As far back as Hannah could remember she had always been different. While her high school classmates were exploring each other’s bodies in the backseats of cars, Hannah was always looking up, gazing at the stars. Her father who was a well-known architect built her an “observatory” nestled in the bosom of their gigantic oak tree. For her sixteenth birthday when most teenagers wanted a car, she begged her parents for a telescope. Not just any telescope, mind you. Hannah wanted the brand-new Meade LX200 model. She had done all the research and presented her parents with a cost analysis sheet that would make any accountant proud. It was an investment in her future and she was hoping her parents understood. They did. Hannah was gifted with her LX200 with a big bow wrapped around it and waiting for her in the observatory. She was beyond ecstatic. With tears of joy streaming down her face, she hugged her parents and proclaimed that this was the best birthday ever.
Fourteen years later, Hannah stood in front of the Apollo 11 Lunar Module in her cathedral of inspiration, The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Although she had been there many times it was still thrilling for her to be among the legends. The LM2 was especially meaningful to her because it was the first time we walked among the stars. How she had wished she would have been alive to see Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon!
“Penny for your thoughts.”
Hannah immediately came back to reality. She smiled at her father. “Sorry. I know I have been here tons of times but it so spiritual, you know?”
Ben Davis studied his only daughter’s face. She had grown into a beautiful woman. Although for him, she would forever be that tomboy in jeans with her nose buried in a book. He smiled back at Hannah.
“I knew you would appreciate this on your birthday. How does it feel to be thirty?”
“Weird. I guess I am officially no longer a kid.”
“Hannah, darling, you were an adult from the day you were born.”
Hannah linked her arm with her father as they began to stroll around the museum. “How have you been doing, Dad? Managing okay?”
“Yes. Sometimes I think she is still there and then I remember.” Ben’s voice trailed off. It had been three months since Hannah’s mother had passed away. He scanned his daughter’s face. “How are you?”
“I’m fine. I mean, I’m coping.” It was a shock for both of them. One day, her mom had been healthy and then what they thought was a little cough turned into something decidedly more serious. Within four months, she was gone.
“I am so glad you could spend the day with me, Dad. It’s just like old times.”
“Yes, it is. Unfortunately, I am going to have to get back to the office sooner than expected.”
They walked a little bit further. “How is the job going?”
“I love it. It’s demanding but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It will pay off once we get to Mars. I’d love to go but I’m afraid I might be too old by then.”
“How are other things?” By other things, her Dad meant Jack.
Jack had been Hannah’s long-suffering boyfriend of five years until last month. Sighing, she decided to break the news. “Jack and I are no longer seeing one another.”
Ben looked shocked. Before he could comment, Hannah waved him off. “I know you two were close but it was over. We both knew it.”
Ben stopped and wrapped his daughter’s hands in his. “I’m sorry, sweetie. I didn’t mean to stir anything up.”
“You haven’t. I’m fine. Really.”
Ben looked at his watch. “I have got to go. Happy Birthday, baby.” He tenderly kissed Hannah on the cheek.
“Thank you, Dad.” Hannah watched as her father left the museum. Turning her attention back to the LEM, she hoped she sounded convincing.
That night Hannah had a hard time getting to sleep. Everything was weighing heavily on her mind. She had thought she was fine with the decision to finally end her relationship with Jack but for some reason, she felt lost. Maybe it was the full moon or maybe she was just lonely. Funny how you could think someone was your soulmate and then wake up one day to discover that the two of you had drifted apart.
Since slumbering was not in the cards, Hannah decided to get up and take a look at the stars. Throwing her robe on, she walked out to her deck and sat down in her favorite chair. It was a clear, crisp night. Fortunately, she lived far enough away from the light pollution that she could actually see the stars in all their splendor. How glorious! Nothing made Hannah happier than being surrounded by the cosmos. It was the only world that she actually understood.
She picked up her phone to check her constellation app when she saw a call come through from a private number. That’s funny. It’s one a.m. Who would be calling at this hour? Tentatively, she answered.
“Hello?” At first, she heard a little static but then a deep male voice came through.
Puzzled, Hannah stared at her phone. She began to wonder if it was one of her colleagues drunk dialing her from a bar. “Okay, James. Time to go home. We have that presentation tomorrow.”
“This isn’t James.”
“Who is this?”
“It’s me, Hannah.”
The voice sounded so familiar. She couldn’t quite place who it belonged to but she was certain she knew the person on the other end of the line.
“I miss you.”
“Look, whoever you are...” before Hannah could get the next part of her sentence out, she was interrupted by the mystery voice.
“Andrew? I don’t know an…” suddenly her phone went dead. Of course, since the call came through on a private line, she had no way of ringing the person back. She had to get some rest. Tomorrow was fast approaching and it was a big day.
The presentation went well, despite her lack of sleep. Which her colleague and best friend James didn’t miss pointing out.
