The Secret Diary of Cameron Baum

This chapter is set in an alternate universe where a streetwise and very human Cameron meets a cyborg John Connor.

And she's keeping a diary...

MONDAY

First day out of juvie. Celebrate with beers and a club. And more beers. Wake up next to some random guy who's snoring and has his boxers on the wrong way. Did we..? I'll never tell.

Because I can't remember.

TUESDAY

Second entry in this stupid diary that I promised my shrink I'd write every day. No freaking choice; it's court-mandated. To help with my anger issues. Otherwise it's straight back to juvie. Jeez, so I kicked one guy in the nuts and punched his girlfriend in the face. They spilled my beer. What's a girl to do - turn the other cheek? It's not like I'm Charles Manson.

THURSDAY

Missed a day. Bite me.

FRIDAY

Meeting with my parole officer. She says I should consider getting a job. I say she should consider blowing me. Get a lecture about my attitude. My parole officer looks a bit like Skylar from Breaking Bad. She busted Walter White's balls too.

Skylar, I mean. Not my parole officer.

SATURDAY

Went to the gym. Worked out. Ate a salad. Turned in early.

Nah, I'm shitting you. Slept till noon. Scarfed a taco. Partied like a mofo. Threw up in an Uber.

TUESDAY

Frankie drops by and says I can make easy money dealing coke with him. Tell him no. Means federal prison if I'm caught. Plus coke ruins lives. Frankie says I'm a pussy and slams the door on the way out. What a loser.

Don't know whether I mean him or me.

WEDNESDAY

Listen to Phoebe Bridgers all day. My favorite track off her new album is Kyoto. iTunes tells me I've played it 67 times straight.

Seems about right.

THURSDAY

Thought of a way to make some money. Maybe big money. Figure what have I got to lose?

FRIDAY

Staking out this store in Brentwood. It sells old stuff. No, not old. Vintage. Clothes. Furniture. Costume jewelry. Old movie posters from back in the day. They buy and sell so the place takes cash. Lot of places don't these days, only plastic. Or Apple Pay. It's run by these two classy women who dress real nice for olds. Every day at noon they take a break and grab lunch at a nearby trattoria. The door has a digital lock that you have to input an numerical code to get in or out.

I'm on a street bench twenty yards away, pretending to read something on my phone. The two classy bitches come out. The older one turns and resets the lock. I'm videoing it with my phone camera. It took an age to work out the best angle.

They pass me without so much as a glance. Just another teen obsessed with her phone. They're talking, bitching about something. Faulty lawn sprinklers, I think. Rich folk problems.

I playback the video. I have to zoom it. It's grainy but I can see what numbers she pressed.

7-1-8-4-2-9

Maybe it's a birthday. Or a lucky number. Well, maybe not-so-lucky now.

Walk confidently up to the door without glancing around first. Big giveaway you're up to something illegal. Might as well have a bag labeled 'swag' over your shoulder.

7-1-8-4-2-9

Red light turns green. I'm in like Flynn.

There's one cash register in the middle of the store. I press all the keys trying to pop the money drawer. Nothing works. So I do what all maladjusted teenagers do when something doesn't work like they want it to.

I break shit.

I drop the register on the floor. Nothing. Do it again. Nada. Again and the drawer bursts open. Third time's always the charm.

There's hundred dollar bills. Plenty of fifties. Whole bunch of twenties. I grab them all, even the singles. Hey, I ain't too proud. Girl's gotta eat.

Something makes me look round. Outside in the street some kid is staring at me through the window. No, not a kid. Boy my age. Red jacket, white tee, denim jeans. Keeping James Dean alive in the twenty first century. He's cute. Real cute. Got hair I'd like to run my fingers through and a face I'd like to kiss till my lips ache.

Who the hell is he?

Suppose he's one of the classy bitches kids? Will he run and tell mommy? Okay, Cameron, keep it cool. No need to panic.

