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See You Then

My name is Becca, and I have an amazing ability: I can remember, with crystal clarity, what I was thinking and feeling exactly ten years ago.

...It's not actually that amazing of an ability.

Sure, there are probably people who would envy it. Who wouldn't want to return to simpler, forgotten times, or to relive a once-in-a-lifetime experience?

Unfortunately, there weren't really simpler times in my life, nor wonderful experiences I'd want to revisit. So for a long time, I thought it was useless.

But then there was someone else.

——

I was sitting in a coffee shop, staring at my laptop. I'd been stressing out over a job from one of my clients; their instructions felt ambiguous, and I wasn't sure what exactly they wanted. So I tried asking my mom for her opinion, but her guess was as good... well, probably worse than mine. She suggested getting out of my room for a change of atmosphere might be what I needed. It didn't seem likely it'd help, but there I was.

I looked up from the laptop to notice my drink had been delivered to me. "Becky" was written on it, though it'd gotten a bit smudged.

I sighed and turned the cup around. I didn't even particularly like coffee. What was I doing here? Well, I guess because it was one of the options mom gave, and none of them sounded appealing, so she chose for me. Really, I felt like I should have just stayed home, but at that point it felt weirdly like an obligation.

I eventually decided to email the client for clarification, and started coding the pieces I could safely assume while waiting for their reply. Suddenly, my train of thought was interrupted by a voice.

"Hey, do I know you from somewhere?"

I looked up. There was a woman there, and she seemed to be talking to me. I hadn't noticed her at all until she spoke up. As for her question, well, I certainly didn't recognize her.

"U-Uh, you've got the wrong person, I think," I sputtered out, trying to type the rest of the line before I lost track of what I was doing.

"Well, I'll be the judge of that," she chuckled. Then she grabbed a chair and sat down at my table. "My name's Florrie. I'm an independent artist."

I stared at her blankly. "...That's... nice? I'm a little busy here, you know, so..." I limply gestured toward the laptop.

"Yes, of course, you can keep working," she said with a smile. "Just tell me if I'm a bother."

A short silence passed, and I still hadn't told her she was a bother. I decided to just get back to typing. And as I typed, Florrie continued to talk about herself.

She was about the same age as me, in her late 20's. She'd recently started trying to make a career for herself in art, and as part of that, she'd often go to public places and sketch people.

I asked if that meant she wanted to sketch me. "Would you like it if I sketched you?" "...Not really, sorry." "Understood," she said with a nod. Though she still didn't leave.

Florrie continued to talk, recalling anecdotes about some of the more memorable people she'd drawn. I still didn't really understand why she was talking to me, but again, I wasn't saying she was a bother. Part of it was that I would've felt awkward speaking up, but honestly, I didn't feel especially distracted. She definitely did seem like an interesting person.

Before long, maybe having run out of stories to tell, she leaned toward my computer and asked me: "So what are you doing on your laptop there?"

I wasn't necessarily opposed to telling her, as there wasn't anything embarrassing or revealing about it... but it felt too bothersome to explain. I turned the screen away from her. "It's just... programming stuff. You probably wouldn't get it."

Florrie's eyebrows raised a little. "Oh, really? You might be surprised; I did take programming classes in high school. Of course, I've rarely used that knowledge since then, so I've probably forgotten it all."

Somehow, that surprised me. Sure, you can't judge a book by its cover, and I'd only known this woman for a few minutes. But it just felt odd to think about someone learning one discipline, then switching to something that didn't use it at all. I guess when you put it that way, it's obviously a common occurrence... plus, it wasn't clear how in-depth she got into programming...

You know, maybe it was just my own background that made it seem weird to me.

"Huh...", I mused aloud. "I wonder if I could have ended up like you."

Florrie winced. "Ouch, don't make it sound like that's the worst thing that could ever happen."

"N-No, I didn't mean..."

"What do you think you're doing, Crane?"

A man had approached our table, and spoke sternly to Florrie.

Florrie stood up to face him. "Just talking with a customer," she replied, her face beaming.

"Riiight, just talking." He picked up my untouched drink. "Seems to me you delivered this, abandoned the counter, changed out of uniform, and came over here for a leisurely chat."

I looked at Florrie with stunned surprise. She did what?

Come to think of it, it was a little odd that my drink had been brought straight to me. I didn't notice who put it there, but now that I thought about it, Florrie had been the woman at the counter who took my order.

When you put it like that, I was really unobservant... but was Florrie counting on that fact? I mean, wait, what was going through her mind in the first place to do all that?

Her response only bewildered me more.

"In my defense, sir? She's very cute."

"Worth losing your job over?"

Florrie couldn't help but laugh. Her manager wasn't so amused.

"Oh, I'm really sorry," she giggled, "it's just SO funny how you see it that way."

He furiously shooed Florrie out of the shop. She was as fired as I was confused, which is to say, extremely.

The manager came back to apologize to me for Florrie's behavior, but I said it was fine. And after he was out of sight, I left the coffee shop myself to go after her.

Even I wasn't entirely sure why. I guess I was just that mystified by her.

——

I caught Florrie walking down the street, not far from the coffee shop. As I approached from behind, she turned around as if having fully expected to see me there.

"Hello again," she said with a wave and a smile.

Even though I was the one who'd gone after her, I wasn't sure what to say for a moment.

"Um... not that you seem too torn up about it, and it's obviously on you for the most part, but... Sorry for contributing to you losing your job?" I was unsure how to feel about the "cute" comment, but overall, I did feel a little bad about what happened.

"Oh, not you too..." She sighed and shook her head. "It's completely fine. I had no reason to work there anymore - it's just not in my future."

...Yeah, sure. Artist types really are eccentric, aren't they? Well, but I didn't want to say something like that to her.

"And by that you mean... you were getting tired of juggling art with another job? Since you did say you only recently started considering art as a serious career..."

"No, I mean there was no future in me working at a coffee shop."

"Right, so you decided to focus on -"

Florrie suddenly raised her palms to tell me to stop, then closed her eyes tight.

"...Ten years from now, I'll have a successful career in art, and live in a wonderful house. I can see it so clearly, it's like I'm there." She slowly opened her eyes, and was looking directly into mine. "I know that's the opposite of what you see. But trust me, I see it."

...What?

"...What do you mean, the opposite of what I see?", I asked dubiously.

"You have the ability to perfectly recall what happened exactly ten years ago." Again, she put her palms up to block my incoming question. "I know, I know - "How do I know that"? Well, you told me yourself, silly," she grinned.

I most certainly didn't tell this lady that. I'd never told anyone - because it wasn't worth mentioning.

So how did she know...?

I decided it was best to feign ignorance. She was up to something here, and I wasn't going to give her any more information to work with if I could help it.

"So you think I have the ability to... remember things?" I scratched my head. "Doesn't sound like much of an ability. If you can remember something ten years back, that's just called good memory."

Florrie shook her head with a tender, almost nostalgic smile. "Ah, you always say that."

"Always when?", I asked with exasperation.

"In the future!", she responded, like it was blatantly obvious. "You really don't catch on."

It was hard to imagine how I'd been quietly enjoying listening to Florrie earlier, because I definitely wasn't thinking about that anymore. I was not in the mood for some stranger to play with me like this, however charming.

"Oh, I'm catching on. You're saying ten years from now, you and I still know each other? If so, and if both of us can really do the things you say, then... Yeah, that's right. Shouldn't you know exactly what I'm thinking right now?"

Florrie was claiming she could see exactly ten years into the future. And the "future me" in that very same time would know what I was thinking at this exact moment in the past. So I figured, as long as future Becca and future Florrie were able to talk to one another, it should have been possible for present-day Florrie to retrieve that information.

But of course, I wasn't believing any part of that. I'd rarely even thought of my own ability as an "ability," and this woman expected me to buy that she had future sight? Not only that, but a kind that reached ten years forward, in perfect reflection of mine...?

It all seemed preposterous. So I wanted to expose this as nonsense right out of the gate and be done with it.

But Florrie just sighed. "It is possible, but... Look, future you is begging you not to test me like this."

I scoffed at how readily she was talking about "future me," and also at her excuse. "How is it a "test"? It should be easy if... Oh, wait. If any of this were real. This is -"

"Clearly some kind of scam."

With reluctance in her voice, Florrie took the words right out of my mouth. And she continued to do so.

"Who are you, really? What are you after? People don't just come out of nowhere and start being affectionate..."

She looked up at my stunned face, then smiled.

"...Unless it was meant to be," she appended.

——

Naturally, I wasn't going to believe her with just that.

Even so, it told me something. Florrie had an understanding of how I think. That was the only reason she would have immediately thought to say that, short of actually reading my mind.

Maybe something here was meant to be. ...Or maybe she was just a scammer who, like any scammer worth her salt, was fully prepared for that circumstance.

Yet, well... just look at how I ordered those possibilities. I supposed I was trusting her, for now.

Before we split up that day, we exchanged contact info. Specifically, I gave her my professional email. Florrie gave me, uh... "florriezone420."

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I got an email from her the very next day. She wanted to come to my place, hang out, and tell me about the future. Talk about moving fast.

I'd tried asking Florrie yesterday what she wanted with me. She first made sure to point out how I had made the decision to come after her, then said that really, she just wanted to be friends. She wouldn't say much more than that, but she had implied future Becca was available for future Florrie to talk to. That was a weak basis for starting a longtime friendship, though - what if we only became proper friends toward the end of those ten years? Also, what if all her claims about the future were absolute bunk, but y'know.

I was about to gently turn down her offer when I noticed something. This... wasn't my first email from florriezone420.

I quickly looked through my past emails. Sure enough, I had taken a couple of jobs from Florrie in the past - or at least from someone using that email address, though I doubted that she'd gone that far to steal someone else's identity. Her grammar in those was considerably more "professional" than the email she'd just sent, and she even provided her full name. That said, I probably never paid attention to what her email address was. In my defense, she'd been just another client, so why would I?

At any rate, I wasn't sure what to make of this discovery. It seemed to support Florrie's claim that she didn't just happen to encounter me in the coffee shop that day. But that was by no means a good thing. In fact, it probably meant she'd been planning to approach me for quite a while. Whether her intentions were good or bad, all this was hardly spontaneous - which, granted, was exactly what she already told me, once you got past the claims of prognostication.

I hadn't wanted to let her into my home at this point, obviously. But now I felt an urge to confront her about this matter in person.

"Is there anywhere else we could meet, Ms. Florence Harriet Crane?"

Her reply came so quickly, I almost wondered if it had been pre-typed.

"the library? great! see you there, rebecca ingram ;)"

——

"Okay, now let's get your story straight," I began, hoping to catch Florrie in a lie.

"So you can catch me in a lie?", chirped Florrie.

"...Well, we'll just have to see, won't we," I groaned. "So, ten years from now, you say you'll have a great house, and a successful art career. Any other claims you want to make about your future?"

"Hmm... Not right now," Florrie answered after some thought. "But I will remind you that you're still around, too."

Right, she had alluded to knowing "future Becca." And honestly, that was probably the most unbelievable part. Ten years is a long time - which is to say, it's plenty of time to achieve those first two goals, but too much time for people without a close connection to stay in contact. And I was finding the existence of that close connection hard to swallow.

"Well, fine. Trying to prove what the future does or doesn't hold seems unproductive. So let's take it back earlier: you also claim you foresaw me coming to the coffee shop, which is why you worked there in the first place." As I said that, the true weight of her claim occurred to me: she was saying she foresaw me being there ten whole years ago, and remembered it all that time to finally act on it now.

As I ruminated on that, she just nodded in affirmation like it was no big deal. Eventually, I got back to my original question. "So is that also why you commissioned me for programming work? ...And how you tracked me down in the first place?"

Florrie put her hand to her chin and looked up in thought. "Sure, that's close enough to true. I hoped maybe we could get in contact a little sooner, but it didn't really go anywhere. But hey, I got to send some money your way!"

A thought gave me pause. "...Did you actually need that work done for something meaningful, or were you just making up jobs for me to do?"

"Don't worry, I wouldn't waste your time like that," she assured. "Essentially, I accepted jobs from other people and forwarded them to you."

"That's... not really you sending me money then, is it?", I sighed. It was more like she was my secret manager or something.

"Well... no. But actually, I was thinking about a job of my own for you!", Florrie exclaimed, as if just remembering it. "See, I want to put together a website for my art..."

I shook my head. "I don't do web design."

She tilted her head to the side. "Huh? Really? It doesn't have to be anything complicated."

"You'd be better off designing it yourself. There's easy ways to do that nowadays."

"If it's so easy even I could do it, then why can't the programming master, hmm?", Florrie teased.

I sighed. "I just don't have a good sense for that stuff. It'd look bad, and it'd feel bad. Besides, you're the artist. You're the one who'd know what complements your own art."

All of a sudden, Florrie's mood seemed to shift. She looked somehow... dejected, or disappointed. Had she been that eager for me to make her site? Surely that wasn't what this whole thing was about.

There was silence for a while.

"...You're a pretty different person in the future, you know," Florrie eventually remarked with a slight sigh.

"Can't imagine what that means. How am I different?"

Florrie seemed to wince. "Well... for one, your future self would never say something like that. That you don't have any sense for design." She looked up at me, and her tone lightened a little. "After all, you'll be an artist too."

I raised an eyebrow. "Seriously? How would I get from here to there? Why would I even decide to?"

"Ten years is a lot of time to change. And also..." Florrie grinned, her spirits fully returning. "I know I said I'll have a successful career in art, but I should be specific. I'm going to be an art teacher!"

I blinked. "...And you're going to live in a "wonderful house" on that salary? What kind of wild future is that..."

"Oh, don't be mean," she chided. "I'll be the one to teach you, to inspire you, to help you become what I know you can be. An invaluable service like that deserves good payment."

"So this is a scam," I joked.

"It'll be free for you, silly," she smiled. "Because this is just what I want to do. ...Well, but maybe that's not a good precedent to set."

"Please don't charge me for lessons I don't even want..."

"Hey, at least wait until you've had one before you make that judgement," replied Florrie, clearly offended.

As we bickered, I suddenly remembered where we were and glanced around. Nobody in the library seemed to be looking at us, but I immediately felt self-conscious.

"Don't worry about it," Florrie told me as if - as usual - reading my mind. "Nobody's going to be that bothered by us talking as long as you're not yelling. The only one bothered is you," she giggled.

I folded my arms. "And whose fault do you think that is?"

Florrie put her elbow on the table and leaned on her hand. "Wow. I know you're trying to imply it's mine, but that's a super philosophical question. Is it your fault for being self-conscious, or other people's fault for existing...? Neither seems very fair to blame." Then she brought her hands together. "Of course, the former is more changeable."

"Which is to say...?"

"I know that from experience." She winked.

I caught her gist. So that was another thing different about the supposed "future Becca" she knew - she was (or would be) unbothered by what people thought of her. And if Florrie was making an effort to teach me art, she probably intended to help me in that respect as well.

Provided she could in fact help... that was something I could actually be interested in.

I was starting to get a better picture of Florrie's motivations. When she said in her email she wanted to talk about the future, she must have been talking about my future, which she wanted to help me reach. Though wouldn't that mean she was just trying to make her own prophecy come true? Yet with that prophecy being ten whole years away... it didn't make much sense.

And I still didn't have the most crucial piece of info. Why me? Why was Florrie at all invested in my future? Unfortunately, the most plausible explanation so far was that there was no reason - I was just a random sucker being conned.

I figured it couldn't hurt to ask her excuse.

"Florrie, why would you care what kind of person I become?"

Florrie closed her eyes in thought for a good while. Finally, she spoke.

"I could speak for future Florrie, but right now, I bet you'd rather hear it from "present me" instead. So I'll just say... because you deserve the best."

——

Florrie had told me to "draw anything."

That made me doubt her absurd claims more than anything else so far had. Because if she knew me in the future, she should've known: you should never give me that much rope.

I stressed over what to draw every waking hour, and probably most of the non-waking hours too. I did trust that Florrie was a nice enough person to be understanding if it wasn't very good. But the choice of subject was the real killer. What would she read into my choice? What might impress or surprise her? Would she judge me for certain subjects?

If I could have thought of a more polite way to say it, I'm sure I would have retorted: "don't say "anything" if you don't mean "anything.""

But in the end, this was largely a problem of my own making. Her only fault was apparently not knowing this about me. So if she knew me from the future... maybe I would get better about this?

And anyway, from how it turned out, I got the impression there had been no lie there. She really would have been fine with anything.

"Wow, this is an impressive first assignment," Florrie remarked with wonder. "You're a natural at landscapes."

I blushed, even if I wasn't sure whether to consider that genuine. I felt like she would've found a way to compliment me on a blank piece of paper.

I'd settled on a landscape drawing because it felt like the safest bet. And Florrie had only talked to me about drawing people, so I figured it'd be better to steer away from her apparent forte. Still, it felt like an awfully boring choice, and my execution wasn't the greatest either.

"Now I know you must have practiced art before, which is a good sign," Florrie said with a smile. "What kind of experience have you had?"

"Mostly just self-study, but it was years and years ago," I admitted with a sigh. "In the end, I wasn't up to doing anything serious with it. I'm not a creative enough person."

"Really now," Florrie remarked in a dubious tone. I took it that once again, she was finding that hard to believe when compared to my future self. "And that's why you went into computers instead?"

"More or less," I shrugged. "Programming's something I can be good at. Because there, I can just study and learn what I need to know, you know?"

Florrie put her chin on her fist. "Well, I don't think programmers are getting replaced by robots anytime soon."

I blinked at her. "Uh... Hold on, what are we talking about?"

"I'm saying that even programming takes creativity," she sighed, as if regretting having to explain her leap in logic. "Analyzing a problem and coming up with a good solution? You can't be good at that if you're not creative."

"Well, but..." I pondered how to describe it. "There's still a sort of to-do list I can follow when I'm coding something. The requirements are clear -"

"Except when they're not, right?"

I was taken aback by that comment. She watched me with her chin in her hands.

"Sure, it might seem intimidating to have the option to draw anything. But you're not really going to draw anything. Either you'll draw what someone else wants, or you'll draw what you want."

I sighed and looked down at my picture. "What if I don't know what I want to draw?"

"Then I'll give you some unclear specifications," Florrie grinned.

Suddenly, I felt a buzzing in my pocket. I pulled out my phone and checked my email.

"u"

I glared at Florrie. "...Did you just butt-email me, or?"

"That's your prompt, silly," she giggled. "But I'll be a little more specific. Draw me "you." It can be any kind of "you" you want. It could be you now, or you from a certain age, or your player character from a game, or your fursona..."

"I don't have one of those," I flatly stated.

She rolled her eyes and smirked. "Maybe not yet."

That aside, it was an interesting range of possibility. A clear topic, but with plenty of room to do what I wanted with it. Although... now I was the one reading into Florrie's choice of subject.

"Any particular reason why you chose this?", I asked.

She nodded. "I draw myself all the time. My future self, usually."

"Why, when you can take a look at her anytime?", I wondered with suspicion.

"Only if she's by a mirror. My visions are in first-person, naturally, just like yours."

I was caught off-guard again by her uncanny knowledge of my ability. Maybe I shouldn't have been; it would be a reasonable assumption that I saw through my past self's eyes. But even with something that presumable, you wouldn't want to presume willy-nilly - every time, you'd be running the risk of being exposed as a fraud.

"And besides," Florrie continued, "art isn't about perfectly replicating something in reality. One of the things that makes art so compelling is what details the artist focuses on. Even a photographer has to decide what parts of reality to capture. That sort of thing tells you what they value in their art - in life itself, even."

I nodded along; it was a really interesting point. "But what does that have to do with drawing yourself?"

"By drawing myself, I can identify what it is I find important about myself, but may not consciously realize." She looked up at me. "Of course, that's also what's fun about drawing other people. It makes both parties realize what the artist values in their subject."

I averted my eyes. "Well... that might be fun to try someday."

"Someday," Florrie repeated with a smile.

For now, I still had this assignment to do. Florrie insisted there was no hard deadline, and she could still give me "lessons" in the meantime. It wasn't even strictly necessary for me to finish it.

But I really felt like I wanted to, sooner or later.

——

"You want us to do what?"

"Go to the beach!"

"I've... never gone to the beach before. Outside of a couple of family trips..."

"All the more reason to do something!"

When Florrie started talking about art inspiration, this was the last place I expected the conversation to end up.

But I should back things up. This was my first time going to Florrie's place. I believe the reasoning that finally got me to go there was that Florrie wanted me to try painting, but I didn't have the supplies, whereas she had everything ready to go at her place. Of course, I had also been wondering if I might be able to uncover some secret hidden in her room that would expose her plans, but I knew that was probably a foolish hope.

Anyway, Florrie wanted to see me paint something. She suggested a landscape, since my earlier one had been so good. But I couldn't come up with any ideas when I was put on the spot like that. Besides, don't people usually paint the landscapes in front of them? Was I supposed to paint her room?

When I brought that up, her thoughts turned to my ability. If I looked ten years into the past, would I be able to see a landscape I could reference? I told her no, not currently; she said that was a shame. After all, she liked painting things from her visions.

Suddenly, she grabbed a sketch sitting on a table. It seemed to be a picture of a beach with lots of people on it.

"Take this, for instance," Florrie said with a smile. "This vision gave me such immense joy, I immediately wanted to draw it. That's a common source of inspiration for me. Does anything like that come to mind?"

"...Not really," I replied. But I was curious. "What scene is this, exactly?"

She closed her eyes and smiled softly. "It's my wedding day. Having it on the beach was actually my wife's idea, but by the time the day came, I couldn't imagine it being anywhere else."

"You're married in the future?", I asked.

"Is that surprising?"

I shrugged. "I guess not. I mean, it would make your financial situation more believable."

Florrie laughed. And, with her mind now fixated on it, she decided it would be a great idea for us to go to the beach to get inspiration and practice our art, it being both a pretty place and somewhere with lots of people. Okay, all caught up.

From a theoretical standpoint, I was okay with her justification for why we should go to the beach. And at first, I'd been thinking I might go along with it, albeit maybe not as enthusiastically as she might've hoped. But I took issue with the notion that leaving my comfort zone was automatically a good thing.

"I get that mixing up your life can help you get inspired," I sighed. "But I don't want you taking me on wild adventures in the name of that. I like the comfortable routine I have going already."

"No, I totally get it," Florrie nodded. "It's completely valid to want that."

She leaned forward. "But how much do you like your current routine, really? How comfortable is it? Because if you want to get into a better one, you're not gonna get there by doing nothing." Leaning back in her chair, she folded her arms. "Shouldn't a programmer know the First Law of Robotics?"

I stared blankly. "...Um. I thought I did, but...? What does Asimov have to do with anything?"

"Y'know, like "an object at rest stays at rest"..."

...I decided I wasn't going to comment on that.

She suddenly raised a finger. "Actually, that gives me an idea. Hey, stand up and spin around a bunch for me."

"What?" I gave her a funny look. "You're really taking your weirdness to the next level today..."

"Just do it, okay?"

I did as she said, slowly spinning in place. When I stopped, I realized Florrie had been carefully observing me.

"Okay, now spin the other way."

I did that, too, still not seeing where this was going. Once I was done, Florrie rubbed her chin.

"Hmm... Same number of spins."

I thought about it, and realized that yeah, she was right. But since she hadn't specified anything exact, it seemed kind of natural to go for roughly the same duration, right?

Florrie pressed me, though. "Why do you think you felt compelled to spin back the same number of times?"

I hadn't thought of it as a compulsion, but I tried to think of something deeper than my initial idea. "I don't know, it's not like I was thinking about it like that... I guess it's like I'm re-orienting myself? Undoing the first spins you had me do?"

She shook her head. "And how many times do you think you've turned in your life and not turned back? You're constantly re-centering. And that lets you get new perspectives from the same angles."

Suddenly, she stood up and walked over to me. Before I could ask what she was doing now, she gently grabbed me and started spinning me around.

Florrie was making me go considerably faster than I had on my own, so I started to get kind of dizzy. Once she let go, I found myself trying to recall how many times her face had spun by and spinning back that many times. But I wasn't confident in my count at all, and kept spinning back and forth with uncertainty.

"How do you feel?", Florrie asked with what felt like an inappropriate tenderness.

"Disoriented!", I snapped. "Don't do that to me again! I feel like a wound-up piece of string..."

"Then let's go unwind," she said with a grin.

I groaned. "Please don't tell me that was all for a pun..."

"Of course not," she asserted. "It was to make a point and to make a pun."

——

Florrie drove us down to the beach. I hadn't gotten dressed to go swimming, but Florrie was looking great in a cute swimsuit. When we arrived, there were so many people. What was I supposed to draw? Was I supposed to draw? I clung to my sketchbook, but Florrie pulled me by my other hand, toward the water. "Just a little dip, the water's fine." Drowning. But still on land. She looks so happy to be here with me and I'm with her but I'm not comfortable at all why why why why "Becca? Are you okay?" I'll just sit, on the shore, or maybe i'll go back to the car, florrie im sorry i ruined it can i just



A gentle hand on my shoulder.

Okay. Okay. I'm calm.

Let's not do that again.

——

The day following our beach trip, Florrie suggested we should take that day "off," and just chill out at her place.

I accepted this, but after sitting around in mostly silence for a while, I had to ask Florrie if this was really okay. Wasn't she intent on giving me "lessons"? And also, from the opposite direction, didn't she want some time to herself? We'd been meeting pretty frequently. What was it, our sixth meeting in a row now?

"It's completely fine, Becca," she assured. "You can consider this part of the lessons - well, part of us becoming friends, essentially." She looked up toward the ceiling. "I've definitely gotten a little impatient sometimes. But I understand in my head that things take time. And we do have a lot of time."

I nodded, and the silence resumed.

I figured now would be a good chance to ask some questions that had been on my mind. The main reason I hadn't asked them before was that, well... they would likely imply to Florrie that I'd accepted her claims as fact. I hadn't wanted to give her the impression that I unquestioningly believed she could see the future.

