When I woke up, it was morning and I was alone in the bed. Sunlight was peeking in through cracks in the window like it was shining into the crevices of broken places. I stared at it, at the dust floating silently in the streams of bright orange light piercing the blackness of the room. It took a moment for my consciousness to notice that I had a persistent, throbbing ache in my abdomen, and I realized for the first time that I didn't have a handy-dandy button to press to relieve the pain when it started. I clutched at my side and took a deep, shaking breath. It hurt, but, I reminded myself, it was gonna get worse before it got --- well, not better, but before it won and I didn't have to feel it anymore.
I could hear the shower running in the bathroom down the hall and that's what reminded me that I wasn't home alone, that somewhere in the house was Brian and Meira. They'd given me a prescription for pain medicine, I remembered the nurse telling me to take one once every six hours. I'd need to go get that prescription filled so I could take one and make the pain in my side stop or at least lessen a little. So, desperate for my meds, I crawled out of bed, my hand on my abdomen, and waddled into the hallway, wincing with every step. It hurt like a mother fucker. Maybe, I thought, dying at the hospital would've been better. At least it wouldn't have hurt this much.
Meira was in the hallway, headed my direction when I clutched the wall, an especially sharp pain cutting through my guts. I lowered to the floor and sat, my back against the wall. I whimpered and grit my teeth until the ache had gone by. I wondered if this was what women felt when they had babies 'cos I felt like they look in the movies and stuff. "Are you okay?" Meira asked, hurrying over to me.
"I need to go get my pain meds," I spoke through gritted teeth.
"I have them right here," she said, holding up a little dixie cup with three pills in the bottom of it. I took them from her hand and downed them quickly. "Here," she said, holding out a bottle of water. "There you go, you should feel better soon."
"Thanks," I said once I'd swallowed about half the bottle of water. I recapped it.
Meira was kneeling beside me. I looked over at her and I realized for the first time that she'd been wearing the same clothes pretty much since I'd quasi-met her the first time. And what made me notice was now she wasn't. Instead, she was wearing one of my t-shirts and a pair of my sweatpants with the drawstring pulled so tight it hung to her knees.
"Why are you wearing my clothes?" I asked her.
She looked down and flushed, then looked back up at me. "To be honest, I didn't really think anything of it because I do this all the time." She blinked up at me, and I could feel my face contorting in perplexity. "I'm sorry, I can take them off if you want. I forget how weird it is to be bombarded with someone who knows everything about the future."
"Forgot what it's like?" I said, eyebrows raised, "Does this happen often to you or something?"
She laughed, "Only the once," and looked at my pointedly.
"You mean me?" I said. I laughed, "You think I'm gonna bombard you knowing everything about our future?" I shook my head, "You know everything about my future, how could I possibly bombard you?"
"Well the me you bombard is past me...before I met you... and... you'll see. Let's just say, you're gonna get me back for everything I'm doing to you now." She smiled, a twinkle in her eyes as she remembered what I hadn't yet done. She smirked, "Or maybe I'm getting you back now. Depends on how you look at it, I suppose."
My brain was boggled by the twistedness of time.
"It's hard to say who's getting back who because neither of us have ever been on exactly the same timeline in a way. You know all this about me and I know all that about you and there's nothing that we both just know together. At least...not yet. I'm hoping when I get back that you'll still be there and --" she paused. She bit her lip.
"You don't know if I'll be there?"
"It depends on how all this goes, I suppose," she replied. "If you listen to the message from future-you or not."
I rubbed my nose. "And what exactly is the message?" I asked.
"I can't tell you that," she replied. "Not yet."
"Just because. I can't." Her eyes were filled with tears. She sat down next to me and stared up at the ceiling a moment.
"Please don't cry," I asked of her.
"I just... I've always wanted to ask you... why you aren't just happy with the way things turned out, why you had to send a message back to yourself to change things. Why... why we weren't enough just the way we were."
Then the tears started way worse than before.
I reached out my arm and put it around her shoulders instinctively... because that's what you do when girls cry. You hug them. That's the only way to fix them. I rubbed her arm.
She turned into me, pressing her face into my chest, hugging me. I'd be a goddamned liar if I said it wasn't the most perfect hug I'd ever received. She smelled so pretty, like fruit and flowers, and she felt so soft in my arms, just the right height and everything. I wrapped my arms around her and I felt like I was shielding her from the world. Like I could actually keep her safe by holding her. It was a good feeling because really that's all any guy wants is to be needed like that.
"Why aren't you happy?" she asked, big tears pouring over her cheeks.
"I dunno," I answered honestly. "You know future me way more than I do right now," I added. I squeezed her shoulders as she squeaked in sadness at my reply. "I'll tell ya what though, if everything you say's true and I lived through my fucked up liver and I got a great girl like you to fall in love with me and stuff then I'm a damn lucky guy and I should be the happiest man on the entire earth." I sighed. "I mean that's really mostly why I'm so unhappy right now, about, like, you know, life and stuff." I snuffed and rubbed my nose again. "I dunno if I even want all you're saying to be true because I'm so scared I'm gonna die and lose it all."
She pulled back away from me, just far enough that our palms could touch flat together between us and she stared up into my eyes for a long moment. "You aren't gonna die. Not yet. I've got a lot of time with you left. And you better not even dream of dying and taking that all away from me." She moved her fingers to weave between mine. "I know right now that you're scared and you're in pain and everything, but someday you'll be sure of me - of us - and you'll save my life." She stared into my eyes. "And I'll really need it when you find me. I won't tell you how much - not ever - not until this moment, but... you'll know 'cos..." she laughed, "Cos this is before you do it. But..." Meira smiled, a wobbly, sad, broken kind of smile, "I almost died that night, Nick."
"How?" I whispered.
Meira breathed shakily. "I didn't think I could be loved... and then you just... showed up, like a hurricane of love. And you didn't even think twice, you just..." she shook her head.
"How'd we meet?" I asked.
Meira laughed. "It was New Years Eve... and I was at First Night with my friends and my resolution was to - to have a good night because I was gonna kill myself the next day." She looked up at me, tears in her eyes. "And I was standing there in the crowded street at the corner of Broadway and Second... and suddenly this guy grabs my shoulders and it's you, and you're shouting that you can't believe you found me in the mess of people there, and you just... kiss me with all this passion... and when you stop, you pull back and you stare into my face and tears are pouring down your face and you say to me, I love you, and I'm like whoa this guy is drunk. But then you say, Shit I'm sorry, I should introduce myself, I'm Nick Carter, and I'm gonna marry you. And... I just..." She chuckled, "I wanted to see if you were telling the truth or not."
I laughed. Because it was so ridiculous of a story. But it sounded like a pretty good one, too, at the same time.
"Well. I guess we'll see how it goes."
She nodded. "You'll see."
"You keep saying that," I teased.
Down the hallway, Brian turned the shower turned off and I realized that the pain in my side was subsiding thanks to the miracle of the pills. I struggled to my feet and Meira popped up beside me, helping me up carefully. Maybe, I thought to myself, it wouldn't be so bad believing in the time machine... believing in Meira and me.