Chapter 1 of my first novel can be found here. I hope you enjoy chapter 2.
There before me, is the woman who had shared my bed, 20 years ago. She is a beautiful woman. Tall and slim with long brown hair that falls past her shoulders. Her hair is her pride and joy and she spends a lot of time at the salon. She has dark eyes which are very mysterious and a small mouth that produces amazing smiles.
The last time I had seen Natasha was about fifteen years ago when I bumped into her at the store. We exchanged courteous ’hellos’ and ‘how are you’s’. We each enquired as to what we had been up to. She was now married and a mother of one and seemed very happy. I congratulated her and informed her I was married as well. No kids yet, but we’re trying. She congratulated me back. I didn’t feel a spark seeing her. I’m not sure whether she did either. After all it was me who ended the relationship with her after dating for about six months. I just didn’t have the ‘Gaga’ factor with her.
Not wanting a scene, I took her to a local restaurant and told her it was over. She took the news well considering, and we both agreed it wasn’t working. Sure the sex was great but outside of that, our relationship had no meaning.
Now here she was, lying in my bed. She looked different to the last time I saw her at the store and she now looked exactly as she did that night at the restaurant.
She looks at me and with a smile and said, “It’s lonely in here without you. Come back to bed and let’s pick up where we left off last night.”
I stand there stunned. The expression on my face must have triggered a fright in her.
“Baby, what’s wrong? Are you ok? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” She said with a worried look spreading across her pretty face.
I look around the room. The pictures are gone. The time on the clock said it is 8.45am. The floor is strewn with clothes. A pair of jeans at the foot of the bed. A black bra hanging from the bed footer. A white blouse lay crumpled next to the dresser. A business shirt near the bedroom door. A pair of boxer shorts and a G-String on the floor next to the bed. Evidence of a night of passion by two people desperate to get undressed.
Natasha is now sitting up in the bed, the sheet falling away exposing her ample breasts. She looks at me uneasily.
“Matt, what is wrong?” Her voice is trembling. “You are scaring me!”
“What is going on here?” I ask, increasingly more confused. “What are you doing here, Natasha?”
“Matt, what happened? Is everything ok sweetie? What happened in the….”
I never let her finish. I quickly pick up a grey tee shirt that is on the floor, throw it on and rush out of the bedroom door and bound down the stairs into the living room. I stop abruptly at the foot of the stairs and look at the foreign scene in front of me. Even though I have lived in this house for over twenty years it is different.
Everything is different.
The room is filled with different furnishings. Recognisable furnishings from another life.
The sofa is the not the 3 piece Italia sofa we bought years ago, but it is instead a two piece, Ikea offering which I first bought when I bought this house 22 years ago. The 50” flat panel TV is gone replaced with a small square box sitting on top of the video unit. The BluRay player is missing and in its place is a rather large VCR. I see there is a video box on the coffee table. Die Hard 2. What year did that get released? I probe my mind, thinking back. 1990ish. Normally, I can recall the exact year a movie came out, but my mind is a mess at the moment. The original Die Hard came out in the mid 80’s. Did Die Hard 2 come out in the late 80’s?
What the hell is going on?
The prints on the walls are no longer there instead replaced with bare walls with a greyish hue for paint and not the cream we had the house repainted with just before the kids died.
I look towards the adjoining kitchen. It looks the same except the fridge is white and not stainless steel and there is no dishwasher. The microwave clock is flashing 8.48am. It’s been only a few minutes since I was in the bedroom but it seems like hours.
I notice a newspaper on the kitchen bench just as Natasha reaches the bottom of the stairs, dressed just in a shirt and not much else. She looks worried but I don’t pay too much attention as I pick up the paper and search for the front page. I’m looking for the date of the paper.
I see it.
Thursday, September 13, 1990.
Beneath the date is the headline. “Bush Threatens Iraq. Leave Kuwait or Else” and under the headline is a picture of American President, George Bush. Not George W Bush, but his father.
I’m so confused. I throw the paper down and yell at Natasha to tell me the date.
