Tomorrow | Chapter One: 2063

I'm not gifted like Freya. I never saw what was coming back then and if it wasn't for her I wouldn't remember my true past now, either: what happened to me in the summer of 2063, before they sent me through the chute and my life started over.

Back then things were very different. Every morning began with the Dailies, and in late July they were full of the usual propaganda—stories stressing the U.N.A.'s continuing strength in the struggle against terrorism, items highlighting environmental recovery projects, those glorying in the nation's past and ones showing its citizens what a disastrous mess most other counties had made of themselves. In France riots had been raging for weeks, great expanses of Paris, Marseilles, and Lyon burnt to ashes by French defence forces intent on killing the rebels. French citizens were laying down their lives for freedom in a struggle against an authoritarian government, yet the Dailies portrayed the protesters as lawless and France as being rife with corrupt sentiments, unlike the superior U.N.A. and its civilized, patriotic population.

But not all of the U.N.A. equated patriotism with unquestioning allegiance. The U.N.A. grounded movement was seventy million strong. It supported truth over propaganda; employment for people over reliance on robots; real-life experiences over immersion in gushi; and the idea that eco-refugees should be given sanctuary rather than be turned away from our borders or enslaved by the U.N.A. government.

My mothers, Rosine and Bening, were members of the grounded movement. So were my sister, Kinnari, and I. The official movement was popular and non-confrontational enough that it held on to its legitimacy, but it had to tread carefully. The state came down heavy on anyone who broke its laws or opposed its government in anything but the gentlest, most optimistic tones. Take too tough a stand against them and you were liable to wake up in some forsaken part of the country that was flooded with carcinogen and toxin-laden soil and water, your memory scraped clean, and your soul humming with an obsessive dedication to doing the state's bidding until you keeled over dead, your Bio-net unable to keep up with the extreme contamination your body had suffered.

My mothers never let me or Kinnari forget the thin line we had to walk as members of the movement. They took us to official meetings, signed petitions, assembled for peaceful demonstrations, and encouraged our participation in the youth group, but stayed away from the hard-core fringe faction. Bening always stressed that we had to change the system from within, unlike the grounded devotees who bombed the Ro factories, periodically hacked their way into gushi to distribute anti-government messages, and sheltered refugees.

The future sounds bleak, I know. But I was used to it. Feeling rebellious on the inside, but playing it safe outwardly, for the most part. My mothers used to say that when there were enough of us, things would change. There'd be a tipping point not even the government would be able to deny and they'd be forced to bend to the will of the people, like in the past when there was authentic democracy.

Until that day arrived, I intended to do what I could. Learn things that would help me protect the illegals and the unemployed, who had few rights. I'd already been accepted into a pre-law program and was set to start in the fall. Columbia in New York City. Most of the coastline had been abandoned, but not New York. The U.N.A. had built flood barriers to protect the city from sea level rises and storm surges over forty years ago. Because of its uniquely exposed position after the coastal evacuation of the thirties, New York was always swarming with DefRos, and even so, there were more attempted terrorist attacks there than anywhere else in the country. People hated the West for what it had done to the planet; they wanted to make it pay.

Rosine wished I would go to law school somewhere more inland so she could worry about me less. She'd say that in the same breath that she'd declare how proud she was of me. Few students were being offered law as one of their three approved career options anymore.

But I wasn't thinking about things like law school or the grounded movement on the morning of July 29 ; I was panicking that it was the day of Kinnari's sixteenth birthday party and I had yet to buy her a present. Rosine had already reminded me twice that week but I'd kept putting it off.

On the twenty-ninth I'd run out of procrastination time and after breakfast I jumped into my trans and instructed it to take me to Moss, the shopping district on the far side of Billings. Kinnari and Rosine loved the rundown old shopping quarter and our house was crammed with antiques they'd discovered there. When you were strolling Moss streets you'd notice that the brick buildings looked like ones from a history book, as though you'd stepped back into the twentieth century.

Normally, the affluent residential neighbourhoods and the D.C. district (where they'd relocated the White House, Lincoln Memorial, and other significant Washington monuments after Billings became the new capital city) were the areas crawling with SecRo patrols because they were the places influential people deemed worthiest of protection. But when Billings Criminal Control was desperate to find a fugitive they'd inevitably send the SecRos to sweep Moss.

