PART 26: TIME ZONES
“What do you mean Chartreuse ran off for lunch with Laurie?” Julie said, slamming her locker shut. “You said you could speak with Corry’s sister during Home Ec.”
“Sorry, Julie – the mystic beat me to the punch,” Carrie apologized. “You think maybe she used her weird powers to sense the future?”
“Hmph. I’m not wholly convinced she can do that,” the brunette grumbled. “Anyway, it’s irrelevant. Damn it, Carrie, the one week me and Corry have rescinded our truce in order to make a play for the freshmen – and now I can’t maneuver Corry’s sister into whatever trap he had planned for me?”
“Look, I’m sorry. I thought you had a backup plan.”
“Oh, of course I do, but nothing else will be quite so satisfying,” Julie sighed. The two girls walked in the direction of the cafeteria.
“We could always go somewhere else for lunch,” Carrie suggested. Julie gave her a look. “Or not,” the blonde amended hastily.
“We’re not running away,” Julie stated firmly. “No, Corry is sure to try and show me up at the start of lunch. All we’ll need is…”
Julie paused long enough to turn and regard the person who had spoken to her. “I beg your pardon?” she said with exaggerated patience.
“Want me to buy you a frozen yogurt, rich witch?” Lee said easily, leaning against the wall beside the cafeteria. “It would go nicely with your icy attitude today.”
That comment would have been a cardinal offence coming from most people. But it was Lee, so Julie merely rolled her eyes and walked past without a second glance. She heard Carrie offer up the phrase, “Take a hike, Lee,” before following after.
Yet Lee was not so easily dissuaded. “Aw, I’m hurt, track tease,” he protested, following the girls into the cafeteria. “Can’t you two take a joke? Look, I’ll buy you some fries instead, to make up for it.”
“We need vigilance, Carrie,” Julie said, pointedly ignoring Lee while maintaining a wary eye on her surroundings. “This first week is critical, we can’t afford any slip ups.”
“Are you saying you’d prefer bananas? They do say you are what you eat,” Lee piped up again. “Here, mind if I join you two?” Without even waiting for an answer, Lee slipped past the girls to sit down on Julie’s usual bench.
It collapsed under his weight, dropping him unceremoniously to the floor. Julie’s eyebrows shot up, and she took a few quick steps backwards as all around them, heads turned and stared.
“It’s all right! I’m fine,” Lee said, glancing around and offering the crowd a quick wave. He tried to use the table to prop himself back up, but it too fell apart as soon as he’d put enough weight on it. “Aha,” Lee concluded from the ground. “School’s gotta do something about these termites.”
Having edged a respectable distance from the action, Julie turned her gaze slowly in the direction of her redheaded nemesis. He was watching the proceedings with a frustrated look on his face. Nodding slowly in understanding, Julie plucked at the sleeve of Carrie’s shirt and went to sit at a different table. Julie continued to watch as Lee struggled to his feet again. His eyes went towards one corner of the cafeteria.
Julie followed Lee’s gaze. There was a young asian girl there, her hair done up in two ponytails. Luci Primrose. As Julie stared, the young girl gave a thumbs up to Lee, then beckoned to Julie before walking out of the area.
Julie stood. “Carrie, watch my stuff,” she ordered. “I’ll be right back.”
“Oh, Luci,” Frank said as the young girl exited the cafeteria right in front of him. “Hi! How are you doing with things around the school today?”
Luci seemed to flinch away from him. “Oh, ah, I’m fine,” she said, glancing furtively back at the cafeteria doors.
Frank nodded. “Oh, good. Actually, I wondered if yesterday I was a bit, I don’t know, abrupt with you, so I was thinking, if you want to talk about stuff again some time, like schoolwork…”
“Frank, it’s not a good time,” Luci interrupted. “I’m meeting someone. Later, okay? I’ll get back to you.”
“Oh, er… sure,” Frank agreed, even as Luci brushed past him to head down the hall. He watched as Julie strode out of the cafeteria moments later, following after.
He nearly fell into step behind them, before deciding that it obviously wasn’t any of his business. More to the point, Luci seemed to be fitting in just fine without his help. He went in to have lunch by himself.
