14 – What Now?

Everything is scary. Maya used to be afraid of what her friends would think of her when they found out about her. Now she was afraid because she didn’t know what was coming next. In all of her imagined scenarios she never expected them to accept her. She knew they were her friends and that they loved her but she always assumed there was a limit to that love. That at any moment something would happen that would end it all. Years of friendship, all of the good times, it would all be over. And she always thought that something to ruin it all would be her. In some way or another, whether it was something she did, something she said, or the truth about her being exposed. Or maybe they would wake up one day and realize that she just wasn’t worth it. But that isn’t what happened at all. She was accepted. Just the way she was. Every fault. Every failure. Every unexplained mystery about her past. They accepted her. They love her. It was a relief but also a burden. Her plan had always been to run but now that was off the table. What now?

Abby walked back into the apartment seeing tears on Maya and Alice’s faces, their hands still intertwined.

“What now?”

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11 – Things Will Always Be Weird

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There is a very short list of people that can show up unannounced and it not bother Maya. That list ends at two: Abby and Alice. Or Alice and Abby. There is no correct order, they both mean just as much to Maya and even though she had known Abby just a bit longer, she still spent a large majority of her time with Alice in the time when she had first met her two closest friends. Abby’s appearance at Mag’s that morning made Maya feel infinitely better. Much like her books and movies and TV shows, she could always count on getting lost in her friends whenever there was something particularly troubling on her mind. Even though today she talked about some things she would have rather avoided, it did feel good to relieve some of the pressure that had built up inside of her. If she had known that opening up and talking to someone about this kind of stuff had this freeing feeling then she would have tried it years ago. At least with the guy stuff. She had no idea how she would even bring up her bullet catching or her res=cent revelations from her strange dreams. OR how they would even react to them. Her mind keeps going back to the crumpled bullet at the bottom of her trash bin making her want to fold the entirety of her being inside of itself and hide. Hide forever. I need to do something about that bullet. She manages to tell herself in a brief moment of strength.

The day’s customers were just enough to keep her mind occupied but Maya knew that there were thoughts still stewing in the back of her head and that life would soon catch up to her. The knowledge that Zena would soon arrive to work peaked in at her whenever there was a break in her distractions and little bits of dread slipped through the cracks to the forefront of her mind. It was Zena, in an uncharacteristically sincere moment, who spoke up when she first saw that spark between Maya and Kyle. Zena had known Kyle most of her life, and while she did enjoy giving him a hard time, she truly did consider him a friend and knew enough about him for Maya to trust her judgement. She was also present at last night’s meltdown, another recent even in Maya’s life that she would rather not revisit and, unlike Maya, Zena was never one to avoid a conversation.

“Have you been outside? It is the worst.” Zena yelled after checking that the store was clear of any customers and walked past Maya without even giving her a hello. This was common for the two of them, Maya likes to avoid interactions if at all possible and Zena abhors pleasantries so Maya just smiled and looked outside to see a calm, sunny afternoon. Zena and Maya could not be two more different people.

“I should have brought an umbrella.”

You could try wearing something other than black. Maya wanted to reply but obviously kept her comments to herself. If it wasn’t one of her many black dresses, Zena could be found wearing any combination of other black garments. It was definitely her color of choice when it came to her attire, very rarely would it be accented with any other color.

The day moved on and the moment had come and gone for Zena to say anything to Maya about the previous night as Maya’s shift came to an end but before her anxiety could be alleviated the absolute worst thing in her mind that could happen did. She was ready to leave, for her day to be over, anxious, even, to get home, bury herself in blankets, and lose herself on her laptop, aimlessly browsing at first and then settling into a long stretch of binging anime but her daydreaming of her evening’s plans was interrupted by an all too familiar figure of the very person she was trying to ignore stepping through the door. She should have seen this coming but her over obsessing of everything going on in her life seemed to forget the fact that Kyle had been rekindling his friendship with Lottie which included walking her to work whenever he wasn’t working himself. Dangit, Abby, give that boy more hours. Then, as if on cue, Abby trailed in behind them.

“Abby?! You’re back.”

