Monday Flash Fics — First Moot

When I saw the latest picture from Monday Flash Fics, it made me think of Dale, one of the wizards from the “Craft Night” group that pops up in Triad Blood and Triad Soul. In Triad Blood, you don’t learn a lot about these wizards, but more of their purpose becomes clear in Triad Soul. I thought I’d write about the first time they all got together, just after the events in “Bound” occur. So, very minor spoilers (ish?) for Triad Blood and Triad Soul.

Flash Monday

First Moot

The five of them stared at each other around the small café table tucked in the back of the tea shop. Dale knew the others, of course. With her great-grandfather’s recent death, Mackenzie Windsor’s mother was the new Windsor covenhead. And at the moot to declare her so, the rest of the people here had all been present. Mackenzie herself had a soft little smile on her face, and her hair held up with two sticks. Beside her stood Rebekah Mitchell, a tall black woman who didn’t say much and yet still managed to make him feel like he was doing something wrong just by exhaling in her presence. And beside Rebekah, Tracey Spencer stood a step apart, and looked the part in her expensive couture and perfect manicure, though a paleness to her complexion belied the calm arrogance she was projecting. And then, on the other side of Dale, the guy who’d invited them all here.

Matthew Stirling. The great-grandson of the son-of-a-bitch in chief himself. In glasses and a button down white dress shirt, Matthew Stirling looked like a harmless nerd.

Dale supposed in their own way, they all looked harmless, though of the bunch he was the largest by a not-so-slim margin. Even so, looks were deceiving. But their families—or, more properly, The Families—had the most power of anyone in the city. Ottawa was what it was on the say-so of their families, to some degree or another.

Why did I agree to come here?

“I suppose you’re wondering why I gathered you here today,” Matthew said.

No one laughed. Matthew cleared his throat, looking awkward.

“Maybe you should just tell them,” Mackenzie said.

“Tell us what?” Tracey said. Even her voice was aristocratic. Man, she was just what he expected from the Spencers.

Then again, his own family wasn’t exactly cuddly either.

“I’m pretty sure you’re the next inheritors,” Matthew said.

No. Dale had to clench his hands to stop from saying or doing anything. No no no.

“How..?” Rebekah had to take a breath. “How do you know that?”

“I inherited,” Matthew said. “I don’t know if you know what the Stirling inheritance is, but—”

“You’re prescient,” Tracey said.

Matthew nodded. “As of this week.”

Dale fought off a full body shiver, but only just. So Malcolm Stirling had access to the future? No wonder he always ended up on top. He wondered if his father, or his grandfather, or his great-grandfather knew.

“It’s not soon,” Mackenzie said. “Or at least, Matt doesn’t think so. But…” She looked at Matthew. He nodded. “He’s pretty sure it will be us five. And the thing is…”

“The thing is we’re fucked?” Rebekah said.

Dale surprised himself by laughing.

“No,” Matthew stepped forward. “No, no that’s my point. We could… We could work together.”

Tracey laughed. “To do what? If I… If I inherit, do you have any idea what that will mean?” She shook her head. “Mackenzie gets to heal. Rebekah becomes some sort of illusion-proof abjurist. Hell, even Dale—”

“Don’t,” he said.

She stopped. Regarded him. He saw it then. In her eyes. The same thing he was sure she could see in his.

Fear.

“If we work together,” Mackenzie said. “We could… push the boundaries. Figure out things they won’t let us learn. Before they have us at their beck and call. Maybe we can…” Mackenzie sighed. “Maybe we can make things better.”

She barely sounded convinced herself.

“If they even find out I came to talk to you on my own, they’ll be furious,” Dale said. “I’m out.” He pushed off the wall and started for the front of the tea shop. He eyed everyone on the way. The store was mostly empty, but was it just him, or did the guy behind the counter pay way too much attention to him?

Why had he come?

He was an idiot.

*

He made it home without incident, and back into the mansion without trouble. It didn’t relax him any—he was never relaxed in his family Chantry—but it was where he was supposed to be as far as his elders were concerned, and that meant a modicum of safety.

Of a sort.

He wandered the halls. What he wanted more than anything was to tear off his tie, change into a sweatshirt, and maybe hit the punching bag for a while. Matthew and Mackenzie should have known better. The Families didn’t work together. Not across their covens. It was insane to even suggest it.

