A Picture's Worth A Thousand Words
By Kristen Sheley
Written November 1993

I bought the picture frame at "Irene's Olde Antiques." My friend Becky McCallistar and I love to shop at antique stores. It never fails to fascinate me when I see all this old stuff that people used in the past. I've always been fascinated with the past. Sometimes I wonder if it was destiny that I bought the picture frame. Yet on that cold, blustery winter day in mid-December, destiny was the farthest thing from my mind. Becky and I were doing some late Christmas shopping, and I was worrying more about the present than the past.

"Now, you're telling me that Chip Glenville was looking at me in homeroom yesterday?" I asked Becky as we entered Clarkdale Mall, the mall for O'Dale, Washington. Chip Glenville was a gorgeous creature who was a photographer for The Breeze, the newspaper at Jonathan O'Dale High School. I know that it's a tacky name for a school, but when the school was built ten years ago, the town council decided that it should be named for the guy who founded our town a century ago. Chip had brown hair, brilliant blue eyes that looked like they had been sliced out of the sky, and was incredibly shy. I swear, everytime he's seen me looking at him during class and daydreaming about how it would be nice to be Mrs. Charles Glenville, he's blushed.

"I promise you, Sarah, he was looking at you!" Becky repeated for the third time in the last half hour. "I think he likes you."

"Oh, yeah, right," I said, secretly pleased, but refusing to show it. "He was probably looking past me. I sit right in front of Mr. Oxford, you know."

"Oh please, can't you ever accept anything good happening to you?" Becky sighed, rolling her eyes.

"No, I can't," I told her, half joking, half serious. I have always had trouble believing that anything good could happen to me, Sarah Reese. I had never had a boyfriend, though I would be seventeen in a few months, and was, in all honesty, afraid to. Everytime we have dances at school, there is at least one girl in the bathroom, crying her eyes out because her boyfriend danced with someone else. I can't ever imagine getting so attached to one guy and subjecting myself to that kind of hurt. I've kind of built a wall around myself in that sense.

"Let's go in Irene's shop," Becky said as we approached it. That's why we're such good friends. She might not know me completely, but she can somehow tell when something makes me feel uncomfortable.

"Fine with me," I agreed quickly. "I haven't seen Irene in over a month."

We entered the antique shop, the first stop of the day. It was unusually busy, probably since Christmas was about a week away. Irene Jenkins, the nice elderly white-haired lady who owned the shop, smiled and waved at Becky and I as we passed the counter where she was busy with customers. She has been friends with Becky and I for almost seven years, ever since she opened up shop here and Becky and I became regulars. Her husband died about ten years ago, so she is a widow. I never met Alan Jenkins, but I've seen pictures of him. He was real cute forty years ago, when he was our age. Pity that he had to grow fat and bald, but I knew that Irene and Alan were still deeply in love when he had the fatal heart attack. She still gets this sad, far away look on her face whenever his name is mentioned.

"Hello girls," Irene greeted us, preoccupied. "I got some new things in last week. They're at the back of the store if you want to take a look."

"Thanks, Mrs. Jenkins," Becky called back. Even if she is real good friends with someone, Becky insists on calling them formally, no nicknames. Although her real name is Elizabeth, Becky told me once that if I ever called her that in public, she would tell the whole school that I was the one who, last year, mixed catfood in with the school's mystery meat when I had K.P. The culprit was never caught, but Becky never fails to hold it as a threat if she thinks I'll do something to embarrass her.

We passed an old fashioned rocking horse and wardrobe before we reached the back of the store. Sure enough, just as Irene had promised, there was a pile of new junk there. Picking up an old hand held mirror, I looked into it. Eyes, big, green, and long lashed blinked back at me in a flawless heart shaped face. My mouth twisted in a frown when I saw my fine, shoulder length blond hair, and I lifted up a hand to fix it. As usual, my bangs had fallen into my eyes and I brushed them back. The mirror was chipped in one corner, so I set it back down.

