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Tabula Rasa (Prologue Only)

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When Garcia Flynn was a boy, his memory of Lucy Preston had been fleeting.

As he got older, it became apparent that his memories of her weren’t figments of his imagination. They had actually happened to him at various points in time – in the past, and the future.

Lucy Preston was real, and for years he had no idea how to find her, or if he should. Was she from this life? Or was she from an alternate reality? He never knew for sure.

He didn’t tell anyone about her, except one drunken night in Baku with Karl in 2010. Karl joked with Garcia about not being very interested in dating, and asked him why. Drunk, Garcia told Karl that he was in love with a woman named Lucy Preston. He had never met her, but he’s known of her since he was a child. He told Karl about how he’d seen himself with her, married to her, and as a father of a baby girl. He even told Karl all about the memories he had of traveling through time in some sphere-shaped time machine.

Karl, of course, was an ass about it. He laughed at Garcia’s stories, and shrugged them off as the ramblings of a drunken man, and handed Garcia another beer.

It’s ironic then that it was Karl who called him last week, and told him that a woman named Lucy Preston had contacted him. She needed Karl to create an identity for her. Not a false identity, but one using her real name. It made no sense, but Karl remembered her name, and the story Garcia had told him in Baku.

So, here he is tonight, Christmas Eve, 2023, standing outside Portola’s Bar & Restaurant in downtown San Francisco. He’s no longer a child reveling in the memory of Lucy Preston. He’s a man of 48 years, watching her through the window as he stands outside in the cold, and she sits alone at the bar.

Was it preordained that his path would one day cross with hers?

He watches Lucy fidget with the necklace she wears around her neck.

Garcia looks up at the clouds which obscure the typically beautiful sunset. San Francisco is supposed to see snowfall tonight. He rubs his hands together and breathes into them to make them warm. He gazes through the window again, looking at Lucy as she brushes the back of her hand against her cheek. His heart aches when he realizes that she’s crying.

He sighs as he checks the inner pocket of his jacket, making sure that the journal he brought with him is still there.

The door to Portola’s opens and a small group of college students file out onto the sidewalk, wishing him a Merry Christmas” as they pass him. He smiles and wishes them the same as he makes his way inside. Pat Boone’s rendition of The First Noël floats through the air, and he’s hit with nostalgia strong enough to have him craving hot cocoa and cinnamon as he sits cross-legged in front of his grandmother’s Christmas tree in Mostar when he was just a boy.

He makes his way to Lucy.

Is she as beautiful as he’s always remembered?

Will she speak and understand Croatian as she had in his memories?

Does she have memories of him too?

He doesn’t know.

But he does understand that the memory he has of Lucy finding him at a bar in São Paulo nine years ago never happened. He never married Lorena Casey, and they never had a daughter named iris.

And they were never murdered.

The darkness that he inherited from his memories still haunts him to this day. So, when he met Lorena in 2004, he knew that he couldn’t bring that darkness into her life, and he walked away.

He was supposed to meet Lucy in that bar in Brazil nine years ago, but it didn’t happen. He smiles as he considers that perhaps they were always meant to meet in a bar on Christmas Eve.

Kismet.

Fate.

Garcia smiles as he approaches her.

His heart pounds in his chest.

The Christmas lights twinkle behind the bar as Lucy watches the bartender wipe down glasses with his back turned to her. She takes a sip out of the glass in front of her and carefully sets it back down on its coaster as Bing Crosby’s melancholy Silent Night plays.

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin, mother and child
Holy infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace…

“Sretan Božić,” he greets her with ‘Merry Christmas’ in Croatian. “Is this seat taken?” He asks, glancing down at her hand which rests on the bar.

His heart is in his throat when he sees that she is wearing a wedding ring on her finger. For a moment, he doubts his own memories of her loving him. What if everything he remembers of her is wrong? What if she’s married to someone else?

Lucy turns her head and looks up at him with tears sparkling in her eyes, and a smile on her face. Without a word, she gestures to the seat beside her. Garcia sits, placing his hands together in front of him on the bar, weaving his fingers together.

He remembers their life together.

He remembers everything they’ve been through together even though those things technically never actually happened. Because if they had then time travel, him assassinating Lincoln, listening to Robert Johnson record his songs, braving the desert heat of Saudi Arabia in 1938, first kissing Lucy after surviving the Titanic, meeting Nikola Tesla, the fateful night of Paul Revere’s ‘Midnight Ride,’ all would have happened by now. Instead, his life – aside from these memories – has been relatively normal.

Could this Lucy remember those things too?

He doesn’t know.

He has no memory of coming to Portola’s tonight, and sitting next to her at this bar.

This never happened in his memories.

She’s looking at him as if she expects him to partake in small talk, but he doesn’t know what to say. He’s thought about meeting her so many times. He’s played out scenarios of how it might go, and now that she’s sitting next to him waiting for him to say something, well… he finds he can’t say anything at all.

All he knows is that he’s loved her almost all his life.

And that nothing he remembers of his life with her is guaranteed.

He takes a breath, closes his eyes, and opens his mouth to speak.