She’s got dark red lipstick and long dark eyelashes, curled, and accented with perfectly-applied eyeliner. Her eyes are a bit brighter than you thought you’d seen in the vids, but she was putting on a show for them and she’s not doing it for you. You like to think she’s just genuinely happy to see you, like you are to find her sitting at the foot of your bed with Frigglish on her lap. She’s wearing what you can only categorize as a super-banging science suit that hugs her curves that you are impatiently waiting to inherit.
It takes far longer than you’d like to admit before you realize she isn’t your mother.
You sit lotus-style across from each other at the tiny pink table in the lab, the little chairs that were once just the right size for you pushed to the side. The pink plastic cat-print tea set sits -- unused for some time now -- in the middle, while the two of you sip colourful drinks from martini glasses. She slips three-inch pumps from unharmed nylons and sits them beside her while she sips, leaving lipstick on the side.
“You look like you stepped out of one of those mad-scientist movies from the nineteen-sixties,” you say to her, shifting to hug your legs like a little girl meeting her idol for the first time. Actually, you feel just like that: small, starry-eyed and helpless, all thumbs and left feet. “All hyper-sexy lab lady who steals Mister Bond’s evidence that you’re secretly the villain as he slips into a drug-induced coma.”
“Aw yeah, that’s exactly what I was going for,” she replies, her eyes lit up bright like yours. “All things-man-was-not-meant-to-know The Blob I-am-no-man power-woman, hear me roar! The shoulder pads are more nineteen-nineties though,” she sips. “Back when you needed a dude’s authoritative shoulders to be a leader but had to keep the pencil skirt and heels. I couldn’t really let it go when it went out of style. I am all about the powerful-feminine stuff. It’s funny how easy men will underestimate a lady.” She winks at you like she’s sharing a secret, and you take her words, wrap them up, and hide them somewhere deep inside your heart.
She’s everything you ever could have hoped you would be, and the realization that she is you and not in fact your mother is equal parts reassuring and unsettling. It means that your reunification with the woman who you believe may be the only one who could ever love you is going to be longer in coming. There’s the fear that you won’t turn out nearly as cool as this alternate universe future self of yours. On her end, she sighs and says “oh, to be young again,” like every adult in the movies say. “I was so cute,” she says, and reaches over to pinch your cheek. It aches a bit, but you don’t really mind.
There’s a long silence between you, a polite and amused little smile on other-you’s lips before you admit it. “I thought for a while there that you were my mom. I mean your mom. Er, our mom.”
She just laughs a little. “I didn’t have a mom, actually,” she says, and a dream-Frigglish rubs up against her back and her free hand reaches to stroke him as he passes. “Might have been nice. Then maybe I would have had a better idea of what I’m doing.” She lets out a sigh and her hand wraps around Frigglish’s tail until he leaves her reach. “I guess this might be some sort of cautionary tale about your future self. Ghost of Christmas Future, except the moral of the story isn’t so much that you’re dead as much as you screwed up. Oh my god,” your eyes meet and she puts her hand over her mouth to stifle nervous laughter, her eyebrows pinching apologetically. “I’m not saying you’re going to screw up like I did! God, I’m sorry. No, you’ve got lots to learn and lots of different circumstances I’m sure. I bet you’re from another timeline entirely, aren’t you? Monochrome opaque tights were definitely not something I would have worn when I was your age.” She sighs and adds, “it’s like I’m your really embarrassing future mom-self,” before tossing back the last of her appletini.
“And I’m your shameful child-self,” you tell her as you scratch Frigglish’s chin and he drops on the floor next to you, purring loud. “Here with embarrassing hairstyles and fashions and stupid problems.”
“Hey those problems are still important you know, and don’t let anyone tell you different,” she says, pointing a manicured finger at you as she places her empty glass on the table. “Don’t feel bad about feeling intensely about things. Even the super dumb things. Especially the dumb things. Just because they don’t seem to matter later doesn’t mean they’re not still important.”
You’re not too sure about that, and you guess your skepticism shows on your face because she looks at you and sits up a bit. She slides across the printed rug on her butt, pulling herself on her hands and her ankles before she’s seated next to you, quite a bit taller but not as much as you would have thought. Frigglish skitters away when she gets near, and you can see now that you’re well on your way to what she will become. What you wouldn’t give right now for a mirror, to see it for yourself.
She pulls her arm around you and cards her hands through your hair, tugging you gently over until you have your face in her boob. She doesn’t seem to mind, so you wrap your arms around her waist and she leans her head against yours. She smells like flowery perfume and baby powder, and not at all like alcohol. Maybe leaning into her boobs like this is weird. Maybe you should feel weird, but you don’t. You feel weird that you don’t feel weird about it.
“I used to have a rule,” she murmurs, her arms looped around your shoulders and something deep in your stomach uncoils, warm and satisfied at last. This one hug feels better than anything.. “Never put booze in the teapot.”
“Me too,” you say into her chest. “It’s a good rule.”
You stay like that for a while before the lab starts rippling around the edges, which is some sort of sign that the dream is ending, you guess. You’re not sure how to tell since dreams were never really your thing. Maybe future-you is better with dreams though, since she speaks.
“Say hi to Rose for me, if you see her.”
“Sure,” you mutter into her chest, her lab jacket is softer than it looks. “I saw her. She looks good. She - I think she’s okay.”
“That’s good,” mom-you says, and leans back. She puts her hands on your face and brushes your hair from your eyes and you look at each other. “She loves you.”
“Yeah,” you say, but your voice cracks. Your other self catches a tear on her thumb before you realize they’ve even started to spill over. “She loves you, too.”
Her smile is so sad you wonder if she’s going to cry, herself. “I hope so,” she says, and leans in to kiss your cheek before she starts turning into a fuzzy, foggy mess of the dream itself. “Take care of yourself,” she adds, her voice coming out garbled like adults from the Peanuts cartoon. “You have a lot of game to play.”
You know what she means because you know she understands you. She knows how sad and lonely you get, because she gets sad and lonely too. But she makes it, she made it, and you can make it too.
You’re not sure if you were supposed to see your other self in your dreams like that. It feels really A Sound of Thunder butterfly-stepping risky business, but it happened to you anyway and you refuse to give it back. You take the things that man-was-not-meant-to-know into your heart and let the dream fall out around you, remembering her touch, her hug, and her fingers against your cheek.
“I am no man,” you whisper, and wake up.