Home > Time (Laws of Physics #3)

Time (Laws of Physics #3)
Author: Penny Reid

1

Intro to Modern Astrophysics

*Mona*

I didn’t know enough about spiders.

For example, what did they do during the winter when flies were scarce? Did they sleep/hibernate like bears? And what’s the deal with hibernation? How does one get in on that action? Sleeping for long periods, as though time doesn’t exist. Then again—

“Time doesn’t exist.”

“What?”

In the fuzzy distortion of my peripheral vision, I saw Lisa turn toward me. She’d been sitting at her square kitchen table, working on her laptop since I’d meh-ed all her suggestions for leaving the apartment today. I think she was relieved.

I sat in her living room, somewhat reclined on a big, brown leather couch that was too large for the space. It wasn’t that the room was small, the couch was just too big, messing up the feng shui. Lisa had filled her apartment with fancy and colossal Williams Sonoma monstrosities, whereas what she really needed was some Ikea in her life.

My elbow bent, my cheek pressed against the underside of my forearm, I peered at the window.

“Time doesn’t exist,” I repeated, watching the spider in the corner of the glass pane as it did nothing. It wasn’t dead, the web was too new, but it was completely motionless. “I need to read more about spiders.”

“What does time have to do with spiders?” My sister’s tone was uncharacteristically gentle, almost wary. I hypothesized that my bursting into tears with the smallest amount of provocation over the last three days had made her cautious. Poor Lisa. She’d invited me to stay not knowing I’d transformed from not a crier to a crier.

At first, she’d insisted we go out and, at first, I’d been happy for the distraction. However, no matter where we went, disaster struck. Abram’s voice singing “Hold a Grudge” in the restaurant and at the movie theater. A poster of Abram and Redburn’s album cover at L stations and street corners. A young woman wearing a Redburn T-shirt. He was everywhere and yet nowhere—no calls, no emails, no attempt at contact—and the combination made everything worse.

I figured, at least in Lisa’s apartment I would be safe from the onslaught of Abram propaganda.

“I’m thinking about exploring the viability of human hibernation,” I said through a yawn. If it was good enough for bears, need I say more?

“I don’t think spiders hibernate.” The sound of Lisa’s chair lightly scraping against the tile drew my attention away from the spider. My sister stood, stretched, and her slippered feet made scuffing sounds as she walked. It was past 11:00 AM and we were still in our pajamas. “Do you want tea? Or coffee?”

“They should.” Everyone should hibernate. “Why haven’t humans investigated hibernation as an alternative to living through nonexistent time?”

“Mona. Do you want tea?” Lisa’s tone wasn’t impatient, but it wasn’t patient either. Again, I didn’t blame her. I’d been crying early and often, and I hadn’t yet fully explained why. I couldn’t, because every time I tried, I cried.

Which had me wondering, which came first: the try or the cry? A paradox.

“Yes to tea, please.”

I zoned out as she moved around the kitchen and out of view. A short time later, a tea kettle screeched. Sometime after that, she set a mug on the coffee table. At some point, she sat next to me on the couch and placed her hand on my back. I didn’t remember her touching me, only that one moment her hand wasn’t there and the next moment it was. Straightening from where I half-reclined on the arm of the couch, I twisted to look at her.

Her lips were curved into a tight, small smile and she inclined her head to the right. “Your tea is ready.”

“Thank you.” I glanced at the mug, but I lacked the energy to reach for it. Therefore, I stared at it, willing it to move into my hands.

“What are you doing?” she asked after another vague span of time.

“You don’t want to know.”

More moments passed. Lisa’s eyes were on my profile while I stared at the tea.

Eventually, she huffed, reached for the mug, and placed it into my hands. “You seriously need to snap out of this. What did he do to you? You’ve been here for three days and it’s like hanging out with a ghost.”

“WooOOOoooOOOooo.” I made my voice shake, the pitch go up and down.

That made her chuckle. But then, for the hundredth time, she asked, “When are you going to tell me what happened in Aspen?”

I brought the mug to my lips because a sting of tears rushed to my eyes. I knew the contents within the mug were too hot to drink. I took a sip anyway. I burned my tongue. I blinked back the tears.

“Mona, come on.” Her hand came to my shoulder. She squeezed it. She sounded concerned. “This isn’t you. You’re a mess.”

“I’m not a mess.” I was a mess. The logical path forward had abandoned me. Every road led to disaster. The wolves are definitely on their way.

