“Good morning everyone! I’m Tom Bradshaw with Channel Seven News—live, local and late-breaking news you can trust covering the Fairfield, Springton, and Sandboro areas. We have new information today on yesterday’s Springton South Main shooting, where multiple police officers were locked in a deadly gun battle with a man identified as Jeremy Redford of West Virginia. Two officers were injured, and one remains in critical condition. We take you now to our own Channel Seven’s Kathy Anderson with more on this story.”
“Isn’t that just crazy?” Mrs. Seelbaugh grabbed the remote off the kitchen counter and turned the volume on their TV up several green bars. “That happened right here in town.”
“Uh-huh.” Sharing her mother’s long legs, blonde hair and striking good looks, fourteen-year-old Elena Seelbaugh was perched on one of their bar stools for breakfast at the counter in their expensively furnished kitchen.
Like her mother, she woke up early every morning and tackled each day with a plan. She’d already finished deciding her outfit for school, styled her hair, and applied light makeup to accentuate her best features. When Elena turned her attention to their kitchen television set, aerial footage from the Channel 7 News helicopter was showing the familiar parking lot of a nearby Springton strip mall, filled with police cruisers and an ambulance.
“I know where that is,” Elena remarked, glancing from the TV back to the puzzle on the back of her cereal box. “That’s over by where we used to go for soccer practice. Right?”
“Yeah, South Main street,” Mrs. Seelbaugh replied. “That’s close, though, that’s just a few blocks down from where—”
“—Thank you, Tom.” Channel 7’s view cut to an inoffensive mid-thirties woman in a blazer, standing beside a small two-lane street. Behind the reporter, a hillside of rather decrepit mobile homes rose up to meet a gas station and a liquor store.
“Wait, where is that?” Elena made a face.
“Officer Darren Macintire of Springton first pulled the suspect over here, in what residents call the lower park of Sunset Estates, for what should have been a routine stop.” The camera panned across a well-trodden roadside median of weeds and gravel blocked off with yellow tape.
“Shortly after stepping out of his vehicle, however, Officer Macintire was taken surprise by gunfire—he was shot in the chest at close range and then left for dead, right here beside the road.” The screen then snapped back to frame the reporter woman.
“Officer Macintire was just entering his ninth year with Springton PD, and remains in critical condition after being life-flighted to the University of Louisville Hospital. We now have the police dispatch recording of the two Springton High students who may have saved this officer’s life.”
“Springton High kids?” Mrs. Seelbaugh repeated in surprise, turning to her daughter. “Did you hear that?”
“Yeah,” Elena replied, sitting up and watching their television set with new interest. “I’m listening.”
A somewhat fuzzy audio file began to play, with dialogue presented sentence by sentence in white lettering beneath two different yearbook photos. The first picture was ‘Alicia Brooks,’ a softly-smiling scrawny black girl Elena didn’t recognize, but the second one…
“Officer down!” It was the clear voice of a young teenage girl. “We have an officer down at thirteen twenty two South Main street. He’s shot, he’s—he’s bleeding everywhere.”
“Hello, can you repeat that address?” An adult voice, presumably the dispatcher, responded.
No effing way. Elena dropped her spoon beside her bowl of cereal with a clatter, scattering droplets of milk. The second picture was the unsmiling wide face of Tubby Tabby, in the terribly unflattering 8th grade yearbook photo from Laurel Middle. The caption beneath the picture even confirmed it—‘Tabitha Moore.’ Leaning forward over the countertop on her stool, Elena listened in disbelief as the recording played out.
“Thirteen twenty-two south Main street, it’s the lower trailer park. One, three, two, two, South Main. Lower trailer park.”
“Help is on the way, they should be with you shortly. Is the shooter still at that location?”
“No, he’s—the shooter drove off. I need um, sorry, I have to stop the bleeding.”
“Hold on, I need you to stay on the line. Honey? I need you to stay with me on the line. Are you still there?”
Tabitha Moore, Elena thought, swiping her spoon off of the countertop and turning to grab a napkin from the holder. The whole school’s going to go crazy. This is a huge deal!
An individual was usually only the talk of Springton high for a week at most before becoming forgotten, old news. Tabitha, however, was a unique topic that seemed to always linger on everyone’s minds. She was an extraordinarily visible beauty, while at the same time, she was inexplicably socially disconnected from the general student populace.
