The memory exploded from some hidden cache in my mind, triggered by the gentle laugh. I staggered in the crowd of Merlin Scholars and fell to my knees. My mind swirled with the last time I heard that laughter.
In that far away time, I turned to see my other half, my beloved. We were aloft. I was piloting a small prop plane and she was my copilot. Her tailored tight dress and an Ingrid Bergman fedora over a 1940’s hairstyle with a pencil stuck over her ear placed me in a fixed point in time. Maureen, my wife in that time, Maureen. She read aloud from her book, laughing at some passage. Then her expression changed; the laughter broke off. Her concern and compassion flashed in her eyes, reaching out to touch me with her left hand. My love’s own death in her precognition, she worried first about me.
Today rushed back as fellow scholars sought to help me, but time folded revealing both today and then. Sweat beaded on my forehead as I struggled to understand. I wasn’t a pilot; I hated planes—never knowing why until now. In this life, I had no beloved, no other half, but I undoubtedly loved that woman. I heard Maureen’s laughter from the plane again from far down the registration lines, in this world, this time. I scrambled from my knees, clawing at scholars’ helping arms, and then left them behind, seeking out the source of that laughter.