After looking through everything, I had a jewelry box picked out for my mom's Christmas gift. I was about to head for the mob at the checkout desk where Becky was already, having picked out an old clock for her father, who collects them, when something caught my eye. A small picture frame, just large enough to stick in a picture taken by a 35mm camera, like I had just bought a few weeks earlier, was resting on the cluttered table. The frame was gold, with a band of silver wrapped around the outside. I picked it up and examined it. The frame was plain, but elegant. I knew that I wanted it. I looked at the price sticker that was on the back. Only $5.95, plus tax. After buying the jewelry box, I'd have over forty dollars left. More that enough to get the frame. I tucked it under my arm and dashed over to the checkout counter. After ten minutes of waiting in line, Irene rang up Becky's and my purchases. As we marched out of the store, each holding a shopping bag with the antique shop's name on it, I had an unexplainable feeling of excitement about the purchase for myself.

Two hours later, I returned home from the mall in my mom's red sports car. Aside from the picture frame and jewelry box, I had also bought a nice tie for my dad (he's an accountant), an eye shadow collection for my thirteen-year-old sister Sally, and a football for my eight-year-old sports crazy brother Sam. (In case you are wondering, my parents thought it would be really cute to name all their kids with names that began with S. My mom is named Sabrina, and my dad is Sanders, so you might say that the Reeses are the S family). I snuck my booty upstairs to my room and locked the door so no snoopy siblings would barge in. I dumped the gifts out on my bed and sorted through them. A few minutes later, after hiding the family gifts in my closet until I could wrap them in a day or so, I picked my special purchase up, the antique picture frame. I knew exactly what photograph I wanted to slip into it.

After rummaging around in my closet for the old picture album, I sat on my bed and opened it up, flipping through the pages until I came to the one I wanted. I pulled back the layer of plastic that held the photos in place, and took the picture out, looking at it for a moment. It was me and my family, or the way my family was ten years ago, when I was six. My mom and dad were sitting behind my six-year-old self and three-year-old Sally, in front of the Christmas tree on Christmas morning. I had a big grin stretched from ear to ear, as I held a bulky package in my lap. If I remembered correctly, the gift turned out to be my stuffed cat Fuzzball, which I took everywhere with me until Sam was born, when I gave it to him. A small smile turned the corners of my mouth up as I slid the picture inside the frame.

I turned the frame around so the picture faced me and looked at it. The glass was smudged where my face was, so I reached out and put my fingers to the glass to rub it out. I don't know why, but the glass felt mushy and my fingers slipped into it. I tried to pull back my hand, mostly in surprise rather than fear, but I felt this odd tugging sensation on my hand and soon my arm, was in up to the elbow. Now I was scared.

I tried to yell for my mom, but my lips formed the word soundlessly. I had no idea what was happening and I can honestly say that I have never been as scared in my life as I was then. They say that the unknown is more frightening than the known, and I can say that to be very, very true. Before I could even take a breath in to scream, I felt my arm being pulled by a force greater that I have ever known before and my whole body was yanked into the picture. I remember seeing the top of the frame and then feeling a particular floating sensation and a piercing bright light.

I don't remember closing my eyes, but when I opened them, I found myself sprawled on the floor of our family room, next to a camera on a tripod. Directly in front of me were my parents and my sister and I. But something was seriously wrong.

"Okay, hold still everybody," my dad said as he stood up from where he had been sitting in front of the Christmas tree. "Let me move the camera, then you can begin to open the gifts."

The young girl who was sitting in front of the Christmas tree nodded solemnly. My dad stepped over me and moved the tripod and camera over to one side of the room. The young girl ripped open the bulky package and let out a screech of excitement when she saw that it was the fluffy cat she had been wanting. The happiness that she felt at that moment was so great. I should know. I had lived through this once already.

"What happened?" I whispered, lifting a hand to my face. As I started to get to my feet, my foot bumped against something. I looked down to see the antique picture frame lying on the floor. I slowly picked it up, my hands trembling. Instead of the picture that had been there in the first place, the one of my family in front of the Christmas tree, ten years before, there was a picture of my room, the way it looked now, or ten years from where I was now.

"Oh my God," I said softly. "Have I traveled back in time?"

"Oh, Mommy, look!" I heard my six-year-old self say. Little Sarah thrust the stuffed cat at Mom, who also was ten years younger, and grinned widely. "Santa brought me just what I wanted!"

