The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans, Part 15: Past, Present...Future?
March 07, 2012
Rachel took a deep breath and opened her eyes. The lights of New York City spread out before her, vast and bright and utterly magnificent.
"Don’t even think about climbing up the spire." Leigh sidled over to the railing and looked down.
"I wasn’t." Rachel had been thinking about how King Kong should have won and claimed New York for his own.
"Good." Leigh leaned back.
"This was another brilliant idea." Rachel told her.
"I thought so," Leigh nodded to herself. For a moment they stood there on top of the Empire State Building and looked out upon the city in silence.
After the performance, which went as smoothly as only a perfect opening night could go, they’d changed out of their costumes and made their farewells to Joe and Amanda, who were disappointed they weren’t staying for the party. Rachel was tempted, but even she knew when it was time to go.
George Bernard Shaw had left the premises peacefully. (For the time being at least.) She had a program stashed in her jeans, the coffee cup in her hoodie pocket, and the PD in her hand. It was time.
It had been Leigh’s suggestion that they visit the Empire State Building before they left. Rachel was secretly glad. She hadn’t thought about trying to squeeze anything else in, but this was worth it. She gazed out across the city with quiet, happy appreciation.
"You know I'm sorry about your birthday trip." Leigh broke the silence.
"I wouldn't have missed it if it hadn't been necessary."
"I know." Rachel repeated.
"It was part of the deal." Leigh reminded her, not unkindly.
Rachel nodded. That was the hard part. It was all part of the deal. The deal they had struck when they had become roommates after college. Leigh's job was off-topic. No details, no specifics, no questions.
"I understand if that bothers you, but it just has to be that way." Leigh had folded her hands and waited for Rachel’s answer.
"That's perfectly alright." Rachel had told her, because she liked mysteries and vague things. Everyone she'd grown up with had become hairdressers, mailmen, store clerks, secretaries, or mothers. Vague mystery was appealing. So they'd made the deal and stuck to it.
There was also the fact that Rachel had honestly thought Leigh would break down and tell her. There was only so much one could be continually vague about, but Leigh managed the business exquisitely. She went to work, but not every day, and never at the same time. She never wore the same outfit: sometimes jeans, sometimes business casual, sometimes a trench coat. Rachel had considered following her from time to time, but that wasn't a line she was willing to cross just yet. Because she and Leigh were friends.
But they had planned to go to New York for Rachel's birthday for over a year, and then at the last minute, Leigh had had to go away suddenly on business. She hadn't explained more than that. Rachel had been frustrated, hurt, and upset, even though she couldn't say anything obviously.
She took a deep breath. "It's okay. Really. I'm sorry, I've been so crabby."
"It's okay." Leigh repeated. “It’s okay, if you’re okay."
"I’m okay," Rachel said after a moment. "I did get my trip to New York with my friend in the end." And really, that was what she had wanted.
"Was it everything you hoped for?" Leigh asked seriously.
Rachel looked at the city below them, laid out for their viewing pleasure. “You know, it wasn’t. It was more.”
Leigh laughed. "Alrighty then." She looked at Rachel expectantly. "Home?"
"Now we go home." Rachel agreed.
They took out the PD and held it between them, there on top of the Empire State Building.
"How exactly is this going to work? It’s not like there was a page for our apartment."
"There must be something," Rachel thumbed through the pages.
"You realize if this doesn't work and we're stuck in the Fifties forever, I'm going to kill you, right?"
"I wouldn't expect anything less." Rachel held the book out, closed, fingers wrapped around the binding. Leigh reached out to touch a corner silently.
"Home." Rachel said in a clear voice.
The book didn't shake.
It was more the scenery around them wavered, becoming hazier and hazier, blues and greens and pale purples swirled together in a violent rush of motion.
Then - they were simply there in their apartment. It was the same gray afternoon as when they’d left. The clock on the wall showed barely three minutes had passed. Once again Rachel had to be at work in two hours.
"That was like a really really bad Monet." Leigh muttered, weaving slightly.
"Seriously. If I see a water lily right now, I think I'd vomit."
"Thank you for sharing that thought." Rachel sat on the couch very cautiously. She put the PD on the coffee table, and the coffee cup beside it. Home again, she gave it a little pat.
"Where do you suppose it came from?" Leigh studied the spine.
"I told you, the library." Rachel yawned. She really didn’t want to go to work. She wanted food and a shower, and a nap.
"Yes, but before that...I mean...how do you make a book that time-travels?"
"What if it runs out of power? What if we did get stuck somewhere?" Leigh rattled off these concerns in a completely calm voice that belied the underlying worry.
"So you are planning to go again." Rachel smirked.
"Well, I can't let you wander off alone. You'd never come back. But it'll have to wait. I have a business meeting tomorrow morning.”
There was a short silence.
“In New Jersey." Leigh said at last, slipping off her shoes and putting them under the coffee table.
Rachel narrowed her eyes at Leigh. "One of these days."
"Not now, Rachel." Leigh headed down the hall. “I’m going to take a shower.”
"One of these days you are going to tell me." Rachel called after her.
"We'll see." Leigh called back.
Rachel lay on the couch and smiled. Their apartment looked cozy after being away. Kat came over and sniffed at her feet dubiously before jumping up on the couch to stretch out atop Rachel’s legs.
Over the next few days their normal life resumed. Rachel went to work and came home again. Leigh came and went as vaguely as before.
The pocket dictionary remained in its hiding place (an empty cookie tin at the back of her closet under a pair of ugly shoes) until Rachel could decide what to do with it. Or rather, the real question, Rachel knew, was when and where to go next...
Image credit: Waterlilies, 1920-1926, Musee de l'Orangerie via the Wikimedia Commons