I was always quiet my whole life. Quiet and afraid, like I was being restrained by the trauma of a long forgotten memory that had somehow taught me to fear others and to hate myself. And so my life was quiet. Quiet and boring. I'm already eighty years old, and nothing interesting has ever happened to me. I've never been married, or been with a man at all. It's very depressing. I have no children or grandchildren, or even any friends.
The most exciting thing that happened to me was the day the pre-med student in the old boarding house threw himself out his window. I lived in my parents' boarding house till I graduated high school. Such colorful people lived there, all with better lives than mine. My life was as uneventful as ever until the day I walked outside and found the smashed up body of the pre-med student laying there. His name was Alonzo- he was of german decent, with blonde hair and strong facial features. I was a senior in high school and he was a junior in college. He was one of the people I was too afraid to talk to back then. I never did get a chance to have a conversation with him. If he wanted to be a doctor, didn't he want to help people? If he wanted to help people, why did he kill himself? I'd never had a chance to speak with him- because I was afraid- and then one day he died and it was too late. Still, the only reason it sticks out to me- and maybe this is disrespectful of the dead- but the only he reason he sticks out even a little in my mind is because finding the smashed up goop that used to be him is the only interesting story I can think of to tell people when I need an anecdote. It was like someone had dumped ten blenders' worth of strawberry smoothies on the ground. Of course, people sometimes look at me funny for talking about that, but these days people have stronger stomachs and talk about the most vulgar things, so really its not all that strange- it is the year 2060 after all.
But that's all besides the point. I've been thinking lately that its time for me to die. No, I'm not going to have a doctor give me pills to put me out of my misery or anything (even thought that's totally legal these days), its just that for the last few days I keep having this odd sense that death will come for me soon. I guess I should be depressed. Maybe I should reflect on the things I regret, but I'd like to think that since technically I regret everything, then I actually regret nothing. Maybe that sounds crazy, but I did grow up in the 1990s- 'zen' thinking was in back in those days.
Well anyway, now that I've told you my only interesting story, ironed out my best dress for the wake and typed up a nice colorful description of myself for the obit (I never had the nerve to lie about myself to impress others during my life, but I figure in death, who cares if people think I trained lions or tap danced on the wing of a plane.) The point is, now that all of that's done, if you'll excuse me I think I'll go lie down and wait for the inevitable. Take what you want on the way out. I don't have much of value, but if something shiny catches your eye feel free to take it. Now then...
People talk about seeing a light when they die. A white, comforting light beckoning them into heaven. When I closed my eyes that final time in my shrunken eighty year old body, I did indeed see a light. But this light was blue- blue and sparkly like the reflection off a gaudy sequin dress. And the place I ended up certainly wasn't heaven. When my eyes opened again, I found myself in the old boarding hose, in my old bed, in my old body. It was so surreal. I thought it must be some kind of hallucination, but as I touched my tight young skin and looked down at my curvy and very not wrinkled seventeen year old figure, I slowly had to accept that all of this was real.
According to my Boy Meets World calendar, it was 1997. Cassette tapes were scattered around my tape deck- The Backstreet Boys, Be*Witched, M2M. I threw myself out of my old bed, the purple flannel sheets falling haphazardly to the floor as I ran to touch those tapes. Tapes. I had forgotten what they felt like. By current standards (by which I mean 2060's standards) tapes are so out of date they're only referenced in history books. Still for some reason the nostalgic plastic cases and sepia colored reels gave me a real thrill- and in case you haven't noticed, I'm not the kind of person who often feels thrilled.
I turned back and looked at the bed. Those purple sheets were now wrapped up in my Little Mermaid comforter with my flounder shaped pillow. This bed and its dressings weren't even heated or have a setting for firmness- as is the standard with 2060 beds. This bed was just a bed- plain and simple- a box spring, mattress, and blankets, no microchips at all.
No microchips? What a crazy thought. 1997, huh? I searched my mind and thought about this year- this whole decade. Sure the internet must be around at this point, and cell phones too, but those things wouldn't really take off and become an indispensable part of life for a few more years. It was all so primitive, and yet, I felt absolutely at home. I was totally back in my element, transported somehow back to an era when people still had hearts and souls and identities instead of only screen names.
But that's when it happened. You know how I said how afraid I always was? You probably didn't believe me from the way I've been talking, but as I looked around my old room, the joy began to drain out of me. Fear started crashing into me in waves.
How did I get here?
Is this Heaven?... Hell?
Did I really die?
What should I do?
A thousand thoughts hit me at once. I felt uncontrollable fear- just frozen there clutching my N*SYNCH cassette tape and trembling, like a murderer was pointing a knife to my throat. I didn't know if this was some kind of spiritual test, or maybe I'd been taken and put into a holographic simulator- in the year 2060, that was entirely possible after all. I was just so afraid that- and this is going to sound incredibly pathetic- that I did everything exactly the same as the first time around.