“Yea, I thought I’d walk back to the apartment with you seeing as there’s some strange stuff going on on our streets as of late.”

Don’t remind me.

“And then, upon hearing of our worries, Kyle here even offered to escort us both home.”

Abby why?

Behind them Maya saw Zena smirk as she was stocking clothing rack at first trying to look busy while eavesdropping in on the drama she full well knew would unfold upon Kyle’s entrance. “But then who is going to protect Kyle?”

“What a gentlemen.” Lottie chimed in.

Were they all in on it? Maya was beginning to suspect something more was going on with her friends. She did not like how this day was going.

“Hey look Maya,” Kyle began. “About the other night, I’m really sorry, I didn’t mean…”

“No. It’s okay. It wasn’t you.” Maya wanted control of the situation. Diffuse things before they got worse. Redirect. Control. She wanted control of the conversation so she could avoid yet another scene. “It was everything else, you were in the wrong place at the wrong time. It’s okay, really.”

“Cool. We’re good then? I don’t want things to be weird between us.”

“Yea, we’re good.” But things with me will never not be weird.

Bullet catching was the least of her worries right now. How a simple boy could upset her world more than weird dreams, super powers, and different worlds was beyond even her. But at least with Kyle she could do something. She was in some sort of, even if just a little, control. Or at least try to be. Stifle her feelings. Hide from her emotions. Anything. She was desperate.

“You ready?” Abby asked, bringing Maya back from the void that was her thought processes.

“Yea…” She began to trail off, trying to remember if she truly was ready checking her bag for her keys and whatever else she may not wasn’t to leave behind at the store. At least Abby will be there. Maya was trying to think on the positive side of things. Hiding behind her more talkative friends was her go to strategy when dealing with conversations with strangers. But Kyle wasn’t necessarily a stranger. She may have been distracted by Abby’s performance at the show that night but a lot of what Kyle as talked about actually stuck with her. He liked art, both digital and traditional, and hoped to make a career out of it but was beaten down (his words, not hers) by the educational system. He had trouble with art on demand and while Maya recognized this as a fault, him lacking the discipline to act when needed, but she liked how he treasured the purity of his work and the passion he exuded when talking about it. Most of Maya’s own passions were consumption based, she liked to watch things, or listen to things, or read things but Kyle loved to create and she admired that about him. She didn’t like that she admired it. She didn’t like that she knew enough about him in the first place to admire anything about him. It made things far more complicated. It would me so much easier to push aside any thoughts about him if he was only a complete stranger or just a friend of a friend but she knew just enough for him to keep popping up in her thoughts and she was afraid that the longer he stuck around then the harder it would be for her to ignore those thoughts.

“Alright, let’s go.” Maya clung tightly with both hangs to the strap on her bag, keeping her eyes on the ground as they walked down the sidewalk and towards her apartment making sure to stay several paces behind both Abby and Kyle, just enough to make it look like she wasn’t trying to avoid their conversation.

“So, Kyle, Superheroes. Real or fake?”

“Oh man. That’s tough. The realist in me says ‘no way. Either the video is fake or there’s something missing’ but the kid in me wants to believe it so so bad. What did you think of it?” He asks, turning to an obviously not paying attention Maya.

“Huh? What?”

“The bulletproof girl?” Abby reminds her.

“Oh. That.” Anything but that. “I don’t really know.” She says, finally looking up. “We’re here.

Maya picks up her pace and quickly passes Abby and Kyle, making her way into their apartment building without even saying goodbye. Freedom! She was so caught up in escaping Kyle that she instantly regretted not at least giving him a polite goodbye but there is no way she is going back out there to correct her mistake.

“I’ll talk to her.” Abby tells Kyle before heading in after her.

“Alright. See you guys tomorrow.”

“Bye”

Abby had to run to catch up with Maya who was already in the apartment. By the time Abby made it to the front door Maya was already closing the door to her room and she knew that once that door shut Maya would be locked away for the rest of the night.

“Maya, wait up.”

“Yes?”

“What are you doing tomorrow?”

“Tomorrow? Nothing. I’m off. Why?”