I don't know who they were looking for that morning in July, but the streets were thick with Ros; I was scanned by several of them before drifting into an art shop. The dusty store was crowded with paintings—pastorals, portraits, surrealist offerings, and works that my untrained eye interpreted as brand new. Thin strips of yellowing walls peeked through the spaces between the paintings and I suddenly felt very thirsty and very young.

Two women about my mothers' age were chatting to each other behind the counter at the far end of the room, each of them wearing clothing made of antique fabrics that you had to wash yourself rather than the self-cleaning materials that were popular in 2063. Both women looked up as I stepped in their direction. "It's a shame they have to spoil an all-clear day tromping around Moss like that," the woman in the wool blazer said to me.

An all-clear day meant the forecast showed next to a zero chance of storms and that it wouldn't be dangerously hot either. There were few all-clear days in Billings and my mothers had chosen the date of Kinnari's party with the good weather in mind. Her actual birthday was still a week away.

The other woman clucked at the one who'd complained about the SecRos, as though in disapproval of her colleague's frankness. "What brings you this way?" the clucking woman asked me, her face sour.

I didn't know what to tell the woman. Kinnari had everything she needed. So did I. But I had to get something for her birthday. It was tradition. "I'm looking for a gift for my sister," I said. "She's turning sixteen."

"Well, what is she like?" the first woman asked cheerfully.

Open-minded and a good judge of character, for a start. She'd sensed things in her boyfriend, Latham Kallas, that I'd never have guessed were there. He wasn't a carbon copy of his power-hungry father and he wasn't just a troublemaker. He was someone who didn't want to travel the route that had been laid out for him, someone who wanted to go his own way. As for Kinnari, she probably would've been a poet if she'd been born in another time. Or an occultist. Someone who stared into a crystal ball and pretended to see other worlds there. She had what Bening liked to call 'an active imagination.'

"She likes old-time movies," I replied. "And mythical things, like unicorns and dragons."

"Aha!" The woman beckoned me forwards. "In that case, I have the perfect thing for your sister."

I followed the woman in the wool blazer over to a corner of the shop populated with Buddha statues, shaking my head in protest.

Her thin lips formed a knowing smile. "Not the Buddhas, the painting." She pointed up at a ninety-degree angle, and my eyes snapped towards the image of a unicorn, majestic and out of place. It seemed to bow to the observer while a crowd of people in ragged clothing and grimy faces gathered around it, their expressions somehow forlorn and awed at the same time. Normally you see unicorns surrounded by woodland in paintings, but this one was in the midst of a dilapidated urban centre that made the white of its coat look that much more dazzling in comparison. Many U.N.A. cities were in a similar state of rot before the government built the social welfare camps. In the 2030s and early 2040s, U.N.A. crime and death by starvation rates were through the roof.

I didn't know what it meant to have included the unicorn in a scene like that. Hope? Or its opposite—was the painting declaring that hope was only a myth?

"I don't think so," I told the woman. "Maybe something artistic but less depressing."

I watched the woman stifle a smirk. Behind the counter her colleague was still frowning like she wished I'd never walked through the door. I frowned back to let her know I wasn't exactly impressed with her either. She must've read me wrong from the beginning. Taken me for a politician's or wealthy industrialist's kid. Billings was full of them. Young people who were stubbornly sure they'd inherit the earth, never mind that the Pakistan-India War meant crops were failing like never before and countless women were losing their unborn babies to damaged DNA. Nobody knew how long the human race could go on like this. One thing for sure, another nuclear exchange would smother us, even a limited one like the Pakistan-India conflict. There was too much radiation in the air, too many holes in the ozone layer.

"A cloisonné bracelet came in a few days ago," the frowning woman said, her eyes on me but her words directed at her co-worker. "If I recall correctly it might have had a unicorn on it. Why don't you show it to him and see if he likes that any better?"

"Please." Despite my irritation I said it with extra kindness to prove I wasn't the sort of person she suspected I was.

