"Lewis! Hey, Lewis!" I wake up to a blur. My heart stops until I recognize the voice. I reach onto the bedside table and grab my glasses. "Wilbur?"
The blurry form clears into a teen with black hair curved to a point. "What are you doing here?" I ask, sitting up.
"I… just wanted to see you again." He rubs the back of his neck, a familiar action. I smile teasingly before replying, "Miss your old man already?" He doesn't reply, and I quickly ask, "There's nothing wrong, is there?"
"No," he says, "it's just… you've been on my mind ever since I've left." He looks me right in the eyes, then looks down.
"Well," I say softly, "those days were sure… something. I've been thinking about you, too. Imagine! I've met my future son, who's currently older than me!" I laugh softly, mostly out of disbelief. "And now, here he is, standing in my room once again."
"Yeah… Those were the two best days ever…" A small smile finds its way on his face, but it looks more sad than happy.
"Wilbur? Are you okay?" I frown in concern, wondering what's up with him. He looks back up at me. His mouth opens as if he's going to say something, but closes. When it re-opens, he replies, "That is an excellent question." He doesn't say it in the Wilbur fashion that I've gotten to know.
"Hey," I say softly, "you can tell me anything. I mean, I'm going to grow up to be the father of the future. Surely I can help, if only just a little." I pat the bed beside me, and he comes and sits down. He doesn't look at me as he speaks.
"I just… I just don't think I can. I don't think you can. Help me, that is. I mean, I guess you're the only one who could, but it's beyond your help… "
"Wilbur." I put my hand on his shoulder. "I would do anything, anything, to help you." He looks at me, and his eyes are full of pain and confliction. He remains silent. I sigh and close my eyes, thinking of what I could say to either make him feel better or to get him to tell me what's wrong. I am about to speak, when I feel his lips go against mine. My eyes pop open, and I see his tightly shut, hesitation in his face. I can't figure how to react, and then it's over. His eyes don't open.
"Uh…" I can't even figure out what to say. What just happened? And why… why didn't I want that to end?
He gets up and crosses the room, over to the window. He looks up and says, "I'm sorry. It's just…" He falters, and the room falls into a silence.
I finally find my voice. "Wilbur. You're my son."
"No I'm not." His voiced is choked, as if he is about to cry. The words sink in.
"I'm not you're son. Mom had an affair while you were on one of your business trips. Grandma finally told me after I kept bugging her why I didn't have any of your features. She swore me to secrecy. And I never told you, didn't want to hurt you. The future you, at least. I guess I kinda ruined it for the younger you…"
It takes me minutes to comprehend what he is saying. Wilbur isn't my son? So many emotions come and go inside of me, until I'm confused on what to feel. I go a little numb. "When?"
He barks out a strangled laugh. "Nine months before I was born!" Knowing that wasn't the answer I wanted, he adds, "About a year before that. You were away all the time, and she was tired of never getting any love or attention. She understood your goal, but she is human, after all. When she realized she was pregnant, she stopped the affair. She played me off as yours, and has been living in the lie since." He sees the look on my face. "She does feel guilty, Lewis. She isn't heartless. I think she wants to tell you, but just can't."
I feel betrayed. A few tears fall, without much notice. Cheated on, before I even had her.
"Lewis…" Wilbur notices the tears. "Look, don't cry. She's not worth it. I know I'm talking about my mom, but still…" He hesitates, and softly, softly, says, "I don't even think she truly loves you anymore."
I speak up once more. "Who'd she have the affair with?"
"Your assistant that you always sent over to check up on us while you were gone. It started after the first few times, or so I've gathered by what grandma has told me." His look grew intense, and his voice got more significant. "She fell in love with what was right in front of her. She fell in love with what was right under your nose."
I hear, but don't react. My mind races. Fine! I'll never even get together with her! I'll find someone who loves me, who'd understand, who'd be faithful! And then an even bigger thought comes to mind. What about Wilbur?
I look at him, exposed in the moonlight. I think about those days, those two days I had with him. After all that we've been through, then for him to not exist? I look down, defeated. I don't even notice that Wilbur's crossed the room until he is next to me, his hand on my shoulder. "Hey…" I look up at him, and truly look at him this time. She fell in love with what was right in front of her. She fell in love with what was right under your nose.
