PART 44: TURNING POINT
“Great. No LaMilles listed in the phone directory,” Frank stated, throwing the volume aside. “People didn’t list themselves in a phone book even back now?!”
“The LaMilles were fairly wealthy even at this point in the past,” Clarke observed. “They could be unlisted – or maybe they only came here because it’s their winter home? Or some property they were hoping to flip?”
“The point being, we have no idea where Julie could be,” Frank moaned, pressing a hand to his forehead. “What’s worse, now we’re not only fighting to keep Julie’s suicide plans from succeeding, we’re probably also fighting the time streams, as they try to kill her off again!”
Clarke stared. “Frank… you’re implying that Julie died in that car accident. Before we came back.”
Frank winced, then nodded. “Yeah. I’ve been thinking I need to revise my initial time travel theories,” he admitted. “Because while that news article you found would scan the same whether we were here or not, if Shady was acting to change his past – our present – it follows that our presence here could have changed Julie’s past – now our present.”
“You mean her future,” Clarke noted. “Relatively speaking.”
“I guess. But it means our REAL present could be in trouble too.”
“Julie’s at the hospital.”
Frank turned at Corry’s interjection. “What?”
The redhead turned towards the other two teens. “It’s time for us to go on the offensive.”
Clarke sighed. “Corry, now is not the time to–”
“You’re wrong,” he asserted. “It’s now or never. Julie has been reduced to a defensive game here, and if we let her fortify that position, we’re sunk.”
“But why the hospital?” Frank asked.
Corry lifted up three fingers, then curled one up. “First, when that girl has a goal in mind, she needs to know all of the related variables. The layout of the hospital, the staff on duty, et cetera. Even if she accomplished all of that before our arrival, she might want to observe our actions there.”
He curled up his second finger. “Second, I believe that our presence is going to make Julie act sooner, rather than later. She’ll bribe a doctor somehow, or switch around crucial medications, and then lead us on a merry chase as far away from the scene as possible. That chase likely starts at the hospital.”
“And third?” Clarke wondered.
“Third,” Corry said, curling his last finger before letting his hand fall open, “where else is she going to go? Like me, she has no allies here, no provisions, and for that matter, the hospital is where her double seemed to be headed. Though that was almost a half hour ago, so I suggest we get a move on.”
“And do what? Grab her when we see her? That didn’t work,” Frank protested. “We obviously need a better plan.”
“Maybe not,” Corry asserted. “In particular, because I’m now going to tell you what Julie did in front of me that day in January… and, if you believe me, you won’t ever look at her the same way again.” He eyed Clarke. “But between her hating us forever, and her being dead? I think we want the former. Don’t you?”
“False labour indeed,” the woman grumbled. “It felt real enough! What do these small town doctors know anyway?”
“Now, now,” soothed her husband. “I made sure he was qualified, and you wanted the smaller town, to surround the event with a certain anonymity. Give it another couple of days; we can induce if we have to.”
“Peachy,” she groused back, sitting herself down in the waiting area. “Well, I’m not budging from this spot for at least a half an hour. I need to recover my wits. Plus I may go into real labour sometime in the next few minutes!”
“Whatever you think is best,” the man consented, taking a seat next to his wife.
Mere metres away, around the nearest corner, a girl with wide, staring eyes was breathing heavily. Because those were her parents. Here, in the hospital.
Julie could scarcely believe her luck – this must be why they hadn’t been at the house. She could end it all, right here, right now. This late in the evening, there were very few hospital employees around. She still had the gun, tucked away in a jacket pocket. She could easily get off one shot before anyone could stop her!
Those were her parents.
It wasn’t her mother’s fault that her daughter had turned out to be a huge disappointment. And the very thought of raising a gun to the woman who had given birth to her was making Julie sick to her stomach. Worse, what if it was for nothing? What if the doctors here were able to save the unborn child? To save Julie’s life? Did they have that ability in a hospital this size?
She became very aware of her heartbeat.
Julie swallowed. No. She had to act now. She had to risk it, before her future classmates could stop her. After all, no one would be expecting this, right? And she could shoot, and shoot, and shoot… until she ceased to even be here. The doctors, they would try to save her mother first, right?
Julie reached into the pocket of her borrowed clothing, trying to ignore her case of the shakes. Her fingers touched the gun. The safety clicked off. She began to walk around the corner. Somehow, it felt like she was moving through water. Like everything around her was happening in slow motion.
Like time itself was holding its breath.
There were running footsteps.