So why did I ask them now...? It just seemed right, I suppose. And maybe I realized I'd have to indulge her a bit if I wanted to know the truth.

I started with something that tied into her previous remark. "So, Florrie, you said you foresaw meeting me in the coffee shop ten years ago. And you foresee me being your friend ten years from now. But you must have had visions between those two points too, right? So how much of our current meetings did you foresee...?"

Florrie considered how to answer for a second. "Well, first of all, my visions aren't constantly pouring into my head. Nice as they can be, I'd have a hard time living in the present if it worked that way. They're effectively optional, seen whenever I want to see them, and that means I don't catch every moment." She grinned. "Of course, I knew once I saw our meeting that it'd be worth watching how things unfolded from there, so I did my best."

I nodded. Once again, the specifics of her power matched mine without me having mentioned any details. I, too, only saw the past when I wanted to, though sometimes I had visions "unintentionally" when my mind wandered.

Again, maybe an easy guess, since it would be pretty debilitating otherwise. Florrie said constantly seeing the future would make life hard... but I felt that constantly seeing the past would be much worse.

"Of course, though, I don't write down every detail from my visions," she continued. "There's just too much. And maybe it's a silly worry, but what if someone else found my notes about future events...? It feels a little risky." She shook her head. "All that's to say, I know the gist of how things will unfold, but not the details. Don't expect me to just give things away, of course."

...Says the lady who constantly alludes to the things she's seen in the future.

I pondered her comment on the riskiness of taking notes. At first, I wondered what kind of sensitive information she was worried about. But maybe it wasn't that - rather, she was worried what would happen to her if unscrupulous people discovered she could see the future. Even so, if things went bad, wouldn't she just foresee that happening and be able to prevent it easily? Then again, if she could only see a distant ten years into the future...

"It's sort of unwieldy having visions that are ten years away, huh?", I mused to Florrie, and maybe to myself as well.

"Yeah," she sighed. "I know what the goal is, but it's hard to put together what the path there is. But like I said, ten years also means we have a lot of time to figure it out." She looked away slightly. "Still, I might have liked it better if it were five years, or even less."

It seemed ironic for someone to be wishing to see less far into the future, but I completely understood her. "That might be better for me, too. When my visions reopened old wounds, at least they'd be more recent ones..."

Florrie gave me a concerned look and patted me on the back. Okay, maybe I didn't need to say that thought out loud...

I restored the mood by asking something else I was curious about. "Well, speaking of how far ahead you can see... Having visions is sort of like inhabiting your future self's mind, right? So does that mean you could see her visions to see 20 years ahead, and so on?"

"If it worked like that, then I'd definitely be mad that it was in 10-year increments," Florrie laughed. "But no, it doesn't seem like it. Maybe I've just been profoundly unlucky and never caught myself in the middle of a vision, but more likely, visions are simply not things I can perceive while in a vision. I also don't have access to my future self's long-term memories - only her senses, thoughts, and feelings in the moment."

It was a remarkably well-considered answer, if you were still under the impression she was lying about the whole thing. And notably, the answer itself didn't mesh with it being a scam. After all, if Florrie's only goal was to get me to feel close to her, would she really pass up the opportunity to say "yes, we'll be together forever"?

I was coming to notice something, though. Florrie's most believable proof of her ability had to do with knowing the details of my ability. Suffice to say, her description of why she couldn't "chain" visions perfectly matched my own experience once again.

On one hand, demonstrating knowledge of a thing I hadn't yet told anyone was probably the easiest, clearest way for her to prove her ability. On the other... was future sight really the only power that could give her that knowledge?

That wasn't something I'd be able to ask her, of course. I'd just have to think it over for myself.

"...I see. Still, seems like a pretty amazing power," I sighed.

She giggled. "I'm sure you're thinking it's far more useful than yours, and that it's unfair. But you know, Becca," she said with a smirk, "I feel like I have a decent enough memory of ten years ago. So maybe you can see the future a little, too."

I gave her an unamused glare. "Why would that be remotely how it works?"

"It can never hurt to try," she laughed. "At any rate, I don't know that your ability is as bad as you think. There's always a bright side to look on. Even if it's not a great past overall, you can focus on the good parts. The parts that were valuable in getting you to where you are today - your then-future. People beautify their memories all the time, you know?"

Of course Florrie would think that way. She saw the future, and had to figure out how to get there from the present. Meanwhile, I saw the past, and knew how it led to the present.

But so what? No matter how I twisted my perspective of the past to get what I wanted out of it... it wouldn't change what really happened.

Florrie noticed me moping, and her mood turned somewhat solemn.

"If you really can't find any good in the past," she began, "just remember this. You're always doing your best not to leave any regrets. When you look back at the past, it might feel like you could've done a much better job of that. But the fact you can recognize this shows you've changed, and you're learning. And in that way, you'll continue doing your best."

She looked up at me, staring right into my eyes.

"And someday, you'll be able to look back and be satisfied with what you see."

——

After our day of rest, we got back to business as usual.

However, the mood was a lot different than it had been the first few days. As much as Florrie presented herself as a person who always knew what was going to happen, she'd been rather... hasty at first. Likely due to the beach incident, that had changed, and now things were much more peaceful between us, so to speak.

She'd give me advice and assignments, or tell me about the future. I'd work on programming jobs at her place. We'd chat about whatever. It began feeling more and more like we were friends with a quiet understanding of one another. Florrie probably realized this herself, but this was a far more effective way of getting me to believe we'd be longtime friends than just telling me we would be.

And so, a week or two later, I was quietly painting in Florrie's room. Following her suggestion from the other day, I was using my visions as reference to paint a landscape. Eventually, past me stopped looking at the scenery, so I started wrapping up my painting there.

I realized I wasn't sure where Florrie was, and looked around the room for her.

I spotted her behind me, off to the side, sitting at an easel pointed in my direction.

"...What are you painting, Florrie?", I asked.

She blushed and averted her eyes. "Err... you, Becca."

We'd spent enough time together by now that, future vision or not, she probably knew what I was starting to realize.

"I'm really important to future Florrie, aren't I?", I remarked aloud. "That's the reasoning you've given me. It's why you want to help me become the person you know in the future."

She closed her eyes and nodded.

"But as much as you seem to value me... In the end, our future selves are just close friends. That's what you've been telling me, right?"

Florrie was silent.

I stood up and came around for a look at her painting. It was a familiar face - mine. But specifically, it was an older version of me.

"It was a good effort," I chuckled. "But honestly, there was no way you could have me believe that for long."

Just to make sure, I dug up one of the sketches from her desk.

Sure enough, the woman Florrie was with on the beach looked just like the woman she was painting now.

"Your future wife is me, isn't it?"

Florrie turned bright red, and it felt like she radiated heat. I couldn't deny getting some pleasure out of surprising a future-seer - and by exposing such a poorly-kept secret, at that. Although I couldn't say for sure whether she was actually surprised, or just embarrassed.

"...Do you... reject that future?", she said at last.

"If it's really the future, don't I just have to accept it?"

She shook her head with purpose. "I may see it clearly, but that doesn't mean it can't be changed. ...Think of it this way. The fact I can see into the future doesn't mean fate is predetermined, or that we don't have free will. Because what I see is influenced by my current desires for the future."

I stifled a laugh. "Well, that's convenient, isn't it?"

Florrie folded her arms at me. "I don't intend to use it as an excuse. What I see is a very likely and accurate future. I've demonstrated that by meeting you in the first place, among other things." Her head turned down and to the side. "There's only one reason I know of why my visions wouldn't come to pass: if I, or anyone else who found out about it, were to work against that future."

So that's what she was worried about.

In retrospect, it was clear why Florrie had wanted to move things along so fast. But at least in her head, she knew the risk of doing this, and tried to slow herself down the slightest bit. If I had found out at the wrong time that she was intent on marrying me someday, and rejected her as a result, it would've endangered the future she saw.

I really hadn't known Florrie for all that long. And yet, it seemed this was not the wrong time.

I did genuinely like her. She was kind to me, supported me; she wanted to see me become my best self. The main concern I had was whether Florrie could think the same things about me. But if she was the one who wanted that future first, then...

For a moment, I remembered my suspicion. But it was beginning to feel foolish. Sure, I still had doubts about whether Florrie could really see the future. But I could no longer doubt her sincerity. Who would go to the lengths she'd gone, and continued to go, just to con me out of... whatever she even thought I had?

I guess in some sense, it was a con. But all Florrie was after was my heart.

Crucially, I wasn't being forced into a hard decision here. If either of us ever found that things weren't working out... that future could change.

So I gave her my reply.

"Don't get me wrong, Florrie. It doesn't sound bad at all."

I hugged her gently from behind.

"I'll believe in that future. And in fact, I'm looking forward to it."

