Though Javi and Kepa didn’t drink all that much, it was still late when they finally made it back to Javi’s place. Kepa quietly slipped into his and Maite’s room, into the bed, and was soon fast asleep.
Maite, lying awake next to him, simply smiled to herself. She mused over the time since they had first met Marina. It had only been a few months in real time, but it already felt like a lifetime ago. So much had already changed, with her relationship with Kepa, her potential move to Berkeley, and their discovery of two of the zatia. She shuddered when she recalled how De Lancre had roasted Blas Telleria alive, and how Donny McCown had shot Kepa in the heart. Tears began flowing as she choked back a sob. Yes, so much had changed, but it had also been accompanied by so much death and suffering. How much longer could she deal with it all? She eventually fell into a fitful sleep, her mind tormented by images of Blas and Kepa dying.
Morning came too soon for both of them as light poured in from a part in the curtain, hitting them both in the face. Kepa rolled over and smiled at Maite. “Egun on,” he said.
Maite returned his smile, though her’s wasn’t as big. “Egun on,” she replied. “You guys had a good time?”
Kepa nodded. “Bai, we did. It was good to catch up, it’s been too long. I’m not sure I’m up for a big night of dancing, but I guess that’s what’s on the schedule for today.”
“Dancing, eh? I didn’t realize Javi was much of a dancer.”
“I think it’s partially his girlfriend. She likes to dance a lot, so he does too now.”
Maite shook her head. “I can’t believe little Javi has a girlfriend.” She looked at Kepa and gave him a mischievous smile. “But, I can’t believe you do either.”
Kepa blushed and smiled at the same time. “You can’t believe it? I can’t believe it! I pinch myself every day. I just hope this isn’t one of those quantum bubbles that will pop some day and erase it all.”
“Oh!” exclaimed Maite. “I hadn’t even thought about that. How do we know, really know, we aren’t in a bubble? How do we know this won’t all disappear?”
“I was only joking…” began Kepa.
“No, really,” continued Maite as she sat up in the bed, pulling the covers up over her chest. “In the two bubbles we’ve been to, we knew they were bubbles because there was a specific event that transported us. But, how do we know we didn’t start in a bubble? How do we know that we returned to where we started or if we got shoved into another bubble and not our original time?” She looked over at Kepa. “How do we know anything?”
“Well,” said Kepa, feeling a rise of panic himself, “we only ever saw the zatia twice, and both times that triggered our trips to the bubbles. We never touched one before that.”
“True,” mused Maite. “But, we don’t know that’s the only way into a bubble. We don’t even know if we weren’t born into a bubble.” She looked over at Kepa. “What if every time is a bubble waiting to pop?”
“What are you saying?” asked Kepa, confusion etched on his face.
“Well,” said Maite, “think about the last bubble. What if we had never found that zatia. What if Donny had never shot you. Maybe we would have gotten married, even had kids. Would our kids know they were in a bubble? And if we found the zatia after they were born, would the bubble pop, erasing our kids from existence?” She turned to look at Kepa. “What if we are in a bubble now, and Donny’s time was a bubble on top of a bubble?”
Kepa shook his head. “This is too much. I can’t handle it. Are you saying that none of this is real?”
“No…” began Maite before pausing. After a moment she continued, in almost a sheepish voice. “What I’m saying is how do we know it is?”
“If we are in a bubble, I hope we never find the zatia,” said Kepa, a bit more viciously than he intended. “I don’t want this to ever end.” He grabbed Maite’s hand.
“But,” said Maite as a chill went through her body, “what if De Lancre finds it?”
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