This story is one of the August Writing Challenge entries that was chosen to be a featured story.
“So we just jump?”
I turn to look at them both, shivering in the spray of the water. It took ages just to coax them onto the ledge. I’d had half a mind to give up, let them figure their own way out of this. Go find a sunset and ride dramatically into it or something.
After all, time travel isn’t for everyone.
This spot has been hidden for over a century. A half-forgotten preserved area in a spit of land between two equally monotonous subdivisions, parents and children stopped venturing here after the first boy fell off the edge in 1960.
Suburbia promised less dangerous ways of fun, the idea that living to adulthood was not so much a possibility as a certainty, assuming you avoided the usual pitfalls–drugs, crashes, cancer.
Assuming you avoided me.
They hadn’t wanted to come with me at first. They were two teenagers in love, thinking the same things teenagers always thought when they loved someone– their love was unique, their love was real, and they would die before being separated. I don’t mean to be a cynic, but after a few centuries of watching Romeo and Juliet’s fiasco of a relationship play out over and over again in every starry-minded “individual” with a half-decent head of hair, it’s hard to take Dax and Evie seriously.
For God’s sake, even their clothes match.
Still, I promised him. And I don’t break my promises. So I just reply, “Not exactly. It’s a jump plus intent.”
“Intent?” Dax asks.
“You have to need to leave,” I explain. “More than anything in the world.”
He leans back against the wall, looks down at the water anxiously. Swallows. “You never said anything about intent.”
I see her clutch his hand from the side. “We already have that. We’ve had it from the moment we met, Sweetheart. Remember? You said you had to have me or you’d die.”
I try, very hard, not to roll my eyes.
Judging by their expressions, I do not succeed.
“I thought you were a romantic,” Dax accuses, those gorgeous brown eyes fastening on me, holding me there like they’ll never let me go.
Shit. You have no idea. That’s the whole problem.
“I just don’t want to be responsible for yet another set of tragic, young deaths due to true love.” I recover quickly, refusing to meet his eyes.
“Well, that’s not gonna be a problem,” Dax says firmly. He smiles. “To Tennessee,” he whispers in her ear, a secret message between them. She blushes and lays her head on his shoulder. I turn away, ignoring the twinge of pain that blows through me like a summer breeze, at once welcome and disappointing.
“We can’t stay,” Evie agrees. “Daddy will kill me if he finds me here. Like, literally kill me.”
“You can always run. The next city, a new state. There are a billion places in this country that I can get you to, and your dad may never look for you there.”
He shakes his head. “This isn’t something that can be fixed with a little distance. What I’ve done for her, what she’s done to be with me– there’s nowhere in this time we can go that it won’t follow.”
I frown at him. He hasn’t told me any of this.
A tiny part of me breaks at the thought. We used to tell each other everything. It was the one comforting thought in my numberless existence, the one light in a crushing loneliness that kept me from breathing sometimes.
Even after all my years alone, I had found someone who would trust me with his life.
Before he’d met Evie, I’d thought one day, he might even fall in love with me.
But then he’d seen her, and it was all over.
Like it was now.
On cue, the sirens wail, cutting through the sound of the waterfall. Dax and Evie jump and clutch each other, almost toppling over the edge too early.
“It’s time.” I close my eyes. The magic surges up in me like water from a well, and I pull it up, hand over hand, until it glitters all around me, and I can sift through it with my fingers.
“Remember how much you need this. Stand.”
They stand beside me, but I won’t open my eyes. I can’t watch him fall away from me. I can’t bear to see him do all the things I hoped he’d do for me, for her.
“On three. One. Two.”
My eyes fly open, to his familiar, soft expression, his mouth quirked up at the corner. And I smile back, tears in my eyes, before I can tell myself not to.
“Thanks,” he says quietly.