A glitch pulls a teenager’s future kids into the present, forcing him to choose—his soulmate or a girl he hates, his future wife. #PitProm
Dear Royal Advisors,
ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD is a time travel sci-fi for young adults. It is complete at 95,000 words.
Seventeen-year-old Derek Lyttle knows his future. He's going to play professional baseball, have a gorgeous wife, and 2.5 kids. As Astoria High's star second baseman, Derek is on his way to achieving his dream. The only thing left? Win the heart of his best friend, Corinne. But Derek's life is quickly upended when he meets Jordan and Deirdre, two stranded children with a big secret: they're his future son and daughter. Worse, Derek learns he's not married to sweet Corinne, but to his abrasive, overachieving rival, Michelle, and their marriage is falling apart.
Forced to play house, a reluctant Derek and Michelle must work together to balance life as teen parents, while searching for a way to send their children home. Along the way, Derek grows more attached to his imperfect family. His emotions conflict further when he realizes he's also falling in love with Michelle.
Derek is torn between the life he envisioned and the life he never saw coming. He better choose fast, because someone else wants to choose for him.
ALL THE TIME IN THE WORLD marries the emotional complexities of Jay Asher’s THE FUTURE OF US with the character driven tension of Lexa Hillyer’s PROOF OF FOREVER. I hold two BAs in journalism and political science from the University of Nevada.
Thank you for considering my work.
FIRST TEN PAGES:
April 3rd, 2009
Derek Lyttle grips the neck of his Louisville Slugger, fingers squirming against the gloss, feeling out the warm evenness of the wood. Feet apart, knees bent, eyes straight ahead, he raises the bat over his shoulder.
The pitching machine launches a baseball and Derek swings, the crack of impact thundering through the low-hanging clouds blanketing his coastal town. The ball is a meteor against the grey, destined to land in the Columbia River with a muted splash. Except the practice net catches it first, repelling the ball back to the ground.
Derek raises his bat again.
It’s seven a.m. A spring drizzle coats the backyard, turning dirt into mud, grass into flattened mush. Crystal beads form on his skin, rolling down his arm, dripping off his elbow. His soaked T-shirt sticks to the swell of his chest. He’ll need to stop soon. He’s got class in an hour.
But he doesn’t care. Because when seventeen-year-old Derek holds a baseball bat, it feels like he’s holding all the time in the world.
He has his father, Jeffrey to thank for that.
From a young age, Mr. Lyttle encouraged him to play. Some of Derek’s earliest memories consist of the pair in the backyard, practicing batting form on a rubber T-ball set.
Chest over your toes promotes a good swing angle, his father would say, adjusting the boy’s stance. Feet apart, knees bent, eyes straight ahead.
Mr. Lyttle trained his son with a workout game he called One More. The rules were simple. When Derek’s arms cramped from swinging, his father would say, “one more”, and he’d swing at ten more.
Keep those knees bent, son. Ready? Here comes the pitch.
Derek swings. The bat whooshes through the air. Strike. He takes off his Giants hat, allowing the cool rain to wash the sweat on his neck. He walks over to the pitching machine, bends down to turn it off.
One more, Derek.
He stops, thumb poised over the switch. What does one more even mean, if Dad isn’t here to watch?
Derek flicks the switch, wraps a towel around his shoulders and heads inside.
The morning’s already begun downstairs. As Derek enters, he hears his mother pacing from room to room, heels clicking against the hardwood, abruptly muffled when she moves onto carpet. She’s talking on the phone, or rather, berating someone named David for allowing someone named Shen to change the inspection date. She wants it moved back. David will comply. No one says no to Kathryn Lyttle.
His mother doesn’t know how to relax. She must think a warm bath will erode the red from her Louboutin shoes, or mindful meditation will pop every stitch in her tailor-made suit. Even her hair is pulled into such a rigid updo, only God himself can cast it down.
The front door is open; Kathryn’s luggage sits by the window, neatly stacked, and every thirty seconds, a man in a suit steps inside, takes a couple bags and wheels them to his car.
Derek’s brother, Oliver sits at the kitchen table, double-handing a gooey sandwich. He’s still wearing his pajamas, the ones with Tonka trucks on the pants, and the matching shirt that reads “NOT DIGGING BEDTIME”, which Kathryn assured didn’t make him look like a thirteen-year-old toddler.
Derek tosses his towel onto a chair and, as he passes, rubs his knuckles into Oliver’s hair.
