The world had ended. Or perhaps it only Susan’s world which had ended, but if that wasn’t bad enough, though she might have staggered on as a husk in the real world, that too seemed on the verge of destruction. It only need the Soviet Union and Ronald Reagan to get involved in the Falklands War and all that would be left would be two red buttons.
She had talked her mother into the bleach and the perm and the bright pink polka dot dress with the short ra-ra skirt and it had made no difference at the end of term party. Andrew hadn’t noticed her properly. Or maybe it was just that Tracey had upstaged her again with her flirting and her innuendo. To Andrew, Susan was obviously still an awkward little girl and not a woman with a heart full of love. She had been crying silently all through Friday and into Saturday and for once her father was sensitive enough to recognise heart break when he saw it and had ushered the rest of the family out on a shopping trip.
Susan sat on the seat of the telephone table in the hall just on the off chance that Andrew would realise that he’d gone off with the wrong girl at the party, find a phone box so that he could ring Susan and beg her to go out with him instead. That’s if he had the necessary 2ps to ring directory enquiries and call her.
The sun slanting through the front door onto the telephone was suddenly obscured and Susan realised someone was outside. For a moment, hope flared, but then she realised that whoever it was, wasn’t Andrew. It was a girl, who was looking around in some confusion as if the doorbell wasn’t blindingly obvious. Wiping her eyes, Susan opened door and asked if she could help.
The strange girl brightened up immediately and said cheerfully: “Hi, I’m from the future and I really need your help. I’m your great grand-daughter Kezia.”
Susan stared at her and before she could stop herself said: “Hang on, I’m only seventeen and I haven’t even got a baby, I haven’t even er….”
Blushing, she looked closer at the other girl. It was really odd, but actually there was something about her which felt as if she was looking into a mirror. Her eyes and mouth were the same. Otherwise, the other girl had much darker skin and was taller. Her hair was a different texture as far as Susan could tell. It didn’t look as if it would naturally be straight and mousy anyway, although right now it was a sort of bright green with sparkly bits which seemed to be turning themselves on and off. Her clothes were a sort of mishmash of every current fashion going, as if she hadn’t decided if she wanted to look like Madonna or or Kim Wilde or Lady Di.
Kezia grinned apologetically. “Yeah about that, I guess it’s a bit confusing. I looked it up and you don’t have time travel yet do you?”
“Er, no” said Susan carefully, wondering how quickly she could close the door and if you could get men in white coats by dialling 999.
“Only cos like for me, I can, like, I think I’ve got the old fashioned terminology right: I can download an app on my mobile.”
“You can what a what on your what?”
“Oh, maybe that’s a bit later. Anyway let me prove it, cos I really need your help.”
Susan snorted. “Go on then.”
Kezia got something out of her pocket. It was very small and flat and was glowing slightly. “Right – ok. You can’t be in the same place as yourself at the same time. So… pick a day last week when you weren’t here but someone else was and you think you know what they were doing. It’s got to be here in this house mind you, I haven’t got the latest upgrade with the teleport option.”
Susan rolled her eyes and said. “OK – last Tuesday at 4pm. I went to Tracey’s for tea. That was before… anyway, my little sister was here on her own.”
Kezia fiddled about with the flat object, stepped into the hall, grabbed Susan’s arm before she could say anything and pressed a button. The world blurred like it does when you’ve had too many Cinzanos and then righted itself. Kezia pulled Susan back out of sight under the stairs. Outside, it was raining. They could hear the TV on in the sitting room, showing some kids’ programme. Suddenly, ten year old Angie came down the stairs, tottering on Susan’s high heels and pursing her lips which were plastered in Susan’s best lipstick.
“I knew it!” hissed Susan, “it’s all blunt….”
Just as Angie turned to find out who had spoken, Kezia pressed something again and they were back to Saturday and a sun filled but otherwise empty house.
“I’ve got some more proof” said Kezia, fiddling about with her device and showing it to Susan. On the screen was a photograph – so it must be some sort of slide viewer too. The photograph was of Susan in a graduation gown, a little older and more confident.
“So they didn’t press the big red button?” Susan said.
“Didn’t what the what?” asked Kezia in bafflement. “Anyway, I really do need your help.”
Susan gave up. Whatever was going on, she might as well find out what this weirdo wanted. “Go on then, how do you think I can help you?”
“I want to borrow this dress.” said Kezia firmly, and showed her another photo on the slide viewer. It was a picture of Susan at the party on Thursday night, before Andrew went off with Tracey. She was standing still looking slightly wistful and very pale, but quite happy, her newly permed, newly bleached hair barely tamed by the white silk scarf, the pink polka dot dress close fitting and pretty to her waist and then standing out in mad frills above her knees in the pink tights and the high heeled pink stilettos.
“Because the 1980s are really really, what’s the word… retro right now.”
“Yes and I’ve got this party and there’s this boy and I want to look really authentic and that dress is so pretty.”
Susan rolled her eyes and went and got the dress, which her mother had washed and ironed the day after its one and only outing.
“Here you go,” she said, “I don’t want it – just looking at it makes me feel miserable”. She watched as Kezia held it up to her dark skin and felt a lump coming to her throat. Whether this girl was mad or really from the future, she was going to look better in the dress than Susan had. Her legs were longer for a start.
Kezia sighed ecstatically. “It’s perfect.” she said, “You’ve no idea how rare the real thing is. He’s got to notice me in this.”
“Don’t bank on it,” said Susan bitterly, “it didn’t work for me.”
Kezia carefully folded the pink dress over her arm and started fiddling with her gadget. She looked up and grinned, “I wouldn’t be so sure” she said, “It was great grandpa who gave me this photo of you – he noticed you in this dress at that party and it was love at first sight. See you again in sixty years!” and she disappeared.
Copyright 2016 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission