Chapter Eleven: We will
"Michelle? Listen closely. The whole operation must go smoothly, with absolutely no mistakes, otherwise we are screwed. Obviously they can't know, because then we are worse than screwed. We must take them to where it all began or this running around will never end. I take Jimmy, you take Cindy."
"But, Libby! How am I supposed to do it?"
"I don't care. Suggest a secret hiking trip, use your imagination. Do you think it will be easier to convince Jimmy? He will certainly blow me off saying he is busy and that's it. But I don't care! I will sedate him if necessary! Really, grownup scientists and act exactly like they did at school!"
"They went to school together?"
"If you do what I ask of you, I'll tell you all about it."
Cindy did find the situation suspicious. She turned over the card in her hands once more. A plain invitation card to a party. But its plain view didn't mean it was not special. It looked exactly as the one she received to Jimmy's thirteenth birthday. It read – same time, same place. Which only could mean one thing – she must get to Retroville and to his clubhouse lab by six in the evening.
Of course, Cindy was surprised by something like that in her mailbox the week before. She didn't know how to react to it, she could skip it too, no one obligated her to come, but what if it was a sign for reconciliation? And since then she and Jimmy were together to break up so they could reconciliate? Whatever. The party can be fun to get together with others; they won't be alone there so hardly anything extremely embarrassing could happen, right?
She parked her small car at the beginning of the street where one house belonged to her family so long ago. Now some other family must be living in there.
"Is there another pair of constantly competing pair of kids, I wonder? Probably not, geniuses don't appear every five years, and in one town no less. And if there is, I wish for them to see through their hate quicker than we did. Hah, we didn't actually," Cindy finished bitterly, reaching the familiar house. She bypassed it and headed for the former lab. Cindy noticed the Estevezs' minivan parked up front and some other cars – the party must've been going in full swing.
Cindy pushed the small wooden door and climbed inside. She followed the way into lab's main hall, but didn't hear any sounds that indicated of festive party going ons. She didn't hear any sounds period.
"So where is the party?" she questioned the empty lab that didn't change in appearance since her last illegal visit there.
"What are you doing here?" came from the dark corner of the lab.
The fright made Cindy drop everything she was holding, among the things was the card and a small parcel that contained the present for the birthday boy. Jimmy emerged from the darkness holding something that looked like a microwave. Before Cindy could utter a word they heard as something heavy was moved above. It didn't take long for them to come to the explanation of the current situation.
"We've been set up," they said together.
"And locked up too," Cindy added. "If this lab doesn't have a back door as the other one."
"Of all possible…" Jimmy spat in frustration, practically throwing the microwave onto the floor. "To do something so juvenile! And my own mother no less!"
"She asked to bring the incubator for us to have strawberries for dessert. So what are you doing here?"
"I was invited to your birthday party," Cindy replied evenly, but the first sparks of nervousness started to creep up her spine. They were alone in a closed environment and the whole night no less!
She tilted down and scooped her things from the floor, handing him the card to prove her point.
"And you fell for this?" Jimmy asked, frowning. "It is obviously fake. It is the card I sent to Libby ten years ago. And this isn't even my handwriting!"
"Well, a girl can hope, can't she?" Cindy replied with a careless shrug which was only for show. Showing weaknesses was against Cindy Vortex's code. Even if she knew that acting like that was the reason of her constant conflicts with Jimmy, she couldn't be any other way. And she wanted for the things to get better? 'Dream on, girl. So what am I doing here then?'
She walked towards the worn down coach that was almost the only furniture in the room and sat down. When she didn't hear any movement from Jimmy she turned to catch him staring at her legs. "What?"
"You are wearing a skirt and heels."
Cindy unconsciously pulled down her knee length skirt. "So what?" she asked defensively. "I manage to control the movements well, and the line isn't noticeable with right stockings."
"Yeah, well. You were always the one to overcome all hardships," Jimmy remarked distantly. "So what are we going to do till we are released from here?" he asked, taking a seat next to her.
"Well, you were always the genius to come up with solutions to all the problems," Cindy stated her face serious, but her eyes were dancing with laughter on the old joke. "Have another brain blast or something."
"Why did you left without saying good bye?"