“You are a mess. One minute you’re giving me monosyllabic answers, and the next you’re crying at the airport! I’m worried. I’ve never known you to be like this, ever.”

I released a watery sigh, my eyes losing focus, the white mug and its dark brown contents swirling together to become a nebulous blur. “My display of emotion within the airport is self-explanatory.”

“Yes. The large poster of Abram Fletcher in his underwear was difficult to miss.” Once again, her voice gentled. “I’m sorry. I didn’t see it on my way in, otherwise I would have walked a different way.”

“It’s okay.” It was okay.

Martin Sandeke, Kaitlyn Parker’s churlish fiancé, had mentioned the existence of the posters in passing last week. We’d been talking in the kitchen the day before Abram left Aspen, and Martin had said, He just did that underwear modeling thing, soon there will be posters of the guy in his underwear everywhere.

I hadn’t given the statement extensive attention, instead focusing on the second part of Martin’s claim, That’s not a guy who’s changed. That’s a guy who is just getting started.

There he was. Abram. At the airport. Gorgeous. Spectacular. Hand over his heart. His eyes on the ground. A bright white background. Lust in my heart. His hair was down (I’d never seen him with his hair down since he’d grown it out) and he wore no shirt, just black boxer briefs that left very little to the imagination. Even worse, the advertisement for underwear had been life-sized.

I’d been warned, I should have prepared myself!

I wasn’t prepared.

Martin had been right, the posters were everywhere, and everywhere included the baggage claim at O’Hare. I’d wanted to take it out of the plexiglass display, roll it up, and steal it, especially when I spotted two other women do a double take as they walked by. One of them elbowed the other and they shared a look.

They shared a look about my boyfriend . . .?

No.

Wait.

Is that what he was?

That would make you his girlfriend.

No.

Maybe?

I had no idea.

Anyway, I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that people in the airport had seen Abram with his hair down, shirtless, in his underwear before I had. And that gave me the sad. Would I ever see him with his hair down? Would I ever see him in his underwear?

Only time would tell, and time was being evasive.

Presently, my hand moved to the folded piece of paper I’d been carrying every day, now in my PJ pocket, and I rubbed my finger over the outline of its folded corners. I’d replaced my beloved letter—the one that Abram had burned in Aspen—with the poem he’d left me on my side table. The original letter I’d carried was thick, three pages of hefty hopes and dreams. This one was much smaller, which felt appropriate because it contained just one hope, This is not goodbye.

Then why does it feel like goodbye?

“Hey,” Lisa said, pulling me out of my reflections. “You know, I almost cried when I saw the poster too.” I could tell by the shift in her tone that she was trying to be funny, trying to cheer me up. “O’Hare should take it down, otherwise the arrivals area will be full of swooning, weeping women.”

Ugh. “Not helping.”

“I’m sorry. I’m just trying to—” Lisa’s tone changed. “Listen, he’s famous. Okay? He’s famous, he’s a rock star, and he’s a model, and he’s hot, and that means he’s going to be a sex object, an object of lust for thousands of women. Those are the facts. You can’t burst into tears every time you see a billboard of Abram Fletcher in his underwear.”

My head whipped around to my sister and time slowed. “There are billboards?” My voice cracked, because of course it did.

She scrunched her face, and her response seemed to take forever. “Forget I said that.”

“You’ve seen billboards of Abram in his underwear?”

Now she winced, again taking forever to respond. “Just two.”

I set the mug away and covered my face, my elbows on my legs, and shook my head. “I can’t do this.”

“I’m sorry! I shouldn’t have said anything.” Lisa’s fingers encircled my wrist. Just like when she’d placed her hand on my back earlier, I didn’t flinch. Flinching had been instinctual for so long. I had no idea why the reflex suddenly stopped in some situations, with some people, yet persisted in others. But I couldn’t think about that right now.

Removing my hand from my face, Lisa wavered for a moment, and then used her leverage on my arm to pull me forward into a hug. “Oh, Mona. I wish you would tell me what happened in Aspen. He hurt you? I’ll make him suffer.”

Heaving another watery sigh, I bit my bottom lip to stay my wobbly chin and clung to my sister. “He didn’t hurt me. He was wonderful. So wonderful.”

She made a sympathetic sound. “You miss him? Is that what this is about?”

I nodded.

“You two are together?”

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