She began to draw the gun out.
A hand seized her wrist.
“We have to talk,” came the unmistakable voice of Corry Veniti.
Julie tried to twist out of his grip, to yank the gun out and point it at him instead, but his grip tightened, preventing the movement. She wanted to scream. “No,” he said firmly. “Give me ten minutes. Then, if you still want to kill me – I’ll probably deserve it.”
She refused to look at him. Her eyes darted about the waiting area as she searched wildly for some escape. Screaming still felt like an option, yet calling attention to herself was the last thing she wanted to do. At least she didn’t see any sign of Phil or Frank. Only her parents. And even now, she saw they were ignoring her.
“I pick where we talk,” Julie choked out.
Corry nodded, but maintained his grip. The two of them proceeded down the nearest hall. Julie passed up the first obvious choice for a room, choosing the next empty one. They entered, Corry leaving the door partly open.
“I’m going to release your arm now,” the redhead told her. “Bear in mind that if you shoot me before the ten minutes are up, it’s bound to affect your plans, and may even be something I accounted for in mine.”
Julie nodded slowly. He released her, and she immediately moved a few steps away. Hand on the gun. Waiting. Staring. At least half a minute ticked by. “Okay,” Corry began at last. “Now… what goddamn fool stunt do you think you’re trying to pull?!”
Julie flinched. Any doubts she’d harboured as to whether this was truly the Corry she knew were now gone.
“I mean, I know you’ve had some complex plots in the past, but my God, killing yourself THIS way?” he snapped. “It’s the most twisted thing I’ve ever heard of!”
“Why does it matter to YOU how I kill myself?!” she retorted.
“How could it NOT matter, Julie?” Corry asserted. “This isn’t what I wanted when I led my campaign against you! I wanted you brought down a peg, not taken off the ladder completely! Consider, if you do this, and we remember you? We feel guilty. And if we don’t remember… I lose all the experience I gained from having you as my adversary.”
He clenched his jaw. “Because as much as I hate to admit it, you pushed me to new heights, Julie. You broadened my universe. In no small way when you tried to kill yourself two years ago on the gym balcony. I didn’t think anyone could go that far! And since I wouldn’t let you act on it then – I’ll be damned before I let you do it now!”
The memory came to her, unbidden.
<< Her movement was quick. Blood began to well up from the cut on her arm. Corry was next to her in an instant, grabbing her wrists and holding them apart as she lifted her gaze back up towards him. >>
She pulled herself away from the image. That had been a gamble. This was all too real. “So here we are again,” she whispered. “The two of us, locked in a stalemate. Me with the weapon.”
“And me – with backup.”
Frank swallowed, his eyes on the gun barrel. “H-Hid, and followed Corry. Look, Julie, n-no one has to die here.”
“Frank’s right,” Corry chimed in, Julie readjusting her target to the one who was speaking. “More to the point,” he added, “no one has died yet. Don’t cross that line, Julie.”
Julie shook her head. “No, no… I shot Carrie!”
<< Carrie stumbled back a step, reflexively bringing her hand up to her side. Her eyes dropped down to the redness that was now starting to stain her shirt. “Then again, maybe we can negotiate,” she gurgled out, before collapsing down onto the floor. >>
“Carrie’s alive!” Frank asserted.
“I also shot you!”
“You missed me.”
“And then I killed that homeless woman!”
“That was an accident,” Corry yielded. “No way did you intend for that to happen.”
“Julie, we can still fix things,” Frank insisted. “It’s not as bad as you think it is.”
<< Her father tore again, and again. >>
“No, no, NO,” Julie said, pressing the palm of her free hand against her temples. “I have to die, I know I have to die…”
“Why do you have to die?”
Julie spun to point her gun over at Phil, the latest arrival. Then she shifted it back to Corry, then Frank, then again to Phil. The three of them were too far apart! But she’d get at least one of them!
“Why do you have to die, Jewels?” Phil repeated softly.
“B-Because I do,” Julie said hoarsely.
<< Her father tore again, and again. >>
“They hurt you, didn’t they.”
<< The document she’d signed with the principal that morning was soon scattered on the floor like so much confetti. >>
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Julie said, not only pushing that memory aside, but grinding it beneath her heel and burying it. She had to focus on the present. Past. Whatever.
Frank spoke again. “Julie, don’t you see? We’re on your side here. And it’s not only the three of us.” He pulled an envelope out of his pocket, extending it towards her with a shaky hand.
