a tale in weekly parts
Bernice Reed, a thirty-something African-American woman from Arizona, appeared in the street of a small Canadian town some two hundred years in her future in the body of a white male. Now known as Bernie, he settled into a high-tech life. But it didn't end there! Not by any means. Any change to the 'past' after her/his translation would (and did) rewrite the future - his present.
And then it became more complicated…
“No,” the young woman, Mia Harper, said, “it’s not mine. Did you see it fall?”
“I didn’t,” Bernard Chowdhry replied, “It was behind you and I just assumed… I’m sorry for disturbing you. Can you find it in your heart to forgive me?”
Mia reacted with what was more than a giggle, less than a chuckle. Bernard thought to himself that if he had been the man he was projecting, he would have found that beyond attractive.
She looked him in the eye and said, “There’s nothing to forgive, Mr…”
“Chowdhry, Bernard Chowdhry.”
“There’s nothing to forgive, Chowdhry, Bernard Chowdhry,” that chuckle again, “It was most gallant of you, and had the box been mine, I would have been both grateful and relieved that you had cared enough to return it.”
“If you can extend your spirit of forgiveness, may I tell you what is on my mind now?”
“Should I worry about it?”
“Far from it.”
“Then you may proceed, but I counsel caution; some consider me a delicate soul.”
“I’m feeling a bit exposed here,” Bernard said, “can I buy you a coffee? If you have time, of course, and if you don’t find me a threat in any way.”
“I’d like that. I’m Mia, by the way. Mia Harper.”
“The name suits you, Mia. It has a purity about it, a purity that I rather suspect it shares with its owner.”
Mia blushed. “Can we go to the stall over there?” she asked, pointing to an outside eatery across the square, “Nothing personal, but I don’t want to be seen entering a low-lit area with a man I don’t know.”
The two crossed the road, ordered coffees at the stall and took seats against the counter.
“So, Mr Chowdhry—”
“So, Bernard, what’s on your mind?”
“I am a strong believer that nothing happens without a reason, that we are directed by forces outside our control and that everything that befalls us does so within the context of a clear purpose.”
“I won’t argue with that. Are you suggesting that our meeting was… did you really see the box behind me, or was that just a device to get close to me?”
Bernard faced a choice. Should he lie to this young woman, or tell her the unvarnished truth and risk losing her trust?
“In honesty, it wasn’t immediately behind you, but there was no-one else in the vicinity that looked as though they might have dropped it, so I assumed…”
“Stop right there, Bernard. I have a feeling that if I let you carry on, you’ll dig yourself into a hole you’ll have difficulty leaving.” Had that not been said with the unassuming lightness that seemed to be Mia’s trademark, Bernard would have felt that he had blown it at this early stage. As it was…
Bernard took another sip of his coffee, looked up and engaged Mia’s gaze.
“You’re right. There is an extent to which it was a device to get talking to you—”
“I thought as much.”
“Hear me out, Mia. I had a strong, no, an overwhelming feeling that we were destined to spend some time in each other’s company.”
“I get a lot of that.”
“I can understand why, but my motives are neither romantic nor sexual. Do you believe that the gods sometimes speak directly to people?”
“Of course I do.”
“I believe that I should stay in near to you for the foreseeable future. Not necessarily with you as such, but close enough that I can rush to your defence if needed.”
“My defence? Why? Is there some danger in my future? When? Where? What kind?”
“You’re asking questions I can’t answer, Mia. Not at the moment, anyway.”
“But you can’t be with me twenty-four hours a day, can you? Can you?”
“I can be as near or as far as you wish. Think of me as your guardian angel. You won’t necessarily know I’m here, but anytime you call my name, I’ll be there for you.”
“Even when I’m in bed? In the bath? In the shower? This is beginning to sound creepy. I’m not sure what your game is, but perhaps we should part company right now.”
“Of course, Mia. If that’s what you want. I’m sorry, I haven’t explained myself very well and I’ve alarmed you. Nothing could be further from my mind. I’ll go now, but grant me two things, will you?”
“I’m not sure I want to go along with this, but go on what?”
“One: you’ll try to forgive my clumsiness…”
“That if you find yourself in any danger, any danger at all, you’ll call my name.”
“Or not, as you choose.”
“You have my word.”
Bernard stood, bowed his head in the Japanese style and, with a reassuring smile, turned and left the area. When convinced Mia could no longer see him, he effectively disappeared from view and considered his position.
“Too much too soon?” he asked himself.
“Too much too soon,” Julian replied, inside his head.