"Why did you come here tonight?" I suddenly ask. His eyes widen momentarily from the shock of the question, and then lowers as he turns his gaze to the bed. "No, Wilbur- please, look at me. Why did you come here tonight?" He looks.
"Because, Lewis… I love you."
And we kiss.
It is nothing like the first time. It isn't awkward or unexpected. This time, it is mutual. And it feels perfectly right.
He comes over all the time, now. After the kiss, he asked me to be his boyfriend. The yes couldn't come fast enough. We spent the rest of the night talking, and made plans to meet up the next day.
"So where are we going, Lewis?" I roll my eyes. This isn't the first time he's asked that.
"I said it's a surprise."
"But I hate surprises."
"No you don't."
"Okay, you got me. I don't hate surprises. But I do hate not knowing where we're going."
"No need to tell. We're already here." During all that, we had reached our destination.
"Whoa." His previous attention fixated on the argument turned to the path before us. I blush, a little unsure.
"I know it's a little… girly and stupid and all… but I used to come here all the time when I was in the home. I found it so easy to lose myself…" He entwines our hands and kisses me on the cheek.
"No. It's perfect." My blush deepens, and my smile widens. All around us butterflies flutter around, drinking from bright flowers and whispering amongst themselves. I lead Wilbur to a bench- my bench, as I like to think of it. We sat and watched in silence, breathing in the peaceful calm.
"… I think I need to find another name for you…"
"Why?" I turn to him.
"When I become your… dad… I will call you Wilbur. Do you see how awkward that would get for me to call you Wilbur now?" He smirks.
"I see your point. Alright then- call me Tom."
"It's my middle name." I nod slowly.
"Alright then, Tom it is."
We return to the silence. I lean my head into his shoulder. We sit there like that the rest of the afternoon.
Months went by. Things between me and Wilb- Tom have never been better. But, of course, the inevitable came.
"Soooo… Lewis…" Franny sat down beside me in the cafeteria. "I was wondering… would you… maybeliketogotothedancewithme?" She winces, clearly expecting disappointment. I take a deep, yet silent, breath. I know what I have to do.
"I'd love to, Franny." Her eyes pop open, and her face lights up.
"Wow… thanks, Lewis." I smile.
"You did WHAT?!" Tom has on the most confused and frustrated face ever. It's kinda cute. He pauses to actually think about it, then straightens up. "Wait, nevermind. You did good. Had to happen, eventually." He looks considerably downcast, and I squeeze his hand reassuringly.
"That's exactly right. I had to get with her sometime. So I'll go out with her, pretend to be in love, but secretly date the best boyfriend ever." His mood improves. He wags a finger at me.
"You know, this is a shady thing we got going on." I smirk.
"Makes it all the more worthwhile." He pulls me in for a kiss.
"You have an excellent point."
"Are you sure about this?" Surprisingly, Tom is the hesitant one. "We can stop at any time, you know. You're still so young…"
"I'm one year younger than you!"
"Okay, okay, we're still young."
"Really? Because if you were with someone else, I swear you would've done this by now."
"That is beside the point." He sighs, defeated. "I just don't want you to regret this." I soften up at his concern.
"I won't. I couldn't. There's nobody else I'd rather lose myself to." He stops and looks at me.
"This is about Franny, isn't it?"
"What?! No! Yes? - Don't turn this into something it's not!" He crosses his arms, unconvinced. "Look… Franny is getting impatient. We've been together for over a year, and really wants to get me in bed with her. And I refuse to have my first time with anyone other than the one I love." I look him right in the eye as I say this, and his arms uncross and wrap around me.
"Okay, you got me. I love you too, you dork." He kisses the top of my head. "So…" His voice turns quieter, sexier. "Are we gonna get it on or not?"
I eventually marry Franny. Going through the honeymoon phase wasn't easy, but I had gotten used to pretending by now. I built my time machines, all three of them. I kept the third one a secret, hidden in a locked warehouse behind my office. I would sneak over to the future for almost all weekends to see him. I'd send over my assistant to check up on my family, just like young Wilbur said I did. In no time at all, Franny was pregnant. Nine months later, he was born.