I walk slow and casual towards the rear of the store. The door has another digital alarm. Will the code work on this one too? Only one way to find out...

7-1-8-4-2-9

Red light turns green. Well, alrighty. I'm home and hosed.

Outside is an alley. Just me and a bunch of dumpsters. I take the cash out and count it. Almost two grand. Most money I've seen in a long while.

Movement makes me look up. Call it spidey-sense or something. At the end of the alley is a tall mean-looking dude. He's rocking a leather jacket over some serious beef. And he's staring at me like he wants to eat me. And not in a fun way.

The money. He saw the money and wants it for himself.

Not today, asshole.

I start running. I was a pretty good track athlete in school, until I broke bad as they say. Good lungs, my old coach said. And no, he wasn't staring at my chest at the time.

Coach Rafferty would be proud of me. I cover six blocks at pace until my lungs are bursting. I look behind me. Nobody there. So long, sucka.

There's a coffee shop nearby so I go inside for some refreshment. Feels like I've earned it. A little bell dings when I open the door. How quaint. I take a table in back and a waitress appears. Her name tag reads SARAH. Mid-forties at least. What lousy life choices did she make to end up waiting tables at her age?

"What'll it be, sweetheart?"

"Coffee. Black. Unless you serve alcohol?"

"We don't. And you're underage."

Bitch. Enjoy your fantastic career, Sarah.

There's a music flyer on the table advertising a band playing the Whiskey. I wonder if Phoebe Bridgers will tour LA anytime soon. For once I can afford a ticket.

The bell dings. I look up. My breath catches in my throat.

It's the kid who was looking through the window at me. What the hell?

He looks around slowly, sees me and comes over.

"Anyone sitting here?"

I almost tell him to get lost. Except he is really cute.

"No, it's free."

He sits opposite me. The waitress reappears with my coffee.

"What'll it be, hon?"

"I'll have what's she's having."

"One black coffee coming up."

He picks up the flyer.

"Greta van Fleet. Who is she?"

"It's a they. Led Zeppelin knockoff band. Not a patch on the real deal."

"Led Zeppelin. An english rock band from the seventies. Their most famous song is Stairway to Heaven. Disbanded 1980 after the death of the drummer."

He recites it like he's reading from a book. Weird.

"He choked on his own vomit." I grimace. "Pretty nasty way to die."

"There are worse ways."

His coffee arrives. He smiles baring perfect teeth.

"Than you, waitress."

"Anything else?"

"No, that will be all. Please resume your duties."

"Yeah, thanks, Sarah. Loving your apron," I tease. "Really matches your eyes."

Sarah scowls at me. If I order another coffee she'll definitely spit in it.

Cute guy stares at me. I stare back. Oh man he's hot. Could I snog him here or will Sarah throw a hissy fit and throw us out?

"I like your clothes."

"Uh - thanks. I like yours too. Are you a big fan?"

"Big fan?"

"James Dean. Rebel Without a Cause..."

"James Dean. Actor. Died 1956. Automobile crash. No, not a big fan."

"So why the outfit?"

"I'm wearing a harrington jacket. It's to keep me warm."

"It's eighty degrees."

"Yes, I know."

He smiles again. His eyes are the purist blue. I melt a little inside.

I drink my coffee in case I blurt out something stupid.

"Is the coffee to your liking?"

"Yeah, it's fine."

"Your heart rate is elevated."

"It's the caffeine. Aren't you going to drink yours?"

"No."

"My name's Cameron. Cameron Baum."

"John Connor."

"You from around here, John?"

"I arrived here recently."

"Where from?"

"Los Angeles."

"This is Los Angeles."

"Not from this period."

I'm about to ask what that means when I glance out the window.

Staring at me is my worst nightmare. The guy from the alley.

I drop a ten on the table.

"Nice meeting you, John. Gotta go."