He wouldn’t be excused until after dinner. He wondered how many of his aunts and uncles (and great-aunts and great-uncles) would be visiting for dinner, and if any of his cousins would be there. Sometimes the massive table was set for thirty-six.

Sometimes it was set for eight.

He rarely interacted with his great-grandfather. Dale did everything in his power to go unnoticed. Stay below the radar.

He approached the study. He could hear them in there, talking.

I’m pretty sure you’re the next inheritors.

Some things you couldn’t avoid, though. Not forever.

Dale glanced behind him. No one around.

A few words of magic, whispered under his breath, and a prickle of magic flushed across his skin. He crouched, and looked through the keyhole of the study.

Whatever they were doing, he could feel the power from here. And more than that, he could feel something inside him stirring, as always.

Matthew had inherited. Prescience, apparently. If Rebekah, and Mackenzie, and Tracey also inherited? If he did, too?

They were barely in their twenties. His own great-grandfather would never give up his position just because his “gift” had moved on to Dale. No, he’d shackle Dale to his side. He’d probably even call it “grooming.”

Inside the room, magic twisted, and Dale could almost hear a voice.

He pushed away from the door and started for the gym. He could shower and get dressed again before dinner. He needed the punching bag.

*

After his shower, his knuckles raw, and still breathing heavily, Dale tied his tie in the mirror. Once it was knotted, he took a deep breath and picked up his phone.

The original message inviting him to meet at the tea shop was still there. He hadn’t deleted it. On some level, it occurred to Dale not deleting it the moment it had arrived already spoke volumes.

He tapped out a message.

When’s the next meeting?

Before he could change his mind, Dale hit send, slid his phone into his pocket, and went to the Family dinner.

The magic inside him stirred again. There was another whisper of voices just quiet enough he couldn’t make out the words.

Dale ignored them.

For now.

 

 

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Sunday Shorts – “Overgrowth” by Anita Dolman

Cover

Available from Morning Rain Publishing.

I’ve been working my way through Dolman’s Lost Enough story by story, a tale a week or so, for a while now. The collection as a whole has the feel of a dessert wine in that sense (and I mean this in a good way): I want to savour it, one small sip at a time. I’m not finished the collection, and it’s likely I’ll come back to it again before this year’s Sunday Shorts are done, but one story just smacked me in the middle of the forehead so much.

“Overgrowth” is a tale of vengeance, but to be clear it’s not just that by any means. At the story’s open, we meet Jules as she steps from her imagination during a wander to a childhood refuge to the reality: the slowly decaying farmhouse she and her friend played in is not doing well, and this may be a final visit.

Dolman weaves a complexity to Jules’ thoughts and character. She sort of snuck up on me, painted in light touches until suddenly I was looking at a full portrait of well deserved anger and fury, but the shift from those small strokes of her past to the dawning realization of where she is now—and why—both builds steadily and takes the reader completely by surprise. Her motivation to strike out at someone who abused her felt all too realistic, and far too easy to understand.

And the ending? Immensely satisfying. I put down Lost Enough after reading “Overgrowth” with a deep feeling of yes I’ve rarely felt, and a reminder of the power of things like #MeToo.

If only more justice was served in this style.


Written with style and elegance, this collection of short stories and flash fiction takes you on a journey of discovery. Set against the stark realism of the vast Canadian landscape, each piece highlights life’s compelling moments in the most poignant ways.

From broken youth to healing seniors, from love lost to relationships found, the stories explore the complicated and uncomfortable while embracing the incredible diversity found in humankind. This dynamic collection touches on cultural distinctions, the LGBTQ community, immigration, Indigenous peoples, and the marginalized aspects of society, opening our hearts to what’s lost or yet to be found.

Friday Flash Fics — Checkout

For Friday Flash Fics today, there was an image going around Twitter that was definitely sparking a lot of conversation and we decided as a group it was worth using as inspiration. I’m so glad we did, because it’s not just an awesome image, it’s a stereotype smashing image and I love those.

Flash Friday

Checkout

He was at the desk.

Jeremy tightened his grip on the books, and took a long, deep breath.