She smiled warmly, and stood up to hug me back. After letting go, she asked:

"So, we're dating?"

Somehow, even though I'd said just a second ago that I was looking forward to our eventual marriage, that made me blush.

"...So we're dating, yes," I answered sheepishly.

——

I'd finally completed my assignment. A drawing of "me" that I could be comfortable showing Florrie.

That said, I still was a little nervous as I handed it over. Oddly, I don't think it was Florrie's reaction I was nervous about. I guess I was, like... worried how genuine I would think she was being?

My worries were quickly put to rest. Her reaction certainly might have looked overblown, yet I had no doubt she was just that pleased with my rendering of myself.

"I love it," she said with a mix of laughter and tearful joy. "You really brought out the best in yourself, Becca."

I smiled, blushing. I guess I did, huh.

"No pressure, but I'd love to see you keep it up. This alone is already a priceless work of art, but I'd be the happiest woman in the world to have a whole private collection of these," Florrie giggled.

"You sure? If I draw the same thing over and over again, won't that just lower the value?", I remarked teasingly.

"You can mix it up. Draw me your video game avatars," she snickered, but in a way that indicated she wasn't necessarily joking. "Hey, by the way, that's a cute outfit you drew yourself in. Do you actually own that?"

"Uh, nah, I just made it up -"

"Then you wanna go look for it?"

That caught me off guard. "You... You want to take me clothes shopping?"

Florrie nodded. "Sure, if you feel like you're up for it. I've talked about how fun it can be for people to draw each other, right? If we bought each other nice outfits to boot, that'd make it even better," she grinned.

I went quiet. The idea that people's drawings of one another revealed what they valued in each other had stuck with me - and it seemed Florrie, too, had been waiting for an opportunity for us to start doing that. I couldn't say I wasn't also excited to try.

Truthfully, I didn't think I was good at drawing people. After all, in my everyday life, I was inattentive to people. The main thing was that I could never sustain eye contact with anyone; even when it didn't feel like they were staring, it felt like I was staring. So I tended to just have a very general idea of people's faces and bodies.

But Florrie was different, and I couldn't really place why. Maybe it was that she was utterly unbothered by me looking at her, so I didn't feel as self-conscious about staring. Maybe it was that her eyes felt less judgemental than others', looking at me with fondness. Maybe it was that I wanted to pay attention to her appearance, body language, and most minor gestures, whereas with most people I couldn't care less.

So I was excited to draw Florrie, and have her draw me. Because I wanted to capture what I saw in her, both for my benefit and hers, and I wanted to know what she saw in me.

That said, I did have a slight doubt about her suggestion.

"...Don't spend too much on me, please," I told her, hanging my head. "I probably won't wear what you buy very often..."

Florrie looked at me curiously. "Why's that? You drew yourself wearing it for a reason, didn't you?"

"I like the idea of wearing that outfit, but... if I just think about what I normally wear, there's no chance it'd get any real use." I gestured at the plain sweater I was wearing. "Like, I'm comfortable in this. It's cute, it's soft. So I wear stuff like this all the time, and never have much reason to wear anything else..."

Florrie pondered for a bit. "Not to repeat myself, but... you drew yourself wearing that outfit for a reason. There's some part of you that would enjoy wearing it, so I'd say it's absolutely worth it. Maybe it won't enter your "default" wardrobe, but so what? I'm paying for it," she smirked.

"That makes me feel worse about it, actually," I groaned.

She shook her head. "Look, clothes exist for covering yourself and comforting yourself, but they also exist to make you feel good about yourself. So if you feel like you're sitting at two out of three, switch it up. If there's something you want to wear, just wear it. Forget the idea that you need an occasion to dress fancy - any day can be an occasion to dress for yourself." She winked: "Or hey, for someone else."

That actually made a lot of sense to me. I couldn't just do what came naturally - I had to think about what I was doing it for. If I wasn't wearing clothes for myself, then who was I wearing them for...?

Suddenly, a thought occurred to me. Florrie always wore an eclectic variety of clothing, and I struggled to think of a repeated outfit. Was she changing it up that frequently just for her own pleasure, or...?

"Um... I'll accept your offer," I said. "But do you really need any new outfits, Florrie?"

"If there's any you'd like to see me in, absolutely," she laughed.

——

"You want to go bowling?"

"...Not really."

"Maybe an arcade?"

"That feels too noisy to be worth it..."

"Hanging out at a bar?"

"Not a chance."

"And still a no on my camping trip idea?"

I sighed. "Are these things my future self is into? Because right now, I can't even imagine it."

Florrie contemplated it. "Well... if I told you whether they were or not, that might affect the future, so I won't say."

"Right..." I rubbed my head. "Yeah, it's still a no. Sorry..."

She waved her hands. "It's fine! We can keep taking it easy here."

I wanted to believe that. But without Florrie's confidence in the future, it seemed I had become the impatient one.

As I thought about what I wanted to do, something floated into my mind. A question I'd wanted to ask for a while, but that I could never in million years find the proper moment to. No, I thought, I shouldn't ask -

"Something you want to ask, Becca?"

My best guess is that Florrie startled me into just spitting it out.

"U-Um, Florrie. I've wanted to bring this up for a while, and I don't want to be rude or invasive, but I just wanted to confirm -"

"Yeah, I'm trans," Florrie casually interrupted. "It's no problem telling you, Becca."

Oh. Um... that was easy.

"I-I see... I was assuming as much, but I never did confirm it, so... But, uh, I was thinking..." I gulped my nerves down. "...Was that, you know, an easy decision? Since you can see the future...?"

Florrie seemed taken aback by that moreso than the first question, though she was still rather casual. "Maybe somewhat. But I don't think anything can make it particularly easy."

I nodded, looking down toward the floor. "Well... I guess that's all I wanted to ask." Then I looked up. "Just so it's clear, though, I'm not having doubts about my own identity."

Florrie smiled and nodded. "Of course."

"I've just been thinking a lot of things," I sighed. "About what we're doing here, and how it feels to know what you want, but take what feels like forever to reach it... Because I mean, I have trans friends online. And they seem so proactive about getting out there and realizing their ideal selves. Meanwhile, I'm struggling every step of the way to make any changes in my life..."

"From where I'm sitting, Becca, you're making great progress," Florrie reassured me. "And like I said, changing yourself is never easy. Because you can't just rely on someone else's example - you have to find your own way ahead." She put her arm around me. "That doesn't mean I can't try and help you, though."

"...Thanks, Florrie. You're an inspiration... even if inspiration doesn't feel like enough sometimes," I lamented.

"Well, I've seen ten years into the future all my life, so I'd like to think I have experience with this sort of thing too. But even then, I've made some hasty moves and outright mistakes..." Florrie stroked my hair. "So maybe don't just get inspiration from me - get inspired by yourself. Surprise even yourself by doing something different. I know you can, Becca."

That felt like a tall order for me. Me, who could only relive the past - of course I would want to rely on the future-facing Florrie to show me the way.

But maybe she was right. There'd be no change unless I could break myself out of my assorted ruts. And maybe I'd made some small steps already.

I was feeling inspired. And I wouldn't let anybody tell me I couldn't start changing right this second.

"Do you want to go to the aquarium?", I asked with surprise.

——

And so, we went on a date to the aquarium.

I wasn't exactly sure why this was the thing that popped into my mind. But the more time we spent there, the more it felt like a good choice. Florrie hadn't really indicated a fondness for aquariums or anything, yet it felt like I'd made a lucky guess. As if I, too, had future knowledge about her.

I wondered if the confidence with which I walked around holding hands with Florrie could be attributed to the location, too, or if I was just feeling unusually confident in general. I'd never thought of myself as a sea-life person, but maybe I was into this place too.

Or maybe the most accurate description was this: she and I could be into it together.

After walking around at random for a while, I found myself stopping in front of some jellyfish. Florrie stopped there, too.

"You like jellyfish, Becca?"

"Yeah... They've always kind of been a favorite," I mused. "They're strange, but pretty. And they float around gracefully, not really thinking too hard about it. ...Kind of like you, Florrie."

She gave me a look. "Hey, are you calling me brainless?!"

I blushed and looked away. "I-I think of it as a compliment... I told you, I like them..."

"Hmph," she grunted, though she was far from being genuinely upset.

After a few moments, Florrie spoke up again. "Well, as for you, Becca... I guess I'd say you're like a tortoise. Slow and steady, but you always win the race!"

I tilted my head with a concerned look. "That... doesn't really feel like a flattering comparison, as much as you might have wanted it to be... Also, tortoises aren't aquatic."

"I-I knew that!", she responded defensively. "Who said you had to be aquatic?!"

"No one said anything about anything, Florrie," I laughed. "How long were you thinking that one up?"

Suddenly, Florrie pulled out her phone.

"Uh... what are you doing?", I asked.

She answered without hesitation: "As soon as you smiled just now, I wanted to capture it right away."

