The Broken Pocket Watch – Chapter Eighteen

The sunlight dances in as the breeze pushes the curtains away from the window. The cracks widen, and I’m stabbed by the bright shining blade of sunlight as the cruel icy wind laps around its heels. Together they wake me. I sit up, feeling like I’ve not slept at all. That instead I ran a marathon and then tumbled down as many stairs as I could find. What happened last night? Nothing. I know that.

Where to start. I haven’t decided, no matter how much I’ve thought about it during the week. Do I try to stop him before he leaves the village. Or get involved just before the fight. Maybe if I just follow him, and stop him that way. There has to be a good way of doing it. I just don’t want to fail. I only have one shot at this. I can’t just keep on going back, that will make things even more complicated than they have to be.

I get out of bed, stretch and try to make myself feel human, which is somehow a lot harder than it sounds. I don’t want to go downstairs to get anything to eat. I’ve been putting this off for long enough. It’s now or never. I reach over to the pocket watch, and grasping it tightly in my fist I think. Back to that Friday night. Just coming home from school, knowing how much Tobi hated me. Would that be enough time. Maybe that morning. Just after I left for school, so I won’t bump into myself. Me rushing out the door for school, last Friday. I focus on that thought, trying to remember what I had for breakfast. Even if I arrive when I’m downstairs, at least I won’t see myself. That might set this whole thing off-balance.

The world around me cascades into a waterfall of colours. It blurs into darkness, and then back again. Nothing has changed. That probably means I’m in the right place. My book might have moved on the bed-side table. But other than that it’s all the same. Even the smiling face, just there, looking at me like a guardian angel. Giving me some kind of boost that I didn’t realise I needed. I can do this. Outside the world is the same, I couldn’t tell the difference if someone offered me everything in the world.

I’ve never done this before, even though I’ve thought about it. Climbing out the window. It’s the only way this plan works. Dad never really leaves the shop, unless I’m there, so out the window I go. The window swings outwards on its hinge, frozen out in the icy winter air. All I need to do is climb down the wooden frame of the house, but that’s easier said than done. I could probably just jump down, it’s not that far. But if I hurt myself doing that, then that would be the end of all of this. I would get caught or go back to my time and get caught. Either way it’s not good. Maybe they’ll think I’m suicidal. I could blame it on the loss of my Mum. I could also blame it on the people at school and the crap they say. That would get them, wouldn’t it? They would be devastated that they could drive someone to that.

What am I thinking? This isn’t why I’m here. I just want to use the watch for the good of others. Using it for the full potential, not get back at the idiots at school. They have enough to feel bad about, just waking up knowing your useless should be enough. Let’s not put my death on top of that.

I grab the edges of the open window, hoisting myself out in the air. It’s odd how everything looks so different from just a slightly different perspective. I’ve never looked at the village like this, the buildings look different. The crooked wooden houses, each pointing to a different part of the sky. The dirt tracks running between them, so worn down that no grass could ever grow there. The village looks dark, but it’s not horrible to look at. This is home. And I’m going to make it just that little bit better. Shame that no one will ever know, but then again they says that’s true selflessness.

I turn and lower myself, hanging from the bottom of the window frame. I could probably drop from here, but that’s not going to happen. I didn’t realise I had a problem with heights before now. Well I suppose it’s more the falling I have a problem with.

The wooden boards that make up the outside of the house feel like they’re going to break away as I cling to them. They must have been nailed together years and years ago. No matter how many improvements Dad makes, this will always look as if it’s going to crumble. Is it too late to go back to my time and leave the house before I go back. Why didn’t I think ahead. This was stupid. And I want to be a hero who saves people. How am I supposed to do that, when I make leaving my own home into a quest in itself.

Just a couple more boards and I’ll be on the floor. I’m sure Dad will get questions about this. I’m not exactly being quick, people must have seen me by now. I take the next board and try to find a place for my foot, swinging it around like a drunk on the way home. Nothing, crap. I can’t believe this. Too late to turn back now, do I just jump? It’s not that far down, not that I can look down to check. I feel sick. I have to just let go. My hands release and I fall to the floor, landing perfectly on my feet, about an inch lower than my foot could reach before.