No one seemed to know anything concrete about her—except that she was incredibly attractive—and that made her the fantasy dream girl for boys, whose imaginations were all too happy to fill in any of the blanks. The girls, for the most part, despised her. Spiteful new stories about her were constantly being started by drama diva agitators, but there was no one close to Tabitha to offer counter statements or put out any of the fires. As a result, the gossip always seemed to run on unchecked and grow out of proportion with each retelling. Eventually, they became tall tales so absurd that nobody really believed any of them.
“Hello? H-hello?” A different girl’s voice, this time. Elena wondered which one was Alicia and which was Tabby.
“Hello, we have help on the way but I need you to sit tight for me if you can do that. Has anyone else been hurt?”
“Can you describe the shooter? Are you still there?”
“Th-the shooter was a white male, in his, uh in his twenties. He was going, uh, he was—Southbound on South Main, he’s in—he’s in a Lincoln Continental with West Virginia plates. White, a white Lincoln Continental.”
“That’s southbound, in a white Lincoln Continental?”
“Okay, thank you. Just sit tight please, we have an ambulance on the way there to you now.”
“These two brave young girls remained at the scene with the downed officer, and were able to stabilize his condition until paramedics were able to arrive at the scene,” Kathy Anderson continued. “Their detailed description of the suspect vehicle may have been instrumental in the resolution of what we’re now calling the South Main Shooting.”
The view then changed to what Elena assumed was footage from yesterday, of Tabitha—the ‘new’ Tabitha, lithe and effortlessly beautiful—being interviewed along with that scrawny black girl. Evening had apparently fallen and it was getting dark out in the picture, but dozens of bystanders from the trailer park and uniformed policemen were milling about in the background. Tabitha’s red hair was a little more tangled than usual, and while she was wearing one of those expensive designer blouses of hers, it was now dirtied, spotted with little dark flecks.
Oh my God. Is that blood?
“Were you two scared, seeing all of this go down right in front of you?” The man offering the microphone asked the girls.
“Yeah,” the black girl blurted out in response, looking a little shell-shocked from the ordeal. “I was. I was so scared.”
“I was terrified,” Tabitha gave a weak smile, not quite looking at the camera. She managed to look amazing, poignant somehow, captivating even when she was bedraggled and exhausted. There was a certain serene sadness to her that was picturesque.
“I’m still terrified. I don’t know that I’ll feel any less scared until I know that the officer’s going to be okay.”
“Well, our thoughts and prayers are all going out to Officer Macintire and his family, hoping for his quick recovery,” Tom Bradshaw concluded as the screen snapped back to the studio view.
She saved a cop? Elena’s blue eyes narrowed as the shifting implications whirled through her head. This is gonna change everything. In a town this small, it’s gonna change what people can say about her—and, to who. For instance, Elena was still just a freshman, but she had her sights set on Matthew Williams, who was indisputably the cutest sophomore guy. Everyone knew that Matt’s dad was a cop.
I think it’s time Tabitha and I have a talk, Elena quickly decided. Currently, the consensus around school was that Tabitha was an exchange student from California, but Elena knew she was actually Tubby Tabby from Laurel Middle, but had gotten liposuction and plastic surgery. After making the news like this, soon everyone would know.
Tabitha Moore… the trailer trash girl, Elena remembered, quirking her lip. Back in Laurel, that’s how everyone had known the girl, and her Lower Park heritage still featured prominently in the ongoing topics of gossip around Springton High.
Word was that Tabitha’s parents supposedly owned the entire Sunset Estates trailer park; they were rich upstarts. Alternatively, there was the story that they used to be rich, and were forced to live in poverty due to any number of possible circumstances—drugs, gambling, malpractice lawsuits—and now, Tabitha would do anything for money.
Or, maybe Tabitha lived with her twenty-two year old boyfriend in Sunset Estate, and there were no parents in the picture at all. Possibly, Tabitha came out as a lesbian to her rich parents and was then disowned; now she had to live on her own in a terrible mobile home with just a tiny stipend to get by on.
“Oh my word,” Mrs. Seelbaugh cupped her hand over her mouth, turning to her daughter in shock. “Do you know either of those girls?”
“Yeah,” Elena replied, snapping out of her thoughts. “Sorta. One of them’s in my first period class. Marine Science. Tabitha Moore.”