...I see. A precious part of reality she wanted to give attention to, huh?

"In that case, let's take a selfie with the jellyfish," I suggested. "So we can remember why I was smiling."

"Good idea!" She gestured for me to stand in front of the tank. "Okay, get in frame, and... cheese!"



After that, we continued making our way around. But every time we saw a new animal, we couldn't refrain from, well...

"Ah, the starfish. It might look like it sits around doing nothing all day, but it can stubbornly bounce back even if you cut off its arms - just like you, Becca."

"Sharks really are the most Florrie of animals. They've got sharp teeth and everyone thinks they're scary, but it's all misinformation. They'll only bite your arm off if you give them a reason to."

"Aren't dolphins the best? They're super intelligent, and yet all it seems like they wanna do is make their trainers happy. Becca, are these your relatives?"

"I have to admire someone who can escape a tricky situation by making up a bunch of junk to confuse their pursuer. Oh, sorry, Florrie - I was talking about octopuses."

Our joking got cheap laughs at best, but there was no denying we were smiling. And we ended up taking quite a few selfies in that way.

Soon, it started getting dark, and we were wrapping up our visit.

"So... today was a date, huh?", I asked aloud.

"I figured that was obvious," Florrie responded with a smile.

I brought my hand to my cheek. "It feels kind of weird to be "dating"... but not in the way I would've expected."

Florrie tilted her head. "What do you mean by that?"

"We believe we're going to get married someday in the future, right? But we've yet to actually, you know, propose. When would the time for that even be...?"

"When you're ready, of course," she answered confidently. "When else do you think people propose?"

I lowered my head, embarrassed. "Well... I don't feel at all ready for marriage yet, so..."

"Right. But you have faith you will someday, don't you? In that sense, you can still "propose" a future for us," she winked.

I chuckled. "Florrie... You know what you're like?"

"What?", she asked, already cracking up.

"The sea. Because you want to hold everything in you, and nurture everything around you."

She blinked at me. "...Hey, wait, that actually wasn't terrible."

"And also, I'm always above your level."

"Hey!!"

——

I was getting dressed up for a special occasion. And not of the "any day can be an occasion" variety, but something especially special.

Florrie had invited me to dinner at her place, and I couldn't have been more excited.

After checking myself in the mirror one last time, I went to put my phone in my purse, when it started buzzing in my hand. Probably Florrie, I thought. I answered the call.

It was mom.

"Jadshd?"

"Um... hi, mom. W-What are you calling for...?"

"Kdjaskd fkjjak nfnm dn rne akelae. Iorkje sjaj rkoas emkme rkj?"

"Uh, everything's fine. I'm just at my apartment right now. I'm pretty busy, so if it's not urgent -"

"Ijajeen neaen kelek. Ijasaijs ekkaea m emnm ean? Jjnen ajne no eabbe?"

"N-No, of course I'm still taking programming work... I'm working on, you know, a big project right now. Everything's fine..."

"Jkekene leeae Nemanre?"

"...What about Florrie?"

"Hjemane keka kejamrn orpo? Jkeaneae asnd abn dasbd abdbna? Kenaesa ebae ane baneb msbnaeb..."

"She's... she's just a friend. I go visit her sometimes since, um... since she gets lonely..."

"Ajsah ajsd jl ash hda? Ahbas bha sdj asd has dkash adsh j djkh."

"O-Oh... really?"

"Ekejakle e aneb ae nenae. Jke jekaj ekae jkeak eghj gea ge, ejkae jjha ehe hjah jkea. Ek aejkl hjajkeh kjae hkahje?"

"Um... well, I didn't go to any aquarium. She was probably... uh, some other friend of Florrie's."

"Ekej aeua ehj heakjs hkjh ea... Ekejak eaj enjan ea ea semnb emabn esabmn."

"...I-I know, mom."

"Kjajslkajk asd jas djaks hdjha jshk dhja shkj as?"

"...Yes, mom..."

"Ejekjka, Jadshd. A nmen ele."

"...love you too, mom."

——

I greeted Florrie with the most meager of smiles.

She looked surprised by my lack of enthusiasm. But I got the impression she hoped a nice dinner could get me out of whatever funk I was in.

We started to eat. But I didn't even feel like touching my plate.

"Florrie," I said at last.

"Yes, Becca?", she replied in a chipper voice, with some relief at finally hearing me speak.

"Ten years from now, we're married, right? And we're happy? And we're not afraid to let the whole world know?"

She nodded firmly. "Absolutely, Becca. Now and always, I see it clear as day."

"Huh," I said. Then I went quiet again.

Eventually, I resumed speaking to an increasingly nervous-looking Florrie.

"...I've been thinking about how I could ever definitively debunk or prove your claims, Florrie. Your excuses are pretty logical, and seem to cover just about every base. The future isn't fully certain because our desires can change it. And my future self isn't willing to cooperate with anything like a direct mind-reading test. As I've come to trust you more, I've actually understood why I'd feel that way: it would cheapen my belief in you."

"Well, I'm not sure if I should take that as a compliment," she nervously chuckled. "I'm only telling you whatever might help you see I'm telling the truth."

I all but ignored her. "I've realized there are only two things that could truly prove or disprove you. One is to continue believing in the future you describe, and wait and see if it really comes to pass. The other... is to have a crystal clear vision of my own."

"So... y-you're going to keep believing me? I'm glad to hear it, Becca -"

"I've had the latter," I interrupted. "Do you want to know what I saw?"

"...B-Becca, please. Don't say any more."

"You were right. We will be happy together."



"I saw... that you were a liar. But now I believe in you as a person."




"We're fated to be together forever and"





"sorry i'm just talking nonsense i love you florrie"







"why did i ever doubt you florrie i"








becca please please just say anything but that don't










"I'm never coming out as a girl."


Florrie stared at me wide-eyed. "B-Becca? You don't really mean that -"

I cut her off. "Ten years from now, you'll still be the only one who ever called me "Becca" to my face. I'll still see myself as Becca, of course. But the world will never know. Not after ten whole years."

"Becca!!" She slammed the table with uncommon anger.

"I'm grateful for everything you've been trying to do. But in all your focusing on the future, you ignored a very obvious fact: what a coward I am, and always have been. I know myself better than anyone, and I see all the hardships that will keep me from even continuing a relationship with you, much less transitioning. I mean, at this age? You're fooling yourself to think I could ever."

"You can! I've seen it happen!!", Florrie shouted. "This is about your mother, right?! It'll all work out!!"

"Well then, mighty oracle, why can't you tell me how it'll happen, every step of the way?"

She clenched her fists, on the verge of tears. "Because... because you have to find that out yourself...!"

I wasn't buying that.

"I know you weren't comfortable going to the beach, and I was way too hasty doing that!", Florrie cried out. "But there'll come a day when you do feel comfortable there! And it'll be such a good memory, you'll suggest it for our wedding, and...!"

I shook my head. "Like always... you're just telling me what I want to hear. How can I possibly trust what motivations a person like that might have?"

"My motivations are that I love you, Becca!!" She let out a sob. "I talked about having a future wife early on, right?! That was before you came out to me! I really do know the future!!"

That gave me pause. It wasn't easy to explain. And yet, I chose an easy explanation.

"...You just got lucky."

Of course, I did realize. If Florrie really were a scammer, it would make no sense for her to talk about having a future wife, then slot me into that role after I came out to her. If she were trying to keep a consistent story, switching the details so drastically would be a big risk.

Yet I pushed those doubts down. Because ultimately, this wasn't about whether I believed Florrie.

I was just too afraid of what would come in-between to work toward Florrie's future anymore.

I made for the door. Florrie tried to stop me, but she couldn't. No one could.

"You say I'm too focused on the future, Becca," Florrie said through tears, "but you're too focused on the past. Ten years in the future, Becca... is crying about this."





I was.

——

Tears fall down my face. Why am I doing this? Why can't I believe Florrie? Don't I know what I'm doing?

But there's nothing I can do to change it.

Because it's the past. And I can only watch myself do it.

I want to look away, and yet I can't. Maybe there was a moment of remorse, I tell myself. Any second now, maybe I turned around and went back to apologize.

Even though I knew in my memories that didn't happen. In this moment, I lost faith. In Florrie, and in myself.

So I guess it's no wonder my past self won't listen to my pleas, because they sound just like Florrie's.

Wanting to take my mind off this tragedy, I think back on how I ended up here in the first place.

Initially, when the tenth anniversary of our meeting in the coffee shop arrived, I was ecstatic. It's always been a rare occasion for me to have visions I wanted to see, and starting with that one, they've become a lot more frequent. Those early interactions with Florrie especially were moments I wanted to look back on. So I've spent a good deal of time viewing them, and enjoyed reminiscing about them afterward too.