Yep. Weather they were real or not, everyone I knew from my high school days was here at the boarding house and everything played out exactly how it had during the first time around. Everyone said and did exactly what they'd done during my first life, and I responded by acting as closely to how I remembered my original responses to the situations as I could- so things were about 99% the same.
Alonzo even died the same way. Truthfully its because I forgot that he was going to jump and die (otherwise I might have intervened to save him). But either way, the people in this world seemed perfectly real, and my best guess was that I truly had been brought back in time. But all those things I regretted- you know- everything? I still didn't have the guts to do anything about them. I was so so scared, and I thought if I didn't do everything exactly the same as the first time I'd done it, then some how the universe would collapse in on itself, or maybe, a monster observing my actions would realize I'd "caught on" if I started acting different, and then torture me- the possibilities were endless, but they all seemed horrible.
And so I let my pathetic life pathetically pass me by yet again, going through cat after cat and infinite boring meals alone. I even let the one man who I was ever even a little interested in slip through my fingers again. His name was Kyle and he was two years older than me- a sophomore in college when I was a high school senior. He'd lived at the boarding house for five years, and because of the building's 'U' shape, Kyle and I could see into each other's rooms through our windows. He'd tried to be a big brother to me in that time, and do things like hold up cute little signs in his window for me to see that said, "Hi!" and "How's it going", but I was always too shy and afraid to answer him back. I hardly ever even spoke to him because I was so freaking afraid. He never knew of my silent crush on him, or the times I'd dream that he'd put a plank of wood between our two windows and walk into my room and...
Anyway, the point is that during the spring, just like he had the first time, Kyle moved out of the boarding house right after his sophomore year ended. Apparently it was because he was transferring colleges and needed to live somewhere else, but I think Alonzo's death really freaked him out and had a lot do to with it. The point I'm trying to make though, is that my second 'life' was just as boring and lonely as the first, and I think I was even more afraid this second time around.
So now we're back to square one. Me, the eighty year old body, the ironed dress- you get the picture. You want some tea this time? No? Wait- what do you mean you don't remember our first conversation? What!? I am not senile. Get out of my house, and this time, you better not take anything, you ingrate. Now go away and let me die. And if anyone out there is listening, please let me actually die this time. Don't stick me in the wrong place again. Get it right, would you?
When I opened my eyes and found myself in 1997 for the third time, I think something snapped within me. I wondered what demon was tormenting me- what circle hell I must be in for time to be repeating over and over again. I screamed and threw my flounder pillow into the tape deck. Plastic cassettes flew around the room, and I started crying hysterically. Why couldn't I just die?
"What do you want from me!?" I screamed, pulling at my hair like one of those crazy people being wheeled off to an insane asylum that you see in movies.
I looked up, and all of a sudden my teary eyes were drawn to the antique standing mirror in my room. It was shaped like an elongated oval and the old glass was so cloudy that I could barely see anything in it- an heirloom from my grandmother, and one that I had left behind in the boarding house during my two previous lives. But now I saw images in it far more crisp and perfect than it had ever shown my reflection- like the HD screens that would become so common in the decades to come.
I saw a young girl in the mirror, about nine years old. She had brown hair and piercing angry brown eyes. All around her she was engulfed in that sparkling blue light, and her eyes were cutting into me like a beast's claws. I knew this girl. I suddenly realized that she looked exactly like me- no, she must be me- when I was a child.
"You're here to make things right," the girl hissed at me, her unblinking eyes never looking away, "You have to make up for what you did to me!"
I felt shivers run through my body. The girl's visage disappeared as quickly as it came, but that feeling lingered. Was that really what I thought it was? My younger self... angry at me for what I did to her? It started to make sense on a certain level. Of course my childhood self would be disappointed in me- horrified at the loser I'd turned into. I wouldn't be surprised if my younger self would hate me. But I still didn't know how all of this- time travel, if that's what it was- could be possible.
I looked around my room. Flounder pillow. Cassette tapes. Calendar. It was all the same, again, again. That was the last straw. If that girl in the mirror wanted me to make things different, then fine- that's exactly what I'd do. The fear that had always had a grip on my heart had its fingers pried off one by one with the surge of combined anger and determination I now felt. I was going to make things right. I was going to live my dreams and stop being so afraid. I would set things right, and maybe I could finally go to heaven- or at least be happy.
With all the determination I could muster, I went and found Kyle. He was in the boarding house's library studying and sadly contemplating the death of Alonzo, who was only a year older than he. (Apparently this time around, it was a few weeks after Alonzo's death.) He was surprised to see me and how boldly I was acting, but I comforted him and talked to him about Alonzo. Then I helped him study and the two of us went out to dinner together. I started putting up notes in my window for him to read, and soon we were passing notes back and forth like crazy. When his sophomore year of college ended, he didn't move out.
