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Fantasy Fiction Contemporary


What if you could go back in time and make different choices? Would you do it? Change that perfect life you thought you would have but didn’t by the choices you did make? As the saying goes, be careful what you wish for.

Elle Mackenzie spent more time regretting the choices she made in her past than making new choices to change the path she set herself on. Always an excuse as to why she couldn’t. Her continuous mantra was, ‘If only I made a different choice and went to college.’ She was unhappy in her job as an office assistant and was told she would need a degree to move up the ranks. She complained but never did anything about it.

Dating here and there but always finding fault with the potential partner. In her opinion, if she had gone to college, she would have met the right man and be married by now with children. Her life would be much better if she had only made that one choice.

It was Elle’s 32nd birthday, and she was picking up dim sum at her favorite to-go restaurant in Chinatown to take to her parent’s house that night. The restaurant was in an alleyway off the beaten path of Chinatown in San Francisco. Elle spent many nights there when it was slow and became a loyal customer and friend of the owner, Jing.

Walking into the restaurant, a man not looking where he was going and, in a hurry, bumped into her, almost knocking her over.

“Excuse me, sorry,” he said.

“Why don’t you look where you’re going? Agggh,” she angrily replied as she pushed past him.

“Happy Birthday, Elle girl! Ok, why sad face?” Jing asked in his Hong Kong accent.

“Didn’t you see that idiot who almost knocked me to the floor?”

“Who you talk about now?”

“Just now, that guy who was hurrying through the entrance.”

“That Mike, he good man, just couldn’t see you.”

“Hmmph…….Whatever……Another year older, still working at my crappy job, no boyfriend, happy birthday to me.”

“Here we go again, even on birthday,” Jing said with disappointment, but then continued, “Everybody think the grass always greener instead of looking at their own garden. You don’t like crappy job, change it! You want degree, go night school. You want nice man; start being nice yourself!”

“I’m nice! I’m very nice! My friends love me! Just ask Georgia!”

“You problem is the grass look greener, but you forget all the other beautiful color in your present garden,” he replied, gathering her order.

“And I’m fun too!”

“Yes, when you not having sour face.”

“Thank you for your non-solicited opinion, Jing,” Elle said sarcastically with a roll of her eyes.

Jing was watching her closely. There were no other customers in the restaurant. He took a deep breath and put the box of dim sum down on the back counter before turning to speak to her.

“Do you really believe your life be better if you made different choice?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Would you like to find out once and for all?”

“What?”

“Would you like to find out if your life be better?” 

Elle laughed, but Jing was not laughing. He was dead serious. “If dreams were wishes and wishes came true I would say yes to your hypothetical question,” said Elle.

“No hypothetical. Is it what you truly desire, Elle?”

Elle laughed, “And how will you bring that about for me, my friend?”

Jing came from around the food counter and nodded toward the back for Elle to follow. In the back of the restaurant were colorful floor-length beads leading to a long narrow hallway and a dark blue door at the end of this hallway. It looked freshly painted with a triangle brass door knob.

“Through this door, you will enter parallel universe to life you would be living if you made your different choice.”

“Is this a joke, Jing? Parallel universes? Will a bucket of ice water drop on my head to wake me up when I walk through the door?”

“No joke. Walk through door. But, first, warning. Our choices have consequences, and we must be willing to accept those consequences. You have one week to decide if that is the universe you want to remain in. Your family remain the same, but everyone you know will be different. You change, and so will ones in your parallel life. The choices you made there will be different outcome than here. Should you decide you want your original life back, you must get to door before 5:00 pm a week from now, or you will remain in the alternate universe, and all memories of old life vanish. All that remain is what your new universe has for you.”

Looking at him in disbelief, she didn’t know whether to laugh out loud or play along with him. “And you? Will you remember me, Jing, if I see you in the next universe?” she asked jokingly.

Jing shrugged his shoulders and grinned, “The door awaits you……….”

Elle turned toward the door, put her hand on the giant brass knob, stopped, and turned back to ask Jing what was really behind the door, but he was already gone.

“This is silly. Ok, just walk through the door and get the bucket of water thrown on you,” she whispered. 

Elle placed her hand back on the large knob and turned it slowly. A crack of light emerged as she pulled the door towards her. Blinding light hit her face as she shielded her eyes with her hand. Walking through the entrance, she found herself coming out of a restroom into a hallway of a large corporate building. A woman walking quickly in Elle’s direction smiled and said, “Good morning Elle!”

“Good morning Candice,” Elle said, surprised that she knew the woman’s name. In fact, she knew everything about her present-day job and life. All memories of this new life flooded her mind, and Elle grew excited. She knew where her office was and started walking towards it when she saw her boss heading toward her.