“We’re all going out to brunch, you should come along.”

Maya knew that when Abby said “all” that meant more than just her and Alice.

“All?”

“Yea. Me, Alice, and Kyle.”

Say no. Say no. Say no. A voice repeated inside of her.

“Yea, alright.” Why? Why did I just say that?

“See, getting out’ll be good for you.”

“Maybe”

Or maybe not.

Abby

Here’s something different. I took a break from the main story for a bit to write some character backgrounds. This is going to be inserted somewhere early in the story, definitely before the concert. SO here, for your reading pleasure, is the very first time Maya meets Abby.

June 9 2016 1 22 31_split_The_split_Of course Maya was the first to arrive. She wasn’t a fan of long goodbyes and there weren’t really that many people to say goodbye to anyway. Most were there out of obligation, including Maya herself. She would miss her foster parents a bit and she had become quite accustomed to helping out with the other kids there but so many of them rotated in and out that she didn’t form a strong bond with many of them. Maya was there the longest and she didn’t mind. She accepted that this was what life had handed her and she was not going to let that bring her down. She also learned that things in life won’t just be handed to her. She would have to work for them. So when the prospect of graduating early came up she followed through on everything she needed to do to further her education. College was that next step. This was also the first time she has been on her own her entire life. Well, not quite on her own. Her roommate should be showing up any time now. But the hours ticked by and Maya had finished unpacking all of her things. She didn’t have much but she had scrounged up enough cash to buy some dorm room basics, bedding, a small trash can, lamp, foldable laundry hamper, tubs of various size for storing things under the bed or by the her desk. Scholarships and grants covered her school supplies, books, and a moderately priced laptop.

Hours passed by and while Maya could have spent that time taking one of the many freshmen tours of the campus she felt she hardly needed it, having memorized most of the buildings on her visit the previous year. So she sat quietly on her bed, flipping aimlessly through a book she had read time and time again waiting for the rest of her life to begin.

She must have nodded off because when she woke up the room was dark and she heard a loud bang.

“Ow, desk.” Came a whispered cry on the other side of the room.

She leaned over to turn on the floor lamp between her bed and desk.

“Oh, hey there.”

She was unexpectedly stunning, the girl across the room staring at her like a deer in the headlights. Tight black jeans, a plain white t-shirt and a black leather jacket it was entirely too warm outside for anyone to be wearing. Her hair was done and make up immaculate. A stark contrast the sweatpants and hoodie clad girls she had seen roaming the halls earlier in the day.

“Are you Abbigail?” Maya asked, wiping the unexpected sleep from her eyes.

“Abby. Yea. You’re Maya, I’m guessing. Sorry to wake you.”

“I thought you’d be here earlier.”

“Oh, I got here this morning. Dropped off my stuff and went exploring.

“Your stuff?” Maya was confused, not just because she had just woken up but because the opposite side of the dorm room was just as bare as it was when she first got here.

“Yea,” Abby went to the closet opposite of Maya’s and opened it, revealing a single duffel bag and a guitar case. She hauled the duffel out of her closet, obviously struggling with the overstuffed bag letting out an “oompf” as she dropped it onto her bed. Pulling off her jacket and tossing it perfectly onto the chair of her desk she reached into her bag a grabbed a blanket, sweatshirt, and toiletry bag then promptly shoved it off the edge of her bed, letting it fall perfectly between the bed and desk. With one large shove with her leg the bag then found itself jammed underneath her bed.

“There. Unpacked. I’ll sort everything else out tomorrow.”

“Don’t you have classes tomorrow?”

“Yea, but there’s plenty of time for both. Imma go wash up then hit the sack. Nice to finally meet you Maya. We’re gonna change the world, I can just feel it.”

With that she walked out of the room leaving Maya stunned. She was unsure of what she thought about this new addition to her life. And there was definitely no way she would have believed this woman become one of her longtime best friends. When she awoke the next morning the bed across the room was empty once again and she wondered if the whole affair had been some strange dream brought on by her new situation but then she saw Abby’s bag sticking halfway out from under her bed. She always knew change could be good but she was afraid that too much change was something she was wholly unprepared for.