Maybe this was a bad idea? It was totally a bad idea.

He had decided to leave, to go put the books back, but he took one more glance and…

The librarian made eye contact.

Oh crap.

He’d been seen.

Jeremy started for the desk.

This was officially the world’s worst idea.

*

“Oh my God,” Jeremy said, and stopped walking. “No way.”

Wyatt walked right into him, and then grabbed him for balance. “Dude.”

“Sorry,” Jeremy said.

“What’s wrong?”

All around them, the parade was in full swing. Music, dancing, signs, floats and rainbow balloons—especially the purple, blue, and pink of this year’s focus on Bi Queers—slipped further ahead of them.

“Nothing,” Jeremy said.

“You look like you’re about to pass out,” Wyatt said. “Spill. What is it?”

“That’s him. There.”

“Him?” Wyatt stared to where Jeremy was pointing, across the street where others were watching the Pride Parade go by. “Could you be more specific?”

“The guy. From the library. The librarian.”

“Oh! Mr. Button-down beard man of the title-reading?” Wyatt redoubled his efforts. “Where? I don’t see him. Is he near the scary guy with the tattoos and the beard?”

“That’s the thing.” Jeremy swallowed. “I guess now I know why he always wears the long-sleeved button-down shirts.”

“What?” Wyatt turned back to him. Then it clicked. He looked across the street again. “No way. Him? But… He looks like… I mean…” He tilted his head. “Are you sure that’s him? I mean, a librarian? That’s… That’s a biker.”

As they watched, a pair of women walked up to the man in question, arm in arm, and tapped his shoulder. They spoke for a few seconds, and then he nodded, turning to follow them.

The snug black shirt the guy wore had a skull on the back, half made up of words.

Across his broad back, the shirt read, “Librarian: The hardest part of my job is being nice to people who think they know how to do my job.”

Wyatt turned to Jeremy.

“Okay. I guess that is him. Dude. He’s scary.”

“You think?” Jeremy could think of a few different words.

None of them were “scary.”

*

It had started with the beard. That was always a weakness, but that wasn’t the only thing. Jeremy had liked the way the librarian smiled. And he did smile. Genuinely, and kindly. Also, he quietly read out the titles as he scanned them, which was not only kind of endearing but he did it carefully, so no one else would hear but whoever was checking out the books. It was almost a whisper. When Jeremy was second in line, he’d enjoy just listening to the low rumble of the man’s voice, but he never made out the words.

And the librarian wore glasses to work—but not to Pride parades, apparently—and as Jeremy approached the desk, he had a silly thought about a kind of Clark Kent persona thing going on, except instead of a blue suit with an S, if the librarian ripped off his shirt he’d reveal all that ink and…

Was it hot in here?

The button-down long-sleeved shirt in question was brown today. Like his eyes. And his beard.

“Hello,” Jeremy said, nearly choking on the word.

“Hi,” the librarian said. They didn’t wear name-tags, and Jeremy had never quite gotten up the guts to ask him his name, and since they usually had less than a minute of interaction at the end of each of Jeremy’s visits to the library and the librarian already knew Jeremy’s name because it was on his library account, it wasn’t likely to happen.

So, the plan.

The stupid, stupid plan.

The librarian gave him a little frown.

Right. The books.

Oh this was such a stupid plan.

Jeremy put them down, carefully. Checking for the hundredth time he’d gotten it right.

“Okay,” the librarian said, dropping to his low whisper. He scanned Jeremy’s card, then started scanning the books. As always, he read the titles in his sotto voice.

“Happy People Read and Drink Coffee.” Beep.

“How Do You Like Your Coffee?” Beep.

“Coffee Date.” Beep.

“Sure,” Jeremy blurted. “I’d love to.”

The librarian blinked. It was the first time Jeremy had ever seen him look anything other than professional and kind and sort of Zen. He looked up.

“Did you just..?”

“I did,” Jeremy said. “Or, technically, you did. I just accepted.”

The librarian let out a little laugh.

“Smooth,” he said. He didn’t seem freaked out. Or offended.

“Do you like Bittersweets? In the Village?”

“Yeah,” the librarian said. His smile was a full on grin now. “I do.”

“Are you free Saturday, maybe?”

He rubbed his beard. “I am.”