That's not to say I've been perfectly comfortable with the experience. It may have been a pivotal and wonderful time in some ways, but when I relive that past, I also have to relive some intense emotional struggles. That denial, that reluctance, that sense of futility. And not only did I re-experience those emotions, I even found myself feeling a bit like Florrie had - impatient and frustrated with my past self.

It didn't take long for me to notice that I was remembering the past a bit differently than it really was. Yes, as if I had already been presenting as a woman at that age. It was in no way conscious, at least not until I noticed it myself. I just quietly altered the occasional contradictory detail in my otherwise crystal-clear visions, and outright refrained from viewing certain moments.

So deep down, I suppose I did wish I had transitioned much sooner. That I didn't need Florrie to come "realize" what I'd known was right for me years ago, but was just too cowardly to do.

After the vision of our first beach trip, I told myself I should take a break from the past for a bit. But maybe I was just making an excuse to skip over what happened the very next day: coming out to Florrie.

Of course it was a precious memory. But subconsciously, I must've felt that it would have hurt to relive. After all, I had already been avoiding the reality of still being in the closet then. So naturally, I was unwilling to confront the moment where all that came to a head.

In this painful time I'm reliving now, however, I think I'd like to remember the good parts of it.

Florrie was highly apologetic after my uncomfortable experience at the beach. She knew she had stepped over the line, and hoped I could forgive her. I did, of course, though unfortunately, that was more because I blamed myself for not seeing it coming. I mean, I hadn't once been to the beach after realizing I was trans. Even if I was just wearing normal clothes instead of a swimsuit, I strongly felt like I didn't belong there. All this conflicted with wanting to make Florrie happy, and...

Okay, okay, I'd better not get lost in all that again. The point is that we made up, and Florrie decided we'd better stick to regular old art lessons for a while.

However, though surely unintentional, this reincited some other anxieties. Because ever since she gave it to me, I had been at a loss on how to handle Florrie's assignment to "draw myself."

The broadness she allowed me, though it sounded helpful at first, didn't actually help. Whether I chose to draw my present, future, or even past self, I'd want to draw her as a girl. I always played as girls in games when I could. And while I didn't have a fursona then, she'd surely be a girl too.

I didn't feel ready to admit that to Florrie yet. There'd actually been a moment or two where, with her future knowledge, she implied she knew I was a woman named Becca, yet I stubbornly denied it. Because at the time, her future claims meant nothing to me - some level of fondness aside, she was a suspicious stranger, and I didn't want her knowing.

Florrie, always attentive, caught on to how I was feeling the next day. She asked how my assignment was coming along.

I was never a great liar, so I tried to tell a half-truth. "Um, I have a rough sketch in my bag, but it's definitely not -"

"I'll be okay with anything you show me."

The tone with which she said that had a powerful reassurance. I realized, deep down, that I wanted those words to be true.

So I showed her.

She closed her eyes, smiled, and nodded.

"That's you, all right."

As she hugged me and my tears poured out, all my resistance melted away. I felt like a fool for hiding it from her - if you could call it hiding, seeing as she already knew. If I'd known how relieving this would feel, I would have absolutely done it sooner.

Florrie told me I was not only free, but encouraged, to wear whatever I wanted while at her place. We spent the entire next day doing not much at all, with the intent being to let me get comfortable dressing feminine around another person.

Florrie always had my back. She truly cared for me in every conceivable way. She truly loved me.

And this was what I did to her.

I told her her future was fake. I told her she was wrong for believing in me. No, more than that; I said she was a dirty scammer who was only doing this to manipulate me.

You were so stupid, Becca. Always cowardly, and shortsighted, and ungrateful -



Suddenly, there's a hand on my shoulder.

And there's no question whose hand it is.

"It's the tenth anniversary of that, huh?"

I nod, sobbing.

"Not that it's much of a thing to celebrate. You forgot it was even coming up, didn't you? ...So did I. Which is a good sign, right?"

Her arms embrace me warmly from behind, and I open my eyes. Through tears, I see the ring on her finger.

"Don't get stuck in that moment. Because you've got your proof now. Everything worked out - just like I said it would."

——

Back in the past, though I didn't want to admit it, I was suffering. Without Florrie at my side here in the "future," I'm not sure I could bear reliving it.

I was refusing contact with Florrie, refusing to leave the house, and just trying to absorb myself in coding. But it didn't work. My mind kept wandering between two things: visions of a terrible past, and thoughts about Florrie.

I don't know exactly what visions I had then, but I do know the past reinforced my cowardice and fear. It showed me a banal life that would be "safe" for me, as well as every time I'd been punished for stepping away from the norm. It robbed me of imagining anything else being possible.

As if to save myself from that, I thought about Florrie. Particularly, I wondered if my judgement had really been correct. Was my denial of Florrie's visions truly justified? Unfortunately, I was actually finding the answer to be "yes." The more I thought about her claims, the more holes I found - things I hadn't noticed because Florrie was around, or things I chose to ignore because she was around.

And there was one hole so major and obvious, I couldn't believe I hadn't noticed it before.

Florrie said she foresaw our meeting ten years ago. And she patiently waited ten years for it to happen. Except... Florrie wasn't patient. For one thing, there was the matter of her sending me programming work, which even she admitted was to try and get my attention just the slighest bit earlier.

She didn't see our meeting as an event she simply needed to wait for. So why on earth would she wait the ten years?

Maybe she didn't know how else to find me? But as a teen, she would've had a direct link to future me. If her late-twenties self just asked me where I was ten years ago, her teenage self could have tracked me down that way. Of course, she never asked me anything like that, so that clearly didn't happen.

Well, I mean... the simple fact that I never met Florrie back then is what proved it didn't happen.

Where was I ten years ago? High school? Yeah, Florrie wasn't there.

...

Wait a second.

What if Florrie never tried to track me down as a teen... because she'd already found me?

I immediately tried to look into the past. I don't remember exactly what day I saw, but I remember who.

They were one of the only friends I'd had in high school. I remembered having computer classes with them. We were pretty close, but after high school, we completely lost contact with one another, so I never saw them again.

And in this person, I could now see Florrie.

...You've gotta be kidding me.

For the rest of the night, I strained my memory to recall anything I could about my high school friend. Somewhat ironically, my regular memory outside of visions wasn't the greatest, and it was often rather selective what things I remembered.

So it seemed especially fateful that I remembered this conversation.


"Hey, Becca? ...How much do you think about the future?"

"Not much at all," I promptly replied.

"Yeah," she sighed, "I can't really blame you. When I think about what my life'll probably be like in ten years... it doesn't seem very promising."

I looked at her. "Hey, don't be like that, Florrie. If you don't like it, then change it. I'm sure you can."

She blinked at me with wide eyes, then smiled. "You think so? ...Then I'll try to meet your expectations. Thanks, Becca."


She was right there. As much as she was ten years later. As much as she is right now.

It was shocking how much of grown-up Florrie I could see in her teenage self. It was an equally magical feeling to consider her growth from then to now.

Was this... what Florrie saw in me?

I could only see my past self as embarrassing. But Florrie had admired me back then, even if the time wasn't right for her. She must have seen, and continued to see, the wonderful person I could become.

But what about her? Florrie claimed to see her future self - but I didn't recall her claiming that to me back in high school. So let's suppose for a second she didn't have any such powers.

In that case, maybe she needed someone else to see her potential. Maybe, by telling her what I felt she could become, I gave her the confidence to become it.

As soon as I had that thought, I could've sworn I had a brief vision.

Again, when I'm looking back into the past, I don't know what visions my past self was seeing at the time. And while that remains the case here, I do know exactly what I saw that day.

Because this time, it wasn't the past.

I saw the future. And sure enough... that vision perfectly illustrated what I'm seeing right this second.

A wonderful house. An assortment of original artwork. Florrie smiling at my side.

Congratulations, past Becca. We made it.

At the time, I couldn't believe it. Or wait, I thought - was this happening because I could believe it? Did I finally trust Florrie enough to see the same future she saw? But seeing the future was her power, not mine... right?

...Unless...

"Maybe you can see the future a little."

And maybe until that very moment... my future looked so much like my past that I couldn't even tell the difference.

——

"Remember now, Becca? It all worked out nicely," Florrie says with a smile.

"Impossibly nicely, really. Only the story of a true future-seer could play out like that," I giggle.

"I can never stress enough how much your advice back then helped me. I was seeing an awfully disappointing future back in high school, you know. That's why I brought it up with you. Then oh-so-casually, you said some words that changed my life." She sips on her tea. "Not long after that, my visions started to change for the better. I saw myself dating you, and marrying you - oh, and not to mention that we would both be girls."

I snicker. "Minor detail."

"After high school, I cut myself off from most people. Regrettably, that included you. But I was focused on my own transition then, and besides, I'd seen that we'd reunite when the time was right."

