The following Summer, the silvery locks of Max and Laura shimmered under a bright, Tuesday mid-morning sun. The couple were sat together in a bubbling hot tub, out on the verdana atop the sunroom they had newly built onto the ancestral home.
As they relaxed and sipped drinks from a nearby tray, Max turned to his beloved, and graced her cheek with a tender kiss.
"Happy Jade Anniversary, darling."
"You too, dearest. My God, thirty-five years... where has the time gone?"
"I don't know, but every moment with you has been heavenly."
Laura reached for his shoulder, smiling.
"Well, the best is yet to come," she said. "Now that you've retired from music, we can spend all the time we have left on this Earth with each other. No more long tours or constant concerts."
"Mmm. Peace and quiet for old Max at last."
"You... you don't miss it too much, do you?" Laura asked with concern. "I did say the choice was yours."
"Not really. Now and again, maybe. But mammoth tours like mine used to be are a young man's game. I didn't fancy ending up in the hospital. These days, I might not make it out... and I got bloody lucky the last time. Besides, I think I've done enough to leave my mark on the world."
"You certainly have. Tons of awards, and generations of fans old and new enjoying your music. You still get played on the radio, you know."
"I know. That's me... a golden oldie."
"I was thinking more 'silver fox'," Laura laughed, cupping his cheek. "Still, you've achieved a lot in life. You have fame, fortune and a family. What else is there for you to aspire to?"
"Well," Max said sheepishly, "there is one thing I'd still like to happen. But - but it's silly, and it's not fair on the kids."
"Why? What is it?"
"I... I'd like to be a grandpa," Max confessed. "I've.. I've been thinking about it a lot recently. I can just picture it: me, the old rocker in a rocking chair, with a couple of bouncing babies on my knee. It would be the perfect conclusion to a long and happy life. I mean, I know the family legacy will officially end with Mally, and that he doesn't need an heir, but... well, I worry about him. I don't want him to grow old alone, working himself to death in that laboratory of his."
"Mally never was one for romance," Laura replied. "Still, there's always Morgan. Things seem to be going well with her and that lab assistant - Jack. He's a bit odd, I'll grant you, but he's a gentleman. Even made me some tea the other day. Where did he come from, anyway?"
"God knows. And with Mally and all his experiments, I'm kind of afraid to ask."
Suddenly, Laura groaned in discomfort - her hand rushing to clutch the back of her neck.
"What's wrong?" asked an alarmed Max.
"Oh. it's nothing," came the reply. "Just some old aches and pains."
"Well, darling," he replied, turning his finger in a little circle, "maybe I can help with that."
Chuckling, Laura turned her back to him, and Max began to massage her - stroking her skin slowly and tenderly.
"More drinks, sir?"
The sound of the metallic voice caused the couple to look up, and they shrieked in shock, flying apart from one another, as they spotted a robotic face looking down on them.
"Forgive me, sir," continued the android. "Have I startled you?"
"No, Thomas," Max replied, now calmer. "It's quite all right."
Thomas, a robotic butler, was one of Mally's latest inventions: his creation being a fun little distraction, he had said, from his main project. Presented to his parents as an early anniversary gift, he had proven invaluable around the house - cleaning, cooking and performing all of the daily chores, allowing Mally to focus on his work, and for Max and Laura to enjoy their retirement.
"You... you mentioned drinks, Thomas?" Laura said.
"Yes, ma'am. Do you require more?"
"Not right now, thank you."
"Very good, ma'am. Would you like me to commence lunch? I was going suggest cream of tomato soup, freshly prepared, with basil garnish and bread rolls."
"That sounds delightful," Max answered. "Many thanks, Thomas."
"My pleasure, sir. It will be ready within the hour. And sir?"
"The younger master instructed me to wish you a Happy Anniversary."
"Thank you, Thomas. That will be all."
As the robot ventured towards the kitchen, Max reached out for his wife once more.
"Now - where we we?" he cooed, before clambering into her lap, eagerly locking his lips with hers.
Down in the lab, Mally tightened the last few bolts within his shower-like cabinet as Jack stood by faithfully - watching him work with fascination, and occasionally, passing him tools when prompted. With a few more turns of the wrench, the job was done, and Mally emerged, a big grin across his face.
"There we go," he said jovially. "Ten months of hard work, and it's finally finished. The Mally Miskin Time Machine, patent pending. I can't wait to get this baby fired up."
Smiling, Jack clapped him on the back.
"Congratulations, mate," he said. "I know you've been waiting for this day a long time. Still, before we do a test run, maybe you should take a break. Why don't we toast this momentous occasion?"
"We don't keep alcohol in the house. Dad's rule. You know that."
"Good," Jack replied, "because I was going to suggest a cup of coffee. We've been working on this thing all night!"
"Coffee sounds perfect," he conceded.
"I'll go and brew us some up," Jack replied, walking towards the door. "Back in a jiffy."
Now alone in the lab, Mally gazed proudly upon his modified creation. Ever since the early day of his childhood, he had dreamed of one day travelling through time. Secretly, it was one of the main reasons he'd wanted to become a scientist in the first place. (Aliens was another, but he already knew they existed. He didn't need to look any further than his own family tree.)
As he brushed a hand along the machine's metal framing, temptation flooded into every cell in his body, and he began to ponder. Surely there would be no harm in having one quick little trip through the time-space continuum before Jack got back? It was a time machine, after all - he could be away for weeks if he wished to, and come back one second after he'd departed. His blue-haired assistant wouldn't be any the wiser.