“Okay. Saturday. Eleven?”

The librarian nodded.

Jeremy picked up the books. “Before I go, can I, uh, return these books and get something I actually want to read?”

 

Queer Isn’t an Opinion

The other morning, I bumped into this tweet:

Screenshot 2018-01-10 06.37.48.png

“Can someone not agree with homosexuality & still respect those who are homosexual and individuals?”

On the surface, this seems pretty respectful and polite, right? She’s not swearing, she’s not calling for the eradication of queer folk, she’s just asking: can she not agree with homosexuality, but still respect homosexual individuals?

Nope. Nope she cannot.

And, in fact, she’s doing damage.

“Not agreeing with homosexuality” is still (albeit nonviolent and not as obviously impactful) homophobia. It’s still outright telling me I shouldn’t be entirely who I am. That’s not respectful.

And most importantly? It’s not the same as disagreeing with a choice.

It’s the “disagree” that makes this sound so polite, but it’s not polite. Disagreement is  for things like flavours, types of movies, or, say a favourite colour. Subjective stuff. Saying “I respect you but I disagree with you being gay” is like saying “I respect you, but I disagree with you being forty.”

It’s a state of being. It’s not something you can disagree with.

If it helps? Substitute other groups of people into statements about queer people, and you’ll likely see it right away.

Would you say “I respect deaf people but I disagree with deafness?” Or “I respect adopted people but I disagree with them being adopted?”

Of course not. It doesn’t make sense.

Now, I got what the initial poster probably meant when I saw the tweet. They likely meant “I don’t hate queer people, or want to make their lives more difficult, but I don’t agree that men should sleep with other men or women with other women.”

And, lo: here it is, in a reply:

Screenshot 2018-01-10 06.37.59

“They just don’t agree with men being with men and women being with women. They only find it okay for women and men to be together. That’s their belief. It’s just that simple. No hate. Just disagreement.”

And, again: Nope, that doesn’t work either. There’s definitely hate there, it’s by no means simple, and just because it’s hidden behind some “politeness” and isn’t as overt or obvious doesn’t make it less harmful.

Why not? Because voicing that opinion does make queer lives harder/adds hate/is queerphobic. When someone “disagrees” with queerness, they’re telling queers that they don’t get to have (or they would prefer queers wouldn’t have) consent based relationships with other adults because…

Well, because “ew.” Dress it up politely, it’s still “ew.”

And the range of “ew” ends with the individual. You don’t think men should have sex with men, or women with women? Don’t do it yourself. But vocalize that you don’t think other people should? You’re not being respectful, kind, or polite, nor are you “entitled to my opinion, don’t hate on me, LOL.”

When you’re publicly vocal about “disagreeing” with queerness, even when you caveat as much as you want about how you respect queer individuals (though, to be clear, what you’re doing is not respect at all), you’re adding to a cultural bias that already exists and persists under that “it’s just an opinion” fallacy.

You make my life harder. Because you saying “disagree” gives approval to those who disagree with my existence with their fists and boots and discrimination. You’re feeding the flames. To those who want to eradicate queer people, you’re standing there and saying, “Yes, I understand your opinion, and I share it.”

You’re just doing it politely.

Writing Wednesday — Bury Your Trope

Gah.

(I originally tried to say all this without spoilers, and I give up. Spoilers for Star Trek: Discovery.)

So, last night, the husband and I were watching a television show we’ve really been enjoying. A significant part of really enjoying this show for us? A out, open queer couple who obviously love each other, even when they bicker (and their bickering was fun), and who have some communication issues, and who are quite different from each other and even—fantastic!—not a pair of white guys.

fullsizerender

Here’s a picture of my dog. Because I’m annoyed and he makes me happy. 

Now, jokingly (but in that tired, worried way) I recall saying, “Which one do you think is going to die?” when they were introduced, but I’d dismissed being fully serious because, after all, we’d been told this was going to be awesome representation, it’s a franchise I love, and it was finally, finally giving us some queer love.

There was even incidental, albeit nameless/blink-and-you’ll-miss-it queerness: two women dancing together at a party. Rock on, ladies. It’s probably best if you never get names or lines.