Cindy almost jumped because of the drastic topic change. She turned to Jimmy to check if she heard him right, but he was gazing at the wall in front of him, clearly taken back through time, to the last days of his childhood, the days he left that small lab for good.
"I was afraid," Cindy replied softly, looking at the floor.
"Cindy Vortex – afraid? That's a first," Jimmy commented with a bitter chuckle.
"I am at times. About serious things."
"Strange. I thought you were the only one serious in our group."
"What about you?"
"Well, since everything I created malfunctioned constantly, you know the answer to that question."
Cindy smiled at the memories. Those days were certainly full of fun and unseriousness. "You were only a boy genius, it was normal."
"But you didn't think so. Criticized me on every opportunity," Jimmy added with a smirk.
"You know that I was only jealous of your accomplishments."
"So you finally admit it?"
"Oh common! Stop looking so full of yourself! You knew it all along!"
"I didn't actually," he confessed. "I only assumed, because you had your own accomplishments equal and even beyond mine."
"So you finally admit it?" Cindy asked, throwing his words back.
"Well, that happened long ago. When I diagnosed myself with the worst illness in the universe."
"What could be that dreadful?"
"Love of course."
Cindy was pleasantly surprised at the lack of bitterness and anger that was usually present when he talked about love, even if he did call it a disease. "What do you mean by 'diagnosed'?"
"Well, I think I was about twelve and a half. To sum it up, I started to lose my mind. My thoughts and most importantly dreams were full of you instead of science, which was certainly not a pleasant thing. I tried to block you out, but it was kinda hard since you were everywhere, especially with us being neighbors. I fought with it for quite some time and then…"
"Then?" Cindy breathed out, moving closer with every word and practically sitting on his lap by the end. She recalled his behavior back then. In her opinion he was acting strange whenever he was around her, especially when they were alone, as if he was afraid of her. Always keeping her at a distance, but treating her more as an equal. It was a strange and awkward combination. As if Jimmy was denying himself whatever he wanted to do.
"And then I gave in. Because you are quite hard to ignore. You know the day before you left I was planning to ask you out to the school dance, but I chickened out and decided to try on the next day. But you'd already left."
'He wanted to ask me to the dance!' Cindy thought with glee. "You said it in the present tense."
"'You are hard to ignore'. Does it mean that it is the same now as it was then?"
"Well… It's obvious that…" Jimmy muttered, moving away from her till the other side of the coach, but when he reached the end he had nowhere to run anymore.
Cindy let him retreat. The situation started to spin off its previous angle. She was confused by Jimmy's allusions and half-truths. She decided to change the topic to stabilize the conversation. "You know, I always wondered about Aurora. She had a body of a mature woman, and when I saw the video Libby gave me I saw that it was identical to mine. How could you know how I will look after five years at least?"
"The same way I gave Aurora your face."
"But your subconscious remembered me as a fourteen-year-old."
"There was another memory. I can't even imagine how it remained in my mind with all the negative emotions surrounding it. Must've been from shock."
Cindy waited for explanation but none came. "Are you going to continue?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"Woman's curiosity," Cindy answered as if it explained everything.
"Well, the guys and I travelled to the future once and I saw… you there. And simply remembered how you looked."
"And what was I doing there?" Cindy probed, seeing as Jimmy was getting uncomfortable by the second. What could possibly shock him so hard?
"You just were there."
"Was your grownup version there too?"
"What was going on?"
"We were arguing as usual."
"Ah," Cindy sighed, disappointed by the anticlimactic truth. "So why were you shocked?"
"You don't want to know," Jimmy said with so much dread as if he saw the end of the world.
"Okay, it's your future." Cindy looked at the bare walls. "Is there a heater around here? Because I doubt we will get through the night if the temperature drops even more."
"It's summer, Cindy. Why would you need a heater?"
"Because we are at the basement and because I have only a thin cocktail dress on me."
"I'll check the generator, maybe it still works," Jimmy threw, bolting from the coach and disappearing into the darkness.
'What's with him? He ran as if all this time he searched for the opportunity to leave me.'
