After our first month together, Naomi said she loved me. I’m used to that.
Not to say I’m special. At least not for the reason exes have always given — or would give, if they were honest.
I suspected Naomi was different. Every time we met, my stomach felt this warm glow of recognition, a safe little beacon that said, “Yes, she’s the one.”
I keep to a small flock of folk, spend most of the day inside my own head. Naomi dragged me out of myself, reconnected me to the world. From Day One she nattered at me about the latest celebrity divorce, the band members she had crushes on. I even made it through several superhero movies for her! Auspicious for sure.
So this time, I didn’t begrudge repeating my usual relationship test: time travel.
“Did you feel that?” Naomi turned to the window, seeing the golden light on her skin.
“It was me.” I clutched her hand.
Her fingers enlaced in mine and we lay there, in bed, facing one another.
She pounced on me, laughing. “Where are we?”
“Same place, two decades ago.”
She clutched the bedsheets to her chest, no doubt imagining that my five-year-old self would run in the room and see us both.
I touched her arm with reassurance. I’d picked a time when no one was in.
“You used your gift for me,” she said. “Why?”
“Because of what you said to me last night.”
She looked at me curiously, silent. As she tuned into the constant sound of the street, she winced her eyes. She pulled the sheets around her, tiptoed across the plush carpet and gasped.
One of the women below addressed her, straight away, as they always did. “Hey, baby!” the voice said. “Need some magic? I got what you need! Give a girl permission to approach your house and let’s get this party started, uh?”
I joined Naomi, resting my hands on her shoulders while she took in the sight.
The source of the voice was a blue-skinned woman in a torn black t-shirt, jean shorts and fishnet tights. She leaned on the wrought-iron gate and looked at us with lust in her eyes. Behind her, a constant stream of witches walked between the Edwardian houses of the avenues, beneath their browning oaks. Witches wore cable-knit sweaters, pea coats, felt berets. Some had black pointed hats and capes, but those were the least prestigious, pitched themselves to tourists and the like. All shouted their offers, begged the neighbors to lower their blinds and invite them in.
As more witches noticed us, they gathered in a thick semi-circle by our gate.
“C’mon, Alexandra.” Another witch nudged the blue woman out the way. This one wore her blonde hair in a tight bun, had on a white cotton blouse and black shirt. She looked up at us. “I’m the one you want! Trouble in the bedroom? Just invite me in. I’ve got a poultice that’ll sort you right out.”
“Nah, me!” said a tall, chubby man who wore a suit jacket and wire-rimmed glasses. Like other men in the stream, he had kohl around his eyes and wore tight pants. “I trained at Woodman’s. Finest academy in the area. Reasonable rates! I love to make lives better through magic!”
Others shouted their offers, soon trying to suppress the rage in their expressions. They were mad that we would engage them like this without soliciting their services. “Are we safe?” Naomi asked.
“Sure,” I said. “And I’ve enough energy to return us to the present—though not much more. Twenty years is as early as we can go and come back again.” I placed a hand on her shoulder and turned her to me, looking in her shimmering amber eyes. “When you consider what that crew outside can provide, the power they gave me isn’t a big deal. C-level at best. We can’t even change history, only witness it. And after I take us back, I’ll have to recharge. We won’t get to time-travel for another five years or so.”
“Then why did you bother?”
I pushed her copper hair behind her ear. “I needed you to see that I’m not special.”
Where I grew up, the “gifted” were those who lived without magic’s assistance. Witches were a nuisance, never to be encouraged.
I looked back at the pleading crowd. “One childhood dare later and I could travel back in time. My parents got so mad at me when they discovered I’d let a witch in the house. Their friends even stopped coming round.”
“That’s so backwards.” Naomi was hypnotized by the witchy throng. She counted something on her fingers. “I wish you’d told me you were gonna do this. I was anxious to see my grandma one last time.”
“You had to see my value without that sort of benefit.”
“I get that now.” A twitching brow revealing her irritation.
“Are you mad?”
“A little.” She hugged me weakly. “You must not think very much of me. Why would I care about this?”
“Well, we’re here now. You want to ask them for a power of your own?” She looked again at the desperate crew that had amassed. “Let’s just go back.”
I nodded. Holding her, I closed my eyes and felt the sunlight dim as I returned us to the present day, its overcast sky.
Naomi picked her clothes up from the bedroom floor. “I should go.”
She isn’t returning my calls. I’m used to that too.
Changing the past doesn’t concern me. It’s times like this, when the future seems predetermined, that I panic.
Leo X. Robertson is a Scottish process engineer and writer, currently living in Oslo, Norway. He has work published by Helios Quarterly, Unnerving Magazine and Open Pen, among others.