My name is Shayna. I lived, loved, bore children, grew old. Like my mother and grandmother before me, age touched me gently, leaving my hair black, my eyes bright and my skin unwrinkled. Those unaware of my true age thought me not much older than my full-grown children. It was a life lived to the full, and it was a good one.
One day, I opened a door meaning to enter the kitchen. Instead, I found myself outside. Tall trees grew up, interspersed between buildings, cars honked at students crossing with no regards to the traffic, and pedestrians wandered slowly among stands bearing produce, flowers, and other commodities. The scene seemed familiar to my eyes, but I could not place it. Bewildered, I looked around. There, inspecting a bouquet of flowers, stood a familiar figure. I instantly recognized the tall frame, black curly hair, and the colourful flowing clothing that only Kira could pull off. She glanced casually in my direction, and then dropping the flowers, ran my way. Catching me in an embrace, she spun me round and round. I couldn't catch my breath from the embrace, smothered not only by the tears and laugher pouring out me, but also by shock. This was the Kira I remembered, not the one I saw three months ago. She was young again, her hair still long and curly, not cut short and practical like it is now. Where was I? Did we all die without my knowing? Why was I here? How did I get here? And if this was indeed the past, then where was my present self?
We laughed and embraced wildly, overjoyed to see each other as always. I had missed my dear friend of my youth who now lives far away. But why was she so happy to see me? Questions raced through my mind, piling up, trying to spill through my mouth. Then all thought stopped as a familiar voice called Kira's name.
I knew that voice and knew it well. For forty years that voice had whispered goodnight and good morning, prayed over supper, children and bed each day, told me jokes, murmured soft words when I was upset. Then one day, mere months ago, that voice stopped. He wasn't coming back. I played back old videos desperate to hear his voice just one more time. Now in this strange place, I heard his voice again.
He walked up to Kira distracted, not noticing our joyous dance. Then suddenly, he saw me. His mouth gaped, whispering my name as if in prayer. Our eyes locked, both filled with tears and we stepped slowly towards each other. He was young again, hair brown and full, though still short. I knew that whenever I was, it was before our marriage for he sported only a mustache, not the full beard he grew later. Tears poured down my face, my eyes locked to his, our fingertips touching. Oblivious to the world around us, we stood there staring. Then with a jolt, we came back to ourselves.
They picked up their parcels and we began to walk. The longer we walked, the more I recognized, until at last I saw the house we had all lived in as students. As we climbed the steps to the big wooden door, I wondered at both their joy in my arrival and their lack of questions. I had lived with them, so why were they so excited to see me? And why didn't they pepper me with questions? The contradictions were bewildering. But wary of touchy topics and/or creating a time paradox, I kept my mouth shut.
The house was as I remembered it, my room the same as it had been. It looked much more tidy than normal, as if it had been untouched for months. I settled into a routine, working as an assistant at a bakery, a dream job of mine. Shortly after I arrived, he proposed and we began to plan our wedding. Life proceeded much as it had done the first time round. I did make some changes though with all the wisdom of hindsight. I kept my wedding vows the same, but ordered a cake, something I had always regretted not having. Fear gripped me less and being much older than my assumed age of twenty-something, I made wiser choices. The longer I stayed in this time, the younger I began to look and feel. It was a strange, but welcome change. My body had not liked being old.
My love graduated from university and got a job, just like last time. We said goodbye to Kira and the lovely house we had shared. We started a family, this time I decided to have one more child than last time. By now, I had given up worrying about altering history and just had fun remaking choices. Some things I did the same, others not so much. I think I was a much better wife and mother this time round, although I'm sure I made some new mistakes too. Whatever I was, whenever I was, perfect was not part of the description. But love was. Our house was filled with love and there was much less fear this time around.
We grew old again, my love and I. It was a grand adventure for I treasured every minute spent with him. Losing him once gave me new insight and care for my dear one. I regretted my harsh words to him previously and strove to make up for it. We laughed more, and spent more time investing in meaningful relationships than just trying to scrape by like before. It was better. Not perfect, but better. I was joyful.
Then one cold wintry day while washing dishes, he breathed his last. I had known the time was soon, but it was still hard. I mourned my dearly beloved even more deeply this time than the last. I took to my bed until spring and then slowly returned to life. At least this time I had a better idea of what to do, where to find help. After taking part in grief counselling, I began to bake again and invite over neighbours for tea. Investing in people helped. My grandchildren were a great comfort to me and I poured much into them. Although I missed him every day, the grief lost its sting. Life took on colour and vibrancy again.
One day, while making cookies, I walked into the walk-in pantry meaning to fetch some flour. Instead, I found myself outside.
Joining my prose with the rest