He stayed at the boarding house for six more years. When he finally did move out, it was to move into an apartment with me- because we'd just been married. I finally knew the joy of having a someone be there when I got home, someone to hold me at night. Sure he had annoying habits, but frankly after two lifetimes of being alone, I didn't care. All that mattered to me was being wrapped up his smile, his dark brown hair, and his mahogany eyes. He was so sweet to me, and during that time we were married, I felt confident that I had done right by my younger self and finally lived a fulfilling life. I thought that the next time I died I'd actually die and that nothing could possibly go wrong.
Kyle was my world- my universe- the absolute only thing or person that I cared about even the littlest bit. We had been married for two years. But then one day, Kyle didn't come home from work. I was nervous, but I told myself he must have just gone out with his friends. Then I got a call from the hospital. Kyle was dead. He'd had a heart attack and been pronounced at the scene. He was only twenty-eight years old.
I was a complete wreck. I didn't know what to do with myself. I wondered how this could happen to someone so young. But then they showed me his will. I was surprised he even had one, being so young. It said:
To my dearest Hannah upon my demise,
I've had a very weak heart my whole life. When I was born, the doctors didn't expect me to live past the age of five, and it's a miracle that I did. I was often told I should have a heart transplant, but I was afraid of the risks and kept putting it off. I don't think I'm really going to die... but if I do, and you're reading this, then I'm sorry. I'm sorry I never told you, but I thought if you knew it would only upset you, or you wouldn't want to be with me. Please find a way to forgive me.
I could feel my own heart skip a beat as I read this. He never told me! How could he never tell his wife that he was a marked man?! Including the time we'd dated, we'd been together for eight years! Did he really have that little respectful for me!? The idiot! Why didn't he just get the freaking heart transplant when he had the chance?
"IDIOT, IDIOT, IDIOT!!!" I realized I wasn't simply thinking it anymore, but was screaming at the top of my lungs.
What about making things right? How could this be? This life seemed like even more of a sick joke than my first two. With nothing else to live for, I killed myself. I threw myself off of our tall apartment complex just the way Alonzo always did at the boarding house. I just wanted to die, to finally die.
Surprise, surprise, there I was back in the old boarding house. No longer a twenty-six year old widow, I was seventeen again. This time I woke up to the day after Alonzo died. I got up and looked out my window. I could see Kyle's room right across from mine as I pulled open the blinds. Kyle was in there, looking depressed. But he was there. He was alive.
I didn't even bother getting dressed. In my cupcake pajama pants and pink camisole I ran through the halls of the boarding house. In my head I thought I could hear that familiar voice saying, "Make it right," but I drowned her out. I had more important things to worry about.
I flung open the door to Kyle's room and ran right into him, wrapping my arms around his neck. I had knocked him onto his bed and his was shocked by my behavior, but when he realized I was crying, he stopped feeling so tense. I was laying on top of him on his bed and weeping into his neck.
"Don't die!" I cried, "Please, please don't die, Kyle! I don't know what I'll do!"
Remaining trepidatious, he sighed and put a comforting hand on my back. "Is this about Alonzo?" he asked, "Don't worry, I'm not going to kill myself. That guy never really talked to the rest of us... he must have had serious personal issues. That's not going to happen to me."
I could feel Kyle trying to sit up (he obviously felt awkward since he remembered none of our previous lives) but I continued to pin him down with all my strength, "It's not that!" My words were barely comprehensible because my mouth was pressed into his shoulder. My tears were falling on his neck and rolling down his back, "Your heart! You have to get a transplant right away! I don't want you to die!"
He grabbed me by the shoulders and forced me up. He looked me square in the eyes and asked how I'd found out about that, since he hadn't even told my parents when he moved in. I couldn't tell him it was because we were married in a previous life (until his stupid heart gave out on him). So I came up with something still outrageous but slightly more plausible. I told him his dead mother had came to me in a dream and said he would die soon if he didn't have one. I knew things about his mother now from our eight years together that I never could have known when I was actually seventeen. Things about her appearance and personality, and those facts helped to convince him. He took my words very seriously, and that afternoon the two of us went out to get more information.
After he was put on an official waiting list, I started to feel much better. And, obviously, we once again began dating. The waiting list was six months long, and in that time we grew closer and closer. He actually did sneak into my room once, but don't worry- all we did was kiss. Anyway, I really felt like I had finally 'made things right'.
After the six months, he had his heart transplant. Apparently the new heart came from a man who'd liked to knit. I teased him just before he was wheeled into the operating room (trying to lift his spirits) by saying that after the surgery he'd go all fruity on me and take up knitting. Of course, we'd never get a chance to find that out.
His body rejected the heart, and he died not long after. Dead. Dead again. Dead at 21. This was all beginning to feel like some contrived tragedy at the hands of a sadist. At least in the other reality we got to make love before he died. At least I got to be a wife. At least he got to finish college... at least a lot of things. I couldn't understand how things had turned out worse in this life when I had tried so hard to make them better.