“Well that’s that sorted,” I start. “And now I’m talking to myself. This is amazing. I’m so going to make a difference around here. Well I best be off, nice talking to you. And you, see you soon.”

God. I’m not funny, even I find myself annoying. No wonder no one wants to spend any time with me. Should I be sad now? No. That isn’t going to solve anything. Now I just need to take one step at a time. Towards the city.

“Shouldn’t you be in school?”

I turn and freeze in place as if I’m about to be stabbed and know there is nothing I can do to stop it. It’s one of the neighbours.

“I’m on my way, I woke up late.” I state.

“Why do you look so scared? And didn’t I see you a minute ago.”

“I don’t think so. I’m going to be late, I need to go.”

“Isn’t it quicker if you go that way?”

“Yes. I was supposed to meet someone, but I bet they’ve already left and just gone to school.”

That was some quick thinking, I’m almost proud of myself. I should just go back to the present and then get into the city. Or go to the weekend. You know so people don’t ask these questions. Imagine what the guard at the gate is going to say. I should be at school. I don’t think he’ll let me explain that I am at school, just here at the same time.

I duck in-between two houses on the way to the school. A small forgotten crevice that I can hide in, shielding myself from the world. I used to play hide and seek here before I went to school, in the long summer days. When I was too young to help in the shop. When I didn’t understand the world at all. Back then the village was the only thing that existed, it was the only thing that mattered.

I pull out the pocket watch, ignoring the smell of god knows what. I probably shouldn’t have been playing here when I was smaller. I don’t remember it smelling like this though, as if this was the slaughtering ground of the farm. I need to go back to tomorrow. As if that’s a sentence that makes sense. I need to go to that Saturday. I close my eyes, and let the world around me flow, the gentle breeze bringing that foul stench as it tussles my hair, pushing its way through and around me, circling around me as I hide between these two buildings.

I open my eyes, knowing time has moved, the world shifted. Everything is different, even though I know it’s the same. I head towards the city gates, and no one speaks to me. A couple of people nod, but nothing. This is the way I should have gone from the start. I need to think smarter about this, I can’t go around making these stupid mistakes time and time again.

The guard lets me through the gate without much hesitation. I tell him I’m going to see family. He politely tells me he’s going to search me. I let him, and five seconds later the gate is slowly fading into the distance. I wonder if he knew what happened to Tobi’s Dad. I’m sure he does. He must have been the person who let him through the gate yesterday. He probably doesn’t know right now, but he will do. Give it time, but I’m not going to let that happen. I know where he was yesterday, and that’s all I need. I can help him before he needs help.

I read that newspaper over and over again, the one I the teacher gave me. I knew the story inside out. The timeline, ingrained in my head. I could picture every second as it played out, step by step. I’d read that thing more times than anything else. I had it kept next to my bed, it was the first thing I read every morning, and the last every night. I had to know it inside out, there was no way this could go wrong. I can’t risk messing things up and not being able to come back again to fix it.

He would have walked this path late Thursday night, heading towards the City, the towering spectacle growing ever closer, step by step. He never really left the village, but that day was different. It’s almost as if he was planning on dying. It was out of character. He reached the City, and straight away headed for a pub, the Brown Bear. He had been there before, years ago when he worked for the farm. They went there to celebrate a successful harvest. Things were looking up. It was probably the happiest time in his life. Maybe he wanted to repeat it, or maybe he saw that as the place he lost all hope, the beginning of the end. Apparently he drank all night, until closing. In silence. He spent all the money he had, took every penny from his family to drink himself to death. When he ran out of money he kicked off, caused a fuss. Got angry, and then wobbled outside into the street.

Witnesses saw him fall asleep in an alley, and left him. They were scared he was dangerous. At least that’s what the newspaper says, but it’s easy to say that in hindsight to make yourself feel better. Really these witnesses just didn’t want to help, they saw village scum. They are all just a list of people who didn’t do anything to stop what happened, but they can make themselves feel better. That’s good for them.

He spent the next day wondering around the streets, and when the police came to make sure he wasn’t bothering anyone he retaliated. A lost soul, on the brink of destruction pushed over the edge and into the abyss. He probably won’t be sober when I get to him, but at least he won’t be completely drunk like the night before. That is something I don’t want to deal with, if I’m honest.

