“You what?” Kelley says. She eyes the woman standing in front of her skeptically. She seems normal enough, nicely dressed, hair well-kempt. But Kelley’s apprehensive nonetheless.
The woman takes a deep breath before speaking, “I know this must be quite odd.” She starts. “But I think I can help you.” She’s got a slightly eccentric nature to her that puts Kelley on edge.
Kelley looks at Alex, as if to ask for help. But the other girl seems just as lost as her.
“Help me with what?” Kelley says.
“Your time traveling, of course.” Dawn says. Alex looks at her now, eyes widening the slightest to show her surprise. Kelley’s shocked, and she’s sure it reads all over her face. It’s not every day that someone stands at your front door and tells you they have a cure for time travel.
Surely Kelley is intrigued. But she’s also wary. And suddenly she’s acutely aware that the three of them are still standing awkwardly in the doorway.
She tips back and forth, wondering whether she should believe this stranger or just shut the door.
It’s another moment before she speaks.
Dawn explains that Kelley visited her just two days ago in her lab in the hills of Silicon Valley. She’d proclaimed that she was a time traveler who saved people from near death, and that she needed Dawn’s help.
Dawn was of course skeptical at first. But ultimately she decided to run a series of tests on her when Kelley wouldn’t take no for an answer. And while she hadn’t fully deciphered the results quite yet, there was something promising about them.
“So, what you’re saying is that I came to you and told you I could travel in time?” Kelley says still trying to wrap her head around what Dawn is telling her. “And you believed me?”
“Well—” Dawn pauses. “Yes.”
“Are you insane?”
“Kelley—” Alex says warningly.
“No, I’m serious.” Kelley says standing and pointing a finger at Dawn. “Why would you help me? What’s in it for you?”
Dawn looks between Alex and Kelley quickly, a look in her eyes like a trapped mouse. She twists her fingers together.
“At first I was doubtful, sure. I thought maybe you were crazy, or on drugs or something.” Dawn waves her hands in the air. “But something in my gut told me to trust you.”
Her eyes are pleading for understanding. And Kelley knows that feeling, that vulnerability of just wanting to be believed. She eases backwards back into her seat on the couch.
Dawn continues: “And then I came here, and you didn’t recognize me. Not at all.” She says, “And it seemed like a confirmation.”
Kelley takes a deep breath and runs her hands through her hair. Sure it’s one thing to believe that she visited Dawn in one of her travels, but what does that have to do with—
“The cure?” Kelley asks. It seems almost too good to be true that a cure to her predicament could suddenly end up on her doorstep.
“Yes.” Dawn says. “Well, technically it doesn’t exist yet.”
Of course it could never be so easy, Kelley thinks.
“I thought you said you had one?” Alex speaks up now. She moves closer to Kelley on the couch, gripping her hand tightly, steady as a rock as always.
“When you visited me, you told me I’d be the one to find it.” Dawn says looking intensely at Kelley. “So, if you’d let me, I’d like to take you on as a subject in my lab.” Dawn says. Now she’s rattling off about procedures, and expectations, and things Kelley has heard hundreds of times before.
Kelley looks at Alex, eyes searching for an answer. She’s had plenty of doctors try and fail to help her, and she thinks she’s had enough disappointment to last a lifetime when it comes to that department. She doesn’t want to get her hopes up and be let down once again. But this time’s different, she’s the one who sought out Dawn. And Alex’s eyes are sure, surer than her own. She’s got the tiniest hopeful smile on her face and Kelley can’t stand the idea of letting her down.
So she says yes.
It’s night in the clearing, the moon having taken her place high in the sky long ago. It’s a full one, bright and milky, illuminating the earth more than usual.
Even though it is only May, the air is warm and muggy, hanging around Kelley and Alex like a blanket.
“Have you ever been skinny dipping?” Alex asks from her spot beside her.
Kelley looks at her, her skin is glowing in the moonlight, radiant like an ancient goddess. Her eyes are reflecting like silvery pools that Kelley could easily drown in.
“I haven’t.” She admits.