Of all the times for Frank to approach her, it had to be RIGHT then? Luci sighed. She’d avoided speaking with Frank thus far, figuring that it would only complicate matters even more than they were already. What with her being a time traveling version of herself. But given that encounter, was it any wonder that they hadn’t hit it off initially?
Luci shoved those thoughts aside as Julie caught up with her outside the library. “All right Luci, what’s your game?” the brunette demanded, hands on her hips.
“To get your attention,” Luci replied evenly. “I’m glad to see you recalled our earlier conversation.”
Luci didn’t add that she had engineered things today by playing the odds. Namely telling Chartreuse to take Laurie out for lunch, followed by steering the one person who could defuse ANY situation into hanging close to Julie. Thank goodness Lee was such a good sport.
As if she was reading Luci’s thoughts, Julie fired back, “If you think I’m going to be impressed because of how you got Lee to act out, that’s normal for him. He’s also a sucker for hard luck cases such as yourself. So don’t start making demands of me.”
“Don’t I get some added respect for preventing a humiliating incident for you in there?”
“No. Because I would have checked the bench, and that should have been Laurie, not Lee. In fact, for all I know, you’re the reason Chartreuse got Corry’s sister out of the way today,” Julie countered. “You succeeded here only because I didn’t factor you in. Furthermore, as to any plot against me tonight, I’ve checked with certain sources and found no indication.”
Julie had checked. Luci seized on that. “Are you saying you don’t want to listen to a potential recruit here? One who has information so secret that not even your sources are aware of it yet?”
Julie grimaced. They stared at each other. Two seconds became five, then ten… “Listening,” Julie said, grudgingly.
Gotcha. “Thank you,” Luci said with a partial smile. “So, you know how Clarke is planning on coming over tonight? Well, he won’t. And I think it would be in your best interests to find out why, by being at his place at 8pm.”
Julie’s eyebrow twitched. “What are you implying?” she challenged.
“You’ll find out at 8pm,” Luci countered smoothly. “That is, assuming you don’t ask Clarke in advance, or tell anyone else about this conversation. Not even Carrie. If you did, I’m sure certain plans would… change.”
“Is that so,” Julie said, folding her arms across her chest. “Is this related to another of Corry’s plots?”
“8pm,” Luci repeated inscrutably.
Julie glared again, but it quickly became obvious to her that Luci wasn’t going to budge. “Fine,” the brunette concluded in irritation. “But don’t think that jerking me around is going to earn you special privileges.” She spun on her heel and stalked back towards the cafeteria.
Once she was out of sight, Luci sank back against the wall. ‘I cannot believe I pulled that off,’ she thought. ‘Thank goodness there’s only a few more details to fix up.’ Pausing only long enough to rub her temples, Luci went to find Clarke.
“You’re sure Julie asked me to bring you to her house?” Carrie grumbled. “Because she never said anything about it to me.”
It was a quarter to eight that night. Luci and Carrie were on their way over to the LaMille mansion. At this point, Luci could only hope that the timing of the situation would work out. “Trust me,” she reassured her blonde companion. “It’s part of some master plan. And you know Julie and her plans.”
Carrie sniffed. “Even so, she usually gives me more information. Well, I think she does. Look, you’re sure I wasn’t supposed to call ahead?”
“Positive. Make a phone call to Julie, it will put the whole plan in jeopardy,” Luci insisted. “Don’t worry, it’s not like anything bad can happen at her place, right? She has a butler and security and stuff.”
“I guess,” Carrie yielded. “But I’ve got my eye on you. Don’t try anything funny.”
“Perish the thought.” They walked the last two blocks in silence. Getting to the front door of the LaMille mansion wasn’t actually difficult – if you didn’t mind being under surveillance – the sticking point was how Jeeves would never let anyone in, unless they had an appointment, or he knew them personally. Fortunately for Luci, Jeeves knew Carrie.
“Yes?” the LaMille butler said archly as he opened the front door.
Carrie smiled broadly. “Heya Jeeves! I’m here with Luci, Julie’s expecting us.”
Jeeves frowned. “Is that so? Because Miss LaMille left about five minutes ago and gave no word.”
“Oh…?” Carrie turned to look suspiciously at Luci.
“Julie’s very busy with a lot of things right now, it must have slipped her mind,” Luci suggested. “Maybe we can wait in the sitting room for her? I’m sure she won’t be gone long.”
