If Amanda hadn’t lied to her father that night, he wouldn’t have gone looking for her. But she did, and he did, and nothing was ever the same.
After the funeral, the "what ifs" began. Right out of college, she took a job with Tractus Temporis, back when it was new – barely five years out of concept. Members were allowed into the past for one day, only once. Any more than that, the warning at the bottom of the brochure explained, would cause irreparable damage, both to the traveler and to the time. Even with the employee discount, it took three years for Amanda to save enough to pay for the expensive suit, the intensive physical training, and the classes to prepare her mind.
On the day of her departure, her mother was there. She told her to “Say hello to dad for me,” and kissed her once on the cheek. Amanda put on the helmet, took her place inside the machine, and nodded at Tractus’s chief operator.
There was a feeling like a rollercoaster when you first realize you're dropping, and then a squeeze and a pop. She opened her eyes and took off her helmet and suit. Standing up, she understood why Tractus insisted on the physical training. She adjusted the mini skirt and smoothed the wrinkles of her blouse.
Amanda found her father sitting in his easy chair, watching a game show. He didn’t hear the door open.
“Hey dad,” she said.
He looked at her, then back at the tv. “Why are you dressed like that?”
“I’m going out,” she said, remembering the conversation from eight years ago.
She hesitated, heart pounding. “To the park.”
“Vinnie and some guys.”
“Vinnie Derigo? I arrested his father on drug possession.”
“Five years ago, Dad.”
He regarded her, his brow creased, then he said, “Be back before dark.”
She beamed. "I will.” And kissed him on the top of his head.
Upon her return to Tractus, Amanda’s coworkers didn’t recognize her, but of course she knew this would be the case. Her mother waved at her from behind the isolation barrier. There was a man with her that Amanda didn't recognize.
After a night’s quarantine, Amanda went home. She pushed open the front door and called out. Something was different.
There were pictures in the hall that she remembered: her mother holding baby Amanda up to kiss her father’s cheek; a professional family photograph from when she was twelve; Amanda and their dog DillyBar. But there were also photos she had never seen before: Amanda and her father at Disneyland; Amanda and her father making faces; Amanda at her high school graduation. This one showed her mother and father on either side of her, but her mother was holding the arm of that man Amanda had seen at Tractus.
At the end of the hall, there was a photograph of Amanda in her late teens, making a face at the camera. In the background she could see her mother; she was kissing that man.
In the kitchen, dishes clanked and water gurgled and swirled, sucking, down the drain. Amanda took a deep breath and pushed open the door.
She knew her father would look older - Tractus had prepared her for that – but there was something else. Every line, every wrinkle stood out, strained with life events she had not seen him experience. And his eyes were filled with pain, the kind of pain that doesn't go away with time, not entirely.
“Hey there,” he said.
She hugged him.
“What’s gotten into you?”
Wiping tears from her cheeks, she said, “Nothing,” then, “Is mom here?"
The pain in her father's eyes flashed, heartbreak renewed, and it was only then that Amanda realized the true web that's woven of life’s smallest moments.
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