Earth Trolley

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When I Forgave Him Without Knowing What He'd Done

I stood near the front door for a lengthy ten minutes before I decided to take the first step. I was wary of discovering I was still pregnant. I had this feeling now that each moment was something important, either that I had to know or had to do. Natalie had been necessary to help me get to Jim to talk him into Hope's Spain trip. And Natalie and Jim had told me enough that I knew there were other times I'd stepped into my future—unless I really did have a vitamin deficiency. If so, this was the most amazing vitamin deficiency!

I wanted to see if Jim was in his office again. Or maybe it wasn't his office yet. It was possible, since the last time I'd zapped forward we didn't even have Hope yet. My eyes lit on a newspaper rack, and I pushed the cart up to it. The movement was natural; I wasn't pregnant this time. It was strange how I knew this. I didn't feel that heaviness at all. I hadn't felt anything different in the previous visits to the future, not old or anything. Perhaps having life inside of me made it different. A separate entity, like feeling the presence of others around me.

I read the print above the headlines: April 17, 2022. This was four years after the date on Jim's wrist, and I still didn't know if the year underneath the heart was the year we married. Were we married yet? We'd known each other at least four years. I looked toward the offices and saw three men talking nearby. They looked like supervisors or something. I was still a good distance away, but I singled out Jim between them. I wheeled the cart around and approached.

Jim wasn't fat this time. In fact, he looked rather thin to me. He looked at me quickly, then back to the supervisors without acknowledging he’d seen me. He had a five o'clock shadow that had seen yesterday's five o'clock, as well. He didn't look well. I slowed my pace, thinking the meeting with these two men must be extremely important, and it was not the time to talk to him.

If we were married, stepping back and allowing him to do his job was what a good wife would do, right? I had no idea what being a wife required, but I was trying my best to wing it in the moment. I waited and was rewarded by another quick look. I smiled in a way I hoped would be reassuring.

His reaction was almost instantaneous. I began to think I'd been wrong—that he hadn't really seen me the first time—because he excused himself and walked over. There wasn't a smile on his face. I'd been able to take in his attitude and the way he held himself very little, but even with that small knowledge of him, I could see he walked like someone burdened. His shoulders were hunched. In fact, his whole attitude was low.

My smile began to slip from my lips as he stopped in front of me. With distress written across his forehead, he bent toward me to whisper roughly, "What are you doing here?"

"I—uh, shopping?"

His eyebrows drew together. He had very expressive eyes. They were very attractive, even when the rest of him looked like he'd gone through a car wash…with no car. Tattered. He looked tattered, inside and out.

"Shopping. Right," he said sarcastically, and looked around as though he was fearful of being overheard.

"I'm having one of my days. You know, my vitamin deficiency."

"Vitamin deficiency. What are you talking about?" Then it seemed to dawn on him. "Oh."

He laughed, pulling his fingers through his hair. It was a sad laugh, short and bitter.

"I'm sorry if I've come at a bad time," I continued. "I know you're busy, but—are you okay? You don't look well."

"I'm fine, Lyn. Don't concern yourself."

"Of course I'm going to concern myself. You're—" I wanted to say 'you're my boyfriend/husband' but I wasn't sure which one applied. Instead, I just said, "I care about you."

The shock on his face was the last thing I'd expected. "Lyn, what are you doing?" The pitch of his voice came out high and loud. He seemed to realize it and tried to rein it in, telling me, "I know you probably won't remember this, but you can not come in here and express interest in my life after all the—" He was literally biting his lip.

I stepped back, knowing everything was wrong. We weren't together! I looked at his ring finger. Nothing was on it, but there was an impression. A ring had been there.

I quickly looked to his other hand. His fist was clenched, and there was a dark tattoo of a skull on the inside of his wrist. No 'Jim N Lyn 2018'. Had he covered up the old tattoo? How could he have a filled-in skull now when the writing would be there when he was older?

He was staring at me, and I couldn't tell what he was thinking.

He spoke quietly, "I'm not gonna lie: I still care. I know I made a mistake, a huge one. I know I have to deal with that, but—I’ve got to get on with my life."

"Okay. I—I don't even know why I'm here—why I came here," I quickly amended. "I'm sorry for making it difficult for you."

"You're sorry? Oh, Lyn, don't." He was looking around again, but this time I realized it was to avoid looking at me. His eyes were moist when they met mine again.

"Please," he whispered. He lowered his gaze to the floor and dug his hands deep into his pockets. "Even if you won't remember it, can you just forgive me? I know you've told me not to ask you for that; but, Lyn, you don't know…" He shook his head, staring at the floor.

"Jim." I had to swallow the lump in my throat to keep talking. "I forgive you."

He didn't look up. Had he heard me?

"Jim?" As I reached out my hand to touch his shoulder, I realized I was reaching out to thin air, as a shopper passed by. I quickly retracted my hand, but not before I saw the quizzical expression on the older woman's face.

I pushed the cart out of the aisle and into the next. I was going to burst into tears right between the charcoal and kitty scratching posts. Jim and I were going to split up? I couldn't handle that! I began to consider: we must have gotten back together again for everything to happen with Hope and Jaelyn. He looked so very pathetic and miserable. What had I forgiven him for? I couldn't ignore the first idea that came to me: Had he had an affair?

My stomach churned as I looked down at the letters on the cart. They spelled out,

ARTH TR LE

They were completely rubbing out. Was it a matter of time with this cart? Were there only so many trips forward in time? If so, I needed to know more about Jim because at this point, if he walked up to me, I would walk away. I would never marry him.

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