The first time it happens, Kelley thinks it’s just a dream.
Not that she has ever had a dream before, because she hasn’t. Her parents and the internet say that of course she has dreams, she just doesn’t remember them. They tell her not to worry about it too much. So she doesn’t.
But then the night of her eighteenth birthday she has her first dream.
Kelley spins in a tight circle, taking in her sudden surroundings. She’s in a big city, New York, maybe? She’s not sure, she’s never been. She looks down to see that she is in her pajamas and the faded old Mickey Mouse t-shirt that her dad bought for her in Disney World looks shockingly out of place among the fancy pressed suits of the businesspeople who bustle past.
She shivers, why doesn’t she have a jacket?
She looks around at the people who shove by, hurrying off to who-knows-where and no one seems to notice her, which is odd, she thinks, maybe that’s just how people from the East Coast are, too self-absorbed to notice a girl on the street in her pajamas.
The air feels thick, heavy she thinks. She would say humid, but that’s not it, it’s something else. Almost as if an electric current hangs around her.
The woman next to her speaks loudly and it draws Kelley’s attention, a thick Long Island accent clipping into the cellphone held to her ear. A flip phone, Kelley notes, wow, she hasn’t seen one of those in years.
The woman takes a step forward off the curb.
Kelley feels a tug low in her stomach, and in what seems like slow motion she reaches out and grabs the woman by the arm, gripping at the rough fabric of her wool blazer and yanking her back onto the sidewalk.
And it’s perfect timing.
A city bus comes thundering past and it surely would have struck the woman at full speed. An instant death sentence.
But it doesn’t. It moves on, so unaffected by the possibility of what may have been.
The woman’s phone clatters to the ground as she clutches her heart in surprise. She turns to Kelley, eyes wide in shock.
“You just saved my life, kid.” She says. Her voice is shaken.
Kelley shrugs, she’s not sure what to say, she’s shocked too. So she says nothing at all and turns away, she needs to run she thinks, and now.
So she does.
She runs until the street in front of her starts to blur, the world melting into a white light around her.
She wakes and she’s back in her bed, sweat drenching her brow.
Huh, so that’s what dreams are like.
It was the first of many, the following weeks imbued with similar dreams: saving someone from falling off the subway platform, pulling a flailing child from the deep end of the pool, even knocking a gun from a shooter’s hand at a bank robbery. The dreams are vivid, the sensations so absolute and grounded, and if she had ever dreamed before she would know that this was definitely not normal. But she hadn’t, she had nothing to compare to, so she thought this must just be how everyone dreams.
And for some reason, she was always in her pajamas.
But then one night it’s different.
Kelley scans her surroundings, but it’s difficult for her to see. It’s nighttime and dark so that her eyes take a minute to adjust. Sheets of rain stream down in torrents, unrelenting. The cold water sends a chill through her.
She makes out that she is on a bridge, about a hundred feet up by the looks of it, but where? She has no clue.
A crack of lightning lights the sky and she sees the outline of a body across the bridge.
They stand there, teetering on the edge of the railing.
“Hey!” Kelley yells out.
The person wobbles forward, then steadies themselves.
“Get down from there!” She yells, and she’s running towards them. Her voice getting caught in the wind and whipping away over the edge.
It’s a boy in his mid-teens, younger than Kelley. He’s skinny, his wet clothes clinging to his body, his dark hair lying flat against his head.
The boy says nothing, just looks at her, his expression a mixture of something astonished and tortured.
He turns to face forward and Kelley looks over the edge of the railing to see a river turbulent and untamed below them. An impact from this height will feel like slamming into concrete.
“What’s your name?” She says and it’s less insistent. She realizes that perhaps commanding the boy to come down will not work.
“Logan. Logan Warner.” The boy says, his voice is uncertain, shaky and quiet so that she can barely hear him.
“Hi Logan, I’m Kelley.” She says raising her voice up and over the wind. The boy faces her once more. His eyes are dark and sad, but so very wide, the whites of them opposite to the world around them.
“What are you doing out here in your pajamas?” He asks. It’s louder this time. He brushes the wet hair away from his eyes.
“I’m here to save you.” She says. It sounds laughable she thinks, but this moment seems desperate, the wind whistling too loudly, the rain pelting too harshly for this to be a dream.
The boy lets out a shaky laugh, unsure of what to think of the odd girl standing below him.
The railing is just at Kelley's shoulder level. She lets her eyes flick over the boy’s tattered sneakers, carelessly untied, his toes poking out just over the edge of the wooden beam, so threateningly close to unbalancing him.
“Could you come down?”
“Why? I can’t do this anymore. I want—” His voice breaks then, stuttering to a stop. He stares back out over the bridge and Kelley wonders what he is looking at, what he is looking for.
But there’s nothing out there, just the darkness and the whipping wind.
Then he’s crying, his face contorting, body shaking in a silent sob. His toe inches a fraction back towards Kelley.
“Logan, I know this might seem like the only option, but it’s not. I promise. There are people who love you and need you. Just please come down.” Kelley says. She desperately hopes she is saying the right thing.
She reaches out a hand, a silent offering to safety.
He looks at her, then back to the river below, and for a tense second Kelley thinks she might not have done enough.
But then he is gripping her hand tightly, his skin pale against her own, and he’s stepping down next to her. She exhales a breath that she hadn’t realized she was holding.
She holds him by the hand as they walk off the bridge, afraid that if she lets go that he might slip away.
“Do you have a phone?” She asks.
The boy nods.
“Let’s call your parents.” He looks as though he might protest, but then pulls a cellphone from his back pocket.
Only ten minutes later, Logan’s parents are there, his mother weeping and hugging him tightly to her chest. Two arms wrapped tight around his back and Kelley knows that he will be safe with them. The father thanks her, his eyes frightened but grateful as he asks if she needs a ride somewhere.
She hears herself say no and she turns away. Then she’s off running, running as fast as she can back over the bridge. She hears her name being called out from behind her but she ignores it until the voices become mere whistles in the wind, drowned out by the deafening rush of the river and the rain and the world around her is spinning and spinning and spinning and she’s wrapped in white light and she’s gone.
And she is back in her bed.
Kelley sits up quickly, feeling around her in the dark to get some bearing of her surroundings. She flicks on her bedside lamp.
Her clothes cling to her, soaking wet and icy enough to raise the hair on her arms. Her mind reels with possibilities, thoughts clamoring to the top of her brain.
Then she stands and peels the wet clothing from her body, tossing it aside in order to change into something warmer, something dryer.
She paces her room before sitting at her desk and powering on her laptop. Her foot taps an unsteady beat as the internet browser loads in front of her.
Then she’s typing three words:
Logan Warner Suicide
She scrolls down the page, eyes flicking back and forth over the results that appear on her screen until she’s reading a headline from a small-town newspaper in Ohio.
Parents Looking for ‘Guardian Angel’ Who Saved Son From Death
She skims the article quickly until she finds a picture of the boy, and her breath catches and dies in her throat.
She reads a quote a few paragraphs down:
“I was in a really dark place, but then she was there all of a sudden. She said her name was Kelley, but I didn’t catch her last name, and she talked me down from the edge. She saved my life and I don’t even know who she is.” –Logan Warner
Another paragraph down:
“All we want to do is thank her. Thank her for saving our son. Kelley wherever you are, you truly are a guardian angel.” –Jessica Warner
She can’t believe her eyes, so she closes them tight and rubs at her temple, unable to look at the screen any longer. It’s overwhelming, it’s confusing.
It was just a dream, she tells herself.
She exhales a deep breath. It’s shakes and rattles in her ribcage as she reopens her eyes.
She scrolls back to the top of the page and there she sees the date of the article.
How is this possible?
April 15th, 2011
5 years ago.
After that, it’s four years of neurologists and sleep specialists and psychiatrists. More doctors and therapists than she can count.
Her parents don’t believe her at first, her father’s eyes are skeptical, her mother’s concern etches every line of her face. But eventually, she convinces them.
She can travel in time.
Her parents sell their family house in Georgia, packing their things and moving out to the Bay Area where they can be close to some of the best schools and researchers and doctors the nation has to offer.
But none of the doctors can really find out what is wrong with her. She seems perfectly healthy, her brain scans come back normal, no test yields any significant result. The most they conclude is that her brain becomes rapidly active as she dreams, much more so than the average person, but that doesn’t prove anything, doesn’t answer any of her questions.
She can tell that most of the doctors don’t believe her either, the way they steal pitying looks at her parents, how they so delicately suggest the idea of therapy.
And she is sick and tired of trying to convince everyone that she’s not crazy. Because she’s not imagining it, these events are no coincidence. It’s real.
And it’s putting a significant strain on her family too, because really, it’s not so cheap to see all these doctors with their negative results and their clueless expressions, and she’s afraid she will run her parents dry before they find out what’s wrong with her. And her siblings are supportive, sure, but they also don’t quite get it, maybe don’t quite believe her.
Sometimes she wishes that she had just kept this secret to herself. It would have been so much easier that way.
She prays that it will go away, that this never-ending cycle of feeling as though something is so very wrong with her will stop. But so far she’s had no luck.
So in the meantime, she attends college at Stanford where she makes friends who she keeps this secret from and she pretends her life is normal. But it’s not.
Her dreams come and go at random intervals, no way to detect when the next one may arrive. Sometimes she goes weeks and months without a single trip, other times she dreams for nights on end. They also differ in length, some brief and to the point, others lasting hours. And it’s almost always to the past as far as she can tell. Only twice has she traveled to the future, but those times were blurry, clouded as if she were viewing the world underwater. And so very short that she didn’t have much time to make out what was around her, but it was definitely the future, the technology surrounding her did enough to inform her of that.
The dreams follow the same odd pattern, she spots who she is to save and she feels a tug in her stomach, a gut feeling if you will, and somehow she knows what to do. And then she has the sensation of being pulled back, being sucked away and she’s off running, the white light encircling her until she’s home to her bed.
She’s tried countless watches to see if they can track the time change, but none so far have succeeded, so she mostly relies on asking strangers the year and the date, and she knows that it makes her look crazy. But it’s fine because she never sees them again anyway.
She’s learned it is best to wear a long sleeve t-shirt and sweatpants to bed, clothing universal enough for most weather patterns. Because her dreams take her to different seasons, different climates, and it’s better to be too hot than too cold she reasons.
She’s started keeping a journal of her travels too, a suggestion from one of the not-so-dimwitted psychologists to help her to separate her trips in time from her real day-to-day life.
It helps, a little.
But all the while Kelley can’t help but question what her purpose is, what greater being if there is one, has sentenced her to this confusing life dedicated to saving others.
She can’t get Jessica Warner’s words out of her head. Guardian angel.
Is that what she is?
Sometimes it sure feels like it.
Her travels are widely varied. Some are lengthy in their nature, difficult and cumbersome and dangerous, like when she’s running into a burning building and dragging a 250-pound man twice her size out by his arms, or when she is knocking a gun out of a mass shooter’s hand and tackling him to the ground.
And other times they are so very uncomplicated, like when she says a single sentence to a person: ‘I like your hair” or “you have pretty eyes.” Or when she steadies a wobbling ladder, or when she simply introduces two people to one another. Those travels are not so bad, and at times they even feel rewarding, because who doesn’t love to play hero every once in a while?
But other times she’s not so successful and she fails.
Those dreams are like nightmares.
The memories reverberate in her mind: the haunting sound of a scream in pain, the panicked look of a child who has no clue what’s going on but who knows something sure isn’t right, the way the light dims eternally in the eyes of someone who needed her.
These things she’ll never forget.
It’s then that she wishes that she could actually dream, let these terrible memories be relived in her slumber. Because surely that would be better than when the images haunt her in the day time, when they cloud and occupy her every waking thought.
It makes her feel so very alone. And knowing that at any time the failure to save a life could be on the brink of her consciousness makes her anxious to even close her eyes.
The very weight of her failures is suffocating, squeezing the life from her slowly, like a pinhole in a balloon.
These things keep her up at night, yet she’s worried if she doesn’t sleep that someone out there might need her, might need saving, and she’s not quite sure if that’s how it even works but there’s no way to be sure.
To say that the pressure is crippling is an understatement.
She wonders how much longer it will be until she breaks.
But then one day, without knowing it, she meets her very own guardian.
It’s February, unusually cold for San Francisco this time of year, the puffs of Kelley’s breath floating around her as she walks down the street. She’s on her way to work, to an environmental engineering firm in the middle of the city, and she’s regretting not taking public transit with every step, yanking her scarf tighter around her neck as the cold nips at her ears.
She stops in front of a small coffee shop on the corner. It’s one she’s never been to, and it’s got a fancy French name that she has no clue how to pronounce. But it’s intriguing, something about it uniquely inviting, tempting her in a way that she can’t explain. And more importantly it’s warm. So she steps inside, just a few minutes out of the cold so she won’t be late.
“Cortado with whole milk, please.” She says at the counter.
“Kelley?” She hears.
She turns around. A girl her age sits at a small table in the corner, a book in her hand, a coffee on the table.
She’s pretty, really pretty in a way that’s hard to miss, Kelley notes, with medium brown hair past her shoulders and deep blue eyes that seem to search her for an answer. To what question Kelley doesn’t know.
She looks around to make sure the girl is speaking to her. But no one else seems to be paying attention. And the girl is staring straight at her, eyes rounded in elation. She stands up.
“Hi—?” Kelley says, and it’s a question. She’s confused.
The girl’s eyes become soft as they flick over Kelley’s body, landing on her wrist for a split second, then moving on once they find nothing there and traveling back up to land on Kelley’s face.
“I’m Alex.” The girl says, her smile is bright, kind. She reaches out a hand for Kelley to shake.
She takes it, pumping it lightly up and down.
Neither girl let go for a moment too long, their hands suspended between them, a bridge built in mere seconds. Alex’s fingers are soft in her hand, warm too, Kelley realizes. Then Alex releases her, the bond broken more quickly than it was created.
She stares hard into Alex’s eyes, searching for something herself, trying to discern whether or not she could possibly know this girl from somewhere, but she knows she does not. She wouldn’t forget a face like that.
“I’m sorry, do I know you?” Kelley asks, and it sounds more blunt than she’d intended, but she’s not sure what else she’s meant to say.
Alex’s demeanor changes for the briefest of moments, her eyes flashing like a storm, lightning then utter darkness, but before Kelley can decipher it, the look is gone, replaced with a tender smile.
“No, not yet.” Alex says. Something twinkles in her eye, and Kelley wonders what the hell this girl is talking about.
The girl checks her watch. Her smile dips into a small frown.
“I’m sorry, I really, really have to go. I wish I could stay, but you told me not to.” She says it as though Kelley should understand this sentence perfectly fine. She reaches into her pocket and pulls out a wrinkled napkin and hands it to Kelley.
She unfolds it and sees what she assumes is the girl’s number scrawled across it in pen.
“Call me when you meet me.” Alex says.
And then she’s collecting her things and she’s leaving, exiting the café in a hurry. She pauses at the door, sending Kelley a private smile over her shoulder that stains her cheeks red.
Then just like that, she’s gone.
Kelley shakes her head, she’s not dreaming, not traveling, she knows that, no electric charge in the air to alert her otherwise, but this sure as hell feels surreal.
She looks back at the crumpled napkin before folding it carefully and placing it in her own jacket pocket.
Alex. She thinks. Who are you?
But she won’t find out for another three weeks. She gets lost in her work, and she spends time with friends so that on the surface she forgets the girl for the meantime.
That is until one night she dreams of her.
Kelley takes in her surroundings, she’s in a neighborhood, a pretty nice one it seems, with beautiful houses and sprawling estates spanning down the road and far around the bend. Leafy trees create a shaded cover high over the street, interweaving branches forming a natural latticework. It’s picturesque, she thinks.
It’s quiet except for the chirp of a warbler and the methodical tick of a faraway lawn sprinkler. Kelley notes that the street is so simply flat, even and unmarred by potholes in a way that makes her think she must be in the South, or maybe in the West, she’s not sure.
Up ahead a young girl peddles her bike towards her on the sidewalk.
Something tugs in Kelley’s stomach. This must be who she has been sent to save. She watches as the girl comes closer into view.
Then she’s toppling over, crashing to the pavement with a skidding thud.
Kelley takes off on a jog towards her.
The girl clutches her left knee, her face twisting in pain and tiny diamond-shaped teardrops dotting her cheeks.
“Are you okay?” Kelley asks.
The girl sniffles, and wipes at her face with the back of her hand, then looks up at Kelley as if she hadn’t quite registered her presence yet. She nods up and down once.
That face, it’s so familiar.
Kelley kneels down beside the girl so that they are at eye level.
“Here let me see,” She gently moves the girl’s hands away from her knee to inspect the damage. Just badly scraped, a surface wound, no real harm done, she reassures her.
“What’s your name?” She asks.
Kelley’s breath catches in her throat.
And it instantly clicks. She’s about ten or twelve years younger, her hair a few shades lighter, but it’s her, it’s definitely her, the Alex from the coffee shop. Those impossibly bright blue eyes are what give it away. Kelley doesn’t know how she didn’t realize it earlier.
“Hi Alex, I’m Kelley.” The girl has stopped crying and moves as if to stand up. She wipes her hands against her shorts, swiping dust away. Kelley holds out a steadying hand, then she picks up Alex’s bike, balancing it beside her.
“Do you want me to walk you home? Where’s your house?”
The girl stiffens next to her, she takes a small step back.
“Um, my mom told me not to tell strangers where I live.”
Kelley internally kicks herself, she doesn’t want to scare her away.
She passes Alex’s bike to her and then takes a step back as well, hoping the distance will make her appear less threatening.
“Ok, well get home safe, alright?”
The girl nods and swings a leg over her bike. Then she’s off peddling back the way she came from.
“And wear a helmet next time!” Kelley yells after the girl. Alex doesn’t turn, doesn’t acknowledge Kelley again, just peddles faster until she is disappearing around the bend and out of Kelley’s sight.
Kelley sighs and shakes her head, she’s confused. Meeting Alex here is disorienting. Never has she seen someone in her real-time and her travels. And mostly, she wonders if she’s done her job correctly to save Alex.
But she doesn’t have much time to think about it because then she feels it, feels the need to run. So she turns, racing down the street until the white light carries her home.
Kelley wakes in a cold sweat.
She turns on the lamp beside her bed before crossing the room. She rummages through her coat pockets until she finds the crumpled napkin that Alex gave her three weeks ago.
She hastily dials the number, her hand is shaking and she’s not quite sure why.
The tone rings out five times before someone finally picks up.
“Hello?” The voice is raspy and muffled by a yawn. But it’s her, Kelley’s sure of this.
“You told me to call when I met you.” She pauses. “Well, I met you.”
Kelley arrives at the same coffee shop where they first met, well, where Kelley first met Alex. She’s sitting there in the same spot she was last time.
She takes the time to study Alex’s appearance, her hair is darker now, her jaw much sharper, more defined, but Kelley can definitely see the resemblance to the Alex on the bike and she wonders how she could have possibly missed it at all. She looks nice, Kelley thinks, a grey cashmere turtleneck sweater covering her arms and Levi jeans elongating her legs. Her hair is pulled back in a stylish ponytail, loose locks framing her face attractively.
“Hi,” Alex says, she smiles at Kelley showing a row of perfectly white teeth. Kelley blushes, hopefully she hasn’t been staring too long.
“Hi.” She says back. She’s nervous. She’s never met someone from her dreams in real time. And Alex seems so calm, seems to know so much more than she does, it’s the tiniest bit unsettling to say the least
“So, you met me?”
“Yes—” Kelley drags out the word, unsure of how to proceed. If this girl remembers the moment clearly then she must notice how Kelley seems not to have aged since then.
She has so many questions, but she’s not sure what to ask, or even how to ask without appearing completely and utterly insane.
Alex slides her hand across the table and grabs Kelley’s lightly by the wrist. It takes her by surprise, how open and comfortable Alex seems.
“It’s okay Kelley. I know.” Alex says, her voice falling lightly on the word ‘know’ deliberately.
“You know what exactly?” Kelley asks raising an eyebrow. She’s still skeptical, her guard still high.
Alex laughs, the sound ringing out, it’s charming, she thinks.
She drops her voice low to barely above a whisper so as to keep the surrounding tables from hearing, a secret for just the two of them.
