After a hearty lunch and bike ride around the entire campus, Olive went back to the inventing lab. When she put her bike in the rack, she reminded herself to set the timekeeper bell to sound an alarm at precisely 6:15, which would give her an hour to tidy up and get to her outing with Eli. He was mysterious about the exact plans but assured her it was nothing that would harm her reputation. She laughed because a female college student in the inventing trade did not stand a chance with any man of means with or without a gleaming reputation. Though, Eli was kind to assure her.
Up the three sets of stairs, she chanted "alarm, 6:15, alarm, 6:15."
She reached the door, put in the key, and turned it until the rather loud click sounded. The noise of the click brought her thoughts to how the gears clicked soothingly on the second part of her current invention.
She closed and locked the door behind her and entered the lab. The space sang to her of the countless possibilities. Each completed and half-complete inventions sitting on tables had their own voice and drew her to work on them.
Olive’s chant was forgotten. Perhaps it was the click of the lock or the smell of oil, keeping the gears running smoothly, which permeated throughout the room which made her forget. She went straight to the invention, the pile of schematics, and layout drawings. She stared at the drawings and then she pulled from the various drawers and nooks all the parts needed. She marveled at how the drawings spoke to her as if her father stood next to her giving directions.
After laying out the parts, she proceeding to assemble. The time ticked away while the outside world turned from day to night. The college clock tower chimed each hour. The clanging of bells signified five, six and then seven o’clock, but Olive’s eyes never lifted from her task.
A loud banging on the lab door disrupted her concentration.
Startled from her trance, she stood, dropped the section of gears, and a small steam motor. She looked at the large clock on the next work table.
“Shit! I forgot the alarm,” she said looking at her grease covered hands and wondered how many times she had touched her face with them.
Another knock on the door, “Olive, Miss Randolph. Are you in there?”
Olive ran to the door almost knocking over a lamp and a stool. She looked again at her hands and at the key in the door, and then at her skirt where she should’ve seen a stained apron.
“Olive. Did I hear you?”
“Yes, one moment, I’m,” she rushed to get a rag and wrapped it around her hand so she wouldn't get grease on the key. She turned the key and opened the door with the wrapped hand.
Eli Crane walked into the room looking very groomed with slicked black hair and a black velvet jacket. “Are you alright?” He took the rag wrapped hand into his. Olive saw concern in his amber eyes.
She pulled her hand from his, “My hand is fine. I was greasing the gears and I lost track of time and...” She stopped speaking and wiped her hands with the rag.
Eli finished her rambling, “and you lost track of time because you are an inventor not some silly maiden preening for the evening.” He took the rag out of her hands and inspected her fingers which were shiny with a layer of grease and her cuticles were stained with ink. “Perfectly lovely,” he said bowing and kissed the top of each one. “Knowing I was taking an inventor to a gathering, I left plenty of time for...” Letting go of her, he went to the coat stand, grabbed the only coat and held it out for her.
“So you left plenty of time for rudeness. Susan usually keeps me timely to engagements, but she’s not here and I was going to set an,” she sputtered while letting him help her put on the coat.
“Olive, stop, I’m in no need of an apology.” He held out his elbow. Olive sighed and took his arm even though the quiet whirl of the lab still called her to keep working.
When they stepped outside the building, there was two men and a woman who were all holding onto bicycles with headlamp illuminating the ground. This group instantly greeted them.
“You found Olive, our inventor. And what a delightful sight she is,” said the man in a black velvet vest.
“Manners, Jacob. Let Eli introduce her,” said the girl in a black silk poplin split skirt which was perfect for an evening out and riding a bike. Seeing how lovely this girl looked, Olive frowned because of the carefully chosen ensemble going to waste just sitting on her bed. With a toss of her head knowing her red curls were springing out of her quickly made bun, she decided her unkempt state was how a genius inventor should look.
“This is no evening for manners,” replied the same man. “Olive, I’m Jacob. She is Beth. And he is Sean. Take your bike, Eli, for the evening can't start until we arrive.”
Eli chuckled and took the bike. “Olive, you can ride on the handlebars. I’ve done it before.”
Preferring to be in control, Olive said,“I have my own." She ran to get it.
The group's energy was catching. Olive knew tonight was not going to be her typical evening.