by Elliot Richard Dorfman
Reeva Cunningham liked her new job as a librarian in Johnstown, New York. It didn’t pay that much, but the hours gave her plenty of time for herself. Intelligent and personable, this petite twenty-one year old recently had inherited a small farmhouse from her great-aunt. It was perfect timing, since it had become difficult for Reeva to live with her parents, who still tried to run her life as if she were a teenager.
It was on a foggy summer Sunday when Reeva decided to take Rollo, her pinscher, for an afternoon walk. Tripping on a crack in the sidewalk two blocks from her house, she fell and scraped her head. A handsome young man, about her age, quickly came from his front porch and helped her up.
“Thanks, I really appreciate it,” she said gratefully.
“You have a bad cut on your forehead. Come into my apartment and I’ll treat it.”
Reeva frowned. “I don’t know.”
“There’s nothing to be afraid of about me. I’m the new pharmacist at Parker’s drugstore on Market Street.” Smiling, he patted Rollo, who seemed to like him right away. “Anyway, I’m sure your dog will protect you.”
Gently, he led her into his apartment on the first floor. After seating her on his living room couch, he immediately got his first-aid kit. Rollo stood dutifully next to her.
It was a neat little place, Reeva thought, although the furniture seemed a little old-fashioned. “I’m such a klutz. Sorry to put you through all this trouble, Mr...”
“Barry Wyler. And what’s your name?”
He cleaned the cut, put some antibiotic on it, then covered it with a bandage.
“Luckily, the cut isn’t deep. You’ll be fine. I was just about ready to order some Chinese food when I saw you fall. If you don’t have any plans, how about joining me?”
The fog had dissipated, and they ate out on the patio. The young couple had a lot in common. Both enjoyed literature, art, and classical music. Barry had recently graduated from college and been hired as a pharmacist at Parker’s drugstore. He had just moved into this apartment after moving away from his parents’ place in Mayfield, a nearby town.
At twilight, Rollo started to become restless, and Reeva rose. “Well, I’d better get home. Thanks for the meal. It turned out to be a great day after all.”
Barry took her hand. “Same here. Look, I’m working late tomorrow, but perhaps we could see each other again during the week. Let’s exchange telephone numbers and I’ll give you a call.”
Before they parted, he gave her a compassionate kiss. “Until next time... ”
Could this be the man I’m destined to meet and fall in love with? Reeva thought romantically while walking home. That night, she went to bed a happy woman.
When Barry didn’t call within a few days, a disappointed Reeva tried telephoning him, but with no success. The next week, she decided to go over to Parker’s drugstore after work. Since Barry didn’t seem like the type to break a promise, she was genuinely worried about him.
Parker’s was a throwback to the old neighborhood drugstores. It still had the original mahogany fixture, including an old soda fountain that continued to serve the best ice cream in the area. A short, gray-haired man was at the counter. He looked surprised when she asked for Barry.
“Why, he hasn’t worked for me for more than thirty years. Someone must be playing a joke on you.”
Embarrassed and surprised, Reeva silently walked away.
For the rest of the day, all she could think of was Barry and why he had made such a fool of her. But the more she thought about him, the less she believed he was a jokester. That evening she decided to walk over to his house and confront him.
It was strange, but something about the house seemed different as she went up the steps and rang the downstairs front doorbell. Didn’t the building have white wooden siding when she was here last? Now it was covered with a yellow vinyl material. Oh, well, maybe she was mistaken.
Reeva was surprised when a tall, bald-headed man wearing a robe opened the door, a scowl on his face. Didn’t Barry say he lived alone? she thought.
“Yeah, what is it?”
“Is Barry home?”
“No such person lives here, lady.” He rudely slammed the door shut.
Reeva walked down the block. A strong gust of wind suddenly shook the trees, and an eerie silence pervaded the atmosphere.
As she turned around, the light of the full moon shone on the house. Again, it was covered with white cedar siding! Somehow this moment vaguely reminded her of a past dream.
Reeva stood staring at it for a moment, as if in a spell. Then, determined to find out what was going on, she returned to the house and knocked on the door. A smiling Barry opened the door.
“Hi, Reeva. I just had about given up on ever seeing you again. I called your number but never got an answer. Hey, you’re shaking. Better come in.”
Once inside, he brought her a cold soda, then sat down next to her.
Reeva looked around. On the wall was a calendar dated July 15, 1971.
She got up and pointed to it. “Is that date special to you?”
He shook his head. “No, there’s nothing special about today. Why?”
There was no hint of humor in his intonation.
“Because unless I am going crazy, today is July 15, 2008, not 1971.”
Barry chuckled. “And I suppose you have entered some twilight zone? Come on, Reeva, be serious.”
Reeva went to his tv and turned it on.
“Okay, if it’s really 1971, let’s see what’s on tv.”
The television was a vintage model, so she had to switch the channels manually.
What came on was The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, The Partridge Family, and to top it off, a 1971 Plymouth Duster car commercial, followed by news on the Vietnam war.
