Next Time I See You

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Next Time I See You
by MJ Bell


I didn’t dare look back at Jeff in fear he’d be able to see the guilt on my face. I stopped in the doorway of the control room with my back to him. “You have some serious technical equipment in here. Does it take all of this to run the machine?”

When Jeff didn’t answer, I made the mistake of looking around. His mouth was pressed in a thin line and he was glaring at me through narrowed eyes.

Shit! I racked my brain for an explanation that would sound somewhat legitimate. “I … um—”

“Why are you really here? And before you lie to me again, I heard all the banging in the bathroom.”

I could feel all the blood in my body pooling down to my feet. However, before I could formulate an excuse, he added, “You’ve obviously come here with an agenda. I don’t know what it is, but I’m positive it’s not because you want to switch your major.”

My brain went blank, leaving me with nothing to say. I swallowed hard and strained to pick something out of the air.

Jeff blew out a long breath and raked his fingers through his hair. “I think it’s time for you to leave.” He stepped aside and swung his arm around, gesturing toward the exit.

A sense of panic immediately replaced the shame of getting caught. “No, please, wait. You don’t understand,” I said frantically in an effort to stall until I could figure out what to do.

Jeff took a step forward, breaching my comfort zone of space. “Oh, I understand!” he yelled in my face, making me wince. “I understand you’re not the trustworthy person I’ve always believed you to be. Do you realize I put my job on the line to let you come here? Or do you even care what could happen to me if someone found out?

“Why don’t you just admit it. You have no interest in physics at all, do you?” He paused to let me answer, but I just stared past him. He snorted in disgust. “I thought as much. So I’m not going to ask you again. Please leave.”

His face was flushed and his hands were balled into fists, but I didn’t move. I still needed to know how to work the machine and how to delete the camera video.

“I’m sorry. You’re right … I’m not switching my major. But I did go to Mallory’s talk and I found it fascinating. I just wanted to get a glimpse of the machine and I didn’t think you’d let me in without a good reason.”

“You’re right, I probably wouldn’t have. What were you doing in the bathroom? Why the pounding?”

“Oh … that was just a spider on the wall. I was trying to knock it down with my shoe.” It was the lamest possible explanation and I knew it as soon as the words came out. But it was the first thing that had popped into my head.

“That’s it! I’m done with your lies.” He took hold of my elbow and started guiding me toward the door.

“Okay, wait!” I said, pulling my arm free. I bit down on my quivering lip and lowered my eyes, debating how much of the truth I should tell him. But my panic had reached an all-time high and thinking clearly was not a possibility at the moment.

“I want to go back to March of 2016 and save Michael,” I said fervently, looking up through my eyelashes.

Jeff took a jerky step backward. I sucked in my breath and waited for him to say something, but he just stood there gawking at me as if I had grown horns.

I lifted my head. “I’m serious. I’m going to go back in time. I was just in the bathroom taking the hinge off the window so I could sneak back in later tonight after you leave and use the time machine.”

Jeff stared at me for several moments more, then exploded. “Are you insane?” A large vein bulged on his forehead and his fists clenched and unclenched like he wanted to hit something, but instead, he turned and walked away. He took only a few steps, then spun around and stormed back.

“Do you have the slightest clue the dangers involved with time travel?” He held his hand up, palm side out to stop me from replying. “Save your breath, because I know you don’t. And I doubt that you care we haven’t performed a single test on that machine yet, either. That means we have no idea what will happen to live matter that enters the gravity field. If we miscalculate the amount of exotic matter needed to offset the field, you could be torn apart. And that’s only one of an infinite number of malfunctions that could happen, not to mention, the whole damn thing could blow up again.”

His eyes were wild and bulging, but I just shook my head. “Nothing is going to happen to me. I make it through just fine.”

He let out a howl as he threw his hands in the air, his fingers spread wide. “And this comes from a girl who knows nothing about physics!”

“I don’t need to know physics. You told me yourself that I make it through.”

“What?” Again, he gaped at me. “You are completely out of your mind and have no idea what you’re even talking about.”

“No, listen.” I shook his arm to get him to look at me. “You told me four minutes were erased from the security camera two days after the machine was turned on. It was written off as a glitch, but it wasn’t a glitch. It was me. I erase those minutes after I come out of the machine so no one will know I was there.”

Jeff mumbled something I couldn’t make out and moved to the table. He placed his palms down and bent halfway over, staring at the keyboard in front of him.

I wanted to say more, but I had a feeling it would only make matters worse. I stood back and silently prayed I hadn’t made a mistake in divulging my plan. By doing so, I had inadvertently put everything, including my future, in his hands. He could make or break me, and if I got broken a second time, there was no chance of recovery.

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