PART 20: FALLOUT
Luci’s gaze snapped away from Julie and onto Lee, who was now standing in front of her. “Lee!” she said redundantly. “No, I… there’s something else I need to do right now,” she said, scrambling for words.
“Yeah? Hey, I’ve been meaning to ask you, what brings you here tonight, don’t recall seeing you at these…”
“Later Lee, okay?” Luci interrupted. Julie was almost out of sight.
Lee shrugged. “Okay, whatever. You’re looking stressed though, you shouldn’t be stressed at a dance.”
“Y-Yes… I’ll work on that,” Luci said.
Lee snapped a finger and pointed at her. “Good idea.” He moved to follow a few others into the cafeteria while Luci hurried back down the hall in the other direction. But by the time she’d reached the hallway junction point, Julie was nowhere to be seen.
Julie strode purposefully down the hall, keeping one eye ahead of her and one behind. There was no point being sneaky – that would only draw unwanted attention. However, there was also no point being slow. She didn’t stop until she saw the unexpected shadow in the hall, outside the stairwell near the gym. Having climbed five steps to gain the high ground, Julie turned around, folding her arms. “Come out, come out, no point in hiding.”
A couple seconds passed. She didn’t budge. Then, Frank stepped out. “Don’t do it, Julie.”
“Do what?” Julie protested. “Shouldn’t you be back monitoring the coat check?”
“Never mind that. What you’re going to do…” Frank hesitated, then raised his hands in what she supposed was an attempt at an offensive stance. It looked more like he was about to give a ‘thumbs up’. “I can’t let you.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Julie countered, pretending to fumble nervously among the pleats of her skirt. In the process, she tapped the button on the miniature remote she’d secreted away.
“You are about to play a recording that’s damaging for both Carrie and Laurie,” Frank clarified.
“Me? How could I EVER do such a thing?” Julie protested, a hand now to her heart. “You must have me confused with Corry. Or Carrie herself.”
“It’s not too late, Julie. Consider the consequences!”
“I have. You haven’t,” Julie countered, shifting her tone to serious. “Better go, Frank. There’s a cell phone ringing in your cloakroom.”
Frank blinked. “What?”
Julie smiled. “Ring, ring,” she whispered. “I wouldn’t hit that talk button if I were you. Might set off a terrible chain of events.”
Frank shuddered. “You can’t mean… you didn’t. You couldn’t have!”
“You start pushing buttons on that phone and it’s not me who will be responsible for consequences,” Julie said, narrowing her eyes. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, DON’T follow me again… you time tripper.”
She hurried upstairs, leaving Frank behind.
Carrie bit back a series of curses. Of COURSE the circuit breaker would be locked, why had she thought otherwise? She couldn’t simply rush the DJ and unplug all his equipment either, he’d stop her, and then nothing would change except that she’d be in even bigger trouble. Not only temporally, but because there would be tangible evidence of her doing something on the stage. Carrie didn’t fancy talking herselves out of THAT situation.
She might still have a chance though. If she could shut down the main speakers by pulling out the leads at the right moment, there wouldn’t be any sound available after Corry’s song. Hence no way for the recording to be heard. Edging cautiously into a position behind the stage, Carrie located the cables in question then fidgeted slightly, waiting for Corry to hurry up and finish singing.
Yet our future is hist’ry, and I’ve lost what’s what.
We must now beware, time is not playing fair,
I would solve this crime it’s just I’m…
outta time… outta time… outta time…”~
“Yes, you are,” Carrie whispered, grabbing the cords for the main speakers and giving them a hard yank. The leads popped free from the stage setup. Carrie smiled to herself in the brief pause that ensued.
Then the silence was broken, not by applause, but by the voice of Laurie Veniti coming through the sound system.
“I’ve figured out where the test papers are!” she stated.
Backstage, Carrie reeled. She quickly traced the cords in her hands back towards their source. She had the right ones. Those speakers out in the cafeteria should not be projecting sound! Her gaze flickered back and forth over the setup in front of her, even as she realized she wasn’t going to have time to do anything more.
“What the hell?” Carrie whispered almost inaudibly in response to hearing her own voice coming from the sound system. Could someone have actually gone to the trouble of setting up a secondary feed? Or an alternate second set of speakers? Who? Julie?
“Turn off all your audio equipment!” Corry snapped at the DJ.
