Author: Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Rachel scrolled through what passed for news on her phone, coffee slowly cooling on the kitchen table. Malcolm would already be at work, leaving her in peace for this precious little time before she herself had to get dressed and head to the office.

She looked up as the kitchen light flickered and went out, and when she looked back Malcolm was seated across from her at the table. She jumped at his unexpected appearance.

“What the…,” she started, then froze.

She could clearly see the flowery wallpaper of the far kitchen wall through Malcom’s shirt, a shirt she didn’t recognize, and he’d somehow managed to grow the better part of a beard since he’d kissed her in bed that morning.

“Hey sweetheart,” he said, his voice tinny, flat, “sorry if I startled you.”

She looked around the kitchen for the telltale sign of a projector, assuming that this was some kind of practical joke.

“Rachel,” he waited until he had her attention again, “this isn’t a trick. We’ll talk about this after when I get home, and I won’t know what you’re talking about. I built this machine in your future, I wanted to see if I could come back to this moment and talk to you. I wasn’t sure if this would work, but I hoped it would.”

She studied his face and searched for something in his expression that might give away the joke, but she knew him well enough to realize he was serious.

“How far in the future?”

“It doesn’t matter, just the future.”

“I don’t understand,” she started turning her coffee cup as she spoke, thoughts racing through her head, “What’s it like there, or then I suppose.” She laughed, and he smiled, face full of emotion.

“It’s much the same, you know, nothing much I can say without risking changing things, you know how the paradox rules go.”

She nodded. “So what can you tell me? You look good, though I’m not sure about the beard, I can’t imagine me letting you get away with growing that damn thing, but clearly, I’ve softened. Any stock tips? Do the Leafs ever win the cup?” She laughed again, that dig never getting old with her.

“I’m not sure I should have done this,” he ignored her questions, “I wasn’t sure I could, locking onto a time, and a point in space that’s so far away from where I am right now, I didn’t dare to hope, but…”

He paused, studying every line, every curve, every freckle on her face, committing it once again to memory.

“But I missed you.”

And with that, Rachel found herself alone in her kitchen once more.