Alex sits up and looks at the river. She says nothing, just bites her cheek, and Kelley can nearly see the thoughts whirring through her head.
She looks at Kelley now, eyes playful, and grabs her hand tightly. “Let’s do it then.”
She drags her up so they are standing and starts walking towards the river’s edge. When they arrive, she drops Kelley’s hand and reaches for the hem of her own shirt. She pauses, blushing.
Kelley does as she’s told. She squeezes her eyes shut just for good measure, rocking back and forth on the balls of her feet. Her heart beats loud and uneven like an amateur drummer.
Then she hears the swish of water and a sharp intake of breath.
“You can look now.” Alex says.
Kelley turns. Alex is now shoulder deep in the river, her arms treading around her in wide circles.
“Is it cold?”
“A bit. It's refreshing.”
Kelley scrunches her nose.
“Are you going to join me or what?”
Kelley needn’t be asked twice. She strips her clothing quickly, leaving them in a pile on the grass. Alex looks away politely as she does so.
Then she’s stepping slowly into the water, letting it wrap around and in between her toes as she gets used to the temperature. It’s fucking cold.
“’A bit’ my ass.” Kelley shivers. Alex laughs, the sound ringing out around them like an echo.
She walks forward until she is now only a foot and a half away from Alex. She gives her a little splash.
Alex squeals and sends a splash back her way, and it’s only a moment more before the two of them are giggling uncontrollably.
Kelley gazes at Alex, her eyes are brilliantly reflecting the light of the moon. Her hair is lying wet against her shoulders and down her back and Kelley thinks she has never looked more gorgeous.
Slowly their laughs fade, replaced only with the sound of bated breath and anticipation. They’re closer now. So close that Kelley can see each and every one of Alex’s eyelashes, so close that she is afraid Alex will hear her heart racing in her chest.
Alex gets this look in her eyes, and Kelley just knows what is coming, she’s surely seen this look before.
Alex is leaning in, eyes fluttering closed. She’s mere centimeters away now.
“Wait.” Kelley says, grabbing Alex’s hand. The moment shatters, Alex’s eyes snap open, a pained look crossing over her face swiftly.
“What is it?” She breathes, her voice dropping in disappointment.
Kelley puts a finger to her lips as if to shush her. “Did you hear that?” She whispers. She strains her ears for the sound once more.
There it is again, a rustling coming from the trees. Alex looks at her, eyes widening in fear. Both seem frozen in place, neither moving a muscle.
The rustling comes again, this time louder and closer. Kelley’s heart is hammering in her chest as she imagines the worst of all possibilities.
“Alex?” A voice calls.
She and Alex make quick eye-contact, each seeming to have the same idea. They wade towards shore as quickly as they can. And as they reach the bank, they see the outline of a figure appear out of the trees.
Kelley stands too quickly, a spray of water dousing her clothes on the river’s edge. The flashlight Jeri’s holding swings towards her. She’s still twenty feet away, perhaps she can’t see her.
“Who’s there?” She says, her voice shaking.
Panic overtakes Kelley’s body. She reaches down for her clothes and manages to throw her shirt over her head. Someone once told her that if you’re naked in public, it’s better to cover your face than anything else.
“No one.” Alex blurts, shaking her head back and forth.
“Alex what the hell is going on?” Jeri questions, the fear from her voice falling into something more like bemusement.
Kelley curses internally.
“Sorry Al, I’ve gotta go.” She says quietly.
Then she’s stumbling off into the woods to avoid Jeri’s death glare and impending questions. She just hopes she hasn’t gotten Alex in any trouble.
Unfortunately for her, she doesn’t feel herself being pulled back to the present for another half hour. So she’s left to trek through the dark woods, clothes soaking wet, each and every nerve-end in her body firing until she gets that familiar feeling in her gut and the white light takes over.
“Alex.” She groans. Usually she tries not to wake the other girl when she’s awoken from a dream. But this time she can’t help it. She shakes her girlfriend carefully awake.
“What’s wrong?” Alex says, eyes flitting open.
