SHORT STORY: Time of My Life

I hear a knock from inside my closet.

Well, it’s about time.

I get up from my desk and open the door.

“Welcome back,” I say.

Shawn steps out of the closet and brushes himself off. “You wouldn’t believe how much they overhype the ‘60s,” he says. “I had a better time in the Dark Ages.”

“You are talking about the 1960s, right?” I ask.

“No, the tie-dye shirt came from the 1260s,” Shawn says, rolling his eyes. He goes to my dresser for the change of clothes he keeps there.

“Hello to you too,” I say, closing the closet and leaning against it.

Shawn freezes mid-motion and looks up at me.

“…Sorry,” he says. “Hi. How were things in the present?”

“Water’s out,” I say.

“Again?”

“They say it’s a city utilities thing,” I say. “I got plenty down in the kitchen, though.”

“Right, right,” he says, flopping down on my bed. “Man, I wish I could take a hot shower right now, though…”

“…Shawn, we need to talk.”

Unsurprisingly, he tenses up. “…What’s going on, Tiff?”

“I just… I want to know if we’re going anywhere,” I say. “I hate to make a bad pun out of it, but do you really see a future for us?”

Shawn sighs and sits up, avoiding eye contact. “I don’t know,” he says. “What we have right now… it’s easy. Especially because your closet has such a centralized time pocket riding in it.”

“I keep telling you I have no idea what that means,” I say.

“Yeah, sorry,” Shawn says. “I wish you’d let me take you one of these days.”

“And I wish you’d stop harping on that,” I say. “There are a lot of people in the here and now that need me. I can’t just go gallivanting across the timeline.”

“You think that’s what I’m doing?” Shawn asks. “You think working for the Initiative is gallivanting?”

“To a certain degree, yes,” I say. “You always come back with your returning conqueror bravado, as though you’ve fought through some heroic epic when, judging by your smell, you were probably exploring some… recreational herbs.”

“Hey, now, that’s just because I…”

“Yes?” I say.

“OK, so that was how I spent some of my time, but I do serious work with them!” Shawn says, rising from my bed. “I patched up three paradoxes today! …Technically not today, but fifty years ago, but whatever! What did you do today that was so great?”

“That’s not the point, Shawn,” I say.

“Then what is the point, Tiffany?” Shawn asks, now approaching me.

“The point is that you’re never here!” I say. “It’s been like this for the last ten years, ever since we wrapped up high school and you got caught up in this crap. It used to be nice, y’know? You’d come back and bring me souvenirs, maybe some obscure cuisine you’d found. It felt like you actually cared about me. But now, you just show up, like, once a month, stick around long enough to use up my hot water, eat all my food, sleep in my bed, and then you’re gone again! I’m not getting any younger, Shawn; I can’t just hop back fifty years whenever I want!”

“So, what, you’re jealous? Wish you had my powers?” Shawn asks. “Just because we were both sucked into that time paradox doesn’t mean we both get superpowers or whatever. Hell, you’re lucky to be alive!”

“No, Shawn; God, no, it’s not that,” I say. “I just… I wish that you’d be here with me. That you’d choose me over your adventures.”

Shawn backs away, sitting sharply on my bed as he bumps into it.

“…What am I supposed to do about it, though?” he asks. “I mean, we’ve had this conversation before. I’m already so deep in with the Institute that I can’t back out.”

“Can’t you just go back in time and fix it?” I ask, scoffing as I roll my eyes.

“Protocol says…”

“Yeah, you’ve told me what protocol says,” I say. “You know, Shawn, you can get changed, but then I want you out of here.

“I can’t do this anymore.”

“…

“What was that?”

He looks stunned.

“I don’t want to see you ever again,” I say. “I’ve already spent the last ten years on you, and I can’t do it anymore.”

“But… your closet’s time pocket… and…”

“Shawn,” I say, sitting down next to him. “I need to think about myself. Seeing you for less than a week every year is killing me.”

“I get it,” Shawn says.

“Good,” I say.

“You’re seeing somebody else.”

“Oh my God,” I say, getting up from the bed and heading for the farthest corner. “Shawn. This is why this isn’t working.”

“Yeah?” Shawn says, standing and going to my bathroom door. “So if I open this, I’m not going to find some lover-boy hiding in there?”

I laugh. “Right,” I say. “I’ve spent the past ten years waiting on you, but I’m hiding somebody in the bathroom. That makes a lot of sense.”

I seem him debating whether or not to open it, but he finally walks away and grabs his clothes, heading for the closet.

“Well… I guess this is goodbye,” he says, not turning around to look at me.

“So it is,” I say.

“We may not see each other again,” he says. “Not for all of eternity.”

“If you ever figure out I’m worth it, swing by for a visit,” I say.

“…Right,” he says, opening the closet door. “I’ll be gone in five minutes.”

He steps inside and closes the door.

I lie down on my bed, breathing deeply.

Too high on emotion to sleep.

Need to relax.

Five minutes come and go.

I hear the familiar suction sound.

I check the closet.

Of course he left behind his ratty-ass hippy clothes.

“You can come out now,” I call.

I watch as an awkward teenage girl peers out my bathroom door.

“He’s really gone?” she asks.

“Yeah,” I say.

“I mean, you really got rid of him? For good?”

“Hopefully.”

“I don’t get it,” she says. “He used to be so nice.”

“I know, Tiff,” I say, taking her hands. “But now I need to take you back so that you can break up with him in your time.”

“Won’t that make a paradox for you, though?” my past self asks. “Um, and for me, too? Like, should we be holding hands right now?”

“You’re only thinking four-dimensionally,” I say, smiling. “I’m on a different track from you. I know because future-me never pulled me forward like this.”

“Then this won’t change anything for your situation,” she says.

“Right,” I say.

“So you’re just doing this… um, why are you doing this?” she asks.

“Because one of us deserves to have a good life,” I say. “Our awesomeness factor is too high for that to not happen.”

“Yeah, I guess,” she says, smiling. “So what’ll you do?”

“Who knows?” I say. “Maybe I’ll go searching for the fountain of youth. Get back some of those lost years.”

“Good luck,” she says.

“Thanks,” I say. “Shall we? I know a neat shortcut through 1864 if you’re willing to do a bit of hiking.”

“Let’s do it,” she says, heading for the closet. “Ugh, he left his clothes?”

“Right!? See what I’m talking about?” I say.

“He is so getting dumped,” she says.

I’ve never been so proud of myself in my whole life.

The End