It was astonishing the progress their friendship made in only a few weeks. Maya had never been too good at making friends and Abby was always attracting followers instead of friends it was a nice change of pace to have someone to truly confide in. Their conversations were slow at first. They didn’t talk about music, they didn’t talk about movies or books. They didn’t even talk about classes. They didn’t have a thing in common except for this space that they shared. But that was all they needed. Casual hellos turned into recaps of the day whether dull or exciting. Occasionally something would remind one of them of something that happened to them in the past and they would talk about that or basic moral beliefs. They found each other genuinely interesting but still didn’t see each other outside of their tiny dorm room. After much poking and prodding, Abby finally convinced Maya to go out with her and her other friends. She was them for coffee and Maya could not come up with an excuse fast enough to deter her. So she sat there in silence while the crowd around her told their stories and laughed. Every so often someone would ask Maya a question and she would politely answer but add nothing more to the conversation. This was not her thing. Afterward Abby asked her what she thought and of course Maya lied. “It was fun,” she said but the next few times that Abby asked her to go out with them again she quickly turned her down. Their conversations seemed to stall as well.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Abby finally asked one day, tired of Maya always redirecting their conversations into dead ends.

“Nothing. Why, what’s up?” She didn’t even look up from her book. She knew what was coming and all she wanted to do was avoid it.

“You’ve been … I don’t know, distant ever since you came out with us that one time. What’s going on? Did someone say something to you?”

“No, it’s not that. It’s just…” she trailed off. Maya didn’t know what to say. This wasn’t something she was used to. She didn’t have a plan for a situation like this. She had words but she knew they were the wrong ones. She didn’t want to hurt anyone but that seems unavoidable right now.

“What?”

“It’s just that I’ve seen what your real friends are like and we’re very different people. Too different. Those are the people you’re supposed to be with. Not me. I was just tagging along.”

Abby grabbed Maya by the shoulders, forcing her to make eye contact with her. “Look at me Maya, they’re the tagalongs. We’re the power duo. They’ve got nothing on us.”

And she was right. They have been unstoppable ever since.

The End?

I think I may have rushed the end. I’m going to have to revisit this soon but right now I’m working on the start of something else and hopefully have it up by the 8th. I may also cut back to one a month depending on how quickly this new one catches on. Here’s to hoping the words flow right out of me.

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6tag_190616-180043The park. Alan had told him that Eliana sometimes visits her mother at the park outside the bookstore. Books. So close. Incredibly close. The thought of meeting the woman he knows he will one day end up with is a bit much to take in. Should I know? Is this why Eliana was so hesitant to tell me the truth? But what if, by jumping on this opportunity things don’t end up working out for us? What if me being here somehow screws up the relationship we are one day supposed to have had? What if I’ve already broken things just by knowing? Eliana told him all of this. The future may not be written in stone. Her presence may have already wrecked things for the both of them. What she had done may not have been planned but she got lucky that not too many things had been altered because of her recklessness. It was a rash decision. Childish. He would have to raise her better. But it was the situation he was in that prompted her to come back in the first place. Maybe no matter how much you want something, if you don’t do anything about it, you may never get it. Only a possibility that still needs to be worked on. If I do meet this woman now instead of when I am supposed to maybe nothing will change at all. But what if it does? What if the only mistake Eliana made by coming back here was trusting me not to screw everything up for her. Getting handed the knowledge of my future won’t make that future happen for me. Before he realizes it he is there at the edge of the park. He sees Eliana sitting at a bench facing away from him and, almost as if on cue, she turns around and looks right at him. What now? He doesn’t know how she does it. Just earlier this week she was telling him how she was afraid she had made a mess of things by coming here and now here he is doing the exact same thing. She calmly excuses herself from the woman she is with and walks where he is stopped frozen. Oh no! Mark quickly turns around but afraid to move any more as the woman looks back to Eliana as she is heading towards Mark.

“What are you doing here? Are you frikkin’ insane?”