“What is the date, Natasha, what is the fucking date?” My voice is shaky and on the verge of panic.
“I dunno, um, September 14, I think. What is going on, baby, you’re really scaring me!”
I grab a set of car keys from the bench and race out the front door. My car isn’t in the driveway, well not my 2009, Mazda 6 anyway. My clunker from 1990, a 1987 Mitsubishi Magna is there instead. That car was stolen in the early nineties and I never saw it again.
I don’t hesitate. I jump into the car, starting it and reverse quickly and without looking for oncoming traffic, I take off down the street. The houses look the same but the cars parked outside and those others on the road with me are all old model vehicles. Old model Fords and Toyotas and Holdens. I note the lack of Korean cars such as Hyundai’s and Daewoo’s. Common fare on the roads in 2010, Brisbane, they are virtually nonexistent now.
I turn left at the end of my street and venture onto the main road through my suburb. I start to see businesses on either side of the road. To my left is Chongs Chinese Restaurant which closed down many years ago. Next to Chongs is the post office which is not in the same place it was yesterday, I mean in 2010.
Further down the road and to my right is a Kentucky Fried Chicken and it isn’t the bright new design but the old look complete with rotating bucket with the Colonel’s never ending gaze peering back at you, demanding you buy his chicken. There is no KFC signage to be seen.
My local pub is still there but it too looks different. Gone are the trendy outdoor tables and awnings, replaced with plastic tables and chairs and beer company supplied outdoor umbrellas. At this hour of the morning it is closed but there is someone out the front hosing down the pavement. Doing that now-a-days is frowned upon by the greenies!
I’m driving aimlessly trying to put together the pieces of the morning so far. The younger me staring back at me in the mirror. The old furniture. Natasha. The newspaper date from 20 years ago. This old car which was stolen and never found.
I start to feel dizzy and pull off to the side of the road.
I take a deep breath and turn on the radio. The station is preset to B105 and the morning crew is wrapping up. I recognise the voices but they are voices that now belong to other radio stations. Ian Skippen is now on Triple M. Jamie Dunn is doing talkback and Robyn Bailey is at another station, yet here they are, together again.
Skippen signs off with “…here is the new one from AC/DC, ‘Thunderstruck’ from their forth coming album, ‘Razors Edge’ in all good record stores on Sept 24…..”
I have that album. It is a classic. I remember buying the record and I also remember years later buying it on CD. I even went to see AC/DC in concert in late 1996 and ‘Thunderstruck’ went off! The crowd loved it and were right into it. It was an awesome concert.
So how can it just being released now?
I need to get my bearings and find out what is going on. I don’t have my mobile phone but I spy a public phone box up the street a little.
I turn the engine off and grab some coins from the ashtray. I was never a smoker and use the ashtray to hold loose change.
I walk quickly to the phone box but once there I wonder who to call? Mum and dad? They live up north in Bowen and wouldn’t be much help anyway. I’m an only child so I have no brothers or sisters to call. I could call Jessica but she is living overseas now and I don’t have her number. Or does she live overseas now? If this really is 1990, we have never met. I could try calling her at her folks place as I know she was still living at home in 1990 but she didn’t know me back then and she wouldn’t believe me and would probably just hang up on me anyway.
Dave. That’s who I’ll call. My best mate, Dave.
Dave and I have been friends since high school and we have always had each other’s back. If there is anyone I can rely on right now, it’s him.
I pick up the phone and dial his mobile number. After only two or three numbers on the touch pad are entered, I hear a beeping noise in the earpiece.
“That is an incorrect number”, the message keeps repeating.
I try again, this time pressing the buttons slowly so I don’t make a mistake, but again after three digits I hear the same message emitting from the earpiece.
It then dawns on me and I realise that if I don’t have a mobile phone then Dave and everyone else don’t have a mobile phone either. While back in 1990 the technology was available, only the rich owned a mobile phone and Dave and I didn’t fall into that category.
