Authors: Abra Ebner
“Is this you?” She pushed the wallet toward me and I tried to focus on the tiny image as I looked down at the card behind the clear plastic cover. There was a dusty driver’s license squeezed into the slot and I touched it with my dirty finger, finding the dates and photo all wrong as I furrowed my brow, my stomach now nauseated. I swallowed hard, reading the name and recognizing it as my own; Jordan McKay, blue eyes, brown hair.
I opened my mouth and narrowed my eyes.
I swallowed, frightened by the deep tone of my own voice as I brought my giant hand to my throat, shocked by the Adam’s apple that now protruded from the front like a broken bone.
“But…” I brought my hand back to the image and tapped my finger against the plastic, looking at her.
Her green eyes scanned my face.
“It looks like you,” she assured.
I nodded, taking her word for it.
She sat down beside me and looked about the bus with frantic eyes. She seemed to be trying to formulate some sort of plan for me, her lips parted as a gentle breath escaped into the air. She looked down at the wallet one last time, her mouth forming words as her eyes traced the blurred letters of the driver’s license and address. She perked up then, causing me to shy away out of sudden fear.
“Driver, next stop please!” She looked out the dusty windows that reflected the neon lights inside, searching for some sign of where we were on the route. I couldn’t stop watching her and I wondered what was wrong with me, and why I still felt the same strange wave of warmth crash over me, again and again. Another sudden sharp pain racked my body but this time in my stomach, and I winced, grabbing my side.
“Oh!” The woman touched my arm and my mind forgot about the burning in my side and instead focused on her warm hand. “Are you alright?”
I nodded and gave her a shaky smile, forcing down the pain. She focused back on the bus, looking out the windows. I watched her blink as I continued to shut out the pain and swallow the sick taste in my mouth.
My grandmother had often taken me on bus rides, so I was used to the ride and motion, though my large body was hard to keep still. I looked back down at my hands and legs, wondering what had happened to the time between ages six and now. I must be dreaming but it felt real, as though that time had been stolen from me, like what I imagined would happen if I had been in a coma. I wiped a bead of sweat from my brow, my hand scratching across the stubble that grew on my face. I felt my chin, amazed by the feeling of it as it scrubbed my fingers, reveling in the fact I was man enough to grow a full beard.
The bus screeched to a halt and she hooked her arm under mine, lifting me from the seat as I stood on weak legs, the altitude a far cry from that of a three-foot tall preschooler. It was then that I caught a glimpse of my body in the fogged reflection of the bus window, my eyes shocked by the large figure staring back at me. I froze for a moment, taking in the reflection of myself in the green coat, my hair just below my ears, and my face rough and tanned. This could not be real, this could not be happening to me. I was lost.
She led me down the stairs as my body shook. We stepped into the cool night, my hot skin welcoming the cool air as it soothed the warm feeling that still plagued me. She looked from side to side, looking at house numbers as she craned her neck to see over each stoop.
She exhaled sharply, and I could tell she was annoyed but I didn’t want her to leave either. She brushed the hair from her face, mumbling something under her breath as she pulled me to the left. I stumbled over my big feet as we went past one stoop after the next, stopping at each to assess the house numbers.
Finally, her pace quickened and I struggled to keep up as a few fat drops of rain fell from the sky.
“Oh thank God,” she whispered, stopping before the last stoop on the street and looking up at the numbers.
The few drops of rain turned to a sudden downpour, and she pulled me by the arm up the steps to the door. This time she didn’t bother to ask as she rummaged through my coat pockets and found a key. She fumbled with it in her hand, the shiny silver catching what little light there was on the street. I heard the metallic clink of it as it met the lock, turning with a soft thud and releasing the jamb.
She pressed the door inward and pulled me with a firm grip as she searched for a switch. Light erupted across the apartment as she succeeded, and my eyes fell on a scene that felt comforting somehow, as though my brain and body recognized it but my soul did not.