“Someone looks as if she had way too much fun last night.” Hannah rolled her eyes.
“Not quite. The weirdest thing happened. Did you call me around one in the morning?”
“No. Believe it or not, I was actually sleeping. Why?”
“Some guy named Andrew called me. I can’t remember him. Apparently, he knows me.”
“You’re certain you didn’t go to school with him or maybe he’s a friend of Jack’s?”
“Probably a wrong number. Maybe he got you confused with another Hannah. It’s not like it’s an uncommon name.” Hannah agreed with James but inwardly she knew the call was intended for her.
That evening, Hannah planned to relax. She poured herself a glass of wine and settled down on the couch with her headphones. Nothing was more soothing to her than the music of Chopin. It had been a rough year. As she closed her eyes, she allowed the music to take hold of her. Before she knew it, she was sleeping peacefully.
She didn’t know if she was dreaming when she heard the voice. “Hannah? Wake up. This is important.” Still groggy, Hannah forced herself awake. She found herself staring into the familiar face of a stranger sitting next to her. Before she could react, the stranger calmly reached over and grabbed her hand. Something about him was so compelling. She tried to scream but nothing would come out.
“It’s okay. I’m not here to hurt you.” His voice was soothing and reassuring but Hannah wasn’t about to trust this person. What was he doing here? Who was he? Then he smiled.
Hannah immediately felt her fears shrinking away. “Who are you? How did you get in here?”
Sighing the stranger shook his head. “If I told you. You would never believe me.”
“Try me. How do I know you aren’t a complete psychopath?”
“You know I’m not.” His face haunted her. Why couldn’t she remember him?
“I know I shouldn’t be here but I had to see you.”
“Andrew?” The name suddenly tumbled off of Hannah’s lips.
His eyes. They were so warm. “How…….”
“I don’t have much time. I need you to come back.”
“Back? Back to where?”
Andrew touched her hand. Electricity shot through Hannah’s body. She felt as if she was rushing through time and space. When she opened her eyes, Andrew had disappeared. His touch still lingering on her skin.
The next day Hannah tried to concentrate at work. The complex equations were eluding her and her attention span was null. Every time she tried to manipulate the theorems, Andrew’s face appeared in her head.
It was at that moment, James entered the room. “Are you okay?”
“Oh, uh, yeah. I’m just frustrated I guess. This formula isn’t working.”
James immediately recognized the look on his friend’s face. “What’s going on?”
“What do you mean?”
“You never get distracted.”
“I know. I guess there is always a first time for everything.”
“Maybe you need to walk away for a bit. Want to go grab a bite?”
“No, I’m fine. I appreciate you asking me, James. I just need to fine tune this equation.”
“Okay. Look Hannah, I don’t want to pry but if you need to talk to someone...”
Hannah nodded and turned her attention back to her whiteboard. James lingered for a bit and then left.
That night Hannah found herself pacing around her living room like a caged animal. No matter how hard she tried, she could not get Andrew out of her head.
“This is ridiculous! You are a scientist. Not a 12-year-old schoolgirl with a crush. What is going on?”
The question echoed and reverberated in the room. He told her she had to come back. That phrase bothered her. She couldn’t let it go. Finally, accepting that she would not be able to solve this particular problem, Hannah gave up and went to bed.
She opened her eyes and tried to focus in the dark. There was a little sliver of moonlight peeking out from the curtain. Yawning, her attention was caught by a figure emerging from the corner. Even though his face was hidden, she knew who was with her.
“I don’t know how you keep doing this, but I’m going to call the police!” Hannah grabbed her cell phone but before she could do anything, the phone flew out of her hands and landed on the floor.
“That won’t be necessary, Hannah.”
Dumbfounded, all she could do was stare.
“I won’t hurt you.” In the blink of an eye, Andrew was standing right in front of her.
What power did this man have over her? Why couldn’t she do anything?
“What do you want from me?”
Sighing, Andrew took her hand. No electricity this time from his touch. His dark eyes scanned her face. “I was hoping you would remember me.”
Hannah had to fight the urge to brush the forlorn lock of wavy brown hair from his forehead.
Andrew smiled sadly. “I probably shouldn’t have come here.”
“Why do you keep doing this?”
“You are going to do something very important, Hannah. You are on the verge of a great discovery. We’re not supposed to interfere but I had to see you again.”
“This is crazy! Why am I even listening to you?” Hannah attempted to walk away but Andrew was too quick for her and before she could do anything, she was in his arms.
“You saw me once. When you were a little girl. That summer by the lake?”
Suddenly Hannah was walking on the beach in front of her parent’s cottage. She was gathering various rocks for her collection. When she looked down, she saw an odd shaped green stone laying in front of her. It was glistening in the sun like a piece of glass. A man handed her the little rock. They stared at one another with smiles on their faces. In the distance, Hannah could hear her mother calling her. She turned around to thank the stranger but he was gone. Opening her eyes, she found herself alone in her bedroom but this time, she had a gift. Inside her hand was the bright green stone.
