Phil slumped in his chair, fumbling with the Rubik's cube he had bought just a month ago. His eyes stared out the window, focusing on nothing in particular. A long sigh escaped his lips and his father glanced towards the backseat at his son.
"What's up Phil? Aren't you glad to be getting back to the year 2121?" Lloyd Diffy asked cheerily. Phil shrugged his shoulders and continued to stare at the time vortex that they were currently surrounded by. His mother exchanged a sullen look with his father yet the time machine did not stop.
Phil was thrown forward as the RV came to a sudden halt, pulling him from his sleep. The engine sounds slowed down until there was absolute silence. Pim jumped out of her seat yelling something about 'sweet freedom' and 'home sweet home'. Phil did not share the same reaction. His mother followed Pim out of the vehicle, muttering something about how the house needs to be cleaned and dinner to be sprayed on plates. His father stood by the door and stared worriedly at Phil.
"Just give me a few minutes dad," Phil told him, realizing how concerned he must be about him, "Go on. I'm fine, promise"
Lloyd smiled a sympathetic smile. Phil managed to smile weakly back at him as his father exited the time machine.
Phil was sad. Not the kind of sad that he expected to go away in a few minutes. Different than the feeling you get when a favorite character dies on an intense episode of 'Battlebots and Cyborgs'. Definitely not the kind of sad you become when your holographic test paper is returned to you with a failing grade. No, this was a more eternal sadness.
He looked down at the Rubik's cube thrown carelessly on the floor. It must have fallen after he dozed off during the trip. But he had given up on it anyway. It was a jumbled mess of color that just frustrated him at this point. And besides, what did it matter? Rubik's cubes had gone out of style about one hundred years ago. He hadn't even heard of one until that one study session for algebra. It was the day before the big test and everyone was trying to avoid actual studying. Then Seth brought one out of his backpack. He completed it so fast! It was like watching a blur of colors in the air. And then of course everyone wanted to try to beat Seth's time, which was near impossible Phil had pointed out. He remembered how frustrated Keeley had gotten when...
Quicker than Seth completed that puzzle, images of his blonde best friend flooded into his mind. Her smile when they flew on the Skyack for the first time together, her hair blowing behind her. That time she wore an umbrella skirt on her school talk show. Phil couldn't understand how someone still looked trendy even while wearing something so ridiculous. And how could he forget how surprised she looked when he rushed into the newsroom and kissed her. That had been barely two hours before. But now he was here, and she was more than a hundred years behind his time.
Thinking about Keeley had once made him smile, yet now circumstances were different. The time machine had been fixed. His family was anxious to return to their proper time. And it had been so tiring living with the fear of being discovered as time travelers. Still, Keeley had been the best thing that had happened to him- past, present and future.
As Phil sat there tormenting himself with thoughts of regret, he came to a realization that really didn't surprise him. His family may not understand, but he just couldn't stand this feeling that something was missing.
He was leaving the future. He was leaving his parents. And his maniacal little sister. And all the perks of being in the year 2121. Being with Keeley was better than anything the future could provide for him. Being with Keeley was where he would feel complete again.
Once you read this, I will have gone back in time to where we have spent the past few months. There are opportunities waiting there for me that I just cannot pass up. I am really sorry, and please know that I love you all, even you Pim. I will visit for Unification Day. Don't miss me too much. Love, Phil
Phil placed the note on the counter, along with a bone for Curtis. It was late, and the family went straight to sleep after the tiring journey home, which gave Phil time to gather the items he needed for making it back to Keeley.
He snuck into his father's workshop, which doubled as the garage, separated from the house and floating in midair. There was a special transport module, similar to an elevator,that carried one up. Thankfully, this process did not make much noise. Once inside, Phil headed straight for the display case that housed the devices that were currently in progress. Before the Diffys had began their vacation to the past, Lloyd had been working on a portable time machine. This gadget looked similar to the Wizard, yet the functions were different. Being that their time machine was so large and resembled a family vehicle, it was not always efficient, especially for individual travel. This device would allow up to two people to travel anywhere in time by the simple press of a button.
The downside to this invention however, was that it was not complete. Yet Phil had been present in the workshop for the test run, and it had run quite smoothly. With this in mind, Phil decided to take a chance with the prototype. Hopefully, his dad would not miss it too much.
He placed the portable time machine in his backpack in between his wallet and the scrapbook Keeley had made for him of his time at HG Wells high school. The one thing he was missing was one of the most important things of all, his Wizard. He had noticed it wasn't in his bag right after he had gotten off the time machine earlier. He experienced a half hour of panic, where he had emptied his backpack five times, hoping it would magically appear. It hadn't.