As I walk towards the City, I double-check everything. I have a small idea where the pub is, but that’s about it. I know I’m on the right day, I checked that as many times as possible, its early morning, so he should be asleep in an alleyway.

I step into the maze, an elaborate snaking road that weaves between the gigantic buildings, blocking out the sunlight. It creeps in through the slits above us, highlighting us just enough. I wish I thought things through more. That I didn’t just walk into the City without finding out where the pub was. Why do I act so quickly. I never think things through, I just do it and then live to regret it. Everything I do is a mistake, what makes me think I can do anything to help anyone. I’m a failure, through and through.

I turn a few random corners, with no real direction in mind. All the time wondering if I could possibly retrace my steps to my uncle. Maybe he could tell me where the Bear was. That would solve a lot of problems, even if it would be a strange conversation to have. Another few random corners, and then it starts to dawn on me how stupid I really am. I’m not being harsh on myself. It’s ridiculous. I start these things, as if by fate I’m about to stumble across things. I’ve always been like this. Desperately searching to be the hero of my own story, but that’s not the way that life works. I’m not special, no matter how badly I want to be.

I turn one more corner, on the verge of tears. Fists clenched, and ready to turn around. I don’t belong here, dressed in these rags, dirty to the bone. Why do they even let me through the gate, to give me a glimpse of what I could achieve if I put my mind to it. That I can one day better myself, while in reality I should just curl up and accept that the village is all I will ever know. Mum couldn’t escape from it, and neither will I.

And there it is. Sitting part way down the street, The Brown Bear. I can’t believe it’s there. I’ve studied the picture for so long, and here it is, just popping out in front of me, as if I had willed it into existence. I can’t believe it, maybe fate is real, and this is my destiny.

I walk towards the building, knowing that I’m not going to be allowed inside. It’s not a school day, it’s Saturday. So at least I wouldn’t be asked that question, but that’s about as much luck as I’m going to have. No one is going to listen to a little girl from the village. Maybe. But that’s not what a hero would do. I need to know where he went. What ally is he asleep in right now, it isn’t that one next to the pub. Maybe they know something inside. I need to be brave and go inside. This is what I was born to do.

Why are pubs open this early, they really shouldn’t be. It’s heading onto noon, but it’s not quite there yet, and already there are people sitting in this dark dingy room. The whole City is out there, waiting for people to grasp every enjoyment out of it, the bright towers glooming over us, and still there are people in here. Not a lot, but enough to keep the place open. What a waste. I walk over the bar, avoiding eye contact with the staring onlookers. I don’t belong here, but I don’t need reminding.

“Hi,” I manage to say.

“Morning, what are you doing here? We don’t sell to the underagers here.”

“No, it’s not like that. I believe my Dad was here last night. From the village. I’m looking for him.”

“Oh, he’s your dad is he. That’s a shame. You seem like a nice girl. He was a bit of a mess last night, probably should have stopped serving him earlier, but couldn’t have guessed he was gonna turn like that, you know. Seemed a bit down a first, but that’s normal here.”

“Do you know where he went.”

“Yeah, kind of. I kicked him out around eleven. He started trying to fight people, and then he walked outside. I saw him on the way back to my flat, sleeping cocked up against the wall. Down an alley a little way down the road, yeah go out and in that direction. You tell him he needs to get himself sorted. He can’t be doing that to his kids. He needs to get back to the village and provide for you. Make sure you give him a hard time for it.”

“Thanks,” I turn without another word and start to head towards the entrance. The audience still stares, desperate to get a look at this intruder. It’s unsettling, as if they could all jump up and murder me, rip me apart so I don’t expose their secret, their early morning drinking.

Outside is a welcoming embrace. The chill in the air greets me, swirling around me, grabbing at me in a welcoming embrace. Slowly it picks off the stench of alcohol and faded regret. It takes them away from me, leaving me cold and alone in the street.

I can’t believe it’s only been a couple of weeks since we were sitting on that rooftop, watching the snow. So much has changed. It feels so much longer. I wouldn’t believe it, if someone had told me it was snowing. It was a distant memory, I don’t feel like I remember it at all. That’s what the watch has done to me. Time seems to have stumbled to a stop, and yet the days are flying past. I can barely remember one from the next.