As I held his lifeless hand in that hospital room, I think I really did go crazy. All vestiges of my original self were gone. All I felt was a chasm where my heart should be, and all rational thoughts died at once- like they were standing in front of a firing squad. Since no other methods were really available to me, and since I'd already gotten the hang of it, I threw myself off the hospital's roof. In my head I was chanting die, die, die.
I don't even want to think about the next five 'turns' I went through. (No, 'turn' makes it sound fun, like an amusement park ride. Let's call them nightmares.) So the next five nightmare cycles I went through were pretty awful- but if you insist, I guess I'll tell you.
All five put together happened in under an hour. The first time I woke up I was still a psychotic reck, and I ran out to the toolshed next to the greenhouse. I thew myself on top of some open garden shears, which cut through me like butter. Some blood squirted out of my mouth, and I just stayed there- impaled- and screaming and crying until I finally 'died'. Of course by died, I mean I woke up in my bed again. Same cupcake pants and pink tank top. Somewhere in the part of my brain that still worked I remembered the pain of being impaled and didn't want to feel it ever again. So instead of running to the shed, I ran up to the roof of the boarding house. There was only a small space to walk up there in case the chimney or television antennas needed to be inspected, but I ran past both of those fixtures and flung myself off the building.
It was a fantastic decent- much more dramatic than Alonzo simply jumping out of one of the windows. I could see the familiar ground below coming closer and closer. And then I saw my ceiling. I screamed and ran to the roof yet again. Then a third time. Then a fourth time.
Each time I fell and 'died' I strangely felt calmer. Even though my body was renewed with each 'death', I think all the running around the boarding house had helped me burn off all my pent up anger. At this point, I didn't have the desire to kill myself anymore. First of all I knew how pointless it was, and second of all- I just felt tired. Tired of running around and dying, up the stairs and then down to the ground, and up the stairs again and down to the ground again. I just couldn't do it anymore.
I had nearly lost track of what life I was on. (But for all you smart alecks who've been keeping track, yes it's number 10.) I couldn't stand it anymore. If my existence was some cosmic joke and I couldn't avoid being laughed at, I might as well laugh with the universe. And laugh I did. I laughed non-stop as I picked up the scissors and cut off most of my hair. Snip. Haha. Snip snip. Tehehehehe.
Then I laughed as I took off my pajamas and put on my black bathing suit. It was so funny when I put a blue wool scarf around my neck to go with it- and when I completed the look with some red pumps, well that was just freaking hilarious. And even better than that, I shoved a cassette tape in my player and turned the volume dial all the way up. Bass booster on? You bet!
Sometimes I wish I could turn back time
Impossible as it may seem
But I wish I could so bad, baby
You better quit playin' games with my heart
My tape deck rang out. Everything that wasn't nailed down in my room was vibrating and the pictures were being shaken off the walls. But I didn't care. I was too busy jumping on my bed and singing into my hair brush.
I guess he heard the noise because Kyle was soon standing in my doorway. His hands were on his ears and he had a pained look on his face. I just ignored him. I ignored him when he screamed, "Could you turn it down?" and I ignored him when he frowned and walked into my room, turning off the tape deck.
"Hey, I was listening to that!" I screamed as I jumped from my bed to the floor.
Kyle's eyes widened when he saw my sloppy page-boy hair cut and the discarded brown tresses all over the floor. My crazy outfit seemed to further tip him off that things weren't quite right.
He gulped and said, "H-Hannah, are you ok? Do you want me to get your mom?"
I still wasn't listening to him. I just stood there scowling and tapping my fingers back and forth as I considered whether or not I should do what I was about to. Well. Why not?
I grabbed Kyle by the front of his shirt and swung him down on to my bed. I got on top of him and- before he had any idea what was happening- I french kissed the life out of him. Then I smirked, wiped my lips off with my scarf and jumped off him. I took off running down the halls of the boarding house, and as soon as he'd collected himself, Kyle followed me.
"Hannah, wait!" Kyle cried as he chased me down the many flights of stairs until we arrived in the kitchen. He managed to catch up to me and grab my arm. He pointed an accusing finger in my face and talked down to me like I was an elementary school kid, "Hannah that was very very wrong! You should be ashamed of yourself! What happened to the Hannah I know?"
I stared at him in silence for a moment. I don't know if he thought I felt guilty, but soon my expression changed into a devilish smile. I threw my head back and my whole frame shook as I laughed.
"You think you know me?" I laughed with glee, "Bahahahaha! That's rich."
Suddenly my laughing stopped and I glared at him with cold eyes. This time I did the pointing. I pointed my finger at his chest and poked it against his heart, "You want to know what's really wrong? Not telling your wife that you have a heart condition, and then dropping dead at twenty-eight!" I gave him a quick kiss and then said darkly, "Because that would really suck."
I don't know whether he was more disturbed that I knew his secret, or what I had implied about his future. Either way he just stood there, flabbergasted and stuttering. Before much else could be said, my mother walked in through the front door of the house carrying some bags from Circuit City and a big rectangular box.
