Glass Anniversary

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It was our three-year anniversary, and Jessica was crying. Breakfast was cooked, my gift to her was wrapped and cleverly hidden, and she was bawling, just bawling her eyes out on the kitchen floor.

"Jess, babe?" I asked. "Are you okay?"

A stupid question at the best of times. I ignored the quickly cooling eggs and tried to sort out my priorities. First of all, it was my anniversary. Definitely. I'd double-checked the date for this. Second, I still wanted to propose today. Tears or not, I wanted it to be today. Third, Jessica was currently a disheveled mess of blonde hair and pajamas.

"Babe?" I was rewarded with a glance this time, her sobs fading as her breathing grew steady.

"Eric," she said. No, she always called me ‘Ricky’. If I was Eric, that meant the problem was larger than I had thought. Kneeling down to her level, I froze as she burst into tears again.

"It's okay, I'm right here." Wrapping my arms around her, I kissed her forehead and tried not to freak out more than a little. This was far from the perfect day that I had imagined it to be.

"Ricky?" Her voice came out as a whine this time, and I tightened my grip around her by reflex. At least I was back to being Ricky again.

"I'm right here." Leaning back so I could kiss her forehead, I smiled as she snuggled deeper into me. I’d only seen Jess like this once before, but that was nearly a year ago now.

"Eric, I have something to show you," she said. In that moment, I was absolutely certain there was nothing she could show me that would change how I felt about her.

"Okay," I replied. "I love you, Jess. You know that, right?"

"Yeah." Sighing into my shoulder, she softly kissed me on the collar bone. "Promise me that you’ll remember those words when you know?"

"I promise." I didn’t hesitate to swear my love for her. Maybe I should have, should have wondered what she had meant. Maybe. We got up off the floor, and I let her pretend she was leading me through the house. Honestly, I didn't think she could have stood if she hadn't been squeezing the blood from my arm.

When we got to the basement, I had to suppress the urge to start asking questions. I wondered if in the history of the planet, a basement had ever hidden something nice. Tuggin on my sleeve, she pulled me to a halt in front of an old computer. Even with everything that was happening, my first thought was 'How did she even manage to link those headphones up to that thing?' They looked almost brand new.

"This is it," Jess said. Still, I didn’t understand.

"The computer?" I asked. "What about it?"

"Remember your promise, Ricky." For a moment, the tone of her voice convinced me she’d said ‘Eric’ instead. "Do you remember last year, when I… when you found me crying in the car?"

I nodded in response. Of course I remembered. In all three years of our relationship, it was the only day that wasn’t a fond memory for me. Hugging back up to me, she took a deep breath, as if she could hold us together by sheer force of will.

"It's a time machine," she said. For a split second, I wondered if this had all been one big trick from the start. Some of my favourite movies were based on time travel, but she knew I thought it was impossible in real life - even after the grandfather paradox had been circumvented by the closed-time-loop theory, there was just so much that couldn’t be proved. We had a discussion about time travel and superposition once, last year. It was just before… Jess took one look at my face, and burst into tears again.

"Ricky." Her arms clenched around me so tightly I was having trouble breathing. "Please, Ricky. I can't do this again."

Again? Her arms seemed to squeeze even tighter, as if she was afraid I would leave her behind down here.

"No more," she said. "Please."

"Jess, have we…" Staring down a her, I questioned what I thought I knew. "What do you mean, 'again'?"

She stiffened up at that. There was a moment of hesitation before she looked me in the eyes. A moment of silence before she started speaking. When she did, it was almost too fast for me to understand it all.

"I'm so sorry, Ricky - I wanted to tell you but I didn't know how, I swear. How could I? I knew you'd figure it out, I knew it. What was I supposed to do? I didn't know how, but then you proposed and-"

"I proposed to you?" I felt my heart drop as I interrupted her, Jess’ wide eyes shining with tears as her jaw trembled against my chest.

"Please Ricky," she said. "I knew I had to tell you, but you got so angry. I had to try again, I had to."

I drew her up into me and kissed her forehead, words trailing off as I tried to keep my brain from leaping out of my skull. Was this such a big deal to me? I mean, it was a big deal for the whole world, I guess, but did this change anything between us? I didn't think so.

"It's okay," I said. "I love you Jess, remember?"

We leaned back from each other and I looked into her eyes. I had always loved her, and this couldn't change that. But something was wrong. Her expression was relief, but also... hope. Her face fall even as my eyes widened in realization.

"Jess?" It was my turn to plead, now. "Was that the first time you used it on me?"

There was a pause.

It's my one-year anniversary with Jess, and she's sitting on the floor and bawling, just bawling her eyes out.