I open the white pages telephone book and look up his number. Yes, he’s listed but at his 1990 address. I insert my coins again which had discharged into the change receiver and I dial the number carefully. 371-2585. Phone numbers in 2010 are eight digits and this is only seven digits. I doubt it will ring but sure enough it does.
It rings and rings and rings but there is no answer.
“Shit”, I say out loud.
What to do, what to do? I glance at my watch 9.40am. Dave would be at work.
I open the telephone book again and search for the number for The Brisbane Daily, our local newspaper. Dave had been working there as a journalist ever since graduating from UQ with his journalism degree.
I find the number and again dial it carefully. It’s another seven digit number and after only two rings it connects to a woman.
“Brisbane Daily, how can I help you?” she says in a rushed manner.
“Could I please speak to David Mitcham please?” I ask hopefully.
“Just a minute please sir and I’ll see if he is at his desk”.
I notice that my hands are shaking badly and realise that my voice sounds shaky too. Will Dave recognise me on the phone I wonder? I’m sure after all these years I will sound different to him.
While waiting on line for the receptionist to connect me to Dave, memories of my friendship with him fill my mind.
Dave gave a beautiful eulogy at the funeral for the kids. He spoke about their humour and energy and their passion for life and about their love for each other.
Dave also gave a fantastic speech at my wedding in his role as best man. He had the guests laughing and clapping and cheering. No wonder he became a journalist. He certainly has a way with words.
I recall the last time Dave and I spoke. It was about two weeks ago. He calls me often to see how I am doing. I don’t see much of him because I don’t see much of anybody. Every now and then he’ll force his way through the front door and we’ll just sit there and talk about the kids. It must get tedious for him and I feel bad for him having to sit there and listen but it feels good to talk to someone about it. After 9 years of it, you would think he would have stopped wasting his time, but it is a true measure of the man, that he keeps on coming by.
We used to talk about football and cricket and movies and TV shows. Those days passed when my kids died. Yet still he always calls and sees if I am alright and if I need anything. He is a true friend and I am lucky to have him and I know that I can rely on him now to have my back once again.
The receptionist comes back on and says, “Connecting you now”.
I start to tremble even more. The phone rings and I hear a familiar voice answer.
“David Mitcham, can I help you”, he says confidently.
“Dave, it’s Matt”.
“Hey mate, how’s it going? We still heading to the coast this weekend? I’ve lined up a couple of interns to accompany us and keep us entertained if you know what I mean?” He sounds jovial and happy.
“Dave, I’m in trouble mate and I need your help”. I didn’t know what to say so I thought getting to the point straight away was the best option.
“Matt, what’s up mate? What kind of trouble? You sound scared.”
“I am scared and very confused. I don’t want to talk about it on the phone but are you able to meet me urgently? I really need you mate. Something weird is happening and I need your help to understand it. Can you meet me at Happy Phil’s in say half hour?” I can hear the desperation in my voice.
I’m sure Dave can too when he replies, “Where is Happy Phil’s? I’ve never heard of it”.
Bugger! Happy Phil’s opened around the turn of the millennium and it doesn’t exist in 1990. I think back to where we use to hang out in 1990 but I draw a blank. “Oh yeah, sorry Dave, how about your place? Can you meet me there in half an hour?”
“Sure mate, I’m on my way. Whatever is up we will sort out.”
“Thanks Dave, you are a good friend”. I hang up and start walking back towards the car.
Dave lives about 10 minutes from here at his flat he rented as soon as he graduated from uni. To him it was a typical bachelor pad. To me, it was about to become a safe haven. I couldn’t go home yet. Natasha was probably still there and she would want answers. Answers as to why I was acting so weird this morning. These were answers I didn’t have because I didn’t know the questions to ask yet.
I knew that I had made the right decision in calling, Dave. Together we would be able to work out what was happening and why I was now in 1990 but still filled with memories of my life up until 2010.
I need answers and I need them quick. It feels like reality is escaping me and I can’t shake the urge that I am slowly but surely losing my mind.
Click here for Chapter 3