“Wait, that Tabitha? The one who was caught doing things with the teacher?” Mrs. Seelbaugh frowned in disapproval.
“Uh, I guess she wasn’t. It turns out,” Elena shrugged, trying to remember what hearsay she’d already passed on to her Mom over the weeks of the first semester. Now that her stance on Tabitha was about to change, she regretted saying anything back then at all.
“One of the deans caught wind of the rumor and people got called up to the office, had to talk to the counselors. I think the story was made up? It got narrowed down to this one junior and three sophomore girls who were just trying to start shit.”
“Start stuff,” Mrs. Seelbaugh absentmindedly corrected.
“Yeah, start stuff,” Elena rolled her eyes dramatically. I’m almost fifteen, now. Jesus.
“Well, the one with the red hair, she’s the spitting image of Shannon Delain,” Mrs. Seelbaugh crossed around the counter and into the living room, where she opened up the bottom cabinet below the entertainment center. “Girl I went to school with.”
“Shannon... Delain?” Elena asked. She didn’t actually care, but her mother’s habit of gabbing away was always easiest to manage when she feigned appropriate interest in all of those old news ancient history stories of hers as if they would ever be relevant.
“Yeah, Shannon Delain,” Mrs. Seelbaugh slid out a dusty scrapbook and cracked it open. “If she did have a daughter, though, she wouldn’t be your age. I don’t think? When I was first pregnant with you, Shannon was headin’ off to be this big-shot Hollywood actress.”
“That’s… uh, cool?” Elena responded distractedly.
“The resemblance is just uncanny, though.” Mrs. Seelbaugh muttered, pawing through the scrapbook pages. “I wonder whatever happened to her—we were good friends.”
Maybe Tabitha is finally the friend I need, Elena thought, taking a sip of orange juice as she idly watched commercials flash by. The leverage I need.
Her group of girls from Laurel had been broken up into different courses and classes in Springton, and some of them—Carrie in particular—had sold out, toadying up instead to some of the older sophomore and junior cliques. Elena was prepared, she was outgoing, she had all the looks and attitude of a winner, but starting as a freshman at the bottom rung of Springton’s hierarchy had still been an enormous setback for her. Now, this girl, this new Tabby who’d seemed like too much of a gamble before could be her ticket to regain all of that lost social traction.
Tabitha felt sick. Her red hair was pulled into a ponytail which bobbed with each plodding step of her daily morning exercise. She wasn’t in very good form today—as the sun began to rise she was seeing the nauseating reminder of a taped-off crime scene at the lower end of her jogging loop around the trailer park. There was vomit in one of the living room waste baskets shortly after checking the local news, and she planned on skipping breakfast because that urge to retch and dry heave just wasn’t going away.
Jeremy Redford died, because of me, Tabitha grimaced and her pace awkwardly slackened again. Oddly enough, she realized she hadn’t ever put much thought into the shooter these past months, just the shooting. He’d existed in her head somewhat as a plot device, rather than a person. A faceless criminal who’d never been identified, one who quickly disappeared into the annals of history in her last life. Except, this time—because of her actions—his white Lincoln Continental was spotted a little over a mile down South Main, where it led police cruisers on a surprisingly brief high-speed chase.
Which ended abruptly when a cruiser traveling on a perpendicular route T-boned the Continental, violently forcing it out of an intersection, through a curb, sidewalk, and concrete divider, and finally into several parked cars in a shopping plaza. Springton PD had been out for blood, and when that Jeremy Redford of West Virginia stumbled out of his car and fired several wild shots... he was immediately put down in what could only be called a hail of gunfire.
Oooph, Tabitha paled. She felt her throat constrict and she almost threw up again just thinking about it. Their local news on Channel Seven didn’t normally have big, exciting stories, and unsurprisingly they were running variations of the South Main Shooting every hour.
She knew, in a detached way, that exchanging the criminal’s life for the police officer’s was potentially the best outcome. There hadn’t been much of any consideration past that, really. It was the clear-cut right thing to do, in her mind. Despite deciding that, however, feeling directly responsible for the death of the man weighed on her in all the wrong ways, a formless and nauseating pressure. If the police officer had died again, then that was one thing, because maybe that’s just what was originally supposed to happen. Jeremy Redford died specifically because of what she’d done.
