Emerson didn’t see Greta on the thirty-first that year, but two years later, Greta showed up at Emerson’s door. Down the street a black man was being taken away in handcuffs by three white cops and somewhere out of sight a woman’s voice was loosing hymns and to Emerson, Greta seemed just as distant.

Emerson had always believed that Greta would never have children, and yet here Greta was, standing with two of them, and in the face of this evidence Emerson still maintained that there was no way in all of the concurrent versions of themselves that Greta would ever be responsible for human lives other than her own.

“Just for a couple of days,” Greta said once they were inside.

“Take as long as you need,” Emerson said, and meant it.

Before Greta and the kids, Emerson had been sleeping on two stacked mattresses and until eleven in the mornings.

She had recently seen her first big professional success in the sale of a collection of short stories to a prestigious publishing house, and even more recently she had seen her first big professional failure when the publishing house decided they had made a mistake and didn’t want her collection of short stories any more. The success hadn’t felt as good as everyone else had made success out to sound and the failure hadn’t felt as revitalizing, and Emerson felt like she was back at the beginning.

Even though her guests’ stay was only temporary, she went out and bought a respectable new dish set, and cooked a dinner in the oven or on the stove and set the table for four every night. After they left, Emerson bought herself a bed frame and a coffee maker.

That year Emerson was still 28, and Greta must have been about 40.