“That you can time travel.”
Kelley had entertained the possibility that maybe Alex knew, the peculiar way she had approached her the first time they met and the things she had said, the way she looked at her now, it was all a bit too intimate for someone unfamiliar with her and her condition.
But it was still so very odd to hear the words coming from Alex’s mouth.
It takes Kelley a moment to grasp why it is so different, but then she realizes it’s because Alex believes it.
“How do you know?” Kelley asks, she finds herself whispering back.
“You told me.” Alex says. Her eyes flick over Kelley’s face, searching for a reaction. She gets one when Kelley’s eyes widen the slightest amount in surprise.
Alex pauses before responding as if weighing whether or not she should answer.
“When I was thirteen years old.”
Kelley leans back in her chair, letting Alex’s words sink in. Thirteen? That must mean—
“I saw you again?” Kelley asks.
Alex bites at the inside of her cheek then, and it’s another moment before she responds.
“You visited me a lot.”
It shocks her. And the surprise must be clearly evident on her face now, but she can’t control it. Why would she possibly need to visit and save Alex so many times? The thought is unsettling and she wants so very badly to ask, but thinks better of it and bites her tongue.
“What did we do with all that time?” She asks instead.
Alex blushes, the tips of her ears flushing pink, and she directs her focus intently to a hangnail on her thumb.
“You kind of told me not to tell you. You said that you wanted to find out for yourself.”
Alex is having a difficult time maintaining eye contact now and Kelley wonders just what happened in her travels that would make her say that. Why on earth would she say that?
But she doesn’t push any further, instead opting to trust her future judgment and with that, trust Alex as well.
“So, tell me about the first time we met.” Alex says. And Kelley recounts the dream to her. Alex nods along, adding comments here and there, but mostly she just listens intently, a hand placed under her chin, her elbow balanced carefully on the table in front of her.
“It’s kind of funny hearing you tell this story, I barely even remember it.” Alex says, “The next time you visited I didn’t even recognize you.” A smile lifts at the corner of her mouth.
Kelley can’t stop the thought that crosses her mind that Alex must know so much more about her than she knows of Alex. Thirty-two times is a good chunk of time to get to know someone. And from the way she speaks, the way she looks at her, soft and delicate-like, it’s clear that they grew close. It makes Kelley sad in a way that she can’t quite explain. She feels as though she is forgetting some important part of her life, but she knows that’s not it, it’s just these things haven’t happened to her yet.
“Wow, that must’ve been a terrible first impression if you don’t even remember me.” Kelley says showing off a small smirk to signal that she is only kidding.
“Hey! I was eight, what do you expect?” Alex laughs.
Kelley smiles back, and it’s out of her control. Alex’s happiness is contagious, her energy so light and addicting even though Kelley’s only been with her for twenty minutes.
“Oh, I have something for you.” Alex says as if she's just remembered. She mumbles incoherently as she rummages through her bag. From it, she pulls a slim case covered in black felt and hands it to Kelley.
Inside is a dainty silver watch with a smooth glassy face.
“What is this for?” Kelley says turning it over in her hand slowly. It’s a foreign brand she doesn’t recognize, Swedish, Swiss maybe?
“I noticed you weren’t wearing it. It was my dad's.” Alex says sheepishly, “It works when you travel.”
“I—this looks expensive, I can’t accept this, I barely know you.” Kelley stutters out, replacing the watch in the case and pushing it towards Alex across the table. Alex just shakes her head and slides it back.
“Seriously, please take it. Consider it a gift from an old friend.” She’s insistent, so sure in a way that makes Kelley concede. So she accepts the gift, thanking Alex graciously and wrapping it around her wrist. It looks nice, sleek, she thinks.
Alex smiles at her fondly, and she can’t help but think that by the second that smile is becoming more and more familiar.
Kelley opens her eyes. She checks her wrist where the watch that Alex gave her sits snuggly. If it works as Alex claims, then it is March 8th, 2010. Something giddy riles in her chest, the prospect of being able to tell time is simple yet feels so groundbreaking and exciting all at once.
She’s at a playground, and it’s empty for the most part, save for a lone girl swaying slowly on the swing. Kelley feels her feet move her towards the girl on their own accord. She takes a seat down in the swing next to her.
The girl looks up at her, and Kelley wouldn’t forget a face twice. Her heart rate seems to triple.
“Hi.” Kelley says.
“Hi.” Alex sniffles and wipes at her nose. She’s a little older than the last time Kelley saw her, her hair a bit longer, an inch or two taller. She’s maybe ten or eleven years old, she can’t quite tell exactly.
She knows Alex doesn’t remember her, their last meeting not quite significant enough to last in eight-year-old Alex’s brain.
“What’s your name?”
“Alex. What’s yours?”
Tears continue to trickle down Alex’s cheek, dripping off her chin.
“Is something wrong?” She asks. The sight of this young Alex so sad and alone makes her heart ache. It’s so different from the confident and happy Alex she has met at the coffee shop.
“My friends don’t want to play with me anymore.” The voice is tiny and broken.
“I’m not sure.” Alex whispers. Kelley extends her hand and rubs her back, a slow circle that she hopes is comforting.
“Well, I’ll be your friend.” She says. Alex looks up at her in surprise.
“You? You’re old.” She scrunches her nose.
It makes Kelley laugh.
“That doesn’t mean we can’t be friends.” She says.
She spots the soccer ball at Alex’s feet, an idea forming in her head. She scoops up the ball into her hands and crouches so that she is face to face with Alex.
“You like soccer?” Kelley asks.
The girl's face lights up, her tears pausing for the moment as she nods her head emphatically.
“It’s my favorite sport. I scored the most goals on my team this year!” Alex says.
“Wow you must be really good, why don’t you show me some of your moves?”
Alex thinks for a moment, then snatches the ball from Kelley’s hands, running towards the patch of grass beyond the jungle gym. Kelley follows after her, a contented smile forming on her face.
They pass the ball back and forth for an hour or so, and it seems that Kelley has helped to cure Alex’s sadness for at least the time being.
The girl laughs freely and tells Kelley of her soccer teammates and her siblings and the smile that becomes plastered on her face reveals that she’s missing a few teeth. This is how children should be happy, carefree, Kelley thinks.
Then she feels herself being pulled back, the yank low in her gut letting her know that her time here is up. She lets Alex know that she has to leave.
“But I don’t want you to go.” Alex says, her lower lip trembling into a pout. It’s adorable in a way that makes Kelley want to stay. But she knows she won’t be able to.
“Don’t worry, I promise I’ll be back.” Kelley smiles and then turns. She runs fast, hoping that she is out of Alex’s sight when the familiar sensations of time travel take over and she’s gone.
“I dreamt of you last night.” Kelley says. She lays on her couch in her apartment, one arm propping her off her stomach, the other holding her cellphone to her ear.
“That’s quite the pick-up, line Ms. O’Hara.” Alex says.
Kelley laughs, thankful that Alex isn’t there to see the blush that is crawling up her cheeks.
“Want to tell me about it over dinner?” Alex asks.
“I brought you something.” Alex says.
Alex slides a piece of paper across the table. It’s old, tattered at the edges and yellowed from sun exposure. A bulleted list spans the page in looping handwriting.
“It’s more of a gift for me than you, I guess.” Alex says. “These are the dates you visited me, I wrote them all down.”
Kelley’s eyes trail down the sheet, tracing an invisible path over the numbers and letters. She doesn’t say anything for a moment, instead, she just thinks about how much history she must have with the girl sitting across from her. A question sits at the tip of her tongue, but Alex seems to anticipate it.
“You memorized them, I think. And you told me so I’d have something to look forward to.”
Kelley nods. The list is long and it will be tough to memorize the thirty-some dates. But she’ll do it for Alex, for the little girl to whom she promised that she would return. She’s coming to the end of the list now, the dates clustering in the summer of 2015, and she wonders why it must be so, wonders once again why Alex would need so much saving. Then she's at the bottom of the page
“Alex, this last date—” Kelley says. She frowns as her words catch and stop in her throat.
“Three and a half years ago.” Alex says. “Yeah.” Alex’s voice is raw now, much more so than the usual raspy timbre that Kelley had quickly become accustomed to. And then there's a glossy surface forming over Alex's eyes.
But she doesn’t cry, just blinks and swallows thickly and the tears are gone.
“I missed you so much, Kelley.” Alex says. Her voice is a whisper now, delicate like glass.
A lump forms in Kelley’s throat then, the expression on Alex’s face is filled with anguish and it makes her mourn their time apart, regretting not being able to remember the things that have yet to happen to her.
She reaches across the table, the need to comfort Alex guiding her actions. She squeezes her hand tightly.
“I’m here now.” She says, it’s not great, but it’s the best she can offer, she thinks.
Alex invites Kelley back to her apartment and Kelley finds herself unable to refuse. In a way, she feels the need to make up for lost time.
“My roommates are out, I think.” Alex says over her shoulder as she slots the key into the lock.
They’d driven over the Bay Bridge, into Berkeley where Alex was in her final year of college, Kelley learned. Alex leads them through the entryway, and it’s cute, quaint in the way that college apartments are. Shoes pile up near the door, sneakers, and sandals and soccer cleats in more pairs than Kelley can count.
“How many roommates do you have again?” Kelley says nodding towards the pile.
“Only two, I promise.” Alex laughs. Kelley removes her jacket, laying it on the back of a kitchen chair as Alex offers her a glass of wine. She accepts it as they make their way to the living room and sit on the couch across from each other, Alex tucking her knees beneath her to sit cross-legged, Kelley letting her feet dangle off the edge to the carpeted floor.
She’s desperate to know what Alex knows, to know what happened when she visited, to know the depth of their relationship. She feels as though there are blank spots in her memory, things not yet remembered dancing on the edge of her mind, and Alex is sitting right there across from with all of the answers. So she begs her to tell her, even just the slightest bit of information from their past time together.
“Kelley—” Alex sighs and runs a hand through her hair. She looks conflicted, and she looks as though she wants to answer, the words waiting to be spoken into existence at the tip of her tongue. Yet, she holds back.
A sad smile crosses her face as she looks away from Kelley and out of the window in the living room that overlooks the street. It’s as if she is seeing something totally different, as if she has been transported someplace else when she speaks next.
“A long time ago someone once told me that memories are better lived than retold.”
Kelley lets the words rotate in her mind for a moment and she grudgingly agrees that the statement has some truth, sure, but that doesn’t mean she is any less curious.
“So you really aren’t going to tell me anything?” She asks.
“You don’t give up do you?” Alex asks shaking her head, a tiny smile growing on her face.
Kelley just looks back at her with pleading puppy dog eyes.
“We were good friends. Best friends, maybe.” Alex says crossing her arms over her chest, “But that’s all I’m telling you right now.” She says pointedly.
Kelley smiles, content at even the slightest bit of information and drops the topic.
The conversation twists and turns, Alex telling Kelley about her days on the soccer team and her sorority and her roommates, and Kelley tells Alex about the home she left behind in Georgia and her family and what it’s like to time travel and from the way that Alex nods and smiles politely she wonders if Alex might already know all these things. It must be excruciating, Kelley thinks, to start a friendship from scratch as though nothing has happened at all. But somehow Alex doesn’t seem to care.
“So what do you plan to do with that degree of yours?”
“Hopefully nothing for a while.” Alex says. “That day you first met me at the coffee shop I was on my way to a job interview—more of a tryout really—with the San Francisco Flash. I want to play soccer professionally.” She’s rambling and Kelley thinks it’s cute, that she must do this when she is embarrassed.
“That’s awesome. How did it go?” Kelley asks.
“Pretty well, I think, I hope. I guess I’ll find out in a week.” Alex says, her cheeks heating at the prospect of speaking to her successes. “So, tell me what you do.” Alex deflects, eager to turn the conversation from herself. It’s funny Kelley thinks, how modest Alex is now compared to the bragging eleven-year-old at the park.
A lull in the conversation, along with the slight buzz in her head from the wine prompts Kelley to ask a question that’s been nagging her, a topic that has yet to be touched.
“Are you dating anyone?” She asks. She begs for her voice to remain level, hoping her inquiry comes off as sincerely platonic.
“No, I haven’t actually dated anyone for a while now. I was casually seeing a girl for a while sophomore year.” Alex pauses, her brilliant smile turning down a fraction of an inch, pulling away from her eyes so she no longer looks so effortlessly happy. “But it turns out that we both had our hearts set elsewhere.” She shrugs it off, and Kelley senses the story has more to it than Alex is letting on, but she drops it.
Alex clears her throat then and stands. She motions to the empty glass on the coffee table.
When Alex returns with a glass of red for Kelley, white for herself, she takes a seat half a foot closer to her on the couch.
“And I didn’t ask you—are you dating anyone?” Alex sips from her glass, her eyes trained steadily and curious on Kelley’s.
“No. No, I’m not.” Kelley feels a buzzing between her ears and an embarrassingly wide grin forming on her face that she struggles to contain.
Maybe it’s the wine, or maybe it’s the prospect of seeing Alex again in her dreams, but either way, when Kelley returns home later that night, she falls into an easy sleep for the first time in what feels like forever.
Kelley’s eyes blink open. She’s standing near the edge of a slow-flowing river no more than twenty feet wide. Behind her, a sunlit grass clearing dotted with yellow flowers extends towards the tree line where a path disappears into the thicket of bushes and branches.
A girl walks forward from the path, her nose buried in a book, her right hand grasping a blanket and a small backpack.
It’s Alex, Kelley knows this. She smiles to herself as Alex approaches, the younger girl has yet to notice her.
She’s crossing the clearing now, and she’s only ten feet away when she looks up, mouth dropping into a surprised “o” when she spots Kelley. She can nearly see the thoughts whirring through Alex’s brain.
“Hi.” Kelley says, shy and as innocent as possible. She’s aware how odd it must be, to find a near-stranger in the woods you’d presumed would be empty.
“Kelley?” Alex says and Kelley breathes a sigh of relief, Alex recognizes her, remembers her.
“You’ve grown.” Kelley says. It’s the truth. Alex is three inches taller now, hair darkening and lengthening past her shoulders.
“And you look the same.” Alex says, her voice is guarded as she crosses her arms protectively across her chest. Kelley can see the confusion flashing in her eyes, but at least it’s not fear she thinks.
“What are you doing here?” Alex asks.
Kelley had thought of this moment before, wondered how she would explain to a thirteen-year-old girl that she could travel in time. She’d planned lengthy explanations and carefully thought out sentences. But now, her mind was blank. She was at a loss for words.
“I said, ‘what are you doing here?’” Alex says, her voice shifting up an octave, but it's strong nonetheless. She takes a step forward, condensing the distance between them. She’s brave, Kelley thinks, the thought making something like pride flare in her chest.
“I can explain.” Kelley says, lifting her hands as if in surrender. She searches for the words, finally stumbling upon a half-adequate response.
“I can time travel, I’m from the future.” She says, and she knows it sounds so utterly insane so she adds, “And we’re friends where I’m from.”
Alex’s eyes narrow, but the look isn’t suspicion, no, it’s more like intrigue, Kelley thinks.
They stand there in a face-off, each girl eyeing the other, each trying to gauge the other’s inner thoughts. A long pause hovers between them before Alex speaks.
Kelley’s thoughts scramble for something that can convince the girl standing across from her.
She holds up her wrist.
“You gave me this. It’s your dad’s isn’t it?” She says showing Alex the watch she had gifted her. The glass face glints in the sun and Alex strides forward then until she is in Kelley’s space and grabbing her by the forearm. She pulls her arm to her face and looks at the watch intently, then up to Kelley.
“How do I know you didn’t steal this?” She says.
“I didn’t.” Kelley says, “I promise.”
A long pause follows as Alex squints her eyes up at Kelley, trying to read her, trying to tell if she’s lying.
Her shoulders inch upward in a shrug and she drops Kelley’s arm. She walks past her towards the river until she is right at the edge, where she unfolds her blanket and smooths it out on the ground. She takes a seat.
“Ok?” Kelley says, her face displaying her astonishment. Just like that, Alex believes her. She definitely had expected more pushback. This girl was always surprising her, catching her off guard, and Kelley couldn't tell if that was a good or bad thing.
Alex motions next to her on the blanket and Kelley sits to fill the empty space.
“I thought I was crazy you know.” Alex says, “The last time we met, I mean.”
Kelley looks at Alex, but doesn't say anything, just waits for her to continue.
“You just ran off and disappeared into thin air. So either I imagined that, or, you could be telling the truth.” Alex says, so plainly in a way that feels familiar to Kelley, in a way that the Alex from her time seems to speak about everything.
“Huh.” It’s all she can muster. She nods slightly as she tries to imagine Alex’s thought process.
“So, tell me more about this time travel thing.” Alex says, her elbows on her knees, her chin in her hands, and her eyes so bright and inquisitive.
So Kelley tells her.
She tells her how she dreams in the past and how she saves people. She answers Alex’s questions in the best way she can, and Alex asks a lot of questions.
“So you’re dreaming right now?”
“Technically, I guess, yeah?”
“Have you ever gone to the future?”
“Once or twice.”
“Do you know anyone else who time travels?”
“Nope, just me.”
“Well, can you teach me how to do it?”
“No, I don’t think so.” She laughs.
“If you do something right now does it change what the future is like?”
“No, because it already happened.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well technically, if I change it now, then in the future, I would have already changed it, so the future already reflects any “changes” I am making. Does that make sense?”
“So is my dad wearing that same watch inside?”
“I’m not sure. Why don’t you find out later?”
“Why do you travel?”
“I don’t know.”
“Will you ever visit me again?”
“That reminds me— ”
Kelley directs Alex then to pull out a pen, which she retrieves from her backpack. The only paper she has is from the book she is reading, so she tears a blank page from the back of it and balances it carefully on her knee. Then she’s writing down the dates that Kelley recites to her.
It’s strange, Kelley thinks, to watch the numbers and letters that she had so carefully studied only a few days earlier form in Alex’s scrawling handwriting on the page in front of her.
Alex begs to know of her own future, yet Kelley refrains. She’d guessed that Alex might ask such questions, who wouldn’t be curious? Just as Kelley had wanted to know of her own past, Alex wants to know of her future. Yet, she holds back, not wanting to ruin Alex’s idea of free will or her sense of choice.
It’s fascinating in a way, Kelley thinks, how their paths seem to parallel. How she and this thirteen-year-old girl are so alike in their uncertainty. She feels the questions and complications of time travel rotating in her head, making her question her purpose, her sense of chronology, her own sense of free will.
“Do you visit other people a lot too?” Alex asks, pulling Kelley from her reverie, the tone of her voice teetering on the edge of something Kelley can’t quite place. It’s interest, yes, but there is something else there right below the surface. Envy, insecurity, maybe? Kelley guesses that Alex perhaps wants to feel special, wants to confirm that this odd bond that they have is just for the two of them.
“No, Alex. Just you.” Kelley says eyes crinkling fondly at the corners.
A smile shifts onto Alex’s mouth. It’s a moment before she speaks again, her voice smaller this time.
“I’m not sure.” Kelley says.
Yes, why you? She thinks.
“These are my roommates, Christen and Allie.” Alex says motioning to the two girls sitting on the couch in the living room. Kelley nods and introduces herself politely. From what Alex has told her, Kelley knows that the three girls are all on the soccer team together and that they are very close, spending most, if not all of their time in one another’s company.
Allie is around Alex’s height, blonde and blue-eyed with high cheekbones that make her look Barbie-esque. Yet, she’s anything but the traditional stereotype. She’s opinionated and quick-witted Kelley learns, with a slight New York accent that makes her ah’s sound aw’s and her words a bit harsher than she perhaps intends. But she’s also charismatic, easy to talk to in a way that Kelley quickly connects with.
Christen is the opposite, a raven-haired beauty with piercing green eyes. She’s quieter, reserved and intentional with her words. But she also calls Allie out on her shit in the nicest way possible, and she’s got this contagious laugh, wide open and free and she can’t help but see why Alex is friends with her.
They are all so incredibly competitive, a simple game of cards turns quickly heated when Allie accuses Alex of cheating (she was, but she was still offended by the accusation). And Kelley at first has a hard time keeping up with the inside jokes and the casually slung insults, but she thinks she starting to catch on.
