Beatrice and Arthur, sipping coffee, were sitting across from Janelle at a table in the small bakery. Project Janelle was going well. So far there hadn’t been any horrible kitchen accidents and no hot coffee had been “spilled” on unsuspecting strangers. Janelle didn’t appear the least bit suspicious of Arthur, who was doing a very good job playing his role of Beatrice’s definitely-not-spy boyfriend. He laughed at Janelle’s stories and asked about her sons as if he didn’t have an entire file dedicated to each of the cousins’ children. Both Beatrice and Arthur listened attentively to Janelle’s story, looking for a chance to ask where the cousins had been all this time.
Finally, in the middle of a story about a painfully awkward teenage Beatrice, opportunity struck.
“… Oh Birdy! Do you remember those braces? You looked like a robot with all that metal in your mouth. Poor thing, you sounded like Gerry Jr. after he’s had a few too many beers, couldn’t pronounce anything with an “s” in it! I’m so glad to see the braces worked though, we moved before you got them off…”
Beatrice and Arthur both knew this was what they were waiting for. Arthur put his hand over Beatrice’s, as a reminder to proceed with caution.
“So, Janelle,” Beatrice began, practically shaking with anticipation, “you guys left so quickly, I never really got to ask, where’d you go?”
Beatrice felt like her chair had slipped out from beneath her, it was as if she was floating. Her heart rate slowed and her breathing deepened. As quickly as this feeling began, it ended. Her body jolted forward, thrust back to reality. She regained sense just as Janelle finished speaking.
Confused and frightened, Beatrice asked again, “I’m sorry, I must’ve zoned out for a second, what’d you say?”
Instantly, the experience repeated. Beatrice felt like she was falling, gently and without worry, and then, she jolted back to reality. Just enough time had passed for Janelle to answer without Beatrice hearing her. Beatrice looked to Arthur, but she couldn’t read his expression. She was about to ask Janelle to repeat herself once more, but Arthur squeezed her hand, a warning to keep quiet.
“Well, I’ve just about finished my coffee and I’ve got so many errands to run today,” said Janelle perkily, as if nothing strange had happened. “I’ll see you later, Birdy! It was so nice to meet you, Arthur! Toodles!”
Beatrice and Arthur didn’t say a word to each other until they were safely out of the bakery and sitting in his car.
“What happened?” said Beatrice, still flabbergasted by the events of Project Janelle.
“What was that…blip?” Arthur said, not expecting an answer.
“You felt it too?” replied Beatrice, clearly relieved. “I felt like time slowed down and sped up all at once, and before I knew it I’d missed her answer.”
“I’ll ask my superiors, see if anyone has any ideas,” said Arthur, suddenly all business. “In the mean time, we need to figure out a new way to find out where the cousins have been.”