“Oh, my gosh,” she responded as panic set in. “I’m leaving.”
Barry grabbed hold of her. “ What’s wrong, Reeva, got caught up in your own lie?”
Giving him an angry look, Reeva pulled out a cell phone/camera from her handbag. She snapped a picture and showed him the instant photo on the LCD screen.
“Ever see a thing like this?”
“Wow. It looks like something from Star Trek.”
“No, it’s my cell phone with a built-in camera. It’s something most people have in 2008.”
“Two thousand and eight?” Barry’s face grew sad. “If that’s really true, then fate is being cruel.”
“Yes, cruel. I hope you don’t think me an immature romantic, but from the moment I saw you, I... well, I think I’ve fallen in love with you. Kind of love at first sight.”
Reeva blushed. “Me, too.”
“I was really hoping our relationship would get a chance to develop until someday... Now that seems impossible. Our being together can only be tentative, to say the least. Who knows, we might not ever see each other after tonight.”
“But it’s not fair. Why would destiny let us meet and instantly fall in love and then separate us almost as quickly? ”
He shrugged. “We have no choice. We just don’t know when the portal in front of my house will appear and allow you to pass back and forth in time. There’s a good chance it could disappear forever.”
“Perhaps if I stay here long enough, the portal will close and I can be with you permanently.”
“I really don’t know if you could adjust to my world. You would be a person with no identity. It’s not practical. Besides, are you willing to take such a chance and never see your way of life again?”
“I can’t conjecture. All I know is that life wouldn’t mean much without you.”
Barry drew her close to him and they embraced. For a moment they forgot the unusual circumstances that had brought them together. “Well,” Barry concluded, “stay with me for a while and let’s see what happens.”
That night they made love. At first Reeva was hesitant, but soon quickly conceded to his urging and was rewarded completely. It was around dawn when she woke up with a start and remembered Rollo.
She got dressed and quietly started walking toward the bedroom door.
Barry opened his eyes. “What’s up?”
Reeva turned to him. “ I’ve got to get Rollo. I’ll be right back.”
Barry sighed. “You’re forgetting: it may not be that easy to come back, Reeva. I thought everything was settled. Isn’t there someone else that can take care of your pet?”
Reeva bent over and gave Barry a kiss. “My dog is totally reliant on me. I have to get him.” Without waiting for him to say anything else, she turned and walked out.
Sure enough, when she returned with Rollo half an hour later, the house had altered again and the time portal was gone, this time for good.
When Reeva realized that she would never see Barry again, she went into a depression. For months, the grief-stricken woman cried herself to sleep, bemoaning fate for being such a tease. Her friends couldn’t understand what was upsetting her, but how could she tell anyone without them thinking she had gone off her rocker? Only Rollo knew. He nuzzled her whenever she was near him, trying to comfort her in his own way.
Reeva stopped dating after that. No man could compare to Barry. It looked like her future was destined to be an old maid with a permanently broken heart.
Nothing unusual happened after that. Reeva’s life became dull and mediocre. It seemed as if all the joy had gone out of her. A year later, on a cold October afternoon, Reeva left the library and was turning the corner when the wind blew a cap off the head of a man directly in front of her. His mop of red hair shone in the afternoon sun.
“Barry!” she called out.
The man turned. Although there was an uncanny resemblance, it wasn’t Barry.
“Oh, I’m sorry, you look like someone I know... I mean, knew.”
“You’re not the first person who has told me that since I moved here last month,” the stranger said, retrieving his cap. “The guy at the pharmacy told me the same thing. My Uncle Barry Wyler used to work there a long time ago. I’m Paul Diamond. I just started teaching Language Arts at Johnstown High School. And you are...?”
“Reeva Cunningham. I also knew your uncle.”
“Are you sure?”
“Why do you say that?”
“Because you seem too young to have known him. After all, he died in Vietnam, back in 1973.”
Reeva turned pale, and began wavering.
The young stranger gently steaded her. “Say, are you all right? Come on, let me treat you to a cup of coffee. You’ll need it to steady your nerves. I’m sorry if I said something to upset you.”
The restaurant was quiet and empty. They sat in one of the back booths. Reeva began to feel better after drinking some coffee.
“So Barry was your uncle?”
“Yes, but he died ten years before I was born. You see, my parents had me late in life. Still, I heard a lot of good things about him from my parents. They say I’m a lot like him. Why, I was even born on his birthday.”
He paused for a moment and stared at her. “Excuse me for acting rude, but I was wondering if we’ve ever met before.”
Reeva looked deep into Paul’s blue eyes. The old saying that the eyes are the mirror of the soul came back to her. Suddenly she got a strong feeling and knew: reincarnation! Why not? It couldn’t be more fantastic than going back in time. Perhaps fate wasn’t so cruel after all. Maybe she hadn’t lost him after all!
“Paul, I hope you don’t think I’m nuts after hearing what I am going to tell you.”
Somehow, deep inside of her, she knew he would understand.
Copyright © 2009 by Elliot Richard Dorfman