After exiting the forest and returning to the outskirts of town, I crept along the bushes, trying to stay out of sight. As Daltom had warned me, I ran the real risk of changing time and history. At least my great-granddad wasn’t likely to fall in love with me instead of my great-grandma. He hadn’t immigrated over to the states yet. I shivered at the thought. I had never met the man, but he had died in the Vietnam War. Something to do with Chiropterans, whatever that was.
“What are you doing?” came a voice from behind me.
My back went stiff as I turned to see a young boy. He was about my age. He stood behind me with a grin on his face; an old newsboy cap on his head. Even though he looked familiar to me, I couldn’t place my finger on it. He brought an apple up to his mouth, taking a bite before chewing and giving me another grin.
“I’m sneaking…” I said, turning away.
“Well, you’re doing a horrible job.” he laughed, crouching down next to me.
He had a jovial swagger that shot up alarms in my brain. The boy reminded me of someone. I turned away again and began sneaking into the next bush. I figured if I ignored him long enough, he would just go away. The boy stood up again and followed me, chewing his apple noisily as he did so. I turned back to him with exasperation.
“Do you mind?”
The boy smiled again. “Not a bit.”
I ground my teeth, ready to smack that stupid grin off his face. Finally, I turned back to him. I wish I had brought my taser. A large degree of my problems seemed to be solvable with a taser.
“You are dressed funny,” he said before I snapped at him.
I stopped and looked down. Daltom was walking around with a silver suit on. Clearly, he didn’t think about fashion matching the proper time. At least I was dressed well, although I didn’t want to think about how I looked after tripping and falling through the forest.
“So are you. It’s the 50s, not the 20s; what’s with the hat, paperboy?”
The boy looked up at his hat and laughed. “It’s my Da’s. I do work at the newspaper though. I don’t deliver though; I edit for them. See? I’m a mature eighteen-year-old.”
“Well, paperboy, I’m sixteen, so I’m too young for you.”
“Are you kidding? Girls always fall in love and get married at sixteen.”
“That is… an old-fashioned way of thinking about things.”
“Well, I’m a very old-fashioned kind of guy. Besides, I have a job; far more stable then all those boys just hoping to pass high school. Plus I have dreams; I’m saving up to go to college. Then I can be a professional journalist. ”
“Why are you bothering me?”
“Because life is short and you are beautiful.”
That caused me to blush, but I wasn’t going to let this boy get to me. “Well, I’m sorry. I am not old-fashioned and I won’t marry for a long while.”
The boy shrugged, seeming unperturbed. “My name’s Christopher, by the way.”
I sighed to myself. “Jane. Is there anything I can do to get you to leave me alone?”
“How about a date?”
“Alright, how about a race?”
“I’m sorry?” I blinked in confusion.
“I see you’re wearing running shoes. Now, I’m not so slow myself. How about I give you a head start of ten seconds because you’re a girl? If I catch you before you reach that street over there, you’ll go on a date with me.”
He pointed at a ten block stretch of buildings. I glanced down at my shoes. They were just a pair of regular sneakers. Then I realized that in the 1950s, sneakers weren’t common. I glanced at Christopher’s shoes. They were beaten hard leather, something that looked like dress shoes by today’s standards.
I wasn’t fast, but the street had a lot of alleys. If I could duck behind one, I’d leave him in my dust and be on my way. He wouldn’t see me again. I wasn’t worried about him. He’d be fine. I gave him a little nod and he broke out into a smile, tossing the apple into a bush and wiping off his mouth. He pulled off the cap, giving me another flash of familiarity, but I ignored it. I was ready to ditch this person.
“Ready,” he counted with a strong voice, “Go!”
I bolted at full speed, determined to be in an alley and out of his sight before the ten seconds were up. Incidentally, I was not built for speed. I was only a block away when I heard the shout. “TEN!”
Before he started running, I turned and ducked behind a building lined with foliage. I kept running as I heard a shout of protest. He would catch up to me if I kept running like this; I wasn’t fast enough. Instead, I did the only thing I could do. I leaped into another bush. My arms got scrapped as I fell into it, but I was determined to be out of sight before he got there. The thumping of feet started getting closer.
Please don’t let him find me… please… please…
His feet stopped right next to my bush. He caught me. I wasn’t going to go anywhere, much like the character development of Bella Swan.
“There you are, Jane. You caught me by surprise when you took off. How did you change your clothing so quickly?”
My eyes widened, looking up through an opening in the bush. Christopher wasn’t looking at me; he was looking at someone standing nearby out of my sight.
“Excuse me? I assure you, sir, you must be mistaken,” a young woman’s voice sounded.
Christopher chuckled. “Oh, I see how it is; knew you couldn’t beat me so you thought you would pretend to be someone else? Am I that bad?”
I moved my head without rustling the bush to get a better view at the other person and barely stopped myself from gasping. I saw a girl standing there who looked exactly like me. She had on a solid light green summer dress and carried a basket. She had a look of confusion on her face but otherwise seemed kind.
“I’m sorry; I think you have me confused with someone else.”
“Alright, I’ll play along. It’ll be a fresh start. Act like we’ve never met before. Hello, my lady. My name is Christopher, and I’ve been admiring you from afar.” Christopher bowed formally. “I would love the honor to take you out on a date.”
The girl turned beet red with a blush. I hope I didn’t look like that when I blushed. “Oh my, but my father would never approve.”
“Fortunately,” the boy gave his rich smile, “I am not asking your father.”
The girl giggled, becoming shy as she ground a toe into the ground and blushed. Christopher held a hand out to her. After a moment’s hesitation, she reached out and grabbed it. The pair ran off together, giggling like school children as they crested the corner. I moved out of my hiding spot, completely dumbfounded.
I now remembered where I had seen the boy before now. His image had appeared briefly to me as he shot out of Alex in the haunted mansion. He was Mr. Xavier, or rather the ghost boy who inhabited Mr. Xavier. I inadvertently hooked him up with my great-grandmother, Jane. It would be an event that I knew would end with his death. It put all of the actions of my creepy English teacher into perspective for me. He was just a man who fell in love and wanted a second chance. He was still a pushy creep though.
I turned away from the awkward distraction that was Mr. Xavier…or Christopher, I guess. It wasn’t something I wanted to think about right now. I had a mission I needed to complete and I was letting myself get distracted. I ran off, again following the directions Daltom had carefully given me. He wouldn’t come with me, of course. He was too shy. He said he’d wait in the clearing for me to return. If he was from the future, then I would need to find his past self and spend some time toughening him up.