“You didn’t tell me that Jeri saw me naked.”
Alex is laughing hysterically now, poking Kelley in the ribs.
“Not funny.” Kelley says, pulling the blanket over her head in embarrassment. Alex only laughs louder. She can only imagine what Jeri thought, and she can’t help but wonder if she’d ever connect the dots.
“It's a little funny.” Alex laughs.
Dawn takes Kelley into her lab. It’s brightly lit and unmistakably full of expensive equipment. Kelley lets her eyes drag over her surroundings, the thought piercing her that she’s been here before, she just doesn’t remember it yet.
“How long do you think it will be before you find the cure?” Kelley asks.
Dawn looks up from her computer.
“I’m not sure.” She says. “But you didn’t look much older than you do now.” She shrugs before continuing. “And I think it’s a good sign that I was able to run some tests on you while you were traveling. That’s something none of the other doctors have been able to do before, right?”
Kelley nods, and she’s feels a seed of hope planting in her chest.
Kelley watches as Alex plays with her nieces and nephews running in the backyard. She’d invited her girlfriend to her family’s Mother’s day celebration. Alex looks so at home with the children, chasing them around endlessly, never tiring of their silly questions or requests.
“She’s a natural.” Erin says nodding her head towards Alex.
“She is.” Kelley says proudly.
“Do you think this will ever be you two?” Erin asks. The question had surely crossed Kelley’s mind. She’d always wanted a family, and she couldn’t imagine starting one with anyone but Alex.
Erin smiles at her, before turning to yell at her kids for playing too roughly.
Then Kelley’s youngest niece approaches them, towing Alex along at her side
“Can I call her Auntie Alex?” She asks.
Kelley looks at Alex softly, a grin spreading wide on her face. “Sure, sweetie.”
Her niece turns to Alex and gives her a high five, then prances off to play with her cousins.
“I’m surprised you aren’t over there with them.” Kelley says a little while later as Alex sits down next to her on the couch. They are looking on as the kids play a board game in the living room.
“I didn’t want to have to beat them.” Alex shrugs. Kelley laughs, knowing her girlfriend is serious, her competitive streak never lessening for anyone, no matter their age.
They’re quiet for a moment.
“Do you want this someday?” Kelley asks softly, squeezing Alex’s hand in her own.
“Yes, I do.” Alex says plainly. She’s told Kelley often how she wants a big family.
“I mean, do you want this with me?” Kelley says pointedly. Alex looks at her deeply, unreadable.
“Of course.” She says. She turns her eyes back towards the children playing in front of them, her jaw clenching the slightest bit.
“Why do I sense a ‘but’?” Kelley says, stomach dropping.
“It’s not a ‘but.’” Alex says, voice tilting over the word dangerously. Kelley waits anxiously for her to continue. “It just think it'd be really hard. With me traveling around the country, you traveling in time.” Alex says, “I don’t know how it would work.”
It doesn’t take much for Kelley to read into what Alex is really saying. She’s worried, as Kelley is, of what will happen after she stops visiting Alex in the past. She thinks about Dawn, wondering if it could really be possible to be rid of this affliction.
She wishes she could give Alex the world, but right now it feels like she can't even promise a tomorrow.
Her heart clenches as she wonders which will come first: a cure, or something entirely more difficult to wrap her head around.
Kelley opens her eyes. She checks her watch, and she recognizes the date as one that she visits Alex, but she’s not in their usual clearing. Instead, she’s in a large wooden gazebo lit with string lights creating a soft ambiance. There are white flowers and ivy twisting high around the pillars. On her left she overlooks a grass field dotted with dandelions. To her right down a short path is a building.
It’s night, a little past sunset, the sky beginning to fill with twinkling stars. And the air is warm, but not overly so. She looks around, taking in her surroundings, wondering where on earth she is.
She turns, walking down the path is Alex. She has on a long navy blue dress, the hem of it flowing around her feet as she walks, making it look as though she is floating on air. Her hair is waving down around her shoulders.
