Authors: Rebecca Serle
I wake up slowly. How long have I been asleep? I roll over and look at the clock on the nightstand: 10:59 p.m. I stretch my legs. Did David move me to bed? The sheets feel crisp and cool around me, and I weigh just closing my eyes again and drifting back to sleep—but then I’d miss this, our engagement night, and I force them open. We still have more champagne to drink, and we need to have sex. That’s a thing you should do on the night you get engaged. I yawn, blinking, and then sit up, my breath exiting my body in a rush. Because I’m not in our bed. I’m not even in our apartment. I’m wearing a formal dress, red, beaded around the neckline. And I’m somewhere I’ve never been before.
I could tell you I think I’m dreaming, but I don’t, not really. I can feel my legs and arms and the frenetic beating of my own uneasy heart. Was I kidnapped?
I take in my surroundings. On further glance, I realize I’m in a loft apartment. The bed I’m in is flush up against floor-to-ceiling windows that appear to orient me in . . . Long Island City? I look out, desperate for some anchoring image. And then I spot the Empire State Building, rising out of the water in the distance. I’m in Brooklyn, but where? I can see the New York City skyline across the river, and to the right, the Manhattan Bridge. Which means I’m in Dumbo; I must be. Did David take me to a hotel? I see a redbrick building across the street with a brown barn door. There’s a party happening inside. I can see camera flashes and lots of flowers. A wedding, maybe.
The apartment isn’t giant, but it gives the illusion of space. Two blue velvet chairs sit necking in front of a glass-and-steel coffee table. An orange dresser perches at the foot of the bed, and colorful Persian rugs make the open space feel cozy, if not a little cluttered. There are exposed pipes and wood beams and a print on the wall. It’s an eye chart that reads:
WAS YOUNG I NEEDED THE MONEY.
Where the hell am I?
I hear him before I see him. He calls: “Are you awake?”
I freeze. Should I hide? Make a run for it? I see a large steel door, across the apartment, in the direction of where the voice is coming from. If I bolt, I might be able to get it open before—
He rounds the corner from what must be the kitchen. He’s dressed in black dress pants and a blue-and-black-striped shirt, unbuttoned at the top.
My eyes go wide. I want to scream; I might.
The well-dressed stranger comes over to me, and I leap onto the other side of the bed, by the windows.
“Hey,” he says. “Are you okay?”
“No!” I say. “No, I’m not.”
He sighs. He does not seem surprised by my response. “You fell asleep.” He runs his hand back and forth across his forehead. I notice he has a scar, crooked, over his left eye.
“What are you doing here?” I’ve backed myself so far into a corner I’m practically pushed up against the windows.
“C’mon,” he says.
“Do you know me?”
He bends one knee onto the bed. “Dannie,” he says. “Are you really asking me that?”
He knows my name. And there’s something about the way he says it that makes me pause, take a breath. He says it like he’s said it before.
“I don’t know,” I say. “I don’t know where I am.”
“It was a good night,” he says. “Wasn’t it?”
I look down at my dress. I realize, for the first time, it’s one I already own. My mom and I bought it with Bella on a shopping trip three years ago. Bella has the same one in white.
“Yeah,” I say, without even thinking. As if I know. As if I were there. What is happening?
And that’s when I catch the TV. It has been on this whole time, the volume low. It’s hanging on the wall opposite the bed and it’s playing the news. On the screen is a small graphic with the date and time: December 15, 2025. A man in a blue suit is prattling on about the weather, a snow cloud swaying behind him. I try to breathe.
“What?” he says. “Do you want me to turn it off?”
I shake my head. The response is automatic, and I watch him as he walks to the coffee table and grabs the remote. As he goes, he untucks his shirt.
“Weather warning for the East Coast as a blizzard heads toward us. Possibility of six inches overnight, with continued accumulation into Sunday.”
2025. It’s not possible; of course it’s not. Five years . . .
This must be some kind of prank. Bella. When we were younger, she used to pull shit like this all the time. Once, for my eleventh birthday, she figured out how to get a pony into my backyard without my parents knowing. We woke up to it playing chicken with the swing set.
But even Bella couldn’t get a fake date and time on national television. Could she? And who is this guy? Oh my god, David.
The man in the apartment turns around. “Hey,” he says. “Are you hungry?”