“Hey!” Oliver shrugs, ducking away. “You’re going to crush my food.”
It’s Oliver’s favorite meal; grilled cheese slathered with peanut butter. He usually puts too much inside, so the cheese/PB mix drip out the ends as he takes a bite, coating his fingers in a tan, gelatinous ooze which he disgustingly licks up.
“Can’t believe you still eat that crap.” Derek opens the pantry and pulls out a box of Pop-Tarts.
“It’s not crap,” his brother replies, smacking his lips. “Mud Pie is the breakfast of champions.”
Mrs. Lyttle speed-walks into the kitchen.
“Forget all that. You tell Wai Lau we’re not moving forward on production until next Sunday,” she says into her phone, gliding past her eldest son for the padfolio on the counter. She scribbles something down on the notebook, one of a dozen new reminders she’s written down today. “And tell Morgan she has to close on the subsidy by noon your time…Alright. Thanks, David. I’ll call Jeff from the plane.” Kathryn hangs up, takes a deep breath and smiles at her sons. “Oh, good. You’re both here.”
Derek and Oliver grunt, go back to their breakfasts.
“Sweetheart, I wish you wouldn’t drag in so much of the outside,” she says to Derek, gesturing to the trail of damp leaves and rainwater left in his wake.
“Sorry, Mom,” he replies, but Kathryn was on the move again, escaping back into the living room.
“Ollie, is this the weekend you’re going camping with Samantha’s family?” She calls. “Would you let them know I’ll be out of the country?”
Oliver slumps, head tilting away. “The trip’s off. We broke up.”
“Oh, honey, I’m so sorry.”
Derek snickers between bites. “Strikeout Ollie strikes again.”
“Shut up, durfwad. At least I had a girlfriend.”
Oliver has him there. Derek’s been single all year. His best friend, Corinne says it’s because his trysts with Anna the exchange student (codenamed “Summer of Saarinen”) drained most of his body fluids, and he should be at full strength for the next lady of Europe. He refuses to confirm or deny her theory, but Corinne knows him better than anyone, so who is he to tell her she’s wrong?
Except she is wrong. He’s not getting ready for another exchange student. He’s getting ready for her.
Derek opens the fridge for the orange juice.
“Sam said I was immature,” Oliver goes on. “But would an immature guy be rocking this—” He points a finger to his cheek, chin raised in confidence. “Check it out. I got facial hair now.”
Derek glances over the door. “Right.”
“I’m serious. Look—” He drops his sandwich and leans forward against the table, arching his jaw in Derek’s direction. “I already got one hair and the buds are coming in. The girls in my class will have to notice me now.”
“I see March Sadness is starting late for you.”
“Yeah, well, your face sucks.”
“Oliver!” Mom snaps, cutting through the kitchen once again, making a beeline for the camouflage closet. “Now, listen. I’m leaving for a few weeks. I expect both of my sons to be alive by the time your dad and I come back.”
And when is Dad coming back, Derek wants to ask. Jeffrey left for their business trip a couple weeks earlier. Something about opening a new co-packing factory in Hong Kong, and the government pushing back with their “zero growth” on fishing policy.
“We’re out of OJ,” Derek says instead, watching his mother move from cabinet to cabinet with the poise and grace of a woman who could navigate the kitchen blindfolded.
“Yes, I know.” Kathryn tosses a hand. “I didn’t have time to go to Safeway. I left extra petty cash in the canister.”
“Mom, tell Derek I’m growing facial hair,” Oliver whines.
Kathryn’s brow lifts. “Are you? Let me see.” She tips her youngest son’s face into the kitchen light, examining his skin with a keen squint. “Ah, indeed. One whisker. You’re growing up so fast.” She smiles proudly, passes her thumb across the grain.
“Mom, don’t touch!” He swats her away.
“Oh, Derek. Before I forget—” Click click, click click, over to the leather bag hanging on a peg. She pulls out a folder of papers. “—Your application for Big Brothers, Big Sisters. I filled it out for you. Be sure to turn it in to the box on Commercial.”
Derek fans the pages, shoulders slumping with each flip. Of course she’d remember the one thing he hoped she’d forget. “I don’t want to do this,” he groans. “I’m already a big brother. Look how crappy that’s going.”
“You need volunteering on your college resume. Baseball’s great, and you’re a terrific athlete, but it’s important to have a plan B, in the event a school doesn’t offer you a scholarship.”
