Future Perfect by Katie Kent

I discovered I could travel back in time at about the same time that I realised I was into girls. Finding myself back at the start of the gym class I’d just struggled through proved the former; my all-consuming crush on my best friend.                
     Lucy was evidence of the latter. I idolised everything about her, from her glossy blonde hair to the way her lips moved when she chewed her gum.
     Lucy laughed when I told her I could time travel. ‘Pull the other one, Sarah. You’ll be telling me you can fly next.’ I was hurt that she didn’t even consider I might be telling the truth, but I understood that it sounded a bit far-fetched. Would I have believed her if the situation was reversed?
     When she asked me which guys at school I was into, I stammered and told her the boys at school were too immature. 
She wrinkled her nose, twirling her hair around her finger- something which always turned my insides to jelly. ‘You’re sixteen now. If you don’t like any boys, people might think you’re a lesbian.’
     My heart hammered in my chest. 
     That evening I went home and Googled, Am I gay? I was reassured by the search results; many girls of my age went through a phase of being attracted to another girl. It might not mean anything. Maybe I was bisexual. Maybe I would end up with a boy and could ignore the other side of me and all would be well. Yet my feelings for Lucy stubbornly refused to shift, and the more I tried to make myself feel something for boys, the more I realised they weren’t for me. I dated a few, just to keep up appearances, but my heart wasn’t in it, and every time one of them went to kiss me, I ran. The only person I wanted to kiss was Lucy.
     I came out to Lucy a few times. Each time, she took it badly and I had to travel back in time and try it a different way. But the outcome was always the same, and eventually I gave up, deciding I would have to stay in the closet forever. I wished I could travel forwards in time as well as back, to see whether Lucy ever got used to the idea and whether my thing for her ever went away, but I didn’t know how to. I always concentrated on a moment in my past to travel back there, and I couldn’t do that for the future. I slumped into a depression.
     ‘Cheer up,’ Lucy said, one day. ‘You’re no fun anymore. You never want to go out and do anything.’
     I started to research the hell out of time travel. There were reports of others like me. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only one. I joined a forum and decided to meet up with a boy, Kevin, who was another traveller.
     ‘Can you travel forwards as well as backwards?’ I asked him, as we sat in McDonalds.
     He took a slurp from his Pepsi. ‘Of course! It’s harder than travelling back, but you’ll get it, with practice. You’ll have to put in the hours, though.’
     My phone buzzed. A text from Lucy. ‘Want to hang out today? We can go trampolining.’ 
     I frowned.
     ‘Need to answer that?’
     I shook my head, turning off my phone. We went trampolining all the time, and I didn’t even really like it. I’d suggested a few other things that I was into, such as playing games on the PS5 or going to a museum, but she always acted like I’d just invited her to go and watch paint dry, or something, and I didn’t want her to get tired of me.
     I turned my attention back to Kevin. ‘So, how do I learn to travel into the future, then?’
     He smiled at me. ‘I presume you travel back in the same way as me- by concentrating on a moment you remember in the past?’
     I nodded.
     ‘Well,’ he continued, ‘you can actually travel back further than your own lifetime, by focusing on a moment in the past that you weren’t actually there for. It’s difficult at first, but you get used to it. And travelling forwards is just the same. Concentrate on a moment in the future. You need to think about it really hard, visualise everything about it. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t actually play out how you imagined it. Like, you can imagine yourself at your 40th birthday celebration. It will take a while to get the hang of, and just like going backwards, the further away the time is, the harder it will be. But keep practicing, and you’ll find it gets easier and easier.’
     I started trying to travel forwards in time as soon as I got home, and soon, a whole new world opened up. At first, I could only travel a few minutes ahead but the more I practiced, the minutes turned into hours and the hours into days and the days into months. Finally, I had it nailed. It was time to make a trip into my distant future.
     I concentrated intently on an image of myself 10 years in the future. Just as my head was starting to pound with the effort, there was a woosh, and I was sat at a table in an Italian restaurant. I looked around, feeling disorientated. Then I heard a laugh. It was unmistakeably mine. Heart racing, I turned in the direction of the sound. 
     Older me sat at a nearby table, right hand linked with another woman. Both of us wore wedding rings. The other woman, who had long, dark hair and a pretty face, leaned across and kissed my older self, right on the lips. I swallowed and looked around, but no one seemed at all phased.
     I wanted to talk to older me, to ask her if she was happy. But I knew how dangerous interacting with my future self was, and I could see the answer written upon her face. She looked happy. She looked at peace with herself.
     ‘Who was your first crush?’ My future wife raised her eyebrows at the older version of me. ‘I can’t believe we’ve never had this conversation before.’
     ‘It was my best friend, Lucy. At least I thought she was my best friend. Turned out that she only wanted to be my friend if I was exactly like her. We had a massive argument when I came out to her. She said all kinds of hurtful things. We haven’t spoken since, and funnily enough my crush on her faded soon after that.’

* * *
I knocked on Lucy’s door. ‘I need to tell you something. Can we go for a walk?’ ‘Okay.’ She pulled on a coat and followed me outside. We walked for a few minutes in silence, her eyes glued to her phone screen, no doubt looking at photos of the latest boy she’d kissed. When we reached the park, I sat down on a bench, and she sat down next to me. ‘So?’ She looked at me disinterestedly, picking at her false fingernails. I studied her face. Already she seemed a little less perfect to me than before. I noticed all the split ends in her hair, and the way she was chewing her gum was actually really irritating. I had spoken these words to her many times already, but the nerves weren’t there this time. I knew everything would work out for me. I looked into her eyes as I spoke. ‘I’m gay.’ She immediately turned up her nose, like I’d made a bad smell, and scooted right up to the other end of the bench. ‘You’re kidding, right?’ I shook my head. ‘Nope. I like girls, not boys.’ She stood up and looked down at me. ‘That’s disgusting.’ I shrugged. ‘If that’s how you feel, then we can’t be friends anymore.’ For the first time, I didn’t beg her not to leave me. Her eyes went wide, and she shoved her hands into her pockets. ‘I can’t be friends with a lesbian. People might think I’m one too, if we keep hanging out.’ ‘Goodbye, Lucy.’ I got up and walked away, feeling lighter than I had done in months.

Katie Kent is a writer living in the UK with her wife, cat and dog. She likes to write stories, mostly YA, about LGTBQ characters, mental illness, time travel and the future- sometimes all in the same story! Her fiction has been published in Youth Imagination, Limeoncello and Breath and Shadow, amongst others, and in anthologies including The Trouble with Time Travel, Summer of Speculation: Catastrophe, Growth and My Heart to Yours. Her non-fiction, mostly mental health-related, is published in The Mighty, You & Me Magazine, Ailment, OC87 Recovery Diaries and Feels Zine.

Twitter: @uniKH80

Website: katiekentwriter.com

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