Author : S. L. Gilbow

Nancy is running late again. Not surprising. She’s the type who shows up after you’ve already decided the movie you wanted to see isn’t really worth seeing or after you’ve figured out that the dinner reservation you’ve had for a week was a mistake in the first place.

“After all,” she says, “reservations are so confining.”

But she told you she would be on time today. Time machines, after all, run on a tight schedule. At least that’s what Nancy tells you, and she’s the expert on time travel. She’s the one who works for Timely Vacations. She knows all about time travel, and she knows this time machine is going in five minutes, with or without her.

“Your friend, she’s coming, right?” asks the attendant. You and six other travelers are crowded together in a small waiting room decorated with pictures of notable moments from the past. Washington crossing the Delaware. Napoleon at Waterloo. Shakespeare on stage. They’re all photographs.

As you wait for the time machine doors to open, the attendant looks at his watch, really just a show for you. An old couple stares hard into your eyes. It’s that disconcerting look strangers give best. Scornful and disapproving.

“She said she would be here in time,” you whisper to them. But you aren’t so convinced.

Really that’s too bad. Nancy is the perfect person in so many ways. Nice looking. Raven hair with a tinge of red. A lower lip that quivers with incessant conversation. She’s the one who convinced you to take this trip, a popular vacation package she’s currently marketing.

“I’m just not sure about time travel,” you told her.

“You’ll love it,” she said. “Everyone should try it at least once.”

“What if I meet my grandfather?”

“I recommend you be polite.” She smiled.

“What if I shoot my grandfather?”

“You’re not going to shoot anyone,” she said. “Just have fun. Relax a little.”

So you agreed to go on this trip, your first trip together. Now you’re thinking about not going at all, canceling the vacation to reschedule when Nancy can be more dependable.

“Your friend, I don’t think she is coming.” says the attendant.

“Of course she is,” you say, but you’re not so sure now.

Nancy said the trip would be a blast. A real blast. Going off to see Ireland and spending a few days on the Titanic. Those good few days before that iceberg thing. It’s a popular destination, and you’ve had this trip booked for a month.

You call Nancy one last time in desperation.

“Hi, this is Nancy. Leave a message. I’ll call you back.”

That’s it. You’re going alone. The doors to the time machine slide open. The passengers shuffle in, turn, and stare at you. You step into the time machine and wonder if you’ve ruined everything with Nancy.

As the doors start to close, you feel a tap on your shoulder. You turn around and there’s Nancy, standing next to a door labeled “staff only.” The door closes softly behind her.

“Surprise,” she says. “You didn’t think I was going to make it, did you?”

“Of course I knew you would make it,” you lie. “Where did you come from?”

“Next week.” Nancy smiles at you. “I caught a ride from next week.”

You smile back at her and take her hand. You squeeze it and it feels good. It feels warm and nice. But you can’t help wondering, wondering about the other Nancy, the one who’s out there somewhere, doing something, running late.

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