Posted on: May 9, 2016, by :

PresentTenseCoverWith just ten days until the release of In the Present Tense, I thought I might give you a glimpse of the future (sometimes we’ll visit the future via the past; after all, timelines get confusing when you’re constantly jump through time). Every day between now and May 19, I’ll be posting a snippet or quote from In the Present Tense.

Our first flash of the future comes from Sunday, March 29, 2020, at 10:45 A.M.

Miles woke from a dream in a cold sweat. A distant beeping that matched his pulse seemed to get closer the more alert he became. The beeping slowed as his breathing calmed. His left arm felt heavy; a dull ache radiated downward from his forearm and into his fingers. Through drowsy, unfocused eyes, he could just make out his surroundings: a hospital bed, heart monitor, television and a hideous mauve recliner with a thin, white blanket draped over it. A pillow rested on the windowsill. Someone must have slept in the chair.

He tried to remember what day it was—what year. The stabbing pain behind his eyes alerted him to a recent episode, but not even a shred of a memory would reveal itself to help solve the mystery. It happened like this often, an episode of which he had no memory, and he’d never figured out when or where he’d been. Perhaps his condition was worsening.

He looked to see if his phone was within reach—he should probably call Dr. Benson and let her know he’d had another episode—but his eyes only found an empty coffee cup with a smudge of bright red lipstick on the lid. Miles smiled, knowing that Ana had been there. Apart from Dr. Benson, his wife was the only person he had trusted with the truth of his condition.

As if his thoughts had summoned her, Ana, heels clicking sharply on the tile, breezed through the door to his hospital room.

“You’re awake,” she said, concern lurking beneath her forced smile.

Attempting to sit up, Miles hissed at the pain that shot through his left arm as he put his weight on it. “What happened?” he asked as he sagged against the pillows in defeat.

“You collapsed in the shower. Don’t you remember anything?”

“Not since Friday night when my parents got in. We went to Bortello’s for dinner, and I might have overdone it with the vodka tonics.”

Ana nodded. “How’s your head?”

“Fuzzy. I think I might have had another episode.”

She leaned forward, brushing his damp hair away from his face. “Yeah,” she said softly. “It was a bad one.”

“Tell me.”

Her brown eyes narrowed. “Are you sure?”

“I need to know.”

The bed shifted as Ana sat next to Miles. Crossing one long, brown leg over the other, she reached for his hand. “You asked about Adam,” she said solemnly.

Miles hadn’t thought much about Adam since before he and Ana were married. The breakup had been painful, but over time Miles had moved on, and Adam had moved away. If he’d asked Ana about Adam, the version of himself that had showed up must have been quite young. As always, Miles felt guilty for subjecting Ana to his condition’s side effects.

“I’m sorry,” he said, resting his head on her shoulder as the scent of her hair enveloped him in wonderful memories. He tilted his head up just as a tear rolled down her cheek. He squeezed her hand

Ana wiped at the stray tear with her free hand. “I’m fine,” she said. “You know me, made of razor blades and leather.” She winked at him, but Miles knew she was lightening the mood for his sake. He decided to play along.

“So what did teenage-me have to say about us shacking up together? I imagine I was shocked.”

“Honey, you were a fucking mess,” she said with a laugh. “I thought you were still drunk.”

They were quiet, and then Miles asked, “How long?”

“A couple of hours. You’ve been in the hospital longer than you were the other you, actually. I didn’t want to call an ambulance, but your mother dialed nine-one-one before I could stop her. Anyway, I couldn’t very well tell her the truth. ‘Oh, he’ll be fine, Mrs. L. He’ll just wake up with a shitty headache after he’s done time-traveling.’ Besides, you broke your arm when you fell.”

“Shit, I’m really sorry,” Miles said, lifting his heavy arm and noticing the cast for the first time.

Ana shrugged. “Comes with the territory. But now that you’re awake, you can make it up to me because I am not dealing with your mother when she comes by this afternoon. That’s all on you.”

“You got it.” Miles motioned for Ana to lean back against the pillow with him.

She laid her head next to his, her forehead to his temple. Miles could feel her breath hot and feather-light against his cheek. He listened to her slow, even breathing and tried to piece together a reasonable explanation to give his mother.

Ana’s hair tickled his neck as she tilted her head to look at him. “I didn’t tell you anything about Adam,” she said. “Other you, I mean. The younger you.”

Miles twisted his neck awkwardly to try to see her face. He could see that her eyes were closed.

“You wanted to know why you haven’t spoken to him in so long, but I did what you told me. I didn’t say a word.” Her voice was barely audible over the steady whirring of the monitors and the periodic noises from the mechanical compression socks Miles wore.

“Maybe you should have,” Miles muttered. “Saved me some heartache.”

“But you said—”

“I know what I said. You did the right thing.” Miles stroked Ana’s ebony hair and twirled a lock around his index finger. “It’s just sometimes I wish I’d known. Maybe then you and I would have gotten together sooner.”

“Not a chance, dork face,” she said, playfully swatting his arm. “I was way too cool for you in high school.”

“This is true.”

Ana had been homecoming queen, an honor student who was friends with everyone. Miles had Adam, a chip on his shoulder and music—the only reason he knew Ana at all. They were in marching band together. Ana played clarinet; Miles played percussion. But they rarely spoke outside of their mutual circle of friends, until Ana’s senior year when they became best friends, and by then, he was already dating Adam.

“So you really don’t remember waking up in bed with me when you were seventeen?”

Miles shook his head. “It’s weird. You’d think I’d remember something like that.”

“You used to remember the big things.”

“Dr. Benson thinks it might be the medication she has me on.”

“Maybe that means it’s working.”

Miles shrugged. He had no idea if it was working or not. His episodes were coming more frequently since he’d started the new medication, but they didn’t last as long. Unfortunately, he no longer kept his memories from his trips. His younger self ’s time-traveling exploits were a mystery. Maybe the seventeen-year-old version of himself didn’t remember waking up next to Ana. There was no way to tell what effect the medication was having on his body or his mind.

“Do you have my phone?” he asked. “I should probably set up an appointment with Dr. Benson. She said she wants to see me after an episode.”

“It’s in my bag,” she said. “Want me to get it?”

“In a minute. Could you just stay here? I hate hospitals.” He pulled Ana closer and rested his head on her shoulder.

“Sure thing, Irving.”

In the Present Tense will be available May 19. Pre-order a print copy direct from Interlude Press and get the ebook bundle free! Also available at these retailers:

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