It's not September 2000 any more. Nowhere near.
When I think about that, I have to stop for a minute. The shock of it still catches at my chest, like a blow against my breast bone. I can't believe how quickly everything has changed for me.
It all started when Willow and I... Well, when Willow saw Oz again. I knew, as soon as he walked through the door, that everything was going to change. When Willow and I first met, I could sense she was grieving for something. It didn't take long to find out for what. But still, over time, as our friendship grew and then blossomed into something else, something wonderful, I'd hoped she'd lost her grief. But that was naive of me. When she saw him again, she realised her feelings were still there. I never expected her to choose me. I knew it hurt her to leave me, and I know she wanted to be friends, but I couldn't face it. Even though I loved her. Because I loved her. I tried at first, but whenever we met I could almost sense Oz's presence. It was too much. So gently, quietly, I extricated myself from Willow, and after a while she stopped calling. I thought it would help. It didn't.
I busied myself with my work, and then the summer came. I avoided going home by finding a part time job on campus. I worked in the library. It was quiet over the summer; only the postgraduate students were on campus. I had time to think. Too much time. It wasn't really the best place to get over a broken heart. Maybe I should have got a job at the Espresso Pump. It's busy there.
Of course, I bumped into Willow and her friends a few times. I even helped out occasionally with spells. Over the phone, though. When Willow and I did magic... It was just too intimate for me to perform a spell with her in person. I also saw Dawn now and then. The slayer's little sister. She seems like a nice kid, and she even said she was sorry she hadn't seen me hanging out with Willow lately. I don't think she realised what Willow and I had. But why should she? Willow hid our relationship from everyone. Anyway, I felt for Dawn. She seemed a little lonely, like me, and I would have liked to have spent more time with her, but I couldn't think of a way to do it.
When the new school year started, I tried to get involved in the wicca group again, but those girls are really just - I hate to say it, but they're shallow. And a little bit mean. So I ended up going to the Lesbian Alliance meetings a few times. Not that I was trying to find a new girlfriend. I couldn't even really imagine being intimate with someone right now. But I was trying my best to be sociable, and let's face it, I hadn't made many friends in my first year. I'd been too wrapped up in Willow, and look where that had got me.
They had a mixer a few weeks into term, so I went along. Mostly I stood by the punchbowl and smiled nervously at people. I also spilled punch on myself. I must have looked so appealing in my long skirt and juice-stained sweater, a nervous smile on my unmade up face. I didn't fit in at all; but then, I never do.
A funny thing happened then - a girl started talking to me. That never happens. She introduced herself as Hallie, and she was very friendly. I found myself opening up to her. I don't know why. She just seemed trustworthy. She was very sympathetic about the Willow situation. And then I said it.
"I-I wish all this was long over, and I was somewhere else."
Then her face changed, just for a moment, and I could swear she said "wish granted." Behind me the wall disappeared, and...
I woke up lying on grass. It was early morning; I could sense that from the light. Grey and thin. I sat up, shivering, my clothes stained with dew. What had happened? Then I remembered the party, and as I did, my stomach lurched painfully. I didn't know all that much about demons really, but my feeling was that something very, very bad had happened last night.
I walked through the park, past early morning joggers. The air sang with the sound of birds, and the sound of cars muffled by trees. It was a peaceful, lovely scene, but my panic was rising. It took all my strength not to give in and just run and run. I knew that wouldn't help, and would draw attention to me.
Eventually I found a sign.
CENTENNIAL PARK. MUNICIPAL OF NEW METROPOLIS.
New Metropolis? That was miles from Sunnydale! Though of course, if I had been teleported somehow, I could have ended up anywhere. India. The ocean. I suppose I should be grateful I was still in the United States.
I didn't know what to do. I found a payphone and luckily had some change. I called Willow's number, because who else would help me? Not my father, that was for sure. But I got a recorded message: "The number you have dialled is not recognised."
I started to feel very, very frightened.
That was until I saw the newspaper in the bin by the phone that showed, quite clearly, that it wasn't the year 2000 any more. Then I wasn't frightened. I was terrified.
I think I sort of... greyed out for a while. Not blacked out. I was conscious. But I honestly don't remember the rest of that morning. Somehow I was in the future. Oh Goddess. My wish. What had I done? Did Willow not even exist any more? Had I done something awful to her? I was so afraid.
I found my way to the public library - a huge, imposing building. Being in New Metropolis was scary enough without it being because I'd been transported into the future somehow. I knew I could use the internet there, so I decided to see if I could find Willow's details on the UC Sunnydale website.
The website was gone. It seemed that UC Sunnydale didn't exist. And that wasn't all. Sunnydale didn't exist. A quick look through CNN's archives showed that something terrible had happened. Sunnydale had been destroyed in what was being called a "massive, unprecedented earthquake".
I only just made it to the bathroom before I threw up.
I suppose I should be grateful. If I were in Sunnydale, I might have died too. But all I can think about is that all the people there must have died. I just hoped that Willow and the others had had some warning and had got out.
I wandered aimlessly after that, until the afternoon got late. I needed a room for the night. I went to an ATM. My card was pretty old, but maybe it would still work. However, it spat it out. Then I noticed that the VISA sign on my card was very slightly different from on the machine. I noticed other differences too. There was a Superman Memorial. Superman? But he was a fictional character.
I had the feeling I hadn't just moved forward in time... I had moved into a parallel universe. This might be even more complicated that I had feared. I wasn't sure I had any idea of the magics needed to get me out of here.
In the meantime, I found a bed in a dorm room at the YWCA. It was quiet there, and clean, and they didn't seem to check the "Christian" part, so I was ok. I had to figure out what to do. I had virtually no money, I was in a strange town, I'd been moved out of my universe into a place that looked a lot like my world, but had some peculiar differences... I just didn't know what to do.
I came up with the idea that maybe I could get some student loans and enroll at New Metropolis University. After all, a lot of students must have lost their details in whatever happened to Sunnydale, so they might not question me too closely. So I went to the administration office, where I was given a lot of forms. Taking them outside, I had a look at the papers. There was a big hole in my plan. If I wanted to get a loan, I would need a permanent address. I might be able to get around the birth certificate part by pointing out it was at the bottom of a crater, but I couldn't list the YWCA as my home.
It was at this point that the true enormity of what had happened to me finally hit me, and I started to cry, first quiet tears, and then finally huge, gulping sobs. A lot of people stared at me - but not one person stopped. They never do.
[Probably best for Dawnie to tag? Sometime after you see Xander.]</