Because last night, while we watched, it happened. And the thing is? We just turned to each other and sighed. I think I said, “Well, there it is.” Or maybe my husband did. It wasn’t shocking, it was exhausting. Because in some way, we were both braced for it from the beginning, just in case.

Now, the PR and actors and show runners and even organizations are chiming in to say, “No, wait, don’t get mad! It’s going to turn out not to be as bad as you’re thinking, and we’d never do that silly Bury Your Gays trope, this is a subversion! This was always the plan!” and so on.

And I honestly just don’t care. You made me watch one queer man die, needlessly and pointlessly, in front of the other queer man (who, bonus points, was already suffering and unable to help, and so can only watch it happen).

Do the queer characters have to be immortal and immune to danger and never suffer in any way? Of course not. But you know what? If you’ve only got two queer characters who have names and speak lines and who are given a relationship and you decide to kill one off? It’s Bury Your Gays. You might do something amazing later on. Really. But in that moment, right then and there? I can decide to eject. And that’s fair. Because watching one of the only two queer characters die needlessly?

I’ve been there and done that so often it could have been my subplot on “Cause and Effect.” Forget Beverley’s glass. I’d be the ensign in the science department going, “Welp, one of the queer guys died again. I can’t tell if we’re in a time loop or if it’s just another Bury Your Guys, though, because déjà vu doesn’t begin to cover it.”

And that’s the rub of it. I didn’t want to watch the surviving partner suffer and be oh-so-motivated-by-the-loss. Again. I wanted, just this freaking once, to finally have a show where the queer people fought the bad together. Where they protected each other when things were dire or they were in pain or injured or what-have-you. Where moral dilemmas didn’t mean one queer had to heroically sacrifice himself, or one queer was left behind, or… Well, basically, I just wanted the queer characters to survive the first whole damn season.

Now, it’s science fiction, and the actor is on record saying we’ve not seen the last of the character, and given the show is currently in an alternate universe populated by their doppelgängers, there’s a chance of doppelgängers, and again, I just don’t care.

The last time this franchise did the doppelgänger thing? It did a two-episode run that in many ways set up this show’s visit. It was separate from the main storyline, never referenced within it, and most of the main cast died. Because doppelgängers. These aren’t our beloved characters, they’re an alternate version of them. The franchise show  prior to that that went to this alternate universe was incredibly brutal to the doppelgängers. Most of the main cast’s doppelgängers died, and some characters who had died in the prime universe who hadn’t in the alternate one ended up also being killed off, too. So we could watch them die a second time. Oh, and extra points? Some of the alternate universe—and, by the way, evil—doppelgängers were made to be queer, unlike the characters we got to see each week.

So, if it turns out the “solution” to this not being a trope is somehow the doppelgänger of this character will end up in a relationship with the surviving queer guy from the main plot, I’m not going to throw a parade, and I don’t think that undoes the trope at all, like they’re claiming the plot will do. That queer guy’s love is still dead—he’s still gone. Frankly, if they’re being honest that this character and love story isn’t done, I’m guessing time-travel will come into play, and maybe the whole event will be undone.

I suppose that’s the best that I can hope for, if I keep watching.

Anyway. If you don’t want to have a chorus of “Bury the Gays!” complaints, there’s a super easy way to avoid this pitfall. Have more than two queer characters. At least then it’s not “Oh look, there are queer people. And now they shall suffer a death. Yep. There it is.”

Or, y’know, stop treating “and then one dies” as the only damn plot line you could possibly come up with to tell the story. If the narrative is predicated on the death of a queer person, maybe it’s time to stop and consider how the rest of the queer characters in your tale are handled. If there’s only one other, and they’ve just lost the love of their life because—surprise!—the only two queer characters with names and lines are in a relationship with each other?

Well. That’s a choice. And you sure did make it.


Writing Wednesdays

Whoops. That turned into a bit of a long slog. Sorry. Writing Wednesdays is supposed to be my weekly check-in on how things are going writing wise with various projects. So I’ll be brief.

Triad Magic

It’s going well. I need to polish and put together the actual pitch, but I’m beating my writing goal each day, or—in the case of one day—I let a headache run its course and have redistributed that goal to other days. I was already ahead of goal, but still. I’m looking forward to introducing new characters and revisiting old ones. The plot is gelling, but the synopsis is fighting me as I try to write it.