I run out the back way, almost knocking Sarah the waitress over. She yells at me. I ignore her. A short-order cook looks up as I pass him. "Kitchen inspection. Carry on." I'm a good liar. My shrink say it's pathological. That's bad apparently.

Another alley. I run to the end and find a busy street. I walk along the sidewalk. Shops to my left and offices to my right. I glance round.

He's fifty feet away and closing fast.

"Shit!"

I run across the road without looking. There's a screech of brakes then an automobile side-swipes me, knocking me down. The big guy looms over me. He draws a gun and levels it, pointing directly at my head.

Oh crap, I'm gonna die...

And suddenly he's not there. A jeep comes out of nowhere and knocks him flying. The jeep door opens and John Connor stretches out a hand.

"Come with me if you want to live."

If that's a pick up line then it's a doozie.

I grab John Connor's outstretched hand and he literally yanks me inside next to him. Boy, he must be a lot stronger than he looks.

The big guy who chased me gets slowly to his feet. John revs the engine and we surge forward slamming into him again. He disappears under the jeep. I can feel the suspension move as we drive over his body. I turn in my seat and look behind, fully expecting to see his inert dead body lying in the road. Instead he stands upright, his leather jacket torn in places, and begins running after us.

"Hold on."

The jeep accelerates away, jolting me back in my seat and causing the big guy to recede from view. I look at the dash. The needle climbs over a hundred.

"Slow down. The cops will notice us."

The jeep slows to a more normal pace. At least he listens to sense.

"Who was that guy?"

"Not who. What. A T-800 class terminator."

"You ran him over. This jeep must weigh at least a ton. He should be dead. Or at the least badly injured. Certainly not running after us like he was Usain Bolt."

"He has a combat-hardened endo-skeleton."

"Are you saying he's a robot?"

"Not a robot. Cyborg. Living tissue over a metal chassis."

O-kay...I'm on the lam with a nutjob. Cute but definitely psycho.

"Is he after my money?"

"He wants you dead."

"For stealing a lousy two grand?"

"Look, he's travelled back in time to terminate you. And he will not absolutely will not stop until you're dead."

I look out the window. We're still travelling too fast for me to risk a quick exit.

"You saw me in that store. Then you followed me to that coffee shop. What's your deal?"

"I was sent here from the future to protect you."

"Okay, I'll play along. Who told you to protect me?"

"You did, General Baum."

What can you say? What can I possibly say to that?

"Um - thanks?"

"You're welcome."

Anything to keep the nutjob from wearing my skin like a suit of clothes.

-0-

We drive through an upscale part of town. Expensive houses hidden behind heavy gates and tall hedges. John brings the jeep to a stop beside one of the gates. He reaches through the window and taps out a code on a numeric pad set in a pillar.

The gate opens.

"You live here?"

"The house belongs to an investment banker."

"Friend of yours?"

"He and his family spend the summer in the Hamptons, not returning until the Fall."

"They must have security systems."

"I disabled them."

"You can do that?"

"Yes."

"What about staff?"

"A yard workcrew visit twice a week to mow the grass and trim the shrubs. They don't enter the house."

The house is a modern design - all glass and aluminum sticking out at odd angles. There's a swimming pool and tennis court. Flowering shrubs and neatly clipped hedges. Upscale, that's for sure. I can just picture Daisy Buchanan dancing the charleston on the sun terrace while Jay Gatsby watches her with his creepy predator eyes.

John lifts me out of the jeep and carries me into the house like we're newly weds. He deposits me gently on a sofa. He's quite the gentleman.

Then he rips my jeans off.

"Hey - what the hell!"

"I need to ascertain the extent of your injuries."

"You could try asking first."

"I'm sorry. May I remove your jeans?"

"Too late now. Jerk."

His hands move over my bare legs, not in a pervy way; more like a physician.

"No bones broken. No damage to the muscles or ligaments. Minor swelling and tissue bruising. I could fetch ice?"

"Don't bother."

"Would you care for something to drink?"