The woman who'd been assisting me disappeared behind a heavy purple curtain and emerged, seconds later, with the bracelet in her hand. "It's a vintage 1970s cloisonné enamel bracelet," she said, passing it to me.

As promised, there was a unicorn on the front. Unlike the one in the painting, this animal was vibrantly coloured—swirling with pink, red, purple, and blue. The floral design and twisted rope detailing in the background were something I could imagine Kinnari appreciating too. The bracelet felt nearly magical in my hand.

"It closes with the metal clasp there," the clerk said, lifting the bracelet from my palm and flipping it over to demonstrate. "It's really quite a unique piece."

Most old jewellery and other collectables were what people called 'salvaged.' Millions of citizens had to leave their homes behind when the government ordered the evacuation of the coasts and arid lands. Others could no longer afford their properties when their jobs were taken by Ros. People desperate or fearless enough to enter evacuated or abandoned areas made a living by collecting and reselling things others had left behind.

It was on the tip of my tongue to ask where the bracelet had come from, but what difference did its origins make? The bracelet's previous owner would probably never be reunited with it.

"I'll take it," I said, waiting for one of the women to scan me for payment.

When I ambled outside with the bracelet I could see the SecRos in the distance. They must have finished investigating this block and gone on to the next. The trans sensed my proximity and opened for me at the exact moment my ears picked up a clattering noise to my left. It could've been anything, but the SecRos' presence had set me on edge. I turned to see a man with dishevelled hair, dark stubble, and clothing that hung askew on his thin frame barrelling up the nearest alley with a stack of ornate dinner plates in his arms. My hunch was that he was homeless. I'd seen enough people that looked like him being returned to the camps to recognize the type and I waved him away, instinctively wanting to warn him about the SecRos.

The man squinted at me as though he didn't understand and I veered back towards the trans to avoid raising any unnecessary suspicion from the Ros. But it was too late. A lone SecRo zeroed in on me and the man in a flash, its monotone voice demanding that the man stop. "What's this about?" I shouted after it, the SecRo hurtling by me and towards the man who was nervously dropping his fancy plates, one by one by one. All but two of them crashed to the ground in smithereens.

"Thank you for your concern," the SecRo said to me, its attention never leaving the unkempt man. "The situation is under control."

"What is the situation?" I asked, jogging towards the man. The SecRos were programmed to respond to human queries when doing so didn't actively interfere with their duties, but sometimes I couldn't help myself and pushed them a little too far. A programmed piece of machinery shouldn't have any power over people.

"This citizen is breaking the law," the SecRo declared as a second Ro charged up behind it. "This citizen is AWOL from a social welfare camp." Meaning technically homeless, as I'd suspected. And it was illegal to be homeless in the U.N.A. The government said it caused unnecessary discord and that there was no reason anyone should be homeless when they had a government willing to provide for them.

"But it's morning," I argued. Surely anyone had the right to be outdoors during the day. "He was just helping me out with some shopping, carrying my things to the car."

The second SecRo must've been having some kind of vocal malfunction. When he spoke I heard more static than words. The first SecRo repeated his reply for me. "He did not report in to his assigned camp last night. He is already AWOL."

If it was his first offence they'd probably file a report and return the man to the camp with a warning. So far the homeless man had been motionless and mute during my exchange with the SecRos, clasping his two remaining unbroken plates with tired resignation, but at that point his downcast eyes shifted upwards. "I wanted to buy these for my wife," he said. "They'd belonged to her parents. I arrived here too late last night and couldn't get back before curfew fell."

"Your second such AWOL offence," the SecRo declared ominously.

"Look, you heard him," I protested. "He couldn't have reached the camp in time. So what was he supposed to do? If he'd tried and been picked up out on the road somewhere, you would've charged him with breaking curfew." It was stupid, sticking my neck out like that for someone I'd never seen before in my life, and the second SecRo hissed something unintelligible at me.

"Citizen Garren Lowe, your record is currently clean," the fully functioning Ro translated. "Please continue on your way unless you want a charge of aiding an AWOL or an interference notation to be added to your record."

