(Set Up: In the original version of TIMEPIECE, Kaleb and Lily did some recon while on a fancy tourist steamboat. While there, they ended up booking a dinner cruise to do more snooping. Then, they had to acquire the proper attire for the “date.” There are some other nuances and references from the original version that I won’t explain, but feel free to ask! Even though the scene was deleted, some of the dialogue will be familiar to TIMEPIECE readers!)
“Where am I supposed to come up with a tux in three hours on a Thursday afternoon?”
“That’s what rental places are for,” Michael opened his laptop and pulled up a search engine, typed in “tuxedo rental Memphis” and waited for results. “Here we go. You can order online and pick up in less than an hour, according to availability.”
“You sound like an infomercial.”
“What are you, 34” length?”
Lily had asked the concierge for shopping suggestions on our way in, and he’d mentioned a “funky fashionista boutique that specialized in vintage evening wear” located one block off Union. I wanted to pull his Man Card for saying half those words out loud, but she’d stepped on my toes with her wedge heel and dragged me to the elevator.
“I’m not going dress shopping without you,” Lily was saying to Emerson now, who was sitting next to Nate on the couch, looking slightly perkier after an entire pot of room service coffee and food delivery. She’d been very understanding about the espresso, if pouty. “It’s half a block away. You can’t stay in this room for the rest of the trip.”
“Actually, I can. They bring you sustenance and everything.” She settled back on the couch with a plate of waffles as big as she was and clicked on the television. “And look. Cable. They have four ESPN channels. Four.”
“It’s not baseball season,” Lily said, wrestling the remote away from Em and turning off the television. “It’s football season. You don’t know the difference between a first down and a defensive end.”
“I know one of them is a person.” Em wrinkled her nose. “I’m pretty sure, anyway.”
“I’ll school you, Em,” Nate said, taking the remote from Lily.
Michael handed me his laptop so I could note the number and address of the tux shop and went to sit on the other side of Em. “I think you should go. Kaleb and I can come, too. But we’ll stand outside.”
Michael tried to steal a strawberry off her plate and Em made a stabbing motion with her fork. After he pulled his hand away, she speared the fruit and offered to him. He smiled at her and took it. She smiled back.
It was one of those playful moments between them that usually made my heart ache a little.
Today I was just happy Em was smiling.
“You know I have a limited budget,” Lily pleaded, “and I need your help to figure out the best dress for my money. Surely Dru has rubbed off on you a little?”
“No, but that’s why they created camera phones and text messaging. I’ll give you her number.”
“I don’t want you to give me her number. I want you to come with me.”
Michael gently tucked Em’s hair behind one ear. “Please?”
“Remember what you said to Ava the other day?” I asked. “‘Don’t give Jack the power.’ By staying in this room, refusing to face the world, you are.”
Em stared down at her waffles for a few seconds before passing them over to Nate, exhaling deeply, and going find the shoe she’d thrown at us earlier.
“I looked through the copies of the files while you two were gone. I confirmed that all the names and addresses were blacked out,” Michael said as we waited for Em and Lily outside the Sweet Flamingo. I had no idea what could possibly be sweet about a flamingo. “I thought all of the abilities were circled but some of them are blacked out, too. It makes me think Jack could have a lead on another possible traveler.”
He’d already burned through my mom, and Em had made it pretty clear where she stood on helping him. “Maybe.”
“Is that a possibility?” Michael asked. “Has your dad ever said anything about more travelers? They are his files.”
“There were so many names. Twenty years worth. It was impossible for him to follow every lead, especially since he never showed them to anyone.”
“I wish he’d never told anyone they existed at all.”
I stuck my hands into my jean pockets and leaned my shoulder against the shop window. Lily was vamping around with a black feather boa, trying to make Em laugh. Em resisted, and then gave in wholeheartedly. It was a beautiful thing to see. “We both know how rare travelers to the past are.”
“That we do.” Michael was watching Em, too. I hated the heartbreak he couldn’t hide. At least he didn’t try. He moved his focus to me. “You keep showing up, loving her when she needs it most.”
“I do love her. But it hasn’t shaped itself the way I thought it would. At first.” I met his eyes. “I’ll never take your place.”
“I hope we never have to find out if that’s true. I feel so powerless. I hate it.”
“We both know the future is subjective. If you’d gone to the future two months ago Em wouldn’t have been part of your life. She’d still be what she was before Landers screwed with all of us. Just because you saw us together … doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. So many things would change.”
“Like this Lily thing … it’s different for you, isn’t it? Not just because you can’t stop staring at her ass. Or the rest of her.”
“I’m that obvious, huh?”
