Was it a knock that had woken her?
Sweaty, palpitating shock ran over her from the jolt into consciousness. But she couldn’t hear anything. Frankie lay still. Nothing. It must have been a dream. She closed her eyes and tried to sink back into sleep.
rap rap rap
The window behind her bed rattled with the force of it, and Frankie’s eye flew open. She gripped the blankets with white knuckles.
“Frankie! Frankie!” It was pleading female voice just outside her window. Familiar, but Frankie couldn’t place it. It didn’t sound threatening, but fear still gripped her chest. “Frankie, let me in! I know what you are planning to do in the morning, and it’s going to work, but I need to talk to you.”
Frankie scrambled from the bed and stood staring at the window, though the blinds were drawn. “Who are you?”
“Francesca Evelyn Williams. Open the damn door. I’m coming around.”
The only person who ever used her full name–who even knew her full name–was her mother. But her mother never said damn. Frankie said damn. She ran to the door and cracked it open.
“Oh my God. It worked?”
Frankie flung the door open and the woman stepped in. “What happened? How…how are you here?” The woman looked tired. She said nothing, just collapsed into a chair and scrubbed her hands roughly over deep creases and greying hair. But Frankie knew who she was now. It was unmistakable. “Have you been…have you been travelling ever since?”
A weary nod. Frankie sank into the chair opposite. “So it worked.” Two pairs of grey eyes stared at each other. A shiver of excitement ran over Frankie’s shoulders.
“And you see why you can’t do it?”
Frankie breathed slowly. “But it worked. Everyone said it wouldn’t. That I was crazy to try it. But…you are proof that it worked.”
“The cost is too high.”
How could she argue with that. But she wanted to. She wanted to scream, and shout and dance around the room. Proof. She was grinning. “Wait ’til I tell Adam,” she said.
“You’d better make it a good conversation, because if you go through with this, you won’t see him again after tomorrow.”
An icy shiver ran over her scalp. “Never?”
“I just want this to be over, Frankie. Trust me. Don’t do it.”
“Where else have you been?” Frankie looked into the sorrowful eyes. But she couldn’t connect with the feeling there. Somehow it was still unreal.
“It’s not worth–”
“To the ends of time.”
The thrill descended down her neck, until her whole body was covered in goosebumps. “But it’s…it’s everything I’ve worked for. We worked for. How can you tell me not to do it now?”
“I’ve been there. I can tell you, the cost is too high. I…you…we thought it was everything. But it’s not. It’s not worth. 20 years I’ve been lost. Alone. I’d rather die than live like this another day.”
Two beats of silence, and Frankie drew slowly back. “Get out.”
“Frankie. Just say you won’t do it. Let it go. Then I’ll be gone.”
“I can’t say that. I haven’t lived it yet. I…I need to do it.”
She watched the weary figure rise from the chair and mirrored the movement. Grey, cold eyes never left her.
“Please. Just say you won’t do it.”
Frankie shook her head. She backed towards the drawer behind her. “You got to do it. You can’t stop me now. Please don’t stop me now.”
“I can’t do it any more. I won’t go through it again.”
“But it’s me, this time. Not you. Not the same you.”
The drawer was behind her, but the hands that grabbed her were surprisingly strong and fast. “I know that’s where you keep the gun. Of course I know.” Those same strong hands flung her, roughly against the table and Frankie stumbled to the floor clutching her side. Her breath came in painful gasps.
“Please,” she said. “This is not us. I wouldn’t do this.”
“And yet I am. Say you won’t do it.”
Frankie looked at the dark metallic glint of the gun pointed at her chest. “I won’t do it,” she said.
A cold smile spread across the tired face behind the gun. “I’m still here. I knew you wouldn’t be able to let it go. I wouldn’t have, either.”
“Then why are you doing this?”
“Trust me. It’s for our own good.”
Frankie cried out and flung her hand up as the air cracked.
As the blood pooled, the gun clattered to the floor.
Standing over herself, Frankie groaned in relief; she closed her eyes and faded out of existence.