With a worried expression, Florrie clasps her hands. "As the ten year mark approached, though, I started to get antsy. I looked up your old name, and found out you were a freelance programmer - still using that name. I wasn't sure how to intepret that at first, but I did think how I should've repaid the favor back then. Said something like, "You can make a future you'd look forward to too, you know.""

I shake my head. "Not sure I would've really taken it to heart anyway, so don't worry about it. It's in the past."

"It was possible events would still arrive at the future I foresaw on their own. But I was eager to start our relationship; that said, I didn't know how to do that without exposing my past identity. At first, I tried sending you programming jobs - forwarding them, rather - but that did nothing to accelerate things. So I ended up working at the nearest coffee shop to fulfill the promise of our meeting."

I nod my head. Florrie's told this story before - in fact, she was probably telling it to me right now ten years ago. But it's always interesting to hear Florrie's view of events, and even moreso the more contexts I acquire for those events.

"Upon meeting you in person, you seemed... less than happy. So I tried to befriend you, and help you become the person I saw in the future. I played it safe in some ways, and unsafe in others. For instance, I'd foreseen you as trans, but I felt I should let you naturally reach a point of being comfortable telling me so. Even then, the way that turned out wasn't totally ideal."

She shrugs her shoulders. "But hey, I just see the future; I don't entirely control it. I foresaw how our relationship would develop ten years prior, but it felt entirely different to be in it. So despite how I tried to present myself, I was actually pretty unsure. Believe it or not, I actually worried my future might not come to pass - especially that time you lost trust in me."

My head droops. "I can't apologize enough for that... I know I really worried and upset you."

Florrie smiles softly. "Look, you can't change the past either, Becca. And remember, it was your power to thank for us reconciling after that. The whole time, I was resistant to letting you make anything other than a subconscious connection to my high school self." She closes her eyes. "And yet in the end, remembering me when you did was crucial. By remembering that past... you saved our future."

I give her a loving smile. She always ends it with a dramatic line like that.

——

Now, let me be clear. I love Florrie. And I do believe she has the power to see the future.

But a decade of experience has allowed me to understand her a lot better, so let's privately reconsider that story of hers.

She swore up and down - and continues to now - that she saw the future back in high school, and it told her what both our relationship and our identities would look like in ten years. But let's just ponder, for the fun of it: what if that had been untrue? What would the story look like then?

Well, there'd surely be a lot of uncertainty. We were good friends in high school, but Florrie never learned anything definite about me being trans before we split up - I'm pretty sure I wasn't even thinking about it myself back then. For most of those years, she probably would have just considered me nothing more than a friend she'd cut ties with. That would take some of the romance out of the story, for sure.

Eventually, though, she'd probably do some introspection about her past. After all, she would have pictured - you know, in the ordinary sense - having found someone to be with by now. So one day, she'd remember her best friend from high school. I wonder what they're up to these days? A freelance programmer, huh? I think I'd like to meet them.

Of course, she'd cut ties with everyone for a reason. She would prefer that people not draw any connection to her past self. What if they didn't accept her? It would just ruin any good memories she had with that person. Even someone who she'd considered a best friend at the time still carried that risk.

However, the fact she'd been good friends with me in the past would still be valuable to her, in the form of knowledge. It would tell her that we were compatible, so things probably could work even if we were to start from scratch. And so she would try to meet with me: first trying to get my attention as a work client, then tracking me down in person once that didn't get her anywhere.

Admittedly, this is where this theoretical story would start to feel "destined." I didn't usually go to coffee shops, or drink coffee; I only went there reluctantly at my mom's suggestion, and I don't see how Florrie could have manipulated that.

Incidentally, Florrie's never admitted to me just how long she worked there, but I don't think it matters; for one, there are at least a couple other coffee shops I could have gone to instead. It would be hard to explain it as anything but dumb luck... or else Florrie knowing from her visions that it was going to happen. Ah, well. It's all a thought exercise at any rate.

Right, so, in this theoretical story, Florrie wouldn't have necessarily expected to see me in the coffee shop that day. So in that moment, she would have felt a kind of love at first sight - you know, a version where the people have actually already met, but only one of them knows it. Maybe right then and there, she would be getting the gut feeling that I was her future partner. Yes, if she hadn't already known that for certain, that would have definitely made her much more flustered.

She'd approach me as calmly as one could under such circumstances, try to get a conversation going, and get fired for her trouble. But she'd be unbothered, because everything had just been recontextualized for her: it was destiny that she worked in that coffee shop, and her purpose there had been fulfilled now that she'd found me.

Somewhere amid all this, she'd remember that thing I told her long ago, that was so trivial to me I didn't even recall telling anyone. About my ability to clearly remember what happened exactly ten years ago. And she'd think about the seemingly fated nature of our reunion, and the future she was already hoping we'd have...

So she'd decide to tell me about her hopes for the future, and gauge my reaction to determine how to proceed. But to do that to a stranger out of nowhere would be absurd. So she'd do something even more absurd, the most Florrie thing possible: she'd pretend she had the ability to see into the future, in a way that paralleled mine, to make it appear as if our meeting was destiny.

The rest would just follow from there. Every word she said about the future would have just been hopeful wishes. Her homework assignment of having me "draw myself" would have been tailor-made to uncover the truth of how I felt about my identity. And all sorts of moments predicated on future knowledge would be reduced to lucky guesses.

Even if I learned her secret, however, I'm sure I would forgive Florrie for what would retroactively become rather questionable actions - manipulative, some might say. And no, it wouldn't just be because "it all worked out in the end." I'd recognize it as wrong, but I'd understand where she was coming from.

Because if she didn't have definitive knowledge of the future, her dedication to me would imply she was putting all her hopes in me. It would mean that Florrie, the brave and wise woman I now know so well, was hoping against hope that I would save her from loneliness.

It sounds like such a preposterous explanation, doesn't it? So this is what I believe instead:

It is and was destiny. Simple as that.

——

Back in the past, however, I was still feeling a bit dubious about Florrie's claims. I suppose I can't blame myself for that; I didn't have as much context as I do now.

The revelation that I'd actually met Florrie back in high school, and that we'd been good friends then, led me to once again believe in her. But at the same time, it challenged the integrity of her claims. If, unbeknownst to me, she'd had all sorts of knowledge about me from back then, couldn't she have been taking advantage of that situation? Couldn't she have strategically used information she "shouldn't have known" to make it look like she knew the future?

I could think of at least a few examples, the most obvious being that she knew about my ability. Honestly, I had no memory of ever bringing it up to her back then, but it seemed entirely reasonable that I might have. And sure enough, that was one of the first tidbits she used to "prove" she knew my future self.

But as I thought it over more, I started to feel like what I was doing was... wrong. Never for an instant did Florrie drop the pretense that she could see the future. Even if it were all an act, at this point, I feel like she would've convinced even herself that it was true.

And, I mean, hadn't I gotten a glimpse earlier of the same future she claimed to see? Literally what reason did I have to doubt her?

Ultimately, I couldn't really deny that Florrie's power was real. No, even putting it that way was unfair.

I wanted it to be real. And that's why it would be.

We were having dinner at Florrie's place. It was intended as both a redo of that night, and a celebration of having rescued our relationship from that incident.

"So, about that vision you had," Florrie began to ask.

"I'm sure it's no different from what you see," I replied.

"Oh, I'm certain it was different. After all, surely it was out of your eyes, not mine? That's a brand new angle," she giggled.

"What, do you want a 3D model of the future?"

She scoffed. "How can you even say that and not immediately be like "hold up, that DOES sound rad as hell"?"

Florrie finished up her meal, then pushed the plate aside. She put her elbows on the table, and looked at me with her chin in her hands.

"Becca, I've probably made this extremely obvious by now... but I really can't wait, you know."

I laughed. "You can look into the future anytime you want, and you're still that impatient for it to get here? Things really must be great for us."

"I mean, having visions of that life and experiencing it are completely different things. And I may know what lies in store for us, but I can't just sit around indulging in my visions all the time, or that future won't actually come."

My gaze turned downward. "Right... We have a lot of changing to do between now and then." I looked back up at Florrie. "But I know you're capable of it. And I'm sure you think I'm capable of it, too."

Florrie smirked wryly. "Take the roundabout path if you have to, Becca, but I hope you can directly believe in yourself sometime."

"Sorry..." I rubbed my neck. "I guess I'm just not used to believing it when people compliment me."

"You're gonna have to get used to the hurricane of compliments coming your way," Florrie snickered.

I stifled a giggle. "Wow, so it's going to get even more intense?"

"Absolutely. You're already amazing, Becca. Even if I just met you without any knowledge of the past or future, I still think I'd want you to be my wife. But when you add in the time we've already spent together, and the visions I've had for what you'll be like in ten years..."

She shook her head with a grin. "All I can say is, I look forward to seeing you then."


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