At his question, my stomach rumbles. I barely ate at dinner and wherever I am, in whatever parallel universe with David, the Pad Thai has most certainly not yet arrived.
“No,” I say.
He cocks his head to the side. “Kind of sounds like you are.”
“I’m not,” I insist. “I just. I need . . .”
“Some food,” he says. He smiles. I wonder how wide the windows open.
I slowly come around the bed.
“Do you want to change first?” he asks me.
“I don’t . . .” I start, but I don’t know how to finish the sentence because I don’t know where we are. Where I would even find clothes.
I follow him into a closet. It’s a walk-in, right off the bedroom alcove. There are rows of bags and shoes and clothes hanging, organized by color. I know right away. This is my closet. Which means this is my apartment. I live here.
“I moved to Dumbo,” I say, out loud.
The man laughs. And then he opens a drawer near the center of the closet and pulls out a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt and my heart stops. They’re his. He lives here, too. We’re . . . together.
I reel back and run for the bathroom. I find it to the left of the living room. I close the door and bolt it. I splash some cold water on my face. “Think, Dannie, think.”
Inside the bathroom are all the products I love. Abba body cream and Tea Tree Oil shampoo. I dab some MyChelle serum on my face, comforted by the smell, the familiarity.
On the back of the door hangs a bathrobe with my initials, one I’ve had forever. Also, there are a pair of drawstring black pajama pants and an old Columbia sweatshirt. I take off the dress. I put them both on.
I run some rose hip oil over my lips and unlock the door.
“We have pasta or . . . pasta!” the man calls from the kitchen.
First things first, I need to find out this guy’s name.
David and I have a sixty-forty split when it comes to our finances, based on the income discrepancy between us. We decided this after we moved in together and haven’t changed it since. I have never once looked inside his wallet except for one unfortunate incident involving a new knife and his insurance card.
“Pasta sounds good,” I say.
I go back near the bed, to where his pants hang half off a chair, trailing to the floor. I glance toward the kitchen and check the pockets. I pull out his wallet. Old leather, indistinguishable brand. I riffle through it.
He doesn’t look up from filling a pot with water.
I pull out two business cards. One to a dry cleaner. The other a Stumptown punch card.
Then I find his license. Aaron Gregory, thirty-three years old. His license is New York State, and he’s six-foot and has green eyes.
I put everything back where I found it.
“Do you want red sauce or pesto?” he asks from the kitchen.
“Aaron?” I try.
He smiles. “Yes?”
“Pesto,” I say.
I walk toward the kitchen. It’s 2025, a man I’ve never met is my boyfriend, and I live in Brooklyn.
“Pesto is what I wanted, too.”
I sit down at the counter. There are cherrywood stools with wire-framed backs I don’t recognize and don’t particularly like.
I take him in. He’s blonde, with green eyes and a jaw that makes him look like one of the superhero Chrises. He’s hot. Too hot for me, to be totally honest with you, and evidently, based on his looks and his name, not Jewish. I feel my stomach twist. This is what becomes of me in five years? I’m dating a golden Adonis in an artist’s loft? Oh god, does my mother know?
The water boils, and he pours the pasta into the pot. Steam rises up and he steps back, wiping his forehead.
“Am I still a lawyer?” I ask suddenly.
Aaron looks at me and laughs. “Of course,” he says. “Wine?”
I nod, exhaling a sigh of relief. So some things have gotten off track, but not all. I can work with this. I just have to find David, figure out what happened there, and we’ll be back in business. Still a lawyer. Halleluiah.
When the noodles are cooked, he drains them and tosses them back into the pot with the pesto and Parmesan, and all of a sudden I’m dizzy with hunger. All I can think about right now is the food.
Aaron takes two wineglasses down from a cabinet, moving expertly around the kitchen. My kitchen. Our kitchen.
He pours me a glass of red and hands it over the counter. It’s big and bold. A Brunello, maybe. Not something I’d usually buy.
“Dinner is served.”
Aaron hands me a giant steaming bowl of spaghetti and pesto, and before he even comes back around the counter, I’m shoveling a forkful into my mouth. It occurs to me, mid-bite, that this could all be some kind of government science play and he could be poisoning me, but I’m too hungry to stop or care.