Faux-Ho-Ho

I doubled my word count goal for this today, so it goes well. I’ve never written a “Fake relationship” story before, and we’ll see how it goes, but so far, this novella has been fun to work on.

Saving the Date

Last year, Angela S. Stone and I submitted an alternate-view novella for the 1Night Stand series, and we just got our edits back. It’s always a little bit of work to get back into the heads of the characters when it’s been a while, but I like Morgan, and it’ll happen.

Short Stuff

I’m going back to my usual goal of submitting something short once a month for the year, and also trying to remember reprints are a thing. I haven’t submitted anything just yet, but January isn’t over.


Open Calls for Submission

I also try to list off calls for submission I find (and find tempting) every week on Writing Wednesdays, so without further ado:

  • Chicken Soup for the Soul—Various titles, various themes, various deadlines, 1,200 word count limit.
  • Mischief Corner Books—Open to submissions for various themes, including Legendary Love, Everyday Heroes, Cowboys and Space; these are open rolling calls, so no deadline.
  • NineStar Press—Open to submissions for various length prose, paranormal, science fiction, fantasy and horror; Click “Currently Seeking” header for details; word count limit variable.
  • Spectrum Lit—This is an ongoing Patreon flash fic provider, 1,500 hard word count limit; LGBTQ+ #ownvoice only; ongoing call.
  • A World Unimagined— Left Hand Publishers; 4,000 to 9,000 word count limit. Speculative fiction, deadline: January 21st, 2018.
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where to F*** Them—Circlet Press; Erotic short stories with magical beasts and shapeshifter tropes; 3,000 to 7,000 word count limit; deadline February 1st, 2018.
  • Lost—NineStar Press. LGBTQIA+ romantic pairing. Both HEA and HFN are acceptable, Click “Lost” header for the theme. 30k to 120k word count limit; deadline April 30th, 2018.
  • Happiness in Numbers—Less than Three Press; Polyamorous LGBTQIA+ anthology, non-erotic polyamorous stories that explore the idea of “Family”; 10k to 20k word count limit; deadline April 30th, 2018.
  • MLR Press—Quite a few different themes are open; 10k to 40k word count limit; deadlines vary, but the earliest right now is April 30th, 2018.
  • Artefacts and Alchemy—Edge Books; Tesseracts 22 is doing a historical magical realism theme; 5k word count limit; deadline May 15th, 2018.

Monday Flash Fics — Falling

I often dream in short story, and the picture for this Monday Flash Fics prompt reminded me of a recurring dream I’ve had a few times, about waking up in the same place I fell asleep, only not quite. I flushed it out into a spec-fic piece.
Monday Flash Fic

Falling

I jolt awake, and do the thing I always do: reach out a hand to see if he’s there.

He is.

The warmth of him is always a comfort, even though the rest is completely unknown.

He’s awake, too.

“Are you okay?” Emmitt says.

There’s a sadness in his voice, and hearing it tells me he knows.

It’s a relief. And it’s frightening. I can never decide if it’s kinder to him when I end up in my little cottage alone, or when he’s there and has no idea, but this time? He knows.

There’s guilt when I touch his skin, but when he kisses me, I’m so grateful. We both pretend there aren’t tears.

*

In the morning, I get up before he does, and cook a simple breakfast while he sleeps in. The smell of coffee brings him into the little kitchen. He’s wearing cotton pajama bottoms, and nothing else, and my eye is drawn to a tattoo over his heart. Six words.

In Every Way, In Every Time.

He catches me looking, and smiles just enough for one dimple to show. “When there was a month, and we thought maybe that meant it wasn’t going to happen again.”

“Ah,” I say, and nod. That month was the longest I stayed anywhere so far. I’d been alone that month, every new realization in that cottage a new sorrow, and I’d hated it. Even teaching had barely helped, though I’d gone through the motions at a job that was otherwise nearly indistinguishable from my own. I’d also wondered if that was the end of my journey. I’d prayed not, fiercely, every night. I’d begged to fall again, sometimes out loud before finally, mercifully, falling asleep. “Did I get a matching one?”

He nods. “You did.”