The homeless man spoke a second time, his voice tinged with frustration. "No one aided me. I slept in the alley until the stores here opened." He stared me in the eye, blinking slowly. "But I thank you for trying to help. Do you think…" He peered down at his plates. They were as white as the unicorn's hair in the picture I hadn't bought, except for the edging, which was decorated with a delicate blue floral pattern. "Could you possibly get these to my wife in the camp in Fairfield?" He glanced questioningly at the SecRos. "Is it all right if I hand these to him?"

Clearly the man didn't think the Ros would be bringing him back to the camp. Not right away. Maybe they'd transfer him to a hard labour facility for a detention period, something they were in the habit of doing with people who didn't toe the line. Conditions in the labour facility would be worse than in the Fairfield welfare camp but markedly better than being sent to a toxic environmental site.

I couldn't tear my eyes from the man's hands. Curved around the clean white plates, his fingers were shaking.

If the SecRos were people instead of machines they might have allowed the man to give me the plates. After all, what harm could some fine china do? But the Ros refused. Each of them promptly locked a metal hand around the man's arms. He ground his teeth together and grimaced as they zoomed away with him, leaving me staring at the freshly shattered china at my feet—the remnants of the final two plates that the man had dropped when whisked off.

Some of the new pieces were sizeable (one of the dishes had broken straight down the middle) and I closed Kinnari's unicorn bracelet around my own wrist to give me two free hands. Then I bent down and started gathering up the best pieces. At the time I wasn't sure what made me do it, except that the plates had meant something to the man, who was as human as I was.

I loaded the fragments into my trans and headed home, not in the mood for a birthday party and definitely not in the mood to meet Latham's parents, who I'd heard him complain about on several occasions by then. At least three-quarters of what was wrong with the world was down to people like Mr. and Mrs. Kallas throwing their weight around, but I'd have to smile at them and nod politely.

When I arrived back at the house my mothers were already busy helping the people they'd hired from the camps for the day to set up party tables in our backyard. Because of Bening, who was a scientist and always working on important projects, we were well off compared to most people. Enough so that Kinnari and I went to the most prestigious school in Billings along with the children of politicians and industrialists, and our mothers could throw a lavish birthday party. While the majority of the U.N.A.'s employed population lived in claustrophobic apartment towers, my family owned a five-bedroom house on a large, fully landscaped lot. And while the diet of the lower classes was composed mainly of algae, green super rice, insects, and lab-created meat, my family often ate real meat and costly rare vegetables and fruits.

No wonder the shop clerk had mistaken me for one of the elite. People who didn't know me often made the same mistake. If they were strangers of an influential class they'd more or less act like I was one of them. If not, they'd either be deferential or treat me with thinly veiled disdain, like the woman in Moss had.

I stored the china fragments at the bottom of an old chest in my room and avoided the backyard for as long as was humanly possible, pulling out my bike and cycling as far as the main road. The sky was a perfect shade of blue and the sun—warm but not blistering hot on my skin—felt like a friend rather than the enemy it so often was.

For a few minutes I even forgot about the shattered pieces, and when I remembered it felt like I'd already made up mind to bring the fragments to the Fairfield camp. I'd finished my volunteer hours with Michael Neal, the lawyer who offered free legal advice to the camp residents, in the spring, but I was sure he'd let me put in additional time. Visitors couldn't just show up at the camps whenever they wanted; you needed clearance. Without the names of the AWOL man or his wife, Michael Neal was my best route in, and I was more relaxed by the time I returned to the house. I helped the live band—a cellist, several violinists, and a flute player—set up outside, unfolding chairs for them on the lawn and bringing them refreshments. Then I hunted down Kinnari to give her the unicorn bracelet before her guests showed up.

"It's beautiful," she said, instantly locking it around her wrist. "Thanks, Garren." She leaned affectionately into my arm. "I love it. Did you get it in Moss?"

"Just this morning," I admitted.

"This morning!" She punched me lightly on the shoulder. "You're hopeless."

I rubbed my upper arm, pretending her tap had wounded me. "The place was buzzing with SecRos," I told her, keeping the part about the homeless man to myself. Kinnari would have felt sympathetic towards him but would've lectured me for challenging the Ros. She would've been right, too; there was no use in arguing with machines. "There was a painting in the same shop you might have found interesting," I added. Kinnari's eyes lit up as I described it, her curiosity piqued.

