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Lost in Time

A first date between travellers

By Jeanie MaePublished 3 years ago 7 min read
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Gold bands of light from the rising sun emerged between the mosaic of rooftops that sprawled endlessly into the distance, moving between curved lanes and wending alleyways. There was nothing sharp about Paris. Instead, the city existed as something alive. The roll and dip of the streets never ceasing to move, the buildings curving and swaying in time with life itself. Even the corners, for there were some, held an endless kind of quality to them. There were no abrupt finishes, no severe edges in this city. Everything flowed together in an endless kind of dreamscape. Dramatic, romantic, living, breathing.

At least that’s how it seemed to Maria. She had grown up here, lived a life. Or tried to. That was all very far away now.

The chill of the morning air in autumn clung to her skin, and she watched her breath curl around her as she walked a familiar street. Life was just beginning to stir across the city, windows were opening, and voices carried across the quiet. Bird chatter started up in a nearby tree and puffs of smoke emerged from chimneys, dissipating into the grey-blue sky. Maria took a deep breath as she passed the nearby bakery, promising herself that she would go back for breakfast when this business was done.

She came to on old brick building, long abandoned, and headed around the back where she could slip inside. Broken glass crunched underfoot, and she ducked beneath a hanging banister, making her way to the stairs that led to the roof. Maria counted them on the way up, wondering if it was her friend who would be meeting her this time. One, two, three, twenty-four. She pushed through the door to the roof terrace.

A small table sat by the low wall at the roof’s edge. It was set with a white tablecloth, two chairs, two glasses, a bottle of what looked like red wine, and a candle in its centre. A woman with long black hair occupied one of the chairs, gazing out towards the view.

The door clicked shut behind Maria. The woman didn’t move, but simply said, “Take a seat.”

She did. Maria eased into the comfortable deck check, taking in the breathtaking view for a moment. It had had been a very long time since she’d seen her home from up here, and its beauty in her memory had faded with that time. A breeze kissed her cheeks as the seconds passed.

Eventually Maria forced herself to turn and face the other woman.

“I was expecting Thomas.”

In answer the woman extended her hand.

“Eliza,” she said in a soft accent that Maria couldn’t place. She had bronze skin and brown eyes and an easy smile. Her black jeans and peacock blue blouse were for an era Maria didn’t recognise, but one she thought she’d like to visit. She took her hand.

“Maria.”

“It’s lovely to meet you. Thomas sends his regards. He was recently caught up with some big event in the early 2020s. Not sure what’s going on there. Nobody working after the turn of the century will talk to the rest of us.”

Maria nodded slowly. Come to think of it she hadn’t heard anything about the 21st century either.

Eliza just shrugged. “Traveller politics. Please, have some wine.”

The other woman poured wine into each glass and took a sip from the one closest to her, gesturing for Maria to do the same. Maria hesitated with the glass at her lips, scrunching up her nose at the smell, so at odds with the time of day.

“Merlot,” Eliza offered, as if Maria had asked.

“Isn’t it a little early?”

Eliza laughed. “We are not bound by the constraints of time. Besides, where I’ve come from the day was just turning into evening.”

Maria finally took a sip and frowned. “Where I’ve come from it was one in the morning.” She returned the glass to the table and returned her gaze to the cityscape. “What year is it anyway?”

Eliza tilted her head. “1989.”

Maria froze, her heart doing something strange in her chest. Eliza took a measured drink from her glass. “One hundred years since time lost its hold on you, I believe. To the day, in this city.”

Maria’s breath was becoming short. “How do you know that?”

“Thomas told me.”

That sparked anger. “Did he also tell you that I haven’t taken a job in decades? I only took this one because the call came from him directly. I thought he was coming to see me.”

Eliza looked taken aback. “He didn’t tell me that,” she said quietly.

Maria took a healthy swig from her wine. Eliza did the same. The silence between them seemed to stretch like a band, ready to snap at any moment. Eventually it was Eliza who broke the spell.

“You know,” she began quietly. “I got the year. I didn’t get the brief.”

“Come again?”

“If you haven’t worked in decades, you might not know that this is how they organise assignments now. One partner gets the year, the other gets the job brief. I go the year, but you…”

Maria frowned. “I didn’t get anything.”

“Huh. No brief.” Eliza sat back in her chair, muttering to herself. “Year and no brief.”

“Did Thomas tell you anything else?”

Eliza hummed to herself for a moment. She opened her mouth, and then closed it again. Hummed some more. When she did speak the words were soft.

“He said, take care of Maria, she will need some kindness on this day, she’s been alone since Kennedy.”

Maria blew air through her nose. “You got a lot more on me then I got on you.”

Eliza grimaced. “Only because we’re meeting today, he was warning me it might be difficult for you.”

Maria shook her head. She was beginning to think this wasn’t intended to be a usual work meeting.

“Eliza, can ask you are personal question?”

The other woman just frowned before nodding cautiously.

“Are you seeing anyone?”

Eliza went slack jawed for a moment before she composed herself. “No.”

“And the wine,” Maria gestured to the table. “Is this something you usually have with you at work meetings? Do you usually meet at sunrise?”

“No,” Eliza was shaking her head. “Honestly, I thought the wine was your thing, though your reaction to it didn’t make sense. And the sunrise was just lucky.”

Maria sighed. “No, it wasn’t. Last time I saw Thomas was after the Kennedy job was ruined and I told him I was leaving. He told me that he would keep in touch and that he would find a nice single girl to set me up with one day.” Maria laughed under her breath. “I think he might have decided today was the day.”

She glanced at Eliza who was silent. “I’m sorry if that makes you uncomfortable. Nobody expects a surprise like that at work.”

The other woman sighed. “No, not uncomfortable. Unexpected. I was just recently telling Thomas how difficult it is to find a partner as a traveller. You know, there’s not many of us.”

“Ah.”

“Yeah.”

The sun finally showed its face over the rooftops, fog giving way to blue, cold giving way to warmth. Maria wondered again why her friend hadn’t come to see her himself. But then, any company at all was strangely pleasant, the answer becoming clearer like the sky above.

Eliza leant back in her chair. “You know, it would be a waste of a sunrise, and a bottle of Merlot if we left now.”

Maria pursed her lips. “You’re right.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Maria watched Eliza fill their glasses again.

“So,” the other woman began. “You’ve been twenty-one for one hundred years?”

Maria hummed. “I suppose if I’d stayed in my timeline and ended up in this one. But who’s to say after all the travelling in between?”

Eliza nodded, handing her a glass. Maria took a mouthful. Somehow this glass was much nicer than the first. “When did time lose you?”

“Cairo, 1822.”

“Why don’t you tell me about it?” Maria asked.

Eliza smiled, tapping the edge of her glass against Maria’s. “I’d love to.”

dating
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About the Creator

Jeanie Mae

Writer of stories and poetry, chaser of sunsets 🌄🌅🌇

Follow me on instagram @jeaniemae_writer

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