In the past month, Kelley had visited Alex twice more in her dreams. They had met and sat at the river’s edge where they’d talk about everything and nothing. Alex always seemed to have a list of questions ready upon Kelley’s arrival, and Kelley’s gotten used to fielding them, even if she doesn’t quite know the answers. And then when it’s time Kelley stands and leaves, and just like that she is gone.
In the meantime, Alex and Kelley had begun spending more time together, going on coffee dates, running meaningless errands, and now, apparently, Tuesday game nights with Alex’s roommates. It’s the type of friendship Kelley hadn’t realized she was waiting for.
At the end of the night, Alex is the slightest bit tipsy, a glass and a half of wine enough to make her cheeks flush as she walks Kelley out to her car.
“I really like your friends, they’re cool.” Kelley says. She shoves her hands into her pockets as she leans against the door. She doesn’t want to say goodbye just yet.
“Yeah, they’re alright.” Alex says rolling her eyes, a grin pulling at the corner of her mouth. Kelley can tell she doesn’t mean it. She can see just how much Alex’s friends mean to her, how happy she is around them.
“I hope they liked me.” Kelley says. She’s not fishing for a compliment, yet she hopes nonetheless that Alex can invalidate her doubts.
“Of course they like you. Who wouldn’t like you?” Alex rolls her eyes and gives Kelley a light push on the shoulder as if to convey Kelley is being ridiculous. She lets her hand rest there on her skin a moment longer before trailing it down Kelley’s bare arm at an infinitely slow pace, raising a path of goosebumps along the way. Then her fingers are slipping into Kelley’s locking into a loose grip. Kelley can’t tell what it means if it means anything at all.
She looks intently at Alex then. She’s half a foot away, and Kelley can smell the wine on her breath, can see deep into the pupils of her eyes illuminated only by the dim glow of a streetlight. She can hear her own heartbeat pumping wildly between her ears.
She wishes she would feel the tug in her stomach that tells her what to do, because at the moment she wants so badly to just go for it and kiss Alex straight on the mouth. But she’s not sure, what if that ruins their newly-built friendship?
Alex sucks in a shaky breath between her teeth, and for a split-second, it looks as though she may lean in.
But she doesn’t.
So Kelley doesn’t either. Instead, she looks to the side, and the moment crumbles away. She clears her throat.
“I guess I’d better get going.” She says. She half-hopes that Alex will ask her to stay.
“Right. It’s getting late.” Alex says and Kelley can’t tell for sure but she thinks that look in her eyes might be disappointment. Alex drops her hand then and takes a step backward.
As Kelley drives off she can’t help but think that maybe that moment was a missed opportunity.
A nightmare jolts Kelley awake, her chest heaves as she gasps for breath.
She’s back in her bed now, cold and wet and all alone. Her mind flashes back to the time travel, replaying the memory in her head.
Dark murky water twists around her furiously. An outstretched hand. Fingers slipping and slipping and slipping. A tortured cry out. A face twisted in fear swallowed by a rush of water. Then gone.
She shivers in her bed. She really should change, she doesn’t want to risk getting a cold, or worse, hypothermia. But her muscles are aching, her head is pounding, and she doesn’t think she could get up if she tried. So she hangs her head into her hands, lets tears wet her face as she relives the moment from her dream when she knew she had lost them. She lets it repeat on a cycle over and over letting it numb her.
She doesn’t know what spurs it, but somehow she’s moving, picking up her phone and dialing, wrinkled fingers moving with their own agenda.
“Hello?” It’s groggy. Of course it is. It’s the middle of the night. Kelley internally kicks herself for bothering Alex at this hour.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you, you can go back to sleep.” Kelley says and she’s ready to hang up when Alex speaks again.
“No, I’m up. Kelley, what’s wrong?” She says, the worry in her voice seeping through the speaker. When she doesn’t get an answer, Alex repeats herself, this time her words softer.
“I—” Kelley pauses, “I didn’t—I couldn’t save them.” She says, her voice hiking high into her throat as she stutters through a response.
“Kel, listen, settle down, it’ll be okay.” Alex says, “Stay where you are, I’ll be right there.”
Twenty minutes later, Alex is there, just like she said she would be. Kelley opens the door to her apartment, and immediately, Alex wraps her into a tight embrace, arms squeezing around her shoulders, and it doesn’t matter that Kelley is soaking wet, or that she’s freezing cold, Alex hugs her as if she’ll never let go.
She whispers into her ear, and Kelley tries to listen, she does, but she can’t really focus much. There are too many thoughts clouding her ability to comprehend. But then Alex is coaxing her to the bathroom and cranking the handle of the shower to red. She lets Kelley undress alone and enter the warm water. And ten minutes later when she comes out, Alex hands her a fresh pair of pajamas.
“I hope you don’t mind I went through your dresser.”
“Thank you.” She changes and lies back down on her bed. Alex studies her for a moment, a worried wrinkle forming on her forehead. Then she sits beside her and pulls Kelley’s head into her lap. She threads her fingers carefully through Kelley’s hair and lays a soft hand on her back.
She doesn’t say much, just whispers reassurances and lets Kelley cry. She doesn’t make her explain herself or anything, and she doesn’t even complain when her pant leg is soaked through with tears.
Kelley lets her heartbeat steady and waits for the pounding in her head to ebb away. Somehow she finds a way to make her voice work. She clears her throat.
“Thank you.” She says. “For being here, I mean. You didn’t have to.”
Alex runs her hand over Kelley’s hair, brushing it tenderly behind her ear.
“Of course I had to.” Alex says. “I’d do anything for you.”
Kelley’s heartbeat picks back up then, maybe it’s the way Alex says the words, as if there is some deeper meaning there, and Kelley once again feels a pang in her chest at the thought of not knowing all that has happened between them. Alex is always so soft with her, gentle and caring and affectionate and she wishes she knew what that meant. If it meant anything at all. She guesses she’ll just have to wait and find out.
“You can stay here for the night.” She says. “Only if you want to. I can take the couch.”
“Sure, but I can take the couch, go back to bed.” Alex says.
‘No, you’re the guest, I insist.”
“We could share?” Alex says, her voice hesitant, her eyes trained directly into Kelley’s.
“I think that’d be okay.” She’s too tired to argue, and frankly, she thinks she wouldn’t mind the company.
They slip under the covers then, only two feet between them, a divide so clear, as though both are deliberately minding the space.
Usually, after a nightmare, Kelley can’t sleep, can’t stand the idea of closing her eyes for a moment longer than necessary, even if that means she’ll be exhausted the next day.
But tonight is different. Tonight her bed tilts a little bit differently at the weight of another body. Tonight there’s a warmth radiating from Alex across the distance between them. And somehow it’s comforting. So comforting that her eyes are fluttering closed, and her breath is evening out, and before she knows it, she’s asleep.
Alex walks into the kitchen where Kelley stands at the stove. She crosses her arms over her chest as she watches the other girl cook.
“Oh hey, good morning.” Kelley says when she catches sight of Alex. “I made eggs, I didn’t know how you liked them so they’re scrambled. And there’s coffee in the pot if you’d like it. Creamer in the fridge.” She turns to face Alex then and hands her a plate.
“Thanks. Scrambled is perfect.” Alex says. She pours herself a cup of coffee and takes a seat at the small circular table in the corner.
“Any plans for the day?” Kelley says. It’s Sunday morning, the sun is shining brightly through the window, a promising sign for the day ahead of them.
“I was thinking we could go surfing?”
Kelley takes a seat at the table across from Alex. “I didn’t know you knew how to surf.” She says.
“I don’t, not really.” Alex says, “I learned once, but my teacher wasn’t so great. I might have also been slightly distracted by their abs.”
Kelley laughs. “I’m sure I’d be a better teacher.”
“I’m not so sure about that.” Alex says and sips at her coffee, her eyes lighting warmly.
Alex was right, Kelley wasn’t that much better of a teacher. And after three hours of getting knocked and spun by waves, Alex had barely managed to stand on her board. So she resigns to the beach.
Kelley follows her in shortly after, opting to catch a few more waves of her own. Something about being in the water was so freeing to her, and she feels as though every worry she has is washed off in the waves. This is exactly what she needed. How Alex anticipated that, she didn’t quite know.
She takes a seat on the towel next to Alex, studying her for a second, taking in the way her hair fell wet against her bare shoulders, the water droplets that clung to her collarbone. She just can’t look away. And if Alex notices her staring, she doesn’t mention it, just stares out over the ocean, the smallest of grins playing idly on her face.
“There’s this boy at school—” Alex says kicking her legs slowly back and forth in the river water. It’s clear and cold, refreshing from the unusually humid day.
“Oh yeah?” Kelley smirks. It’s weird to hear Alex speak like this. She never really seemed to show interest in boys or anyone at all before for that matter. But Kelley guesses she should have seen it coming, Alex was fourteen now, and maturing right before her eyes both mentally and physically.
“His name is Servando, he’s kind of cute, I guess.” Alex shrugs her shoulders. She bites at her bottom lip, as though she’s holding back a smile. And Kelley thinks it’s so cute the way she’s trying to be nonchalant.
“And you have a crush on him?” Kelley wiggles her eyebrows and nudges Alex slightly. She blushes then and knocks Kelley’s hand away.
“Maybe.” Her cheeks are red now, and it seems she’s almost embarrassed she brought it up.
“Is he going to be your boyfriend?”
“I’m not sure, he’s kind of rude to me.” She says “But Jeri and Jen say that’s just how boys show they like you.” Alex shrugs.
Kelley frowns at the words. She’s always hated that old saying ‘he’s mean because he likes you.’ It was sexist, in her opinion, and she always wondered why it was ok to think that being mean is an acceptable way of showing affection, no matter the age, or gender.
“Boys who like you, aren’t mean, Alex, I promise.” She says. Alex looks at her then, tilting her head to the side.
“How do you know? Do you have a boyfriend?” It’s as though the thought that Kelley might be in a relationship in her real life has just occurred to her.
“No, I don’t.” Kelley pauses.
“Well, do you have a crush on anyone?” Alex is leaning in closer now. It’s her turn to pry, and she’s grinning at the prospect of flipping the conversation on Kelley.
Kelley has to laugh at the phrasing.
“Maybe.” She says cheekily, mocking Alex’s tone from earlier. It only serves to cause Alex to roll her eyes.
“What’s his name?” Alex says. “You can tell me.”
Kelley kicks her own feet in the water and bites at her cheek.
“It’s not a he, it’s a her.”
Alex’s eyebrows shoot up, clearly caught by surprise, and unable to keep it from her face. But it only lasts a second, because then she’s thinking, Kelley can tell by the wrinkle forming on her nose.
“Well,” She says, “what’s her name?”
Kelley laughs, of course Alex would move on un-fazed, just like she did when Kelley told her she time-traveled. She was ever the open-minded soul, Kelley thinks.
“I can’t tell you that, Al.” She smiles.
Alex crosses her arms over her chest then, her brows furrowing into a crease. But before she can say anything else, Kelley feels that it’s time to leave. She says so and stands, wiping the dust from the seat of her pants.
“This conversation isn’t over.” Alex says.
“You’re right, you need to tell me more about Servando.” Kelley says, her voice lilting in a singsong tone over Servando’s name.
Alex just rolls her eyes.
“See you later?” Kelley says. It’s kind of become their thing, their unofficial way of saying ‘goodbye’ in a way that feels so much less permanent.
“See you later.” Alex repeats. Then Kelley’s gone.
“Are you nervous?” Kelley asks. She’s lying on her side in Alex’s bed across from her.
“You’re going to do amazing. I know it.”
Tomorrow is Alex’s first official game with the San Francisco Flash. She’d made the team, of course, Kelley had never doubted that she would for a second. But that didn’t mean that it was easy.
Alex was still working hard to finish her degree, only a few weeks left until graduation, and balancing her classes with her professional team’s preseason was stressful to say the least. But she was managing somehow. She’d always been a hard worker, now was no different.
It also helped that she had Kelley there to massage her sore calves and give her encouragement when she needed it most.
“Are you excited to meet my family?” Alex says.
Alex doesn’t stay anything for a minute, just draws an absentminded pattern on Kelley’s shoulder, connecting the freckles there into a meaningless constellation.
“I wish my dad could be there.” Alex says and it’s barely above a whisper. She closes her eyes for a second longer than necessary. Kelley pulls her into a hug, burying her head into the crook of her shoulder. She feels hot tears clinging to the side of her neck where Alex is pressed.
“He’d be so proud of you, Al.”
Alex had told her early on how her father passed away from a brain tumor.
She and her dad were close. He was the one who drove her to all the soccer practices and away games, always her biggest fan. He watched the stupid movies she liked with her and made her laugh more than anyone, and he was the first person she came out to as bisexual.
But then came the diagnosis, swift and sudden. And not soon after, he was gone. At least he hadn’t suffered long, is what Alex said. She didn’t say much else.
That was a year and a half ago.
It makes Kelley feel guilty in a way, that she wasn’t there for Alex when she needed her most. It’s not her fault, of course, but she just wishes it was different.
“I wish I could have met him.” Kelley says softly.
Alex pulls back then from Kelley’s embrace to look her in the eyes. Her eyelashes are glistening from her tears and Kelley can’t help but think that somehow she looks so beautiful like this, after all, to feel such pain is to know a great love. She smooths out Alex’s hair.
Kelley arrives at the game with Christen and Allie early to watch warm-ups. She likes watching Alex in her element, likes seeing her look so comfortable with a ball at her feet.
Alex’s sisters and mother arrive nearer to game time and they greet Christen and Allie with hugs. When it comes to Kelley’s turn, they treat her no differently, pulling her into a welcoming embrace.
When Jeri pulls away, she looks at Kelley intently, almost as if she is trying to place something. Her eyebrows knit together and Kelley’s heart skips a quick beat, a knot forming in her gut when she thinks she knows where this is about to go.
“Do I know you from somewhere?”
Kelley carefully mimics Jeri’s confused look for a second before responding.
“No, I don’t think so.” She says slowly, “I don’t think I could forget such a pretty face.” She smiles and hopes the tone comes off as charming.
Mrs. Morgan and Jen laugh, and Allie just smirks in the background. But Jeri’s face is unchanged. She looks at Kelley a bit harder then, a question in her eyes, uncertainty hovering below the surface. But before she can say anything more, the players are walking out on to the field and the announcer is saying something loud over the speaker.
So she drops it for now.
Alex’s number lights up on the sub-board at the 65th minute, causing their little fan section to erupt in wild cheers. Alex bounces nervously on her toes, and even from here, Kelley can see the excitement on her face. Then she’s running out onto the pitch.
“I’m so proud of you, Al.” Jen says, and around the table they lift their drinks to ‘cheers’ occasion. They are at a nearby restaurant to celebrate Alex and the Flash’s first win of the season.
They chat amongst themselves for a while, gushing over Alex’s performance while Christen and Allie analyze the game.
“So, Kelley, where’s your accent from?” Jeri asks. She is eying her across the table with the same searching look that she had given her before.
Kelley takes a long sip of her iced tea.
“Atlanta, Georgia, born and raised.” She adopts an exaggerated drawl, earning a laugh from Alex.
Jeri smiles back lightly, but it doesn’t quite reach her eyes.
“So what brings you to the Bay Area then?” Her eyes bore into Kelley, and now the rest of the table is honing in on their conversation.
“I went to Stanford for college, and I’ve been here ever since, I guess I fell in love with the place.” Kelley says, begging her voice to remain level.
She wonders what is making Jeri so inquisitive and she’s worried any second now that she will announce that they somehow know each other, that she’s met Kelley before in the past. Kelley just hopes she hasn’t done anything stupid.
“Are you sure we haven’t met?” Jeri says, her eyes narrowing slightly in suspicion.
“I’m pretty sure.” Kelley says. She scratches nervously at the back of her neck.
“It’s just, you look so fam—”
“Jer, give it a rest.” Alex butts in, glaring at her sister over the table.
Jeri drops it then, and everyone returns to their conversations, but not before she sends one last unsure look at Kelley.
Alex connects eyes with her and simply mouths the word: later.
“What was that about Alex?’ Kelley asks when they are alone in her car.
“Jeri might have seen you once at the river.”
“What do you mean ‘might have’”?
“I mean, she did see you.” Alex says, she shrugs her shoulders up in attempt to seem innocent.
Kelley just shakes her head. No wonder Jeri was boring holes into her all night.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Because I thought she might not remember! It was dark, I thought maybe she didn’t see you.” Alex’s voice rises, clearly stressed by the situation.
“You should have told me, Al. What if she actually had seen me? That would have been so awkward.” Kelley runs her hand through her hair.
“I know, I know I should have warned you. I’m sorry.”
Kelley looks at Alex then, her eyes are round and pleading for forgiveness. She can’t help but melt a little bit at the sight. Once again the urge to kiss Alex hits her. But she doesn’t. Instead, she just laughs. Then Alex is laughing too, and the intensity of the moment has shattered. She gives Alex a playful shove in the shoulder.
“Let’s get you home, Superstar.”
“How do you know if you’re a good kisser?” Alex asks Kelley. It’s late afternoon, the sun hanging low and shining golden through the trees. They are sitting on the frayed blanket that Alex has brought with her to the clearing.
“Does this have to do with a certain boy?” She knows Alex and Servando have been hanging out quite a bit lately. They’re only friends, Alex says, but Kelley doesn’t expect that status to last very long considering what she’s heard about the boy.
“Sort of.” Alex says, “We haven’t kissed yet, I just want to be prepared if it happens.”
Kelley smiles and sits up a little bit straighter.
“Well, has anyone ever told you that you’re a good kisser?”
“Um,” Alex says. “No.” It’s sheepish, a blush seeping into her cheeks. “Do people tell you that?”
Kelley laughs and adopts a smug smile, “Of course. All the time.”
She’s joking. A little.
A minor look of panic crosses Alex’s face, so Kelley quickly adds, “Don’t worry, you could still be a good kisser even if no one’s said it.”
“But how?” Alex asks. Kelley shrugs.
“I guess it just takes practice.” She pauses. “And the right person to do it with.”
Kelley enters Alex’s apartment. By now, she’s used to letting herself in.
“Hey, Kelley.” It’s Christen. She’s sitting on the couch, eyes glued to the TV.
“Sorry I’m late, the line at Imm’s was so long.” Kelley says as she sets the bag of take-out Thai food on the coffee table.
“You better have gotten me egg rolls.” Allie says entering the living room. She flops onto the couch next to Christen and digs into the bag.
“Duh.” Kelley says. She relaxes into the spot next to Allie, focusing her attention on the TV.
“Did I miss anything good?”
“Kel, it’s been two minutes.”
“A lot can happen in two minutes!”
The Flash are playing the Thorns in Portland, Oregon, and it has become an informal tradition for Kelley to watch Alex’s away games with her roommates. She likes spending time with Christen and Allie, they know a lot more about soccer than she does, and she’s starting to feel like they are her own friends too.
“She means, did she miss any Alex screen-time?” Allie says with a smirk.
Kelley rolls her eyes.
“No, Alex isn’t starting.” Christen responds, eyes still locked to the screen.
“You two have it so bad.” Allie says, the smirk on her face growing tenfold.
“What do you mean?” Kelley asks.
Allie laughs, loud and boisterous as if Kelley’s question is ridiculous, “Kelley, come on. It’s obvious you have a thing for Alex.” Kelley opens her mouth to respond, but Allie cuts her off, “Don’t even try to deny it.” She says it so plainly that it makes Kelley’s face heat in embarrassment. “And Pressi here can’t even take her eyes off Heath for a second.”
Christen turns and hits Allie with a throw pillow.
They watch the game while they eat their food, aggressively yelling at the screen when appropriate and making jokes about the referee.
Then the second half is starting, and with that, Alex is running onto the field. Kelley can’t help the smile that overtakes her face. Finally. She thinks. If it were up to her, Alex would be starting and playing a full 90.
Then Alex is passed the ball, and she’s racing down the middle of the field, cutting past a defender, and then another, and she’s right outside the 18-yard box when she smacks the ball with her favored left foot, and it streaks past the keeper into the upper netting of the goal. Kelley stands and cheers, as do Allie and Christen. She watches as Alex runs to the corner flag to celebrate with her teammates, and Kelley thinks she’s never been so happy for another person in her life, she just wishes she could have been there to see it in person. Alex’s first professional goal, and it’s only the fourth game of the season.