“Just the woman I wanted to see! Saves me a phone call,” he said enthusiastically.

“Good morning Mr. Anderson. What can I do for you?”

“I need you in my office at 2:00 today. We have some exciting changes happening, and I’d like you to be a part of it.” 

“I’ll be there!”

Elle remembered she had applied for several different new positions ranking higher in the company. She had the required degree to finally move up the corporate ladder. It was just a matter of finding the right fit. Arriving on time at 2:00, she lightly knocked before entering. A tall attractive man sat in one of Mr. Anderson’s chairs while Mr. Anderson stood up from behind his desk.

“Come in, come in, Elle…. I’d like you to meet Seth Maguire.”

“Pleasure,” she said as she stuck out her hand to shake his.

“All mine,” he replied.

“Seth has transferred from our New York office to head up the new sports division and has been interviewing assistants. Unfortunately, he has not found anyone with enough experience. I suggested he meet with you as you are one of my best assistants and could help him with the set up until he finds the right fit. It would only be for a few weeks and I know you are a great team player.”

Elle felt duped. This was not the promotion she had been waiting. She had no choice but to accept the extra work, if she wanted to one day move up the ladder in the company. Elle had many conversations with her boss about her desire to be promoted and run her own division one day. It was as if all those conversations fell on deaf ears. 

“Thank you, sir. When would you like me to begin?”

“Monday, I need you till then, and it will only be for a few weeks. Thank you, Elle.” She turned to Seth and put out her hand to shake his again, “I’ll see you Monday then.”

Smiling like all was right in the world, Elle left disappointed. She had been working for Anderson for three years and only stayed on the promise that she would be promoted one day. Seth left the office right after Elle and caught up with her in the hallway. Turning around to acknowledge him, she admired his fit body and good looks as he approached her. She thought it would be one benefit to see him every day instead of ready to retire Anderson.

“I kind of felt you were not excited about the temporary position.”

“No, why would you think that?”

“I can read people fairly well. Let’s catch a drink after work, and we can review your company hopes. Maybe I can help. What do you say?”

They met for drinks at a bar across the street from work that evening, and Elle soon found herself smitten with Seth. He just may be the one. He indeed said all the right things to draw her in. The bartender seemed to disapprove of Seth, and he looked familiar to Elle, but she couldn’t piece together from where. It was getting past dinner time, and Seth suggested they continue their talk at his place, and he would order a pizza. Elle agreed, but when Seth left to use the men’s room, the bartender warned Elle that Seth had used the same lines on another woman a few nights before and warned her to be careful. It was just enough time for Elle to come to her senses and suggested a raincheck. The next day when she bumped into Seth in the hallway, he said a quick hello but was not the friendly guy from the night before.

Elle headed to Jing’s restaurant for lunch, and though friendly, Jing was not the close friend as in the alternate universe. He didn’t engage in talking other than about the weather. Georgia, Elle’s best friend in her other life, walked in, glanced at Elle with a slight smile, and raised her hand to signal hello. Georgia and Elle had been best friends in high school and did everything together. Now, in this dimension, they were barely acquaintances. Georgia never went to college. Instead, she went to beauty school, got a cosmetology license, and eventually opened her salon. Elle felt she would not fit in her new world or the type of people Elle wanted to meet and mingle with. In this universe, they drifted apart after graduation. Jing asked Georgia about her family and was warm and caring as he was to Elle in the previous universe.

Elle was weighing in on the differences between parallel universes and was happy she was in her new life. Though she would miss her old friends, she would have new ones. Her family remained the same, which was most important to her. She told herself she could always make new friends. But, there were no memories of these new friends in this new universe, no one she felt close to. She was exhausted by the end of the week, but confident this was the right choice. Life was better just making that one choice. Though Elle would miss Georgia, she could always build a new friendship with her and Jing in this new parallel universe. Elle had already forgotten what Jing warned that her feelings and memories of her other parallel life would vanish once she chose to remain in her new universe. She would have no memory of the people or things she once loved. Her likes and dislikes would have shifted. She would not be that same person, but isn’t that what she wanted?

Deep into work, she lost track of time when her phone rang, and her mother, Sandy, was at the other end, “Hi Honey! Are you close by?”

“What? Close by?”

“You were going to pick me up from the doctor’s office, remember?”

“Oh shit! Sorry Mom, I completely forgot.”

“Well, never mind, I’ll call a cab. It’s just that the doctor wanted someone with me just in case my knee gave out again. But, it’s feeling pretty strong right now.”

