Late again, Claire felt relieved to see Rachel sitting at their booth. “God, Rachel. It seems I’m always keeping you waiting.” She sat, wondering how this woman would react to Eve’s newspaper. “I was here last night, hoping to talk to you. You probably got my crazy message in the middle of the night. Sorry about that, Rachel.”
“Why did you want to talk to me so badly last night?”
“I was disturbed by my dream. It was nothing.” Claire’s mind thought of the photos in her phone. She wasn’t ready to share them. Not with Rachel. She’d have to use them, she was a news woman, and would not accept keeping them secret.
Rachel could tell something was bothering the Senator, but listened intently hoping to identify it. “Claire, stop rambling. We need to talk about the bill. Can you be on my show tomorrow? I have only one week to let the people know. We need them calling their Senators about this. I want the phones to ring all week.”
“Yes, you’re right. But there is something else I want to share with you. Something so big, Rachel. If it’s as it seems, there are no words for this. I realize the bill is important, but this, well.” Claire turned to the front entrance, wondering where Tony was. “I have a friend that’s supposed to join us, someone who can help to explain.” She couldn’t wait any longer and shoved the newspaper across the table.
Claire watched her new friend scan through the article.
“I don’t know Spanish, Claire. But it does appear that Eve’s story about that poor woman is real. What does it say? And more so, where did you get this?”
Donna asked them if they wanted to order anything with their coffee.
Rachel looked at Claire with a twinkle in her eye. “Do you have any scones fresh from the oven? Those are the best in town.”
“We don’t serve scones.” She handed the women a menu. “I’ll give you a chance to look over our selection.”
When she was out of hearing distance, Rachel laughed. “What was that all about? That is the same lady that brings us our treats each night, isn’t it? That is Donna, right?”
“Rachel, the article says that Conchita was driven to a bus that night and that the bus has disappeared. Either an accident or kidnapping. It’s still unknown where the bus is. But look closer, look at the date on the top of the paper. What do you see?”
Claire’s nervous energy was driving her mad, waiting for Rachel to make the discovery. She watched the woman peruse the top of the periodical. Then her eyes landed on the one bit of information that would surely blow her mind. The color left her face, her expression showed shock, curiosity.
“What is this? A joke? This paper’s a fake, we were right about this woman all along.” She looked across the table. “Where did you get this?”
“From Eve. She was here last night, and very distraught. She’d tried calling me only to discover that my number didn’t exit. Didn’t exist, Rachel.” She pulled her cell out of her purse and shook it at the woman. “Maybe not for her, Rachel. Maybe not to a woman living 30 years in the future.”
“Listen, you’re a bright woman. How could you fall for this? People can have these kind of things printed at an amusement park, Claire.”
“I took it to a friend this morning. He ran a test on the ink. It’s not from today.” An incredible sound of delight slipped from her lips. “This is unreal, but my friend believes it.” She put her head down, and said softly, “Rachel, I don’t know anymore. I believed it earlier, but I’m not so sure now. But but but.” She looked across the table, and scrunched her face into an odd expression, “If it is true, think about what it means.” Claire turned her head toward the back of the café. “Where is she? She’s been here every night since we started meeting here. Where the hell is she? Eve doesn’t know. I saw the date after she left. I don’t believe she knows we are from her past. God, listen to me. One minute I say I don’t believe it, the next I sound as though I do.” Claire mused. “And, Rachel.” She pointed to the gangly branches of the old tree growing against the back wall. “Call me crazy, but last night, Eve became very upset and ran out of here. But she left through the door at that back wall.”
Rachel turned to look and laughed. “You’ve been under a lot of additional stress lately. Why don’t you plan for some time off after the vote? You can be sitting on a beach somewhere this time next week, reading a romance novel or something.”
Claire left the booth and marched to the back where the branches seemed to suck into the wall like ivy would to a brick building. She reached her hands through the maze of growth, feeling for the brass knob.
“Can I help you, Honey?” Donna stood behind her, a portentous stance about her.
“Yes you can. You saw what I saw last night. I know you saw it too. Where is the handle that Eve used?”
The woman shook her head and left Claire standing next to her friend who looked befuddled by the incident. “Come on, Claire. Let’s sit and talk some more.” Rachel’s voice was kind, soothing.
