He stopped himself and looked around the room. It was a small living room, but Vivian had loved it so much. The portraits of their wedding and various pieces of art she collected had not been hung, as they had not yet met one another. In the corner was the television that would later be the end of her, at least indirectly. Its plug ran to the wall socket nearby, sitting all by its lonesome.

His memories flashed briefly back to the Christmas when it happened. He remembered being at the store, buying the box with the plastic tree inside and considering, for a moment, getting a plug strip to house all the lights and keep them away from the wall. But no, he figured it would be fine. The wiring wasn't that old, after all, and they had smoke detectors. So he went home, tree in hand, and set up the entire works, wrapping the lighting around the tree with Vivian as the snow fell outside. She was so proud of it, having never put up a tree before. That night they made love on the warm comforter in their bedroom, leaving the window open just a crack to feel the chill on their skin.

He had woken up at about 3:00 a.m. with the sudden realization that he had forgotten to get the present he had stashed at the university. He quietly got out of bed and hustled to the Jeep outside, driving to the school and retrieving the gift he had taken such care in picking out. It was a small, purple, oblong box with a gold ribbon holding it closed. He drove back quickly, thinking about some early morning lovemaking. Then he saw the fire trucks.

Two of them had pulled in front of their house, firemen crowding around and shooting high-pressure water onto the building. The flames consumed most everything, barely leaving the impression that there was a house under all the red-orange fire. He slammed on his brakes, put it into park and raced from the Jeep, forgetting to even turn the car off. A fireman saw him running toward the house and caught him, holding him back.

"Sir, please!" he shouted over the commotion.
"No! My wife! She's -" was all he managed before he realized it was all over. His legs gave way and he collapsed onto the asphalt, tears running down his cheeks. He tried to scream, but his voice caught in his throat. Not even 30 and he had already lost the love of his life.

Peter shook his head, clearing the terrible memories. Despite this, he needed to wipe at his eyes. He mustn't allow his feelings to affect the outcome. After a moment's composure, he began to walk into the kitchen, reaching back into his pants and pulling out the gun he brought.


His younger self stared back, the forkful of pasta in his hand held halfway to his gaping mouth. There were no words exchanged between them, and the room was quiet except for the sound of a late night talk show host rattling off lame one-liners. He cocked the gun.


Tiffany poked her head into the office. "Five minutes, sir."
"Thank you, Tiffany," Peter said. Then, as she was just leaving, "Wait, could you come here and sit down?" She slowly skittered back in and sat down at his desk. A Collins glass with a double-shot of bourbon and half-melted ice cubes sat in front of him. She eyeballed it with concern.
"Can I ask you something?" he said, holding the 8-ball in his hand.
"Sure, anything," she said nervously, her hands settling in her lap.
"What would you do to correct a mistake?"
"I, um ... what do you mean?" Her leg was bobbing unconsciously.
"Say you lived your whole life for one person, one reason," he explained. "Then, one terrible day, that reason disappeared. Like smoke in a strong wind. What would you do to let them live again? Would you go so far as to lose yourself to save them?"

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