“You sure? It will take me a half hour to get across town.”

“No, no, that’s fine. I’ll call you later.”

“Ok, speak to you later.”

But Elle didn’t hear from her mom later. Instead, she heard from her father while he was en route to the hospital. Sandy had missed a step climbing the cement stairs to their home. Her knee gave out, and she fell, hitting her head hard and leaving her unconscious. A neighbor saw her fall and immediately called an ambulance. Sandy was in a coma, and the prognosis was not good. She had a brain hemorrhage. Sitting by her mother’s bedside, holding vigil with her father, Tom, Elle couldn’t help but blame herself for not being there as the doctor requested. The doctor said all they could do now was pray.

Elle never left her mother’s side except to go to the bathroom. She was once again regretting a choice. In those moments, waiting for some sign of her mother waking, Elle found what genuinely mattered and wished she was back in her other life. Choices, like Jing said, have consequences. But one can choose again, change the path, and not leave the happy world she already lived in. She wanted more than anything to go back now.

Tom was speaking to the doctor and was informed there was no hope, Sandy was brain dead, and there was no coming back from it. Tom began to call family members to come to say their goodbyes. This news was unbearable for Elle, and she would not accept that she would never hear her mother say “Hi, Honey” again.

“No…no, this isn’t happening!” she whispered through her tears. Tom walked over to his daughter to comfort her, but she pushed him away, yelling, “No! This is not happening,” and ran from the room down to the street, frantically hailing a cab. She begged the driver to get her to Chinatown as fast as he could. It was a matter of life and death and had to get there before 5:00. Once she arrived, she saw that the restaurant was temporarily closed due to repairs but would be reopening at 6:00. It would be too late. Elle banged on the door, yelling, “Please! Jing! Open the door! Jing! Jing!” She continued pounding at the door, yelling, “Please open the door……” and sobbing. There was a small click and Jing appeared at the door. 

“Jing! Oh God, thank you, thank you! I need to get to the door!” Jing was confused by her behavior.

“The door? What door Missy?”

“The blue door between dimensions, to other parallel universes.” He knew there was some truth because he painted the blue door gray after a strange incident had happened years earlier. Crying and speaking rapidly, Jing thought Elle might be mentally unbalanced and wanted her to leave.

“No blue door here,” he repeated firmly.

“Please, I know I sound strange to you, but if you’ll let me go beyond those beads to the blue door. I will never come back to bother you again.”

Jing thought the only way he could get rid of her was to show her there was no blue door. And there was no blue door, but there was a gray door with the same large brass nob and black tape sealing the door off.

“Does this door open?” she asked.

“No, we sealed years ago. It lead to alleyway and many rats.”

“Jing, please let me open this door.”

“You no want to open this door, no good, that why we seal it.”

“Forgive me, Jing,” she said, pushing past him, grabbing the brass doorknob, and pulling the door open. Bright blinding light shone, and Elle ran through the doorway into the hallway of Jings restaurant, slamming the door behind her. She quickly walked through the beads into the front of the restaurant. Jing smiled and said, “Look who’s back!”

Elle ran to him behind the counter and hugged Jing whispering, "Thank you Jing."

“Grass not always greener, huh?” he replied as he hugged her back. Elle’s cell phone rang, and it was her mother. Elle answered immediately, “Mom?”

“Hi, Honey! Happy Birthday! Are you still picking up the dim sum for your birthday dinner?”

“Yes! I’m here now, getting it! Mom, how’s your knee?”

“My knee? Fine. Remember you took me to the doctor’s office last month for a Cortisone shot. Why?”

“Just asking…….Mom, I love you.”

“I love you too, sweetheart, and we look forward to celebrating your birthday. Georgia is on her way here, so come straight over after you get the dim sum.”

“Will do,” she said with absolute joy in her heart. 

Jing was smiling when he handed Elle the dim sum, all packed and ready to go when the door to the restaurant opened. It was the same guy who accidentally bumped into her earlier.

“Jing, did I leave my keys here?” he asked.

“Yep, I knew you be back,” Jing said as he handed the keys to him.

“Mike, this my friend Elle. It her birthday today.”

“Hey, Happy birthday. Sorry about bumping into you earlier.” 

Elle recognized him as the bartender who warned her about Seth in her parallel universe.

“No, it was my fault. Sorry for snapping at you.”

“Well, have a great birthday!”

He started to walk out the entrance but turned back around and said, “I’m the owner of a bar around the corner called The Door. Stop by sometime. I’ll treat you to a birthday drink.” 

“I’d like that,” she said with a grin.

May 02, 2023 20:18

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