Claire was ready to resign her search when she spotted a tiny flash from a shiny object behind one of the branches. She ran to it and dug her hand around it, tearing some foliage away to expose her prize. She pointed to it, “Look. I told you it was here.” She turned it, both terrified and excited to see what would happen.
Nothing opened. It was an ornament on the wall, a long lost decoration that had been covered years ago by the overgrown tree. Claire exploded. She shouted at the waitress, asking her to explain last night, tonight, every night they’d been at the coffee house.
Rachel apologized and gently walked Claire back to their booth. “You have to control yourself. Why are we discussing this outrageous theory of yours when there’s a pressing matter at hand? Let’s sit and talk about the bill. I’ve got you scheduled to be my headliner tomorrow, but you need to get ahold of yourself. I need that woman of substance to be on the air. Claire, are you hearing me?”
“You’re ignoring the date, Rachel. What about the date?” Claire turned her head, looking for Tony to walk through the door. “When Tony gets here, he’ll explain it to you. He knows.” Claire began tapping her index finger on the table, “Where the hell is he?”
“Claire, I don’t believe in God. So how am I supposed to believe in a time warp? That is what you’re implying, isn’t it? This coffee house has somehow intersected two parallel time periods? You watched too many Twilight Zone shows in your youth. I mean, I always did like that show, but really. It’s just great entertainment. I’m hearing you suggest that our Eve is from the future, a terrible future if I may add.”
Claire continued on with her case, and said, “Yes, that is what I’m suggesting.” Her memory of Tony’s exuberance, his proof, had her believing again. “Something has happened to put us together, the three of us, that is. Why? Forget the how. But why? Remember Eve’s description of her world. Remember how we thought someone had hired her to say those crazy things.” Her voice was getting louder, “Remember, Rachel!” Claire hesitated, recalling more details of her night with Eve. “And, Rachel. I remember how Eve tried to leave through the front door, but it seemed locked. She actually used her body to push it open, but it was stuck. What would happen if she were to go out into our world? Would she be a child?”
Claire looked around the room for the waitress, then called to her. “Please, could we get some help over here?”
“Yes? What can I get you ladies?”
“You served my friend and me last night, didn’t you?”
The lady smiled, and said sweetly, “Of course, that Eve is quite a lady isn’t she?”
“How well do you know her? Why can’t she leave through the front exit?”
Donna shook her head, showing pity for Claire. “Honey, you need to settle down. If you have questions, perhaps you should take them up with Eve. I just work here. Now, can I get you ladies something?”
Rachel intervened, “Thank you, but I believe we’re fine. But I do wonder why we can’t get a scone tonight. What’s with that? We know you serve them. Why, you even push them on your customers.”
“I’m afraid you misunderstood me, we don’t have them on Sunday. Come back tomorrow and I’ll have them waiting for you. Now if you ladies will excuse me, I have people to keep happy.”
Claire’s anger flared, “Donna, tell me why she can’t go through that door.” She pointed to the front of the café.
“That poor girl is dealing with a lot now, she doesn’t need any more shocks. Now, if she is a friend of yours, as you suggest, I hope you can keep that in mind.” She whisked herself around and was soon lost in the kitchen.
“Rachel, that woman knows things that would help us with Eve. Why won’t she level with us?”
“This talk is crazy, Claire. You actually believe that this intersection...” She looked around the room. “This intersection between two epochs is happening so we can see what could happen based on… based on what? Political decisions that are implemented today? That’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it? This bill is driving you crazy, so crazy that you’re seeing things that aren’t there.”
Claire listened to Rachel. Yes, the bill. Its changes could influence so many people, the possibility that it was enough to cause hideous results to their lives, a bill that could wrong so many. Her breathing increased with intensity, her body began shaking again, her face flushed. Rachel’s voice kept going on and on. Claire felt as though she was ready to burst. Tony’s reaction. She’d never seen him like that. Her fingers dug into the table, Rachel’s voice still ringing in her head. She really needed Tony with her. He might help her to ground her. He might help her to believe in the impossible. She needed his enthusiasm, his outrageous delight. Her head felt light, Rachel’s face seemed blurred. Then, something cleared her thoughts. A calm sensation filled her senses. She knew she believed it, it was the explanation for Eve’s stories, it was concrete proof. A euphoric awareness took over her.
She looked across the table, and, her voice was steady and cool when the words came out, “Just say it, Rachel. SB 1257 could have created Eve’s world!” Her expression was gripping, sturdy. “Eve’s Bill of Wrongs!”
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