“These volunteer people aren’t going to assign me to some local Melvin, are they?”
“I’m not sure what you mean by Melvin, but I’m told your new sibling would be from Portland.”
One paper stops Derek in his tracks. “Wait. This calendar says they want me for the spring-summer. I can’t do that. The season just started.”
“They’ll work around your schedule.”
“Not in July. The paper says to keep July free. So, what, I can’t see The White Pines now?”
Oliver pipes in. “Hey, if you die before the concert, can I have your tickets?”
“Awesome. Can’t wait.”
Derek cuts him a glare. “You can wait a little bit.”
“You won’t miss the concert,” Kathryn says tersely. “Just turn in the paperwork.”
“And remember, you’re driving Ollie to class.”
“Wha—” Derek glances at his brother, catching the broad smirk on the younger Lyttle’s face. “—Why? The middle school’s a mile away. He can walk that.”
“We’ve discussed this, Derek,” she reminds him, gathering her coat from the hallway closet. “If you want to keep Lucille, you have to drive your brother on rainy days.”
Kathryn’s driver comes in to pick up the last of her bags and tells her he’s ready whenever she is. She slides into her coat, hands him her leather bag, and says she’ll be out in a minute. Mom’s trips abroad are never as long as Dad’s, but a couple times a year, their schedules require both of them to be out of town. When Derek was younger, he stayed with the neighbors. Now that he’s older, he’s earned the right to hold down the fort.
“Three weeks,” Mom says, kissing Oliver’s forehead. “I’ll call when I land. If there’s an emergency, go next door. And remember, Derek—no parties.”
“Uh-huh,” he mutters into his mother’s kiss. She runs a tender hand across his cheek, her strapping lad of a son, changing more into her husband every day. But there was no mistaking it; on the surface, he was her son, from the chocolate hair, to the green lit eyes flecked with amber, to the way his brows knit together.
“You boys be good,” she says. “I love you.”
The door shuts behind her, heel clicks subside, and for the first time this morning, the house is still.
The brothers look at each other.
“Don’t make me late,” Derek warns.
April 3rd, 2009
Michelle Tanner never has enough time.
Then again, she’s always been a goal-driven young lady. The evidence liters her childhood bedroom in the form of ribbons, trophies, medals, and other prizes. She remembers the first award Grandpa pinned to her wall. The Clatsop County Spelling Bee. Michelle’s first place ribbon still hangs between two science fair accolades from middle school. Overtime, newer trophies came to block the older ones, swelling each shelf with shiny gold.
It feels good to win—to be worthy of winning. Success means she’s good. Perfection means she’s the best. Awards mean it’s a fact.
As Michelle stands at her bedroom mirror, brushing the black pixie bangs from her face, she spots the spelling bee ribbon in the reflection. Worn, faded of its azure and tattered at the streamers, she stares at her first achievement, reflecting on how proud she should be for exceeding expectations.
She wipes her glasses and opens the closet door for her cardigan. The blue knit droops on a hanger in front of her, but it’s the decaying box tucked in the corner that grabs her attention. It smells of a faint musk, having turned yellow and ugly, and the flaps are torn in several areas, no longer hiding the gold inside.
The box reminds Michelle of her place in the chain of success. She may be the best, but she’s not the first. Someone else filled this room with their trophies not long ago. A man she doesn’t know; a man she should. Michelle never thinks about him, except when she opens her closet and finds those awards. At which point, she pushes the carton as far out of sight as possible and pretends she never saw it.
Michelle wants to toss that box to the curb, but she can’t. They aren’t hers. And they matter to someone important.
Her loft bedroom has the only set of stairs in her tiny, two-bedroom home. The steps creek at the slightest weight, though her feet are agile and move quickly at the sound of someone in the kitchen, ruffling through the pots.
A small, elderly woman in a robe hunches over the lower cabinet, dragging out with trembling hands her collection of cast iron skillets. She places one on the floor beside her and pulls out another, laying in makeshift traps for her own demise.
“Grandma, what are you doing?” Michelle asks.
“Tuesday night. Baked cheese cauliflower. A.J’s favorite,” the woman answers without pause, adding more cast iron traps to her floor.
Rebecca Tanner, her grandmother, never stood still in the kitchen. She was jokingly said to have counted her days by how many meals she served, how cold her own plate of spaghetti became before she had a bite.