The camera pans to Alex as she runs back to center field, and for a quick second Alex tilts her head back and shakes a finger at the sky. It feels, special, intimate. And Kelley knows that if Alex’s dad is watching down on her that he's beyond proud.
“Alex, brake.” Kelley says. She places a steadying hand on the dashboard in front of her. But Alex doesn’t slow down, she’s not listening. Instead, she’s speeding up, whipping around a tight corner at a startling pace.
When Alex had asked Kelley to teach her how to drive, Kelley thought it’d be fun, hadn’t really thought much of it. But now, she's regretting ever saying ‘yes.’
She eyes the speedometer, they’re nearing 70 mph now, too fast for this winding dirt road and this amateur driver.
“Alex, seriously, you need to brake.” Kelley says, panic rising high in her voice. Still, Alex doesn’t listen, just applies more pressure to the gas pedal, eyes trained steadily in front of her. Her fingers grip the steering wheel, knuckles whitening.
“Pull over. Now!” Kelley says, and it’s stern, a voice she’s not quite used to using. Then Alex is looking at her, and she must be able to see the alarm in Kelley’s eyes, maybe her face is flushed white with fear too, because then she’s slowing down and easing the car to the side of the road.
“Jesus Christ, Al, you could have killed us.” Kelley says, running a hand through her hair. She’s angry now.
“But I didn’t. And you know I wouldn’t have.” Alex says.
Kelley knows she’s right, of course she is, otherwise, she wouldn’t know Alex in her own time, otherwise, she wouldn’t have given her the list of dates that she would visit again. But that doesn’t make her any less angry.
“You still could have hurt us. You need to be more careful.”
Alex turns and looks at Kelley then and rolls her eyes.
“Geez, you sound like my mom.”
Kelley turns away and looks out the window, irritation rising in her chest. Who knew teenagers could be so temperamental?
Neither says anything for a minute, they just sit there, the silence hanging thick and angry between them.
Kelley breaks it first, still not making eye contact, fixating her attention out of the window.
“Alex,” She sighs. “You can’t be so reckless just because you think you know what happens in the future.”
Alex doesn’t say anything, so Kelley turns to look at her. She is staring straight ahead, the line of her jaw ever so prominent as she clenches and unclenches her teeth. Kelley places a hand softly on her shoulder.
“I care about you, you know.” She says. “And I don’t want anything bad to happen to you.”
Alex finally turns to look at her, the fire in her eyes dying out, her features relaxing into a softer expression.
“I’m sorry.” She whispers.
“Promise me you won’t do anything to put yourself in danger?”
“Well, now you know who’s to blame for my poor driving skills.” Alex says as she reaches across the table to steal a French fry from Kelley’s plate. They’re at an old-style diner near Alex’s apartment sharing a late dinner.
“Me?” Kelley asks incredulously. She swats Alex’s hand away.
“Yeah, you let me drive, like, forty over the speed limit.” Alex says with a teasing smile. Kelley rolls her eyes and crosses her arms.
“You were kind of a brat back then, you know that?”
“You still love me though.” Alex says. Kelley tilts her head away in order to hide her blush.
Then suddenly Alex is getting serious.
“What happens to you if you get hurt in a dream?” Alex asks.
Kelley pauses. She thinks hard about what to say next. She knows the answer, unfortunately.
She thinks back to how she was able to convince her parents of her time traveling abilities.
Kelley’s on the street outside of an apartment building. It’s late, some time in the middle of the night she guesses.
And the building is on fire.
Her gut tugs her towards the entrance. And she’s scared. Because who in their right mind runs into a burning building? Especially if they don’t know if anyone is even inside.
But she knows, of course, the telltale sensation low in her stomach guiding her closer and closer to the door. And she knows that she has to act.
She pulls her t-shirt up over her mouth and nose to cover her face from the smoke, then she’s taking a deep breath and running inside.
She passes some people heading out of the building, getting as far away from the danger zone as they can. Yet she moves forward, deeper into the dark hallway.
A strangled cry from the door to her left draws her attention.
She grabs the handle, eager to get inside. But as soon as she makes contact with the metal, she yanks her hand away. She swears under her breath. The handle is scorching hot, the palm of her hand now badly burnt.
Then she hears another cry.
She lowers her shoulder and rams it against the door, but it doesn’t budge. She knows she will have to grab the handle again.
She looks down at her hand, it’s blistering now, the skin peeling back white and angry red. She pulls the sleeve of her shirt down over her wrist and mentally steels herself, biting at her lip as she works up the nerve to try the handle again. Then she does it quick, like ripping off a bandaid, twisting the handle open and shoving her way inside.
She makes her way through the apartment, orange flames licking at the walls, smoke encircling her. She lowers herself to the ground.
“Hello?” She yells.
“Help, over here!” A small voice yells back, followed by a cough, dry and hacking.
Kelley crawls forward towards the sound, her hand is throbbing. Where the hell are the firefighters?
Finally, she sees movement ahead of her. It’s a little girl, no more than ten years old, cowering behind a kitchen table. Kelley reaches the girl then and lifts her over her shoulder. The smoke is becoming suffocating now, the edges of her vision blurring from the lack of oxygen. She needs to get out of her, and quick. She crouches with the girl then, and finds her way back to the doorway and into the hallway. It's hazy now, smoke rising towards the ceiling, and she's feeling disoriented. But at last, she makes it to the entrance of the building, bursting into the fresh air and collapsing onto the grass where the other residents have gathered.
She wheezes, desperately sucking in air as she hunches over on her hands and knees.
Now she can hear the sound of a siren ripping through the night air, coming closer and closer, red lights flickering down the street. About time, she thinks.
She checks on the girl once more, and she seems ok, shaken up, but unharmed.
Then she’s running, head splitting, lungs burning, the red lights turning to white and she’s gone.
She wakes in her bed, jolting up into a sitting position. She inhales a sharp breath, causing her to launch into a lengthy coughing fit. Her hand throbs in pain.
Somehow she makes it to her parent’s bedroom, flicking on the light and waking them. And standing there, covered from head to toe in ash, a bloodied and blistered hand at her side, she is finally able to convince her parents that she can travel in time.
She shakes from her reverie, Alex is looking at her now, eyebrows knit tightly to show her concern.
“I asked what happens if you get hurt in a dream?” Alex says.
Kelley contemplates telling Alex. But what's the point of worrying her? It's not her problem. She looks down at her hands now. Luckily the burn had healed up nicely, the incident not leaving a physical scar.
"I'm not sure." She says.
"Really?" Alex asks, the look on her face is unconvinced.
"Really." Kelley says, this time with more conviction. And although Alex doesn't seem to totally believe her, she let's the subject drop.
Why doesn’t anyone like country music around here?” Kelley says. She grips her beer bottle by the neck and takes a swig. Alex just laughs.
“Because we have good taste in music.”
Kelley shoves her lightly.
It’s a Berkeley soccer team tradition to have a beach bonfire the last Friday before finals, a way to celebrate the graduating seniors and finish off the year with a bang. Alex had invited her of course, and Kelley was happy to be there, would do anything to hang out with her before she was headed off to Chicago for the weekend with the Flash.
Kelley watches the girls from the team mill around, listens to their laughter ringing clear in the night, watches their shadows dance in the sand by the light of the fire. On each and every face there seems to be a smile. She can feel the energy radiating from them, feels it seep into her pores, and it’s exhilarating in a way she can’t explain, the perfect sound of waves crashing in the distance, the perfect atmosphere, the perfect girl sitting next to her.
It’s all so enlivening.
The party is dying down now. The bonfire reduced to mere glowing embers, and the girls are ambling off in different directions, calling Ubers or driving themselves home if they’re sober. Kelley wanders towards Alex who is talking with Christen and Allie. As she nears, the girls hug and start walking backward towards the parking lot.
“Bye, Kelley.” Allie says with a wink, a stupidly keen smile on her face. Kelley lifts her hand and waves back.
“You aren’t going home with them?” She asks.
“I figured we could stay a little longer, maybe walk down the beach?” Alex looks up at her with those hopeful doe eyes that she can’t resist.
They walk down the beach, and now only the glow of the moon lights their way. Kelley kicks off her sandals, holding them in her hand so that she can feel the damp sand beneath her feet.
As they walk Alex’s hand brushes against hers with every step, and it’s so very light that it could be an accident. Kelley hopes that it’s not.
“You know one thing I don’t like about San Francisco?”
“What is it?”
“The pollution here covers up most of the stars. It’s not like that in Georgia.” Kelley says.
Alex hums thoughtfully in response.
“When I was a kid, my dad taught me all the major constellations.” Kelley looks to the sky now, reminiscing on easier times.
“What’s so funny?”
Alex just smiles wider, taking a few more steps before answering,
“Just, déjà vu.”
“Oh.” There’s that familiar prick in her heart that reminds her of all their lost moments.
Kelley slows to a stop then, and Alex follows suit.
“Does it bother you that I don’t remember? Or that I haven’t remembered yet, I mean.” She asks.
Alex’s nose wrinkles, she’s thinking.
“Yes. And no.” She says. “But I know that one day you will.”
Alex sighs deeply. Then she looks out over the ocean, longingly almost, letting the gentle crash of the waves against their feet be the only sound to fill the space between them. She seems to be weighing her next words carefully.
“I know you Kelley. I’ve known you my whole life. And I’ve been waiting on you since I was ten years old, I can wait a little longer.” Alex’s face softens, lips turning into a half-smile, “All that matters is that you’re here now.”
Kelley gulps. She feels at a loss for words. All she can think of is how much time has passed for Alex that she wasn’t present. How much time between visits that Alex had to endure alone, the three and a half years she went without seeing her, how now she was once again waiting on Kelley to catch up.
Alex takes a step forward, into her space, only six inches between their faces now, so close that Kelley can see the light of the moon glinting in Alex’s eyes.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you all that time.” She says. But Alex just shakes her head slowly, her way of saying there is no need to apologize.
“You’re the best thing I’ve ever waited for.”
Kelley swallows thickly, Alex’s words are heavy, meaning packed in each syllable. She’s looking at her so earnestly, eyelashes fluttering, and even now in the dark, Kelley can see that her cheeks are stained a pretty pink against her tan skin. The look in her eyes is anything but friendly. It’s something more than that, something endlessly yearning. Then her eyes flit down to Kelley’s lips for the briefest of seconds.
And this time, Kelley doesn’t miss the signs.
She leans in close, pressing her lips soft as a whisper against Alex’s. The moment stretches on until Alex is stepping into her, deepening the kiss, desperate in the way she clutches at Kelley’s waist. Kelley moves her hands behind Alex’s neck, pulling her closer until there’s no space left between them. They move in sync, lips parting, tongues searching, hearts racing, and it feels exactly natural like they’ve done this hundreds of times.
She leans her forehead against Alex’s and sighs contentedly. She feels Alex’s breath grazing over her own lips, ticklish and warm.
“Has anyone ever told you that you’re a good kisser?” Kelley says, she smirks. Alex matches her smile.
Then Alex is pulling her back in for another kiss, and then another, and it feels like something that was definitely worth waiting for.
favorite lines? comments? predictions? hit me in the comment section
Kelley’s standing on the street. She checks her watch, 8:45 pm, October 23rd, 2014. She faces a large house, Mediterranean style with a white façade and a red clay roof. It’s impressive, not overly flashy, but clearly expensive. And at the front steps stand a boy and a girl.
It’s Alex. And Servando, she guesses.
Kelley’s heart sinks in her chest as she watches the two of them from the street. He’s slim but fit and taller than Alex by at least two inches. And there's a whisp of black hair on his chin that she guesses is an attempt at a goatee.
She inches closer on the lawn to get a better look, creeping as near as she can without being seen before stepping behind a tall hedge to watch them from there. She wonders if this crosses some sort of line, spying on Alex when she thinks no one is around. But she can’t help it, she can’t look away.
They are standing only a few feet apart, perhaps returning home from a date by the looks of it. Servando’s there with his hands shoved in his pockets, and Alex is tucking a loose hair behind her ear, batting her eyelashes in a way that can only be described as flirty. It nearly makes Kelley sick.
Then Servando is taking a step forward, right into Alex’s space. And he is tilting her chin gently, and leaning in and Alex is teetering up on her tiptoes, and—
Kelley turns away.
She can’t watch this. Can’t watch Alex kiss this attractive boy on her front porch. Can’t watch her girlfriend kiss someone else.
It’s not cheating, she knows this. This is the past, technically she and Alex aren’t even dating yet.
But that doesn’t mean that it’s easy to watch.
She waits then until she sees Servando walking down the front path. She slides to her left, hiding herself from his view while he opens the door to his car. Kelley rolls her eyes, of course he drives a BMW.
Then he is pulling out of the driveway, and turning away down the street.
Kelley looks back up to the front porch where Alex still stands, biting at her thumb, a grin on her face as she watches the car disappear around the bend.
“Psst.” Kelley says.
Alex looks around, trying to find the source of the noise.
“Psst.” She repeats louder, and then Alex spots her behind the bush. Her eyes widen in surprise.
“Kelley? What are you doing here?” Alex whispers. She looks around her as if to check that no one is watching.
“I was supposed to visit today, remember?” Kelley says, a hint of bitterness climbing into her voice.
“Yeah, I know. I didn’t forget.” Alex says crossing her arms over her chest defensively.
Kelley has to remind herself that Alex has done nothing wrong. She’s a teenage girl, doing teenage girl things. She and Kelley aren’t together.
She allows her expression to soften, and puts on a smile, hoping it doesn’t seem forced.
“I’m guessing your date went well?”
“Yes.” Alex smiles, her eyes lighting with happiness, and Kelley feels a pang in her chest. Jealousy? Yes. But mostly, she just feels hurt. She wishes that it was she who was making Alex blush like that.
She tries her best to smile and seem interested as Alex tells her of her date, commenting and laughing at all the right parts. And it’s hard, but it’s worth it because Alex is happy.
And really, that’s all Kelley cares about.
“I have to go.” Kelley says, standing after a while.
“But,” Alex pouts, “I don’t want you to.” It makes Kelley smile, that even now Alex still wants her around.
“I don’t want to go either.” Kelley says, and she wraps her arms around Alex’s waist. It’s not unusual for them to hug, but for some reason, this one feels different.
“See you later?”
“See you later.”
“Kelley, where are we going?” Alex says, it’s whiny. She puts her feet up onto the dashboard.
“I told you, it’s a surprise.” Kelley says, for what seems like the hundredth time. If she’s learned one thing about Alex, it’s that she hates not being in control.
“But it’s my birthday, can’t you just tell me?”
“That kind of defeats the purpose of a surprise, doesn’t it?”
Alex huffs and crosses her arms, but Kelley knows that she’s not actually angry, just impatient.
After a few minutes more of driving, Kelley pulls off on the side of the road, gravel crunching beneath the tires of her old Ford Bronco.
“We’re here.” Kelley says, shifting into first gear and yanking on the parking brake.
Alex looks out of the window at the empty grass field that stretches toward the rocky coastline.
“Here? We’re in the middle of nowhere.”
Kelley opens her door and drops to the pavement.
“it’s a bit of a walk, so we’d better hurry if we want to catch the sunset.” Alex relents and follows Kelley into the knee-high grass. Kelley grabs her by the hand, fingers sliding perfectly together.
Finally, Alex sees it, an abandoned lighthouse standing tall and imposing, overlooking the bluff. It’s rundown, made of crumbling brick and weathered stone.
“Wow.” Alex says.
“I know, right?” Kelley’s eyes light joyously, as she leads Alex into the base of the lighthouse.
“Watch your step.” They climb the winding steps, 107 to be exact.
And then they are at the top, looking out of a small window. Water laps at the rocky cliff below them and the skyline of the city can be seen in the distance. It’s serene, almost as if an artist had painted the moment before them into existence.
“This is one of my favorite places in the whole world.” Kelley sighs. She places her hands on the ledge, running her fingers over the uneven surface. She leans out of the window slightly, breathing in the smell of the ocean and letting a cool breeze ruffle her hair.
“Is this where you take all your girlfriends?” Alex says playfully.
Kelley turns to her. The sun is setting now, making Alex’s face glow golden and perfect.
“You’re the only one, Al.” Kelley says. She leans in and kisses Alex’s forehead.
Alex says nothing for a minute, just follows Kelley’s gaze out over the ocean.
“Why’s it so special to you?” Alex says.
Kelley thinks, blinking slowly.
“I guess because up here, it feels like I can just get away from everything. I can do anything I want, be anyone I want to be.”
Alex looks at her intently, trying to read between the lines that crinkle in her forehead as she squints out into the setting sun.
“Do you wish you didn’t time travel?”
Kelley thinks long and hard. Of course she’s thought of the question before, contemplated it for hours on end, but that doesn’t mean she has an answer.
“I’m not sure.” She sighs, “On one hand, I’m saving people, and that’s great, I guess. But on the other hand, it can be so exhausting, all the responsibility, you know?”
And it is exhausting, in more way than one. It’s physically taxing, how some nights she wakes long before the sun has risen and is unable to fall back asleep. But it’s also mentally draining, never knowing when a dream will come, never knowing when or where she might be going, never knowing if she will fail or succeed. There’s always that question that nags in the back of her brain, ‘why me?’
Alex rubs Kelley’s back as if to ease the burden on her shoulders.
They stay quiet for a moment longer, watching as the sun dips low in the horizon, dropping into the ocean.
“But,” She says, “It’s also led me to you.”
Maybe that’s made all this worth it.
Alex smiles and leans into Kelley’s side, running her fingers through the older girl’s hair. The moment feels infinite.
“I’ve got something for you.” Kelley says after a while. She detangles herself from Alex’s embrace to retrieve a box from her pocket.
“Kelley, you didn’t have to get me anything.” Alex says, shaking her head.
“Of course I did, it's your birthday.” Kelley scoffs.
She hands Alex the box then, letting her undo the crudely wrapped paper. Alex lifts open the top, revealing a dainty cuffed bracelet. On the inside are two dates etched in Roman numerals.
“The day you first met me.” Kelley says pointing at the first set of numbers, “And the day I first met you.”
Alex lets her fingers trace carefully over the dates. Her throat is dry now, a lump forming.
“I love it.” She slides it on to her wrist. She wants to say ‘I love you.’
As soon as Alex enters the door, Kelley pushes her against the wall, capturing her lips into her own. She trails down to her collarbone, Alex’s breathe is needy and ragged above her.
They make their way down the hallway, and finally into Kelley’s room. Alex’s propels Kelley towards the bed, straddling her once her head hits the pillows.
“I missed you.” Kelley says between kisses. Alex had been away with the Flash for a long weekend of games, and although it had only been four days, it had seemed like an eternity.
“I missed you too.” Alex’s breath is rushed, her voice raspy. She looks at Kelley then, her eyes dark with desire, before she leans in for another kiss.
Then Kelley flips them so she is on top, letting her fingers trail down the front of Alex’s shirt, grasping at whatever she can get her hands on.
Their lips lock, tongues intertwining in a fight for dominance, and Kelley focuses on learning the texture of the inside of Alex’s mouth, so wet and warm against her own.
She pushes her leg between Alex’s thighs, hiking her knee up to gain friction, causing a groan to escape Alex’s mouth. She runs her hand underneath Alex’s thin t-shirt, tracing her abs. Then her hand moves lower and hovers over the button of her jeans.
She sits back then, an intrusive thought entering her mind.
“Have we—” She says, “You know, done this before?”
She’s afraid that maybe Alex has already experienced a moment with her like this in her travels.
Alex laughs, her breath blowing hot against Kelley’s neck.
“No,” She kisses her, “This is the first time.”
Kelley ducks her head lower then, shimmying her body so that her eyes are now level with the zipper of Alex’s jeans. She smirks.
Kelley’s standing at the fence of a high school soccer field. She watches as Alex races up and back, a terror to the opposing team. She’s already scored two goals, and she looks like she’s nowhere near finished. Kelley smiles to herself, how did she ever manage to snag such a talented girl.
She makes her way into the bleachers, finding a spot near the top of the Away team’s section, settling herself in for the rest of the game.
Then in the 80th minute, a defender from the other team goes in for a crunching—and illegal—tackle, swiping at Alex’s ankles and causing her to tumble to the ground.