"Maybe I'll go in and have look," she said. "From what you've said it sounds like the unicorn is a messianic figure."

"How old are you turning next week?" I asked with a chuckle. "Ninety-one?" Half the time Kinnari could be as immature as any other sixteen-year-old and the other half she was coming out with things that made her sound like the voice of ancient wisdom.

"That would mean I was born in what?" She stared up at the ceiling as she did the math. "1972? Isn't that more your era than mine?"

Judging by my record collection—which included piles of Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Neil Young, Bob Marley, and David Bowie—she had a point. "I have old tastes but I'm a young soul," I teased, because that was something Kinnari had been talking about a lot lately—reincarnation. She and Latham had been getting into spiritual exploration stuff together. Karma. Meditation. Numerology.

At the time I thought most of it was for fun, but now I think Kinnari genuinely wanted to believe in something more and was searching for it. I remember how happy she was at her party later and how everyone fussed over her. Latham held her hand for at least an hour without letting go, and I remember thinking that it must have driven his mother crazy because everyone knew Mr. and Mrs. Kallas were no fans of the grounded movement and therefore not fans of love matches. No doubt Mrs. Kallas expected the Service to create a suitable match for Latham when he was ready to have children. Her husband's disapproval was probably his reason for not making an appearance at Kinnari's party after all.

Having been left alone to deal with my sister's birthday, Mrs. Kallas tried to put a brave face on things, chatting good-naturedly with my mothers. Latham was focused on Kinnari, oblivious to the way his sister, Freya, busied herself with leaping on everything their mother said, relentlessly mocking her. If Mrs. Kallas weren't married to the vice president of Coppedge-Hale Corp., the government's largest supplier of DefRos and SecRos, I might have even felt sorry for her. As it was, it amused me to watch Latham's sister try to get the better of her.

At first, anyway. Then I began to think back to the scandal four years earlier, when an illegal had been discovered working as a nanny and domestic servant for the Kallases. The Dailies had broadcast an image of the desolate woman in SecRo custody. Obviously Coppedge-Hale Corp. hadn't wanted it to look as though any exceptions were made for their VP.

For days afterwards, everyone at school stared at Latham and his sister in the halls. Freya seemed sad and angry and one day I saw her take those feelings out on another student. The Ros witnessed it too and filed a discipline report. I didn't personally know Freya back then but everyone knew who she was. Feeling sorry for her, I walked up to her and said something that I've long since forgotten.

For years after that we barely exchanged a word. Sometime later I began to notice her watching me. Initially I suspected she had something against me because of my grounded beliefs, but sometimes…sometimes the look seemed to say something else.

People still looked in 2063. There were still attractions. Between young people especially. Mostly they just didn't add up to much. People searching for permanent attachments invariably allowed the Service to match them up and 'grounded sex' had fallen out of favour, even with many grounded members. The majority of society had developed a pathological distaste for the exchange of bodily fluids, which made things difficult for people like me. Most of the girlfriends I'd had would cuddle and closed-mouth kiss but loathed being more physical than that. They saved the rest for gushi. Admittedly, sometimes I did too. Sometimes it didn't feel like there was much of a choice.

So I didn't think of Freya in that way. Not in 2063. Not when her mother started to fight back and I made an excuse to pull Freya away from the scene. At the time I would never have guessed the daughter of Coppedge-Hale's VP could be someone I'd be interested in; I was only being nice. Didn't like to see her looking embarrassed. There wasn't anything more to it. Freya was beautiful, yeah. So was everyone I went to school with. It doesn't mean anything to be beautiful and it meant still less in 2063.

But Freya did get to me. We were standing close to the band, listening to them play Bach, when she said, "I wish I had your mothers for parents. They're so cool."

That was something I hadn't expected, even after hearing her argue with her mom—that someone like Freya Kallas would respect Bening and Rosine, whose beliefs were contrary to almost everything she'd grown up with.

"A lot of people think they're kooks," I said, my shoulders stuck in a half shrug.