“You look stunning.” Is all Kelley can say as the girl nears.
“Thanks.” Alex says. She poses a bit.
Kelley looks down at her own clothing, so plain and unassuming compared to the girl next to her.
“Sorry I didn’t dress for the occasion.” She jokes. Alex grins.
“You look nice anyway.” She says, a blush now creeping up her neck.
Kelley tilts her head away, not wanting Alex to see the effect she has on her.
“So where’s your date?” Kelley says. She knows Alex had planned on going with a family friend, not wanting to show up to the dance dateless.
“He’s inside.” Alex says nodding towards the building. “I don’t think he’ll miss me too much.” She smiles.
“In that case,” Kelley says, “Would you like to dance?” She puts her hand out in front of her, her heart beating unsteadily, for some reason so very nervous of Alex’s response. Just her presence is intoxicating, making Kelley feel lightheaded.
“There’s no music.” Alex says, her eyes asking a question.
“Do we need it?”
“I guess not.”
Alex takes Kelley’s outstretched hand and lets the older girl pull her near. Kelley inches her hands around Alex’s waist, resting just above her hipbones. And Alex grips tightly behind her neck.
Kelley looks down at their feet, Alex in her high heels is taller than she’s used to. She looks back up, her eyes directly level with Alex’s mouth. She can’t help but wet her own lips.
She looks further upward into Alex’s eyes and the younger girl is staring straight at her, almost as if she’s been waiting. She giggles and scrunches her nose cutely.
It’s awkward for a second more.
And then it isn’t.
They are swaying back and forth to the rhythm of their beating hearts. Kelley feels the calmest she’s felt in a long while. As though in this instant all her worries have vanished and her only purpose is to enjoy the company of the girl in her arms and to stamp this moment into her memory.
They talk quietly for a while, discussing their days and catching up on things they’d missed. Alex’s voice floats in Kelley’s ear, light as falling snow. Kelley’s pulled Alex closer to her now, resting her head lightly on her shoulder as they dance.
Then the conversation is stalling as they fall into a comfortable silence, the only sound in the air the buzz of a far off cicada.
“Kel?” Alex asks quietly.
Kelley hums in response.
“Do you remember, last time you visited, when—” Alex pauses for a moment, swallowing audibly, as if the next words she has to say are difficult.
“Yeah?” Kelley asks. She leans her head off of Alex’s shoulder to look her square in the eye.
“When Jeri caught us.” She says finally.
“I remember.” Kelley says, “What about it?”
“It’s just—” Alex says, her eyes are flicking back and forth between Kelley’s, searching for something unknown. “Did you want to kiss me then?”
“Yes.” Kelley says plainly.
Alex says nothing for a moment, just continues swaying, her eyes still inquiring, as though she needs to be 100% sure of her next words.
“And—” She starts, “Do you want to kiss me now?”
Kelley smiles, heart melting in her chest.
Alex’s eyes flick to Kelley’s mouth for a fraction of a second. She leans in, halving the distance between them. Her own lips are parted, her breath blowing light and warm on Kelley’s face, ticklish on her lips. She’s so close now that she could count the freckles on the bridge of Kelley’s nose if she wanted to.
“But what about your girlfriend?” Alex asks, her tone level, a nearly imperceptible nervous intonation in her voice.
“For some reason, I don’t think she’d mind too much.” Kelley says, eyes trained steadily on Alex’s mouth.
Then Alex leans in, eyes closed, pressing her lips against Kelley’s lightly. Kelley kisses her back as her heart drops low in her stomach.
Each of her senses is filled with Alex. Alex. Alex.
Her lips are soft as a whispered breeze, her mouth the taste of a rising sun.
She presses into her, unable to control her hunger, begging for all of her love for the younger girl to pour into her, to convey to her just how much she needs her, wants her.
She loves her now, and she’ll love her then, and that’s all she can think of as she erases the distance left between them.
When Alex slides her tongue against Kelley’s bottom lip, it feels familiar, sublime in a way that only they know.
And the way Kelley’s lips part in response feels like coming home.