The fans jeer at the ref, screaming for a foul, but he doesn’t grant it, allowing the players to continue on.
“What a flop!” A teenage boy yells only three rows in front of her. He laughs with his friends, and it takes every ounce of Kelley’s resolve for her not to go up and say something to him.
But she doesn’t, now really isn’t the time to draw attention to herself.
Alex makes up for it though only a few minutes later, dribbling swiftly up the right flank and dicing the defender who’d tackled her. The defender moves her feet embarrassingly slow, leaving her stumbling after Alex. She’s just too fast. Then she’s cutting the ball back to her left foot and ripping a shot that lands in the back of the net. 3-0.
Kelley stands and cheers obnoxiously, despite the looks she gets from the opposing team’s fans, she can’t help it.
Atta girl, she thinks.
When the game is over, Kelley makes her way towards Alex, but apparently, she isn’t the only one who wants to congratulate her on her performance. A man stops her while she’s crossing the field, talking to her animatedly for a few minutes, so Kelley hangs back not wanting to interrupt.
“Great game, Superstar.” She says. She wraps Alex in a hug swinging her off the ground.
“Gross, I’m sweaty.” Alex says, but she's smiling.
Kelley laughs, she doesn’t mind at all.
“Who was that guy you were talking to?”
Alex’s smile increases, her eyes widening.
“That was the assistant coach for Cal. He wants me to come visit the school!.” Alex’s voice is almost squealing now.
“What! That’s awesome!” Kelley says. She’s so happy for Alex, she deserves it.
They’re walking off the field now towards the parking lot where other players are congregating with their families and fans.
“Great game, Ali-Cat.”
Kelley and Alex both turns towards the voice. It’s Alex’s dad. Kelley’s heart stops for a beat or two. It’s surreal to see him standing there considering all the stories she’s heard, all the pictures she’s seen. He’s tall, with an athletic build, a salt-and-pepper beard, and short buzzed hair. And he’s got Alex’s ocean blue eyes.
Alex hugs her dad tightly.
“You owe me a milkshake.” Alex says pointing at her father. He raises his hands in defense. Kelley knows that Alex and her dad have a deal that if she scores a hat-trick, Mr. Morgan will take her out for ice cream.
“I know, I know.” He says. He turns towards Kelley then.
“Dad, this is my friend, Kelley.” Alex says.
Kelley holds her hand out to shake.
“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Morgan.”
Mr. Morgan shakes Kelley’s hand swiftly, strong and confident, just like his daughter. He laughs.
“Please, call me Mike.”
Kelley’s waiting in the clearing now. She’d left Alex alone to talk with her father, saying they could catch up later. She hopes that she can stay a while longer, but she’s not sure, she’s never sure when she’ll be dragged back to the present.
“Hi.” Alex says, she’s walking down the path towards Kelley, still in her soccer uniform.
“Wouldn’t it be great if I went to Cal? That’s so close to Stanford. Then we can hang out all the time.” Alex says.
Kelley bites at her cheek, maybe she shouldn’t have told Alex where she went to college.
“Alex, you shouldn’t just make decisions based on me, ok?” Kelley says softly. She kicks her feet in the river, carefully looking down to avoid eye contact.
“What do you mean? Of course I’m factoring you in, you’re my best friend.” Alex says, her voice tilting with surprise.
“I’m just saying, you should go where you want to go, not where you think we’ll be close.” Kelley says gently.
“Kelley—” Alex says, she’s looking hard at the side of Kelley’s face now, her eyes boring holes into her, yet Kelley is still looking away, “Look at me.”
Kelley turns then, finally making eye contact. And she knows that her face must say it all.
“What is it?” Alex asks, her voice laced in dread. She tucks her knees up to her chest, placing her head on her hands. It looks primitive, protective, like she's guarding herself against any outside danger.
“It’s—” Kelley sighs deeply. She regrets every word she has to say next, but she knows there is no way to get around it. Alex deserves to know. “You know the list I gave you? The dates?”
“Well, the last one,” She pauses. How is she supposed to say this? She lets her voice drop low, softening it. “The last one is three years before I meet you in my real life.”
The air seems to suspend between them and Alex says nothing for a moment.
“So, you’re saying I won’t get to see you for three years?”
“Well, more like three and a half years.” Her heart sinks as she watches Alex’s face drop, any trace of happiness in her eyes is now gone. She’s reminded then of how hard it must have been for Alex to go so long with zero contact. Just perpetually waiting on her.
“How did you do it?” Kelley asks. They are lying in Alex’s bed, Kelley’s trailing her hand softly over Alex's back drawing a masterpiece of absentminded shapes.
“Wait for me for so long.” Kelley says, “I was right there, only an hour down the coast all that time.” Her voice is level, but inside she is upset, the slightest bit bitter. What she wants to ask is why didn’t you come find me?
Alex seems to read her thoughts.
“I looked for you. I tried.” Alex says, her voice a pained whisper. “Even though you told me not to.”
Kelley’s heart softens, of course she would have told Alex not to look. It’d be useless. She wouldn’t want Alex to spend her college years searching in vain for someone she wouldn’t find. No use in tryin to change something that has already happen.
As much as it hurts her that they didn't meet earlier, she thinks it must have been ten times more agonizing for Alex. She wonders what it is like to know that your very best friend is only forty miles away, but not be able to do a thing about it.
Some times things just don't go the way we want them to.
Kelley appears in the clearing. The sky’s a pale blue, the sun just rising and peeking through the trees. It’s an early Saturday morning.
Kelley sees Alex then, walking down the path through the trees, a mug of coffee in her hand.
“How do you know when to meet me here?” Kelley asks. It’s occurred to her now that Alex always seems to be there when she arrives.
“I’m not sure, I just get a feeling, I guess.” Alex shrugs and sips her coffee. She unfolds her blanket and places it on the ground. The grass is still dewy, tiny droplets glistening on each green strand.
Kelley takes the time to study Alex then.
In some ways she’s the same Alex she’s dating now. But she’s not. She’s different.
She’s taller than Kelley, but not by much. And she hasn’t got those creases in the corners of her eyes, the ones that mean she’s aged and experienced and seen things in this world. She parts her hair down the left side, not right down the middle like Kelley likes it. She doesn’t have a scar on her knee from ACL surgery and she doesn’t have a tattoo either.
But she’s also the same in so many ways. She has those same ocean blue eyes that seem to pierce right through her, and the wisps of hair at the nape of her neck twist and curl in just the same pattern that she's used to. She still bites at the inside of her cheek when she’s thinking, and she's open-minded, and sees things just as they are, plain and simple.
She’s confident and radiant and positively the most beautiful girl Kelley knows. It’s comforting in a way, that as much as things change, just as many things stay the same.
“Servando told me he loved me.” Alex says, her eyes bright but her tone unreadable.
“Oh?” Kelley says. “And you said—?”
“I said it back.” Alex says. Her eyes search Kelley for a reaction. Kelley’s heart sinks low in her chest, and she looks away, letting her eyes follow two ducks floating lazily downstream only ten feet away from them.
“Did you mean it?”
“I think so.” Alex says. It’s quiet, a shy blush creeping up her neck. “How do you know when you’re in love with someone?”
Kelley pauses, thinking carefully before responding. She looks at Alex then, the sun is higher now, sending light cascading across her face making her eyes a brighter a blue than they usually are, grey flecks circling the outer rim.
“I guess when you can’t stop thinking about them. When you’re happy if they’re happy, sad when they’re sad. You would do anything for them.”
Alex listens intently and smiles to herself a small and satisfied grin.
“Then yes.” She says. “I meant it.”
Kelley’s heart slips further into her chest. A lump forms in her throat, tough to swallow and blocking air from her lungs, almost as though she’s been sucker-punched.
“Are you sure?” She asks. She shouldn’t. Why pry? Especially when she’s not even sure she can stand to hear the answer.
“He’s just so sweet, and hot, and perfect.” Alex says, a dreamy lilt in her voice that makes Kelley feel ill. Hearing Alex talk like this about someone else is near torturous.
“Isn’t this the same Servando that was mean to you in 9th grade.” She asks, jealousy rippling through her words.
“Yes, but he’s not like that now.” Alex says. It's defensive.
Kelley wills herself to remain calm, swallows down her pride. This is Alex’s first love, and if she was a good friend, she would at least pretend to be interested. So she asks the right questions, and feigns enthusiasm. Because as hard as it is, once again, Alex is happy. And that really is all she cares about.
“So, what about your love life?” Alex says, her eyebrows lifting suggestively.
It’s Kelley’s turn to blush.
“I may or may not have a girlfriend now.” Kelley says. She watches carefully as Alex’s face drops. But it is only for a half second before it is replaced with a grin splitting her face. She smacks Kelley on the arm, mouth open in disbelief.
“And you didn’t think to tell me right away?”
“You didn’t ask.” Kelley matches Alex’s tone and shrugs her shoulders. She knows this will irk the younger girl. But she doesn’t care. It’s her turn to have the upper hand.
Alex bombards her with questions, and Kelley does her best to fend them off, careful not to let too much information slide. And she knows it is getting to Alex. Her brow is scrunching tightly now, her questions coming an octave more whiny with each dodgy response from Kelley.
“This mystery girl better not be taking my place as your best friend.” Alex says, she crosses her arms over her chest with an angry sigh.
“Don’t worry Al, you’re still my number one girl.”
“So,” Kelley says letting the word drag out between her teeth. “Your lease is ending soon.” Alex looks up at her then across the kitchen table. There’s a book in her hands and her feet are perched in Kelley’s lap. A cup of coffee sits lukewarm on the tabletop, long forgotten.
“It is.” Alex says, she smiles slightly.
“I guess you’re going to move into a nice new apartment with that pro-athlete paycheck of yours.”
“Yeah, I could do that.” She says. She and Kelley both know that her ‘pro-athlete paycheck’ won’t get her much, especially in the Bay Area.
“Or, you could move in with me?” Kelley says, her voice twinging up hopefully.
Alex doesn’t say anything for a second, just closes her book. Kelley knows that it’s pretty early to ask, they’ve only been dating about three months. But they’ve also known each other what seems like a lifetime.
“Ok.” Alex says.
Plain and simple and confident. Like always.
Kelley’s lying on her side in the clearing, watching as Alex turns the pages of her book. She’s so completely absorbed, lost in her own world that she doesn’t even notice Kelley staring. It’s nice in a way, how the silence between them is never forced, it’s comfortable even. It’s rare to find someone with whom you want to be with when you want to be alone, and that’s what Kelley has found in Alex.
She studies her carefully, tracing her eyes along her jawline, following the artful curve of her lips, admiring the beauty in the way her hair falls gently around her face.
It’s absurd, she thinks, how this girl has become such a centripetal force in her life, as though Alex is her rock, and she is just orbiting around her endlessly. She has yet to find the right words to describe her. All she knows is that she is beginning to feel whole, even though she hadn’t quite known she was missing anything in the first place.
Alex looks at her now, catching her staring, which makes a blush tingle on Kelley’s neck. Even now, even when Kelley is dating the older version of this girl across from her, Alex still manages to make her feel flustered. It’s like she’s just a seventeen-year-old girl as well crushing on her best friend, all angst and daydreams and barely-missed looks. At least that’s how she feels. She wonders what Alex thinks. Wonders if she is even the slightest bit aware of the potential in their relationship.
Alex places her book down and lies back on the grass to stare at the sky. She sighs.
“I think this is my favorite place in the entire world.” She says.
Kelley moves to lie next to her, only a few inches between them now.
“Oh, yeah?” She says, “Why?”
“Because it’s peaceful and it’s beautiful.” She pauses shortly, “And it’s ours.”
Kelley says nothing for a moment, just lets her eyes follow the cloud above.
“So, have you ever brought Servando back here?” She asks, her voice light, but she’s dying inside to know the answer, thinking it's perhaps some sort of turning point.
“No, of course not.” Alex says. She sounds surprised, as if the notion had never even crossed her mind. She turns on her side to face Kelley, bending her arm to place her hand beneath her head. “Like I said, ‘it’s ours.’”
Kelley turns on her side now too. They are so close that she can see every feature in her face, the details she’d memorized earlier so prominent now in this light. Her eyes are clear, her skin is glowing, she’s perfect, is all Kelley can think.
It suddenly feels too intimate and Kelley’s heartbeat quickens in her chest. She brushes a strand of hair out of Alex’s face, tucking it carefully behind her ear. Now Alex is the one blushing. The world seems to stand still for just a moment, and Kelley’s getting lost in the patterns within Alex’s eyes.
“That’s enough about Servando. What’s your girlfriend like?” Alex says.
The question catches Kelley off guard. Alex is moving back now, sitting up so that she is cross-legged. Whatever moment that may have been forming has now dispersed like fog clearing off water. Kelley sits up as well.
“Come on, Kelley, you know everything about me.” Alex whines. “Please just tell me something. What does she look like?” She puts on an innocent face and Kelley knows she won’t be able to resist.
“Fine.” Kelley shakes her head. Somehow, Alex always seems to get her way.
“She’s a little bit taller than me, and she’s got blue eyes.” Kelley pauses. How do you describe someone to themselves without them noticing?
“And?” Alex says, it’s impatient and unsatisfied. “That’s how you would describe your girlfriend? Tall? I think you can do a little bit better than that.” Her voice teeters on the edge of sarcasm.
“Ok,” Kelley says, she squeezes her eyes shut for a second, imagining the best way to describe her, conjuring the right words.
“She’s gorgeous, Al. She’s by far the most beautiful girl I know.”
Alex rolls her eyes, and Kelley can see the smallest hint of annoyance in them. She smirks. So what if she is trying to make Alex a little bit jealous?
“And she’s amazing at her job.” Kelley says. Now she’s on a roll, “She’s unlike any person I’ve ever met. She’s so determined and smart and funny and patient. Most of the time.” She smiles. The cadence of her voices floats, dream-like. Alex nods her head along, encouraging Kelley to continue.
“She’s complex and confident and stubborn.” She grins. “And she’s entirely too good for me.”
There are so many more things she could say, but none of them would do her justice.
“That can’t be true Kelley. You are the best person I know. Anyone would be lucky to have you.” Alex says plainly.
“She’s better.” Kelley says smiling back at her. She thinks of how neatly Alex has slipped and folded into every crevice of her brain, entirely occupying her thoughts and senses.
No. Words don’t do her justice at all.
“Well,” Alex says, “She sounds perfect.” Her voice is flat and even though she is smiling, Kelley can tell that it’s forced, it doesn’t quite reach her eyes.
“She’s not. But she’s the closest thing I’ve ever seen to it.” Kelley can’t help but speak candidly.
“Do I know her?” Alex asks. She’s referring to the future, the one Kelley lives in.
“Yes.” Kelley smiles.
“And do I like her?” Alex raises her eyebrow, her arms crossing over her chest. She’s being protective, and it’s endearing in a way that makes Kelley’s heart twinge.
“Yes. In fact, I think you love her.”
It’s another moment before Alex responds.
“Do you?” Alex asks.
“Do I what?” Kelley says, even though she knows what Alex is really asking.
“Love her.” Alex’s voice is small now. She doesn’t quite meet Kelley’s eye.
“Yes.” She says, carefully gauging Alex’s face for a reaction. But she gives none. She’s still as marble, as though she is trying her hardest not to reveal her emotions. Kelley wonders once again what Alex could be thinking in that brain of hers. Maybe she’s jealous.
Or maybe not, she’s got a boyfriend after all. Maybe she’s figured out Kelley has been describing her this whole time. Kelley doesn’t know what to say, if she should say anything more at all. She wants to say, ‘I love you.’ But she doesn’t. Not yet. The situation suddenly feels delicate in a way she hadn’t quite anticipated.
But then Alex is smiling, and it’s bright and genuine, crinkling the corner of her eyes. Her next words are gentle and sincere.
“Well, if you’re happy, then I’m happy.”
Kelley’s traveling to the future more often now. And each dream is getting just a bit clearer. Where at first the dreams were cloudy and blurry, they’re now becoming more transparent. It’s as though she’s getting closer the right prescription of eyeglasses but hasn’t quite found it yet. Why? She has no clue. And it’s not like there is a handbook out there that she can reference. So she doesn’t ponder it too much.
“How’d you sleep?” Alex will ask every morning.
It’s a loaded question she knows. They both do.
Sometimes Kelley says she’s slept quite well, she has no dreams to tell of.
Other nights, Kelley dreams of Alex. She savors each dream, building a block of memories that are close to being completed now. And those nights she sleeps even better, the kind of sleep that makes her want to stay in bed wrapped in blankets all day long with Alex at her side.
But other nights Kelley dreams of saving people. She succeeds. She fails.
And Alex is there each time. Kelley can unload the stress of being the guardian she never asked to be. She can break down and let guilt puncture through the hard exterior she has spent so much time trying to perfect.
And Alex is there. There with exactly the right words and endlessly attentive to what Kelley needs. Kelley often wonders how she got so lucky.
Because although she is the one used to saving people, it seems as though maybe Alex has been sent to save her.
Kelley spins around, she’s in front of an old Victorian house. It’s grand and beautiful but she doesn’t recognize it. The street is so very quiet and dark, a single streetlamp lighting the world, and on her watch she sees that it’s nearly 2 AM.
And it’s snowing. That explains why everything seems muted, the white blanket that covers the ground and the roofs and the trees dulling every noise. Fat snowflakes fall around her, landing in her hair gently before dissolving. She shivers. She was not made for the cold.
She waits for the tug in her stomach to tell her what to do, but before she feels it she sees a light flick on in the second floor of the house.
Someone comes to the window. And just by the outlined shadow of a body, Kelley can tell that it’s Alex. She waves up to her. Alex opens the window just a crack.
“I’ll be down in just a minute.” She smiles.
Then Alex is disappearing into the room, the light is flicking off. And only a few minutes later, she is trodding through the snow to meet Kelley on the street.
She hands her a jacket.
“Here, I thought you might be cold.” She says.
“Thanks.” Kelley puts it on and blows into her hands.
“You made it.” Alex says with a light smile.
“Made it where exactly?”
“Quincy, Massachusetts.” Alex says, “We're visiting my grandparents for the holidays. By the way, Merry Christmas.”
“Merry Christmas.” Kelley smiles.
“I was afraid you wouldn’t find me.” Alex says shyly. “Being so far from home, I mean.”
Kelley laughs lightly.
“Al, I’ll find you wherever you are.” Kelley takes a step closer to her, watching as the snow builds on her hairline almost like a silvery white halo. She shivers involuntarily.
“You’re freezing.” Alex says. Her words puffing into the air in a cloud, so close to Kelley’s face. Kelley just nods.
“We could go inside?” Alex says.
“I don't want to wake your family.” Kelley says. She doesn’t want to risk anyone from Alex’s family seeing her. Especially not here in Massachusetts. That’d be difficult to explain.
Alex thinks for a moment, her eyes flicking back and forth between Kelley’s.
“I’ve got an idea. Stay put.” Alex says, then she’s turning on her heel, heading back into the house.
A few minutes later she comes back out, two mugs in her hand. She hands one over to Kelley. Steam plumes from the cup and it does just the trick of warming her hands. She takes a sip and hums.
“Hot cocoa and Bailey’s. Nice choice.” She grins at Alex over her mug. Alex just smirks back at her.
“Should I be concerned that you are underage drinking, Alexandra?” Kelley says, attempting a serious look. Alex just rolls her eyes.
“Whatever, Mom.” Alex says teasingly.
Kelley pushes her lightly on the shoulder. Then Alex leads Kelley to the front porch, where they can sit on snow-covered rocking chairs.
After a few minutes, Kelley’s heart is warming, and she’s not sure whether it is the alcohol, the hot chocolate, or the company. She smiles at Alex, whose cheeks are now rosy, her heart melting at the girl’s smile.
Then Kelley feels the urge to leave. She downs her cup and stands. Alex stands next to her. Her eyes are soft, sad in a way that makes Kelley wish more than anything that she could stay just a few minutes longer. But she knows she won’t be able to.
“You should head inside. Otherwise, Santa won’t leave you any presents.” She says teasingly.
Alex laughs, “I’ve already gotten the best gift I could imagine.”
Kelley smiles at her, and grips Alex’s hand a second longer, trying to soak in every second she can spend with the younger girl before she’s pulled away.
“I’ll see you later.” Kelley says.
“See you later.”