The humming noise announced that the generator was still operational. Several minutes later Jimmy reappeared with a worn mattress which he deposited onto the floor. "Some of my things are still here. I'll bring another one right away. There are no sheets, but a couple of pillows can be arranged."
"What experiments could you possibly be doing on mattresses?" Cindy asked his retreating back. The material was rough and itchy, but it was far better than the old coach that could break any moment.
"I didn't. I had a bed down here. Where do you want it?"
"Right here will be alright," Cindy replied, pointing at the space right beside the first mattress.
"Are you sure?"
'What's with the hesitation? Is he asking me or himself?' "Of course. I don't snore."
"Okay." Jimmy vanished once again to return with two pillows and one blanket. "Unfortunately, there are no more blankets. I only needed one."
Cindy sighed in exasperation. The situation resembled some pathetic romance novel with every passing minute. And if she knew Libby the whole 'bed' arrangement was part of the set up, or maybe not, since Jimmy really didn't need more bed attributes for one person. What else could happen? An earthquake that pushes them together and down onto the 'bed'? 'Stay focused, Cindy. Don't wish for a miracle. They never happen.'
Miraculously or not, the lamp that was hanging above the coach and was the only source of light, flickered and went out.
"Blasted Neptune, the heater must've taken all generator's energy. Stay put, I'll check it out."
Cindy couldn't but comply. She went down and found the edge of one of the mattresses. Quickly discarding the shoes, she climbed under the blanket.
The silence was broken by skirr of metal and the moonlight illuminated their makeshift bed.
"Whoa!" Cindy breathed out, looking up at the opening in the roof five meters above her.
"I didn't check the astronomical calendar today, and I doubt any meteor shower is coming, but the stars will provide enough light."
"With all the studies I forgot how beautiful the night sky could be," Cindy said in a distant voice, gazing up at the sky that was so far yet so close.
"Are you already working at Tom's lab?"
"No, I am taking a break. I am starting from October."
"It's a good start for your career."
Cindy turned to the right to check if her ears weren't deceiving her. Jimmy was sitting, his long legs outstretched, looking relaxed, but his tone was empty with sad notes interlaced with encouraging words.
"Are you going to continue your work for NASA?"
"Don't know yet. It is forbidden to stay in space for so long. I am thinking about returning to teaching for some time."
"Are you going to find a new assistant?"
"Don't know either. I'll try to expend Aurora's capabilities, but…"
They knew where the conversation was going so both decided not to go any further. The stars twinkled above showing that the universe was at peace, but two people just couldn't archive one.
"I am going to sleep," Cindy finally declared, getting under the blanket.
Cindy got as comfortable as was possible in a cocktail dress on an old mattress, but kept researching the man beside her. He looked troubled, restless. Was it because of the assistant's absence? Or was something bigger on his plate? And he will never ask her for help, because it was a taboo of their relationship, which of course was very silly, but Jimmy couldn't be a genius in everything. Was that even possible?
"I am sorry," he said out of blue.
"I thought you were asleep."
"So I gathered. So why are you apologizing?"
"For dragging you into this situation."
"How is it your fault? It was me who fell for obviously fake card. You were only having a birthday party with your parents and friends. Happy birthday, by the way."
"Twenty four, hah? And life is already dull."
"Oh don't start this 'it is pointless to live since I created my greatest invention already' routine!" Cindy flared, sitting up.
"You will never understand-" Jimmy began, but stopped mid sentence and swiftly turned away from her.
"What?" a slight draft passed through the room and Cindy shivered from unexpectedly strong feeling of cool air on her skin. 'Wait a minute…' She glanced down to discover that while she was tossing, a strap of her dress fell to reveal half of her bra, which in turn wasn't covering much either. Any other girl would've screeched and ran for covers, but Cindy was a completely different case. "I think, I'll take the dress off completely, otherwise it can tangle around me and-"
"You will do no such thing!" Jimmy barked, putting between him and her at least five meters in less than five seconds. "Don't even think about it!" he outright begged, turning around not to see her.
"Why? It didn't bother you while we were on the beach. Why should it now?" Cindy had a vague idea, she desperately hoped to be true. Could her present be no longer needed?
"Because I took precautions! I had had to take the serum three times since you became my assistant. Even if we rarely met face to face, it seemed you were always around with that scent of wild roses everywhere!"