I take the alley that the bartender mentioned. The smell hits me instantly, as if it was running straight for me. Targeting me in the alley. I was alone. One step into the alley and the city was left behind. I was completely alone here. My feet shuffled through the trash. It was hard to believe it was part of the same place. The rest of the city was so clean and pristine. This was hidden away, as if everyone was ashamed of it and agreed to do nothing about it.

Darkness crept around me, as the buildings grew and grew leaving the sunlight as a distant dream. I could just about make out the split bin bags that had been thrown down here, scattering their insides like war victims. At first I didn’t think anyone was down here. Salime wouldn’t have stayed here for long. I knew that much. Even if the papers didn’t know what he did exactly, they knew enough. He didn’t die until the afternoon. I had until then to get to him and stop him.

I reach the end of the alley, and it breaks into two pathways. Left and right, leading behind the rows of buildings I just walked in front of. I had no real idea which way to go, so I turned right, it was heading back towards the pub. Maybe Salime had headed back there from behind. It was possible.

Ahead of me there was a massive tub, it was overflowing with bin bags. Their liquid insides seeping out, draining along the tub. If I didn’t find Salime by then, I would turn back. I had time, but not enough to waste. Even with the watch, I could just go back and back. I can only imagine what would happen if I replicated myself at the same spot. I may not have the same worries as my Dad, but I still worry.

It didn’t matter, anyway. As I approached the tub, the bags started to move. My heart grew faster and faster, like a scared puppy wanting to escape from its cage. I stopped moving, not wanting to be too close. God knows what’s in there. It might not even be human.

“Salime?” I call out, quietly.

I don’t get a response, not that I was expecting one. The rumbling in the bags grow and they start to fall. A figure rises out of the tub and knocks the bags away. I step backwards.

“Salime?” I repeat.

A groggy and sleepy sound erupts from the figure. It’s Salime, I’m sure of it. Even though he is covered in a thick layer of grime, I know it’s him.

“Nymia?” he asks with a weak voice. “What are you doing here?”

“I can to look for you.”

“You’re here to gloat?”

“No, I’m here…” I don’t know how to explain it.

“Leave, I know who you are, your father. Leave me alone.”

“I can’t. I’m here to help. Tobi wants you to come home.”

“What are you on about? You know nothing. You didn’t know Tobi existed before. You never spoke to him. He never had a nice word to say about you. Your whole family is toxic.”

“I spoke to him yesterday. He’s upset that you’ve gone. He was crying at school.”

“And what?” He shouts as he stumbles out of the bin and towards me. His rotten breath freezes me in place. “You’re here to save the day. You don’t understand. Leave me alone child.”

As he turns away I don’t say anything. I don’t know what to say. Even though he’s not facing me, I can still feel his eyes. As he was standing in front of me, they seemed so distant. Angry and broken. His whole body had given up, it was struggling to stand and having an even harder time walking.

He was making his way through the small mountains of trash, back to the street. Maybe I’ve done enough. Maybe he’ll survive now. I can’t be sure though. He could walk out now, instead of later and still get into trouble. I’ve changed everything by waking him early, but I can’t be sure. I have to try again to get him back to the village.

“Salime. I’m not a child.”

“Yes you are,” he shouts without stopping.

“It doesn’t matter. Listen to me. I’m not the one causing Tobi to be in tears right now.”

That stopped him.

“What’s that supposed to mean,” he slurs as he turns back at me. Those spaced out eyes trying to focus on me. “You calling me a bad parent.”

“No,” I don’t want to go down that path, that’s not even a last resort. I don’t think he’s a violent man. But I don’t want to push someone who has drunk that much. “I’m not saying that. He’s sad you’ve left isn’t he? That means you’re a good parent.” I cringe at my words. I don’t know what to say. “All I’m saying is go back home to him.”

“Leave. Don’t come to me, shouting stuff like that. You don’t understand. You’re a child. Live like a child. The world is a different place than you think it is. Nothing is simple. Nothing is easy. Not for everyone. You will never understand. Your family gets away with living in that little bubble, filled with your pointless clocks. The rest of us have to make our own way. You were born into that. I don’t care what you’re trying to do. You think you’re doing good? You’re really not. You think I don’t know how I’ve failed my family? You think I’m that stupid. It’s just not that simple. I’m not talking to you anymore. Leave now.”

