Time slowed to a crawl as the universe completely stopped, allowing the girls the space they needed to fully envelope themselves around one another. It felt like Des had discovered a deep secret only she and Pearl shared, and it was magical and unearthly. At the same time, the emotions surrounding their experience felt primordial and raw, animalistic and carnal. They simultaneously belonged to the world and the planet wasn’t enough to contain their love. It was theirs and completely owned only by them. It was perfect.
Sometime during their onslaught of kisses, they bumped teeth once, enticing a playful giggle from the brunette to Des’s left. It didn’t matter; even that felt right in a humanly kind of way. In the game of selfishness and generosity, give and take, the girls’ lips twisted and slipped around in tiny circles, zigzags, and curls. They took in each other’s breaths and moved together as one, becoming some clandestine creature designed specifically for each other.
Suddenly, Des remembered why she was up so early in the first place. She abruptly moved away, which triggered a displeased grunt from Pearl.
“Miss Dragonfly. Where do you think you’re going? We’re not finished here.” The athlete’s voice teetered between disappointment and impish fun.
Des swung her legs off the side of the bed and stood to her feet. She leaned back down and assertively pecked Pearl on the lips one more time. “I need to tell you something important, Pearl. It’s a little mind-blowing, to say the least. You’re gonna think I’m bat shit crazy, but I’m not, I swear.” The standing girl fidgeted with the bottom hem of her shirt as she looked downward into the big, searching eyes of her companion.
Pearl moved up from her spot and sat on the edge of the bed. She wrapped her arms around Des’s torso and pulled her in towards her face. She removed the blonde’s nervous hands, raising her shirt and pressing her lips to the girl’s stomach, just below the bellybutton. The sensation sent delightful, tickling chills through Des’s body that made her smile and giggle. She didn’t know if she should fully laugh or just enjoy what was happening. Pearl kissed the area several times before lifting herself back up, making eye contact with her friend.
“Hmm. Is it something I should worry about?” She had an eyebrow cocked about an inch higher than the other, waiting for a response.
Des took a second to think about her next words. Despite feeling connected at a deep and unexplainable level, the biker worried about scaring Pearl away. Although, even if the brunette had reservations after learning what Des was planning, the time traveler had no choice in the matter. She would still bring Pearl with her so she would be safe, even if it was against her will.
“So,” the red-streaked blonde began as she retrieved her jacket and took a seat on the bed as well, “I have something inside me that lets me… do things.” She released an airy exhale as the weight of her secret was beginning to lessen.
Des smiled again and slowly nodded. “Yeah, but… I wish it was simple to explain. It’s more… complicated.”
A concerning look shone on Pearl’s face, and she slid closer to her friend. “Des, why do I get the feeling you’re about to say something fucked up.” She placed her hands inside the biker’s open palms, which were gently closed into a cradled fists.
“Well, because it IS a little fucked up. I mean,” Des hesitated, “I’ve been this way my whole life.”
“It’s like a condition you have or something?”
“It’s more like a power.”
“You mean the power to make me fall for you? Yeah, I know, silly lady.”
Des smiled and shook her head. “No, it’s more like the power of… time travel.” She bit down on her bottom lip as she waited for a response. A nervous energy trickled through her as she didn’t receive much of a reaction immediately.
A few quiet seconds passed, and Des could almost hear the gears in Pearl’s mind turning. She was processing the newly provided information, trying to make sense of what she was just told.
Feeling the pressure of the silence, Des hysterically blurted, “My mom first received the power from the Watcher and had to decide to either sacrifice the town or my other mom. Their love broke time, creating a multiverse. Anyway, one of my moms could rewind while the other could fast forward. They created me and I can do both, in a way. Their friend Rachel became the Watcher. She can see probabilities and shit. Together, we all had to restore the shattered pieces into the prime universe. Now a group of religious zealots wants me dead. I have to go to Rachel’s realm and you have to go with me. If not, the zealots will come here and you’ll be in danger.”