“It’s not his audio equipment,” Carrie hissed. She’d better get out of here though – Mr. Fisk was coming. Carrie beat a hasty retreat to the shadows on the far side of the stage.
“SOMEONE TURN THAT GOD DAMN RECORDING OFF!!!” Corry yelled.
‘Temper, temper,’ Carrie thought to herself. Actually, Corry’s act was really convincing, now that Carrie got a better look at it. She hadn’t been paying that much attention the first time. And Luci’s comment about how Corry was protective of his sister came unbidden into Carrie’s mind, casting further doubt on the whole situation.
But if it wasn’t Corry… no, it couldn’t be Julie either! I mean sure, maybe her friend had been acting a little weird lately, and should have given Carrie a heads up of some sort, but to outright lie about this later? No way!
Burying that unnerving thought, Carrie ducked out of the cafeteria whilst everyone’s attention was drawn to Corry meeting up with her prior self.
“Run that by me again?”
“I think Julie rigged a cell phone to act as a trigger for her recording,” Frank repeated.
“When did you run into Julie?” Luci pressed.
“She passed right by this classroom. I’d hidden the time machine, and didn’t see you, so I tried tailing her myself. Except, uh, she saw me. We talked briefly. And although she never admitted to anything… I think she set me up along with Carrie!”
Luci frowned. “I guess I’m glad that one of us spotted her. I should have remembered when I’d run into Lee.” She shook her head. “Still, rigging a cell phone? That’s overkill.”
“But it fits,” Frank insisted. “A cell phone rang towards the end of Corry’s musical number, I tracked it to Carrie’s jacket, and Joe said to answer it. I didn’t hear anyone on the other end of the line, and when I hung it up, that’s when I heard Laurie’s voice in the cafeteria. Me using the cell phone, that must have triggered it!”
Luci leaned back against the classroom wall, crossing her arms. “No, I don’t buy that,” she said at last. “Too risky. Even if we assume that Julie has Joe Drew working for her, too much could go wrong with that scenario.”
“Luci, how else could Julie have known about the phone?”
“Oh, she planted that, obviously,” Luci agreed. “But only, I think, in order to play with your mind. To distract you.” She paused briefly. “Which means maybe I haven’t been giving Julie enough credit. Which bothers me, seeing as I’d already given her more than I felt she was due.”
“I don’t even remember where I put the phone after that,” Frank added. “I should ask Carrie if she got it back.”
“Got what back?” Carrie inquired, entering the room.
“Your cell phone.”
“I never lost my cell phone. What are you babbling about?”
“Your, er… you had a cell phone in your jacket pocket at the dance Friday. Today,” Frank amended. “I answered it when Corry’s song ended.”
Carrie lifted up an eyebrow. “Can’t have been my jacket. I wouldn’t leave my phone in there.”
“But I’m sure the jacket was yours!” Frank protested. “I’ve seen you wearing it!”
“Carrie, could Julie have slipped the phone in your jacket pocket?” Luci inquired, now pacing back and forth.
“Oh, great. Here we go blaming Julie for everything again.”
“Actually, wait, it doesn’t matter. She could have gotten Joe to do that later,” Luci amended.
“Frank, could you remind the gifted little girl here that people should remain innocent until proven guilty?”
“Wow! Exactly when did that become your philosophy on people??” Luci countered, looking back up at the blonde.
“Okay, come on, we are NOT doing this again,” Frank said desperately. “You’re both right, okay? After all, we haven’t proven guilt… but Carrie, I did run into Julie in the stairwell. And she all but admitted she knew about our time machine.”
Carrie’s mouth twisted into a hard line. “That means she didn’t admit to the recording. And before either of you suggest Julie paying off the DJ, the sound still played even after I cut the connection going to the speakers he was using. So it wasn’t that.”
“You… what?” Frank said in surprise.
Luci resumed her pacing. “This is bad,” she observed. “To account for the speakers too…? Well, she certainly has the funds to set up a secondary system and listening devices, but… wow. I hate to say it, but I finally understand how Chartreuse felt all last week.”
“Oh, by all means, let’s mention the nutty psychic in our conversation as well,” Carrie said, throwing her hands up in the air. “Seriously, what is with this vendetta you people have against Julie?”