Kelley and Alex slide into the booth opposite Christen and Allie. Even though Alex has moved in with Kelley, she experiences no shortage of seeing her old roommates. And Kelley enjoys it. She likes Christen and Allie, they’re fun to be around, even if they do take Alex’s side of things more often than not.
They’re catching up, debating the girls they like best on The Bachelor, when a girl in her mid-teens walks up to the table. She stands there shyly wringing her hands together.
“Hi, sorry to bother you.” She says, “I just—” The girl looks around at each face. And it makes Kelley nervous for a second. Hopefully she hasn’t met this girl in the dream. She steels herself.
Then the girl’s eyes lock in on Alex.
“I wanted to ask if I could get a picture with you. I’m a huge fan.” The girl is blushing now harder than ever.
“Of course.” Alex says. A wide smile growing on her face. She snaps the picture with the girl.
When she’s left, Christen and Allie both rib Alex.
“Don’t forget about us when you’re an A-Lister, Al.” Allie says teasingly.
“Can I get your autograph next?” Christen asks.
They smile around the table, stomachs and hearts full, laughs a plenty, and Kelley thinks it feels like home.
She appears in the clearing. And Alex is already there. She’s hunched over in the grass, knees pulled to her chest and tucked under her chin, her head in her hands.
And she’s crying.
“Alex.” Kelley says softly. She takes a step nearer. “What’s wrong?”
Alex looks up then, her face shiny and tear-stained, eyes red and puffy.
Kelley closes the distance between them, crouching to Alex’s level. It starkly reminds her of the first time she met her, when Alex was only eight years old, tipping off her bike onto the pavement. Then the pain was physical, so easy to identify. But now is different. There are no clear signs of why Alex is crying and it makes Kelley’s stomach fall, worry creeping relentlessly to the forefront of her thoughts.
She rubs Alex’s back lightly.
After a minute, she sniffs and looks up towards Kelley. Kelley reaches out and wipes away a tear from under Alex’s eye.
“He broke up with me.” Alex says. And now the tears are falling heavy once again.
“Oh, Alex.” Kelley says lightly. Her heart sinks in her chest for the girl across from her. She’s known heartbreak before, and it’s not nice, to say the least. She pulls Alex into a hug, letting her sob into her shoulder, feeling hot tears press against her neck.
“Did he say why?” She asks tentatively.
Alex sniffs. Her eyes are glassy, delicate. She shakes her head slightly.
“He just said he lost feelings for me.” Alex whispers. “I don’t understand. How can you just fall out of love with someone like that?”
The end of her sentence gets muffled into Kelley’s neck. A flash of anger rises in Kelley’s chest. How could anyone do this to Alex? Alex, the most impossibly interesting, and beautiful and amazing girl.
“You know what? He doesn’t deserve you.” She says. She rubs her back a bit harder. “You’re amazing Alex. And you deserve the very best this world has to offer.” She says. “Not some guy who doesn’t see that in you.”
It’s another moment before Alex speaks again. And this time it’s a whisper, fragile and close to breaking.
“Why don’t the people I love, love me back?”
It feels as though silence has engulfed them. Time stops as Kelley’s stomach sinks further. She feels terrible. Heartbroken.
She tilts Alex’s head back by the chin, so she can look her in the eyes. She brushes a tear from the tip of her nose.
“Alex,” Kelley says. Her voice melts into tenderness, yet she begs her eyes to be demanding, believable.
“I promise you that one day, someone is going to love you more than you can even imagine.” She pauses and makes sure Alex is listening. “They’ll see the stars in your eyes, and they’ll navigate that maze of a brain of yours. And they’ll love you endlessly and unconditionally and completely. And then you’ll imagine forever together, and you’ll chase it.” She says. “I promise.”
Alex looks at her through lidded eyes, eyelashes glistening with tears at the end of them.
“How can you know?”
“Because I’ve seen it.” She says. She knows it’s crossing her internal line of rules, but she can’t help it. Alex needs this now. And she only hopes that it will help.
Kelley wakes, rolling over in bed. It’s early morning now, dim light just filtering through the window. Alex is there, one arm slung over Kelley’s back, and predictably hogging the blankets. Kelley leans in and kisses her on the forehead.
“I love you.” She whispers.
Alex, of course, has no response, she’s fast asleep. But still, she snuggles closer, her grip tightening the slightest bit, the smallest contented hum escaping through her nose. And maybe that’s answer enough.
Kelley opens her eyes. She’s in an alleyway, and it’s late at night, the street dark and foreboding in front of her. She waits for her eyesight to adjust, waits for the tug in her stomach to guide her and help diminish her sense of panic.
Then she sees it. Only fifteen feet ahead of her is a man about six feet tall, a grey hooded jacket draped over his shoulders as he follows a woman, his gait threatening as he whistles out at her.
The woman does not turn, which only seems to anger the man. He calls out to her a bit louder this time. Kelley takes a step forward, following the pair through the alleyway.
The feeling that curls in her stomach can only be described as dread.
The man yells out once more. And when the woman doesn’t respond. He takes three aggressive steps toward her, backing her hard against the wall. She lets out a small yelp.
“Hey!” Kelley yells. She moves towards the two swiftly, causing the man to turn and eye her. His jaw is locked tightly, his eyes flash dangerously.
“What the hell are you doing?” Kelley says. She leans towards the woman, taking a protective step between the two. “Get out of here.” She whispers to the woman. And she needn’t be told twice before she’s off and running. Kelley watches as she leaves, afraid the man will just take off after her.
The man’s face turns down into an ugly sneer.
And then before Kelley can react. He steps into her, backing her towards the wall. One swift movement and his arm is pressed to her abdomen.
It feels as though the air is rushed from her lungs. She clutches at her stomach as the man takes a step back away from her.
Then her vision is blurring at the edges, her thoughts moving slow in her head. She tries to breathe, sucking in air, but a sharp pain interrupts her. She moves her hand away from her body, and it’s stained red and now a crimson blotch is forming on her shirt, seeping through the fabric and all she can think is that it’s too quick. She’s losing too much blood. Too fast.
She feels herself sliding down the wall. She looks up at the man, a bloodied knife gripped in his right hand, an unreadable look in his eyes. Then he turns, and runs off in the direction of the woman and all Kelley can think is that she’s afraid she’s failed once again.
She gasps for air, but it only comes in sharp intakes, not nearly enough. She splutters, and she sees it, white light starting to blur over her vision.
She crawls forward, hand clutching her wound, other hand pressed to the cool wall beside her.
The white light is colliding with black in her vision, her heart feels as though it’s pounding in overdrive.
She inches forward, she’s losing it now.
Then blackness takes over.
sorry for the slow update, been busy with finals, let me know what you think! :)
The first thing Kelley notices is the pain. It’s dull and thumping straight through her head and down to her abdomen. The second thing she notices is the smell. Pungent and antiseptic-like settling unpleasantly in her nose. She’s in a hospital.
Her eyes flutter open and she takes in the stark white of her surroundings. Off to one side, she spots Alex slumped in an upholstered chair, fast asleep, hair falling into her face, hand propping her head up. Kelley watches her take steady breaths in and out, in and out.
“She’s been here all night.”
The voice startles Kelley out of her fixation. She looks toward the doorway.
“Mom.” She says. Her voice cracks into a million pieces, her eyes fill with tears. There her mother, Karen, stands arms crossed over her chest. She walks forward and wraps Kelley in a delicate hug. A silent sob wracks her body.
After a moment she pulls back, holding her daughter at arms-length as if to examine her. Her eyes search her face before she reaches out a hand and gently smooths Kelley’s hair against the side of her head.
“I was so worried.” She says, and now more tears are wetting her eyes.
“I’m sorry.” Kelley says. And she is. Sorry she is putting the people she loves through this, sorry she can’t do anything about it.
“It’s not your fault, sweetheart.” Karen says.
Kelley feels tears starting to appear in her eyes, an accompanying lump forming in her throat. She wants to ease her mother’s worries, wants to assure her that she will be safer next time. But she can’t. So she’s not quite sure what to say.
Instead, she turns away and looks at Alex, still slumbering. Karen follows her line of sight.
“I’m glad she called me.” She says, her head tilting to the side thoughtfully, “She cares about you a lot, you know?”
Kelley swallows uneasily. Yes, she has told her parents about Alex plenty, but this wasn’t exactly how she planned for them to meet.
Then the younger girl is stirring from her sleep, a desperate yawn stretching her mouth wide as she rubs her eyes. When she spots Kelley is awake, she stands abruptly, crossing the room in two strides to be at her side.
“How are you feeling?” She asks. Her eyes search Kelley’s face, doting on each feature, racing back and forth between her eyes as a worried knot forms between her brows.
“Alright.” She sits up an inch. “But I’ve got this stabbing pain in my stomach.” She says, the tiniest trace of a smirk on her mouth.
“Not funny.” Alex says, her lip pulling into a tight line as she hits her lightly on the shoulder.
“I’ll leave you two to catch up.” Karen says and exits the room.
Alex fills Kelley in on the events she had missed while passed out. How she had awoken to see Kelley clutching her stomach, gasping for breath, blood spluttering from her mouth. How she had carried her to her car and driven her to the emergency room. How she had undergone surgery to control the bleeding. How the doctor said how she was lucky no vital organs had been seriously ruptured. How the police were called in and Alex spun a story of a mugging in the street.
It makes Kelley’s head spin. Mostly she thinks of how traumatic it must have been for Alex to awake to such a sight, how scared she must have been. Her heart clenches, a different type of stabbing pain now. She feels guilty. She then recounts the incident in the alleyway to Alex, leaving out the more gruesome details.
“You lied to me, Kelley.” Alex says. Her voice is flat, dripping in disappointment.
“About what?” She asks.
“You told me you didn’t know if you could get hurt in your dreams.” She says, “Your mom told me about the fire. How you convinced her and your dad that you could time travel.”
Kelley says nothing for a moment, there is no use denying it. The feeling of being caught in a lie causes her stomach to churn uncomfortably.
“I’m sorry.” She says casting her eyes downward, “I didn’t want you to worry.”
“Well, I am worried now.” Alex says, a hint of bitterness climbing high in her throat. “What if I hadn’t been there? What if I had been traveling with my team, or what if I hadn’t been able to carry you? What if they’d stabbed you an inch higher? Or what if—”
“But none of that happened.” Kelley interrupts her sharply, grabbing her hand.
“But it could have.” Alex says indignantly, her voice reaching an angry octave higher.
“It didn’t.” Kelley says more forcefully. “I’m sorry, Al, what do you want me to say?” For some reason Kelley feels defensive. “Sorry I can’t control it. Sorry I don’t just time travel to visit you, you know.”
“I just wish—” Alex says wistfully.
“You just wish I wasn’t like this.” Kelley says filling in the sentence. It’s got a harsh bite to it.
“That’s not what I was going to say.”
“It’s what you were thinking.”
A painful silence hangs between them. Kelley’s looking anywhere but Alex’s face.
After a moment, Alex squeezes her hand tightly.
“Kel, I love you exactly how you are. I just wish it didn’t mean you were in danger.” Alex says softly. She strokes Kelley’s cheek with the back of your hand.
Kelley hangs her head low, “Me too.” She whispers.
Silence hangs between them for a moment more as Alex rubs the back of Kelley’s hand with her thumb, tracing a soothing pattern into her skin. And then she is speaking up, her voice tiny, words crisp as though she’s practiced asking this before.
“Have you ever wondered why you suddenly stopped visiting me?”
Kelley gulps. Of course she has.
“And why do you think that is?” Alex asks. She’s looking straight into Kelley’s eyes. A worried line is etching on her forehead, her eyes are murky, and Kelley feels a similar look forming on her face.
She knows what Alex is getting at. It’s odd that her visits would stop so abruptly. And she wants very badly to be wrong, but she thinks she has a good idea of why she would no longer visit Alex. She just can’t bring herself to say the sinister words aloud.
“I’m not sure.”
“Nice change of scenery.” Kelley says as she walks up to Alex.
She’s sitting on a beach chair in the sand tilted all the way back, sunglasses covering her eyes.
Alex tips her sunglasses down and examines Kelley. She looks a little out of place in her sweatpants and t-shirt.
“Glad you could make it.” Alex says teasingly. She sits up. “I’ve got an extra swimsuit in my car.”
They walk through the sand towards the parking lot, their arms brushing ever so slightly and Kelley is left once again to wonder if it is an accident.
When Kelley emerges from the nearby bathroom only a few minutes later in the skimpy olive green bikini Alex lent her, she doesn’t miss the lingering stare the other girl gives her, eyes racing quickly up and down her body as if unsure where to settle. She smirks, thankful for the extra ab circuit Alex made her do this morning in her own time. She spins in a circle.
Alex's eyes scan Kelley's body once more, this time slower and greedier.
And then she is taking a step forward and reaching out a brave hand. Her fingertips connect on Kelley’s stomach light as a feather, tracing the scar she received from the alleyway. It’s nearly healed over now, only a pale pink ridge an inch long to signify that the event ever happened.
Kelley blushes and resists the urge to jerk away.
“How’d you get this?” She asks quietly. And suddenly it feels like they are in their very own world, not just standing outside the bathroom in a parking lot.
“A story for another day.” Kelley says taking Alex’s hand from her stomach and giving it a squeeze.
They start their trek through the sand once again, passing by a beach hut with surfboards propped outside of it.
“We have to try this.” She says pointing at the surfboards. She says it plainly, and there’s no way she is going to take ‘no’ for an answer.
“But I was tanning.” Alex whines. “A tan like this doesn’t just happen, you know?” She gestures down at her body. Kelley rolls her eyes. “Besides, I don’t really know how to surf.”
“Please, Al, I’ll teach you.” Kelley says. She places her hands together like a prayer and puts on her best puppy-dog eyes.
Alex thinks it over a minute and takes a long hard look at Kelley, seeming as though she wants to resist. But finally she’s rolling her eyes and giving in.
“Fine.” There's a smile on her face nonetheless.
After two hours of attempting to surf, Alex has done little more than kneel on her board, and it is only serving to make her frustrated.
“Al, come on you’ve got this.” Kelley says. She eyes Alex intensely, willing the other girl to believe in herself. “This next wave’s all yours.” Kelley says nodding out towards the open ocean where a perfectly low swell is rolling in.
Alex nods. And she’s got that determined look in her eyes, that one that means nothing can get in her way. It’s a look that Kelley is definitely used to. She smiles to herself.
Then the wave is cresting, and Alex is kneeling, swaying back and forth as she places one foot flat on the board, then the other, and she’s standing shakily. Kelley whoops and cheers from where she straddles her own board only a few feet away.
It’s only a second or two before Alex is falling, wobbling sideways and crashing into the water in the least graceful way possible.
Kelley paddles towards her as she springs up from the water.
“You did it!” They high five, Kelley’s smile stretching painfully wide on her face. And Alex is smiling just as broadly back at her, eyes light and full of excitement. They bob in the water a moment more, glancing at one another in the softest of ways.
They’re walking along the boardwalk now, each licking at an ice cream cone quickly to stop them from melting onto their hands. They stride leisurely, swaying back and forth slightly. Kelley’s hair is damp against her neck, the salt on her skin starting to itch.
“Thanks for the ice cream.” Kelley says, “I owe you one.” She winks at Alex.
They walk a few feet more, their strides starting to fall in line, one foot after the other.
“I had to get you something in exchange for your lessons, Ms. O’Hara.” Alex says, a flirty rhythm to her words. She pauses quickly before adding, “You’re not the greatest teacher, by the way.”
Kelley scoffs, taking on a look of fake offense.
“I am too.”
“You’re not.” Alex giggles.
Kelley knocks Alex in the shoulder lightly with her own.
“Maybe you were just too distracted by my abs.” Kelley says cheekily, the words rolling right off her tongue and the moment feels like déjà vu, only this time she’s the one with the upper hand. She’s reminded of when she first taught Alex how to surf, and now it’s starting to all make a little more sense.
She looks over to Alex who is blushing a deep crimson, looking away out over the rolling waves as if to avoid responding to the comment.
Kelley’s hand brushes against Alex’s lightly then for what seems like the tenth time, and without thinking she laces their fingers together and squeezes. It’s something she has done countless times, almost natural to her now.
She feels Alex squeeze back.
She looks up at her, and she’s smiling effortlessly, eyes melting into a cool blue that Kelley feels herself sinking into. The light is hitting her face just right, her skin tan and golden, the tiniest bit of sunburn peeking out on the tip of her nose. Kelley wants so badly to just lean in and kiss her.
But she doesn’t. She can’t. She reminds herself that this isn’t her Alex. This Alex is just seventeen years old.
And before she can overthink it she feels herself being tugged away, the feeling low in her gut pulling her back to the present. She tells Alex as much.
“Now?” Alex says “You haven’t even finished your ice cream.” The disappointment on her face is clear as anything.
Kelley bites her lip and tries to grin as she hands over the cone to Alex.
“You can have it.”
The smile that Alex gives her back is sad, crumpling Kelley’s heart into a ball. A perfect moment ruined by Kelley’s unavoidable and incessant habit of leaving Alex behind. She smiles, but she’s sure it comes off more as a grimace.
“I’m sorry, Al.” She says. She squeezes Alex’s hand once more, hoping it is enough to replace the words she wants to say. Alex nods and ducks her head.
“See you later?”
“See you later.”
Kelley turns on her heel, running down the boardwalk, heart pumping, feet pounding, regret filling her with each step she takes away from the other girl.
She wakes early around 6 am still in Alex’s swimsuit, hair still clinging to her neck, salt water still itching at her legs. She slides from her bed, landing deftly on the floor and creeping slowly towards the bathroom so as not to wake Alex. She slips out of the bathing suit and into the shower, yanking the heat to high. She tilts her head back, letting the stream of water massage her scalp as she slips into the memory of the dream. She wants to burn each moment into her brain, thinking of the excited look on Alex’s face when she stood on her board, the feeling of Alex’s lithe fingers tangled in her own, the way Alex had looked at her when she said she had to leave. Her stomach turns, butterflies erupting, and she feels herself falling in love all over again.
“That was my favorite swimsuit, you know?” Alex says, “And you stole it.”
Kelley looks up, startled at Alex’s sudden presence. She wipes the condensation from the glass door of the shower. Alex is standing there swinging the swimsuit bottoms with one finger, other hand placed carefully on her hip.
“You can have it back now.” Kelley says rinsing shampoo from her hair. Alex grins at her.
Then she’s undressing slowly, putting on a deliberate show for Kelley, never breaking eye contact. Kelley feels a familiar rush in her stomach, dangerously low. She bites her lip. Alex is peeling her underwear slowly down her legs, kicking them to the side once they reach the floor.
“I also owe you an ice cream cone.” Kelley says.
Alex opens the shower door, taking a step closer to Kelley, letting steam envelope them together. She presses her lips to Kelley’s neck and hums thoughtfully, the noise vibrating against her skin. Kelley tilts her head back, mouth falling open involuntarily, a silent moan.
Alex’s fingers press firm to her hip bone, digging in needy and insistent. She plants a kiss on her lips, mouth to her mouth, hot and demanding, her next words are breathed heavily into Kelley with a smirk.
“Remind me later.”
“Kelley, can I ask you something?” Alex says, shy and quiet. They are lying in the clearing on a day in late March.
“Of course.” Kelley says, surprised at the nervous tone in Alex’s voice. Usually the girl is so overly confident about everything.
“How did you know you liked girls?”
The question takes Kelley by surprise. She sits up so she can look at Alex squarely.
“I always sort of knew, I guess.” Kelley says, “I just never had crushes on boys and felt way more comfortable around girls." She continues "And I'm pretty sure watching Megan Fox in Jennifer’s Body was my ‘gay awakening.’”
Alex laughs lightly before biting at the inside of her cheek. Thinking.
“I think I’m bisexual.” She blurts. Her eyes cast downward away from Kelley as soon as she says it.
“Alex, look at me.” Kelley says softly, lips curved in a slight smile.
Alex’s eyes flick back to Kelley.
“Thank you for telling me.” She says, “Am I—am I the first person you told?”
Kelley looks at Alex, eyes melting, heart reaching out to the girl across from her. She knows all too well the struggle it can be to come out to someone for the first time, the way it makes your stomach twist, the fear of rejection and disappointment and disgust burrowing their way into every pore in your body.