There was a pause as Carrie glanced back and forth between Luci and Jeeves. “You ARE putting in a good word for me with Michelle, right?” the blonde athlete asked.
“I… I’ll try,” Luci agreed. Even as she said it, she knew she had no recollection of ever having done so. But given the stakes here, this wasn’t the time to quibble over social niceties. No wonder Carrie would harbour a grudge.
Carrie nodded. “We’ll wait inside.”
The butler inclined his head slightly in acknowledgement before ushering them in. Luci would have let out a sigh of relief, if only there weren’t so many other things that could still go wrong.
“Surprise,” Julie said, hands on her hips and one foot tapping on the ground. “I bet you weren’t expecting to find me here.”
“Oh! Well, no,” Clarke admitted. He opened his front door a little wider. “I mean, I’m just on my way out. Is there a problem…?”
“Depends where you’re going,” Julie countered. “I know it’s not to my place.”
“No, it’s to the cafe. Tim’s been concerned about some new rumour about me leaving town, so I’m meeting with him now. I can still drop by your house tomorrow. Did Luci not pass on that message? I mean, it was her idea for me to meet with Tim in the first place.”
“It was…” Luci. In that instant, everything clicked. Plot against her indeed. It was a plot by Luci! “I may have misunderstood what she said,” Julie realized. “My apologies, Clarke – I have to get back home now. Thank you for your help here.”
“Uh, any time,” Clarke replied.
Julie supposed his confusion was natural, but she had to no time to explain. Luci was in big trouble! Julie pulled out her cell phone.
The doorbell rang at the LaMille house at the same time as the phone. Being closer to the door, and knowing that their answering machine would pick up, Jeeves answered the former. He found a teenager wearing glasses waiting on the other side.
“Uh, hi,” the visitor said. “Is Carrie Waterson here?”
“Who should I say is calling?” Jeeves inquired.
“Frank Dijora,” Frank replied. “I mean, I hope I’m not disturbing, but I got this note, I think maybe from Carrie, saying that I should come here at this time, and that I’d know what it was about… so I’ve come to find out if I really do know and, uh, well, can you maybe tell Carrie that I’m here?”
“No need, I can hear that you’re here,” came Carrie’s voice. “The question is WHY?”
Jeeves turned to see the blonde approaching from down the hall. He stepped aside in deference to her. The phone stopped ringing, so he continued to observe them.
“Well, as I say, I got a note,” Frank replied, sizing Carrie up as she reached the doorway.
“That’s both unoriginal and pathetic,” Carrie said haughtily. “Either you’re being pranked, and your gullibility is impressive, or you can’t think of a good excuse to save your life. Tell me Frank, why would I *ever* want to see you?”
Frank shrugged feebly. “Uhm, I don’t know. To learn about time travel?”
Carrie sized him up in turn. “Don’t be stupid. Why would I care about science fiction stories?”
“Right, of course. I’m going,” Frank said hastily. As he started to turn, there was a loud thumping noise from upstairs.
Jeeves frowned. “Mimi’s out shopping. Carrie, is your friend Luci still in the sitting room?”
“No, I was taking her to the washroom when I heard my name out… oh, hell,” Carrie gasped.
“Miss Waterson, how well do you know that girl?”
Carrie closed one hand into a fist. “I’ll kill her. I’ll kill both of you,” she amended, jabbing a finger at Frank.
“What?” Frank said in confusion.
“You both knew I’d be curious as to why a geek was calling for me at Julie’s. You and Luci set me up, so she could get away. Jeeves, hold Frank here while I find the short one.” The blonde sprang for the stairs, taking them two at a time.
“Come in and stand right there,” Jeeves asserted.
Frank edged in, looking nervous. “Ah, so, Luci’s here too?” he said in what Jeeves judged to be genuine bewilderment.
‘I can’t believe this is working,’ Luci mused she crept down the hallway of the third floor. ‘Of course, by involving Frank, he’ll now think I’m with Julie, even as I’ll think he was connected to my memory loss… amazing how one single day can screw up a person’s life.’
The light from her pocket flashlight cut out, reminding her there was still time for things to go wrong. When shaking it didn’t work, she risked banging it against the wall. It didn’t help, and she knew turning on lights would only advertise her location. ‘At least I’m nearly at the right room,’ she realized, quickening her pace.
