Home > The Time Traveler's Wife(11)

The Time Traveler's Wife(11)
Audrey Niffenegger

"I don't know  "

"That's okay, you don't need to get them right now. But if you bring some next time I come, it would be very nice." "Next time?"

I find an unused piece of stationery and a pencil. I print in block letters: Thursday, September 29,1977 After supper. I hand Clare the paper, and she receives it cautiously. My vision is blurring. I can hear Etta calling Clare. "It's a secret, Clare, okay?"

"Why?"

"Can't tell. I have to go, now. It was nice to meet you. Don't take any wooden nickels." I hold out my hand and Clare takes it, bravely. As we shake hands, I disappear.

Wednesday, February 9, 2000 (Clare is 28, Henry is 36) Clare: It's early, about six in the morning and I'm sleeping the thin dreamy sleep of six in the morning when Henry slams me awake and I realize he's been elsewhen. He materializes practically on top of me and I yell, and we scare the shit out of each other and then he starts laughing and rolls over and I roll over and look at him and realize that his mouth is bleeding profusely. I jump up to get a washcloth and Henry is still smiling when I get back and start daubing at his lip.

"How'd that happen?"

"You threw a shoe at me." I don't remember ever throwing anything at Henry. "Did not."

"Did too. We just met for the very first time, and as soon as you laid eyes on me you said, 'That's the man I'm going to marry,' and you pasted me one. I always said you were an excellent judge of character."

Thursday, September 29, 1977 (Clare is 6, Henry is 35)

Clare: The calendar on Daddy's desk this morning said the same as the paper the man wrote. Nell was making a soft egg for Alicia and Etta was yelling at Mark cause he didn't do his homework and played Frisbee with Steve. I said Etta can I have some clothes from the trunks? meaning the trunks in the attic where we play dress up, and Etta said What for? and I said I want to play dress up with Megan and Etta got mad and said It was time to go to school and I could worry about playing when I got home. So I went to school and we did adding and mealworms and language arts and after lunch French and music and religion. I worried all day about pants for the man cause he seemed like he really wanted pants. So when I got home I went to ask Etta again but she was in town but Nell let me lick both the beaters of cake batter which Etta won't let us because you get salmon. And Mama was writing and I was gonna go away without asking but she said What is it, Baby? so I asked and she said I could go look in the Goodwill bags and have anything I wanted. So I went to the laundry room and looked in the Goodwill bags and found three pairs of Daddy's pants but one had a big cigarette hole. So I took two and I found a white shirt like Daddy wears to work and a tie with fishes on it and a red sweater. And the yellow bathrobe that Daddy had when I was little and it smelled like Daddy. I put the clothes in a bag and put the bag in the mud-room closet. When I was coming out of the mud room Mark saw me and he said What are you doing, asshole? And I said Nothing, asshole and he pulled my hair and I stepped on his foot really hard and then he started to cry and went to tell. So I went up to my room and played Television with Mr. Bear and Jane where Jane is the movie star and Mr. Bear asks her about how it is being a movie star and she says she really wants to be a veterinarian but she is so incredibly pretty she has to be a movie star and Mr. Bear says maybe she could be a veterinarian when she's old. And Etta knocked and said Why are you stepping on Mark? and I said Because Mark pulled my hair for no reason and Etta said You two are getting on my nerves and went away so that was okay. We ate dinner with just Etta because Daddy and Mama went to a party. It was fried chicken with little peas and chocolate cake and Mark got the biggest piece but I didn't say anything because I licked the beaters. So after dinner I asked Etta if I could go outside and she said did I have homework and I said Spelling and bring leaves for art class, and she said Okay as long as you come in by dark. So I went and got my blue sweater with the zebras and I got the bag and I went out and went to the clearing. But the man wasn't there and I sat on the rock for a while and then I thought I better get some leaves. So I went back to the garden and found some leaves from Mama's little tree that she told me later was Ginkgo, and some leaves from the Maple and the Oak. So then I went back to the clearing he still wasn't there and I thought Well, I guess he just made up that he was coming and he didn't want pants so bad after all. And I thought maybe Ruth was right cause I told her about the man and she said I was making it up because people don't disappear in real life only on TV. Or maybe it was a dream like when Buster died and I dreamed he was okay and he was in his cage but I woke up and no Buster and Mama said Dreams are different than real life but important too. And it was getting cold and I thought maybe I should just leave the bag and if the man came he could have his pants. So I was walking back up the path and there was this noise and somebody said Ouch. Dang, that hurt. And then I was scared.

Henry: I kind of slam into the rock when I appear and scrape my knees. I am in the clearing and the sun is setting beautifully in a spectacular J. M. W. Turner blowout orange and red over the trees. The clearing is empty except for a shopping bag full of clothes and I rapidly deduce that Clare has left these and this is probably a day shortly after our first meeting. Clare is nowhere in sight and I call her name softly. No response. I dig through the bag of clothes. There's the pair of chinos and the beautiful pair of brown wool trousers, a hideous tie with trout all over it, the Harvard sweater, the oxford-cloth white shirt with ring around the collar and sweat stains under the arms, and the exquisite silk bathrobe with Philip's monogram and a big tear over the pocket. All these clothes are old friends, except for the tie, and I'm happy to see them. I don the chinos and the sweater and bless Clare's apparently hereditary good taste and sense. I feel great; except for the lack of shoes I'm well equipped for my current location in spacetime. "Thanks, Clare, you did a great job " I call softly. I am surprised when she appears at the entrance to the clearing. It's getting dark quickly and Clare looks tiny and scared in the half light.

"Hi."

"Hi, Clare. Thanks for the clothes. They're perfect, and they'll keep me nice and warm tonight." "I have to go in soon."

"That's okay, it's almost dark. Is it a school night?"

"Uh-huh." "What's the date?"

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