"Only stupid people. And who cares what stupid people think?"

I felt my lips dart into a smile. "Exactly."

Freya wanted to escape her mother for a while so we went up to my room to listen to music. When I showed her how to use my old turntable, she held the records with a reverence that made me trust her a little more. For someone who wasn't grounded, she had decent taste in music. She liked everything I played for her—Neil Young, Patti Smith, and The Band—and said her favourite musician was Hendris, the Jimi Hendrix/Janis Joplin hybrid who was the only genetically spliced rock star Chinese scientists had created that had any genuine talent.

Freya and I didn't talk much, mainly just listened to sounds from the past spin around at a rate of thirty-three revolutions per minute. That was another good thing about Freya I discovered on July 29, 2063. She knew how to listen, and for a few seconds during "Heart of Gold," Freya had a wistful expression in her eyes that I thought meant she was about to tear up.

I think if she had, I might've changed my mind about her completely, not just halfway like how it happened on July 29. Maybe I'm wrong, but now that I'm with Freya it's tricky to remember the past exactly the way it was instead of how I'm tempted to see it in the present. My head wants to insert feelings where there might not have been any, because I know what came later.

Love isn't linear. It moves backwards too. Like time, as it turns out. I didn't think I loved Freya Kallas in 2063 but now there's a part of me that feels as if I always have. Not the part that went to the Cursed camp with jagged pieces of china and became ensnared in things that alternately frightened and compelled me, but some essence that can't be pinned down in hours, days, and years.

In a way, there can't be a before I fell in love with Freya anymore. And yet, the things that happened to me in the summer of 2063—things that had very little to do with her—changed everything.


She's dancing when I get to Rachel's party—spinning around in a tight circle with her fists folded up close to her chin, red ringlets bouncing on her shoulders to the rhythm of Pet Shop Boys' "West End Girls." My smile sticks to my teeth as I edge closer to her. Freya looks funny when she's drunk. It's like she gets so damn intent on whatever she's doing that she just might implode. The room's dark and crowded and my shift ran late, so an ordinary person wouldn't know to expect me at this exact moment, but Freya does. Her eyes catch on me and hold. Hold, hold, hold.

The moment stretches into forever. Just Freya and I staring each other down and wondering how we're supposed to act after this morning's fight. Am I still angry? Is she? Since I've already smiled I guess I've forfeited my chance to be mad. My stomach clenches for a second as I wait for her to react.

And then I see it. Her grin begins to bloom. At the corners of her lips first and then spreading to her cheekbones and her glimmering eyes. She opens her fist and beckons me slowly forwards with outstretched fingers. I don't think anyone would be able to resist that motion. She's so sexy, even when she's drunk enough to make me want to laugh at her.

I squeeze by birthday girl Rachel Chung—a waitress with a Pat Benatar shag haircut who Freya works with at Il Baccaro—and stand close to Freya, sweeping my left hand through her hair. No matter what Freya does to her hair it's always as soft as silk. The dye jobs and perm haven't changed that.

"Hi," Freya mouths, leaning forwards to open her lips and kiss me. I taste the vodka and orange juice she's been drinking. I'm sure she can taste the cigarette I smoked outside before coming up too, but she doesn't complain about it.

I turn to plant a birthday kiss on Rachel's cheek, and two seconds later Rachel's tilting her body away from me so she can fake-fall into my arms. This is just what Rachel's like when she's plastered, Freya's told me, a compulsive flirt who doesn't mean anything by it.

Since Rachel's celebrating I don't even shoot her a disapproving look, just catch her in my arms and plant her solidly back on her feet. "I'm sorry!" she slurs, grabbing for Freya's wrist as she pitches forwards. This has also happened before, Rachel abruptly remembering that as Freya's boyfriend I should be off limits and then swiftly apologizing.

Freya's fingers re-form a fist and she raps lightly on her friend's forehead, like a physical wakeup call. Then the two of them begin dancing again like nothing happened, and I weave back through the crowd and into the kitchen to get myself something to drink. There's only warm beer left so I take a bottle for myself and then pour water into a paper cup for Freya. By the time we leave the party, hours later, she's almost sober again and I'm halfway to drunk.

