"My family is posh. They're very weird about it, too."
"Brothers and sisters?"
"Mark is twenty-two and finishing pre-law at Harvard. Alicia is seventeen and a senior in high school. She's a cellist." I detect affection for the sister and a certain flatness for the brother. "You aren't too fond of your brother?"
"Mark is just like Dad. They both like to win, talk you down until you submit."
"You know, I always envy people with siblings, even if they don't like them all that much."
"You're an only child?"
"Yep. I thought you knew everything about me?"
"Actually I know everything and nothing. I know how you look without clothes, but until this afternoon I didn't know your last name. I knew you lived in Chicago, but I know nothing about your family except that your mom died in a car crash when you were six. I know you know a lot about art and speak fluent French and German; I had no idea you were a librarian. You made it impossible for me to find you in the present; you said it would just happen when it was supposed to happen, and here we are."
"Here we are," I agree. "Well, my family isn't posh; they're musicians. My father is Richard DeTamble and my mother was Annette Lyn Robinson."
"Oh -- the singer!"
"Right. And he's a violinist. He plays for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. But he never really made it the way she did. It's a shame because my father is a marvelous violin player. After Mom died he was just treading water." The check arrives. Neither of us has eaten very much, but I at least am not interested in food right now. Clare picks up her purse and I shake my head at her. I pay; we leave the restaurant and stand on Clark Street in the fine autumn night. Clare is wearing an elaborate blue knitted thing and a fur scarf; I have forgotten to bring an overcoat so I'm shivering.
"Where do you live?" Clare asks.
Uh oh. "I live about two blocks from here, but my place is tiny and really messy right now. You?"
"Roscoe Village, on Hoyne. But I have a roommate."
"If you come up to my place you have to close your eyes and count to one thousand. Perhaps you have a very uninquisitive deaf roommate?"
"No such luck. I never bring anyone over; Charisse would pounce on you and stick bamboo slivers under your fingernails until you told all."
"I long to be tortured by someone named Charisse, but I can see that you do not share my taste. Come up to my parlor." We walk north along Clark. I veer into Clark Street Liquors for a bottle of wine. Back on the street Clare is puzzled.
"I thought you aren't supposed to drink?"
"Dr. Kendrick was very strict about it."
"Who's he?" We are walking slowly because Clare is wearing impractical shoes.
"He's your doctor; he's a big expert on Chrono-Impairment."
"I don't know very much. Dr. David Kendrick is a molecular geneticist who discovered - will discover why people are chrono-impaired. It's a genetic thing; he figures it out in 2006." She sighs. "I guess it's just way too early. You told me once that there are a lot more chrono-impaired people about ten years from now."
"I've never heard of anyone else who has this -- impairment."
"I guess even if you went out right now and found Dr. Kendrick he wouldn't be able to help you. And we would never have met, if he could."
"Let's not think about that." We are in my lobby. Clare precedes me into the tiny elevator. I close the door and push eleven. She smells like old cloth, soap, sweat, and fur. I breathe deeply. The elevator clangs into place on my floor and we extricate ourselves from it and walk down the narrow hallway. I wield my fistful of keys on all 107 locks and crack the door slightly. "It's gotten much worse during dinner. I'm going to have to blindfold you." Clare giggles as I set down the wine and remove my tie. I pass it over her eyes and tie it firmly at the back of her head. I open the door and guide her into the apartment and settle her in the armchair. "Okay, start counting."
Excerpted from The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Copyright Audrey Niffenegger 2003. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without permission from the publisher, MacAdam Cage.
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No Man's Land
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Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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