"Oh, Cornelius!" She breathes. She holds up the tiny bundle. "Isn't he precious?"
"Yes." I say. More precious to me than you could ever know.
"I have the perfect name for him!" She smiles. "Wilbur. Wilbur Robinson." A frown. "But what should his middle name be?"
I don the smile this time. "Tom."
"…What does Cornelius look like?"
Raising Wilbur was harder than I thought. I couldn't stop the fatherly emotions from coming out. And I guess that's okay. Little Wilbur was cute, innocent, and everything I want in a son. But in the back of my mind, there were precautions, little barriers, telling me to not get in too deep. It all got easier the older he got, when he stopped needing me. The business trips helped to keep me away from the house. Life went on, and we went along with it.
On that day, that fateful day when young Wilbur woke up the young me in the middle of the night, he came back to our time and came into my invention room. I was waiting for him. I've had this date marked down for so long, waiting for it to come.
"Hey…" I turn around from the invention I was looking at, the Memory Scanner.
"Yeah, Wilbur?" He hesitates.
"Do… do you know where I was today?"
"Yes." I hear him inhale.
"And you know what I did?"
"Yes." He searches my face, trying to find an emotion, a sign.
"And… was that okay? Was that… wrong?"
"No." I smile softly, and he finally exhales the breath he's been holding in. A look of relief washes over his face. Then he frowns.
"And… are you and me… future me… still…" He can't get the words out, but I know what he's asking.
"Yeah." He smiles, happy with my answer.
"Thanks da-" he stops, and an awkward tension falls upon the room.
"You know," I say, "you don't have to call me dad." I smile. "Cornelius is fine with me." He smiles once more, the tension broken.
I started to collect random guy's DNA; just a strand of hair. I fused them all together into my new invention- a mole. Of course it's not just a regular mole. Once placed on me, it changes my appearance to match the DNA. So I will have the perfect disguise, without looking like a clone. Nobody would have the ability to recognize me.
"Not bad." Tom nods, seeing the disguise for the first time. He circles around me. "I like what I see." I blush.
"So I don't look too… different?"
"Of course you do! Isn't that the point?"
"Well, yeah, but…" I can't find the right words to say what I mean. Thankfully, I have an understanding boyfriend.
"Lewis, it doesn't matter how you look on the outside. You're still you." He kisses me, and I relax into it.
Yes. Thankfully, I have Tom.
"So I think it's about time you've met my family." I give him a look.
"Um… I think I already have…"
"As Cornelius! But not as Lewis!" I stare harder. "Okay, you've met them as Lewis as well. But this time it's different!" I shift. "You look different. They'll just think it's all a big coincidence."
"Okay, Mr. Smarty Pants, what'll they say when I call you Tom?"
"I'll tell them it's a nickname."
"Have you even come out to them yet?"
"That's why I want you to meet them! They won't act shocked or rude in front of you."
"… So I'm your plan?"
"… Pretty much…"
"Oh! A friend!" Franny looks happy. "You don't bring any over anymore." Tom scoffs.
"Mom! I'm twenty-four. The only time I hang out with friends is a night at the bar or something. Anyway…" He clears his throat;"…Lewis is my boyfriend."
The whole room breaks out in a collective gasp, followed by some embarrassed coughs. Lucille is the first to speak up. "Well good for you! I was wondering when you'd get with someone. You haven't brought a date home to us in years!" Everyone around starts agreeing: "Yeah!", "Keeping up the ol' Robinson uniqueness!", "I'm so happy for you!", and finally, "How long have you two been dating?" The room grows silent.
"Oh… um…." Tom scratches the back of his neck. I jump in,
"Just a while, now. We didn't tell you guys because I was so nervous. This family is so… wonderful. So welcoming. I was afraid you all would hate me if you knew…" I hold my breath.
"Of course not!" Franny engulfed me in a hug, "we could never hate you! I can't tell if she's lying or not, but I still feel comforted. Lucille, Carl, and everyone else joins in. I'm getting hugs from every angle, and loving every second of it.