If Pearl was a little confused prior to Des showing all of her cards, she REALLY seemed overly bewildered now. The look Des dreaded was materializing on the brunette’s face, and she grimaced as she watched the emotion of disbelief wash over her friend.
Pearl pulled her hands from Des’s and stood to her feet, walking to the other side of the room. Her back was facing the bed while she seemed to be staring at a wall. Abruptly, she twisted around with her hands on her hips.
“Fuck you, Des.” Her eyebrows were lowered and her features scrunched inward in a scowl. “God. I know what’s going on here. You’re scared of what’s happening between us, and you came up with some bullshit to try and push me away. Well fuck that, Destiny Caulfield-Price. You can’t just…”
Before she could finish, Des stepped in and pushed her backwards. It wasn’t enough to inflict pain, but it was sudden and swift, causing a grunt from the girl when her back hit the wall. Des forced her mouth against Pearl’s and the pair enjoyed an intense moment. Their tongues sloppily pulsated and wiggled inside one another’s mouth, searching for a closeness that seemed to be at the back of the other’s throat. Both were confused, but it didn’t matter. The passion they shared made all other things seem minor by comparison.
In the past, if Des didn’t know what to do, she would shut down and remain quiet. Since reconnecting with Pearl, it seemed her go to move was a kiss. It might not have been the wisest thing to do, but there’s no denying that it worked.
Finally, Pearl elbowed her girlfriend off and stood there blankly staring.
“Okay, listen, Pearl. Everything I just said is true. I know you don’t believe me or understand yet, but I need to ask you a question.”
“Fine,” the athlete huffed, tossing her hands dramatically in the air. “Let’s hear it. This is going to be good.”
“Do you trust me?” the taller girl entreated.
“I-” Pearl shook her head and looked toward the ceiling with her hands again landing on her hips.
“Look at me,” Des demanded, but not harshly. “Please.”
Pearl slowly lowered her gaze, landing on and latching into Des’s eyes. They held their stare briefly before Des spoke.
“Do you trust me?” she asked again. The blonde felt the need to appear confident, but, on the inside, a desperate panic threatened to squirm its way out.
The athlete rolled her eyes, and Des noticed the corners of the girl’s lips beginning to delightfully curl. “Okay, fine. I trust you. Yeah, of course I trust you, Dragonfly.”
“Then let me hug you.”
“What?” A puzzled look slanted the painter’s features.
“We have to touch when I use my power or you won’t be able to come with me.”
“Wait, say I do believe that you can time travel or whatever. Are you saying we’re leaving right now? Like, NOW now?”
“Yep. We gotta go, Pearl. You said you trust me.”
Pearl rolled her shoulders up and shrugged. “Okay.” She wrapped her arms around the biker.
“It’s not gonna be very comfortable. Just hang on and don’t let go. Squeeze me like your life depends on it.”
Pearl nodded and complied.
Des closed her eyes, allowing the liquid-like trickle of time to flood through her. While holding onto her new favorite person, she could feel the same energy filling the brunette’s body. The pair’s entire essence pulsated with a spectacular radiance. A moment later, they vanished.
Frustrated by recent failure, Esther tugged on a strand of her long black hair. Her face glowed in the dim room from the iridium shard reflecting from the underbelly of the machine. She sulked alone in the cave-like area beneath the church, mentally oscillating between self-loathing and autonomous duty.
The zealot leader was irate when she returned. Her unsuccessful attempt to draw the abomination’s attention by holding the girl’s mothers hostage was disappointing. She felt like she was on the brink of fulfilling her purpose and clearing her father’s dereliction from memory. Her approach was forceful and unkind, which made the girl sick thinking about what she had become. The women she bound and hurt seemed like good people, with good hearts. But, as she was taught, the only thing that mattered was prohibiting the fulfillment of the prophecy, destroying the one that would bring death to the world.