Except the records room was locked. Luci couldn’t believe how she’d overlooked such a tiny detail. She could now hear the sound of footsteps on the stairs down the hall.
“Think, Luci, THINK,” the young girl hissed to herself. “Use this high powered brain of yours.”
Before the LaMilles had bought this mansion, it had belonged to one Professor Linquist, and he’d been eccentric… hadn’t there been an old rumour about secret passages? Could she find one to hide in?
Luci frantically pressed a few spots around the doorframe, ran her hands over the wall and pushed aside a plant in a nearby alcove. Underneath the plant was a key. Muttering a prayer of thanks, Luci snatched up the key and jumped back to the door. The key fit the lock.
The next problem she faced was the complete darkness inside the records room. There were no windows, and without her flashlight, Luci knew she would never find what she needed in time. However, on a table by the door Luci could barely make out a candle and a box of matches. So there were still some temporal deities looking out for her.
“Come out, come out,” Carrie said through clenched teeth as she stalked down the hall. She opened another door, flicking on the light. No one there.
Well, Luci couldn’t hide forever, she didn’t know the layout of the house as well as Carrie did. Though the girl HAD known enough to get to the upper floors via the back staircase… was she working with inside information? How? Obtained through Corry?
‘If this is one of his plots, I am SO dead,’ Carrie realized. As much as she hated to admit it, while her alliance with Julie had its advantages, the need for her to constantly be on guard at certain times of the year was bothersome. On the other hand, Frank’s added presence implied Corry was not a factor – so far, that geek was unaligned.
Another room, and again nobody. Carrie forced herself to calm down – and in doing so, she realized that her systematic approach here was all wrong. She hurried back to turn off the light in the hallway, then scanned the darkness for anything unexpected. Nothing. No, wait – a flickering light coming from underneath the door at the end of the hall. Weren’t old records kept in there or something?
Carrie ran down the hall. As she reached for the doorknob, she heard a voice exclaim, “I’ve got it!” Without hesitation, Carrie threw her weight against the door, bursting into the room.
The lights weren’t on, so Carrie only saw the shadowy figure as she stumbled on top of her. Both girls tumbled to the floor, a candle and file folder falling to the ground next to them.
Carrie immediately seized the advantage, pinning down her adversary. “All right Luci, who are you working for?” the blonde demanded.
Luci met her gaze. “You, in a way,” she replied after a moment’s thought.
“I think not,” Carrie scoffed.
“This will make more sense in about fourteen months.”
Which was when the candle set fire to the dossier.
As Julie flipped on the third floor lights, she was greeted by the sight of an open door with smoke billowing out, followed by Carrie bursting out of a nearby bathroom with a basin full of water. The blonde charged into the smoky room, and by the time Julie had made it that far, Carrie seemed to be stamping out the last of some smouldering papers.
“I am waiting to hear your explanation for this with great anticipation,” Julie said dryly, surveying the damaged area. It didn’t look that bad – whatever had caught fire had been thrown into the metal wastebasket and subsequently drowned before the flames could spread. Still, those acts had rendered the pages completely unreadable. She desperately hoped it wasn’t something her parents considered important.
“It was that Luci girl,” Carrie said angrily, wiping her forehead with the back of her arm. “She got away after the fire started… we’ve got to go after her!”
Julie held up a hand to stop her companion from rushing out. “What’s your hurry?” she said calmly. “It’s only us here. I sent Frank away, Jeeves is watching the front door, and even if Luci gets out the back, we know where to find her tomorrow. Please, take a moment to enlighten me.”
Carrie went into a hurried explanation, which became slower and more detailed as Julie asked her a number of pointed questions. Ultimately, the brunette leaned back against the wall, crossing her arms and thinking.
“So, you don’t think Luci left with any papers?” she mused.
“Not unless she put something in her pockets before I arrived,” Carrie said. “Which is unlikely, as it sounded like she only found whatever it was she wanted as I got here.”
Julie nodded. “In that case, our choice is clear. We do nothing.”
“Think, Carrie,” Julie said patiently. “I make a big scene over this, and Corry’s going to figure out that I got duped by some twelve year old girl. I need time to gather more information on this Luci, so as to stop underestimating her. In fact, it won’t be difficult to cover up this incident completely. Frank is unlikely to say anything, Clarke wasn’t involved directly, and only you and Jeeves even saw Luci enter the house. My suggestion? Put it out of your mind.”