“You know I love you know matter what, right?” Kelley says. Because it’s how her sister had responded to her own coming out, and she couldn’t think of a better response.
Alex blushes, maybe it’s the word ‘love’ so casually slung into Kelley’s sentence, or maybe it’s the soft and earnest look she’s giving her now. Either way, Alex’s cheeks are heating.
Kelley leans in and gives Alex a brief hug. It doesn’t last long enough, she thinks.
Alex is leaning back on her hands now, and somehow it seems her confidence has been restored. The nervous and shy Alex of only a few minutes prior is replaced with the same old confident (sometimes cocky) attitude Kelley has grown used to.
“There’s also this girl I like.” Alex says after a minute.
“Ahh, I see.” Kelley says. “So you want relationship advice?”
“Maybe.” Alex says, crossing her arms over her chest.
“So, tell me about her.”
“She’s older. And she sort of lives far away.” Alex says, pausing briefly, “And she’s also in a relationship.”
“Interesting.” Kelley smirks and rubs her chin. “So what’s the plan?”
Alex squints back at Kelley, tone quieting, “I’m not sure yet. She can be hard to read.”
“Why don’t you just tell her how you feel?” Kelley asks, tilting her head to the side.
“Because I’m afraid it will ruin our friendship.” Alex says. Kelley thinks long and hard of the implications of Alex's words.
“I know the feeling.” She nods. “Just go with your gut and it will all work out.”
After the vows are read off between Jeri and her new husband, Kelley has tears in her eyes that she can’t control. She’d always been quite the romantic, and now is no different, especially with Alex standing up there at the alter with them off to the side. She looks brilliant with her waving hair and long lilac dress and Kelley can't help but get a little emotional.
She wonders if one day she’ll be up there with her.
They are swaying back and forth to the music, a folksy melody ending out the night. Kelley’s arms are clutched low around Alex’s waist, and Alex’s hands sit intertwined behind her neck. The dance floor is clearing out now, and the warm lights are dimming just the slightest bit.
Kelley’s heart has been thrumming in her chest all day with all the love surrounding her. It makes her want to confess her love to Alex over and over again, just to ensure the words exist in the world.
Alex is humming the tune in Kelley’s ear, and it’s making her hairs stand on end.
“I want this to be us one day.” The words slip from Kelley’s mouth.
“Me too.” Alex murmurs. She clutches Kelley a little tighter.
Kelley's mind wanders, and try as she might, she can’t get the question out of her head as to why she stopped visiting Alex in the past. It seems almost a ticking time bomb. The closer she comes to dreaming the last visit, the closer she approaches the unknown.
“Kelley there’s someone here to see you.” Alex calls from the front door, and the upswing of Alex’s voice alerts Kelley that something is a little off. Maybe it's a stranger.
Kelley walks quickly through the apartment to greet the unknown guest. She stops at Alex’s side and looks through the doorway. There stands a woman in her mid-50s with light blonde hair pulled back into a tight bun. Her jaw is set, making her look strictly serious, but her eyes tell a different story of excitement.
“Kelley?” She says, almost as if in awe.
“Yes?” Kelley says, she’s confused. “Do I know you?”
“I’m Dr. Dawn Scott, Neurologist,” She says surely, “I think I’ve got a cure for you.”
“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.
getting close to the end now -- predictions? thoughts? likes? dislikes?
Dawn unstraps Kelley from the EEG machine, carefully lifting the wires from her head. She turns back to her computer to type something, fingers clacking over the keyboard with rapid precision. Kelley observes her carefully for a moment, eyes following her movements.
Over the past three months, she’s grown to actually quite like Dawn. She’s smart for one, and definitely knowledgeable in her field. She’s kind and easy going so that Kelley doesn’t feel awkward around her. And she’s also optimistic in a way that Kelley’s not, and maybe it’s exactly what she needs from her.
She didn’t expect the process to the cure to be quick or easy, and Dawn seems to understand that well.
Dawn’s focused intently on her screen now, perhaps reading through the results of the test, her glasses tilting low on her nose as she peers over them.
“Seriously,” Kelley starts, “What’s in this for you?”
Dawn looks up at her, nudging her glasses back up the bridge of her nose with the back of her hand.
“You mean, besides how well you're paying me?” Dawn smiles teasingly. She leans back in her chair. “Kelley, you are the most unique subject I’ve ever had the experience of working with. This is a once in a life time opportunity.” Her voice is reverent, floating over the words with sincerity.
Kelley nods in understanding.
“Plus, with all the good you’ve done in this world,” She says, “You deserve to be the one saved for once.”
Alex and Kelley are lying side by side in the clearing staring up at the night sky. Their fingers are tangled loosely together as though afraid to let go.
It’s summer now, and Alex has only one month left of Kelley’s visits, only two months left until she’s headed off to Berkeley for preseason. She’s nervous, she tells Kelley, scared of change, scared she won’t be good enough and that she won’t make friends. And mostly scared that she won’t have Kelley there with her.
It’s weird to see Alex so uncharacteristically unsure. It reminds Kelley that she’s not invincible, that she’s just a girl, with worries just like anyone else. And by the crease between her eyebrows, Kelley can tell that Alex is very worried.
She does her best to soothe Alex’s doubts. She wants to squash her fear, especially knowing what she knows now, thinking of all the successes and good friends and relationships that Alex has to look forward to.
But she refrains from giving it all away. She wants Alex to be able to really live those moments for herself, just as the younger girl didn’t tell her everything that happened in their past. Being told something will happen and actually experiencing it are two entirely different sensations.
Kelley knows the balance of knowledge between the past and present, the present and future are delicate. And she certainly understands how knowledge of future events can disrupt one’s thought process, how it can disconnect one from a sense of self-determination.
She’s often pondered the sequence of time. Has the universe already laid out everything that will happen? Or is the future instead contrived of countless individual actions? Can you make your own destiny, or has it already been decided for you?
Does free will even exist?
She has yet to come up with an answer.
But she’s not quite sure that it matters anyway.
She squeezes Alex’s hand, as though to make sure she is still there, having been lost in thought for some time now.
Alex squeezes back.
“When I was a kid, my dad taught me all the important constellations.” Kelley says, she points up at the sky, the stars twinkling brilliantly above their heads.
“That one right there, that’s Ursa Major,” She points to each star accordingly, “And see those bright stars off to the left? That’s the Big Dipper.”
Alex nods her head, eyes focused intently up into the inky sea.
“And that one,” Kelley takes Alex’s hand and uses her finger to trace the shape in the sky, “That’s Orion’s Belt.”
Kelley goes on, reciting the stories her father had told her, pointing out more patterns hidden in the stars. Alex hums along, content to let Kelley teach her of the universe.
“You know what?” Alex says, turning towards her. “Your freckles kind of look like constellations.” She says.
She lowers her hand tracing a smattering of freckles on Kelley’s left forearm.
“Like right here. These one’s look like a smiley face.” She grins.
Kelley grins back at her. She places her hand delicately on Alex’s hip, pulling her the slightest bit closer.
“And these ones,” She connects another pattern, this time right above Kelley’s collarbone, dangerously close to her neck. And Kelley knows that she must feel the quaking of her pulse beneath her fingertips. “These ones look like a lightning bolt.”
She traces it over and over, the pattern feeling oddly familiar to Kelley. It’s soothing. She closes her eyes as if on instinct.
It’s then that she realizes it is something Alex does when Kelley wakes from a nightmare and can’t fall asleep.
Her breath catches in her throat. She swallows thickly, tears stinging in the back of her eyes, and if she blinks they’ll fall. She thinks of how compassionate, how attentive the girl across from her is and it feels as though her heart might burst.
She grabs Alex’s hand, removing it from her neck and bringing it to her lips, placing a feather-light kiss against her knuckles.
She’s overwhelmed with the urge to say I love you, but she bites the words back, not wanting to scare Alex off, not wanting to seem too forward. It’s silly, because she’s said the three words hundreds of times and heard them back just as many. But for some reason she feels shy in the presence of the young and beautiful girl. So instead she whispers:
“You make me so happy, Al.”
“You make me happier.”
“It’s not a competition.” Kelley laughs.
“I know it’s not. It’s just the truth.” Alex shrugs, a smirk pulling the corners of her mouth into that lopsided smile that Kelley so dearly adores.
“Impossible.” Kelley says. She brushes her fingers on the side of Alex’s neck, where she knows she’s extremely ticklish, and soon they’re in a full on tickling match, Alex squealing as Kelley flips them so she is straddling her. She pins her arms to the ground above her head, chest heaving.
“You’d better be quiet, or Jeri is going to catch us again.”
“Don’t worry, I told her if she ever comes back here, I’d tell our parents about the boy she sneaks into her room.”
Kelley laughs. She leans down for a kiss, capturing Alex’s lips in her own.
Then Alex is swiftly flipping them over, now it is she who is on top.
“Good. This place is ours.” Kelley says between breaths.
“Yes.” Alex nudges her nose along Kelley’s chin. “Ours.”
The word reverberates in Kelley’s head, half an idea forming, before she’s distracted by the soft nip of Alex’s teeth against her neck.
“Am I what you expected?” Kelley asks as they sit at the breakfast table the next morning. The thought has circled through her brain since the moment she woke.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean,” She starts, taking a deep breath, “Now that I’m not just someone who visits you from time to time, is this who you thought I was?”
Alex thinks for a moment, her eyes looking intensely into Kelley’s. Kelley holds her breath anxiously, waiting for Alex to say that yes, she’s disappointed, that she’d imagined much more, that she’d built Kelley up in her brain to be something grander than she was, and now that she’d returned to her in present day, she realizes that she’s not quite so special after all.
“You’re the same person?” She says a question in her eyes. “I just get more of you. All the good parts and the bad parts and I wouldn’t change that for anything.” Alex tilts her head to the side, trying to read Kelley’s thoughts.
Kelley heaves a sigh of relief, not really sure where all that nervousness had come from.
“Yes. One-hundred percent.” Alex says, “I get to wake up next to you most mornings, and I get to come home from work to you. I get to go on actual dates with you and meet your family and you get to meet mine.” She pokes her on the side. “And I get to see you in more than just your pajamas.” She pauses, “And less.” She grins devilishly.
“You’re everything I ever expected and so much more.” Alex places a gentle kiss on Kelley’s forehead.
She always seems to know the right things to say. And it’s exactly the confirmation Kelley needs. She tilts her head down with a slight smile.
And she’s surer now than she’s ever been that she was put on this earth to love Alex.
“If you want,” Alex says shyly, “I’d like for you to meet my dad again.”
It’s a sunny day, not a cloud in the sky. They’re in the clearing wading in the shallowest part of the river, the water lapping at their ankles.
“I’d love that.” Kelley says. Her heart hammers in her chest. “Does he know about—us?”
“Sort of.” Alex shrugs.
Kelley follows behind Alex down the path towards her house. Alex had explained that her mother and sisters were gone for the day, so she didn’t have to worry about meeting the whole family all at once. They’re reaching the edge of the path now, and there lies the Morgan residence, tall and grand and even more impressive from the back.
She spots Alex’s dad sitting in a chair on their patio, a newspaper held stretched an arms-length away as he flips through the pages.
Kelley gulps as she walks over the perfectly manicured lawn, Alex right at her side, gripping her elbow tightly, as if to propel her forward.
When they’re near enough for words, Mr. Morgan sets his newspaper down and stands.
“Kelley, it’s nice to see you again.” He shakes Kelley’s hand firmly.
“Likewise, Mr. Morgan.” Kelley puts on a charming smile.
“I thought I told you to call me Mike?” He says with a grin. He pats Kelley on the shoulder, then gestures at the chairs across from him for them to sit.
Once they are settled he speaks up again, leaning back and clasping his hands together in his lap.
“So, Alex has told me a lot about you.” He says.
“All good things I hope.” Kelley says lightly, and from there conversation is flowing.
Kelley recounts the dream, tears falling in her eyes to match Alex’s. She wishes just for a moment that she could have taken Alex back with her, just to see her dad once more. He'd been so easy-going, so supportive of the pseudo-relationship she had with Alex.
“He liked you a lot, you know?” Alex says hugging into her.
“Yeah, he said he could see how happy you made me.” Alex sniffs. Kelley rubs her back, thinking quietly for a minute.
“Do you wish I had told you?” She asks.
She’s referring to the tumor, of course, and the untimely death along with it.
“I’ve thought about it a lot.” Alex says slowly.
Kelley has thought about it often as well. It’s one thing to know of your own future, but to know of another’s is a completely different beast. How would you behave? Do you tell them? Do you grieve differently? Is it unnatural to know such things?
“But I’m glad you didn’t tell me.” Alex says finally. “I would have always been worried, and would have probably treated him like he was dying. It would have felt wrong.” Her voice is sturdy, the words confident.
As painful as it was for her to go through her father’s death, to have known about it two years prior would have only made things more difficult.
Kelley spins in a circle. She’s in a sizeable crowd. Adults of all ages and young children mill about her.
She hears a lion’s roar off in the distance.
The world’s a bit blurry, as though the people around her are moving in slow motion. She checks her watch. She’s in the future. She smiles, she’s always excited at the prospect of seeing what the future has in store, and it’s not often that she gets to do so.
Then she feels a thud at her leg, someone’s run into her.
She turns and sees a little girl, about four or five years old, sprawled on the ground.
“Are you okay?” She asks, kneeling to the girl’s height. She’s got light brown hair and a face full of freckles. When she looks up Kelley nearly does a double take.
The girl’s got bright blue eyes that Kelley could never forget.
Her forehead scrunches in confusion.
“I’m okay.” The girl says. She wipes her knees where she fell on the pavement.
Kelley helps her stand back up.
“Sweetie, where are your parents?” She asks.
The girl tilts her head to the side and looks up at Kelley. She smiles as though Kelley has said a joke. She giggles.
Kelley chalks it up to childish antics, so she asks again.
“Where are your parents?” This time lowering her voice so it’s softer.
The girl’s smile drops a fraction, a confused look now overtaking her face.
“What do you mean, mommy?”
Time seems to stop.
Kelley looks around, eyes searching frantically. For what, she doesn’t know. She looks at the girl’s hand in her own and something in her heart seems to burst. She feels off balance, as though there’s something she’s missing, something just out of her reach.
“Sophia!” She hears.
She jerks her head to the side towards the voice.
There’s Alex. An infant baby pushed in front of her in a stroller. She’s looking around with a panic in her eyes like a fire.
“Alex!” Kelley calls out, she stands to her full height, inching up onto her tiptoes. Alex meets her eyes above the crowd and rushes towards her.
She swoops the girl, Sophia, into her arms.
“You can’t run off like that.” Alex scolds, but her face is all relief.
“I was following Mommy.” The girl says looking at Kelley.
Alex looks at her then.
“I thought you were going to the bathroom—” Her voice drifts to a stop as she takes in Kelley’s disheveled appearance, the sweatpants and t-shirt, the silver watch on her wrist. Her eyes run over every inch of her face, a question in them.
Kelley notes Alex’s appearance too, unable to drag her eyes from the woman across from her. She doesn’t look much older. In fact, if she didn’t know for certain she was in the future, she might not have been able to tell. She’s got the slightest of age lines circling round her eyes and her jaws looks a bit more slack, but that’s about it. She’s aged well.
“Milf’ is all Kelley can think, she grins internally.
“I—” Alex starts to say. But she doesn’t get to finish, because Kelley feels time travel taking over, she takes a step backward away from her family.
She looks at Alex and the two children, her heart melting in her chest, tears stinging in her eyes because all she wants is a minute longer with them, but she knows she doesn’t have it. She takes another small step backward.
“I’m sorry I have to go.” She says, nearly choking on her words.
“It’s okay.” Alex says, she smiles at her radiantly, eyes soft, “It’s all going to be okay.”
And resist as she might, Kelley feels herself starting to slide into the abyss between times, the white light engulfing her.
And she’s back in her own bed, Alex sleeping peacefully at her side. Kelley leans over and kisses Alex on the forehead and whispers:
“It’s all going to be okay.”
“What are we doing here, Kel?” Alex says as Kelley puts the car in park.
They’re outside Alex’s old house, the one her mother sold a year ago while Alex and her sisters were away at college and after Mike died. It was too big, too lonely for her to live in by herself. Now a family with three children lives there, and they haven’t done much to the place, besides add a swing set to the backyard.
“I already told you, it’s a surprise.” Kelley says.
Kelley had of course asked the family if she could enter the property, and they had happily obliged when she told them what it was for.
“You know I don’t like surprises.” Alex says, a whine edging into her voice.
Kelley rolls her eyes and grabs the picnic basket that she’d stored in the trunk and shows it to Alex.
Alex smiles, “You’ve always known the way to my heart.”
They walk through the backyard and down the path, fingers intertwined, now entering the clearing.
And it’s just the same as it was back then, the grass is low, the river bubbles lazily, the sun shines through the trees light and golden.
Kelley shakes out the blanket she brought with her onto the ground.
They sit down and dig into their meal, and although the food is appetizing, Kelley is having a hard time concentrating.
She pours Alex a glass of wine, her hand shaking slightly, but thankfully Alex doesn’t seem to notice, her attention instead drawn out over the river.
She steels herself, no time like the present, she thinks.
Then she pulls out a tiny black box, and maneuvers herself so she is now kneeling.
Alex looks at her strangely for a split second, before her face is overtaken with a delicate smile.
“Alex,” She says, her voice shakes the slightest bit. She clears her throat to steady it. She begins soft and slow:
“When I first met you, I could barely breathe. You took my breath away, Al.” She says gently, “And now that I’m in love with you, instead of feeling breathless I—I feel more alive than I ever have.”
She takes Alex’s hand into her own.
“And before you I was never one to believe in soulmates or fate or any of that,” She smiles, “But I know that I wasn’t sent to save you that first day we met. You were sent to save me.”
A tear slips down her cheek, and now Alex’s eyes are watery too.
“I want to promise you that everything in this life will be easy, and perfect and happy, because it's exactly what you deserve. But I can’t promise that. Because I don’t know. I just don’t know. All I know is that I want you by my side for all of it, and that I'll work harder than anything to give you the best life I can. You’re everything I’ve ever wanted and so much more." She pauses, "I love you more than words can describe.”
She squeezes Alex’s hand tightly in her own.
And as soon as the words leave her tongue, Alex answers with a kiss pressed hard against her mouth, the word 'yes' whispered somewhere in between. Their cheeks slip against one another, wet from their tears, and it’s gross, but Kelley doesn’t care. Because Alex has said yes and that’s all that could ever matter.
They’re driving home from the clearing, Alex’s feet on the dash, her hand wrapped tightly in Kelley’s with a new diamond ring wrapped around her finger when a phone call interrupts the music playing on the aux cord. Kelley frees her hand from Alex, eyes locked on the road in front of her as she lifts the phone to her ear.
“Hello?” She says.
“Kelley?” It’s Dawn. Her next words come rushed as though she can’t say them quickly enough. “I think I’ve found your cure.”
“Hold still.” Alex says as Kelley adjusts in her seat. They’re sitting across from each other in the clearing, legs folded Indian-style. Kelley’s eyes are clamped shut, and Alex is leaning in, just a few inches away.
“A picture would last longer, you know?” Kelley says, a shit-eating grin crossing her face.
Alex is observing her, ‘trying to memorize what she looks like’ she’d said. It’s the second to last of Kelley’s visits, and she can tell that the younger girl’s demeanor is becoming less upbeat by the minute. It’s impossible for her too not to think of their impending goodbye.
“A picture wouldn’t be able capture all of these.” Alex drags her finger along Kelley’s jawline, referring to the odd pattern of freckles there.
Kelley peaks an eye open, and Alex is close, close enough that she can smell the scent of her soap, fresh like cotton, close enough that she can see the tiniest flecks of grey in her eyes. They’ve got this faraway look in them, not sad, but not happy either.
Kelley lean’s in for a quick kiss, pecking Alex’s softly on the lips.
They sit quietly for a moment, Alex playing with Kelley’s fingers in her own staring down at them, her jaw clenching and unclenching and Kelley can tell that she’s thinking. But she’ll speak when she’s ready so she doesn’t push her.
“I don’t want you to go.” She says simply, quiet in a way that sounds crushed.
