The sands of Time blew across the surface of Earth. Within the wind that swirled were the fates of different souls whose paths had the power to change the course of Time. None of them strayed. Towards their appointed fates they traveled, and in their wake, the stir they might have caused vanished, as the chain of Time remained unbroken.
The waves crashed against the surf, sending salt water across the beach. It sprayed onto her, onto him. Laura licked it off his chest.
"Murphy." Her voice was husky with the memory of last night. He cradled her in his arms, inhaling the scent of her, the salt in her hair on her neck. She giggled, pulling his head level with hers, and she responded, kissing him tenderly.
"We shouldn't be too affectionate," she teased.
"Oh? And why is that?"
"Mmm because everyone will be looking at us," she said, looking into his eyes, half-seriously. "And I couldn't bear it, having to share you with someone else." Her lip protruded in a small pout. He smiled, moving his hands from her waist to her shoulders, rubbing them, before changing the shape of her mouth. Then he gathered some lotion, rubbing it on her shoulders. "I'll try but no promises." And he spread the cool white liquid over her back, cooling it in the heat.
Laura Holt smiled, satisfied. This is how she'd imagined it: on a beach with her lover, laying back, with nothing better to do. What else could she do?
She sat up, startled. What could she do ?
"What?" Murphy had stopped, touched her, concerned. She smiled.
"Nothing," she lied. But there was something, this feeling. She looked to the waves, the color of the ocean. Where had she seen that intense blue, so that she could recognize it so well? She shrugged, brushing it off. Whatever it was, it would come. Nothing she should worry about.
Murphy would take care of everything.
As she snuggled closer to him, her hand knocked a book out of her satchel: "The Road to Crime." She laughed - what would Murphy be doing with a book like that? Granted, they'd worked hard at Havenhurst. And it had been fun. A real experience. Surely he didn't still harbor curiosity. Of course she had. But that had been a year ago, when a lark was all she wanted. And now she wanted
Now she wanted a cherry smoothie. She rolled off Murphy.
"Hey," he protested.
"Back in a second, love." She smiled, kissing him, before sitting up and digging into her bag with a cute sunflower on it. "Want anything?" she asked, standing over him.
"Nothing you can get me now," he answered, tickling her ankle.
"I'll be back in a few."
Her sandals clopped on the sidewalk. She stepped off it, enjoying the feel of the warm sand weighing her down.
The wind blew her hair and she removed a strand from her face. What do I want, she asked herself. What do I really want?
I want to live in a white-picket fenced-home with Murphy. I want to have tons of kids and grandkids, and maybe great-grandkids. That's all I want all I've ever wanted
A ball dropped, and her face turned abruptly. Her eyes met a pair of blue eyes. That boy he looked almost like
Almost like whom?
Whom did he look like? For the second time today, Laura felt swamped with a sense of déjà vu. Had she known this, really known this, somewhere else?
But why should I? Why should it matter? I'm happy, my life's perfect right?
Her eyes went back to Murphy. Was he the one she should be with? Her sandal got caught in the curving sidewalk, almost sending her forward. A pair of hands reached out to catch her. An old woman spoke.
"Watch it, hon." Laura looked into the woman's eyes. No! Laura felt herself falling, stumbling backward and her body moving to turn away. Time froze and she was moving past it.
Get a grip, Holt!
Laura was jerked back to the present.
She's just an old woman.
Laura smiled, still disconcerted. "Thank you." She held out her hand. "I'm Laura Holt."
"Mildred Krebs." The older woman looked at Laura, smiling. "You're in love, aren't you?" Her smile faded slightly. "Aren't you?"
Laura stood. "I don't know I am with my boyfriend, Murphy, though." She didn't know why she was discussing this with this woman. She didn't know her yet she genuinely liked her - she was something special. "I don't know." She shook her head, shrugging.
Mildred smiled smoothly. "You should meet my son, Remington."
Laura hesitated, chilled by that smile. It warmth was deceptive, an unspoken threat, against the whole of her soul. But the look in the other woman's eyes was honest, warm, and if she didn't accept ? "I'd love to."