"Yeah. Vodka. Straight up."

"Alcohol is not advisable in your condition. Please choose again."

"Fine. I'll have OJ."

"OJ?"

"Orange juice."

"OJ means orange juice? Yes, that makes sense."

He opens the refrigerator door. "There are two types of OJ. With pulp or without."

"Without."

He brings me a tumbler. I sniff it suspiciously. Could it be laced with drugs? I could wake up naked with my ankles tied under my ears.

"Is anything wrong?"

You mean besides being kidnapped by your cazy-ass self?

"I'm fine." I take a sip. My raging thirst wins out and I drain the glass.

"Another?"

"No, thanks."

I look around. There's artwork on the wall that look like they were painted by a five year old on ritalin. Which probably means they're worth a fortune.

"Are you sure no one's going to come knocking?"

"Quite sure. The family have a home in Sag Harbor they use this time of year. Do you know Sag Harbor?"

"Oh sure. My folks used to vacation there all the time. We'd go sailing with the Kennedys and bitch about the republicans."

"How delightful."

"No, we didn't. I've barely left the state, apart from a school trip to the Grand Canyon."

"Why did you lie?"

"I was being sarcastic."

"Sarcastic?"

John Connor stands at attention, a faraway look on his handsome face, like he's picturing something in his head.

He snaps out of it suddenly . "Sarcasm. Yes, that was very amusing."

"What about the gardeners?"

"They're due tomorrow. A mainly mexican workcrew. They discuss their sexual conquests and how much they dislike the current president."

"You understand spanish?"

"Sí. ¿Hablas español?"

"Huh?"

"I asked if you speak spanish. Clearly not."

"Bite me."

"I am unable to comply."

"How come you talk funny?"

"I speak american english. I am told I have excellent diction. Do you disagree?"

"Whatever."

I'm acutely aware I'm sitting here in my panties. I suppose it's lucky I remembered to wear underwear today. Boy, would that be embarrassing.

"So how come that termy-thingy wants me dead?"

"Do you really wish to know? You might find it upsetting."

"Go ahead. The day can't get any worse."

He lays it all on me. Loony Tunes Deluxe. A computer AI called Skynet. The Cyberdyne Corporation. Atomic missiles falling from the sky. Sentient machines hunting the surviving humans. And something called the Resistance fighting back.

"Where do I fit in?"

"You're the Resistance leader."

"Me? I'm not a soldier."

"You bring a unique mindset to the field of battle. An iconoclast succeeding where conventional leaders fail."

"An icono-what?"

"Iconoclast. Noun. A person who attacks or criticizes cherished beliefs or institutions. In this case, outmoded military doctrines. You also engender strong loyalty amongst your fighting troops."

"Are you freaking kidding me? I have maybe three friends. And trust me, they ain't that loyal."

"People change. In extreme circumstances can experience personal growth and develop skills they never believed they possessed."

"Uh huh. Great." I look around. "This place got a bathroom?"

"Six bathrooms. Including one in the pool house."

"I'm gonna go freshen up."

"Freshen up?"

"Take a shower and find some clothes to wear."

"Very well. I will be outside. The jeep sustained some damage."

"Probably from hitting that metal dude."

"Indeed. The T-800 is extremely robust."

-0-

The banker has a teenage daughter who's my size, more or less. She also has a walk in closet bigger than my entire apartment.

I select a pair of designer jeans that fit perfect. I find a backpack and fill it with fresh underwear, tees and some cute strappy tops. They are so many clothes the kid probably won't even notice a few gone missing.

I head down the corridor to the master bedroom. There's a mirror on the ceiling above the bed. Rich people kinky shit. A bedside drawer yields jewelry and a sparkly Rolex watch. All of it goes in the backpack. I don't feel bad. Rich folk have insurance and a robbery will be a fun anecdote for the country club.