That’s not even what I should be worried about… Tabitha lurched to a stop and stood on the sidewalk in the early morning light, stooping over with her hands resting on her knees. She wasn’t even winded by her running routine anymore— no, instead she felt like she’d been punched in the gut.
Alicia knows everything, now. I WAS open about all those library books on purpose, Tabitha told herself, trying to steady her breathing and calm herself down. I DID want her to slowly piece it all together. Then, she’d eventually confront me, and it’d be this big cool reveal. The talk that happened last night was… not cool, it was impulsive and emotional. It was dumb. God, it was so dumb.
Tabitha kicked off, surging back into the angry motion of a sprint to bleed off some of these intense feelings. She hadn’t actually expected Alicia to figure anything out while she was this young. Now, she knew the truth, but didn’t really believe it, which was worst case scenario. If Alicia didn’t completely buy into what had happened to her with coming from the future—well, a future, anyways—she wouldn’t have the seriousness, the gravity of the situation to compel her to keep it secret no matter what.
This could get messy, Tabitha forced herself to lower the pace and measure her footsteps again. No. It IS messy. I knew it would be. But… I tried my best? Officer Macintire’s still in critical condition, but that’s certainly better than bleeding out on route to the hospital, like last time.
Probably? Probably better, Tabitha winced. How long is it safe to be in ‘critical condition’ for? Hours? Days? What defines the condition as not being critical anymore?
While the overall result was better than she’d feared, looking back on it in hindsight, a lot of her planning had evaporated right out of her head in the heat of the moment. She’d intended on reciting the Continental’s license plate number back then when she’d tossed Alicia the radio handset—only to realize that she’d completely missed catching it, and the car was obviously already long gone. For over a month she’d been drilling herself on a plan of specifics, but when it finally happened—her nerves were so taut she never even thought to spare a glance at the license plate.
Likewise, most of the emergency first-aid instruction she’d so carefully studied seemed to vanish like smoke when she’d grasped for them, and only after Officer Williams arrived and began running through basic steps did Tabitha begin to remember. Looking back on it now, there was a certain surreal quality to it all, like watching herself in a dream.
But, it’s whatever. Crisis is over, everything’s done and past, now, Tabitha swallowed, trying to settle her feeling of unease. It’s whatever. Over and done with.
To her surprise, stepping off of the school bus with Alicia and nervously entering Springton High’s campus commons… nothing out of the ordinary happened at all. No one was eyeing her any more than usual, and none of the other students approached her. Despite wanting it to be over and done with, Tabitha couldn’t help but feel like the fallout from this ordeal was still lingering overhead, sure to come down on her at any moment.
Of course they wouldn’t know or even notice! Tabitha realized, almost wanting to laugh at herself. It’s the year nineteen-ninety-eight. There’s no social media. No Myspace or Facebook or Alphapage where everyone’s seeing a story pop up instantly in their feeds. Teenagers aren’t particularly predilected to watch boring news channels in the first place.
If anything, dozens of eyes were on Alicia, this time. Tabitha had gifted her friend one of the blouse prototypes that had been put together over the summer. This particular project started as a short-sleeve cream-colored cocktail dress, that featured a rather lovely lace motif along the neckline and midsection. Though Tabitha absolutely adored the design, it would just never be a color she could wear.
Blouses in shades of cream and tan weren’t, in her opinion, for girls with a skintone as dreadfully pale white as hers. Grandma Laurie had insisted it was fine, that she’d find a look she was comfortable wearing it with, but honestly, it looked so much more amazing on Alicia, like it had been made for her. The girl’s dark skin stood out, directly contrasting the cream lace and embroidery, being at the opposite end of the same natural palette of colors.
“So, is everyone here like, little kids to you?” Alicia leaned in and whispered, sharing a conspiratorial grin. “Since you’re this old lady?” She was sticking close to Tabitha now, awkward and fidgeting excitedly like a skittish young doe at everyone’s new attention to her appearance.
“I’m not an old lady,” Tabitha insisted.
“You are on the inside though, right?” Alicia pressed. “Sixty-year-old granny?”
“I…” Tabitha paused, uncomfortable. I wasn’t a Grandma. Or even ever a Mom. “I did feel that way at first with everything, felt this sort of age gap. Thought of my dad as a young man, felt like the high-schoolers here were just so dreadfully young. But that’s… been going away.”