“Ok,” she breathed, releasing a relieved breath. “You’re home.” She looked around the room and removed her sodden coat and scarf. “Do you mind if I borrow your phone?” Her hair was dripping from the few stray strands on her cheek.
I looked at her and then around the room, wondering where a phone even was, unable to recognize anything but the feeling in my gut that this place was mine. I nodded and shrugged, finding there was little else to do.
She let go of my arm and I steadied myself on my feet as she walked in a brisk pace toward what looked like the kitchen, trusting her instincts as to where a phone could hide. I blinked and looked around the room, taking it in and finding that as I looked closer there were a few things I did recognize like pictures and a few trinkets; all now tattered with age.
Looking up I saw that there was a mirror across the room above a fireplace, and I made my way toward it, moving my hand from one object to the next, hoping each was sturdy enough to support me. Though my large hands had scared me, I found they were much easier to use and could grasp things in their entirety. I supported my weight with my arms, the muscles flexing as they never had before, like He-man’s did in my comic books back home, wherever home was.
As I got to the hearth, I placed my hand on the sill, like a newborn baby learning to walk. I could hear the woman in the other room on the phone, whispering in hushed tones that were both frantic and a little scared. I turned my attention to the reflection before me, recognizing nothing but the child I had known underneath, my eyes telling the truth as they still held the twinkle I had known.
My face had grown considerably and the once soft youthful skin was replaced by stubble and pronounced features. I nodded to myself, finding that overall I was pleased with the way I had turned out, relieved that I was in fact quite handsome despite what my father had said. I watched as I blinked, almost fearing the man in the mirror, still unable to completely accept that he and I were the same entity.
I turned my head and inspected the side view. My nose had the same small hook it always had and my ears were just as big, though the size of my face had now caught up to them. My deep grey-blue eyes were full of the youth I had seen everyday though now pressed into the mask of a man I struggled to know. I did not look much older than twenty-seven, but it was hard to tell as I had never been twenty-seven before.
I saw the woman exit from the kitchen through the reflection of the mirror, coming toward me with reddened eyes and a saddened brow. She kept her gaze away from mine as though ashamed by what had just transpired over the phone, afraid that if she looked at me, she may fall apart.
She tried to gather herself as she cleared her throat. “I told my husband I was working late and missed the bus so I’d just work through the night.”
My gut ached with guilt as my eyes followed her lips as she spoke, a soft crimson that reminded me of my mother’s when she was upset. I could see in her tired eyes that her husband had been a horrid man. I knew this because I had seen the same look from my mother. Her husband was probably drunk and mean as my father had been and it made my heart throb with pain. I doubt he noticed how beautiful she was, the kiss of a freckle on her cheek, the sharp green of her eyes.
I turned to face her, finding the overwhelming need to give her a hug, to comfort her when it seemed no one would. I put my arms out toward her, and to my surprise she fell into them and began to sob without hesitation, as though I were her best friend. I felt awkward holding her, my body looming over her small frame and my arms wrapping around her almost twice.
After a moment she pulled back and wiped the tears from her face, her scar reddened by the blood that had rushed to her cheeks. “I’m sorry, I must seem crazy; inviting myself in and hugging a complete stranger.” She blinked and looked me in the eyes.
“Oh…” I paused, still surprised by my own voice. “It’s alright.” I cleared my throat. “To tell you the truth I don’t what happened to me, either, I feel as out of sorts as you.”
She blinked some more and narrowed her eyes. “You must have some sort of amnesia or perhaps you had a seizure?”
Her attention turned away from the phone call and back to me. She grabbed my cheeks and looked into my eyes, inspecting them before grabbing my hand and leading me to the couch in front of the fireplace. She sat me down, taking the cushion beside me, her movements graceful.
“Forgive me, but something about you seems different.” She put her hand out and grabbed my cheek to turn my head to face her.
I shied away from her touch, but she was stubborn.