“Nuh uh. You open it,” she asserted, waggling her gun.
He did so. Nothing exploded out of it. Instead, Frank removed a sheet of paper, and extended that instead. “From Luci,” he said.
Julie eyed him. She cautiously reached out to take the page, keeping her gun trained his way so that the others couldn’t make a move to disarm her without unpleasant consequences. She unfolded the paper, and risked a quick glance down.
To Julie’s surprise, the message was simply: ‘Sorry we had to send the guys. Come back safe, okay Julie? We miss you.’ It had been signed not only by Luci, but also Laurie and Chartreuse. Exactly how many people knew about the time machine now?!
She snapped her gaze back up. All that had happened was that Corry and Frank had taken a step back, leaving Phil in front. “Carrie didn’t sign,” she observed.
“That’s because she needs you back most of all,” Phil said softly. “Jewels, please – don’t do this. Don’t let them get to you this way.”
<< The culmination of six – seven? eight? – years of effort. So many setbacks. But now – they had to understand. They had to see that she was capable, that she was worthy of being their child, that she deserved their love and attention…
<< “What damn fool stunt are you trying to pull?” >>
“You know, Jewels. It’s time to stop letting them control you.”
“No one controls me!” Julie snapped. She dropped Luci’s letter, hoping two hands on the gun would provide a better grip. “Phil, in all the time we’ve been at school together, when have I ever, EVER let anyone else tell me what to do?!?”
“I’m not talking about at school.”
<< “Juvenile delinquent,” her father spat out. “Well, you’ve forced the two of us to use your birthday as an excuse to come back here to handle things. I hope you’re happy.”
<< Her mother sighed and pressed a hand to her temples. “Dear, you deal with this today, all right? It’s going to give me a headache, I’m sure of it.” >>
The gun began to shake dangerously in her hands. “Phil… don’t do this to me… don’t make me choose…”
“I have to,” he said sadly. “Don’t you see, Jewels? I have to. Because if you go through with this, and you die – they’ve won.”
<< “Leave it to a girl to take things too literally.”
<< He tore the document in half. >>
“It was my fault…”
“I didn’t do it right…”
“They never gave you a chance!”
<< The document she’d signed with the principal that morning was soon scattered on the floor like so much confetti.
<< A single tear splashed down. Then the glass covering the image cracked as the picture was thrown forcibly against the wall. >>
“I love them,” Julie whispered. “Why don’t they love me, Phil? Why??”
“I don’t know, Jewels.” Phil took another step forwards. “I don’t know. But I want to help you understand. To help us both understand.”
<< “This is going to give me a headache.”
<< “Juvenile delinquent.”
<< “She’s your *daughter*, after all.”
<< … scattered on the floor like so much confetti. >>
“No… No, I can’t!!!” Julie said, desperately trying to cling to the only reality that had ever made sense. Without it, what did she have left?
“It’s okay, Jewels,” Phil soothed. “I know you’re hurting. But please. You’re stronger than this, I know you are. We all know it. And we all care about you so very, very much.”
The tall blonde took another two steps forward. Julie blinked the tears out of her eyes and cocked her gun back up, now pointing it directly at his chest, point blank range. “I should kill you now for speaking ill of my parents!”
“But you won’t.”
“How can you be so sure?!”
“Because of what I see now. The brooch. Even after everything you’ve been through, after exchanging the rest of your clothing… you kept my birthday present.”
Julie’s eyes fell back down to her chest. The silver brooch in the shape of a rose seemed to smile back up at her. “It w-was pretty.”
“As are you.”
Julie slowly brought her gaze back up.
<< He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small neatly wrapped package. >>
<< “Here’s something to remember me by. Happy birthday.” >>
<< “Happy birthday.” >>
“Oh PHIL!” The gun clattered to the floor as the brunette flung herself at him, pulling him to her, burying her face in his chest, blinded by tears. And he was really there this time. It wasn’t her imagination. “They tore it up, Phil,” she choked out. “They tore up my whole agreement!!”
“There, there, Jewels,” Phil said softly, hugging her back. “It’ll be all right. Everything’s going to be all right now.” He held her tightly as she sobbed uncontrollably.
Seeing his opportunity, Corry quickly dodged around Clarke and Julie to retrieve the gun from the floor. Opening the chamber, he removed the bullets, then allowed himself a long sigh of relief.
Frank moved up next to the redhead and clapped a hand on his shoulder. “Thanks Corry,” he murmured. “This was hardly the most well organized approach I’ve ever seen, but it sure got the job done.”
