December 12, 1980
Other than when she worked on Wednesday, Melanie and I haven’t left each other’s sites. There was no problem getting her a ticket on the same flight as me, and after very little effort we were able to sit together. Luckily it wasn’t a very busy flight, and so there was not trouble putting us in adjacent seats.
Melanie slept the entire flight, her head on my shoulder, and I read silently.
After a few hours, we were sitting in my living room, Sam and Melanie getting to know each other. They talked for about an hour, while I called back Judy who had left a message with Sam asking me to call back, but saying it wasn’t a rush.
“I’m sorry that I yelled at you,” she said as she picked up the phone, without greeting. She sounded timid, in a way that I hadn’t heard her before.
“It’s ok. I understand that it was a lot.”
“Can you tell me about my future?”
I laughed for a moment, until I realized she wasn’t joking.
“Um… I don’t know your future, Judy. I didn’t pick you because I knew anything about you. I decided to ask you for your help, because you seemed like a nice person who may be able to help me. If you were someone famous, or were going to become famous I might know something, but I don’t.”
There was a long pause. “So you don’t know when I die?”
“No. I don’t. Your fate is as much a mystery to me as it is to you.”
“Oh, thank God.” There is a light sigh that’s almost a laugh. “I definitely couldn’t continue to talk to you, if you were just waiting for the day I die… That would be too morbid for me.”
We talked for a while, and I told her about Melanie, and Sam, and I told her I’d visit once the baby is born, maybe with Melanie if that was ok, which she agreed would be.
When I rejoined Sam and Melanie, Sam was telling Melanie about me as a kid, and how ever since kindergarten, I had always liked girls, and wanted to be married. I’m not sure if Melanie picked up on it, but Sam was very clearly steering things in a way that she wanted them to go, and while I think she would have taken pleasure if I had been embarrassed or resisted, she seemed to know ahead of time that I wouldn’t, because for the first time since travelling back, the idea of marriage was an actual possibility. The idea that I wasn’t stranded alone had filled me with hope.
“I’m going make my first jump back tomorrow if you’re ok with that?” Sam addressed both of us, and I was shocked.
“You’re not going to stay for Christmas?” I was confused, and disappointed.
“Mike, you’re all set here. I came back to this time, because you needed help getting over this hurdle, and it wasn’t a great idea for you to be as lost and in despair as you were, without someone. But now, you have Melanie back. Sounds like things are good with Judy, and you’re starting to infiltrate ‘the family!’” The last part, she said with mock intensity as if I were an undercover cop investigating the mafia, and I laughed at it.
“But, I do need your help if that’s ok?”
I nodded, and Melanie nodded as well.
“Today, can we go up to Salem, and pick up the time-machine, and put it in your hatchback?”
“Then, tomorrow, I know we’re going to see Grandma, and I’ll say goodbye to her, and then can you take me to Framingham?”
“Do you need to take off from Shopper’s World? We can’t throw in coordinates?”
“No, this new version of the machine is calibrated so that it takes into account rotation, and revolutions and everything else, so that all I’m really changing is time, and not location. When you were improving the time-machine, you were adamant that I not get dumped in the middle of the ocean in the winter. You seemed sensitive about that.” She laughed. She had told me the first day she had revealed herself that future me, made sure she read through the entirety of this journal. I had started it, as a way for me to keep track, and sane, but since knowing that Sam, and apparently a few others are going to be reading this, it feels more important, not just the private thoughts of a lonesome lost man stuck out of time. It feels like a connection to the future, like a lifeline.
A couple hours later, we pulled up to a storage company, and drove down a lane until we found unit 91288, and Sam unlocked it. When the garage door went up, I saw a contraption that looked like rounded refrigerator.
“How is that going to fit in my hatchback?”
“It breaks down.” She said confidently, and began breaking it down. It turned out every foot or so of height, detached an several of the middle pieces had an accordian style closing option which made those pieces even more compact.
When it was all tightly packed into my hatchback, I managed to close the door, and Sam climbed in the backseat next to a couple of segments, and we headed back to the house.
“How did you get the whole thing to the storage unit without a car?”
“Spoilers,” she said in a sing-song British accent. “But, I had a car.”
“What’s a spoiler?” Melanie asked from the passenger seat.
“Um… it’s when someone tells you the end of a book or a movie or something,” I explained.
“In this case, it’s because I know about your futures, and I need to be careful what to tell you,” and then she explained she had stolen the catchphrase of a time-traveller from Doctor Who.
“Is it really a spoiler at this point? I mean, how is something you did a month ago—like a real, 1980 month ago—a possible spoiler.” I think my frustration was coming through more than I had intended, because she remained silent for more than a minute.
“I suppose you’re right. I can’t tell you everything, but I can tell you this. You and I aren’t the only time-travelers, and you aren’t the only one with a journal.”
“There are others? Who?” I nearly slammed into a car as I looked at her in the rear-view mirror.
“I can’t tell you. They’re not here to help you, or to hinder you. They’re here of their own separate accord. I just knew one happened to be going back further than me, and so I asked for some help. Just like, I’m hoping you’ll meet me in 1985, with a car when I appear.”
“Do I know them? Did they access time-travel because of me, or separately?”
The rest of the car-ride consisted of me asking any question I thought might allow her to answer it, and her answering none of them.