“I,” Mark starts, trying to compose himself, “I couldn’t do it. I thought all I needed was a glimpse of my future to set myself on the right path but, really, what good would that do? I’ll still be stuck in my ways just in a different part of my life.”

“Wow, how very dad of you. That has got to be the first smart thing you’ve said since I got here.”

“Hey, that can’t be the first. Third, maybe. You can’t expect life to be handed to you. That’s what you told me.”

“Well I had a good teacher.”

“Yea, so did I.”

Future Stuff

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6tag_190616-180043“So are we gonna talk about what happened last week?”

After a long chat with Eliana Mark was finally able to talk to his dad once again though he definitely wasn’t sure how to explain her to him. He still had trouble wrapping his mind around it himself.

“First things first. How?”

“Well I don’t quite know the science behind it and even if I did I don’t think YOU would understand it either.”

“Fair enough.”

“Look, Mark, everything I told you was true. I am a student. I’m just about done with my studies and I definitely don’t know what I’m going to do next.”

“You told me you were traveling.”

“Well I kinda am.” She says palms open gesturing to her surroundings.

“So where does Jamie fit into all this? You didn’t tell her did tell her did you?”

“Oh, yea, she definitely knows. Accepted it right away actually. Are you really that surprised?”

“So … why then?”

“I just … I don’t know. I don’t know why I came here. I guess I was just looking for answers and the way my dad, you, used to talk about yourself it sounded like you had it all figured out back then, now. I needed advice and I thought that if I could find you then maybe I would be able to figure out all this life stuff without actually going to you because I know you’ll just tell me I need to figure all of this stuff out on my own. That that is what life is. And that’s not exactly what I wanted to hear.”

“But isn’t that what happened anyway? You kind of just showed up here and realized that I wouldn’t be able to help you yet you stayed anyway. This, me, I became part of your journey. Why didn’t you go back to, well, me once you took that first look at me and saw that I didn’t quite have as much figured out as you had thought?”

“Look, I can’t talk about that. Future stuff, you know. Let’s just say that you’re unavailable.”

“Unavailable how?”

“Look, I’m kind of having a crisis right now. I thought I was before I came here but now, after everything I may have done and now with you finding out, I’m super worried about how I may have screwed everything up and I really don’t want to talk about it. Just know that there is absolutely nothing you can do to help me on that front.”

“She an old girlfriend or something?”

Mark nearly choked on his drink. “No. God no.” Laughing now, “Just a little work drama I didn’t expect to run into. And especially here with you. How did you two even meet?”

“Oh, you know.”

“She was writing, wasn’t she?”

“She was a damsel in distress.” Alan tried defending himself.

“Did she recognize you?”

“I didn’t think she did. Not at first. But she definitely did. I thought maybe she was student of mine. You know I can’t keep track of them.”

“Well, she kinda was. What did you two talk about anyway?”

“Just life stuff. I talked about my writing and your mother and she talked about, well, my writing and her childhood and trying to reconnect with her parents.”

That straight up stopped Mark cold. Parents? As in father AND mother? Her mother? His future.

NEXT >>

There’s No Running From This One

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6tag_190616-180043Eliana couldn’t leave just yet. She was all ready to pack up and go home, all her reservations about getting too involved and messing with the timeline were gone now. She screwed up. Big time. Not just in telling Mark who she is but just talking to him in the first place was also a mistake. How could I have been so selfish? There had been no plan. She had not been careful. This should have been observation only. Getting involved never should have happened. But she did. And here she was. There’s no running away from this one.

What is she going to do now? If she were to head home there was no telling what would be waiting there for her. How does this work exactly? Did she change her entire future? That can’t be how it works, right? If it was then people would be going back and changing every bad decision they had ever made. Atrocities and world shaking tragedies would be averted. Are there fail-safes for things like this? Would nothing have been permanently affected by her actions? Would someone be waiting for her upon her return? Would they know? Would they even notice? Was her father even important enough for anyone to even care that she changed anything? It was all so overwhelming. She was stressed out before and now with this heaped on top of everything else– it was just too much for her to take. Definitely too much for her to bear on her own. She wished her father was here. She needed to find Mark.