His words echo throughout my bones. His wavering eyes keep me from answering him. I’ve failed. He won’t listen to me. I can’t change anything. I don’t know enough to get through to him, he won’t listen to me. He’s right. I’m just a child.

He knows I’m not going to answer back. He’s put me in my place. I don’t move as he turns and walks away. The garbage is swirling around me, not letting me make more of a fool of myself. I can’t do any good. What was I thinking, trying to change anything? I was just being stupid. This watch doesn’t give me powers. It doesn’t help me get anything. I’m not special. I’m stupid.

I want to throw away the watch, throw it into the garbage, and never look at it again. Never think about this power. These last few months have been so pointless. I can’t just throw it away though. I know that. It’s not because it’s something my Dad gave me. It’s not because it’s my only way back to see my Mum, or even the only way back to my own time and home. It’s because I’m weak. I wanted to be special so badly.

Those books I’d read. I wanted to be like that. Living in a fantasy world full of exploration and adventures. I wanted to be special. I never admitted it myself, but I really thought that pocket watch was my start in a journey like that. I would save the village from poverty, somehow join my uncles fight for equality in the City. Together we would change the face of the Earth.

But it’s not that simple. It never is. I failed.

The garbage moves away from me, giving me a parting to walk though freely. I have nothing hold me back. If I was that hero, I would go and find Salime. I would drag him back to the village. Give him no other option. But big moves like that are too much for me. If I spoke to him, he would trample all over me again, and I would do nothing in return.

I’m sure he’s gone now, anyway. Found another alleyway somewhere to curl up into. I don’t think I’ve done enough, but I can’t carry on. I want to find my own alley to swallow me whole. Live there for a while and then disappear completely. What good do I do outside of that. I really believed that watch was something special. It is, but I’m not the right person for it. If I wasn’t such a coward I would throw it away right now.

I hate everything about today. I’ve done nothing right. I’m a complete mess. I can’t go home, tears rolling down my face. I’m not ready to face the world just yet, I need to go away for a moment. Just to figure out what’s going on. How much damage have I actually done.

I walk down the street with no real direction, but I end up at the cafe. I wasn’t heading there, but I’m not surprised either. It was no different from the last time I was there. People sitting around tables, either waiting or already drinking their drinks. A couple of people started looking at me, but they didn’t stare. They just darted their eyes to me and then off to the floor or their friends. I must have looked so out-of-place, in my rags. Everyone else wearing full clothes. I don’t think the alley stuck to me, but it probably did even if I can’t smell it.

I take the watch out and stare at it. Nothing has changed. Why would it have. The fingers still point to where they’ve always pointed. There is never a change. I’m focusing on the watch, when I should be making a decision. Do I go and see her now. Before she knows who I am. Before she’s my Mum. Should I go and see her like this, red-eyed and shaking? What harm can it do? I don’t need to speak to her, I just need to see her. She wouldn’t even remember it, how many people would she have served. Did she remember all of them? Any of them at all? No. I can go back and she’ll never know it’s me.

The world around me moves, it starts shaking, and then the pavement changes. It becomes older and cracked, as if the world around me is falling apart. The building in front of me, though, gets younger. Plants grow and thrive under the summer sun, standing tall on the windowsills. The tables are more crowded, and brighter. The yellow painted legs aren’t chipped and faded, they shine brightly in the sun.

She sees me straight away, stops while placing a cup on a table. She doesn’t move towards me, but stands still looking at me. Her eyes glowing, as tears slowly form. Her whole body starts to shake, until someone calls her over. She snaps out of her trance and walks over to the table. I see her smile, and say something. I’m not close enough to hear. Instead of going back inside, she walks straight over to me.

“Hi,” she says.

“Hi,” I reply.

“Are you?” She pauses. “I mean, you know me?”

“I think so.”

“Are you related to NYMIA’s DAD”

“Yes.”

“I thought you were, I saw the way you looked at him before. I pieced it together after that. You look like me.”

“Thanks,” I chuckle.

“I can’t believe this is real. He took me back to see a band. They broke up when I was a child. I have all of their records, and I got to see them live. I couldn’t believe it.”

“It’s hard to take in. I still don’t get it.”

“How old are you?”

