Author : Kate Haas
Alice sat on the railing of Aunt Nat’s fishing pier. It was crowded today. She watched a seagull glide overhead as she picked at her sunburned knees. Alice closed her eyes. The air smelled like saltwater and cheese steaks. Aunt Nat must have started serving lunch at the store. Alice couldn’t remember the last time she felt this relaxed. Part of her wished that she could stay in 1986.
A familiar voice sliced through the fishermen’s chatter. Alice was stunned. It was Tom, here, at the pier! She’d been searching for him most of the summer – ever since she left 2015. The problem was that eight-year-old Alice had limited resources and strict parents. She had assumed that the adult version of herself would travel back in time, but the movies were all wrong.
Alice still wasn’t sure what she would say to him. She opened her eyes. Tom walked up to an open spot opposite Alice. He was leaner and less muscular at nineteen. His big brown eyes were bright and unaffected by the rough decades that were still ahead. She wanted to make them smoother for him. For both of them.
She was ripped from her daydream when she spotted a woman trailing a few feet behind Tom. Alice’s blood burned. Brandy’s dark lipstick and her close-set eyes never failed to bring the term “lipstick on a pig” to Alice’s mind. Alice had to make sure that Tom didn’t make this mistake again.
Tom noticed the little girl perched on the opposite railing of the crowded fishing pier. She was wearing mirrored sunglasses, beat-up Keds, cutoff jeans, and a yellow Schaeffer’s Pier t-shirt. He couldn’t see her eyes, but he had the feeling that she was staring at him. Tom tied the rope for the crab trap to the railing in front of him and picked up his beer. Brandy was crouched next to him baiting her trap.
Tom looked over his shoulder. The little girl had pushed her sunglasses to the top of her head. She was clearly staring at him. The girl couldn’t be more than ten. She tied her long hair back with a scrunchie. Then she smiled and winked at him.
Tom turned away. This was getting weird. Brandy leaned through the railing to drop her trap. Tom tilted his head back and lifted the beer to his lips. Something brushed against his leg. Brandy careened over the side of the pier. Her head smacked against one of the wooden pilings, leaving a red smear. She hit the water hard and was gone.
As people on the pier ran towards the commotion, Alice slipped back to her perch and flipped down her shades. She tied the front of her t-shirt into a jaunty side-knot. She felt light. For the first time in a long time she was excited for the future.