Luci whirled on her heel, eyes alternately flashing green and blue in the dim light of the classroom. “Julie’s dangerous, Carrie! For whatever reason, this year she’s started causing people real emotional pain! Don’t you give a damn about your classmates? Or do you truly only give a damn about yourself??”
Carrie didn’t back down, rather she took a step forwards. “Julie’s our classmate too! And for all your talk, you don’t seem to give a damn about her – so if she IS behind this, it has to be for a good reason!”
“Then what is it, Carrie? By all means, she’s your friend, so you tell us, what is it??”
Carrie struggled to speak. “I don’t know!” she finally admitted. “All I know is that my life was a lot easier to deal with before you two! I’ve… I’ve had it!” Her gaze snapped over to Frank. “Time for me go back to the past now, okay? You know why – to fix that event that I wanted to fix in the first place! The week’s up, so I can do that now, right? Testing’s done?”
Frank cleared his throat nervously. “One successful test doesn’t necessarily mean anything…” Carrie took a step towards him, narrowing her eyes. “…but on the other hand…”
“You stand your ground!” Luci interjected on Frank’s behalf. “Don’t let your actions be dictated by this self-serving egomaniac!”
“You don’t know me!” Carrie protested. “Okay? So STOP telling me what a horrible person I am, because you DON’T KNOW ME!”
“Girls, please!” Frank gasped, “Someone will hear…”
“Shut up, Frank!” both of them chorused. He shut up. Carrie and Luci glowered at each other in silence for a few more moments.
“I think,” Luci began coldly, “that it would be best if we all returned to the present before doing anything else.”
“That’s the first thing you’ve said I agree with,” Carrie retorted, equally as icily.
“Yes, that’s, er, sort of what I was going to suggest,” Frank said, smiling weakly. It did nothing to alleviate the tension in the air.
At 9:35 that Sunday night, the park bordering the ravine near Carrie’s house had three unanticipated visitors. The shortest collapsed onto the ground almost right away, unconscious.
“Okay, she’s out,” Carrie said. She looked at the digital readout of the time machine. “And we’ve hit the mark for a second time. Your testing’s done. Next stop, the airport.”
“Carrie, we can’t simply leave Luci on the ground…”
“She’ll be awake in, what, ten seconds?? Come on! I’ve been looking forward to this, Frank. To the day when I can finally fix this mess that is my life! We pull this off and my mom will be there for supper tomorrow! And who knows what else will get fixed along with it?! So hurry up and reset these circuits for me.”
With that, Carrie pushed back on the lever of the time machine, opening the device… and allowing a plume of smoke to billow out. She fell back, coughing. Frank leapt for the machine, catching it and fanning a hand overtop to clear the smoke. She watched as he then peered down into the device. “One or two of the circuits fried,” Frank said slowly. “Uh, and not the new ones. So it will take some time to fix them, assuming…” He stopped himself.
“Assuming you can,” Carrie finished quietly.
“Kinda, yeah.” Frank looked up at her uncertainly.
So that was that. In the blink of an eye, everything she’d been hoping to accomplish, gone, vanished along with that puff of smoke. Had the device always been fated to burn out? And was this some sort of karma, after she’d effectively rejected her ‘trapped in the woods’ resolution to be a better person? Or had it been the fault of the know-it-all girl and her new circuits?
Carrie’s gaze shifted over to Luci, who was now awake, and staring over at Frank with a concerned look on her face. Carrie knew what she wanted to believe. “This is your fault,” the blonde accused.
Except it wasn’t, the voice in her head warned her. This was Carrie’s own damn fault, for wanting to rush things. In order to push Frank away, like she did with everyone else. Because she was selfish. And short sighted. A perfect match with her plans for time travel – which had also been selfish and short sighted. Only about benefitting her. Changing her own life. Worse, changing things, rather than trying to make the most of them. And because of that, what did she have now? Nothing. Possibly not even Julie.
“My fault?” Luci countered. “Frank said it wasn’t my circuits that failed.”
“But everything was going great before you two!” Carrie said, feeling herself start to shake with equal parts rage and despair. She used her rage to try and silence the damned voice in her head. “Now, you’ve not only screwed up the time machine, you’ve turned Julie against me! Without her – you’ve destroyed everything, EVERYTHING that was good about my life!!” Me, me, me, still all about me…
Luci met Carrie’s gaze evenly. “Then only now can you understand how crushed someone like Laurie must have felt.”