"Hey Hannah!" Mom called out. From this angle I could see her, but she hadn't seen me yet, "I finally bought a DVD player! Now we can upgrade our VHSs!"
That really made me laugh, "Don't bother," I giggled, practically snorting, "You'll just end up doing it again when Blu-Ray comes out!"
"Wha-?" my mother started to ask, but she stopped when she saw me. She dropped the DVD player and her bags slid off her arms to the floor. DVD cases and bags of electrical wire spilled out on the rug, "Hannah! Your Hair! What did you do to your hair!?"
I just shrugged and looked up at the clock. Then my face lit up. Oh boy, it was almost time! Goody-goody-gum-drops.
"Come on, come on!" I said excitedly as I raced to the cabinets and pulled out a canister of popcorn. It was the kind with the regular, cheese, and carmel flavors all sectioned off into thirds. I thought that the kind you put in the microwave would be more appropriate for the entertainment we were about to see, but there was no time to make it.
"Hannah, you-" Kyle mumbled, he and mom exchanging worried glances.
"Hurry or you'll miss it!" I said cheerfully as I walked outside through the kitchen door. It let out into the center of the boarding house's U shape, and I pulled up a folding lawn chair and angled it just right. I pried the lid off the popcorn and started snacking away.
"Hannah, what's gotten into you! I'm starting to get wor-"
"SHHHH!!" I cut off my mother, swatting at her and Kyle to show my annoyance, "Shut up or you'll ruin it!"
The next moment, just as I had predicted, Alonzo appeared in his window. Before mom or Kyle realized what he was doing, down he went. Down, down, down. Woooooosh- SPLAT.
Mom and Kyle both froze with fear. Alonzo's guts were all over the garden.
"Whahahahaha!!!" I laughed, kicking my legs and clapping my hands, "Brilliant, simply brilliant! Encore!"
My mother finally started screaming after the initial shock wore off. Kyle ran inside to call am ambulance- which made me laugh even harder. Geez, did he expect the medics to lump the goo back into Alonzo? Who was he- Humpty-Dumpty? Bahahahahahaha!
I took one more bite of popcorn- the caramel kind- and then went back upstairs to my room. I started thinking about what I could possibly do next, when suddenly I saw a light behind me. I turned around, and there she was- that girl in my mirror. I flashed a dubious frown as she glared at me.
"You must make things right!" she commanded me.
"What, you don't like the outfit? Do'ya think a green scarf would go better?" I asked facetiously, swaying with my hand on my hip.
I could hear her growling loudly as her eyes lit up with anger. For a child, she sure was scary looking.
"Hey," I snapped, getting annoyed with her attitude, "No matter what I do, things get all F-ed up. If you want things right or whatever then you need to do it yourself, 'cause I'm out of ideas, babe."
The girl's eyes narrowed. I won't bother calling her my younger self anymore, even if that's what she really is. She annoys me too much for me to want to make the association.
With her angered expression, a shard of glass the size of my fist broke out of the mirror, and flew towards me. It embedded itself in my neck and I fell backwards.
Hmmm? What count are we up to? I extended my fingers and started up the tally. Oh that's right, number 11. I wondered if the number of times I did this had anything to do with when it would end. I mean, my lucky number was seventy-five, but if I had to do it that many times... ugh, well there was really nothing I could do about it even if that was the case, but it would still blow.
I looked in my mirror. No sign of the crazy little girl. Well if she wasn't going to give me any advice, then I'd just have to go back to doing the crazy things I never had the balls to do in my original life. (Actually, I wondered if I truly was crazy or not- since didn't recognizing myself as crazy mean I still had some sliver of sanity? Oh well, it didn't matter- riddles were never my strong suit.) Anyway, I started tearing through my dresser looking for something to wear. I found a little pink neglige that was silky in all the strategic places, but sheer everywhere else.
A kooky and very liberal aunt had given it to me for my sixteenth birthday- something about how it would make me feel sexy and increase my self esteem- not that I'd ever had the guts to wear it in any of my previous lives. But today I figured why not? After putting it on, I realized that today was the day Alonzo was going to die. It was still morning though, so I had some time. I shrugged and slid an empty cardboard box out from under my bed.
Twenty-one year old Alonzo was in for quite a shock when he walked into his bedroom an hour later. It had been unlocked so I'd let myself in in his absence. There I was, the seventeen year old daughter of boarding house owners, wearing a scandalous neglige, and stealing from him. That's right- I'd set up the cardboard box on his desk and was packing in everything of value I could find in his room. His tapes, and especially his CDs (I was broke so I didn't have many of my own CDs) went into the box. Alonzo was a pretty stuffy dresser, so he had a lot of silk ties and I figured they might be worth something, so they went in. He was also a fan of art, and I stuffed a few of his little sculptures and knickknacks in the open spaces.
