The Matryoshka Curse. Ch 3.

That evening I sat at my kitchen table doing as much research as I possibly could for my working day on Monday. My husband still wasn’t home from work which was a good thing – not seeing him gave me more time to prepare meeting him and pretending I had been married to him for twenty something years. I was currently working on a film called Blue, and it was at the filming stages so I didn’t have to worry about writing any of the content, thank goodness! The studio was in South Melbourne in a tiny little laneway I hadn’t heard of before. Gray Studios. Nice.
When my future husband eventually came home from work it was ten in the evening and I was tucked into bed reading a book on my ipad. He kissed me on the forehead, asked me how I was, and kicked off his work shoes, and then pushed off his socks with his feet, first his left sock, and then his right sock. He loosened the tie around his neck before hanging it on his tie rack, and then undid his buttons on his work shirt. And there was one thought going through my mind – I have to kiss and make love to this man – oh dear. When he was down to just his briefs, he pulled back the doona and slid into bed beside me. He was silent while he kissed my shoulders and I froze with the touch of a strangers lips on my bare skin. I was in a nightie, one with very thin shoulder straps.
“How was your day?” He asks, getting a view of the back of my head, some of my face, and the whole of my ipad screen while he asks this over my shoulder.
“It was good. I went into the city this morning with an old friend and we had some work done.” I say, going with half of the truth.
“James did mention that. Let me look at you.” He says and I roll over and look at him. He is the most handsome fifty eight year old man I have ever seen, evidently, he has had work done too. His smile is pristine, his eyes are bluer than the bluest of oceans, and his hair – wow – salt and pepper like those older male models.
“Belinda! You look stunning. Oh wow. Whole face was it? You look not a second different to the Belinda I knew when I first met you.”
“Thank you darling. I’m glad you like it.” I say, thinking of the kinds of words a married woman would use when speaking to her partner.
“Did it cost much?” He looks scared when asking.
“Only forty thousand. Not much at all.” I say, remembering I’m a millionnaire with an amazing income.
“Oh, that’s actually not bad. I thought it would be a lot higher than that. My nose alone was twenty thousand…” He says.
“Ah yes, I remember, I say, as though I actually remember.
“And the microdermabrasion was seven, the fillers came to two grand, the eyelid lift I had was around five wasn’t it?” He ponders for a moment.
“Yes, I think so,” I say, going along with it.
“I still remember when I first met you too. We were in the city, both standing on Platform One at Flinders Street Station. It was 2016, I think. Such a long time ago. You were young. Working a crappy job, and I was still working for Dad.”
“I remember. How time flies.” I say, going along with the reverie of his, and what should be mine as well, but isn’t.
“You were wearing a brown trench coat, with black tights and a black beanie. It was June, I think. Freezing cold. And the tiles were icy and slippery, and you fell and landed on your bum. I remember, I saw the whole thing.” He chuckles to himself.
“Yes, that’s right, I fell backwards and landed on my bottom, I did.” I say, a bit weirded out by the fact that that is exactly how I started my morning and the whole I-had-some-work-done story was just a camouflage for why I looked so young when I was supposed to be fifty seven years old.
“I came over to you and held out my hand to help you up. And you took it, and you stood up and looked around like you were in a daze and you wondered why everything appeared so weird. I didn’t see you hit your head, but I think you may have because you were a bit disoriented.”
“I was.” I say, this time my response stemmed from genuine feelings of disorientation that I had experienced just this morning.
“So we became friends, and I took you home where your parents were in Preston. Your old house.”
“You did. You were so sweet to me that day.” I say.
I’m freaked out by his story because I was wearing black tights and a trench coat and a beanie today. I hope to God he doesn’t see them in the washing basket when he does the washing. I make a mental note to throw them in the bin as soon as I wake up the next day. I can’t wait for it to be morning again so I can call Sophie and tell her about how I first met my future husband.
“I love you Bel.” He says and kisses me softly.
“I love you too.” I say, not meaning it at all.
“What’s my name?” He asks playfully. Oh shit. I have no idea what his name is because nobody has said it today. Not even once.
“Umm honey.” I giggle, to show that I’m being playful.
“Wrong.” A kiss on my cheek.
“Umm darling.” I guess again.
“Nope.” A kiss on my collar bone.
“Umm, sweetie pie.” I say.
“No, not even close.” A kiss on my nose.
I see a ballpoint pen on his bedside table, the lamp on my side glinting off the gold engraving on the side of it.
“Richard.” I say, smiling because I finally know my future husband’s name.
“Bingo.” He says, and he kisses me on the lips so violently that I’m shocked, and he is actually a really good kisser.

