“Where to next, do you think?” the Doctor asked, driving like a maniac, as usual.
The possibilities were endless, but I found one eventually. “Nirvana in concert,” I suggested. “1993, New York City.”
“Brilliant!” the Doctor said, switching a lever. “New York, 1993! Brilliant concert, I’ve heard. Always meant to go, never got around to it. Also meant to go see Ian Drury, but that never happened either.”
The TARDIS landed with a soft thump.
“New York!” the Doctor declared, “Right outside those doors!” We raced over to the doors and flung them open. New York: green, sprawling hills, large mountains…
“Directions?” I asked.
“But this…this...where…AHA! People!” Two figures were approaching, strangely wide at their legs. “Hoop-skirts!” said the Doctor, “best go back in and change!” He shoved me back through the door of the TARDIS. I wondered over to the wardrobe and found suitably wide skirts.
The Doctor came running at my scream of “Sod off and bugger all!”
“Trouble?” he asked, grinning at me.
“This bloody corset!”
“Mmmm, that’ll do it. Right. Keep still.”
He laced me up as tight as possible, but it wasn’t the death trap that I’d come to believe that they were. “Corsets were just for smoothing the lines of dresses,” the Doctor explained. “They didn’t become horrific contraptions of torture until the Victorians.”
The dress, after he’d upended it over my head and smoothed it down, was very pretty. “More French than English,” he mused, “but since we’re in Geneva, we should be fine.”
“How’d you learn that?” I asked him. “We could be anywhere. Prehistoric New York?”
“No, definitely Geneva. 1816, actually. Good year. We’ll be meeting Byron and Shelley soon.”
He was peering at me in the mrirror. “You’re very thin,” he observed.
“Thank you, Doctor Beanpole.”
“Are you sure you eat enough? It wouldn’t do to have you pass out.”
“Yes, I eat enough.”
“right. Not that it’s any of my business. But you’re my responsibility now, so I just want to make sure…” He looked thoroughly uncomfortable. I just looked at him. “Well then, what are you waiting for? Geneva! Allons-y!”
The two figures were actually two young women and they were waiting for us outside the TARDIS.
“May I present to you my companion, Miss Jaye Eccles,” the Doctor said. “Miss Eccles, Miss Godwin and her sister, Miss Clairmont.”
“Are you both here to see Shelley?” Miss Godwin asked. “I’m afraid he is out riding with my lord Byron, but you may wait with us. We should be glad for the company.”
“We’re just returning to the cottage,” said Miss Clairmont. “You may escort us, Doctor.” He obediently held his arm out for her and she latched on. He held out his other for Miss Godwin, but she declined.
“I shall walk with Miss Eccles,” she said, stumbling a bit over my name. “Your name is Jaye?” she asked after a while. “That’s quite unusual.”
“Not so much a name as a letter,” Miss Clairemont observed.
“I prefer it to too many letters,” Miss Godwin said. “My own name is Mary Wollestonecraft Godwin.”
“But if you marry,” I replied, “you should be able to use only your husband’s name.” I may not have done so well as Lilith with my GSCEs but I knew enough to identify Mary Shelley.
“I fear I shan’t marry,” she replied, sadly. “It’s not for me.”
The climb steepened and we all stopped chatting to concentrate. When we reached the cottage, we discovered that it was tiny, but nice.
“Your companion may share a room with you, Doctor,” Miss Clairemont announced. “You’ll find that we are none of us shy in these matters.”
The Doctor looked mildly horrified. “Yes. Well. Thanks.”
“Come, Mary,” she grabbed her sister. “We’ll leave them to their privacy.”
As we stepped into the room, I couldn’t help but ask, “Am I in fourth form again?”
The Doctor was lost in thought. “Hmmm?”
“Nothing,” I replied.
“Come on,’ he said, taking my hand. “Let’s explore Geneva Lake in 1816.”
We didn’t get to meet Byron and Shelley that night because they returned long after we all “retired” for the night. We soon realised that our room was right next door to Byron’s. And how thin the walls were.
We heard him when he returned and then we heard the soft knock on his door. “Good night, Claire,” a giggle, “I’ve heard we have visitors.”
We could hear Claire’s high-pitched voice more clearly. “Oh, yes, a doctor and his companion,” she said. “Sad little creature.”
“You are so harsh with your inferiors,” was the reply.
“She is,” Claire insisted. “Skinny and small, with unfortunate hair.”
My hand immediately touched my head.
We didn’t get to hear her any reply before some unmistakeable sounds started. We looked at each other and then the Doctor started for the door. “I’m going to the TARDIS,” he announced.
“Right behind you!”
It was incredible outside. The sky was clearer than I’d ever seen it and each star was visible in the dark. We sat down and leaned against the TARDIS, watching the night.
“I shouldn’t mind her,” said the Doctor.
“Claire,” he said. “Don’t mind her. She changed her name from Jane to Claire. Claire Clairemont. She thought it’d be more dramatic.”
“Wow. What a prat.” Was all I could think to say.
“Quite right,” said the Doctor. “Now we’ll just stay tomorrow, meet Shelley and Byron, and be on our way.”
After a while of star gazing, I fell asleep, only to be awakened by a sharb jab to my side. “Get up!” the Doctor said, through gritted teeth. Something – or someone - was looming over us. It was huge, but clumsy. We dodged around it, confusing it,a nd raced back to the cottage, slamming the door.
“What was that?” I asked the Doctor, when we were in our room with the doors locked.
“It looked – but it’s impossible!”
“Yeah,” I said. “Right now, I’m thinking Philip Glass.”
“It’s impossible!” the Doctor rambled, ignoring me. “It can’t be!”
“It looked like it,” I said. “What else could it be?”
There was a knock on the door and I jumped. “Are you all right in there?” Mary asked. “I thought I heard something.”
Being dramatic was never my forte, but the Doctor has rubbed off on me. I opened the door and we said in unison, “We just saw a monster!”
Breakfast is being served, so I have to go.