I check out the window. John is bent over the jeep's engine. He's taken his jacket off. The white tee is stretched taut over a swimmer's upper body. I like the way the breeze ruffles his hair. If things were different this would be a sweet setup. We could spend the summer playing tennis, swimming in the pool, doing sick shit to each other under the mirror ceiling. Just one small snag.

He's batshit crazy.

I might've been down with the whole robots from the future stuff. Heck, write it and you'd have a screenplay you could sell to Hollywood and make a ton of money. No, it was me as some kinda General Patton/Winston Churchill hybrid that's the dealbreaker. I'm under no illusion as to what I am or will become. I'm a teenage dirtbag with kleptomaniac tendencies. A high school dropout who when told to fly straight prefers to fall trusting my street smarts to make the landing less harsh that it might otherwise be.

So I bail. Adios, boy of my dreams. Sayonara, Gatsby's house of forbidden delights. This Daisy Buchanan has spotted the blue light at the end of the dock.

And it's the color of freedom.

-0-

I slip out the rear ofthe house, hop the fence and locate the main road. There I hitch a ride with a bald guy who's the chatty type. His football team's been letting him down; His boss works him like a dog; He can't wait for his vacation up in the mountains so he can finally cut loose and be himself. I'm half expecting a sob story about his wife not understanding him followed by a deperate lunge at my boobs. Doesn't happen. The guy's a gentleman, albeit of the sad sack variety.

He drops me at the bus station. I thank him and say I hope his football team has a better season. Then I board a Greyhound bus and get the hell out of Dodge.

SATURDAY

The Greyhound drops me in Reno, Nevada. A whole bunch of miles between me and mister cute but crazy John Connor and the guy he called a T-800. No, I can't bring myself to call him that. Too cra-cra. I'll call him Fred. No, Joe. No, wait, I'll call him Bob. Yeah, Bob. For some reason that seems a perfect fit.

I settle in at the local YMCA, then get bored and head out. Big mistake. Noon in Nevada it's one hundred ten degrees, a pretty decent approximation of hell. After fifty yards I'm drenched in sweat. A hundred and I'm panting like a dog. I finally drag myself to a bar with full a/c, flash my ID and order an ice cold Coors.

"We don't serve minors."

"I'm twenty-one. See? Says so right there."

"This ID's fake. Get lost, little girl."

After the effort to get here, my clingy shirt and lank hair, I kickoff bigtime. I tell the barman what I think of his ugly face, his lousy attitude, and his crappy dump of a bar. He calmly takes a baseball bat from under the counter and waggles it in my direction.

"Leave or I'll paddle your ass."

Was it something I said?

SUNDAY

Move out of the YMCA to a motel. The room stinks of stale weed which reminds me of Frankie.

He and I did the dirty once, then became platonic friends, a bit like Jerry and Elaine. That's if Jerry was a low level dope dealer and Elaine a screwup teenager who wanted the fairytale ending without any of the hard graft.

I decide to give him a call. Be nice to hear a friendly voice.

"Yello?"

"Hey, Frankie. How you doing?"

"Cameron? Where are you?"

"Around."

"Listen, your crib got trashed last night."

"What?"

"Neighbors saw a big guy kick the door in, said he looked like gang muscle. You owe someone money, babe?"

I end the call.

Bob found out where I live and came looking for me.

I switch off my phone, push the bed against the door and sleep in the bathroom.

MONDAY

I have a ten o'clock appointment with my shrink. I blow it off, obviously.

When I don't show up she'll contact my parole officer and I'll be flagged as AWOL, liable to an immediate return to juvie.

I'd never admit it, but I enjoy our sessions. Her office has wind chimes, smells of jasmine and I get to lie on a couch and grouse about my life. What's not to like? I enjoy trying to shock her by saying I 69'd a married guy or dropped so much acid I saw the face of God. She always sees through my bullshit.

"Why do you persist in lying, Cameron?"

"Who said they're lies?"

"You have a tell when you lie."