Father Isaac consoled Esther when she returned. He told her not to worry since they still had the machine and one handheld device remaining. He hugged her as he had when she was a little girl, and she allowed it. Typically, the young leader would reject her emotions, pushing away any demonstration of empathy. However, she was tired, and she really needed to feel cared about in that moment. The old man was like family, having watched her grow up and been around her since as far back as Esther could remember.
After their hug, the elder sat next to the young leader, leaving a few inches between them. “We’ll regroup, Sister. Do not waste your energy in regret. Tell me what happened. I’m sorry to ask. It’ll be helpful to know as we move forward.”
“No, it’s fine.” She stared at the ceiling or the machine, alternating between them, while she spoke. “How were we supposed to know Destiny’s moms were cursed with time powers too?”
“We shouldn’t use its earthly name,” the balding, old man advised. “Personifying the creature might weaken our endeavor.”
“Dad never mentioned a Max or Chloe. He suspected the parents were at the hospital that day, but that was it. Nothing in his writings even alluded to them. He always said ‘abomination this’ and ‘abomination that’. Not one word about others with powers. They were never on his radar at all.”
“We’re only as wise as the information we hold. If your dad didn’t mention it, he didn’t know it.” Father Isaac bobbed his head up and down after speaking.
Esther gazed into his eyes and nodded. He seemed more finicky than usual but she chalked it up to tremors from old age.
“You’re right, Father. We will regroup. I have two men at the parents’ house. If any of them return, so will we. In the meantime, I need to rest.”
“Esther,” the man began, “before you sleep… how did they escape? On the phone, you said the abomination hadn’t returned and the machine kept their powers restrained. What happened?”
The girl sighed as she pushed up to a stand. “I wish I knew. Obviously, the machine wasn’t calibrated for the moms. I just thought… never mind.” She turned her back to the man and started towards the stairs that led to the main part of the church.
Esther stopped and slowly turned back around. She looked defeated with dark circles around her heavy eyes. “I thought they’d be pushovers. Destiny is the abomination Dad failed to destroy. If he didn’t mention her moms, I assumed they wouldn’t have the strength she had. It’s just another slice of failure pie. The more I come to understand about that man, the more I realize he wasn’t the hero I used to look up to. He was weak and wrong.” The girl shrugged and began to pivot away.
Almost on cue, the machine suddenly lit up and buzzed. Esther ran over and grabbed the attached indicator display. “It’s a university address.”
“Oh. I didn’t expect her to be naive enough to travel again. Figured she’d lay low for at least…” The elder trailed off when his eyes landed on Esther’s outstretched palm, held in position indicating her wishes for him to stop .
“There’s no time to lose, let’s go.” She grabbed the second handheld device and a small bag. Unzipping, she looked inside to confirm its contents.
“So, you’re taking the gun?” the old man asked, a displeased edge to his words.
“This time, it’s over, Father Isaac. I will finish this. One way or another.”
Max and Chloe had been on the road for nearly an hour, heading in a direction they rarely traveled to get far away from their captors. The married couple’s fingers were perfectly intertwined on the center console as they mostly sat quiet. Max kept one hand on the wheel, while Chloe continued to rub the rope burns and slices on hers and her wife’s wrists. They were bound tightly for hours, and she could still feel the restraints cutting into her flesh.
“Are you sure you should be driving, dude?” Chloe asked for a third time. She continued to check on her favorite person, as resentment was building towards the girl that caused Max pain. “Your head looks pretty bad.” She paused and ground her teeth. “I’m so gonna fucking kill that bitch!” She released Max’s hand and punched the dash; a few inches from the glove compartment latch.
“Jeez, Chlo. Don’t make the airbags pop out. Just take it easy.” The driver placed her now free hand beside the other on the steering wheel.
“Dammit. I hate when you hurt. It’s my job to make sure bad shit doesn’t happen to you.” The feeling of letting her photographer down, and breaking the personal vow she made to herself, filled her heart with a fiery anger.
