"Just remember," she said to me with a professionally charming smile, "Whatever you do, do not try and open the barrier door until the green light is lit. But don't wait too long either."
"I understand the not going through too soon," trying to talk to her and help play down some of my own nervousness, "I just don't know why they warn you about hesitating."
"Well, sir," she replied with an obviously often stated response, "It is just *different* once you get there. It is a big decision you've made and, once you're at the crossroads, there's a hesitancy to pull away from taking that step."
"But it's not like people would do this on a whim, would they? It just seems too much of a commitment to back away now."
"It's not really about backing away," she continued, and I was surprised when I realized that this wasn't part of the standard answer, that this was the true her, "It's about shying away from the enormity of it. Imagine you're standing on a sheer cliff looking down into a lake. Behind you is a forest fire that will consume you if you don't jump. You know that. You know you'll be consumed if you stay and safe if you jump, but still, on the precipice itself, you hesitate." I looked through her light brown eyes into a woman of deep thoughts, spirit, and feelings. Her short red hair only just brushed her shoulders, and I realized that, for the first time since I'd lost Faye, I was looking at a woman I could love.
The outer door opened, and as she waved me in I saw the ring on her finger. It only made sense, after all, that a woman such as her would already be taken. It actually made the decision all the easier. I walked in with a lightness that I hadn't felt before. I stopped and turned to thank her, but I could see already tell that her professional demeanor had returned, cutting of any further connection beyond client and greeter, "Once the outer doors close, there is no moving back; only forward."
"Good luck," she added with the briefest lifting of her emotional veil, "I hope you find what you're looking for."
The outer doors closed.
The chamber I was in had plain, white walls behind me, and a single huge glass wall in front of me. A door was cut out of the glass with two lights overhead. The red light was solidly lit and the green was off, but I scarcely noticed either one. Before me was the Time Barrier. It ebbed and flowed as a visceral cloud of colors, ebbing and flowing against the glass. The colors cycled through in gentle patterns that could be seen as deeply evocative in one way, and frighten disturbing in another. It was beautiful, terrifying, and thoroughly overwhelming.
The Red light started flashing, and I understood why some hesitated. The cloud waves were flowing with more regularity, and the flashing was starting to sync with their motions. All I had to do was open the door when it turned green, step through, and my consciousness would be returned in time to a place before I lost Faye. Open the door and step through, and all the pain will end. The lonely days and lonelier nights would be gone, and Faye... Faye would be back. Open the door-
The cloud was staying longer and longer against the door, the flashing was slower and slower, and I knew it would be green any second. I was jarred out of my reverie by a sudden mental image of the girl in the lobby. I didn't know her name but I suddenly saw her smile, her obvious depth; her passion. A jagged flash of memory hung in the air before me: the picture of her waving me into the room. The ring was on her middle finger.
Maybe she wasn't taken? The smile, her eyes, they all flashed past me one after the other. I suddenly knew that she saw me as differently as I saw her. Or was I misreading her? Was it all just some last minute ploy by my mind trying to keep me from Faye? How could this stranger's smile be suddenly more familiar to me than Faye's?
The light turned green.