"No way, no way!" I told myself in a firm voice. I wondered if this was some sort of wild dream, but I felt wide awake. I even tried pinching myself and nothing happened, so this must be real. It was only then I stopped to consider several things of varying importance that I hadn't thought of before. One, I had actually traveled through time. Two, it looked like no one could see or hear me, since I think that if some teenager suddenly dropped down from out of nowhere in the family room of their house, my parents would notice. This was confirmed when I went over to the mirror we have next to the front door. (Or had ten years before. When I was ten, I broke it when I hit a baseball in the house and it smashed the mirror). I couldn't see myself. I saw my younger family reflect in the mirror behind me, but where I was standing there was nothing but air. I looked like a ghost might, which gave me the creeps, so I decided to think of something else. Like how I was supposed to get back.

The picture frame seemed to be the only thing that I could touch in this time. If I held my hands out in front of me, I could see them perfectly clear and solid, but if I tried to touch or move something in the past world, my hand would somehow go through it! Another ghostly thing! Since my room was now in the frame, I decided to do what I had done back in the future. I closed my eyes and reached out to touch the frame. Like before, the glass felt sticky and soft, and I felt that awful yanking sensation on my arm. But after the floating feeling and the flash came, I opened my eyes to find myself in my bedroom, and in the present. The digital clock next to my bed told me that it was still 4:05PM, the time it had been before I had slipped through the cracks of time. The Christmas photo was back in the frame and I dropped the frame on the floor, then kicked it under the bed. Out of sight, out of mind!

Over the next few weeks, I decided to ignore what had happened to me, like a bad dream or my imagination going on overtime. It was only the first day of the new year when I decided to try it again. This time it was a picture of my grandparents from 1965, the year before they died in a car accident. Again, I went back. I tried this several other times, each time learning more and more about what could and couldn't be done. Basically, these were the rules of using the frame.

First off, I couldn't be seen or heard by people, but animals could sense me or something. This I found out when I went back to see my great-grandparents in 1926. The picture was outside, and at one point I stepped in front of a horse as I crossed a street. I swear the horse looked directly at me before it reared back, almost throwing off this cute guy who was riding it. Another time, in 1952 when I wanted to see my mom as a baby, their cat, Sugarbelle, started to walk into the room, stopped, hissed, then bolted in the opposite direction. I now knew this - stay away from animals!

Another thing I found out was kind of disappointing. I could not go back further than when the first pictures were taken. I tried paintings, like from the fifteen hundreds and stuff, but that didn't work. I always ended up in a museum looking at the painting when the picture of the painting was taken. And, I could not go into the future. So my time jumping was limited to from 1826, when this French guy named Joseph Niepce took the first photograph, to the present. I could also only go back to the exact instant the picture was taken, which at times was a real bummer. But who was I to complain? I was lucky to be, most likely, the only person to travel through time.

I never told anybody about the time traveling picture frame. Not even Becky. I did ask Irene, oh so innocently, where she bought the picture frame a week after the accidental trip. She replied that she could not reveal the names of her sellers, and even if she could, she couldn't remember who gave her what, unless it was something unusual, like the old rocking horse. Dead end.

I never displayed the picture frame, for fear of it breaking or someone else discovering its secret, like my mom while dusting the room. I kept the frame empty, because only then could I touch the glass without traveling back, and wrapped in tissue paper, then a towel, then a metal box with a padlock on it that only I had a key to and was on a gold chain around my neck that I never took off. It was purely accidental what happened that afternoon on April 1st, or April Fools Day as it is commonly known.

I was walking home in a good mood and a bad mood. The good came from the fact that Chip Glenville wanted to come over to my house to pick up some research books that I had, for a school project that was due in a week. That was the bad part. I had yet to start my project. If you think it's hard doing a project, just try to concentrate on one when you know that three feet away from you is something that can take you to a time before your teacher's parents were ever born! It's not easy, take it from me. That's why I had decided to go on a trip back as soon as I got home from school for a short vacation, then be back with enough time to meet with Chip.