Michelle bends over to gather the skillets. “The doctors said you shouldn’t cook.”
“Breakfast—a big hoo-ha, if you ask me. Dinner’s the most important meat of the day.”
Meal, Michelle corrects to herself. “It’s seven a.m.,” she says. “And it’s Friday.”
“I can’t find my good pan. Ask Alan if he’s seen it. He’s in the freeway.”
Driveway. “Grandma.” Michelle takes Rebecca’s hands, drawing the woman’s blood-flecked eyes to hers. “Grandpa died five years ago.”
Rebecca stares blankly for a moment, then smiles, her weathered lips pressed tightly together. “Oh, not my Alan. He survived the storm of ‘67. He fought the waves and came home without a scratch. His nickname’s Jonah, you know. From the Bible.”
“Yes. You’ve told me.”
“I know. You’re a good girl, Renata.”
“I’m not—” Michelle stops her natural impulse, biting back a feeling of bitterness with a soft sigh.
It’s not intentional, she tells herself. You’re still alive somewhere in her mind. Play the game she needs.
Michelle stacks the skillets in a high cabinet, out of Rebecca’s reach, then guides her to a kitchen chair. “Neydi will be here any minute. Let’s wait until then to cook.”
There’s a phone book tucked awkwardly under the short leg of her chair, and as Rebecca takes a seat, the chair bucks, prompting Michelle to overreact with a stern wrist grab. Her grandmother winces but doesn’t mention any pain.
“A.J has a girlfriend. She must be new,” Rebecca says.
“Are you thirsty? Would you like a drink?” Michelle pulls out the orange juice from the fridge. The jug’s light; she hears the faint slosh of liquid. Only half a glass. Michelle will have to go without.
“You’re better for him, Renata,” Rebecca says as Michelle hands her the glass. “My A.J.”
This isn’t Michelle’s conversation. She doesn’t have the right to speak on someone else’s behalf. But the very human part of her embraces this opportunity. Perhaps if Michelle says the right thing, uses familiar words, she might trigger something in Rebecca’s mind that’ll help her recognize her only granddaughter.
“Dating’s complicated for me.” Michelle sits down beside Rebecca. “Boys my age…they aren’t too enamored with girls like me. I think they’d prefer a feminine partner, not one with scraped hands from a botched static experiment.” She smiles. “That’s alright. I prefer science over social interactions anyway.”
“Oh, dear. There’s nothing more wonderful than being a wife and mother.”
Michelle glances towards the tiny alcove she calls a den. In her current state, Rebecca pays no attention to the mechanical toys strewn across her home. Gemstone labs, rocket stunt planes, solar robots and others sit on forgotten shelves, perfectly built and collecting dust.
Rebecca’s husband, Alan followed the Montessori method. He believed children learn by exploring new projects, ordering assigned pieces, manipulating their structure and repeating the process. Alan noticed his granddaughter’s early predisposition to science, encouraging her with STEM kits that came weekly through the mail. He bought Michelle a subscription to last until her eighteenth birthday. That was three months ago.
After he died, the kits kept coming, but Michelle stopped opening them. Instead, she stacked the new boxes on shelves and random drawers, letting them collect the same dust as those she finished. When she walks into a room, Michelle sees the kits they crafted together—the suspension bridge built from toilet paper rolls, wooden trebuchets, a propeller car made of Tupperware bins—and she’s reminded of her loss, a tragedy caught in stasis, forced to be relived every single day.
Michelle has never been a romantic. Love isn’t a concept she can pin down, a scientific theory she can define. The girls in her class talk about Prince Charming and the white picket fence, and Michelle has no interest in any of it. Maybe Michelle’s not made for fairy tale moments. Maybe she’s more of a strategist, forcing the glass slipper to fit when others think it won’t. So, she leaves the emotional vulnerabilities to those who want them and focuses on the task ahead.
Her newest task sits as a cluttered heap on half the dining room table. The jumbled structure of copper coils, acrylic tubes and wires traverse a wooden platform, connected to small propellers and exposed circuits, the whole structure looking dangerous and loosely crafted.
“I want to design a carbon capture device for the STEM competition,” she had told her physics teacher. “We place the machine in a box filled with greenhouse emissions and measure the levels throughout the experiment. If I’m right, the levels will drop.”
“That’s rather ambitious, Miss Tanner. Design a preliminary blueprint and we’ll see what we can do.”
