PREVIOUSLY: Chartreuse knows something is up with Carrie, but not what. Carrie will have destroyed a time travel chip, and may be destined to leave town.
PART 80a: VANISHING ACT
Chartreuse entered the classroom she’d been invited to after school, to find Carrie sitting behind the teacher’s desk. She took a second to appreciate the fact that her temporal friend had asked to meet in the same room where they had ‘interfaced’ during September’s dance before closing the door and setting her books by the chalkboard. “So, is class in session?”
Carrie looked up. “I hope not. Because I don’t seem to have the right answers today.”
It was just the two of them. As Chartreuse approached, Carrie stood and walked around the desk to meet her. “Chartreuse…” Her fists clenched and she looked down at her feet. “Damn it. What I SHOULD tell you here is that I don’t care about you, and that I never have, so that you can get over your feelings. Because where I’m going, I can’t take you with me.”
“Except I can’t say that, I can’t, because I’m scared Chartreuse, I’m SO scared about how things might play out, and you’re the only one who knows about everything that I’ve seen and done and…”
She looked back up then, and she was so close to tears that Chartreuse didn’t even think about it. She reached out to grab Carrie in the biggest, tightest hug that she could manage. Carrie sobbed then, and after a moment, her hands slipped around Chartreuse’s sides to hug back.
Chartreuse closed her eyes, preferring to let her other senses capture the moment. The feel of how Carrie’s body was pressed up against her. The scent of whatever fragrance her friend was wearing. The sound of the quiet sobs of the girl she’d fallen for.
Alas, she knew the moment was bittersweet. To the point where, when Carrie finally released her, and started to draw back, Chartreuse nearly didn’t let her.
“I’m sorry, Chartreuse. I’m making everything about me again.”
Chartreuse reopened her eyes and smiled. “That’s my Carrie. At the centre of the, you know, universe.” Carrie let out a noise that seemed to be half laugh, half choke, reaching up wipe at her own cheeks. “So where are you going, and why not take me with you? Glen, like, won’t allow it?”
“Oh, I’m not going with HIM,” Carrie assured. “In fact, I fully intend to embarrass him tonight at the talent show. My raging headache isn’t the only reason I set that event as my point of departure.” She took a step back to pull a tissue from the box on the teacher’s desk, blowing her nose.
“You’re going ALONE? Carrie, no…”
“I’m going through time, Chartreuse. We’ve seen how that messes with your head. But even if that wasn’t an issue, this is something that only I can do.”
“WHY? When are you, you know, going? Aside from the obvious chip destroying side trip, that is.”
Carrie tossed her tissue into the wastebasket. “I’m sorry, I can’t. If I tell, then Glen, or someone else at some future time, they’ll try to drag it out of you. I won’t allow that. Not knowing, it keeps you safe. Besides, I’m not even sure if my plan will work. Hence the scared part.”
“But if you leave, what happens to, like, the rest of us? Your friends, your father… me…”
Carrie sighed. “In at least two alternate timelines, everyone led perfectly good lives without me around. I’m sure they can do so again. My father’s kind of a special case, but that gave me the insight into what I’m going to do, so he should be okay as well. You…” Her face crumpled again.
“Oh, God, Chartreuse, you’re the only one I still can’t figure out. I wish I could at least give you an answer here. I think I’d hoped that somehow, the two of us, in this room… and yet…”
“My feelings kinda defy all common sense, huh?”
Carrie licked her lips. “I don’t know. I’m truly sorry. I… I’ll leave it up to you as to whether you tell the others? About everything? Causality loops aside, maybe it will help them understand why I have to destroy the time machine on my way out.”
Chartreuse nodded, then closed her eyes, taking a second to call up the sensations of having Carrie in her arms moments ago. “Okay,” she decided. She turned and headed back to her books. “If you’re going for sure, like, at least take this with you.” She reached into her pencil case, pulled out a relaxation crystal and returned to press it into Carrie’s hand.
“Take this piece of me with you, Carrie. That way, you’ll know there are people out here who, like, care about you. People who you can turn to for help if you get stuck again. I know it’s not much, in fact it’s, you know, actually kind of a cheap parting gift, but I hate the thought that in time you might forget. Forget all about–”
Carrie’s lips pressing in against her own cut off the rest of that sentence, indeed made Chartreuse forget about whatever she’d been about to say about forgetfulness in the first place. To her chagrin, in the time it took for the kiss to fully register as being a thing, and for her body to start properly reacting, Carrie was already drawing back. Chartreuse felt like a part of her brain wanted to scream. She tried to distract it by looking into Carrie’s wide eyes. Those gorgeous, deep blue eyes.
Carrie swallowed. “Okay. So that’s a thing I actually did.”
“I-Is it a thing you might, you know, do again? I wasn’t ready.”
Carrie’s eyes darted around the room. Her fingers obtained a stranglehold on some locks of her hair. “I… oh, Chartreuse, I would. I’m still not entirely sure what this is I’m feeling, but know that I really would. Except I can’t! Not now! It’ll only make it harder for me… or rather, for the both of us, when I… I have to…”
“A proper goodbye kiss, Carrie? Please?”
