Author: Elizabeth Hoyle

“There don’t need to be multiple universes for me to fall in love with you over and over again,” Michael said, tucking a lock of hair behind her ear. “One lifetime must be enough, though there is no such thing as too much time with you. I’ve seen you as a daughter, sister, friend, cousin, business owner, artist, thinker, lover, fighter, worrier, scaredy-cat and so many other things that a person can be. I’ve seen you in all stages of sickness, recovery, health, and in every mood imaginable. Every iteration has made me fall more and more in love with you.”
Alice remained quiet at his words, as he knew she would. Her eyes widened as he took a deep breath. They both knew what was coming next. They’d done this so many times.
“I love you. Please be mine forever.”
Everything dissolved around them before she could answer. The chestnut tree they were standing under, the winking of the emerging fireflies, the pinkishly orange clouds that ringed the horizon as the sun set all vanished. The sterile metal tables and the bright white walls of the observation room appeared.
He fought to calm his thundering heart as they waited for one of the study’s volunteers to come and detach the sensors from their bodies. His neck ached from not turning to look at her. He’d been warned twice not to do so until the sensors were off. His natural emotional reaction at seeing her made the sensors go crazy and muddled their session’s end results. They couldn’t afford to be dismissed from the study. Thankfully the volunteer was quick, arriving and detaching the sensors to the immersive VR as well as to the medical equipment in record time. The doctor came in as the volunteer left.
“These numbers are astounding! Thanks to you, we’re getting a better understanding of the chemical components of love, which will enrich the products Pharmaceuticals For You makes. Thank you for helping to make sure that our products are full of feeling and full of you.” He didn’t take his eyes off the tablet with their results.
“Wait, please!” Michael said as the doctor turned to leave. “When we will get paid? This is our fourteenth immersion session and we haven’t been paid since our fifth.”
“I’m the doctor in charge of this study, not human resources. Take your questions to them.” The doctor’s lab coat swished as he walked out.
“We’ll get there, love. It’s going to be alright,” Alice said, her voice creaky with lack of use.
“Our appointment is in two weeks. We’ve got to get the money or they might make us wait even longer.”
“We will get the money and it will work this time.” Her voice was full of confidence that he knew she didn’t always feel. He turned to look at her; her eyes were tired but hopeful. “I can’t wait to see you be a dad.”
“And I can’t wait to know it worked and we’re on the way to becoming parents.” He stepped closer and took her hand. “Are you alright?”
All of this had been so hard for both of them, but even more so for her: their failed first round of IVF and participating in this study to get the money they’d never have made otherwise to finance their upcoming next attempt. Tears streaked down her cheeks but she smiled and nodded.
“I love you. I never get tired of proposing to you, even if it is for this weird experiment.”
“I love you, too, no matter what. In every iteration.”