Crisscrossing drizzly Vancouver streets together on the way back to our apartment, the uneasy feeling that creeps under my skin when I'm lying awake at night begins to steal in. It's like…like maybe I'm only dreaming and none of this is real. It's like, for a second or two, if I'm not careful, I could forget where or when I am and fade away.

This is one of the reasons I don't like to drink too much. Why chance having that feeling at times when you don't have to? The other reason is I want to keep my brain in prime condition. As Freya has pointed out more times than I can count, it makes no logical sense to worry about my mind while voluntarily poisoning my lungs with tobacco. I know she's right; I've seen pictures of lungs that look like charred meat. And that's why I'm trying to quit. Because I want to live to one hundred without needing an oxygen tank.

In the beginning I thought I had the habit under control. But a cigarette is an easy hit of calm, and I can't see what the tobacco is doing to my lungs. The damage doesn't feel real.

"Are you going to throw up?" Freya asks, her hand squeezing mine. She's so solid, so there with me as we turn onto East Fourteenth Avenue that the uneasy dead-of-night feeling doesn't have a chance to take hold. But I'm still fucking craving a cigarette like nobody's business.

"I look like I'm going to throw up?" I say.

"Or pass out or something." It's no secret that I have trouble sleeping and we both have bad dreams sometimes, but not as often as before, and in the future they're bound to be rarer still. If I could shake that uneasy dead-of-night feeling and give up smoking, things would be almost perfect.

By December we should have enough money saved to get out of British Columbia and travel. Europe, definitely, but Africa's at the top of the list. The plan is to see all the amazing animals we'd lost to extinction and the places we were never free to travel, and then settle in somewhere breathtakingly beautiful by the sea or the mountains, somewhere your eyes can get lost in the view on a daily basis. We're thinking about this Spanish town called Ronda that's perched on a cliff. You'd only have to look up a photograph of the Puente Nuevo to figure out why anyone would want to live there. Freya's been checking Spanish tapes out of the library to learn the language.

In Vancouver we have both mountains and ocean, and overall life's been good—lots of hard work to keep a decent roof over our heads while squirreling money away—but we've also seen the killer whales swimming off the Pacific Coast. Porpoises, sea lions, bald eagles, and seals too. And we've been skiing, hang-gliding, board-sailing, and white water rafting.

In the beginning we had a shitty apartment and equally shitty jobs and could barely save a dime. Now the job and money situations aren't bad, but we're working so many hours that we don't have much time together. We both picked up second jobs over at Expo, the World's Fair being held in Vancouver this year. Freya also waits tables at a restaurant on West Broadway while I tend bar at a place in Gastown called Greasy Ryan's.

There are lots of things we'll miss about Vancouver when we go, but neither of us wants to share a country with the director's security team forever and relocating south of the border sounds like it would be worse—crawling with U.N.A. forces dedicated to changing the path of human history. I hope they succeed, but knowing what their methods are like, we need to stay out of their way. They didn't trust anyone to keep their secret, not even most of their own security personnel. They'd have butchered our minds or killed us rather than risk the truth about the future coming to light.

"I didn't think I even drank much," I tell her, squeezing her hand back. "I guess I was just tired to start out with." Neither of us usually overdoes it with alcohol. I've only seen Freya out of her mind drunk once since we got here and the other three times were more like tonight.

"We've both been working hard," Freya says. "And you never sleep."

"I sleep," I counter, because I don't feel like getting into this again. "Lately I sleep almost as much as you do. Or I did—until I started trying to give up smoking." I've mentioned the eerie middle-of-the-night feeling once or twice, but there's nothing Freya can do about it so what's the point? Jumping back seventy-eight years in time screws with your head. That's just how it is. And we'll never see the people we left behind, never even know what happened to them. These aren't easy things.

Freya's eyebrows pop up to form sharp slants. "You're blaming your sleep issues on giving up cigarettes? C'mon, you had problems before you ever started smoking. And it's not like you've even quit yet."

No, I haven't quit yet. I want to, but there's a nearly full package of smokes crammed in my jean jacket pocket that's calling my name. "Look, what do you expect me to do? If I can't sleep, I can't sleep, okay? Harping on it doesn't help."