That was the plan, anyway. The afternoon didn't exactly go as I wanted it to. First of all, Mom was in a foul mood when I got home and made me clean the kitchen. That took about half an hour and by the time I made it to my room, I had only fifteen minutes left before Chip would be over. I tossed my bookbag on the floor and slammed the door. Then I crawled under the bed and pulled the box out. After unlocking the padlock and taking the frame wrapped in all its protection, then setting it on the ground, I pulled something else out of the box. It cost me almost all of my birthday money, which had been a month before so I was now seventeen, but it was worth it. It was a huge book, almost four inches thick, about the history of photographs and had every historically important photograph in it, from the 1826 one to the present. The ones I had used I cut out of the book and stored carefully at the bottom of the box. But I felt adventurous and wanted to try something new today.

"Let's see, what time should I go to?" I muttered under my breath as I flipped though the pages. Civil War? No, I had visited that place two weeks ago. It was really gory. The 1950's? No, kind of dull. I was over halfway through the book before I found a good one.

"The Oregon Trail, that ought to be interesting," I said aloud, fishing around in the box for the scissors. The picture, black and white of course, showed the worn and haggard faces of a few pioneer families in front of several covered wagons. The caption under the picture said the date was "Circa 1850". That'd be fun. I always wanted to see the Oregon Trail the way the pioneers did.

I carefully unwrapped the picture frame and set it on the ground. Then I picked up the Oregon Trail photo after I finished cutting it out and started to insert it I was so lost in my thoughts that I never heard the doorbell ring, or my mom answer it. I never heard the footsteps come up the stairs as I turned the picture frame around and pressed my fingers to the glass. My whole hand had begun to feel that awful tugging that spoke of no turning back when my bedroom door suddenly opened. I gasped and jerked my head around to the door to see Chip Glenville standing in the doorway, starting at me in confusion. "Sarah, what-" he started to say, but I cut him off.

"You're seeing nothing," I informed him calmly. "Get out of here and shut the door!"

"Nothing?" he repeated incredulously, stepping into my room and shutting the door, then grabbing my hand and pulled, his eyes locked on the picture frame. "What's going on?"

I felt like a rope, the forces of something I did not understand at one side, and Chip Glenville on the other. My arms felt like they were being pulled out of the sockets. I moaned softly, but then time's force won and I began the now familiar decent through the years. After an immeasurable amount of time, I found myself on a dirt ground, my arms and legs tangled with someone else's. Since I could not touch anyone or anything in this world, I knew that it had to be someone from my time, like Chip, since he had been hanging onto me when I left.

"I told you to get out!" I yelled at him as I struggled to get to my feet. He just looked at me, probably with the same expression I had on my face when I first time traveled.

"What happened?" he asked, phrasing the question slowly as if he was not sure that I'd understand it.

"Nothing you could even begin to believe!" I retorted, then closed my eyes for a moment, trying to figure out why I was so mad. I liked Chip! But I felt this awful betrayed feeling. Perhaps it was selfishness; before this happened, I was the only one who traveled through time.

"Please, explain," he said flatly, looking around at the surroundings. It looked as it had in the picture, except everything was in bright bold color. The person who took the picture was standing a few feet away, his head emerging from under the black cape that they had on the old fashioned cameras.

"Looks good," the man drawled. The pioneers relaxed their stiff positions and began to drift their separate ways on the bare prairie that we were on now.

"Well, it's a little complicated," I began as Chip finally stood up, my temper slowly returning to normal. "I don't even understand it myself, but the bottom line is that I can travel through time, thanks to this little thing." I held up the frame, careful not to touch the glass.

"Yeah, right," Chip said sarcastically. It struck me then that he was not acting the least bit shy. "And I'm from the planet Mars."

"No, really!" I swore. "Somehow, when I put a picture in this frame, I can slip back to the instant the picture was taken. But no one can see us, and you cannot touch anything here."

"If that's true," Chip said, sounding like he thought this was some sort of elaborate practical joke, "how come we are touching the ground? That's in this time, if what you are saying is correct."

Hmmmm. I never thought of that. "I don't know," I said impatiently.

Chip shrugged, looking around at the scenery. "Okay, nice joke Sarah. Now come on, I know that it's April Fools Day."

I shook my head, feeling frustrated that he still didn't get it. "This is no joke! Just feel how hot it is now! You know as well as I do that it was raining and only fifty degrees out when we left. It has to be at least eighty here!"

Chip frowned. "That doesn't prove anything," he said, not sounding as sure as he did a moment ago.