“It’s like you’ve been thunderstruck.” Michael’s words should have come off as teasing, but they didn’t. Because it was true. I broke eye contact with him and watched Lily take a garment bag from the man behind the counter. She smiled and he looked a little dazzled, and I was pretty sure she wasn’t his type. “You look at her when she talks. Weigh what she has to say. I’ve never seen you listen like that before. I’m proud of you.”
“Thanks, Dad. Can I get a raise in my allowance?”
“You’re going to need extra for your date tonight.”
I froze. “Tonight isn’t a date. Tonight is … tonight is an investigation.”
“Tux. Dress. Dinner. That equals date, big boy.” He grinned. “The rest is extracurricular.”
I was still frozen when Em and Lily exited the shop. They were both rosy cheeked and giggly.
I felt like I might puke, and I had an excellent reason.
I’d never been on a date.
Lily opened the door to the master suite she and Em were sharing when I knocked. Half of her hair was in curlers, she was holding one in her right hand, and she was wrapped in one of the hotel’s thick white robes.
“Hey. I was just thinking about y ….” She stopped, and her cheeks burned the same bright pink as her curlers. “Thinking about tonight.”
“Tonight is … an undercover mission,” I blurted out. I heard the shower running. I was relieved – I really wanted this encounter to remain Emerson free.
“Well, I didn’t think it was a date.”
“Oh. Okay.” I shoved my hands in my pocket and considered the ground for a few seconds. “But … I do want to take you out. Sometime.”
“Oh.” Her cheeks grew a little pinker.
“But I’m not sure how to ask.”
“Why?” She laughed. “You act like you’ve never done it before.”
“I haven’t.” I sighed. “I’m not exactly what anyone would consider well-rounded.”
“You’ve never been on a date?” Disbelief.
“Not a real one.”
Hookups didn’t count.
“And you want your first date to be with me?”
I looked at her standing there in the hotel bathrobe, curlers in her hair, make up free, more confident than any glorified sex symbol, and way more beautiful. Possibly more on the inside than out. “Yes.”
“Well, maybe when we’re not investigating evil scientists we can work that out.”
“Deal.” I held out my hand.
“Deal.” Smiling, she reached out to take it, and realized she still held a roller in hers. “I have curlers in my hair, don’t I?”
She closed her eyes.
“My whole head?”
“I’ll be ready in ten.” She blew out a sigh and shut the door without opening her eyes.
I was really glad we weren’t going on a date, because when she stepped out of her room I lost all feeling in my extremities.
“I … you.” I cleared my throat. “It … um. Hi.”
“Hi. Oh, wait, I need to get my purse.”
She turned around to pick it up, and I lost feeling everywhere else.
The dress fit like a cliched but greatly appreciated glove. Her hair was up, but not in her usual tight knot. It was wavy and loose, and made me think that pulling out the right pin would send it tumbling.
“Okay, I’m ready.” She faced me again, but looked past me instead of at me, sort of at the floor.
The bow tie on the tux had barely been snug when I’d tied it, but now it was unbearably tight. I had to be doing something wrong, but I had no idea what it was. Maybe I needed to compliment her. Girls usually responded well to compliments.
“You look amazing. Amazing is an understatement. I’m not even sure there’s a word for how you look. I can’t … my tongue feels swollen. That can’t be normal.”
All the tension dissolved, ramping up into anticipation when she smiled. “I’m not sure there’s a word for how amazing you look either.”
“Oh.” I stared at her, unsure of what to do next. “Do you need a jacket or something? It could be cold on the water.”
“A jacket would mess up the lines of the dress.” She batted her eyelashes dramatically. “Sometimes a woman has to suffer for the sake of beauty.”
Definitely didn’t want to mess the lines of the dress. “I’ll give you mine if you need it.”
“You could just keep me warm.”
“That’ll work, too.” Was she flirting with me?
Nate and Michael interrupted when they came through the hotel room door holding bags of takeout barbecue.
“You get a fancy dinner cruise, we get ribs,” Michael said as he put the bags on the coffee table. “I think we win.”
“Oh.” Nate stopped when he saw us and dabbed at his eyes with the tail of his shirt. “I feel like we should take pictures. Our babies are all grown up and going to the prom.”
“If the prom included possible injury and questionable secret organizations,” Em muttered under her breath as she came out of her bedroom with a towel wrapped around her wet hair. “It’s like James Bond meets Harry Potter. Specifically Goblet of Fire. And we all know what happened at the end of that one. Edward died.”
(TOTALLY leaving you hanging with this one! The deleted scene that follows is titled, “On A Boat, Wearing My Flippy Floppys.” If we can hit fifty comments on this post, I could be persuaded to post it next week! TELL ME what you think, and WHO you think will provide the Point of View for INFINITYGLASS!!)