“I don’t want to go either.” Kelley tilts Alex’s chin up so that she’s forced to look at her. “I promise, Al, if I could change it I would.”
Alex says nothing, just bites her cheek.
“How long do you think you’ll stay next time?”
“You know I don’t know that.” Kelley says gently.
Alex huffs, of course she had already known the answer to her question, she just couldn’t help but wish it weren’t true.
She plucks at the grass around her, pulling it from the ground and tossing it in an absentminded pile. Then she’s picking a dandelion by the stem, yellow still, not white. She tucks it behind Kelley’s ear with a soft smile, a childish glint in her eyes that makes Kelley’s heart break.
Alex lies back, dragging Kelley with her. She puts her head on Kelley’s chest, ear pressed tight against her ribs so she can hear the beating of her heart, pounding even like a steady rain. She breathes in and out, in and out, soaking in the moment for as long as she can. Kelley runs her fingers through Alex’s hair, smoothing it out and massaging lightly into her scalp. Another quiet moment drags on as words seem too heavy.
“What are you thinking about?” Kelley asks finally.
“I’m thinking about you.” Alex says, “About us.”
Kelley’s always loved how straightforward the other girl was, never one to waste her words.
“Oh yeah?” Kelley thinks she’s the lucky one. Every time she leaves this clearing she gets to go right back into Alex’s arms, safe in the life they’ve built together. But this is not so for Alex. Kelley leaves this clearing, and she leaves Alex behind, left alone to wait for the next visit.
She deserves better, Kelley thinks.
“I’ve wanted this for so long.” Alex says, shifting her weight so now she is looking right into Kelley’s eyes. “I’ve wanted you for so long.”
Kelley smiles, light and in love.
“And I don’t know why it took me so long to realize it.”
Kelley nods, she gets it. Her words cling to her throat, unable to be spoken into existence. So instead she plants a feather light kiss on Alex’s forehead.
“I just wish there was more time.” Alex whispers.
“There will be.”
The statement is true of course, blatantly so. Time stops for no one, not even for those who are in love.
It’s another quiet moment before Alex speaks again, her eyes trained directly into Kelley’s, sure and confident and sad and a million other emotions that Kelley can’t decipher quick enough.
“I love you, Kelley.” She says, “And I’m not just saying it because you’re leaving soon. I’m saying it because it’s true.”
“I love you too, Al. More than you know.”
Kelley wakes, the dandelion still tucked in her hair, her heart warm, like a fire’s been lit in her chest. She rubs her hand over Alex’s back, still asleep, her chest heaving slowly, nostrils flicking. Kelley takes the dandelion and sticks it softly behind Alex’s ear.
Kelley looks around. She recognizes this place, the white walls, the weird equipment.
It’s then that the door swings open, and there’s Dawn, looking down at the tablet in her hand, other hand pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose.
Kelley clears her throat to get her attention.
Dawn looks up, startled, stopping in her tracks, eyes widening by the second.
“How’d you get in here? Who are you?” Her voice shakes to match her hands.
Kelley takes a step forward, “I can explain—”
“Stay where you are or I’m calling security.” Dawn says lifting a hand, as if to keep Kelley at bay.
“Dawn,” Kelley says the name softly, knowing the impact it will have. “I need your help.”
Kelley sits at her kitchen table with Alex, just having discussed with Dawn the details of the procedure that will reverse her time traveling tendencies.
Dawn had explained in comprehensive medical jargon the condition with which Kelley is afflicted, how it has impacted her brain and caused her ‘temporal displacement.’ All Kelley hears is that somewhere along the way, the wires in her brain got crossed the wrong way and now she travels in time.
And now she has the cure. A simple non-invasive surgery that would take no more than half an hour. All she has to do is say ‘yes.’
She can barely believe it. All she had wanted for the past 6 years was to rid herself of the odd disorder, and for once have a goddamn good night’s sleep. She wouldn’t have to worry about where she was going (if anywhere), or who she was saving (if anyone). For once she wouldn’t have to be the hero. She could just be normal again.
But now that the solution seemed so near, she couldn’t help but pause and think.
What would happen to all the people she was meant to save? What if the surgery didn’t work? Or what if it made things even worse?
The list goes on and on.
Time traveling had given her Alex, the greatest thing in her life. How could she so easily let all of this go?
Alex pats Kelley lightly on the arm, almost as though she is reading her mind. Maybe it’s the way her eyebrows are knit into a worried bunch, or the way she’s wringing her fingers together that tipped her off.
“Kelley, everything is going to be okay.” Alex says softly, “I love you no matter what you choose.”
Kelley’s face softens. Alex, who’s been by her side and only wants the best for her. Alex, who deserves so much better than such a complicated life.
Alex, who’s kind, and selfless, and patient and who’s been waiting her whole life for the Kelley that will stay.
She looks at Alex and knows her decision.
Kelley looks around. She’s in Alex’s backyard, staring up at the grand estate. It’s late afternoon, the sun falling behind the trees.
She pats her pocket, the folded piece of paper is still there. She heaves a sigh of relief. Then she looks down the pathway that leads to the clearing and takes a step towards it.
The voice comes from behind her near the house. Kelley stops, frozen in her spot, only twenty feet from the path. If she runs she could probably make it into the woods without having to deal with this person and this awkward situation. But she can’t get her feet to move.
“Mom, is that you?” The voice asks. It’s feminine, light and airy floating towards her. It’s also non-threatening, and something about it makes Kelley’s shoulders relax.
She turns around.
There stands a woman in her late 60s, grey hair pulled back into a bun. She walks forward, almost hesitantly, until she’s standing across from Kelley, the gap between them only five feet wide. And even from here, Kelley recognizes those eyes.
The woman rushes forward and wraps her arms tight around Kelley’s waist. And she can hear the softest little sobs coming from just next to her ear. And now, Kelley’s crying too, and she’s not quite sure why, but something about this moment feels rare.
She pulls away and looks into Sophia’s eyes. She’s beautiful, even at this age. She’s got her mother’s good looks, Kelley thinks.
It’s then that Kelley thinks to check her watch, and sure enough, she’s in the distant future.
“Mom said you’d be visiting soon.” Sophia says as she holds Kelley tightly by the forearms, almost as though she is afraid to let go.
“Where is she?” Kelley asks, expecting the worst, hoping for the best.
“She’s back there,” Sophia lifts an arm and points towards the clearing. Kelley’s eyes follow the outstretched hand, and she takes a step forward, not wanting to spend another minute without Alex. She’d never expected to be able to see Alex at this age and it feels like a gift she can’t open soon enough.
“Wait.” Sophia grabs Kelley’s arm, stopping her in her tracks. Kelley turns to look at her daughter, so old now. “There’s something you should know.”
Her eyes look sad, so delicate in a way that has Kelley’s heart skipping a beat in her chest. She sucks in a breath.
“What is it?”
Sophia looks around, as if unsure how to proceed. She bites at the inside of her cheek, a familiar habit of Alex’s, Kelley notes.
“Go on.” Kelley encourages her.
“You passed away.” Sophia says, “A few months ago.” Her voice is quiet, and her eyes squint upward as a few tears slip from them.
Kelley swallows thickly. Not exactly what she wants to hear, it’s odd knowing anything about your death before you actually die.
But it’s also good news in a way, a long life awaits her. She feels herself exhaling at the thought.
“Do you want to know—” Sophia starts.
“No.” Kelley says, quickly. She looks back towards the woods, eager to make her way towards Alex.
“There’s one more thing.” Sophia says, eyes sad, “Her memory, it’s fading. Half the time she barely remembers my name. I’m not sure how much time she has left with us.”
Kelley takes Sophia’s hand, shaking it lightly in her own to let her know that everything will be okay. Then she’s turning, walking down the path to meet the love of her life.
She enters the clearing, and it’s the same as it was back then, but there’s a wooden bench at the river’s edge now. And at the bench sits Alex. She’s old, slightly hunched in her posture.
Alex turns and looks at Kelley, and her eyes are that same bright blue as always. She’s still stunning.
Kelley walks forward slowly, her heart pounding in her chest, so loud she thinks Alex can probably hear it.
“Kelley,” Alex says, her voice is rough and raspy, just the one Kelley fell in love with.
She takes a seat next to Alex, carefully lowering herself to the bench as though if she makes any sudden movement the other woman will disappear.
“I’ve been expecting you.” Alex says plainly. She’s smiling at Kelley like she’s never seen such a beautiful sight.
She grabs Alex’s hand into her own. It’s wrinkled and veiny, but it still feels soft and familiar. She drags her thumb over the knuckles, gripping tightly.
“We bought the house?” Kelley says, nodding backward.
“I think so.” Alex says, her nose scrunching as though she is trying to think hard of something just on the edge of her memory.
They sit there for a minute in silence, Kelley afraid to ask too many questions, afraid to know too much of her future, even though she wants to know everything.
Instead, she settles for just one question:
“Were we happy?”
“So happy, Kel.” Alex says. She leans her head against Kelley’s shoulder and doesn’t say another word. She seems happy to simply soak in the presence of her company, to feel the smoothness of her palm against her own one more time.
A long, happy life. With Alex. It’s everything Kelley could have ever wished for. And if she was even questioning her decision to be cured, her choice has now been solidified.
And after what feels like a lifetime of basking in the setting sun, Kelley feels herself being pulled back to the present. Her heart aches as she looks at Alex and tells her so.
But instead of looking sad, Alex looks content, her eyes light and happy and so very soft.
“It’s okay,” She says, “You’re headed back to be with me.”
Kelley plants a kiss on Alex’s forehead, gripping her hand tightly between her own, not wanting to leave.
“I’ll see you soon.” Alex says. Kelley smiles. It’s a welcome change from their usual parting words.
“See you soon.”
Kelley wakes and slips silently from bed. She reaches her desk and grabs a pen and then pulls the paper from her pocket, unfolding it carefully out in front of her.
She scribbles down three words.
“I’ll have the surgery.” Kelley announces.
Dawn and Alex are looking at her expectantly as they sit around a desk in Dawn’s lab.
Alex releases a heavy breath, as if she’d been holding it for a while. Dawn claps her hands together, seemingly elated at the news.
“On one condition.” Kelley holds up a finger as if to make her point.
“Anything.” Dawn says.
“Not until after my last visit with Alex.”
Kelley arrives in the clearing and Alex is already there waiting for her, standing tall and still staring out over the river.
It’s late afternoon, the sky is cloudy, but an eerie gold, like just before a warm summer thunderstorm. Kelley watches Alex intently, etching the moment into her memory.
“Happy Birthday, Alex.” She says. Her voice crashes through the silence.
Alex doesn’t flinch at the noise, no, of course she’d been expecting her.
Instead, she turns slowly, the look in her eyes carefully leveled. She takes three swift steps towards Kelley, slamming their bodies together and wrapping her arms over the shorter girl’s shoulders. Kelley can already feel the hot tears pressed to her neck where Alex’s face is buried.
She holds in tears of her own as she grips Alex by the back of the head, cradling her as close as physically possible.
After another second, Kelley detangles herself from Alex so she can look her in the eye. She wipes a tear from her cheek, her fingers sweeping delicately against Alex’s skin.
She didn’t know it was possible to be so happy and sad all in the same moment.
“No crying on your birthday.” Kelley commands with a wagging finger. She squints her eyes to appear hard and serious but it only serves to make Alex laugh. And maybe that was her intention, anyway.
They move so they’re sitting at the river’s edge, bare feet dipped in the water below, and it’s just like every other time, but it’s not. It’s different. The weight of the night hangs over them like a blanket, so heavy it’s suffocating.
Kelley tries not to think of leaving Alex alone for three and a half years. 1311 days. She'd checked.
She tries not to think of the sad look in Alex’s eyes, or the sinking feeling that she’s always letting her down. She tries, and it’s not easy.
But she’s trying.
So she puts on a brave face, intent on not letting either of them sulk on her very last visit.
She looks at Alex, whose still got that barren look in her eyes, and she grabs her by the hand. She yanks her so they’re standing. And then she’s peeling off her clothes, stripping down to just her bra and underwear as quick as she can.
Alex gives her a confused look: a raised eyebrow with arms crossed over her chest.
“Let’s go swimming.” Kelley says. And before Alex can respond, Kelley takes off at a run into the water, splashing her way in until she’s waist deep.
Alex looks reluctant at first, but after a minute of Kelley cajoling her, she’s diving under.
She swims towards her, and when she’s near enough Kelley can see that the look in her eyes is now the slightest bit less miserable.
She latches on to Alex, wrapping her legs around her waist, bouncing into her arms so that their faces are only inches apart.
Kelley finds herself thinking of how much she’s seen Alex grow, from a stubborn little girl, to this beautiful young woman with a bright future ahead of her. And even more, she thinks of her fiancée, the most caring and compassionate woman she knows, someone who deserves the entire world.
She hugs Alex tight, trying to convey everything with just the touch.
“There’s so much I want to tell you.” Kelley says into Alex’s ear.
“Then tell me.” Alex says eagerly.
Alex looks at her, eyes shifting over every feature of Kelley’s face, as though she can’t get enough of it.
“A wise person once told me that memories are better lived than retold.” Kelley smiles at herself, her mind flashing back to when Alex had first said those words to her.
But this Alex just tilts her head letting the words sink in, the look on her face saying she isn’t quite sure she believes them.
After a while they exit the water, collapsing onto Alex’s blanket in a heap. The sky is darker now, casting their shadows far and long.
They’re lying facing each other, each in their own head and Kelley’s desperately wondering what Alex is thinking. She’s tracing freckles along her collarbone, and it’s distracting in a way that makes Kelley almost forget the severity of the night. Almost.
She grabs Alex’s hand and raises it to her mouth, pressing her lips gently against it.
“What am I going to do without you?” Alex’s voice is quite and broken.
“You’re going to do so many amazing things. You’re going to make great friends and laugh and be brave and strong and successful.” Kelley says.
“I can’t imagine how.” Alex says looking downward.
“You will.” Kelley says firmly.
Alex says nothing, just picks at a stray thread of the blanket beneath them.
“It’s okay if you don’t miss me some days. Or weeks. Or hey, maybe even months. I don’t want you to worry about me, alright?”
“How can you say that?” Alex says, and now her eyes are filling with tears, “Of course I’ll miss you.”
Kelley’s heart breaks into tiny pieces, like shards of guilt stabbing in her chest. She’d do anything she could to stay.
“But we’ll meet again,” Kelley starts, “The 3rd day in February. And you’ll be on a rush to a meeting. And listen to me, you need to go to it. No matter how much you want to stay. But it’s okay, because we’re going to meet again, and again and again.” Kelley knows she should refrain from giving too much information but she can’t help it, she wants so badly to ease Alex’s worries.
“The 3rd of February?” Alex asks, a note of hope rising in her voice.
“Tell me more.” Her eyes are begging.
“Al—” Kelley doesn’t want to spoil for Alex all the good things she has coming.
“I know, I know.” Alex resigns, huffing out a deep breath.
“Just tell me—” She grips Kelley’s hand tightly, “Am I happy?”
“So, so happy, Al.”
Kelley feels tears pricking in the back of her eyes. She squeezes them shut tight.
They sit there, just holding one another for a moment that seems entirely too short and an eternity long all at once.
“I’ve got a gift for you, birthday girl.”
Kelley pats her shirt pocket. The letter she had written after her last visit is still there. She pulls it out and hands it over.
“I’ve been carrying this around.” Kelley says, “Read it when I leave, alright?”
Alex nods her head once quickly.
“And another thing—” Kelley unclasps the watch that Alex gave her from her wrist. “I won’t be needing this anymore.”
Alex takes it, a question in her eyes, but says nothing.
And then just like that, as if the universe senses the timing is right, Kelley feels a yank low in her gut. And she’s sure that her face must say it all, because now Alex is gripping her wrist tightly, a dreadful look in her eyes.
They stand without a word, Kelley holding Alex just as tightly back. And she doesn’t want to go, but maybe if she gets it done and over with it will be easier for the both of them.
She presses a kiss to Alex’s mouth, light and sweet and needy and longing.
"I love you."
"I love you, too."
She squeezes Alex's hand tightly once more.
“I’ll see you soon.”
“See you soon.” Alex repeats.
Chapter 11: Epilogue
last one, short one, best one?
The love I have for you knows no bounds, and for it to be put into words is near impossible.
But I’ll try.
Sorry for leaving you.
Sorry for making you wait.
Sorry for dragging you into my time-traveling mess of a life.
Sorry that this isn’t the love story you’d always imagined.
But what I’m not sorry for is loving you. You’re the best thing to ever happen to me.
And I know, I’m the one who’s supposed to be doing all the saving. But I think you were sent to save me. My very own guardian.
And I’d be so damn lost without you.
I read a quote recently that I think is so fitting. It was:
“Sometimes we don’t know the value of a moment until it becomes a memory.”
I’m not sure who said it, but God, were they right.
I only wish I had known that the moment I met you. But I was oblivious.
I didn’t know then what I know now. I didn’t know I was meeting my best friend and the love of my life. I didn’t have any idea about all the moments we’d made, all the laughs and tears and smiles we’d shared. I didn’t know the way your lips tasted or about the birthmark you have on your elbow, or that you’re a terrible driver.
I didn’t have a clue.
So when we meet next, take it easy on me alright? Please, be patient (like you always are), because like I said – OBLIVIOUS.
I know three and a half years sounds like a long time, but I promise—great things await you.
Anything that comes your way, I know you’ll be able to handle. You’re confident and brilliant and strong. And most importantly, a badass.
The world is yours for the taking, all you have to do is be brave enough to grab it.
I don’t want you wasting these years of your life waiting for me. Get out there and be young and dumb and have fun. Make mistakes, and new friends, and kiss girls and boys (if you want). Go to parties, and study late, and make that beep test your bitch (you’ve got this).
What I’m trying to say is: don’t put your life on pause because of me, Al.
Enjoy yourself. You deserve it.
I know that you’ll want to come look for me, but you shouldn’t. It’s useless. If I could, I’d rearrange the stars and show up on your doorstep tomorrow. But I have no choice.
When the time is right, we’ll meet again.
The third of February.
I’ll be there. And I’ll be all yours.
From here to eternity and back again, I love you.
I can’t say it enough. I love you, I love you.
I love you.
Yours forever, Kelley
See you soon.
Alex stares at the letter. She’d memorized it long ago, the words etched into the crevices of her memory. But it was still comforting to see Kelley’s handwriting scrawling across the page, almost as though if she touched the ink, she could still feel the older girl’s presence.
She traces her fingers over the last three words, the ones that had given her hope when she had only wanted to give up.
The past three and a half years had been tough in more ways than one. But just by reading Kelley’s letter, a sense of calmness would wash over her.
Sometimes she was angry, angry at Kelley, at the universe, at herself for falling in love with a moving target.
Other times she was just plain heartbroken, finding it hard to find happiness in anything.
So she buried herself in soccer, letting it distract and save her all at once. And then she took Kelley’s advice and lived her life and had fun and enjoyed college. It took some time, but she was finally able to convince herself: she did deserve it.
That’s not to say that things were easy. Her dreams were plagued with a smattering of freckles and green speckled eyes. She still broke her neck doing a double take every time a light brown-haired girl walked by. Her heart rate still tripled at the utterance of the name, no matter the context. The ghost of Kelley’s lips lingered on her own late at night. The roar of her laughter was just an echo left in her memory.
Nothing and everything reminded her of the time-traveler. She couldn’t forget her, and she wasn’t trying to.
Three and half long years had passed, and she was no less in love with Kelley now than the day she had left.
Alex tucks the letter safely back into her book before checking her watch. Almost time to go. She can’t be late.
She takes one last sip of her coffee, lukewarm now, before setting it back on the table in front of her. She grabs her things, getting ready to leave. Perhaps this wasn’t the meeting Kelley was talking about.
“Cortado with whole milk please.”
That voice, the one she'd never stopped thinking of. Alex’s heart explodes in her chest, she feels like crying and laughing and jumping for joy all at once. She looks towards the counter.
And there she is.
And that's all she wrote folks!
Been a tough story to work on, and I definitely obsessed and agonized over the details far more often than what is probably healthy lol.
It's not perfect by any means but thank you all for following along!!!
Hit me in the comments with your favorite parts, parts you hated, thoughts, concerns, comments, etc.
Thanks so much for reading xx