I turned around with the box under one arm after I'd filled it. Alonzo was just standing there, his frosty blue eyes fixed on me. I smirked as I walked up to him. I'd never paid him much attention- most of the times I'd noticed him he was already goo- but I realized he was very handsome.
I put my hand on his cheek and said, "You don't mind if I take a few things, right? It's not like you're going to need them."
He didn't move an inch. He just stood there frozen, like one of his statues, frowning at me. Then my eyes shone with an evil glee.
As I slid my hand down his cheek I said, "Do a flip this time, mmkay?"
Alonzo's eyes widened with my words, but I was already sauntering off with the box, cackling to myself. I'm not sure what he thought or what he did after that, but I didn't really care. I had other things on my mind. Like Kyle for example, who'd be home from college in a few hours. I thought I'd give him a shock too- a different kind.
That afternoon when Kyle walked into his room, there I was splayed out on his bed in the neglige. His jaw dropped and his backpack fell from his shaking hands to the floor.
"H-Hannah!?" he gasped, "What are you-"
"Let's skip the formalities and cut to the chase," I sighed, "Come on, have at me."
"What!? Hannah I'm calling for your mother!" Kyle stuttered, his face flushing redder by the second.
"Ahahahahaha! I must be over two hundred by now- I don't need my mother's permission. And if it makes you feel any better, we did get married, so I don't think there's any shame in it," I explained, smiling though a thick layer of red lipstick.
Kyle looked at me like I was crazy and then marched over to the bed. He put his hands under my arms and picked me up, putting me back on the floor.
He looked very worried as he said, "Are you having some kind of nervous breakdown? Do you want to talk?"
In response I wrapped my arms around his neck and kissed him as much as I could before he pushed me off.
"Stop that!" he screamed. He grabbed me by the wrist and started pulling me down the hall, "I'm taking you to your parents!"
"Ugh," I groaned, "This version of you isn't any fun. I think I'll go back again and tell you some more BS about your dead mother- that's always a crowd pleaser."
Kyle didn't say anything, but he grew noticeably more angry as he dragged me down to the living room. My parents were both in there watching TV, but before he got their attention, we were both caught up in the news broadcast they had on. They were reporting live from the high four lane bridge that was built over the river, which connected our city to the next city over. Apparently Alonzo had thrown himself off the bridge and into the river below, and died in the water.
My mother was crying and my father and Kyle both looked shocked. I on the other hand, was suppressing a giggle. Jumping off a bridge? That was new. I'd only ever seen Alonzo jump out the window. But a good idea was a good idea.
While Kyle was distracted, I pried myself loose and ran into the kitchen. I scooped up my mother's car keys and ran out to the garage. At this point I didn't have my license, but that obviously wasn't going to stop me.
I looked up and saw Kyle in the garage doorway. I realized he was following me, and quickly jumped inside mom's car and locked the doors so he couldn't get to me. I opened the garage door and backed out, my foot pushing hard on the gas. I wasn't going to let some stupid speed limit stop me now.
I clicked my tongue against the roof of my mouth in agitation when I saw Kyle in the rearview mirror. He'd gotten in his own car, and was tailing me. Stupid guy- why couldn't he just leave well enough alone? Oh well, it wouldn't matter in the end.
I drove past where the police and news crews were stationed, all the way out to the middle of the suspension bridge. I looked up at its intricate steel frame and let out an impressed whistle. I stopped my car right in the middle of the bridge and parked it there. I opened the door and got out just as the driver behind me slammed on his breaks and rear ended my car a little. I didn't care. It wasn't my car anyway, and when I woke up again, it would be as good as new.
I walked over to the edge of the bridge and examined the bars that were set up to block people from doing what I was about to do. Back on the road, Kyle was a little more considerate of the other drivers and pulled into the seldom used diamond lane before stopping his car. He got out and ran over to me.
"Don't do it, Hannah!" he cried, a look of fear on his pale face, "I don't want anyone else to die!"
I frowned as he came closer, stopping just about a foot in front of me. He started preaching something about how I should just go back to the boarding house with him. It felt like something out of Jerry Springer- him screaming at me, my lipstick smeared all over his face, and me in a neglige about to throw myself off a bridge.
"And here I was hoping that you'd wake up tomorrow and find out I was dead- just all of a sudden dead- feeling helpless that you couldn't do anything about it. You know, a taste of your own medicine," I snapped, "But I guess I'll be nice. I'll even give you a goodbye kiss if you want."
"Hannah! What's wrong with you?" Kyle screamed, "I don't understand! Did I do something to upset you?"
I sighed and shrugged, "Fine- don't take me up on my generous kiss offer. Be boring like that. See ya!"
Kyle reached his hand out to grab me, but I was too quick for him. I had already squeezed myself through the bars. I raised my arms into the air and preformed a graceful dive. As I fell I thought I saw that young girl's face reflecting in the water that drew ever closer to me. Then I felt pain all around me. No air, just water. Water and then darkness. Darkness and then that stupid blue light.