Later on I pull Tom to the side. "Where's Cornelius? I haven't seen him anywhere. And when I tried to ask Franny, she muttered complete bs and walked away." I glance hard at him.
"Oh, just off on a business trip. She didn't say much because they got into a fight before he left." After knowing him since I was twelve, I know for a fact he was lying.
"Okay, so how about the truth." I raise an eyebrow. He winces.
"I don't know…" I glare. "Okay, okay. The truth is, I don't know. He disappeared one day, and hasn't been heard of since. But," he sees the fear cross over me, "that doesn't necessarily mean anything bad. He's probably just around, hopping through time. I don't know. But I do know that you shouldn't worry about it. I promise, everything'll be fine." I take a deep breath and try to smile. Of course it will.
"Where are you taking me? And why am I wearing a blindfold?" As fun as it is, it's frustrating not knowing.
"It's a supri-ise!" He sings, dragging me along. I've been trying to keep track of all the turns we've made, but just can't create a mental map. I have no clue as to where we're going, or why. Tom said, right before he put the blindfold on, that this was going to be special.
At least it's perfect out. The temperature is that spring mix of cool and warm, and the air smells of rain. I can hear birds, but not too many cars passing. I think we're at a park, but, again, the blindfold is making things a little difficult determining much.
Suddenly, we stop. "Okay. When I count to five, take off the blindfold. One… Two… Three… Four…Five!" I rip it off, and my mouth drops. The Butterfly Gardens.
"Tom…" I breathe. His smile is proud, and his eyes are glistening- yes, glistening- with happiness. "Our first date…" I smile at the memory. We go and sit at the same spot as last time.
"That was our beginning, our major checkpoint. And I," he reaches into his pocket, "want to make another." He drops to his knee in front of me, and pulls out an open black box, a modest ring in the middle. "Lewis… Will you marry me?"
I think I'm going to die, I can't breathe. My eyes start to water, and I feel like a girl for getting all emotional. "… YES!" He stands, and I jump into his arms. Totally like a girl. But for now, I don't care. I'm getting married!
The ceremony was small, and all of the family was there. Okay, scratch that- it was huge. I saw Franny crying, no doubt thinking of her previous marriage and Cornelius being gone. Thankfully, I saw the assistant by her side. But for today, none of the side stuff mattered. All that mattered was him.
We lay side by side on the bed, panting and sighing. Even after all these years, we still fight for dominance in bed. These battles are so fun, so worth the guilt I feel whenever Franny looks me in the eyes and thinks she's the only one.
After times like these, we usually curl up together and fall asleep in each other's arms. Tonight, however, is different. I can tell; Tom is quieter than usual. "What are you thinking about?" I shift over onto my side to look at him.
He sighs. "It's just… I miss you… whenever you're gone." He looks morose. "It kills me when you leave."
"I know." My sigh matches his previous one. "But what can I do?"
He mutters under his breath, so silent that it's almost like he doesn't even say it, and I have to strain my ears to hear, "You could leave them and move in with me." He looks up, and sees that I've heard. "But just forget about it!" He says quickly, "That's just me talking crazy and being selfish and-" I cut him off with a kiss.
"That," I say, "Is the best idea you've ever had."
A few days later I track down Wilbur in his room. He sees my expression. "What is it? Is it about my report card?" I shake my head. He stiffens. "Is it about you and future me?" I nod. He gets an anxious look in his eye. "Did you two break it off?!" I shake my head, and sit down on the bed next to him.
"The future you, Tom… he's asked me to move in with him." I see the relief in the teen's eyes. I continue, "And I said yes."
He thinks for a few moments. "So what now?"
"I'm telling you this as a good-bye. I wanted you to know. Please understand that you must not tell anyone where I've gone." He nods. "Okay then." I sigh. "I guess this is goodbye."
He gets up and hugs me. As I'm walking out the door, I hear him say, "Later, Cornelius. See you in the future." I smile, and then I'm gone.
I don my disguise for the last time- permanently. Tom smiles as I walk through the door to the house- our house, now. I didn't bring anything; everything I could ever want or need is right here. Now I can laugh, because I know the truth behind Cornelius' disappearance. Behind my disappearance.
And, for everything I've ever done, I hold no regrets.