“Wow…,” Fran sat back in her chair and crossed her arms. She narrowed her eyes at her handsome date sitting across from her. She was pleasantly surprised when he looked better in person than in his pictures. Something about his lopsided smile and bushy brows wasn’t photogenic; but, in person, he made her knees weak. Conversation flowed easily between them and by the time dessert came, she was ready for at least two more dates. Then, he decided to ‘be honest’. “…that’s a hell of a ghost story,” she said. “You could just be an adult about things and say you’re not interested in a second date.”
“Huh?” It was Ben’s turn to narrow his eyes at her. “I can’t wait for a second date, what are you talking about?” he asked.
“I’m going to get my hopes up like I always do, then when the day comes I won’t hear from you. Maybe for weeks, maybe never again. And I’m just supposed to go on with my life thinking you got sent back to your universe and can’t get back to mine, right?” Fran took a tiny bit of offense when Ben chuckled and shook his head.
“No,” he said. “I’m not trying to ghost you; I really like you. That’s why I’m being honest. If I wait until down the line you might think I was hiding it from you. I didn’t say I’m stuck here. My job’s on this Earth, I’m here every day Monday through Friday.”
“You expect me to believe, not only are alternate universes real; but, traveling between them is so easy you can commute to a job on another Earth?” Ben nodded and shrugged.
“I mean, yes?” he chuckled again. “I expect you to believe it because it’s true. Obviously, I don’t expect you to believe it without proof,” he replied as the waitress dropped off their check.
“Do you have money for this Earth?” Fran asked with a playful, sarcastic tone. If he said he would prove it, she was willing to go along with it for now; she hadn’t realized how much she liked him until she thought she wouldn’t see him again.
“I have money for every Earth,” Ben replied. He handed the puzzled waitress a white credit card with a red scissor logo on it.
“So…,” he asked after the waitress walked away to charge him. “…what kind of Earth do you want to see on our second date?” he asked.
“I thought we were going to see yours?” she asked. Ben nodded.
“Eventually. I’m kind of embarrassed because it’s pretty dystopian. But, I don’t need to take you to my Earth to prove how easy travel to other universes is. So, what have you always wanted to see?” he asked.
“Like what? What’s out there?”
“Anything. If you can imagine it, it’s out there. Dragons, unicorns, zombies, future tech, pre-historic Earths,… everything.”
“Aliens!” she said. Ben shook his head.
“Oh yeah, sorry. Not that. I don’t even think of them really; aliens are the one thing that doesn’t exist.”
“Oh,” Fran was a bit deflated. It seemed convenient that the one thing she wanted to see wasn’t out there. He offered so many other possibilities that she decided to settle on one of those to see how he handled it. “A dragon,” she said. “I want to see a real-life, magic-scaled, fire breathing dragon,” Fran replied as the waitress returned Ben’s card. She ignored their conversation, smiled, and said thank you before walking away again. Ben nodded at Fran.
“No problem, I know the perfect place for a second date; and you’ll meet a dragon there.”
“Can we go now? Second date as soon as we walk out?” she asked. She was eager to either see a dragon or determine if he was lying to her. It bothered her how easily she believed everything he was saying. Ben grinned, but shook his head and leaned back to pat his potbelly.
“Too full to go there now, I had another restaurant in mind,” he said. Fran was about to go off on him for coming up with excuse after excuse, but he kept talking before she could say anything.
“But, we can still kill time on another Earth while our appetites build back up. C’mon,” he said as he slid out of the booth and stood up. He grabbed her hand to help her out of the booth, then led her out of the restaurant while still holding hands. He led her around the building and into a narrow, dim alley. Fran watched him pull a black business card out of his wallet, then he threw it at the brick wall in front of them. The card grew into a large black hole on the wall; Ben walked into it pulling Fran along.
When Fran cleared the portal, she had no doubts she was on another Earth. Instead of the dirty alley, Fran now stood on a mountain peak looking out over a lush purple forest. The purple forest tipped her off, but the real clue was the pair of suns hanging in the sky.