Chartreuse wasn’t entirely ready the second time either, but she made sure it lasted much longer than the first.
“Corry’s band was pretty good, huh?” Laurie said brightly as the applause died down. “Even if he had to perform sitting down on account of the ankle.”
“Yeah. Claude seemed to, you know, play all the right notes,” Chartreuse murmured. She wondered whether Megan had actually spoken to the bass guitarist, or any of the others she’d attempted to influence. Well, they were only twenty minutes into a two hour event, maybe chaos would erupt later. Not that it would change anything.
“Well, sure Claude did. He had been practicing their songs since way before Glen got kicked out on Monday,” Laurie noted. “Megan wouldn’t have insisted that Corry choose him for no reason.” She tilted her head. “Chartreuse, are you okay? You shouldn’t keep worrying about what happened with you and Megan last night, yeah? Because I spoke to her, and I think she understands how you’ve been under some personal stress.”
“It’s not about Megan,” Chartreuse sighed. “Sorry, Laurie. It’s more that, the closer we get to, like, Carrie being up there, the more… conflicted I feel.”
The others, sitting around her, they would know of Carrie’s plans right away. Or at least, Julie would, as Carrie would be dressed the same as she had been that night she’d destroyed the time travel chip. Lee and Tim might suspect too, if they saw her backstage. Glen, of course, would already know – but he believed that Carrie would go back, destroy the chip, then return. Except she wouldn’t. She wasn’t coming back. Was she?
The points of the crystal Chartreuse was holding dug into her palms.
Laurie touched her shoulder. “Golly, what is it? Did Carrie finally give you an answer today, Chartreuse?”
The whimper escaped from Chartreuse’s lips before she could prevent it. “Oh, Laurie. Let’s, like, talk about it later, okay?”
Up on stage, the freshmen juggling routine finished with only a couple of objects on the ground, and they took a bow. Then Kim announced Glen’s magic act.
Chartreuse’s breath caught. Her eyes darted to the side, eyeing Frank on her right, and Luci beside him. The two of them also exchanged a glance before they all returned their attention to the stage.
Glen came out, wheeling a large trunk. He was followed by Carrie. Ignoring the light patter as Glen began to speak, Chartreuse watched as Frank’s attention shifted to Julie, who was sitting behind them. Almost imperceptibly, she nodded back. On stage, Glen produced a bouquet of flowers, which he tossed out into the crowd.
Frank shifted, like he was about to stand up. Chartreuse reached out to seize him by the leg, and he turned to her in surprise.
“Don’t,” she whispered, even as part of her said to release him, to let him try, to see whether he could succeed here, where she had failed.
“Chartreuse,” he murmured back. “Julie thinks this might be when Carrie–”
“I know. Don’t. Causality, you know.”
He lifted an eyebrow. “Actually, we only have the effect. The cause could be any time Carrie looks like that. If we keep it from being right now, that gives us all more time to determine–”
“No, it’s gonna be, like, now.”
“Why? Did you have a vision?”
Chartreuse closed her eyes. “Something like that.”
“So, for this trick… I will make Carrie disappear!” Glen said, flipping open the trunk.
“Chartreuse. I still have to try.”
She counted to three in her head, then released Frank’s leg. Hearing him get to his feet, she reopened her eyes.
“Carrie! Don’t… don’t do this! Not now!” Frank called out.
Students, parents and teachers alike all turned to regard Frank; the group of them had chosen seats closer to the back. He tried his best to ignore the attention, focusing instead on the stage. Carrie also paused there, one booted leg in the trunk. She fired off a quick, resigned smile. “Frank? What, you jealous that Glen gets to work his magic on me instead of you?”
There were a couple of laughs within the crowd. “Y-You… you know what I mean,” he called back. “Me… Julie… Lee… all of us, we only have your best interests at heart!” Carrie simply looked his way for a couple more seconds, then shook her head, resuming her climb into the trunk.
“Carrie!” Julie said, joining Frank on his feet. Luci rose as well, silently.
“You’ll have to excuse them, they saw what happened when I tried to do this to a watermelon last week,” Glen quipped, spinning his wand in his hand. Another wave of laughter rippled through the crowd, drowning out the growing murmurs.
That’s when Chartreuse noticed it. The photograph that Carrie had pulled out of her jeans. She was looking at it, as Glen closed the lid of the trunk on her. That fact seemed important, because Tim had mentioned a photograph too, hadn’t he? Almost a week ago now, in what would be for Carrie, another few seconds. Had that been the same image? What was the significance?
As Glen began to spin the trunk on stage, Frank looked back at Julie, seemingly unsure as to whether they should simply take their seats or not. So Chartreuse rose with them, motioning to Frank and plucking at Laurie’s sleeve. “Come with me,” she sighed.
“Chartreuse?” Julie questioned.
Chartreuse didn’t answer, she simply edged herself into the aisle and headed for the auditorium doors. A quick glance over her shoulder confirmed that the others were following. And beyond them, up on stage, Glen was now opening up that trunk. That empty trunk.
Carrie Waterson was gone.
NEXT: Not Forgotten. (PREV: A commentary last Sunday)