Story a Day Challenge – Day 4 – Josephine

The Prompt

A person wakes up, not quite remembering what happened the night before, and is surprised and upset by what they see outside the window.
(The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams)

Josephine

Josephine sat up, startled, in bed as a steady bright light poured through the window and flooded the room. Had she slept too long? The nights grew long toward winter and if it was this far into the daylight hours, she was terribly late. Not the best impression one can give when beginning her apprenticeship.

Throwing back her covers, she made her way to the window in order to better guess the hour. Josephine frowned at the darkened sky of very early dawn. Why, then, was it so bright? Shaking the webs of sleep from her mind, she focused. That was when she noticed the streetlamps. Perched high atop plain poles, their strong white light glowed steadily.

Where were the iron lamps with their warm golden glow? Why did they not flicker with the amiable comfort of a warm fire?

She spun away from the window then and looked about her room. Nothing was right. The furniture was plain and free of adornment, but the rest of the décor was too bold of color and angular in design. She had not noticed when she woke, as anxious as she was about the hour. Now, all Josephine could do was marvel at all that had changed. The shape of the room was right, but all else was unknown to her.

Of course. Josephine was not  in her own room.

Highly aware of her state of undress and loathe to be seen in such a state, Josephine determined that she ought to avail herself of this stranger’s wardrobe or else forever tarnish her reputation. The lesser of the two evils must be endured.

After the initial surprise at the volume of garments to be found in the wardrobe and bureau, Josephine was astonished and embarrassed to imagine that she had found herself in the rooms of a woman of the night. While the blouses were plentiful, they were hardly enough to cover a woman if she stitched three  together! Not a single full dress or skirt to be found.

Or a corset.

Scandalized, Josephine almost gave up, when she spotted what looked to be a large voluminous shell that had what appeared to be a hood attached to the collar, as one might find on a cloak. The fabric continued all the way around the bodice with no opening or closures (must she pull it over her head?) and a large pocket with two openings attached to the front near the waist, like a muff. Perhaps with the loose pants she had seen in a tartan pattern, she might be able to pass as a man long enough to get back to her own home. Quickly donning a pair of plain (but amazingly comfortable!) slippers, Josephine hoped to move at a pace fast enough that might prevent the more feminine footwear from being noticed.

Josephine slipped out of the room and made her way down the stairs to the front door. As she eased it open, she noted that the layout of this building seemed to match her own exactly. She must be in the same neighborhood at least.

Through the door and on the front step, Josephine stopped to find her direction. The street felt very familiar, and strange at the same time. The buildings were all in the right place, but looked… wrong. Just as the room had. The sky had lightened with dawn and someone had snuffed the too-bright streetlamps. Oddly shaped carts, in a variety of colors, lined the quiet streets.

This was not her home.

This was not even the same city.

It didn’t even smell right. Gone were the familiar odors of coal smoke and horse manure, to be replaced by smells she had no experience with and could not identify.

Josephine felt her throat constrict and she could not breathe as the panic filled her. She didn’t know if she should run, hide, or just collapse where she stood. She had just about settled on the latter when an unexpected voice startled her back into awareness of her surroundings.

“Josie!”

The voice was cheerful, although a bit rough. Oh, no!  thought Josephine, someone thinks I am the woman to whom these clothes belong! Remembering the selection in the wardrobe and the conclusion she had drawn, Josephine thought it best to feign ignorance and walk away from the unknown voice.

“Josie!” A hand took her elbow from behind and a girl with a young face (and a lot of rouge!) appeared beside Josephine.

“I am afraid you are mistaken,” Josephine replied stiffly, affronted at the familiarity, as she extricated her arm from the girl’s grasp. “My name is Josephine.”

“What’re you on about, Jos? You haven’t let anyone call you Josephine since before primary school!” The girl laughed heartily, but glanced at Josephine with a slightly concerned expression. “How much did you have at the pub last night?”

Josephine was about o reply with an angry retort, but she was stopped short by what she saw before her. She was so stunned, in fact, that she hardly even noticed that the girl had her elbow again.

The house had been right… and wrong.

The street had been right… and wrong.

But this corner! It was right. And so very wrong. There, across the way, was the seamstress’ shop where Josephine was due to begin her apprenticeship.

Except it wasn’t.

It was  a shop, but seemed to sell some type of colorful newspaper, packages of foodstuffs (also brightly packaged), and who knew what else. The signage was blatant, but plain. Not the careful carving of a craftsman.

Just. So. Wrong.

Her world crumbling around her, Josephine pulled free from the girls’ grasp, took a step forward, off the path and into the street. She didn’t see the large carriage (or notice the lack of horses) until it was upon her and she had no time to retrace her step. A loud, blaring noise filled her ears…

… and Josie slammed her hand down on her alarm clock. Ugh, she thought, why can’t I have the “show up naked to your first day at Uni” kind of dream like a normal person? See if I stay up reading Jane Austen again!

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