He concluded that he must have left it in the past, maybe in the bedroom or in his locker. This notion would have made him very uneasy, except for the fact that the Wizard ceases to work once the owner has moved to a different time period and failed to bring it with them. This means that if someone did happen to find it in the hallways, they wouldn't be able to mysteriously change their appearance or anything suspicious.
Thankfully, his father kept extra future gadgets in a drawer in his workshop. There was two extra Wizards, in case someone broke theirs or a long lost cousin came to stay and was in need. Phil took one from the drawer and quickly encoded it to work for him, and only him.
Out of the corner of his eye, Phil saw a light go on in the house. Wanting to avoid any awkward parent confrontations, Phil gathered up his gear and got ready to travel. He programmed the time travel device for the year 2007 and the exact day that he and his family had left. His finger hovered over the button as he glanced to the lit bedroom outside the workshop window. He took a deep breath and whispered "Here goes nothing". He jammed the button forcefully and was then plunged into darkness.
Phil hit the ground hard, falling over from the impact. The sun was bright, burning his eyes after that period of total darkness. Sitting on the pavement, he started looking around to evaluate his surroundings. He had landed in a parking lot packed with cars. He barely ever came to this parking lot, being that he took the bus, yet he recognized it as the space behind HG Wells. In the distance, he could hear what sounded like talking on a loud speaker. It seemed to be coming from the direction of the football stadium. Standing up, he brushed himself off and, backpack in hand, headed towards the football field.
Once arriving, he saw that the stadium was abuzz with the noise of hundreds of family members and friends there for a graduation ceremony. Vice Principal Hackett was at the microphone, announcing the names of the graduates as they walked across the stage.
Scattered cheers echoed from the stands at Hackett announced the students. Phil had never attended the graduation ceremony, being that he was only a sophomore when he left. There was a mass of students sitting in folding chairs on the field, wearing robes that reflected the school colors. Phil didn't really know any seniors, yet he still scanned the crowd for any familiar faces. He stood at the entrance, which made it difficult to see clearly. Yet he was able to make out the face of the boy who almost beat him up after Pim stood up to his bully of a little sister.
Wait, Tia? Phil was confused. She was also a sophomore this year. How had she managed to skip two grades when she barely passed standard algebra freshman year? The next name also seemed familiar to him, the name of a boy who he remembered from sophomore English class. He could not understand what was happening. Afraid that he got the year wrong, he got the portable time machine out of his backpack to check the date that had been entered. In place of where he had written the year 2007, two flashing words appeared instead: Device Malfunction. A knot formed in Phil's stomach. A malfunction…something told him that he shouldn't have used the prototype. Yet he had been so anxious to get back.
Phil's head snapped up to look at the stage. There she was, crossing the stage in sparkly pink high heels. She was the same old Keely, except there was something strangely different about her. She had an aura of maturity about her that was different than when Phil had left.
And then it hit him. Graduation. This was their graduation. Well, it would have been theirs if Phil had stayed. Now he was simply an outsider looking in. And Keely was a senior. No, she was now a high school graduate! And the words on the time machine made sense. An error must have occurred, sending Phil to the wrong year!
There was a sinking feeling in his stomach as he realized that he had missed out on two years. Two whole years since he had left. A lot can change in two years, it doesn't matter whether you are from the future or not, that's just a way of life. Thoughts raced through his head. Does Keely remember me? Is she mad at me for leaving her? Does she have a new boyfriend…?
The ceremony was coming to a close, and the audience members began filing out of the stands and making their way to the parking lot. Phil waited by the entrance, trying to calm his overactive mind, when suddenly, she saw him.
Keely had just spent hours outside on the football field, a place that she did not often visit during her academic life. She would most likely be found inside the newsroom, planning the story for the next day. She had no time for football games. Yet today was quite different. She, along with her fellow classmates, were graduating from HG Wells Junior/Senior High School and moving onto bigger and better things. For her, this would mean attending a university starting in the fall, studying journalism. She was excited to start this new chapter of her life and move one step closer to finally becoming a famous news reporter. Yet she was sad to leave the school she had spent years of her life in. Walking through the halls brought back such memories, some good, some embarrassing. But most importantly, it reminded her of Phil.
She and Phil had become close rather quickly. It began as a math tutoring gig. And then it grew into a great friendship. Keely had always felt something for Phil. He was so caring, and genuine, that she just couldn't help it. And when he confided in her that he was from the future, well, that just made him even more interesting. Yet she hadn't seen or heard anything from him in almost two years. She wanted to believe that she had gotten over being abandoned by the boy that she was convinced she was in love with, but she still thought about him.