Two strides later and Carrie had backhanded Luci across the face. “Carrie!” Frank shouted in horror, jumping up to grab her arm. Feeling a strange sort of disconnect, Carrie looked over at her hand. Yes, she’d really done that. Why couldn’t she control herself?
At the same time, Luci turned her face slowly back to look at the blonde. “Nice. Does beating up people younger than you make you feel better?”
“Luci!” Frank admonished.
“No. It doesn’t,” Carrie admitted. A light breeze blew through her hair, and as Frank released her arm, it fell back to her side. “It makes me feel in control. Except perversely, I’m discovering that I’m not.” She turned away. “So, fine. I’m sorry, okay? I’ll be leaving you now. Please, don’t either of you ever come near me again.”
There was nothing for it. With the time machine out of commission, she didn’t need them any more – and they sure didn’t need her. Of course, given some of her recent activities, was there anyone left who would want her around? She sprinted towards the tree line, a lump in her throat.
Carrie was nearly out of sight before the full impact of her statement had sunk in. “Wait… Carrie!” Frank called out after her. “We can fix the machine! I can fix it! Carrie, running away isn’t going to solve anything either!”
“Oh, let her go, Frank,” Luci sighed, finally standing up. “Remember all of the problems she’s caused you? Besides, she’ll be of no help fixing anything. Let her work through her anger issues. It will allow us to do some proper tests.”
“But…” Frank’s voice trailed off.
“But?” Luci prompted.
Frank struggled to find the words. “She’s a part of this.”
“So she’ll come back to her senses in a day or two.”
“Perhaps,” Frank said, not totally convinced.
Luci reached out to touch Frank’s arm. “Come on, I’ll help you carry the time machine back to your place, okay? We can give it a once over before I head home. Assess the damage. See if we really can repair it.”
Frank turned back to look at the young girl, finally nodding slightly in agreement. “Okay. Maybe that’s best,” he conceded.
Carrie sat on the floor of her room, hugging a pillow and staring at her telephone. She refused to cry, even though she felt like crying. There had been one tear, and it had been more than enough. She was stronger than that. She had to be.
Troublingly, the few prior occasions she’d found herself sinking into moods like this, a call to Julie and a little chatter usually helped to perk her back up. Now, Carrie didn’t think that was going to work. Because despite how fiercely she’d denied that Julie could be doing something underhanded behind her back… she knew they were right. It only made sense that Julie had been upset with her, owing to her keeping secrets.
Yet perhaps it wasn’t too late. Perhaps she could salvage something from the wreck her life was becoming. Two years with Julie, it had to count for something, right? Carrie found her fingers dialling the mansion almost before she realized it. Soon Jeeves was summoning her former(?) friend to the phone.
“Hello?” Julie’s voice inquired.
“Julie?” Carrie said softly.
“Carrie, that you? Is something up?”
“Yes.” Carrie paused. Her free fingers obtained a complete stranglehold on a lock of her hair. “Julie, are you responsible for what happened at the dance?”
“What? I thought we covered this, of course not.”
“You’re lying,” Carrie contested. “What’s more, I think you’ve been setting me up.”
A laugh. “Whatever gave you that silly idea?”
Silence from Julie’s end. Then, “Interesting answer.”
Carrie drew in a breath. “But I’m not time traveling any more,” she continued in a rush. “It’s all been screwed up, and I told Frank to take a hike, and so I’d like for things to go back to how they used to be now. Okay? You don’t have to keep doing whatever it is you’re doing, and we can go back to being best friends again. Okay? Sound good?”
“Perhaps,” Julie replied, still in a neutral tone. “But how do I know you’re sincere about all that you’re saying?”
“I… I just am. I’ll tell you all about the things that happened if it’ll help convince you. Every detail.”
“Okay, then let’s meet,” Julie said quickly.
“Tomorrow at school?”
“No, tonight. Now. You sound like you could use the company. I can drop by, it’s no trouble.”
Carrie scrunched her knees up to her chest, yanking her fingers free of her hair, a couple strands coming out by the roots. She winced. “Yeah, okay, I guess. You’ll have to use the tree though, my dad’s gone curfew on me.”
“I’ll be there in fifteen minutes. Sit tight, Carrie. Everything’s going to be all right,” Julie concluded. There was a quiet beep as she hung up the phone.