She knew what He would do in a stressful situation. He would walk. There would be lots and lots of walking. So that is exactly what Eliana did. She needed to find him. She needed to explain why she did what she did. Even if not to set things right at least to make sure Mark was okay. She couldn’t stand him being upset with her even if he wasn’t her father just yet.

Mark knows where Eliana will go to look for him. According to her notebook she knows everything about him. He still isn’t ready to believe her but what he read—how else could she know those things? Parks, bookstores, restaurants, even the streets he would use to take is regular walks, she knew them all. They were the places he would go whenever he just needed to get away from things and there was nothing more he wanted to get away from now than Eliana. After his ventures out he would normally end up back at his apartment and wait for Jamie to beat some sense into him. But now all there was was Eliana. Jamie? Did she know? Was she in on it too? And what about his dad? He found her with him at the café. This was getting to be more than Mark could handle. So he went home. It will be the last place Eliana goes to look for him so at least it will give him some time alone to sit in his anxiety. There may be no running from this one.

Eliana spent the rest of the day wandering the streets looking for Mark even stopping for a while at Books hoping maybe she would catch him coming in to blindly browse through his confusion but she came up empty everywhere she went.

“Mark?” She lightly taps on the door to his apartment. He wasn’t at any of his usual haunts and the only other place she could think was his dad’s but not only did Eliana not know where her grandfather lived but also because he had found her with him she was sure that Mark didn’t want to talk to his father right now either.

She hears some shuffling coming from the other side of the door. She was right.

“Okay, I’ll just be right here if you want to talk.” She says, sitting on the floor, her back resting on the door to Jamie’s apartment. Every so often she would have to pull her knees close to her chest to let the neighbors go by. They pass wordlessly, already accustomed to whatever drama Mark had gotten himself caught up in this time.

Eliana’s head nods as she fights off sleep unaware as Mark’s door opens.

“So, the future, huh?”

NEXT >>

Sometime Before Yesterday

There are ideas that have been set in stone from the very beginning. So much of what I have written for this story has remained unchanged from the start with very few exceptions. I mean, yes, I have completely rewritten portions here and there but the underlying content remained the same. One of those unchanging ideas was the time travel. It was inevitable that I would eventually write about time travel because it is something I have found truly fascinating in all kinds of stories throughout my life. In this story Eliana travels back to when her father was around her own age because she was feeling lost in her life and disconnected to who her father had become. One thing I never planned to touch on was the process in which she travelled through time. I thought it was both irrelevant to the story and would be a waste of words to describe something that truly was unimportant. I also had the story begin with Eliana already in the past keeping an eye on her father. It just happened to be where I started writing and naturally decided that would be where the story would begin. Then something happened as I was working on the scene where Eliana meets Alan for the first time while he is working on a new manuscript. A truly terrible manuscript compared to his other works and Eliana calls him out on it. The I began to wonder what it was he was working on and how Eliana, being fully aware of his works, would not recognize something he was writing when, as far as she knew, everything he wrote eventually got published. So I came up with this idea that I am still not fully sold on that would connect Alan to Mark and then to Eliana. An unpublished book that neither of the men in her life could crack. A book that she would discover while going through her father’s belongings shortly after his passing. Now while I like this idea it does present some problems that I will either have to work on or abandon important parts of the story to include this new plotline. One of those problems is death. Eliana’s mother died when she was young. She was raised by her father and grandfather until eventually Alan passes too. Then it’s just her and her dad. I did not want everyone important in her life die around her. It’s morbid and incredibly easy to write. Originally Mark’s disconnect from his daughter is because of some sort of mental degradation. I had also been thinking about a falling out between the two but I wouldn’t think that would spur Eliana to seek out a past version of her dad instead of reconciling with the one she has now. The other problem was that in this alternate version I had come up with her time travel was not a purposeful act. She would wake up and just be here. It added more background to the world around Eliana as she had to explore her past full of memories about her recently deceased father when all she wanted to do was run from those memories. While I find this sort of personal journey very interesting it does take away one of my main themes for Eliana and that is that she is literally running from her future. Ideally I would like to somehow merge these two versions because I don’t want to lose both of these aspects of Eliana’s character.  Know that in the final version I would like to dig more into Eliana’s personal past and also tell the story of her arrival because while it is easy to just start with her tailing Mark it would be much more beneficial for me and for the reader the see more of who Eliana is and what drove her to travel back in time. And until then I leave you with this, my alternate opening where Eliana suddenly wakes up in a very different time and place than she was expecting.