My first breath was a reflexive gasp for air, carried over from the struggled underwater breaths in my last life. Though I must say that a gasp was appropriate in my new circumstances as well, considering someone was sitting on my bed and hovering over me.
It took my brain a few seconds to register the fact that Alonzo was sitting on the edge of my bed, peering down at me with his cold eyes. Before I could scream, or laugh, or process the surprise at all- he pushed his hand down tightly on the base of my neck, just above my collarbones. His hand was big and strong, but I realized that he wasn't trying to cut off my air, just restrain me.
"What are you -huuuh- doing?" my speech was distorted a little when he pushed his hand down even harder. His expression was cold and emotionless, and it sent a chill down my spine as he lowered his face towards mine.
"Do you remember the first world?" he asked me calmly, his pupils lined up directly above mine as he glared at me.
"W-What?" I stuttered, "What are you talking about?"
He moistened his lips with his tongue and I could see his throat move slightly as he swallowed, "I was really surprised when I realized you were caught in this cycle too. I've been through it hundreds of times, trying to find my way out. I never would have dreamed that you remembered the other worlds too."
Other worlds? He must mean the other lives. Finally his constant suicides made sense. He wasn't really trying to kill himself- he was just restarting his own cycle. I couldn't believe how stupid I'd been to have never noticed it before. And then I had to go and give myself away by saying, "Do a flip this time." I couldn't have been any more obvious!
"Do you know why this is happening to us? I'm on my twelfth life. All I remember about the first one is that I died an old spinster... But apparently you've been at this more than I have, so-"
"No!" Alonzo raised his voice, though he remained calm and scary looking, "That must have been one of the other worlds! In the first world- the real, original world- you and I were married."
In my head his words made no sense, but the goosebumps that formed all over my body after he said it seemed to confirm it was true.
"I.. I," I whispered as a tear rolled down my cheek. I didn't know why I'd started crying. But somewhere inside me, that elusive traumatic memory I'd always sensed, the one I thought had been responsible for my fear, started to rise to the surface.
"You and I were married, and we were happy... for a while," Alonzo's hand on my neck seemed to tremble just a little, "After I graduated medical school and became a surgeon, I even gave Kyle the surgery that preserved his life, because he was your friend. But then I started spending too much time at work. We fought constantly, and I hit you a few times. Then you started having an affair with him. After I'd saved his miserable life, he still had the nerve to fool around with my wife in my house."
Alonzo's eyes grew darker the more he spoke. I could feel the memories welling up in the back of my mind like a dam about to burst. Any second now I knew my true first life would be restored in my mind.
"What are you doing in there!?"
I shifted my eyes and saw Kyle in the doorway. He saw Alonzo on top of me, and me crying, and must have thought I was being attacked.
"Get off of her!" Kyle screamed. He was about to barge into the room, but I saw the little girl's face flash in the mirror. She glared at Kyle with rage filled eyes, and the mirror moved itself to block the doorway. The glass side was facing us, and I could hear Kyle start to pound on the other side of it.
"Come on," Alonzo whispered, getting off me. He took me by the hand and we stepped onto the floor, "There's only one way to end this."
I nodded my head and tearfully approached the doorway. It was glowing with that blue sequin light as the two of us passed through the glass and into the mirror.
I was totally engulfed in visions and memories of my real first life. I saw the year 2012. I was thirty-two years old. Alonzo had an excellent, well paying job as a surgeon. We lived in a huge house and enjoyed every luxury. But we weren't happy- neither of us. All the death he saw at the hospital had warped him, and he threw himself totally into his work, forgetting all about me. I spent my nights alone, and the few days he was around, all he did was yell at me. One night when I was particularly miserable, I'd gone out to a park in the city, and sat on the swings crying. I contemplated death, wondering if I should kill myself.
I looked up, and like an angel, Kyle was there. He'd been my friend for many years, and Alonzo had helped him have a successful transplant. I don't know if it was fate or coincidence, but he was walking in the park that night too. He'd never been married. He saw I was crying, and offered to take me out to dinner to cheer me up. That was the beginning of the end. The sneaking, the lying, the guilt- a hopeless and inescapable cycle.
It felt like I was watching all these things happening on a screen- a tragic movie of my memories. I didn't know where my physical body was, but I could sense myself crying. But just before I was thrown into complete despair, the movie rewound several years into the past. I finally remembered what it had really been like at the boarding house.
In reality, it was Alonzo who was in the room across from mine. He was the one I passed notes to in the windows. I was the one who'd started it- right after he'd moved in (he was a senior in high school and I was a freshman). I looked up how to say 'Hi, my name's Hannah' in a German to English dictionary. I wrote it on a large piece of paper with a magic marker and held it up, only to see him raise a confused eyebrow across the way. When he wrote a sign back that said, 'What language is that?' we both laughed and I apologized for stereotyping him.
