Saylie heard the voice behind her, but ignored it.
I'm home. Saylie's eyes ran hungrily over the highrises in her neighborhood. She'd woken up this morning, just as she had for the last three months in 1923 — and she was back.
Home. In 2083.
It didn't look the same as she remembered. Saylie sighed, rubbing her eyes. So three months had passed here, as well as back there. She might have figured. She'd thought, since the tri-vids always showed no time passing at all when you got back from time-travel, that she might get lucky . . .
A hand grabbed her shoulder. Saylie screamed in surprise.
"Cordie, come on! Don't ignore me!"
Saylie whirled around. The girl staring at her was completely unfamiliar.
A horrible seed of doubt woke in her.
What did I change? she thought, frightened. I thought I was careful. Did I mess something up? Did I change my own name?
"Who's Cordie?" she blurted out.
Bafflement flashed across the girl's face. "You are. Cordelia Langley —"
The girl stopped and gasped.
"Oh, no! You're Saylie!"
"Who else would I be?" Saylie cried.
The girl smiled awkwardly. "Well, it's just . . . I mean, I guess you've never met me . . . I'm Karen . . . see, I made friends with Cordie . . ."
"Who's Cordie?" Saylie shouted.
"She was you!" the stranger said, looking hurt. "Weren't you her, I mean, didn't the two of you switch places? Isn't that how it works?"
"Apparently not," Saylie said flatly.
Karen stared at her. "But . . . she was you . . . and now you're right back in your body again . . . I mean, you did go somewhere, didn't you?"
Saylie was silent.
Karen looked nervous. "Well, didn't you?!"
Saylie hesitated. "I —"
"You did!" Karen breathed out. "I knew it was a time switch!"
"I don't know what a 'time switch' is," Saylie said tightly, "but when I was stuck in the past, I wasn't 'Cordie.' I lived the life of a girl named Katherine."
Karen stared at her.
"In 1923," Saylie added.
Karen ran her hand through her hair, looking lost. "Cordie lived in 1763. England. Her parents had been considering moving out here before she left. She couldn't believe it when I told her about the revolution."
Saylie shook her head, feeling lost.
"There was a legend in her family," Karen said tentatively. "The time switch, I mean. She told me about it. It's said some people in their family have the ability to use it once in their lives —"
"Three-way," Saylie murmured. "It must have been three-way at least. Somehow, someone messed things up, and made it three-way at least."
Karen shivered. "Then we have no idea who did it?"
"My money's on Cordie," Saylie muttered. "Since she knew so much about this in the first place."
"Or maybe some fourth person," Karen said glumly. "Who knows how many people got involved here?"
* * *
Cordelia woke slowly. Something felt wrong.
It was too quiet, she realized. Nothing was humming. No dream-recorder. No alarm clock. No visiphone.
Hope pounded in her heart. Was she — dare she hope — home?
Cordie sat up quickly, blinking in the dim light of sunrise. The furniture around her swam into view, familiar and comforting as ever.
Except . . .
What was this room? Had her family moved while she was gone?
What had Saylie done in her place?
* * *
Catherine flung the sheet off her bed and punched the air triumphantly.
1923. She was definitely back in 1923. But she was definitely not home.
The smell of pancakes, not soggy biscuits, floated up the stairs. Catherine sniffed appreciatively. Then she sank back into her bed, basking in the feeling of her total success.
Grandfather used to talk about the time switch when she was a child. After he died, she'd found his old diaries. Read about the way he'd done one himself. That was when she knew — she just knew — she'd be able to use one herself someday.
And speaking of journals . . .
Catherine rooted through the nightstand by her bed and found a small hardback book. She ripped it open and flipped through the pages, hoping, hoping.
Yes! Her future descendent had written in it. Hints of the future to come, hints Catherine could keep. She clutched the journal, grinning like crazy. This would be the key to her wealth and happiness. This was why she'd twisted the time switch to make it three-way.
Only one chance in a lifetime, she thought dreamily, swinging her feet over the edge of her bed. And I got the best of both worlds. Future knowledge, and changing my own family's past. Now Dad won't get shot by that stupid hunting rifle, and Mum won't go on and on about my taste for American music.
Catherine giggled and put the journal away. She hopped to the door and peeked out.
Katherine's Room. Stay out, a sign on front said.
Catherine blinked at that.
I spell it with a K now?
Oh, well. She could always change it back.
After all, from now on, everything was going her way.
Available in print or e-book format through the Worlds of Wonder anthology.