She even experienced times where she thought she saw him. Sometimes, she would be walking to the cafeteria and swear she saw him standing by the lockers, smiling at her. Or she would be at the mall, and catch a glimpse of what looked like Phil on the escalator. Yet when she squeezed her eyes shut to make sure she wasn't imaging things, he was gone.
Keely had just gotten her diploma and made her way back to her seat when the ceremony officially ended. Gathering her things, she started making her way to her car. Her mother was supposed to attend the graduation, but she was called out of town unexpectedly for an open house. She had apologized over and over again until Keely finally convinced her that it was fine, and that she didn't need her to make a fuss over it anyways. Besides, Keely would have been mortified if her mother came dressed in her old cheerleading costume and started chanting rhymes when Keely received her diploma.
She dug her car keys out of her purse, careful not to break any of her freshly manicured fingernails. Once they were procured from her bag, she began searching for where she had parked her car amidst all of this chaos. When suddenly, it happened again. Phil was standing by the entrance to the football stadium, leaning against the ticket booth. She knew it was in her head, but she couldn't help but get excited at the sight of him. She rubbed her eyes and then stared at the spot again. Strange, she thought, He didn't disappear. Why isn't he disappearing? It's just in my head.
Phil looked in her direction and his eyes brightened as a huge smile appeared on his face. He began waving excitedly. Keely was shocked. Her feet felt as if they were unable to walk, all she could do was stand there and stare.
Wait, she realized, it's him. It's really him.
"PHIL!" she screamed. Suddenly, she had movement in her feet once more and she found herself running forward and landing in Phil's open arms.
Once the initial shock of seeing Phil wore off, the pair decided to move somewhere quieter so they could catch up.
"How about Polka Pig?" Keely asked. Phil remembered that restaurant from when he first moved there. "It's going to be the only restaurant that isn't really crowded today. No one goes there" she added.
"Okay" said Phil, "As long as I don't have to dance this time". Keeley smiled.
They took Keely's car to restaurant. Upon arrival, they were promptly seated. Keely was right, this location wasn't the prime after graduation lunch spot.
There were a few moments of awkward silence. Phil wanted to just continue where they left off, but he was reminded that it had been two years. And Keeley wasn't sure if she should be irritated that she hadn't heard from him in so long, or else ecstatic that she got to see him at all.
"Listen Keely. I'm-" Phil began.
"I missed you," she interrupted him mid-sentence. Phil let out a sigh of relief. He had been hoping she would say something like that instead of something like 'how dare you leave me for so long. I want nothing to do with you'.
"Okay," Keely continued, "now tell me what took you so long". She gave Phil a friendly punch on the arm. He laughed, perhaps to hide the fact that she actually punched hard.
He wasted no time in telling her exactly what happened. About how he thought about how much he missed her since he landed in 2121. How he didn't want to be without her. How he technically ran away from home and into the past. How the premature time machine had messed up. And finally, how he happened upon the graduation ceremony to find that he had been late by two years.
Keely listen attentively, mentally telling herself to save her questions for the end of this story. Yet once he finished, she really had nothing to say. She was so overcome by the idea that Phil had missed her that much. Phil prompted her to fill him in on the rest of high school. Keely told about the news program success. She was still lead anchor. And she was also writing for the school newspaper. Phil was beaming with pride at his best friend.
She moved closer to him so that there was little room on the booth between the two of them. She lay her head on his shoulder and they were silent for a while.
Suddenly, Phil spoke:
"I'm going to make it up to you. Let's go somewhere. Think of it as a graduation present"
Keely sat up straight.
"Anywhere?" she asked, her eyes wide, "Like, time traveler anywhere?"
Phil nodded. Keely expressed that it was such a hard decision. There were so many places that she had wanted to see. Remembering freshman history, Phil was reminded of Keely's favorite time period.
"Let's go dancing! I hope your Charleston isn't rusty" Phil exclaimed.
Keely clapped her hands excitedly. "Phil!" she whispered with enthusiasm, "Seriously?!"
Phil smiled and said "Yeah! Let's go to the 1920's-it'll be the bee's knees!"
Keely smirked and said something about how he was a dork. Yet Phil could tell she was beyond excited. Keely shimmied out of the booth and pulled Phil's hand to urge him out the door. Phil stood up, but refused to move any further.
"Phil! C'mon! Let's go now! Please!" Keely urged.
"Hold on a sec Keel" he said as he pulled her hand towards him. He shyly placed a kiss on her cheek. Keely giggled.
"After two whole years?" she said breathlessly, "And that's it? God, Phil"
And she held his face as she confidently kissed him. She pulled away to see Phil's shocked countenance.
"Now c'mon Diffy! We got some dancing to do. And two years to make up for" Keely danced out of the restaurant as Phil hurried behind her.