The Timely Adventures of Rachel Evans, Part 6: Of Doctors and DeLoreans
December 29, 2011
When they were finally finished with the dishes, they were escorted to the door by Harve with instructions not to return as customers, but that he was more than willing to hire them as dishwashers should they ever need the "cashola."
Leigh grabbed Rachel by the arm and hustled her out of the door. "The man just used the word cashola. Let us begone."
"Heh," Rachel snickered. "You said begone."
"So, where to?" Rachel looked around. In mid-March, the winter afternoon was still gray enough to cast a dull pall over the day. Still, it was New York. Rachel could feel her spirits rising just looking around the streets.
"Well," Leigh glanced at her watch. "We have three hours to kill before we meet with Theater Guy. Shall we wander?"
Linking arms, they strolled through the winter streets of New York, walking down Broadway, leisurely heading to Times Square. They walked and walked, simply enjoying the afternoon. It was gloriously easy to get lost in the giddy sensation of being surrounded by hundreds of strangers in the past.
Leigh checked her phone. "We still have some time, but we should probably head back in that general direction. Seeing no bars is the weirdest thing. It's like being cut off from reality. How did people live like this?"
Rachel took out her own phone. Leigh was right. No bars. No messages. Nothing. For a moment, she felt an odd sense of disconnect from the normal world she was so accustomed to. Then, the rush of freedom that came with that same disconnect nearly bowled her over.
"I have no text messages." Rachel crowed. It was a delight. No one could reach her. No one could tell her she was late for something, that'd she'd forgotten to be somewhere or to get together with someone. No one could reach her. At some point, that was probably going to freak her out, but for now it was a pleasure.
Rachel hit the camera button and aimed at the glowing matinee board advertising the soft drink that supposedly put you at your sparkling best.
"You're going to get us noticed." Leigh hissed, glancing around worriedly.
"Oh, tosh." Rachel snapped a few quick shots around Times Square, the Camel ads, the Coca-Cola posters, ladies in fur coats, men in hats. She wanted to remember this.
"Do you think they'll actually show up on your phone once we get home?"
"I guess I'll have to wait and see." Rachel stuffed her phone back in her pocket. "It's worth a shot at any rate."
They cut through Central Park on their way back to the diner. Rachel considered the hot dog vendors hungrily. The French fries and coffee felt like a very long time ago. People hurried along the paths as the afternoon grew darker: dog walkers, taking Fluffy and Fido out for a final jaunt before the night set in. The city was half alive, half dead. Leigh had gone quiet, just looking around the park. Something about the silence between the two of them made Rachel uneasy.
She hesitated before finally blurting, "You know it's okay."
Leigh examined a park bench studiously. "I'm not entirely sure we can say it's okay since we haven't gone back yet."
"You know what I mean." It wasn't like Rachel really wanted to talk about it even now, but there was something about being here. Something about the whole aspect of time travel that made her want to try to broach the subject, even though in all likelihood it would lead her straight back to where she had been before. A flat brick wall blocking her from Leigh's life.
Leigh finally turned away from the park bench. "You don't have to say that."
"But I mean it." Rachel protested.
"No, you don't. Okay," Leigh conceded, "You mean it, but you're still frustrated and you're still hurt."
"Thank you for pointing out the obvious." Rachel stared at her shoes. She should buy new ones, since she'd obviously have to save these ones forever now that they had time-traveled. How much would it cost to bronze a pair of Converse anyway?
"You're the one who brought it up." Leigh said quietly.
"You're the one who brought it up before." Rachel retorted.
Leigh nodded. "I know." For a moment she looked as though she were about to say something else, and then all she said was, "It's almost five. We should head back to the diner." They started walking in mutual silence.
This was not exactly how Rachel had planned her first adventure in time-traveling would go. When she was little, she'd worried every night before falling asleep that'd she'd wake up and years would have passed like in Rip Van Winkle. Nevermind that she'd never encountered little green men. It wasn't the years passing that had scared her; it was the idea of everything growing old. Actually, it was the idea of waking up with a foot-long beard that had scared her the most. Apart from that recurring nightmare, which wasn't really time traveling exactly, Rachel had always enjoyed the concept. After she'd seen the Back to the Future movies, she'd begged her parents for a DeLorean. (They refused.) But, it was her grandmother who had introduced her to Doctor Who when she was seven.
"There's a man," She'd told Rachel as she made them cocoa and stirred in cinnamon before adding whipped cream. "Who's very special."
"Does he have a hat?" Rachel stuck her finger in the whipped cream, licking it thoughtfully.
"Sometimes." Her grandmother handed her the mug and they carried it into the living room where the TV was all ready for their viewing pleasure. "He has a variety of clothing because he's always changing. You see, he's not really a man. He's a timelord, and timelords don't die."
"Not ever?" Rachel rested her chin on her hands, listening avidly. This was a topic that at the age of seven she was already fascinated by. Over time she'd seen the appeal of Rip Van Winkle's predicament, rather than the terror. Everyone else had aged, but he'd remained the same. After that realization, Rachel had spent a lot of time looking for little green men in her backyard. So far she hadn't managed to find any.
"A timelord, or lady, because there are timeladies too, regenerates instead of dying. And this man, he's called the Doctor."
It was the beginning of a beautiful companionship, one that lasted many afternoons. Rachel and her grandmother had made it halfway through the adventures of the sixth Doctor, when her grandmother was diagnosed with leukemia. Rachel slogged on through the later episodes, but watching alone simply wasn't the same. Then new Who happened and Rachel cried because she was happy and sad, and knew what her grandmother would have said about each new regeneration.
"Oh, look at those ears."
"My, he thinks he's cheeky, that one."
"Oh, look at him. He's got a marvelous grin."
Rachel looked up at the darkening night sky of New York, lit up by thousands and thousands of lights. I wonder what you would say, Grandma, if you could see me here and now.
Somehow, she was certain that her grandmother would have encouraged her onward on this adventure.
To be continued...