I'd love to know what secret it is you have. I'd love to find out what it is you might know.
But what could Laura not know?
"Remington Steele," Mildred announced proudly. Laura's breath caught in her throat, as she looked across at the man whose hand was outstretched to her. His hair was blacker than ebony, and his eyes were bluer than the depths of the
"Laura? Laura Holt?" His voice was urgent; she nodded slowly. "Oh, Laura " His husky voice surprised her, as did his hand which reached shakily out to her, his fingers just stroking her face tenderly.
Laura's mouth had gone as dry as the Sahara. Who the hell did
he think he was?
Was he the mystery?
She stopped. His hand caressed her if it were experiencing it for the first time, but also as if it had been made for her. She removed his hand gently.
"Who are you?" she asked, still holding his hand.
He withdrew shakily, as he asked quietly, "You don't know?"
She shook her head, a gesture she regretted as he backed away, sighing heavily. What had she confirmed with that small gesture? "Remington "
"I'm so sorry, Laura for everything. It was my fault, and now " His smile was sad, as he peered into the brown eyes he'd known so well. She didn't recognize him. The weight of that sunk painfully in, and he wondered how badly her head had hurt as she'd landed on the wooden floor that night. Had she thought of them? Or had she been glad she'd been freed from the burden he'd been?
He loosened his hand, feeling the distance that death had descended upon him and the woman he'd loved. He stepped back
"I loved you, didn't I?" Even before his startled eyes, she started at her own words. But it was she who held him, and the brown of her eyes that danced with life. He melted under her gaze. The blueness of his eyes called to her from an unfathomable distance and she wondered absently from where she'd associate love with a man she'd never met. She drew to him.
Murphy reached out. "Laura, where have you been? I was getting worried."
"You should meet my son, Remington," a voice insisted.
On each side of her, Murphy and Mildred stared at her expectantly, while Remington, who was suddenly ten feet away from her, waited patiently. Murphy and Mildred came at her.
"I need you, Laura," Murphy stressed. "We'd be happy."
"What about excitement? You always loved excitement "
I know that, I always loved excitement. So I studied to be a private investigator
But I decided I didn't want that, anymore! Why should I want it, I have Murphy, I have a life, I have -
Laura turned ever so slowly, not daring to chase away the familiar voice. The voice became a person, and the old man approached, the worried look on his face scaring her.
"Do none of these faces seem familiar to you, Laura? The old woman who had been a mother to you? The man who turned your head and heart over in frustration and need? Laura?" His voice was soothing, and she felt at ease once more. Murphy and Mildred had faded into the background, driven away by this calming force. She recognized him, too, a silly fact, really.
"Who are you?"
"You recognize me, don't you?"
What? No. It isn't possible. You can't know me. I've never met you. Is it you who are responsible for this? What is this?
"Who are you?"
"Daniel Chalmers." He deemed his answer sufficient. "The question is, who are you?"
"What do you mean, who am I?" she demanded sharply. "I'm Laura Holt, I'm a bank manager at one of the branches of Bank of America in Los Angeles!"
"Are you sure?"
What kind of question was that? "Of course I'm sure! It's my life, isn't it? Anything else you want to know?" Her voice rose to a dangerous pitch. He waited.
"I live in my house, and I meet my boyfriend, Murphy, throughout my week," she threw at him.
"What about Wilson?"
He seemed to deflate then, defeated by her response, like a child unable to figure out what to do. She sighed: "Please, I think you've mistaken me for someone else. I'm not the woman you know, my life is completely different from your friend's, and I can't seem to help you," she said gently. He didn't move, so she started to walk away.
Time engulfed her. Behind her, she felt the old man had turned to face her, a smile creeping on his face. She turned, and the beach scene before her faded in place of an apartment. She focused on him again, willing him to stay constant.
"You don't recognize it, do you?" The man was over her shoulder now, waiting for an answer. He motioned for her to look.
Her eyebrow raised, she appraised every surface with her gaze. It was a small but comfortable space, steps defining different levels of the apartment. She shook her head.
