QSFer Jaylee James has a new sci fi book out:
Collin is in high school when he is visited by a time traveler – a woman who claims to be his wife in a hypothetical future… only the timeline has been disrupted, and the two will never meet unless he makes four key choices in his life that will guide them together again.
“Choosing You” is a short story in a conversational, first-person voice, about what happens when deciding to love someone becomes a literal choice. It’s 7300 words long and features a transgender protagonist.
The first time I met her, she called me Collin.
I sighed, tightening the high ponytail that was uniform-standard at Corey’s Cookies. That’s when I heard her say my name.
I continued eating my food court Chinese. My name badge, at that time, said Collette.
“Collin.” Her voice was taking on a sing-song quality. I looked up.
She smiled. “Hey there.”
I had a mouth full of eggroll. Quickly, I swallowed it, nearly choking. “Excuse me?”
“Sorry, you don’t know me.” She sat in the seat across from me – chair scraping across the linoleum. “My name’s Dia.”
Some screaming toddler ran past our table.
“Look, uh, Dia-”
She waved my protest aside. “Collin, listen. I’m about to tell you some stuff, and it’s not going to make a lot of sense. So just bear with me, ok?”
“Okay…” I scanned the food court over her head for Jim, the security guard, but there was no sign of him. “I’ve only got about ten more minutes left of my break, so-”
“Right.” She kept cutting me off, and making really intense eye contact. Her smile grew lop-sided and she giggled. “Sorry. It’s just… you’re really young.”
I shoveled a forkful of rice into my mouth.
“Anyway.” From the shoulder bag in her lap, she pulled out a stack of photos. “Look.”
She spread them out like a magician about to reveal your card, the mystery of the trick nestled in beside the two of hearts.
I didn’t get it.
The photos were of a couple and their dog. The girl in them was clearly the girl in front of me, and the dog was adorable. But they were just hanging out with some guy I didn’t know.
“Look harder.” She shuffled the photos around, pulling one from the back of the pile. The girl was kissing the guy’s cheek. His eyes were closed. They looked ridiculous happy, like they should have come free with a photo frame. I picked up the photo and peered at it. The guy looked kind of familiar.
Mouth open, eyebrows raised, Dia was waiting for something to click.
“Collin.” She tapped the photo, right over the white line of a scar raking through the dark stubble on the guy’s jawline. “Look.”
It was faint, but I’d recognize it anywhere. My eyes grew wide, fingers automatically reaching for the spot on my own jaw, then they narrowed. “What kind of weird prank is this?”
“It’s not a prank, Collin.”
Collin. A name I’d only ever given myself when I was alone in the dark, quiet of my room.
“Hey, man. Fuck off.” I shoved away from the table and stood, nearly toppling my tray. “I’m done talking to you.”
“Wait!” She rushed around the table and grabbed my wrists. “Collin – Collette – there. Is that better? I told you this was going to be weird.”
I swallowed hard, working my jaw. “You’ve got about 30 seconds.”
“Okay. I’m, uh, well. I time traveled. I was trying to fix something – anyway, it doesn’t matter. I fucked things up. Somehow, when I was messing with the timeline, I separated us. If things stay as they are, then you and I are never going to meet.”
“But we’re meeting now.”
She waved her hand again, clearing the air. “No, no. Not now. Then. When we’re supposed to meet. I only have four shots at this. Four chances to adjust the timeline. After that, the one I’m in – the one where you and I are married-”
“-and have adopted Sprinkles and live in the loft apartment of your dreams-”
“We’re married? Is that legal in the future? ‘Cause I mean, it’s not. Now, I mean – in 2013. At least not in this state.”
She grabbed my wrists, tangling her thumbs in the wristbands of my sweater. “Yes, it’s legal. In every state. We had a ceremony on the beach. It was very cliché.”
“Okay, so we’re married.”
“Yes. And we have a dog named Sprinkles.”
“You named her.”
“Now I know you’re lying.”
She laughed, then. Just – full out, deep belly laugh, hands never leaving my wrists. Her face got all splotchy and red, and I could see all the way back to her tonsils.
It was beautiful.
“Okay, well, that life – my life – won’t exist unless you make specific decisions in your life at key moments that will send us into the same place at the same time. I’m confident,” she gave me a smile just as sappy as those photos she showed me a minute ago. “If you and I can just meet each other, we will fall in love, and everything will be fine again. But you have to get to where I am.”
She was still holding my wrists, drawing tiny circles around my bones, thrumming the hairbands there.
“What do I have to do, then?”
Let’s be clear – at this point? I didn’t really buy it. But she was cute, okay. Really, really cute. And I was fifteen. And she was holding my hands.
“First, you need to go to prom.”
Tch. “I think you mean ‘First, someone needs to ask you to prom.’”
“Nope. You’ll be doing the asking.”
“And trust me, she’ll say yes.”
“She, huh?” I grinned. Was this all just some elaborate prom proposal?
“So next year, when you go to prom, wear the powder-blue suit. The horrible one that looks like a costume.”
“Next year? You think I’m going to remember this for a year?”
Her face fell. I had never seen the color actually drain out of someone’s face until that moment. Worse, she let go of my wrists.
“Collin.” Her voice was soft, and scared. “You have to.”
My phone chirped, reminding me to get back to work. “Hey, okay. I will. I’ll set an alarm on my phone, alright? See?” I pulled it out and opened the calendar app, scrolling ahead to next year, to March. “Prom’s in the spring, right? Sometime?”
She didn’t answer.
I looked up. “Dia?”
But she was gone.
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Jaylee James is a bisexual writer, reader, and all-around geek from Kansas City. Her work has been featured in Wings of Renewal, a solarpunk dragon anthology, and in Vitality Magazine, an LGBT lit mag of which she is the senior editor. More of her work can be found at her website – http://thewritingj.wordpress.com. You can also follow the author on twitter – @thewritingj, or at @lilstorybites where she publishes microfiction (mostly science fiction, fantasy, and romance).