The pasta is delicious—warm and salty—and I don’t look up for another five minutes. When I do, he’s staring at me.
I wipe my mouth with my napkin. “Sorry,” I say. “I feel like I haven’t eaten in years.”
He nods and pushes back his plate. “So now we have two choices. We can just get drunk, or we can get drunk and play Scattergories.”
I love board games, which, of course, he would know. David is more of a card guy. He taught me how to play Bridge and Rummy. He thinks board games are childish, and that if we’re playing something we should be strengthening our brain pathways, which both Bridge and Rummy do.
“Get drunk,” I say.
Aaron gives my arm an affectionate squeeze. I feel like his hand is still there when he lets go. There is something strange here. Some strange pull. Some emotion that begins to expand in the room, fill up the corners.
Aaron tops off our wineglasses. We leave our plates where they sit on the counter. Now what? And then I realize he’s going to want to get into bed. This boyfriend of mine, he’s going to want to touch me. I can just feel it.
I make a beeline for one of the blue velvet chairs and take a seat. He looks at me sideways.
All at once something occurs to me. I look down at my hand, panicked. There, on my finger, is an engagement ring. It’s a solitaire canary diamond with tiny stones around it. It’s vintage and whimsical. Not the ring David gave me tonight. It’s not anything I’d ever pick out. Yet here it is, on my finger.
Shit. Shit. Shit. Shit.
I bolt up from the chair. I pace the apartment. Should I leave? Where would I go? To my old place? Maybe David is still there. But what are the odds? He’s probably living in Gramercy with some non-insane wife. Maybe if I tell him what’s going on he’ll know how to fix it. He’ll forgive me for whatever I did to get us here—me in this apartment with a stranger and him on the other side of the bridge. He’s the best problem solver. He’ll figure it out.
I get up and head toward the door. I need to get out of here. To escape whatever feeling is flooding this room. Where do I keep my coats?
“Hey,” Aaron says. “Where are you going?”
Think fast. “Just the deli,” I say.
Aaron gets up and comes over to me. Then he puts his hands on my face. Right up against either cheek. His hands are cool, and for a moment the temperature change and motion shocks me and I make a move to reel back, but he holds me in place.
“Stay. Please don’t leave right now.”
He looks at me and his eyes are liquid, open. So this is what this guy has on me. This feeling. It’s . . . it’s new and familiar all at once. It’s heavy, weighted. It sits all around us. And despite myself, I want to . . . I want to stay.
“Okay,” I whisper. Because his skin is still on mine and his eyes are still looking at me, and while I don’t understand why I’ve committed to spend my life with this man, I do know that the bed we share gets a lot of action, because . . . this is big. I feel its resonance in my body, the reverberations of some kind of seismic tidal wave. Outside, the sky turns.
He heads toward the bed, holding my hand, and I follow. The wine has started to make me feel languid. I want to stretch out.
I perch on the edge of the bed.
“Five years,” I mutter.
Aaron just looks at me. He sits back against the pillows. “Hey,” he says. “Can you come here?”
But it’s not a question, not really, not insofar as it only has one, rhetorical, answer.
He holds his arms open and out, and I ease onto the bed. I can feel it, this tug on my limbs, like I’m a marionette being pulled unevenly forward, toward him.
God help me, I let him hold me. He pulls me to him, and I feel his breath warm near my cheek.
His face hovers close. Here we go, he’s going to kiss me. Am I going to let him? I think about it, about David, and about this Aaron’s muscled arms
But before I can weigh the pros and cons and come to a solid conclusion, his lips are on mine.
They land gently and he holds them there, delicately—as if he knows, as if he’s letting me get used to him. And then he uses his tongue to open my mouth slowly.
Oh my god.
I’m melting. I’ve never felt anything like this. Not with David, not with Ben, the only other guy I dated seriously, not even with Anthony, the study abroad fling I had in Florence. This is something else entirely. He kisses and touches like he’s inside my brain. I mean, I’m in the future, maybe he is.
“You sure you’re okay?” he asks me, and I respond by pulling him closer.
He threads his hands under my sweatshirt and then it’s off before I even realize, the cool air hitting my bare skin. Am I not wearing a bra? I am not wearing a bra. He bends and takes one of my nipples into his mouth.