“You have the eyes of a child, but the body of a man.” Her eyes were full of a depth I doubted few could understand the way I did now. It felt so sudden, so strange to feel this way about someone I hardly knew. I found it hard to justify the connection, but there was one. It was as though I had grown up with her as her best friend, been there for every stage of her life.
“I…” I paused, finding the words I was about to say absurd.
She looked at me with an eager stare.
“I don’t expect you to believe me, but I was six just a short while ago, and now I’m here and I’m…”
“Twenty-seven?” she finished my sentence.
I nodded. “Sure, I suppose.”
“It was on the license,” she nodded and pursed her lips, taking a moment to think before looking back to me, content with her answer.
I glanced around the room and took a deep breath. I could tell she didn’t believe me, more likely she just believed I was crazy, but it didn’t matter. I needed to say it because to me it was real. “I think I may not be in the right time, if that makes sense. Do you think that’s possible?”
She laughed. “I’m not sure but I wish that were true.” I saw her roll her eyes and turn the scarred side of her face away from me. “I wish I could change things and go back in time.” she allowed herself to imagine it.
I laughed in return. “What would you change? You seem wonderful.” I was surprised that she was willing to entertain the idea and it distracted me from the fear in my stomach.
She smiled and I could see tears welling in her eyes. This stranger before me felt like much more than that, as though she were an old friend, someone whom had risked many things to save me tonight, to make me feel as though I was not lost.
She let out one chuckle. “I would change everything.”
My heart stung as she said it, feeling the hurt and pain in her words. It did not seem fair that such a beautiful creature could become so forgotten by God, left to fend for herself in a world where no one would lend a hand.
“I would take back all I’ve done.” She ran her hand along the hem of her nurse’s scrubs. “I would change this.” She touched her face and ran her hand across the scar. “It changed everything for me, took my beauty, my confidence.” She pressed back tears. “I used to want to be a doctor, but when you look like a monster, everything is hard.”
I watched her with focused eyes, my heart breaking at her every word.
“And my husband…” She shook her head.
“You deserve better.” I knew what to say because I had longed to tell my mother the same thing for years but I never got the chance before she died. I always thought that when she got cancer it was God’s answers to her prayers. My mother wanted to die; I saw it in her face everyday and now I saw it in the woman’s as well, the look of an empty soul that had been left alone in this world.
She nodded and sobbed into her hands. “I’m twenty-five with so much future left to live but I fear I don’t want to, I fear my own mind. I have tried so hard that now I have given up. What other choice do I have but to accept my awful fate?”
I placed my hand on her back. “If I could I would save you,” I mumbled, and in my mind, I made it a point to save her. No matter what life I was now living, this was my single focus from here on out.
She laughed with tear stained eyes. “I would love you for that.”
She looked at me then, and for the first time since reading Cinderella, I felt what love at first sight was like.
“This seems strange, but I think we were meant to meet.” My breathing was shallow but I knew enough about fate and life to know that everything happened for a reason.
She smiled, revealing perfect teeth, “You don’t even know my name.”
I smiled back. “Well then, what’s your name?”
A sly look crossed her face and I knew it meant trouble. “Well,” she paused, still thinking. “If we were meant to meet, and you’re not from this time, let’s make a game of it. Let’s say that the next time I meet you, whatever time that is, then I will tell you my name.”
I laughed. “Makes sense. But how will you remember?”
She winked at me, “Fate will remind me. No matter what happens, meeting you now has left a mark on me that will never fade, just like my scar. No matter what time, I won’t forget you. I promise.”
She put her hand in the air like a pledge before lowering it back into her lap. “For the record, a part of me really does believe you. I like to think there are still amazing and unexplainable things in this world.”
“Well then, you may be the only one that does believe me. I couldn’t imagine anyone else would.” The conversation hit a lull as we both thought over what was just explained.
She shifted on the cushion of the couch. “Is it alright if I stay here?” She looked me in the eyes, finding a reason. “I mean besides, if you have had a seizure, you’ll want me here to watch you to make sure you don’t have another.”