The next morning, Hannah awoke feeling refreshed. The green stone was still laying on her nightstand where she had left it. She picked it up. Turning it over in her hand, she thought back to last night’s events. Had she dreamed everything? That wasn’t possible because she had physical proof. The memory of the lake and that long-ago summer seemed like it had happened yesterday. Was it possible that she had somehow traveled back in time? Andrew told her she was on the verge of a great discovery. How would he know? What was it?
Hannah stood in front of her whiteboard, staring at the mass of equations. She found herself absentmindedly touching the green stone in her pocket. Sighing, she closed her eyes. The committee meeting was next week. She needed to show them that Mars was only one step, if she could solve this equation, the universe would be an open door.
It was a clear and beautiful night. Hannah was sitting on her deck with her face buried in her laptop. She had been working for over thirteen hours only pausing briefly to gaze up at the stars and take a sip or two of wine. Her thoughts started shifting to Andrew. He was so familiar. She found herself wondering what it would be like to be kissed by him.
“I have really got to stop drinking wine.” Shaking her head, she turned her attention back to her work.
“They aren’t crazy thoughts, you know.” Andrew emerged from the shadows and into the moonlight. He walked over and sat down in the chair next to Hannah. “There is so much possibility out there. I am still in awe of it.”
“You didn’t read my mind, did you?” Hannah was blushing with embarrassment.
“I don’t understand any of this and it’s driving me crazy! I feel like I know you but yet I don’t know how we met.” Sensing her turmoil, Andrew’s eyes met hers. “I feel like you are some figment of my imagination like I have lost my mind. I can’t stop thinking about you. I just can’t stop!”
Holding her gaze, Andrew stood up and walked to the railing. His back toward her.
“I have been watching you for a long time, Hannah.”
“Did you ever wonder why you were fascinated with the stars?”
Hannah got up from her chair to join him. “Yes.”
He turned to face her. “That is your home.”
“What are you talking about?”
Andrew moved closer. Leaning into her, he pointed toward Alpha Centauri.
“You will remember. When the time is right.” He reached out to touch her face but Hannah was nearing her breaking point.
She stepped away from him. All of the anger and frustration of the past week was bubbling beneath the surface. “What you are saying to me is impossible! I was born here on this planet. I can’t even begin to contemplate how you keep showing up! I must be going crazy. That can be the only explanation and you are some sort of hallucination.”
Andrew reflected on this for a moment. “You aren’t hallucinating, Hannah. This is very real.” He moved toward her. Gently, Andrew raised her chin so that they were looking into one another’s eyes. He bent down and kissed her softly on the lips. Too startled to do anything, Hannah kissed him back. Andrew embraced her and pulled her close. Feeling as if every part of her body were set on fire, Hannah stepped away. For a moment, they lingered and then taking his hand, Hannah lead him into the house.
The sleepy strands of morning pushed their way into the bedroom. Andrew woke first. He laid in bed for a moment to collect his thoughts. What had he done? He was told not to interfere. There was no use dwelling on his actions. Hannah stirred against him. Andrew let his lips brush against the top of her head. Pulling her close to him, he began to whisper in her ear.
Hannah awoke several hours later to sunlight streaming through the window. She turned over to find that Andrew was no longer lying beside her. Somehow, she knew that would be the case. Pulling the covers tightly against her body, Hannah sat up in bed. Nothing had changed but yet, everything had changed. She closed her eyes remembering last night. If only she could see his face again. With a heavy heart, Hannah decided to start her day.
Weeks passed and each night, Hannah would sit on her deck staring up at the nighttime sky. Invariably she knew the result would be the same. Longingly, she gazed at the stars and with all her might wished that she could see him again. In her heart, she knew that he wouldn’t return to her.
Those weeks turned into months, the months turned into years and Andrew’s memory remained in a small corner of her mind. His face was etched on her heart. Work occupied most of her waking hours and she was consumed by it. The equations and calculations soothed her spirit. Then one day, while looking at her whiteboard, she was struck with an idea. Once she started writing, she could not stop. She was merely the instrument.
On July 4, 2026, the United States launched the first manned mission to Mars. As Hannah watched from the control room, she smiled. Her work enabled this to happen. Although she was happy, a sense of melancholy filled her soul. While everyone was celebrating, Hannah managed to slip out of the festivities.
Wrapped in the warmth of a blanket, she sat in the solitude of the night on her deck staring up at the stars. She felt tears form in her eyes. Through the haze, she saw Andrew stepping out of the shadows and into the moonlight. Was this really happening? Finally, she found her voice. “I thought I would never see you again.”
Andrew reached out his hand for her. “I have come back for you.” Without saying a word, she immediately placed her hand in his. He pulled her close. Brushing away her tears he softly told her, “I love you. I’ve loved you since the beginning of time.”