Louise was still out at Emily's when they got to Davey's flat, which was handy under the circumstances. Geek thought that the last thing they needed was to complicate an already complicated situation with the resurrected difficulties of an old love-triangle, not to mention the questions that she would have about why the three of them were hanging out in her bedroom with what looked suspiciously like a pair of oversized x-ray specs and an expired Costa Coffee voucher.
Davey led them into the bedroom and threw some clothes off the bed so that the three of them could sit on it. Archer did not sit however, and chose to loiter near the window that looked down onto the quiet street below.
The rip is due to appear any minute near the door. You'll have to be ready for it, and when it appears, make sure you don't put any of your body through it. Keep your hands back and just push the voucher through the hole.
'I could make a paper plane and throw it through.'
No. You couldn't guarantee that she would open it up and see the voucher. She may just throw it in the bin. Just be careful. You'll have almost a minute, so there's no need to rush.
They waited a while, not speaking. An awkward atmosphere had developed, and Geek was not unwise to the cause and circumstances of the weighty silence that hung in the air between Archer and Davey. Geek was unable to think of anything to say on the matter, so he chose to stay quiet too.
Put the glasses on Geek.
Geek strapped the goggles to his head and started to look around the room. Almost immediately a rip appeared near the window where Archer was standing and Geek moved towards it.
Not that one!
The rip closed a second later.
Like I said, there's another longer one coming along near the door. It's a better position for her to find the voucher.
Geek pulled away from the space where the rip had been and smiled nervously at the others. 'False alarm. God, look at my hands shaking!'
And then the rip opened near the door. The one Brenda had expected. Geek moved towards it, bending slightly.
Careful now. Don't be hasty.
Geek approached the fissure, and for a moment he tried to memorise the image of its sides. They seemed to glow slightly as though, where the fabric of time had been opened, there was a fire of burning chemicals and particles that were forcing the rip to be held in its open state. They seemed to shimmer and fold. The other two stepped closer to where he was, but he ignored them.
Drop it now.
Geek pushed the voucher through the rip, taking care to pull his hand back before it got too near to the hole. The paper slid through and floated on the air for a moment before flipping over on its way to the floor. For a moment it looked like it was going to land face down, but it flipped again, and landed on the blue carpet of that year-old bedroom.
'Wow, did you see it disappear? Just like that!' said Davey, his voice full of childish wonder.
'Amazing,' said Archer, who had now bent forward to where Geek was.
Both had clearly forgotten about their earlier tension, and were now in awe of what, to them, was a disappearing piece of paper.
Geek had a different view as his goggles showed him the different branch. And just before the rip closed up forever, leaving the voucher on the other side of it, he caught a reflection in the mirror.
The words escaped his mouth before he'd had a chance to stop them. He stood up fully and clicked the side of the goggles to access the image he thought he had seen. The image switched to that reflection, and he confirmed it to be true. Davey had been lying in the bed with a woman. A woman who was clearly not Louise. He tried to stifle his reaction, but it was too late. Of course, Davey already might know what Geek had seen (would he have already given any thought to what he was up to in this room a year before), but Archer wouldn't know. Archer didn’t know, and it had to stay that way.
'What did you see?' said Archer.
Geek shook his head. 'Nothing. It was nothing.'
'Tell us, Geek. What did you see?' He swiped the goggles from Geek's head and put them on.
But it was too late. Archer was already seeing the image and his mouth dropped open. 'You were cheating on her. Davey, you complete bastard.'
Davey was clearly still trying to piece it all together. 'What are you talking about?'
But Archer continued, tearing off the goggles and throwing them at Davey. They bounced off his chest and fell to the floor. 'You stole her from me and then you cheated on her. You don't bloody deserve her. You're a disgrace.'
Geek spoke up. 'Archer you need to forget...'
'Now listen here,' Davey said.
'Just you try and deny it. Are you trying to deny it?'
After a moment, Davey lowered his head and shook it. 'No.'
'Does she know?'
Davey looked resigned, but almost pleading, 'Of course not.'
And now Archer's finger was pointing at Davey's chest, jabbing the other man accusingly. 'Then you better tell her.'
Davey said nothing, but met Archer's eyes squarely, defiantly.
'Tell her Davey, or I'll tell her for you.' Archer made his way to the door. To Geek he said, 'I assume we're done here now? I can go? Did we save her?'
Geek waited for a response from Brenda, but no voice spoke, making him wonder what the consequences of their actions had really been. He nodded anyway, and gave Archer the answer he wanted to hear. 'Yes, we saved her.'
But what he didn't say was that, despite their actions, maybe they hadn’t saved Archer.
They all heard the key in the front door at the other end of the apartment.
Louise was back.
Archer drove home struggling to push dark tears to the back of his eyes and a jealous lump to the back of his throat. Time, and branches would heal this rip in his heart that had been unexpectedly reopened. For now, he would have to console himself that in other branches, in other times, even if it wasn't in this one, he lived a happy and long life with Louise. He tried to imagine what those would be like. Those branches and times where she still gave him come-to-bed looks, and he could always look forward to another long summer as her lover. She would not be Davey's girl in those branches. Archer supposed he should count himself lucky though. Lucky to be in this branch. After all, if all possible branches existed, then there were some where he had never met her at all.
She would not see all of today, but she wouldn't know why.
It was a sunny spring morning in London. It was early May in 2052, and Louise stepped off the train and made her way towards the teeming Waterloo concourse. She hated this time of the morning, when thousands of fellow passengers navigated their way through to the exits and off to start another day at the office. She herself was heading for a job interview as a researcher at the computer labs at Kings College London. Whether she would get the job, she had no real idea. This was her second interview and she was under no illusion that she could be up against a good many candidates that may be more qualified for the position than she.
She needed a coffee. Perhaps a cappuccino would help her sharpen some blunt edges, make her perform better. She felt into her bag for her purse, pulled it out and looked inside for some change. All that was in there were a few pieces of shrapnel, and no notes. Certainly not enough to buy a coffee in this day and age. She looked around for the nearest cash point machine. She saw one, but the queue was 5 people deep.
Not enough time, she thought. She would have to forgo the coffee and hope that she could dredge some strength and composure from some other unseen well within her.
She headed for the Waterloo Road. Towards an accident. And the people who never lived as a result of her actions, would never have known that she hadn’t had the opportunity to save them.