I threw up my hands. "Fine, you can stay here if that's the way you feel about it!" I put my hand to the glass, wanting to go home now. Let that disbeliever stay here! He could be a ghost before his time! God, how could I ever have liked him! I was so caught up in my anger and frustration that I didn't even realize my hand was still pressed firmly to the glass. I looked down and gasped, feeling like someone had dumped liquid ice on me. The glass had a big, jagged crack in it down the center!

"What is it?" Chip asked, coming up behind me and looking over my shoulder.

"We're stuck here," I whispered, my legs feeling like rubber. Ghosts before our time was right! No one could see or hear us now. Even if I would go back one hour in time that would be true.

"We're not stuck here, now come on," Chip said, smiling a bit nervously. "Joke's over, Sarah."

"It's no joke!" I insisted, tears coming to my eyes. I wiped at them furiously, feeling embarrassed about crying in front of a guy, especially one I liked. I never cried in front of people. I liked to wait until I was alone and in the dark before I did that. But I felt such hopelessness and loneliness at that moment. Chip didn't believe me and, right now, he was all I had.

The smile faded from Chip's face and I never saw him look as serious as he did at that moment. "This is no joke?"

I shook my head, the tears still rolling down my face with a mind of their own. "I promise you," I said, my voice shaking.

He looked over at me, then turned away and sighed. I tried to take some slow deep breaths to calm down and five minutes later had my emotions under control. "I have to find a way to fix this," I said, try to sound calm as I pointed to the glass. "Or, we'll never see home again."

Now Chip looked scared. "If no one can see us, and we cannot touch anything now, how are we supposed to repair that?"

I hung my head, looking at the cracked, dry ground. The bright rays of the sun were beginning to hurt my eyes. "I don't know. What worries me most is starving to death. We may feel the weather and stuff, but we can't eat or drink anything unless we brought it with us."

For the first time, Chip looked relieved. "I still have my school backpack with me," he said, and indeed I could see it on him. "I never ate lunch, so I have a sandwich, chips, cookies, and a can of soda with me."

"Good," I said, raising my head and seeing the wagons starting to move. While we had been talking, the pioneers had been packing up all their stuff. "We better go hitch a ride on the back of one of those wagons. Even if they can't see us, I'd feel better being around people."

Chip nodded and we both ran after the last wagon that was now about fifteen feet away. "Will we go through this wagon?" he gasped as we ran.

At first I didn't get what he meant, then I understood. "I don't know, but if we do we can just walk next to the wagons. That's what most people did now anyway."

When we did catch up with the wagon train, I jumped and made a grab for the buckboard of the wagon, but my hand went through it as if it was made of air and I fell flat on my face. I felt Chip's hand on my shoulder as I slowly sat up. "I hope that you're wearing comfortable shoes," I said to him, trying to smile.

By the time the wagon train stopped for the night, I thought that my legs would fall off. I had never in my life walked as much as I did that day. Not even when my family went to Disney World a few years back. At least then they had restaurants and rides. I was starving, but Chip and I had talked it over and decided to eat only when necessary. We talked lots of things over that hot afternoon. I found out about his family. (Parents divorced when he was seven, two younger brothers, birthday February 15th, the day after Valentine's day, so he was 17, like me.) I also told him about my life and explained the picture frame as well as I could.

"I have never stayed in the past this long," I said to him as we huddled close to the campfire someone had built and watched the people eat. Aside from feeling temperature difference, we could also smell the dinner and, personally, it was driving me up the wall. "I would usually go for maybe an hour, tops."

"I have never stayed in the past, so all this is new to me," Chip said softly, his gaze locked on the flames. The sun had set about an hour before and stars were scattered across the clear sky. Except for several rather large details, the atmosphere reminded me of summer camp.

Chip turned to look at me. "I'm sorry that I didn't believe you at first. But I mean, it was April Fools Day and time travel does seem a bit..."

"Farfetched?" I suggested. He nodded. "I know, I didn't believe it at first myself, but when this is staring you in the face, what choice do you have?" I lifted a hand to gesture at our surroundings.

"What time do you think it is?" he asked suddenly, tilting his head back to look at the endless sky.

Earlier that day we discovered that our watches had stopped at the time we left home, which was 3:17. I had never even noticed that before when I had gone back. My guess was that the watches would start up again when we got back. If we got back.

