Lilly hung in limbo. She was still herself, or seemed to be herself, but nothingness surrounded her, a darkness defined only by its depth, an emptiness defined only by its hollow ring. It was as if reality had turned its face away.
“I’m so sorry if he troubled you,” Aria said. “He looks young, but he’s over fifty now. The doctors diagnosed him with some new form of dementia last year. They’ve never seen anything like it. He disappeared on me last night, right out of our bed, and well…I’m just so glad you found him.”
Cassy turned to James. “What are you trying to pull? Is this a prank?”
“I play pranks?” James asked.
“Yeah. Unfunny ones,” Cassy said without smiling.
“Cassy, you have to believe me.” James cried. “I don’t know that woman.”
Aria took the locket from around her neck, opened it and showed it to Cassy. “We’ll be married thirteen years in October.”
Cassy took the locket and stared at James embracing a younger Aria on their wedding day. She looked up at James with the death-glare she normally reserved for the ground hogs in her garden. She shoved the locket into his face.
“When was this taken?” he asked excitedly, taking the locket.
“Our wedding day,” Aria said. His denial of her did not lessen her love.
“Thirteen years ago,” she said, “in October.”
“A couple years off from the calibration, but…” He held the locket beside his face. “It’s me!” he said as if that explained it.
“Sir, I didn’t see the tachyon coming, just going… both ways,” James continued in a terrible comedian’s voice. “It worked!” He ran out of the house, past his wives and Ronnie, with a smile on his face.
Ronnie returned to the house a few hours later with a disheveled, handcuffed James in tow. His partner stayed in the squad car. He knew when to stay out of a domestic case.
“Cass, you’re gonna have to keep him here for at least a few days.”
James fiddled with the cuffs.
“What’d he do now, Ronnie?” Cassy asked.
“Caught this scum bag loitering around the university…again. Dr. Fowler feels sorry for him. Says he won’t press charges, as long as James stays away from the lab. Fowler’s got some ‘Nobel prize level’ experiments running and can’t have your joker husband messing with them.”
“Do you normally handcuff loiterers?” she asked.
“Only monsters who cheat on my sister.”
“Don’t worry,” she said, with gravity. “I’ve got a cell ready for this monster.”
“Mind if I rough him up a bit first? I think the jerk deserves it. Again.”
Cassy shook her head and stared daggers at James. “Sorry. He’s all mine.”
Ronnie smiled as he undid James’ cuffs. “You were always my favorite, Cass.”
“Don’t tell all your imaginary sisters that.”
“See ya.” He kicked James in the shin, hard enough to make James hop on the other foot. Then he left.
James stood before Cassy. Her anger had boiled off in the last few hours and now she simmered at that most dangerous temperature: hot enough to scald, not hot enough to bubble and boil.
“Well, you’ve had quite a day. Lies, betrayal, unfaithfulness, breaking and entering…and it’s not even nine o’clock yet. What other relationships do you want to destroy today?”
“Where’s Jimmy?” James asked tentatively.
“My mother’s. He didn’t need to see the nuclear explosion when his father got home.”
“Look, it’s not what you think.”
“Ok, Dr. Oppenheimer, how is it?”
James opened his mouth to reveal the truth, but he closed it again without speaking. Any time travel story he gave now would sound like a soap opera excuse for bad behavior.
“You got something to say?” she asked.
“I don’t…err… look, Cassy, I know you’re the one for me.”
“You tell Aria that too?”
“She’s… I… I don’t know her.”
“She’s got a locket and a handheld full of pictures that say otherwise.” She turned away for a moment as her emotions swelled. She turned back with tears in her eyes. “The one thing I don’t understand, James is why. You had her set up in Toledo. Then went to grad school and met me? Why, James? Why cheat on her? Why have a child with me? Why… I guess that’s what monsters do…”
“Cassy, no, no, no…” James said. He hugged her shaking body. He rubbed her back. “I don’t know what all happened, but I’ll get to the bottom of it. I will prove you’re the only one for me.”
To Be Continued…