Richard is in the kitchen making himself breakfast when I come downstairs in my silk dressing gown rubbing the sleep out of my eyes.
“How did you sleep?” He asks me, and then kisses me on the lips.
“Well. You?” I look at the eggs he is cooking. Yum. When was the last time I had eggs
on sourdough?
“Well. Really well.” He gives me a cheeky smile, and then winks and slaps my bum.
I go to the fridge and find the orange juice, pour myself some and sit down at the table. The table switches itself on and I tap on an icon that shows me magazines. When was the last time I read a magazine?
“Want your eggs runny or hard?” Richard asks me.
“Hard please.” I say, not looking up.
“I could turn that into something dirty but I won’t.” Richard chuckles.
“Good. Don’t.” I say, hating dirty jokes.
“What time do you start tomorrow?” He asks.
“Seven.” I say, knowing the time because I had already sussed it out with my kitchen table/secretary.
“Early one then.” He says, sitting down at the table with two plates of food and handing me one of the plates and some cutlery.
“Yep. We have a few scenes to re-do today. Stuffed them up on Friday night so yeah.” I say.
“Where’s James?” Richard asks.
“I haven’t seen him this morning.” I say.
“I haven’t either. Maybe he is at Katrina’s.”
“Maybe. I’ll call him later on and see how he is.”
“He was worried about you yesterday.”
“I know he was. It was probably all my fault. I was acting a little strange.”
“He said you sounded like you had dementia. Like you didn’t know anything about yourself or your life or even what year it was.”
“I think it was a side effect of the numbing stuff they gave me. They said it happens to everyone. But I’m fine now. I remember everything.” I say.
“What day is it?”
“Sunday.” I give him a weird look.
“What year?”
“2046.”
“Where do we live?”
“12 Barkers Road, Upper Plenty.”
“What do you do for work?”
“I’m a screenwriter.” I smile. I like the sound of that.
“Are you freelance or are you employed by a company?”
“I’m so good at what I do that I employ myself.” I smile. No companies for me.
“Okay, I am convinced you are right as rain. No dementia here.” Richard smiles and chews his food he has just taken off his fork.
“I think I’ll cycle today. The day is nice.”
“It is. Who will you go with?” I ask, knowing cycling is a group thing.
“The usual people.” He says.
“I might head over to Sophie’s house.” I say.
“Sophie? Who’s Sophie? The same Sophie you haven’t seen in like twenty five years?”
“Yep, we recently got back in touch. She has split from her partner and is finding things a bit tough. She needs an old pal to boost her up a bit.” I say.
“Sounds like she doesn’t have many friends if you ask me, whereas you have plenty.”
“I do. But I can’t shun an old one.” I wink and smile.
“Ah, so kind and caring you are. That is why I married you. You wonderful creature.” Richard grabs my hand and kisses it. He smiles. And despite being a complete stranger to me I smile too. He is a kind man.

May, 2016.

Fuck. This floor is slippery. Flinders Street Station is always so dangerous. Tiled floors are hazardous in winter. Why the people who work at the station don’t know this by now, is beyond me. And I have just jinxed myself because I have just fallen backwards onto my bottom in front of a rushing crowd full of people. How embarrassing.
I look up. Richard is standing in front of me holding out his hand.
“Oh hello. Thanks.” I say, taking his hand. He helps me up and I look around. Everything around me looks so old fashioned, so outdated. Exactly how I remember it when I first met Richard. Oh gosh. This was how we met. I fell down at the station and he helped me up. Oh my God. My life is going in circles. Why does it keep doing this? How many times do I have to live my life before I stop going back to 2016? And how many times must I fall over at Flinders Street Station to wind up in the future?
Okay, so maybe this has only happened once before? Because the first time it happened I was meeting Richard for the first time. And now it has happened again so what’s that? The second time? Act like I don’t know him. Act like we just met.
“Richard.” He says. I’m smiling and straightening my beanie. I’m wearing a beanie. Wait, what? Why am I wearing a beanie? Oh, it’s raining. It must be winter. Damn. I was enjoying the hot weather 2046 was having.
“Belinda. Nice to meet you” I say.
“Nice to meet you. Wish we met in a better way. Uni or work?” He asks.
“I was going to work. You?” I have to quickly remember what I was doing with my life when I was 26 years old. I was selling clothes in the city and paying rent in a small apartment.
“Yep, same. Work. Heading there now. Can I grab your number?” He asks.
“Yeah sure. No worries.” He hands me his phone and I type my number into his phone. I’m so tempted to save it as “Your Future Wife” but he doesn’t know that about me, and neither should I.
He walks off. I’m certain he will call. We are married with a son called James. He will definitely call. I pull out my compact mirror. If I’m fifty-seven why do I look twenty six? And then I remember. I have had some work done. The older me has.
I look inside my handbag for a mobile phone. Ofcourse I don’t have one. We don’t have phones in 2046. Shit. I better go to a phone store and buy one then. What year is it? 2016? Facebook still exists right? What shop did I work at? I’ll have to run in there and tell them what has happened.
I walk the rest of the way to work – I was going to go through the city loop but I want to dawdle for as long as possible. I eventually get to work after spending forty minutes marvelling at all the people, the streets and the cars. It’s all exactly as I remember it. Cars still have wheels, and myki still exists. I walk into the shop to find my manager looking at me – she’s giving me the death stare.
“Why are you so late?” She asks me.
“I’m sorry I’m late. My phone was stolen on the train. I had to report it to the PSO’s.” Boy am I lucky I remember that abbreviation. Don’t ask me what it means but I know it’s those cop-wannabes commuters are supposed to report things to.
“Oh, that’s actually no good. I’m sorry for your bad luck.” She has changed her tone.
“I’ll go buy a new one on my lunch break.” I say.
“At least your contacts are all synced right?”
“Nope, I had a Samsung. No Apple for me.” I say.
“Shit. That’s even worse. You’ll have to get everyone’s numbers again.”
“I’ll post a status on facebook for them.” I say.
“Clock in.” That’s the end of her being friendly.
Come one o’clock I walk to the nearest Telstra Store and buy another Samsung. It’s exactly like the phone I had when I was twenty six. I funnily enough still remember how to use it too. It’s weird not having a chip in my hand and behind my ear. I’m so used to saying “call Richard” or “call James”, having to do it myself and actually call Richard or text him, is just weird.