"What tell?"

"You open your mouth."

TUESDAY

I buy a baseball cap and sunglasses that obscure half my face like I'm Jackie Onassis. I hop a Greyhound east fetching up in Salt Lake City, Utah. Seven hundred miles between me and Mr T-800.

Temperature's still over a hundred. Weathermen say a high pressure system is stationary over the mid-west causing record highs. I bet the climate change doomsayers are creaming it. We're clever hairless apes who hopped down out of the trees, discovered fire and ran amok. And we're gonna keep running amok until the planet broils us alive.

And then on to Mars...

WEDNESDAY

Still hotter than hell. I order takeout, crank the a/c and watch TV in my underwear.

I flip channels until I find a Seinfeld rerun. The episode where George goes swimming and a woman sees him naked and laughs at his tiny wiener. He was in the pool. He was in the pool. And what a nasty bitch. I cheer when George takes his revenge. Score one for the little guy's little guy.

THURSDAY

I'm watching the Los Angeles rolling news station when the anchor puts on his solemn voice. That generally means someone's died. Sure enough, a 21 year male was thrown off a flyover bridge in Reseda like a sack of garbage, dying on impact. Police confirm a homicide. The man's name is Franklin Deluca. Next of kin have been informed.

A picture flashes on the screen.

Frankie. My Frankie. The man I spoke to just three days ago.

The picture's from his high school year book. Short haired and smiling. Not yet the Henry Hill wannabe he became.

Did Bob kill him because he knew me? Did he torture Frankie for my whereabouts? It's the only logical explanation. You don't take a deep dive off a flyover bridge for no Frankie never visited Reseda in his life.

FRIDAY

Would today be Frankie's funeral? Is it catholics or jews who need to be buried within 24 hours?

I bet his folks are sad. I met his mom once. She looked me up and down and began jabbering in italian. I think she was saying my boobs were too small and my hips too skinny to give her grandchildren. Perhaps that's why she gave me a huge bowl of sphagetti for dinner. Try and fatten me up so I pop out molti molti bambinos.

SATURDAY

I offload the stuff I stole at a mall pawn shop. Jewelry's pretty standard stuff but the sparkly Rolex is a rare special edition model. I walk away with seven grand.

Normally I'd hit the town and celebrate. Hook up with a young hottie and party till dawn. Instead I head back to the motel and turn in early.

Man, when did I get so old?

SUNDAY

Greyhound to Denver, Colorado. Another town another place.

I think about my other friends who might be in Bob's line of fire. Rita and Joyce. I met both in juvie. Rita is a compulsive shoplifter and Joyce a firestarter. Joyce is blonde and beautiful enough to be a model. God gave her physical perfection and a kink in her brain that'll likely ruin her life unless she get treatment.

"I love to watch stuff burn, Cam. It makes me all tingly," she whispers to me after lights out.

"Find a boy and jump him. I guarantee you'll feel the same way."I whisper back.

"You don't understand. It's better than sex. Wa-ay better."

Rita just liked to steal stuff. Even a bag of golf clubs. And she doesn't even play golf. Problem was they'd been autographed by Arnold Palmer and the owner wanted them back bad enough to offer a thousand dollar reward. And of course Rita tried to claim it. D'oh! Not too smart, our Reets.

MONDAY

Restless night. I wake early and find a payphone. I gotta warn them. The three amigos got each other's backs.

Joyce's cell informs me it's out of service. I call her folks. Her mom tells me Joyce is back in juvie for torching a 7-eleven.

I just love to watch stuff burn, Cam...

Rita's cell goes to voicemail so I leave a short message.

"Reets, it's Cameron. Listen, this'll sound nutso but if you spot a tall muscular guy nearby run for the hills. Seriously, babe, he's total bad news."

I half expect her to call me right back and laugh.

"What you on, Cameron? You tripping balls, girlfriend!"

I wish...