I serve, and we eat a quiet breakfast. It’s a habit I’ve started after each trip, and I wonder how many times he’s had breakfasts like this.

“So,” I say, once our plates are empty and I’ve filled the sink with hot water. “How’d we meet?”

*

This version of Emmitt and I met the way my Emmitt and I met: a faculty meeting. I’m a physicist again—most of the time, it seems, that’s how my life unfolds—but as this Emmitt tells me of our early days together, there are differences. We hit it off at the faculty meeting, swapped numbers, and went on the same first date: a movie, but in this iteration, the movie wasn’t one either of us enjoyed. Instead of a round of drinks after and falling into bed in this very cottage, we went on more dates, took more time.

He’s a history professor again—most of the time, it seems, that’s how his life unfolds—and that’s useful. As the first day passes, and he walks me through photographs of his history with his Felix, I ask questions of things in the background. Like the flag on Parliament Hill.

It has two blue fields instead of red, and instead of one maple leaf there are three leaves on one stem.

“The Pearson Pennant?” he says, and launches into a story about the three final choices for the official Canadian flag.

“So I guess you don’t sing ‘The Maple Leaf Forever.’”

“It’s ‘Leaves.’”

“That makes sense.”

*

The cottage itself, the little building I inherited and loved and have lived in all my life is almost the same. The roof has its slight sag. The yard walkway is made of the same stones. The garden is slightly different—apparently, the original version of me didn’t care for flowers nearly as much as I do—but inside, if I ignore the photographs of a life that hasn’t quite been mine, it could pass as my own.

I once joked, to my Emmitt, that the cottage would outlast everyone and everything.

School isn’t in session, so we spend the day together in an awkward dance of getting to know each other and old habits we’ve had for over a decade. He smiles the same way. I touch the small of his back the way he likes. I have a slice of a German apple cake I’ve never had before but Emmitt tells me is a favourite, and it becomes one.

Finally, as the sun is going down, something we watch together on the bench in the yard, I ask.

“Have you met him? The one who…did…this?” I need to find a better way to say it, but I’ve yet to think of one.

Emmitt shakes his head. “No. Though one of you told me you’d been working on a theoretical version of what it was he did.” He eyes me. “There are journals. But… he didn’t have a solution.”

Neither do I. But, this other might have had a piece to the puzzle I don’t. This is the third me I’ve heard of working on the problem. “I’d like to read them.”

“Of course.”

*

A week. I’ve read my own notes in my own handwriting and there were a few things I hadn’t considered. Physics is physics, but when you’re dealing with infinite permutations, there’s always something new to consider. Whichever Felix out there it was decided to punch a hole in possibility and hop through, I wonder if he realized he’d displace the rest of us. I can’t imagine doing this to myself on purpose, but at the same time, I’ve woken up in this cottage alone, and found condolence cards. Emmitt will be missed. Emmitt was a joy. Our deepest sympathies on the loss of Emmitt.

Would I care what flag flew over Parliament if got Emmitt back? Even if he wasn’t my Emmitt, but an Emmitt in a world similar.

Even if he was an Emmitt I stole from some other me?

That’s the worst part. Maybe I can imagine. Maybe it’s too easy to imagine. I had a whole month in a world like that, where even knowing he wasn’t my Emmitt was barely enough to get through it.

I add notes to the journal, a few new numbers and ideas. It’s not enough, but it’s also not the first time I’ve done this. It might not be me who solves this particular problem. Any Felix will do. There’s a way to send us all back where we started, and slam the door shut forever. There has to be. Even him, the one who set this all in motion.

There’s no locational drift, and that’s one point every version of me who has left notes agrees upon. Stay at the cottage. If we stay where we began, at the cottage, our chances improve.

Of course, he must know that, too. Maybe he’s left. Maybe that’s why we’ve never found him?

There’s no way to know. Just like there’s no way to know why he keeps punching a new hole, and making us all fall through.

The bedroom in the tiny cottage is almost entirely filled by the bed. I slide in beside Emmitt, and kiss the back of his neck. We settle down, warm, and like I do every night I sleep in this bed that is mine and isn’t mine, with a man I love in every way, every time, I hope that if I fall again, I’ll land where I belong.

*

I jolt awake, and do the thing I always do: reach out a hand to see if he’s there.