no mercy, and no conscience.”
Nicholas simply replied “I have alvays known ve vould die at the hands of captors, I have no vish to die but things must go as they were meant to.”
He watched as a tear rolled slowly down her cheek “You have a good heart my friend,ve vill not forget you.”
He rose from his seat and went into the house.Alex sat there with tears in her eyes,knowing that the words he spoke were true,yet hating the thought just the same.She went in & picked up the phone.
It was decided to allow them the rest of that summer to have total total freedom and Alexei a continued treatments for his affliction.Randall & Alexei were inseperable,Randall showed the young regent all over the vast acreage that comprised the ranch. As boys will do they explored,plundered,& collected. Every wash day their pockets would yeild a treasure trove of bit & peices of string,old nails,marbles,arrow heads,old buttons,etc… The days passed til the last night came. Aunt Jo & Laura had made an extra special meal for the last night with their guests. One last time Nicholas kept them entertained with funny stories,or jokes. Finally Jo said it was time to go to sleep.Tomorrow was sure to be a long busy day for all.
The next day Lindsay came over with her device and the entire group walked rather slowly down to the creek where they had arrived 3 months earlier.
“We are sure gonna miss all of you.” Lindsay said “I never thought history could be so real til I met all of you.
“The former Tsar replied that they they would miss them as well. Alex set the device for the same night that they had first rescued the family so that in their minds no time had passed,and their guards would not know a thing.
Randall came running up “Wait, wait a minute, I want you to have this.” he pressed a basket into Alexei’s hand.
“Vot is this?” he asked.
“Just some butter & eggs for the trip, & a present to help pass the time.” he shook the hand of the young prince and then turned & ran back towards the house.
“Everybody hold hands here we go.”
The air shimmered and they found them selves once again in a dark room.
“You’re back.” Alex said sadly.
“It was an honor to meet you sir, may God keep you in his hands.” Lindsay added.
“Thank you both for vot you have done,ve vill never forget you.”Alexandra said.
“Time” Alex said , they released hands & the air shimmered around them again.
The two friends found themselves back on the creek bank alone.
“Do you think they really remembered us?” asked Lindsay
“I don’t know but I’m sure they did.” replied Alex.
They went slowly up the bank each one lost in thought as they remembered the Tsar’s sense of humor and willingness to help with the most mundane chores,the delight of his children when they found out that they could eat as much as they liked and not be afraid. Summer was over. In another few weeks both of them would be heading back to school for the fall, when the teacher asked “What did you do all summer?” They would have quite a story for him.