TUESDAY

I'm naked in the bathroom shaving my legs when I hear someone on the TV mention Skynet. I rush out heedless of the foam dripping on the carpet.

On the TV a handsome black guy called Miles Dyson is shaking the hand of an old white dude in an army uniform. The US military is paying billions for a computer program called Skynet and designed by the Cyberdyne corporation.

Holy crap, that's exactly what John Connor said will happen!

WEDNESDAY

I visit the public library to use the free internet. I Google Skynet. It's a missile detection system using AI to keep the country safe from external threats. No shit. On a whim I Google T-800 class terminator. Nothing. Of course, if he's from the future he wouldn't show up. Not yet anyway.

I hail a passing librarian.

"Can I help you, miss?"

"You're smart, right? Like real smart?"

"I'm sorry?"

"You went to college and got a degree, right?"

"Why, yes, a first from Arizona state. Go wildcats!"

"Do you think time travel is possible?"

"Excuse me?"

"Could a person travel from the future to here in the present?"

"Oh I don't think so. That kind of thing only happens in movies and TV."

"Yeah, that's what I thought."

Except I don't. Not anymore.

THURSDAY

On the road again. Something tells I've got a target on my back and I've got to keep moving.

This motel room has a mini bar. I overindulge and pass out on the bed. I wake up in total darkness and panic, not knowing where I am. I call reception.

"Where the hell am I?

"This is the Bide-a-While motel. How may I help?"

"What town is this?"

"Why, Emsberg, of course."

"Emsberg? Where the hell's that?"

"Is this a crank call?"

"What state is it in, you freaking moron?"

"Oklahoma. And I'd appreciate you moderating your language, young lady."

I tell him where he can stick his language and just like that I'm out on the street again.

Anger issues. Man, they really come back and bite you on the ass.

FRIDAY

Town. Motel. Yada yada.

I'd no idea being on the run would be this lonely. Has anyone ever been this alone? Maybe a tibetan monk perched on a high mountain top contemplating the world far below.

Hey, buddy. Not much of a life is it. Wow, we're really high up. What say we hold hands and jump. On three. One...Two...

Three.

I wake up with a jolt. I run to bathroom and splash cold water on my face and speak to my reflection.

"Dammit, Cameron, you've gotta keep your shit together, girl. Now's not the time to go all flakey on me."

Or talk to myself.

SATURDAY

I switch my phone on for the first time in a week so I can listen to Phoebe Bridgers. Frankie called her a miserable bitch and said I should listen to Sabbath. Yeah, that'll never happen.

I listen to her new album five times then visit her website. She's playing a gig in New Mexico in two days. On impulse I use my credit card to buy a ticket. It's not like I've anywhere else to be.

SUNDAY

It's a long haul to New Mexico. I stow my backpack and bag a window seat near the rear of the bus. No sooner than I'm comfortable some random dude hits on me. He's balding and reeks of cheap cologne and horny desperation. I tell him where to go in a few choice phrases and he deflates like a leaky balloon. I watch him head down the aisle and try his luck with another single female traveller. She seems to dig his spiel and laughs like she's never heard his tired old lines before. Perhaps she hasn't and it's all new to her. Man, the moves we make and the lies we concoct just to make a connection with another person.

I had that connection. And I ran away from it.

I mostly stare out the window as the miles pass. I don't need a signpost to tell me we've reached New Mexico. The landscape changes to endless vistas of barely habitable desert. It looks hot out there. I sure hope the venue has air conditioning.

The sun's setting as we arrive. I'm the last to step off the bus.

There in front of me, waiting like he knew all along this is where I was going to be, is John Connor.

Without thinking I run towards him and wrap my arms around that swimmer's upper body. I rest my head against his chest and burst into tears.

It feels like I'm finally where I'm supposed to be...

-0-

That was...different.

Even in an alternate universe Sarah and Cameron bump heads.

Next: Remember that sack of radioactive clothes? It's about to cause a problem...