Imagining painting helps a little, but my freak-out only halts when my ring starts blinking.
Startled, I stare down at the silvery band around my right pinky, which is shimmering in loops. My first thought is that it’s some kind of LED thing, meant for showing off in nightclubs. But if metal tabs on my jacket create holographic computers, what might this do?
So I reach over and tentatively give the ring a tap. The glow swirls out, a miniature spotlight, and a hologram takes shape in the space in front of me. I’m startled for the one instant it takes me to recognize the face painted in the silver-blue shimmer: “Theo!”
“Marguerite!” He grins, relief shining from him as brilliantly as the hologram beams. “It is you, right?”
“It’s me. Oh, my God, you made it. You’re alive. I was so scared.”
“Hey.” His voice can sound so warm, when he wants it to; for all Theo’s faux arrogance—and his real arrogance—he sees more about people than he lets on. “Don’t waste any more time worrying about me, okay? I always land on the right side. Just like loaded dice.”
Even in the middle of all this, Theo is trying to make me laugh. Instead I feel a sudden lump in my throat. After the past twenty-four hours—a day in which my father died, my friend betrayed us, and I leaped out of my home dimension into places unknown—I’m running on empty. I say, “If I’d lost you, I don’t think I could have taken it.”
“Hey, hey. I’m fine. I’m absolutely fine. See?”
“You sure are.” I try to make it flirtatious. Maybe it works, maybe not. I kind of suck at flirting. At any rate, the attempt makes me feel steadier.
He becomes businesslike, or at least as businesslike as someone like Theo can get. His dark eyes—strangely transparent through the hologram—search my face. “Okay, so, you recently had a reminder, because you remember me. That or I’m making one hell of a first impression.”
“No, I didn’t need a reminder. I remembered everything anyway.”
“You said you remembered yourself anyway?” He leans forward intently, temporarily distorting the holographic image. “No periods of confusion?”
“None. Looks like it’s that way for you too. Guess Mom was wrong about dimensional travelers forgetting themselves.”
But Theo shakes his head. “No. I needed—you know, I used a reminder right when I got here.”
Theo seems slightly freaked by the fact that I remember things so easily. That works against all Mom’s theories—and, apparently, his own experience—but I guess traveling between dimensions is different for different people. Theories only get refined through experimentation. Mom and Dad taught me that much.
He says only, “Well, about time we caught a lucky break, because we were seriously overdue.”
“Where are you?”
“Boston. Looks like I’m at MIT in this dimension. I’m doing my best not to acknowledge all the Red Sox shirts in this closet.” Theo doesn’t care for sports at all—at least, in our dimension. “I thought I’d gone a long way, but damn, Meg. You landed all the way in London.”
Theo started calling me Meg a couple of months ago. I’m still not sure whether it’s annoying or cute. But I like how he always smiles when he says it. “How did you track me down so fast? Did you hack my personal information, something like that?”
He raises one eyebrow. “I searched for you online, found your profile, and put through a call request, which the local equivalent of Facebook offers as an option. When I called, you answered. Not exactly rocket science, and I say this as someone who seriously considered rocket science as a career.”
“Oh. Okay.” Well, that’s a relief. Maybe not everything has to be hard. Maybe we can catch the occasional break, and get lucky like we did this time.
Even though our devices are both set to follow in Paul’s footsteps, there are no guarantees. We could be separated at any jump. Not this time, though. This time Theo is with me. I look at his face, hazy in the ring’s glow, and wish he were here by my side already.
“Have you managed to . . .” Then my voice trails off, because for the first time I’m calm enough to realize I have an English accent now. Just like Dad’s.
Which makes sense, of course, because I live here. I guess speaking is a kind of muscle memory that lingers even while the other Marguerite’s consciousness is in the passenger seat, so to speak. But it hits me as the weirdest, coolest, funniest thing imaginable.
“Bath,” I say, relishing the short A of my new accent. “Baaaath. Privacy. Aluminium. Laboratory. Tomato. Schhhhhhedule.”
The giggles come over me, and I stop right there, hand against my chest, trying to catch my breath. I know I’m laughing mostly because I refuse to give in and start crying. The grief for my father has nowhere to go and is twisting every other mood I have into knots. And . . . tomahhhhto. That’s hilarious.
As I wipe away tears of laughter, Theo says, “You’re kinda shaky right now, huh?”
My voice is all squeaky as I try to hold it in. “I guess.”
“Well, if you were wondering, you sound adorable.”
The silly moment passes as soon as it came, replaced by anger and fright. This must be what the brink of hysteria feels like; I have to hold on. “Theo, Paul’s very close to London. If he knows we’ve come to this dimension, he could be on his way here, now.”