In one moment, Mally's mind was made up. It was time for him to be brave, and explore the mysteries of the universe.
Rushing into the machine, he typed a destination into the control panel, giving careful consideration to the year. It had to be far away enough to be a significant voyage, but not too far away as to leave him totally alienated to the world around him. Thinking quickly, he settled on a summer's day in the past - sometime during the adult years of his granddad Marlon.
With the year entered, Mally pressed the ignition switch, and braced himself.
Within seconds, the cabinet began to rock and shake: gently at first, then a bit more vigorously. Looking out of the glass door, Mally saw the laboratory around him fade away, only to be replaced by a swirling ocean of white and blue light.
Meanwhile, in the present, Jack's head popped around the laboratory door.
"Sorry, Mally, I forgot to ask... did you want cream in your -"
He stopped, stunned, as he noticed an empty space where the cabinet had stood only moments ago. Slowly, he crept forwards towards it, proving to himself that it wasn't just some clever trick of the light.
As the reality of the situation dawned on him, Jack slapped his hand again his forehead, groaning.
"Oh, for the love of - "
A gentle breeze carried blossom petals over the grassy grounds of Willow Creek Park. As children clambered around on the playground, and passers-by idly walked along stone paths, nobody noticed the flash of light breaking forth behind the giant old oak tree.
Stepping out of the cabinet carefully, Mally sighed contentedly as he felt the breeze on his face, and looked around in delight at where he was.
It was the same park he had played in during his childhood... yet it was, undoubtedly, different. The swings and climbing frame had been recently painted: no signs of aging or rust were upon them. The picnic tables and benches were free of watermarks from rain showers, and were laid out in a different arrangement to what he remembered.
His journey had been successful. Mally was sure of it. But, like all good researchers, he needed solid proof.
Looking over towards the water fountain in the park's centre, he spotted a newspaper upon a nearby chess table. He strolled towards it, still somewhat in awe of where he was, and picked it up, examined it carefully in his hands. The paper was pure white - again, no signs of aging - and totally undamaged. Encouraged, he checked the date over the headline.
It was the exact day he had chosen.
Beaming with pride, Mally folded the paper back up, sat himself down, and started to play a game of chess. As he moved the pieces of both colours around on the checkered squares, he suddenly grew distracted by the sight of a woman - a red-headed woman - sat reading on a bench across the way.
She truly was beautiful. Around his own age too, Mally thought. She even put Farrah in the shade.
The book she was reading - a text on astrophysics - was one of Mally's favourites. He knew it well. It had even been on of his core study texts during his university years.
And a good starting point for conversation.
Encouraged, Mally lifted himself upwards... but then, he hesitated.
He was in the past. Talking to this woman would alter the timeline. He'd have a presence in her life - a memory - that hadn't existed before. It was just like that old adage about stepping on a butterfly, or becoming your own grandfather.
Then again - it was just a quick conversation. A chat. Surely that wouldn't do too much damage? And who could say if he'd ever get this chance again? To talk to such a beautiful woman, with common interests, and no Jack here to distract him?
At any rate, he could use the practice.
Timeline be blowed - he wasn't letting this opportunity slip by. Approaching the woman,he stood over her, and cleared his throat politely - leading her to glance up at him in irritation.
"I'm... I'm sorry to disturb you," Mally began nervously, "but - I couldn't help but notice you're reading Professor Charlotte Huxley's "Planet Jump Theorem." That's... that's one of my favourites. How are you finding it?"
"Well, it certainly makes for interesting reading," the lady replied. "I'm using Huxley's ideas as a baseline for some research I'm working on."
"Oh - you work in Physics?"
"Yes. I'm a laboratory leader at Willow Creek Labs."
"I'm a scientist too!" Mally replied brightly. "Goodness... I've never met anyone who was familiar with Professor Huxley before."
"Nor I," said the woman, smiling. "Tell me - what do you think of her theory of planetary movement?"
Over the next five minutes, the pair chatted away avidly about various scientific theorems and discoveries - mostly agreeing with one another, but when they did differ, gracefully respecting each other's opinions. Slowly, each of them began to relax and unwind in the other's company.
"I spotted you playing chess a while ago," the woman told Mally. "Are you good at it?"
"Grand Master level."
"Same here. How about we have a game?"
One chess game. That couldn't possibly change the future, could it?
"Sure," Mally replied.
So they did. And then they played another, still talking the whole time. As he lost a pawn here, won a rook there, Mally could feel his heart fluttering - a mixed-up feeling in his stomach. He was truly beginning to like his woman. His decision to venture back in time seemed to be paying off.
As they began a third match to settle on a winner, having each won an earlier game, a weary Mally let out a loud yawn, which he desperately tried to stifle as his companion laughed.
"Boring you, am I?" she asked light-heartedly.
"Not at all!" Mally insisted. "Just a bit worn out, that's all. I've been working through the night."
"I know the feeling," the lady replied. "I know a cafe just down the street - I get a discount because my dad works there. Well, one of them does."
"I'll explain later. So, what do you say? An espresso is bound to perk you up."
Ok, now this WAS going too far - this was practically turning into a date which was bound to oh sod it!
"Sounds great," Mally replied. "Lead the way."
As he and his companion rose from their seats, Mally clicked his fingers hurriedly as he made a sudden realisation.
"Oh, gosh!" he cried. "We never even introduced ourselves. I'm Mally."
He offered the woman his hand, and she shook it warmly.
"I'm Polly," she answered. "Polly Thacker-Creswell."