When I finish work, I hop on the train and get off at Preston Station. Was I living alone by this stage or was I in my apartment? I can’t remember. I call Sophie as soon as she messages me her mobile number.
“Sophie! Are you okay? What is going on?” I ask her, hoping she is going through the same thing.
“Oh my God, boy am I glad to hear from you. Bel, what is going on? I was sitting at my desk marking assignments, and then all of a sudden I wasn’t. We’ve gone back in time haven’t we? Because everything is exactly how I remember it. Everything on Facebook is so accurate. Facebook has helped me piece today together. I’ve been looking at who all my friends are, and my messages, and all of my photos. My last status update was yesterday.”
“Was it? I haven’t had time to check facebook. I’ve been at work all day.”
“Work? What? That crappy clothing store you used to work at years ago?”
“Yep. That one. It was a holiday. Piece of cake.” I say.
“I bet it was. Just remember you haven’t started making millions yet, so you had better get used to being broke and getting Centrelink.”
“Can you remember if I was living at home or alone by now?”
“You had moved out and into your apartment, by this stage, I think.”
“So if I go to my apartment, that will be where I live right?”
“I think so. But how are you gonna get in? Do you have the key?”
“Key for what?”
“The front door.”
“Oh shit. We used keys back then didn’t we? Oh my goodness, I completely forgot. Good thing you told me. I was just going to be standing there waving my hand across the door like a total idiot.”
“I’ve got your spare key, if you wanna swing by.” Sophie says.
“Yeah, thanks. Will do. Good thing you used to live around the corner. See you soon.”

***
“For a fifty-seven year old woman you are looking amazing!” I say giving Sophie the tighest hug, and then sitting down on her bed next to her.
“I could say the same thing about you.” She winks. We had our plastic surgery together once we realised that revisiting the past was a repetitive thing.
“So what now?” I ask her.
“Become our future selves, I guess.” Sophie shrugs her shoulders.
“Again? I’ve already done it once. Giving birth to James was a nightmare. And I have to do that again? My God.”
“Mentally you’ll be an old woman for a few weeks, but don’t worry. Your body has been fooled. Your body thinks it’s young. Your body has travelled backward remember?”
“Yes, I know all of that, but still, I had bad knees this morning. Just the memory of being an old woman makes me feel like one.” I laugh.
“I know what you mean. My poor cats. They are going to miss me terribly. Who will look after them while I’m gone?” Sophie asks.
“You will.” I smile.
“Hmm, that’s right. The younger me will. The younger me who has no idea when their dinnertime even is!”
“Our younger selves really had no idea, did they?”
“Nope. None. Whatsoever.”
“I’m crashing at yours. I so can’t be bothered going home on a day like today. I’ll call in sick tomorrow.”
“Me too. And we can spend tomorrow together doing research. Researching our younger years. How time flies. I have forgotten so much of it.”
“I met Richard today. For the second time. It was exactly how I remember it.” I say.
“Did you give him your number?”
“I did. Oh my God. I totally did! How did I remember it after all these years? I didn’t even stop and think. I just put it straight into his phone.” I am floored.
“Maybe your memory is better than you think it is?”
“Maybe.” I say.

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