“But that little girl – she PLAYED us! What if she sells whatever information she got?” Carrie protested.
“Without anything on paper, it’s her word against mine. Besides, the family records in this room are hardly as incriminating as the files on the school that I keep downstairs.”
Julie reached out to touch Carrie’s shoulder. “Carrie, this week we need to stay focussed on Corry and the Grade Nine freshmen. Luci’s a wild card. We’ll deal with her in time. Consider, I could ultimately discover her motivations by swinging her over to our side.”
Carrie shifted her weight back and forth from one leg to the other. “I… I guess that makes sense. But damn it, I bet she isn’t going to talk to Michelle at all, the scheming little know-it-all.”
“Come on, Carrie,” Julie said calmly. “You’ve rubbed some soot on your face. Go clean it off while I tidy up in here.”
“Aha, here you are,” a voice said, cutting through the stillness of the ravine.
Luci jumped back onto her feet, spinning around – only to see the face of Frank Dijora behind her. She let out a long breath of relief. “Damn it, Frank, don’t sneak up on me like that,” she accused, jabbing out her finger.
Frank took a step back. “Sorry,” he apologized. “But it’s almost 9:15. I was starting to get worried as to where you were.”
Luci looked down at her watch. “Shoot, I lay down and lost track of time. I’m the one who’s sorry. Did you have any trouble with, uh, me?”
“Nope. I left your past self up in the park. Kept an eye out from behind a tree until she regained consciousness. The younger Luci looked around, and then marched off home.” He cleared his throat. “So, were you able to discover…?”
Luci smiled. “I have the name,” she reassured him, tapping the side of her head. “Also an address we can use as insurance. Funny thing, remember the small fire that messed up the files we needed? Carrie just inadvertently helped me to cause it. It happened today.”
Frank frowned. “Hold on. If by traveling back here we helped to cause the fire, while it was partly due to the fire that we came back here…”
“It’s another of Carrie’s causal loops,” Luci concurred. “But I saw no choice but to involve her in this day. You too, actually. Um, sorry for that.”
Frank stared. “Wait, so THIS was the day…” He ran a hand back through his hair. “Huh. Kinda makes a person stop and think, doesn’t it. I mean, how many weird, unexplainable moments in our lives could be due to interference from future versions of ourselves?”
Luci shrugged and reached out to touch the black box Frank was holding. “One thing at a time. We still have to fix our present, before it’s no longer there to be fixed.”
“Right,” Frank agreed. He pulled a coin out of his pocket.
Thirteen year old Luci Primrose spun her pencil around on her fingers a few times, before finally bringing it down onto the page of her diary.
‘’I have found no explanation yet as to how I lost my memory for twenty-four hours.’’ she wrote. ‘’I haven’t told anyone, lest they pin it on stress and try to shove me back into Grade 9 or something. Instead, I’ve been trying to put the pieces together by observing my classmates this week. To wit:
”Frank Dijora is… interesting. And kinda cute.” She erased the last sentence. ”But despite his seeming confusion, he’s tops on the list of those who may be responsible for my missing day. Meanwhile, one Carrie Waterson has acquired a grudge against me. That might be due to my dislike of her friend Julie LaMille, and their apparent feud with Corry Veniti. But maybe it’s more? Since Lee and Chartreuse said I’d been speaking with them about the feud too. They didn’t know why. Fortunately, they’re nicer. If weird. Lee’s started calling me “short stuff”.” Luci nibbled on the end of her pencil.
”I still don’t know who to approach for a friend. Maybe I should stick to this observing for a while? Seeing as it’s the opening of my big mouth which gets me into trouble. That, and being the wrong age. Gods, if only my body would catch up to my mind. Damn it!” She sighed, spinning the pencil furiously around her fingers again. ”Oh well. Here’s hoping for a better future.”
Luci put her pencil aside and snapped her diary closed – wondering idly how her upcoming year of high school would stack up against someone who had actually experienced Grade Nine. The way the rest of her current classmates all had, one year ago.
At that time, she had no way of knowing how much impact those Grade Nine experiences of Julie and Corry would end up having on future events.