Corry allowed himself a relieved smile. “Yeah, well, it seemed to me that, deep down, Julie didn’t want anybody to die either. With me to remind her of that, you to remind her that we all cared, and Clarke to follow up with his more personal connection… that felt like our best shot.” He looked at the gun, then tucked it away. “Ugh, BAD way to phrase that. Anyway, with the right counselling, hopefully Julie can pull through.”
“She’s in pretty good hands already,” Frank observed, looking towards Clarke. “At this point, I figure we’ll let her calm down a bit, then ask what she did with the missing microchips. Once I have those, it shouldn’t be too difficult for me to repair the time machine.”
“Right then,” Corry said, dusting off his hands. “Mission accomplished. Good to know that we’re finally through the worst of it!”
There was nothing but blackness all around. She was floating in it, surrounded by feelings of loss and loneliness. It was completely overwhelming. Chartreuse wondered how anyone could possibly deal with this. “Hello?” she called out into the void. “Carrie?”
Lee and Jeeves had remained with their captive back at the LaMille mansion, while Chartreuse had returned to the hospital with Luci. After all, the pink haired girl reasoned, there had to be some way to get through to the blonde cheerleader now. I mean, sure, Carrie held within her the power to destroy the world – but she was still their friend. Right?
Once in the hospital room, Chartreuse had laid out a series of meditation crystals around the bed. Then, holding a small healing orb in her hand, she had worked to form a connection with the unconscious girl for the second time today.
It had apparently succeeded, in as much as it had brought her here. Wherever here was. “Carrie?” Chartreuse called out again.
The sound of someone singing floated towards her from out of the darkness. The voice sounded as hollow and empty as their surroundings. “I once wished to travel through time. To have such a power seemed really sublime. But I never imagined the problems I’d face. So now I’m lost in time and also in space.”
Chartreuse looked, but saw nothing. “Carrie, is that you?”
“I can speak of tomorrow but not yesterday, for when history changes your past goes away,” the voice continued quietly. Chartreuse shivered, as she recognized the song Corry had sung at the dance. But the familiar tune was a bit off key, and there was an eerie tone of finality to the vocals.
“I see now that these forces can’t be understood, I’d return things to normal if only I could, but the ramifications have damaged my brain… it won’t be long now before I’ve gone insane…”
“Carrie, if that’s you, please stop this,” Chartreuse pleaded. She tried to push forwards, into the darkness. There was a shadowy outline there. It resembled Carrie, but it was facing away, so it was hard to tell for sure.
“Where are we, Carrie?” Chartreuse asked. “What’s going on?”
The singing stopped. Then the voice murmured, “You should not have come back.”
Chartreuse stared. “Back?” she asked. “Have I been here before…?”
“Ah, that’s right. I removed that memory. Oh, Chartreuse… you should not have saved me. Part of me was looking forward to death. Now, now this pain has become too great to bear…”
“Carrie, don’t give up!” Chartreuse interrupted. “If the problem with timelines is whatever’s happened to Julie in the past – like, we’ll do whatever we can to fix it for you! Surely you’ve realized that!”
The shadowy figure of Carrie seemed to think about that. “No, the ripples from the past are subsiding,” was her eventual reply. “Those who travelled back, and caused the waveforms to appear – the waves which were amplified at this time by my premature awakening – they will have been collapsed. There is no longer a… Schrodinger’s Julie.”
“But what of the future?” Carrie challenged. “Julie will be wanted for attempted murder. She will face severe punishment from her parents. One of many things that should not be occurring, not now. One of many things that have come about due to my actions. Me… the girl who should never have existed in the first place.” She laughed.
And something about that laugh was off, and somehow, Chartreuse knew that Carrie was broken. “That’s the real problem, you see,” the blonde concluded. ”How it’s all about me. It’s always been all about me.”
Chartreuse swallowed hard. “Carrie, please stop. You’re scaring me.”
“None of this should have happened, I know in my gut,” Carrie’s voice sang again. “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…”
Carrie’s silhouette spun, her palm thrust out towards Chartreuse. With a cry, both of surprise and pain, the mystic felt her spiritual self being hurled backwards. She collided with her own body, then somehow continued moving, her physical body propelled back into the far wall of the hospital room. The pink haired girl hit hard, then slid down onto the floor with a groan, struggling to remain conscious.
Carrie Waterson sat up in her hospital bed, her formerly blue eyes now blazing brightly with golden fire.