I stood on the red X that had been painted on the floor at the dead center of the room and barely heard the door scraping closed behind me. My eyes closed, then snapped open again. My hands disappeared into my pockets and then escaped to hang by my sides seconds later.
I took a deep, steadying breath and closed my eyes again. It was only a matter of time now. I heard the equipment embedded in the walls around me roar to life and smiled.
"I'm on my way Julie," I whispered.
The heat, as always, was so intense that it seemed as though I was being transported to hell. I suppose, in my way, I was. A hell of my own choosing, unable to walk away from that one fateful day and move on with my life. As though there could be life without my Julie.
The heat was replaced by a stiff ocean breeze so suddenly that I swayed drunkenly before regaining my balance with windmilling arms. My eyes opened eagerly, not wanting to waste a single precious second.
And there she was. My heart twisted painfully in my chest, just as it did the time before, and the time before that. I could never tire of that moment.
She stood thirty feet away leaning on the wooden railing of the wharf, her waist-length brown hair flying in the wind behind her like a flag. Her sweater pushed tight against her body, her eyes staring at the waves crashing, crashing, crashing below her.
I wanted to run to her, to sweep her up in my arms, to give her one last, lingering kiss... but that would have been against the rules. They would never let me return there if I broke their beloved rules. No moving. No talking. No interference.
But what if I didn't want to leave that beach? What if I didn't want to go back to the joyless present? What would happen if I grabbed her hand and told her that she couldn't drive to her family reunion the following day because she would never make it there alive?
Would they send someone after me to bring me back, to set history back in its proper place so that the present could carry on like normal?
I didn't want things to be normal anymore.
The realization slammed into my chest and I stumbled backwards, off the glowing red X on the wharf that I had been standing on. I stared down at it and knew that I would never stand in that spot again.
I looked up at Julie and began running toward her.