Freya inclines her head up to meet the rain. "Saying the word 'harping' doesn't help either."

This is how our arguments usually start. Swinging in from nowhere. I say something that she doesn't like and then she says something that I take the wrong way and before you know it we're on opposite sides of an issue that didn't need to be an issue.

This morning it was the laundry. Freya was supposed to have done it two nights ago but didn't get around to it. I tried to do a load or two before heading over to Greasy Ryan's yesterday afternoon, but one of the machines downstairs was broken and someone else's clothes were spinning around in the other two. I left Freya a note asking if she'd throw our stuff in the washing machine, but she forgot. So this morning I had to pull a dirty shirt out of the hamper and put it on, which shouldn't matter except the little things seem to add up, even when you think you're not keeping track.

Things like me oversleeping too often and slowly poisoning my lungs, and her wanting to talk certain things to death and leaving wet towels on the floor, her clothes in a heap in the bedroom, and piles of dirty dishes in the sink. But none of these issues are the real problem. It's just that I'm only nineteen and Freya's only seventeen. Our paperwork lends us a couple of extra years but essentially we're what people in 1986 would call 'playing house.' We're not used to being half of something bigger and it's tricky. Before this neither of us had a job or had to keep on top of cleaning, cooking, and hitting the supermarket. Where we're from, the laundry did itself. And on top of that, we're the only two people who know what each other's been through. The pressure builds quickly.

"Bad choice of words," I apologize. "I didn't mean it." I look Freya square in the eye so she can see I'm sincere. Her hair and skin are damp. So are mine. Vancouver Mays are drier than winter but that's not saying much. "And I'm too tired to fight again tonight." I run my fingers along her wet cheek.

"Yeah, me too." Freya leans her head against my shoulder as we walk. She's only about five inches shorter than I am, less in the heels she's wearing, and she has to tilt over a little to do it. "But we're so good at it."

I let go of her hand so I can wrap my arm around her waist and pull her closer. "We're good at a lot of things."

Whether we're fighting or not.

We're almost home now. Only steps from the apartment. Freya stops on the sidewalk and turns to face me. Her eyes are definite; she knows what she wants. I do too, and I reach for her. Freya presses her wet lips against mine, sinks her hands into my back pockets and clutches my ass. The rest of her begins to melt into me in slow motion. Her thighs, her hips, her breasts. It happens by degrees but takes no time at all. She quiets my head and does the opposite to the rest of me. It's amazing how that works. Almost as simple as flicking a switch. I kiss her back, my hands on her waist and my tongue on fire.

It was never like this with anyone else. Not that there were many other girls back then, but I don't think it would've made any difference. I can't imagine feeling this way about anybody but Freya.

We make each other spark.

Like this moment, in the rain, when we're getting so heated out on the sidewalk together, drops running off my face onto hers and our bodies already not our own, that it's hard to stop and walk away, even for a minute, even just to get inside. But when I feel Freya shiver in my arms it wakes me up. I tear my mouth from her skin and tell her I'm taking her upstairs.

She doesn't answer. She just walks into the building alongside me, starting things up again in the elevator. When the door pops open I make a beeline for our apartment, fumbling for the keys in my jacket pocket. We stumble inside, heading for the bedroom, hurling ourselves at each other on the unmade bed.

Shortly after coming out west we went to a clinic that gave Freya a prescription for birth control pills. Waiting for them to take effect was rough, but the last thing we wanted was to drag a third person into the equation, so we managed it.

In the beginning I thought it might be harder for her to get used to being together like that, never having been in the grounded movement. But it seemed like second nature to her. When I whispered that to Freya during our second time together, she folded her hands across her bare chest and said, "It's because it's you."

I grinned so hard that she covered her face with one arm, embarrassed. I pried it gently away and leaned over her to say, "It's the same for me. It's you."

Now neither of us says anything. We peel off each other's clothes, tonight the same as so many other nights we've spent together in the past fifteen months, our hands sliding frantically in and out of curves and my mind nowhere but on the girl laid out next to me on the rumpled bedspread.