Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Advancement of Mateo Matic: March 24, 2017

While Mateo was slipping time for a year, the girl who had thrown up on him at the hospital managed to track him down. She arrived at his house with an apology casserole. For more than one reason, she was disappointed about not being able to speak with Mateo directly, but Carol managed to comfort her and relieve her of all guilt. For the first year that Mateo skipped, he was officially declared missing. For the following years, his parents had to claim that he was building schools and clinics in developing countries. They had to fudge his tax forms. The authorities were suspicious of this, but eventually let things go. There were witnesses at the hospital, so that helped to close the investigation. Unfortunately, their lie could blow up in their faces at any moment, and he would have no way of being around to help them.
The people who had been with him in the cemetery for his first jump had been the most freaked out about it. He spent his one day in 2017 going around to all of his friends to assuage their anxiety over the matter, proving to them that he was alive and well. Obviously, he had to exaggerate the part about being well. Kyle, the lawyer who had been looking directly at him during the initial jump had ended up in a mental institution. Mateo’s reappearance to him didn’t help anything at first. He became worse, assuming him to be a hallucination sent to torment him. Over time during the visit, however, things were able to get better. He even let Mateo hold him tightly and sing him his favorite classic rock songs. Kyle was kind of a jerk in his old life, and an apparently smarmy defense attorney, but he didn’t deserve this. Afterwards, Mateo took some time alone in the chapel, and prayed for him with his birth mother’s rosary.
He had always believed in God, and possibly even more so since the timeslipping problem started, but he had never prayed before. He didn’t like the idea of asking God for any more than he had already been given in life. But he wasn’t so much praying for God to help. It was more about asking for forgiveness. Even though he was not in control of the timeslips—at least not consciously—he felt responsible for the problems they had caused the people around him. At some point, he might even have to fake his own death. On the other hand, if he keeps going at this rate, he’ll quickly outlive everyone he knows by centuries.
His last stop was at his parents’ neighbor’s house. One of the girls from the cemetery, Frida lived there. She had moved back in with her parents to take care of her ailing mother who passed two years ago. She was now taking care of her father, and he wasn’t looking very good. When she opened the door, Mateo could see the teeneager from the hospital behind her. Evidently, Frida and Leona met in the front yard last year when she came by with the apology casserole. They soon became friends, bonding over having both lost their mothers. Frida was also her mentor, helping with math and college applications.
Frida was in the middle of a conversation and hadn’t seen anything at the cemetery that night, so she wasn’t as traumatized as some of the others. In the following months, she had been there for his parents, providing a shoulder to cry on when she wasn’t busy with her own family issues. She had always been kind and accommodating to others, even as a child. She didn’t let other kids push her around, but she never felt the need to win an argument or prove herself. She and Mateo dated for several weeks in high school but ultimately decided they were better as friends.
He tried to shake hands with Leona, but she seemed to be incredibly shy around him. When she left for the bathroom, Frida informed him that she had developed a crush on him. They talked about him probably a little too much, and the (made up) stories his parents told about the amazingly noble things he was doing for the kids in developing countries was doing nothing to change her feelings. He had a fleeting thought while Frida was explaining the situation. In only a few days from his perspective, Leona would no longer be too young for him. A handful of days after that, she would be too old for him. Not too much later, she would be dead. They would all be dead. Everyone would be dead by the time he had a hankering for Chinese food again.
Mateo shuddered and ran back home. He wept and complained in his parents’ arms until he fell asleep on the couch. It was nearly midnight before he awoke again. He jumped up, worried that they wouldn’t get to see him one last time. But they were sitting across from him in anticipation. “I’m so sorry,” he cried.
“We will be here when you return.” And they were. Exactly there. Midnight struck. Mateo jumped forward in time while looking at his parents. They were sitting in the same places as before, even wearing the same clothes, giving him hope that he hadn’t actually jumped this time. But no. They weren’t in the exact same position as before. And they even looked a little older. “Welcome back,” Carol was finally able to say to her son.
“Bit of a problem,” Randall said. “That girl, Leona saw you through the window last year.”

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