Then we all woke up, and got ready to go. I was already dressed and fully ready to go when Melanie came back into the bedroom with just a towel wrapped around her. I always like that she doesn’t walk around with her hair wrapped up in a towel, but lets her shiny wet hair slink down over her shoulders. Her hair is normally light brown, but wet it appears much darker, and while her hair is never as blown up as most of the women of this era, it’s so nice to see it laying flat. The look is also helped by the fact that there is still a sheen of water on her cleavage, and her eyes are always sparkling when she looks into mine.
After closing the door, she opens the towel, and begins to dry her body more thoroughly. We don’t have time for anything, and even with the shower going again I wouldn’t want Sam to hear, but Melanie looks sexy. So after a moment, I go into the hall to get a second towel, because I know that she will want it, and that way I can distract myself.
When we arrive at the diner, the three of us wait for my grandmother. Sam sits on the opposite side of the booth from Melanie and me.
“Oh, something else…” Sam says, she’s been having me write down things to remember all morning. “…can you bring a couple of bottles of Gatorade, and a couple of water, and a bag of pretzels, and… something fatty. If McDonald’s is open, bring me a Big Mac!”
Melanie looks at her like she’s got two heads, but I write it down.
“The jumping feels instantaneous mentally, but physically your body ages. When I did 30 years, it was as if I hadn’t eaten or drank anything in a month.” I tell her quietly, not wanting anyone to hear us, but the closest patrons are three booths over.
“So, if Sam’s jumping 4 and a half years…” She does the math in her head quickly. “…it’ll be like 4 or 5 days? You’ll feel severely hungover without water, and you’ll be starving. Make sure that you eat slowly. If you haven’t eaten in a few days, your brain will be behind your body, so you have to eat really slowly.”
“What’s so funny?” Melanie looks caught off-guard, possibly offended.
“Spoilers,” she says without the British accent, in a much more sympathetic tone than she’s been using with me.
A moment later, my grandmother comes in and we all rise to greet her. Sam gives her a big hug, and a kiss on the cheek.
“You must be Melanie!” she proclaims.
“Yes, and you must be Darren’s um… You must be Carol?” She and I had decided on continuing to call me Darren since it will be my name in public, and even with Sam referring to me as Mike the previous twenty-four hours it wasn’t screwing her up at all.
“Yes, I am. I’m sorry that I couldn’t meet you earlier. I didn’t want to have to lie to you, but I’ve been hearing wonderful things about you for months now.”
They spoke for a few minutes, mostly bonding over how strange it was, and how they were true “1980s-ers” as they continued to refer to themselves. Sam mentioned that really, since we were born in the 80’s we were the true “1980s-ers.”
There was a look on both of their faces when they realized that. While both must have been somewhat aware of it, it was the first time someone had put our ages into context for them. Melanie had met my parents, and knew they didn’t have kids, so she must have known I wasn’t born, and personally I thought it would have been a relief to know I was born in this decade and not the next; keeping us closer together in age. My grandmother however, knowing that she wouldn’t live long enough to see any of her grandchildren born, must have had the realization that she had less than a decade left. I had seen this particular look on her face a few time over the last few months, and while she had become better at hiding the dread, it didn’t make it less heart-breaking to witness.
“Sam’s going back today. She misses her family, and she can’t stay any longer.” I had meant to change the subject, but clumsily managed to deliver the second of a one-two punch. My grandmother’s eyes teared up.
“Will I see you again?” she asked Sam, who immediately devolved into a crying mess.
Sam shook her head, unable to speak. They hugged, and held each other for a few minutes, crying.
“Sam gave me a letter for you, that I’ll give you when we get closer, when I can tell you everything.”
They continued to hold each other’s hands and we all sat in silence for a few minutes. They walked outside a few minutes before we did. Sam had a few things she wanted to say to Grandma, that she didn’t want Melanie and me to hear, but we could see them smile through the tears, and cry more, and embrace again.
I paid the bill, and Melanie and I walked out. We agreed we’d see my grandmother again soon, and we each hugged her.
Then we got on 128 south, and drove to Framingham in near silence.
When we got to Shopper’s World, I was in awe. I had been here hundreds of times, but it had totally transformed at some point. It was nearly unrecognizable from what it would become. We looked around for a good secluded spot to park behind the buildings, where there would be little to no traffic. We found a spot behind a dumpster, and began setting up the time-machine.
It took twenty five minutes to set up the time machine, and Sam took out a massive battery and placed it inside into a port where it was meant to go.
“With solar power, this sucker takes nearly a month to charge!”
She smiled and hugged us both.
“Pick me up here, on May 10, 1985 at 2am. Ok?” She looked between our two pairs of eyes as she spoke.
“Sounds good. I’ll bring toothpaste and mouthwash too!” I grinned at her and held my nose.
“It was so great getting to meet you. Thank you for helping us.” Melanie hugged her tight.
“From here on out, every time you guys see me, you’ll be closer to being my ‘older’ brother again.” She hugged me tight and whispered in my ear, “I love you. I’ll see you in a few minutes.”
“I’ll see you in a few years.”
She climbed into the machine, and pulled it closed around her. Melanie and I stood back about 50 feet, unsure exactly of how close was too close. As we watched, the colors de-saturated on the sides of the machine, and the shine of the sun reflecting seemed to dull, and then there was a rush of silence. I couldn’t hear the cars in the distance, but only my heart pounding blood through my ears, and she disappeared.