"It can't be that late, since I bet the pioneers go to bed early because they probably hit the road at the crack of dawn," I said, then thought for a moment. "I bet it's about nine or so, since it feels like summer and the sun sets late then."

Chip reached over to his left to pick his backpack up. He hefted it over his lap, then dropped it between us. "Why don't we split one half of the sandwich?" he asked, pulling out his brown lunch bag.

I shrugged, trying to act like I didn't care. "Why not," I said and nearly jumped for joy when he handed me a fourth of the tuna sandwich. I had never tasted anything as good as that tuna sandwich and we nibbled slowly at our portions, determined to make it last as long as possible.

"Have you thought of anything to repair the glass?" he asked, picking up the frame off the ground where I had set it and carefully and examined it.

I shook my head, fighting that hopeless feeling back. I knew that if I let it come over me, I'd start crying and never be able to stop. During the day it had been easy to pretend that nothing was amiss, walking with Chip and talking. He was even nicer than I had first imagined. But now with night upon us, things that had seemed far away during the light of day were hitting me with full force.

"Nothing yet." I told him. "Maybe tomorrow." I tried not to think of what would happen if I didn't come up with anything. "How about you?"

Chip sighed. "Same here. I don't know as much about this stuff as you do."

I took the frame from him and felt the warmth of his hand as mine brushed against his. If nothing else, he was real here, that much was certain.

Not much later the pioneers called good night to each other and retired to their wagons. Instead of worrying about not getting back home I began to worry about other things. Like sleeping. I had no idea what the temperature would drop down to out here and neither Chip nor I were exactly dressed for cold weather. I had on some jeans and a t-shirt of my mom's, since it is usually a constant 70 degrees inside school, no matter what the weather. I had worn a jacket on the walk to and from school, but taken it off before I left for 1850.

Chip was better off than me. He had jeans, like me, but instead of a flimsy t-shirt he had a large red hooded sweatshirt on. I was thankful that the pioneers had left their fire going and we could feel it.

"So, what do we do now?" I asked, trying to ignore the goosebumps that were popping up on my arms. I had pulled my hair back in a ponytail earlier that day, to keep it out of my eyes on the long hike, but now yanked the elastic hair tie out and let my hair drift down. I figured that it could at least keep my neck warm.

"I guess we better get some sleep, if we're supposed to get up when they do," Chip said, jerking a finger to the wagons. "We don't want to be left behind."

I nodded and forced a smile. "That sounds good," I told him, moving closer to the fire and lying down on the hard ground, keeping my face to the flames. I never expected to fall asleep, but I did. I don't know what woke me but one minute I was in a deep sleep, and the next my eyes were open and my heart pounding. I had that feeling that you get when you know someone is looking at you. I slowly sat up and looked cautiously around.

The sun had not yet started to rise and the fire had died down to glowing embers. I couldn't hear a thing except for Chip's slow, even breathing. He must still have been sleeping. It seemed like the rest of the world was holding its breath. I'm telling you, I didn't even hear a cricket!

I shrugged and thought maybe I was just over dramatizing everything. I tend to do that a lot. One time I was home alone at night and the power went out. I was all set to run to our neighbors house, thinking a prowler might have cut the wires, before I realized that the whole neighborhood was out too. I was about to lay down again when I heard something that definitely was not my imagination. A deep growl.

I sat up so fast I was surprised the blood even had a chance to get to my brain. Whirling around, I saw nothing but a pair of red, glowing eyes. I cannot even begin to tell you how much that scared me. They were also looking straight at me.

Chip, who was lying a few feet away, didn't seem to realize that we had company. I nudged him with my foot and the way he jumped, you would have thought that I stuck him with a pin. "What?" he whispered, sitting up, his eyes wide and confused.

I couldn't say anything, so I just pointed. It was then that I realized my hands were shaking. Chip turned and looked at the eyes. It was hard to tell from the lighting, but I think he paled. I stood up slowly, not moving my gaze. The growl came again and the eyes moved into the circle of firelight. I could now see that the red eyes belonged to a big, grey, wolf.

"He can see us!" Chip gasped, scrambling to his feet. "I thought you said we couldn't be seen!"