"You could've told me to not use it anymore if it distracted you so much," Cindy remarked with a smirk. A little triumph but one nevertheless.
"I am used to perfume scents in the lab. It's just… Aurora's perfume was never that daring. In the end she still didn't manage to take your place."
"Didn't you say that I would never manage to be as good as her?"
"Aurora was perfect, but perfection can be not enough at times. I made Aurora as a wise, strong, independent woman and since she was obedient she never challenged me in any aspect of life. And you are an annoying, screaming bitch that not only demands respect but fights for it, and in the end usually receives it. Genii usually don't doubt themselves, but you always made me doubt my knowledge. Aurora never questioned my authority, so the science became mostly routine. One project after another. And then you came with your research idea… and turned time backwards."
"I want to apply for the job."
"Don't you have one?"
"With the replica gone, the original must finally take the place that is rightfully hers."
"You don't understand what you are talking about-" Jimmy protested, finally turning around to emphasize his point, but the words died on his lips. "You took the dress off," he rasped out, gaping at Cindy's body the beauty of which was accented by the moonlight and a perfect sexy pose.
"Why so surprised, it was you who call me daring. Come back to bed, James, and I'll show you what a screaming bitch I can be."
"Oh really?" James drawled with that special spark in his eyes that shone even in the dark. That same spark that usually led to another ingenious discovery. But this time they were together to see it through.
"Were you asleep already? Did I tire you out?" Cindy asked impishly, drawing circles on his bare chest where her head currently resided.
"I won't bruise your man's ego. There is no gain for me in it. I was serious a while back."
"I want to take Aurora's place. In all aspects."
"I can try. I want to be your secretary, lab assistant, interior decorator, stylist, entourage and… your wife."
"Isn't it usually the other way around? The man is the one to propose."
"I am taking my chances since you isn't able to rationalize things right now."
"So you are basically seducing me into marriage."
"Well, I can lay out the options for you," Cindy began seriously, "If you marry me than you get your ideal girl whom you fantasized about since childhood and a perfect assistant who knows how everything in your lab works. Not to mention, someone who can argue with you non-stop and point out your mistakes with no shame. And if you get frustrated or anxious you can relieve the tension right on one of the lab tables, I was eyeing the one in the greenhouse for quite some time- whoof!"
"Now you are the one to rationalize things," James hushed huskily, rolling them over. "Your last argument seems to be very weighty."
"You've got to be kidding me," Cindy breathed out, gazing into his eyes with dilated pupils. Pure passion and all for her. "Where are your genius brains?"
"I lose my mind wherever you are concerned. I am only a man after all."
"Good," Cindy said, embracing him to liquidate the distance between them.
"I can't believe this! Why oh why did I enter this university? Whenever a professor is ill, nobody cancels the lecture!"
"Are you even listening, Alice? Do you ever get your nose out of a book?"
"You were saying something about lectures that are not cancelled. So what is so special about this fact?"
"Haven't you heard? This is the major gossip of this university! The replacement professor and his assistant, who can conduct any lecture on any subject! Haven't you heard anything about them?"
"Not in particular."
"This is the most amazing people I've ever seen. There is like some mental connection between them!"
"Oh please, there is no such thing, Martha. You've been reading too many sci-fi novels."
They entered the auditorium that was already almost full and took their seats. A little while later appeared a young professor with a blond woman accompanying him. The lecture began with no further ado. The lecture in itself was quite interesting, but even more interesting was the way of communication between the professor and his assistant – no words were said; the moment he stretched out his hand, he was instantly given what was needed. And concluding from the small smile the professor responded with, showing his gratitude, no mistakes were made.
"Who is that?" Alice asked amazed. She'd never seen two people, who liked to work together so much. They were obviously having a lot of fun from the process.
"But they don't look at all like brother and sister!"
"Stupid! They are husband and wife!"
A/N: That's all folks. I am not very happy with the ending, but so it is like it is. I would like to thank everybody who reviewed and favorited the story in all possible ways. I anyone has some questions or thoughts about the story, feel free to PM me.
Love to you all,
Lady Arabella Malfoy