Of course, Michelle had gone beyond her duties of a blueprint and crafted part of the machine.
“No. I won’t have children,” she says firmly to Rebecca. “Parenthood is fine for others, but I’d rather contribute to advancing mankind, not the overpopulation problem. Not to mention, it’d be unfair to the child if I were working and forgot to care for them.”
Rebecca giggles into her cup of juice.
“Babies live rent free inside Mama’s mind.”
Michelle blinks. “What does that mean?”
“When you hold that baby in your arms, Renata, every thought will be about them. As my own mama told me, ‘say goodbye to the loneliness inside your mind. Because they’re in there now. And Lord help you when you think the worst is going to happen.’”
“All the more reason, then.”
“Ah. Don’t be so gloomy. You’re young. You have all the time in the work.”
“World. I have all the time in the world.”
There’s a knock at the door. Michelle rises, the bottom of her chair scrapping quickly across the ground, indicative of her eagerness to end the conversation.
“Morning, Michelle,” the middle-aged, bronze skinned woman greets, smiling dutifully, wisps of a Spanish accent in her voice.
“Come in, Neydi.” Michelle steps aside, taking her guest’s coat to hang on the rack. In a way, Neydi isn’t a guest. She’s under this roof almost as often as Michelle, minus the obligation of living here. Neydi’s wearing a cheery fuchsia tunic with pink hearts printed all over it, and bright slacks to match. She loves colorful clothing; she says it keeps her client’s minds active.
Neydi unpacks her ready bag, which includes tray puzzles, a deck of cards, dominoes, Play-Doh, even a color by numbers book.
She sits on the edge of Michelle’s chair, caressing the top of Rebecca’s hand with a gentle thumb. “Hi, Rebecca. How are you feeling today?”
Rebecca mumbles from her glass. “Good.”
“Yeah? Good? I’m glad. Do you know who I am?”
The older woman opens her mouth, then closes it.
“That’s okay. My name’s Neydi. Do you know why I’m here?”
“That’s right. I’m here to spend the day with you. Will that be okay?”
“You were here before,” Rebecca says.
“I was. I’m glad you remembered.” Neydi glances over at Michelle, noting her apprehension, then turns back to Rebecca. “I’m going to step away for a minute. Why don’t you pick out something for us to play with while I talk to your granddaughter?”
Michelle moves into the den, just large enough for a standing clock and a couple fake plants. She doesn’t take her eyes off Rebecca as Neydi joins her.
“How’s she doing?” Michelle asks.
“Well.” Neydi steals her own peek. Rebecca is kneading Neydi’s Play-Doh into long strips, like she did when she baked from scratch. “That depends. Some days, she seems alert and responsive. Other days, it’s like pulling teeth getting her to focus. She’s sundowning more now. I’ve cut back on the stimulants, chose calmer activities, play music. That seems to be helping the symptoms. For how much longer, I don’t know.”
“What do you suggest?”
“Honestly? I’d start researching assisted living facilities.”
The very thought sends blades into Michelle’s heart. “I can’t do that. My grandmother’s lived here for fifty years.”
“I understand your concern,” Neydi says empathetically. “But your grandmother has dementia. There will come a point when you can’t take care of her. As her guardian, you need to recognize it now. Because if you’re waiting for Rebecca to tell you when she can’t feed herself, that day will never come.”
Michelle swallows the lump in her throat and anxiously pushes her glasses closer to her eyes. It’d be one thing if Grandpa were still alive, or if Rebecca chose to leave for a home with better care. How could Michelle make that decision for her grandmother?
Michelle’s tough face falters against someone who’s seen that masked courage on a dozen other family members.
A lull passes through, then Neydi breaks it.
“I saw the letter.”
Michelle applied for Stanford’s engineering program the day the school opened admittance. The applications would stand on their own, but Michelle, always the perfectionist, had worked on the essay for days. She discussed her future with a mechanical engineer’s degree, highlighting her carbon project, and at least four other ideas on the horizon. As her grandfather said, what was worth doing, was worth overdoing.
“The envelope was post-marked a month ago.”
She remembers when the answer finally came. The mailman slid the letter through the slot and went on his way. Michelle thought nothing of weekend mail, so she made lunch and worked on homework before glancing at the mound on the floor. That’s when she saw it, the red Stanford envelope poking out between the junk folds. She held her future with a firm grasp, straddling acceptance and rejection equally, unable open the envelope for the next hour.