I realized now why the plank of wood idea had stuck so much in my mind during those other lives. It wasn't something that I'd thought of originally- it was something Alonzo actually did. He'd taken a long plank of wood from the shed out back, and daringly walked across (to my great amusement) on the night of my high school graduation. Nothing untoward happened- he just wanted to surprise me and give me my graduation present in a dramatic way. He did spend the night in my room, but we just snuggled innocently on the couch.
I saw memories of myself helping him with anatomy and physiology flashcards. I saw the time his acceptance letter from medical school came and how he was too nervous to open it. He had me read it to him, and of course he'd been accepted. When he heard the good news he smiled with joy, and I jumped up into his arms. I wrapped my legs around him and he spun me around, the two of us kissing all the while.
I found myself wondering how we'd gone from that, to me cheating on him? It was so tragic. Why couldn't we just be those people- those happy people- that found joy in just snuggling and smiling at each other. Was there any way to go back to that?
When I opened my eyes, it was nighttime. Crickets were chirping and the stars were shining overhead. Kyle was standing in front of me with a hand outstretched. I realized that I was sitting on that swing in the park on that fateful night. My cheeks were wet from tears, and my hand was lifted hesitantly in front of me, halfway between myself and Kyle. As I looked at his face, all of my beautiful memories of Alonzo rushed through my mind.
I shook my head and brought my hand back to rest over my heart. "I'm sorry," I whispered as I stood up off the swing and started to walk away, "I can't."
Behind me Kyle looked dejected, but I didn't care. More and more thoughts of Alonzo came to me and I broke into a run. I wanted to go back to my house, my real house. I didn't know how many lifetimes I'd lived between the last time I'd been home and now, but I missed our home. It was filled with the artwork that Alonzo loved so much, and our library was packed full of his medical textbooks.
I ran at top speed the eight blocks to the house. I was wearing high heeled shoes, but that didn't matter- I was unbearably homesick. I knew Alonzo must be at work, but that didn't matter either. Even if he remembered nothing about the cycles, I was determined to make things work with him.
As I ran up our long, steep driveway, I could see a figure coming into view. It was Alonzo, standing on the front porch just in front of the door. An overwhelming sense of joy welled up inside me. I crashed right into him and wrapped my arms around him, crying into his chest.
"I'm so sorry!" I screamed, "So, so sorry!"
Alonzo put his hand on my head and stroked my hair. He said gently, "I am too. I... quit my job at the hospital. I'm going to work somewhere else that won't need so much of my time."
I looked up at him and whispered, "So you remember all of it?"
"Mmm," he nodded his head, "When I woke up I was in my office, surrounded by patient files. But before that I saw a lot of... things. And I realized I don't want to be mad anymore."
I stretched up my neck and kissed him, "Me too- I want to be happy. All I need is you."
Then suddenly the little girl in the mirror came into my mind. More memories flashed. Memories of my stomach getting bigger, and shopping for little clothes, and packing school lunches. I gasped. That girl in the mirror wasn't my younger self.
"Amy!" Alonzo and I screamed at the same time.
He quickly opened the door and the two of us ran into the house. We raced through the foyer and up the grand stairs, and down the hall. That familiar blue light was pouring out of the crack under one of the doors. It was locked, but Alonzo rammed himself into it, and it broke open.
Inside a nine year old girl lay passed out on the floor. The blue light was coming from a book near her limp hand that said, "Spells" in cursive letters. It was open to a page that said, "The Punishment Spell."
"Amy! Amy wake up!" I screamed as I grabbed her by the shoulders.
I shook her awake, and when her eyes opened, the light disappeared. She smiled when she saw Alonzo and I together.
"So, Mommy and Daddy, did you learn your lesson?" She asked, the anger that once filled her eyes now replaced with a hopeful optimism.
"What? What are you talking about sweetie?" Alonzo asked, "You can't possibly be the one who-"
"I'm sorry, but I had to punish you. I had to punish Daddy for hurting Mommy, and I had to punish Mommy for letting the bad man in the house," Amy explained innocently.
'The bad man'. My heart sank. I wished there was a rock for me to crawl under. I had no idea that she knew about me and Kyle. And not only did she know, but it had effected her so much that she punished Alonzo and me by making us go through life over and over again until we could fix things. I didn't know whether to be terrified of her, or thank her from the bottom of my heart.
"Don't worry," I said, hugging Amy tightly, "This time the bad man is never going to come here."
Even though this 'world' had reset before I'd even done anything with Kyle, Amy obviously retained her own memories of the first world. Alonzo nodded and wrapped his arms around the both of us.
"And I'm not going to hurt Mommy anymore," Alonzo whispered, his own regrets and shame showing in his voice.
Amy smiled and told us she forgave us. The next day she threw away all of her spell books, and vowed never to 'punish' us again. Alonzo and I had a faithful happy marriage, and the next year we had a second child. I never saw Kyle again, but I didn't care. Things were finally right.