“Going away like, disappearing?” Alicia blinked at her. “Like, Marty McFly fading out of photos because the future changes kind of disappearing?”
“No, not like that,” Tabitha shook her head, furrowing her brow in concentration. “Or maybe… only a little like that? It’s more like the old lady I was, and the unhappy tubby little trailer trash girl—they’re not who I am anymore. I’m… something I’ve never been before? A new direction, a new, different person…?”
“Huh,” Alicia said, looking around. It seemed like she was in a playful, teasing mood, but she didn’t have a joke to commit to that one.
I have a friend, Tabitha thought, feeling a little surprised. While she and Alicia had been walking rather aimlessly around the quad area’s patio tables, where dozens of students were chatting before first bell, Tabitha only now realized how things must look.
I mean. We were friends before, I think? Hanging out and talking in the library at lunch. But now, we LOOK like we’re friends, to other people. I’ve been wearing these DIY dress tops to school for a while now, and now we’re both wearing them—and people are noticing that. People are noticing I’m not alone, for once.
It was such a trivial distinction, but it shocked Tabitha with how much it meant to her. How far this feeling went in suppressing that ever-present sense of loneliness and not belonging that continued to cling to her despite after everything she’d done to improve herself before the school year.
“You alright?” Alicia seemed to notice Tabitha’s change in expression. “Yesterday was super crazy.”
“Yeah,” Tabitha gave the girl a genuine smile. Then she sighed heavily, still feeling exhausted. “And... yeah.”
“Just to check—you do still have all of your future memories, right?” Alicia asked, still grinning. “Nothing suddenly disappeared, or anything?”
“Not that I can tell,” Tabitha shook her head. “But, I think my local knowledge is going to be a little off from here on out, on account of the butterfly effect.”
“Uh, butterfly effect?”
“Uh, yeah,” Tabitha hesitated, frowning. “It’s a time travel thing, fairly well known in the future. I guess the butterfly effect movie isn’t out for another few years, huh? Ashton Kutcher. It’s about how these tiny differences can potentially snowball into big changes in the future.”
“Ashton Kutcher? Isn’t he the idiot guy on That 70’s Show?” Alicia raised an eyebrow. “Kelso?”
“That 70’s show?” Tabitha turned her head towards her friend suddenly with a muddled look of confusion. “That. Shouldn’t be out yet for a few more years… right?”
“It’s been airing for a while now,” Alicia informed her, giving her a look. “It’s on Fox. Eight-thirty.”
“Maybe I just never saw it until later, when I was older?” Tabitha guessed, giving her friend a sheepish look. “Sorry.”
“You’re a terrible time-traveler,” Alicia chuckled, shaking her head in dismay, “and butterfly effect is a line from the chaos theory thing in the first Jurassic Park, just so you know. Didn’t have anything to do with time travel. You’re not gonna beat me on movie trivia! I’m gonna head over to my class. See you at lunch, Tabs. Thanks again for the shirt!”
“Yeah,” Tabitha made a weak smile. “See you.”
I AM a terrible time-traveler, Tabitha thought, suppressing a groan of frustration. The exchange with Alicia was all helping, though; anything to keep her mind off the man who’d been killed, and the police officer who was likely dying a long, drawn-out death because of her meddling.
I may have seen all nine Jurassic Park movies at some point or another over the years, but I’ve never been able to keep all of the details straight. Didn’t even watch them in order. Trudging on alone to her first period Marine Science class, Tabitha racked her brain trying to recall the movie errata of her last life. If I can think of something REALLY good, it’ll help Alicia believe me.
Nothing sprung to mind.
I DO remember reading an article once, about how on average, there’s a thousand films with major theatrical releases every year in the US. Even assuming that number’s probably halved all the way back here in ninety-eight, the sheer VOLUME is so daunting that—
“Hey,” a tall blonde girl perked up as soon as Tabitha rounded the corner to arrive at her Marine Science class. She recognized the girl, sort of—they’d exchanged words briefly once, on one of the very first days of school.
“...Hi,” Tabitha froze in place, giving the girl a wary look.
“Tabitha? Tubby Tabby?” the girl laughed, showing her a playful smile. “We had a couple random classes together back in Laurel. I’m Elena—Elena Seelbaugh.”