"Not by humans," I whispered. "Animals see us, though."

The wolf snarled and lunged at us. Both Chip and I screamed and I suddenly found myself in his arms. I shut my eyes tight and turned my head away. I felt a strange breeze seem to move through me and then a whimper from the wolf. I dared to lift my head and saw the wolf behind us, looking horribly confused. "He went through us," I breathed. "He can't get us!" In the heat of excitement, I had forgotten that very important fact.

Chip grinned, looking as relieved as I felt, if not more. "I never thought I'd be glad about being like a ghost, but I sure am now!"

I frowned. "You said we were ghosts," I whispered. "That's what I thought too."

Though the excitement was past, neither of us pulled away. I liked being in Chip's arms, so close that I could feel his heart beating. I was almost his height and could look straight into his bright blue eyes. Without realizing it, I leaned closer to him and he did the same. A few seconds later our lips met in a kiss. I don't know how long it lasted. Time seemed to leave and take a vacation. I can't really describe it either. All I remember was that Chips lips were warm and his nose was cold. I pulled back when I heard a sizzling sound.

"What's that?" I asked, looking around. What I saw made my heart nearly stand still for what seemed to be the third time in the last day. Somehow, the picture frame had ended up in the fire and the glass was melting. I gasped and jerked away from Chip's arms, kneeling next to the fire and grabbing the frame. Bad idea. I let out a short screech as all five of my fingers got burned, and snatched my hand back, dragging the frame with me. Chip was next to me in an instant.

"The frame," I moaned, my eyes filling with tears again, but this time more from the pain. The tips of all the fingers on my right hand were bright pink. Chip took my hand and gently looked it over.

"I think that you'll be all right," he said a moment later, reaching for his backpack and digging around in it until he pulled out the can of soda. "Put your fingers on this and keep them there."

I took the can from him with my left hand and lightly rested the fingers of my right hand on the cool aluminum. Immediately they began to feel better. "We're going to die for sure now," I said flatly. "The frame is beyond repair now."

Chip, who was looking at the frame, shook his head, a faint smile playing on his lips. "No, it looks much worse than it is. The heat of the fire melted the glass. You can hardly see the crack."

I stood up so fast, I felt dizzy. "No," I gasped in disbelief, leaning over Chip's shoulder. The frame was black around the edges and the picture of my room had been singed a little, but Chip was right! The glass, though dark with smoke, had no crack in it. "Get your backpack, we're going home!" I whispered, stretching my hand out to the frame.

Less than a minute later, Chip and I were lying on the floor of my room. I opened my eyes slowly, hoping that I was not imagining this. My clock radio's digital display blinked down at me, reading 3:17. I jumped to my feet, and reached out to touch my dresser and walls. The tips of my fingers on my right hand still ached terribly, but I was so happy to be home!

"Chip, we're back," I exclaimed, grinning. He was looking at something on the ground and didn't answer me. "Chip?" I asked. "Aren't you glad to be home?"

Chip turned around and held up the picture frame, now without glass. The glass, I could see now, had shattered in millions of pieces on my carpet. "Your frame is broken for good now," he said softly.

I reached out and slowly took the frame from him. The pioneer picture fluttered to the ground, unscathed. "I guess it was worse off than we thought," I said in a low voice. Half of me felt beyond happiness. I was home! But the other half felt that a very special gift had been taken away from me forever and there was nothing I could do about it.

Chip put his arms around me and just held me, not saying anything. He understood how I felt, I was sure. I think that he was the only one to ever understand how Sarah Reese feels. "Will you walk me home?" he asked, looking deep into my green eyes.

I smiled, something stirring in me that I had never felt before. "I wouldn't like anything more," I told him, dropping the picture frame into the trash can on the way out.

Oddly enough, Chip and I never talked about what happened to us. I'm sure we both thought of it all the time. I know I did. Each finger on my right hand has a tiny scar on it from grabbing the frame from the flames. Only once did Chip even mention what happened to us, and that was on the night he asked me to marry him, five years to the day we traveled back. "Remember how the sky looked when we first kissed?" he asked me before popping the question outside in the desert we had driven to in Eastern Oregon.

I looked up at the dark, endless sky strewn with stars, and remembered.

Go Home!