“Babe, I’m good. I think it probably looks worse than it is. At least the bleeding stopped.” Max reached up and touched the spot where she was hit. A circular bruising had formed around the impact wound, and she winced from a mere graze of her own fingers.
“I dunno, Max. You were fucking knocked unconscious. I swear to god, if I ever see her again, she’ll regret even looking at you wrong! Fuck!”
“I gotta admit, it’s cute seeing you so protective of me. But for reals, I’m fine. I mean, it does hurt a little. Just feels like a cut on skin, though. I’ll survive.”
Chloe pulled out her phone and noticed the time. The screen read 7:45, and she could tell it was still early by the morning glow of the sun. “I’m calling Des. She better be somewhere safe.” The calls went directly to voicemail several times before Chloe gave up.
“No luck?” the brunette asked.
“Nope. Last time I remember her letting it go straight to voicemail, she wasn’t even in this damn reality. You don’t think she…?” The passenger trailed off, realizing the series of events that had taken place. Almost as if their minds were linked, Max spoke Chloe’s own thoughts aloud.
“Damn, babe. Des tells us Rachel came to see her, we’re held hostage by a group that wants Des dead, now we can’t even reach our daughter. Do you think she decided to travel? I know she hasn’t done it in a while, but something may have happened forcing her hand.”
“Yeah, love,” the blonde confirmed, “that’s exactly what I think she did. I can’t really put my finger on it, but I just know she’s not around here anymore. Shit.”
“Maybe that’s a good thing. She’s not in this reality any longer, so she’s safe. That’s great.” Max’s words sounded more like a plea than that of actual hopefulness.
Chloe’s stomach rumbled loudly and she realize they hadn’t eaten in hours. The grumbling caused the driver to softly giggle which in turn made the older of the two smile. She thought to herself that hearing Max’s laughter was one of her favorite things in the world. Seeing a mere spark of joy from her partner meant everything to her.
“I’m hungry too, Chlo. Maybe we should stop for a bite. We can do drive through if we need to keep moving.”
“Nah, let’s sit down and eat. Take our time. I doubt those religious assholes would follow us this far out. We’re not their actual target, love.” Chloe lifted her phone and searched for a place to eat. “Oh. About a mile from here there’s a diner that looks pretty good. Definitely not on Two Whale’s level but it’ll do. Just keep heading straight; can’t miss it.”
“That sounds yummy, babe. I could definitely get my grub on. An omelet or maybe some waffles right about now sounds perfect.”
“Yep. We are definitely stopping to eat. I could devour an entire All-Star right about now.”
Max laughed again. “I haven’t thought about Waffle House since we were in Atlanta at the High Museum of Art.”
“Still wish we would have actually gotten high at The High. Get it?” Chloe lifted her eyebrows waiting for the punchline to land.
“Yeah, that would have been funny. But remember… you made a bet with me that you could eat the whole meal. Until I saw you do it, I didn’t believe there was any chance in hell you could. What all came with an All-Star again? It was an ass load.”
“Ha! Yep. One giant chocolate chip waffle, hash browns, two eggs, two slices of bacon, two pieces of toast, and a side of grits. And I killed it! Ate every last bite. Booyah!”
“Yeah, you did. Guess that’s why they call it the All-Star. You have to be a legend to finish it.”
The lovers shared a laugh as Chloe gripped Max’s hand again. They pulled into the diner’s parking lot, into a space near the entrance. After the car was stopped, Chloe reached over and grabbed her wife’s shirt above her breasts. She pulled her towards herself and pushed in for a quick, yet deep, kiss.
Arching back, Chloe suddenly had a memory from a different version of herself. “Max, I just remembered something. Damn. I…”
“Babe, what is it?”
“I just… I… remembered a really interesting reality we experienced.” She looked around and blinked several times. “Amazeballs, dude! Let me ask you a question. Do you remember a band called The High Seas?”