Her hand ran over a surface. It was a table, and her hand gripped the drawer. Just inside was a photo frame of a man and a woman she recognized as herself. She started, then looked closer. The clothes, the man with her: she'd never had this photo taken. It wasn't her.
But it was.
"This is my house, isn't it?" she said quietly, understanding dawning. "A different time, a different circumstance." Her mind began to settle with her newfound understanding, but the man shook his head.
"This is the life you chose when you gave up your dream of being a detective."
"After you finished Havenhurst, you and Murphy "
" went off to San Francisco on case. It was a case," she emphasized.
"Yes, but what happened during the night of your return?" Her brows crinkled.
"Well, we " He waited. "We had sex!" Why was he asking her this? It didn't make a difference whether or not she'd had sex with him or not!
It wasn't his business!
"What had he said to you, Laura?" he persisted. His words were pronounced slowly, urgently, and Laura's mind went back to that special night.
"I don't think we should become detectives, Laura," Murphy had whispered to her then, holding her close.
"Oh? And why is that?" She'd let him envelope her.
"Because," he'd kissed her forehead, "I'd like to think that we'd be doing more than creating, and " he'd kissed her shoulder " looking at dead bodies doesn't really qualify," he joked lightly.
She had laughed at this, at the truth she'd found in his statement, and the thought of creating with him had sounded so perfect as the rain hit the steaming hotel window. She would have done anything
Had she done anything?
Could one night have changed everything? Her future, her career as a detective, according to him however it went? Did it include the man in the other photo frame, the blue-eyed, black-haired man whom she'd just supposedly met on the beach so far away now? What about the old woman? If they existed in both lives, what did it matter which life she led?
"Of course it matters, Laura." The old man's voice startled her in its acknowledgement of her thoughts. "If you aren't where you're supposed to be, then the course of Time has been broken. By definition, San Francisco shouldn't have happened at all." A shaking of the head would have fit his words, and she looked up expectantly. Yet his look was kind, and she had to wonder if that expression was the one of whom she did know in the other place.
"Who were you? Were you the man who had been a father to me? Or were you connected to the man who 'turned my head and heart over in frustration and need?' "
He smiled secretly. "No I'm the old man who got in your way by testing your loved ones." She smiled quizzically, her head tilting so she could study him once more.
He chuckled. "That's right, Miss Holt. I am not the man you, or your loved ones, knew." Her smile prompted him. "I am the one who lets you know what should have happened."
A light swirled around him, but she shook her head. "Please." The light faded.
"Alright." He remained Daniel Chalmers. Not a bad frame, really.
"But what's the point if you can't ?"
"I can." Laura looked to him once more, and he began to fade from her gaze. Or rather she did, and the apartment dissolved before her.
"Will I remember any of this?" she shouted above the wind that had engulfed her.
"Only that you belong where you are!" he answered, before she was jerked away from whichever Time, place, and world she'd spent her twenty-eight years. Supposedly.
Then she fell completely into a terrible cyclone. She saw bits of life rush past her, different faces, some she knew, some she didn't. Her sister Francis was yelling at her for denting the family car, then moaning about her husband? As the wind rushed through her and she felt as if she'd land soon, she wondered absently what other things had changed
Images of Murphy, Steele, and Chalmers swirled around her.
"Nice job, Steele," Murphy derided. "Hey, watch it, pal." He shoved Steele's friend away from her.
She sat up, startled. "What happened?" Steele gently indicated pointed to the broken ship whose wooden plank stuck out. "I'm alright," she assured them, rising. Murphy and Steele both offered her a hand. She reached out to both.
"How do you feel?" Steele asked, steadying her. She smiled up at him.
"Do you want me to get you anything?" Murphy offered pointedly, refusing to be taken out of the picture.
Laura laughed inwardly. "Soda." At the back of her mind, she wondered what it would have been like had Murphy been the one steadying her. Murphy left to retrieve the desired drink.
As Steele led her out, her eyes locked with Daniel Chalmers.
"You're alright, Lisa?" She liked that name.
She nodded. "Thank you."