6tag_190616-180043When Eliana first arrived in the past she didn’t know where she was or even how she got there. She awoke to voices and to darkness. The darkness made sense to her having passed out the night before while going through some of her father’s belongings in the apartment she grew up in. Ever since she returned to that apartment the blinds and curtains had all remained shut. It didn’t seem right having them open and letting in all the light that usually filled the apartment. It didn’t seem right pretending everything was normal and okay. Everything was not okay. Her father was gone and nothing would ever be the same again. The voices were getting louder. Eliana felt around for her phone but only found the cold floor. Strange, she thought. She may have fallen asleep on the floor but she did have a blanket and pillow and, most importantly, carpet.

“Hey, is everything all right in there?” the voice called out, louder this time and accompanied by several loud knocks on the door. “Hey, Marie, can we get a key over here, I think someone locked the restroom from the inside again.”

Quickly. I don’t know where I am. A public restroom? The realization that her whereabouts were not where she remembered quickly drove away any grogginess from what must have been a terrible night’s sleep. Searching the wall with her fingers she quickly found the light switch, saw that the voice she heard was indeed correct, she was in a restroom. But where? She glanced at her reflection in the mirror, ran some water over her face and fingers through her hair. She didn’t want the mess that was currently occupying her mind to be reflected in her outward appearance.

“Sorry,” she quietly muttered as she finally opened the door afraid to make eye contact with the woman impatiently waiting outside wearing a familiar combination of apron and cap. Looking around she recognized the tables and chairs that went right up to rows of bookshelves where tile turned to carpet. The dividing line that separated Jackie’s from Books. How did I end up here?

Luckily her dad lives—lived? Right down the road. His apartment? Her apartment? Neither sounded right. She still didn’t even know what she was going to do with it. Every part of her wanted to pick up her things from school and move back home but the constant reminder that her father was no longer there waiting for her was too much for her to live with right now. Even here at Books everything she looked at reminded her of her father. The bookshelves seemed to so much shorter now. When she was a kid this store was her labyrinth and her father, the beast chasing her through it. This game of hide and seek was a ritual for the two of them and while Elaina eventually outgrew those games the two of them never stopped coming by every Saturday. Some families went on picnics, others may have gone hiking but Eliana and her dad spent every weekend dining on the outdoor patio of Jackie’s after a long trip through Books. Eliana was certain the shop had a name of its own but the exterior sign was a victim of an increasingly tight budget and simply read Books in bold white letters. After a change in trends the store teamed up with the café next door removing the wall between them allowing patrons to move freely between the two.

Eliana did not want to be here right now. She wasn’t even quite sure she had gotten here in the first place. A grief fueled sleepwalk maybe? A blackout? She definitely didn’t plan on visiting this store when she came to town. Then again, she didn’t really plan on doing anything. She had been letting the tides of life carry her for so long but she just could not put off sorting through her father’s stuff any longer. She didn’t know what she was going to do exactly. Right now she just knew that being here, surrounded by all these memories, was not where she wanted to be. So then what? Move from one memory infused location to another? The apartment wasn’t exactly calling to her either.

“Mark would you just shut up already.”

Mark?

“I’m just saying you don’t have to travel the world in order to save it. There’s a lot you can do right here.”

This isn’t happening.

“Look, this isn’t just about making the world a better place to live in. It’s also about self-discovery. Expanding my horizons. You knew this was coming. Stop freaking out.”

“I’m not freaking out.”

I’m freaking out. Eliana stood there, frozen. Not twenty feet away from her arguing at the checkout counter was her Aunty J and, most shockingly, her father. Except it wasn’t. This wasn’t them. At least not like she remembers them. They were young.