Time and Time Again
by Kate England
Her face lit up when he walked into the room, and he stopped dead in his tracks and he could feel the blood drain from his face. Calvin hadn’t seen that look in… Was it really years? His heart was hammering in his chest and he could only stare at her. The look of gladness in her eyes melted into concern. And she moved forward, pressing a cool hand to his forehead.
“Cal, are you okay?” she asked. “You look… Are you sick? You look awful.“
He struggled to speak and to focus on her face, but his vision was blurred.
“Ginny, I – No, I’m fine. I’ll see you in a bit,” he managed.
“Back to the basement?” she asked. And then he saw it, the seedling of the look he had come to recognize and resent in her eyes. But it was so new, without the bitter edge it took on after months and he saw it clearly – it was sadness. She missed him. He swallowed against the lump in his throat.
Calvin closed the distance between them in just three steps. He slid his hands in her hair and cupped the back of her head, pressing his forehead against hers and staring into her eyes – so dark brown. The smell of her hair – that vanilla stuff she used. How long had it been?
“I will be right back,” he whispered. “And then we can go out to Poorman’s for lunch.“
That faint look of disappointment that had manifested in her gaze was replaced with a warm smile. He kissed the corner of her mouth, and felt tears skip loose when he closed his eyes. This wasn’t what he expected.
When he stepped back from the embrace he felt empty. He descended the basement stairs quickly and saw himself there – working, of course. A sense of wrongness and dislocation crawled over his skin, but he ignored it and grabbed himself and spun him around. It was like looking into a kindhearted mirror – fewer lines, less red shot through the whites of his eyes, less frost in the hair.
“Recognize me, Cal?” he said, his voice a rusty growl.
“It works,” he whispered. His eyes took on a fevered look of excitement. “I knew it!“
“Shut up, jackass,” said Calvin. “You’re going upstairs now. You’re going to shower. You are going to take Ginny to Poorman’s and talk to her. And hold her hand. And –“
“Are you insane? You just told – no proved to me it works. I can’t stop now,” said Cal.
Calvin sighed. He could feel the memories forming in his brain. He could see himself bludgeoning himself to death. He could see binding him and trying to pursue Ginny himself. Different outcomes seemed to unfurl in front of his eyes. But each one was surrounded by strange crackling images – like the broken-spectrum aura he would get before a migraine. He knew it wouldn’t work because he needed both of himselves to even be here. Goddamn time travel. What a Goddamn waste.
“I’ll do it,” he said. “You go, and I’ll make sure it happens.“
He saw the doubt flicker across his own, younger face.
“You know I will. But please… We can’t lose her. She doesn’t understand.“
Uncertainty flickered across Cal’s face.
“But Ginny’s fine,” he said.
“She is. Now. But we don’t know when to stop, do we?“
“You coming, Cal?” her voice caused Calvin to close his eyes and he struggled and didn’t quite succeed in stifling a sob.
“Jesus, does she die?” Cal’s voice was a horrified whisper.
“No… She just. Couldn’t compete. And she knew it. And you know it. We know it,” said Calvin. “Please go. Please. I thought it was worth it – cause I’d have time. I’d have all the time I needed. But we don’t. I don’t.“
“I’m coming, Gin.“
Calvin watched himself ascend the stairs. Then he did the only thing he could. He got back to work.