“Fourteen.”

“Are you really my daughter?”

“Yes, sorry”

“Why are you sorry. Come here. I can’t believe I’m holding you. You’re not even ten years younger than me. Why are you sorry?”

“I don’t know. For you finding out like this.”

“Your Dad, he is a weird one. This family is so weird. We’ve only been on a couple of dates. No need to feel nervous about how it ends now, do I?”

I start to cry, shaking.

“No you don’t,” I sob.

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A Little Update

The Broken Pocket Watch chapter 18 will be uploaded tomorrow, after which there will only be 4 chapters left. It’s taken quite a while to get to this point, but we’re nearly there now. Just a few more weeks to go. After that I’m not sure what I’ll be uploading next. 2048 is nearing the half way mark so I’m not sure if I want to start uploading that without it being finished. From Within is finished, but needs editing. Maybe that will be next. I just need to actually get on with editing it.

Writing itself is getting into a good rhythm. I’m writing at least 3 days a week, which is good. Not perfect but better than the 1 day previously. I’m setting myself 500 words as a target whenever I start writing, but I often break that target and only stop when the words stop flowing. The problem I’ve got is, I don’t know where the story is going. I have a few scenes plotted out, but getting there is anyone’s guess. I’ve had this problem before, I’ll just keep on writing and it’ll fit together eventually.

I’m not reading enough, that’s just a fact. I’m making it my aim to read a little every day, even if it’s just a couple of pages. At the moment my reading time is divided between The Smoking Hourglass by Jennifer Bell and Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King. I’m enjoying both. I’m also reading, from the beginning, Jason Aaron’s run on Thor. I’ve never read it before, but am a big fan of Aaron. I want to catch up as soon as possible so I can read it as it comes out.

I binged The Punisher in a couple of days over the last week. What an amazing show. I was expecting it to be good, but not that good. After the disappointing Iron Fist and Defenders, it’s nice to know that marvel netflix shows still have some good in them. Bring on Season 2. I’ve started on Godless as well. Only 1 episode so far, but that’s down to length. It’s good so far, but it hasn’t amazed me yet.

Thanks for reading,

Ashley

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The Broken Pocket Watch – Chapter 17

The next day seems like a dream, I’m not completely there. It’s not as bad as before, but it’s still not good. At least I’m conscious, even if I don’t feel in control. It’s weird that I was alright last night though, maybe it’s got something to do with sleeping, it really exhausts me. By the time it gets to the end of school, I feel awake. Is this what it feels like to drink coffee? My dad says he can’t operate without it sometimes. Is this that feeling when it actually hits?

My room is dark as I enter. I fumble around for the light switch. God I am so lucky Dad decided to get electricity put in this house, even if we don’t have TVs like in the City, just a light to be able to see. This is probably what Dad means when he says that people envy us in a way. I don’t know anyone else who has electricity.

I’d almost forgotten about the face, but as I sit on the bed it catches my eye. It stares back at me, like it does every day. Except this feels real. I can remember seeing it previously, but somehow I know for sure, that it wasn’t there before. These memories of looking at it, running my fingers through the engravings, thinking about her. Dad said she wanted to make me smile, but I’m not sure he understood what it meant. I could change things. That’s the truth. I could actually make a difference to the world. I wouldn’t be listening to him, the man who raised me. Who gave me so much in this world. That feels wrong. It feels worse that he knows about it. That because of me, he has memories of talking to Mum about why she did it. He created a story to tell me. We both remember it, even though it’s only ever been told once. The times before weren’t real. Were they?

I run my hands over the mouth one last time. Knowing that it was my hand that carved this, not my Mum’s. Not that it matters. The memories aren’t real. At least they don’t feel real. Thinking back to when I sat next to this face. Feeling sad that I was alone. That Dad didn’t understand things the same way Mum would have. I used to pretend that the face was crying with me, that the smile was just a strong front. I can’t handle these memories being real. I know they happened, but they didn’t at the same time. Is this how it feels for everyone? This face hasn’t changed a lot. Only me and Dad would feel a difference, but does that matter? Would fixing someone’s death feel worse? It’s the right thing to do though. I know it is, deep down. Everyone should hate me, if I have the chance to change something and don’t take it. No one will know, they won’t be able to understand how it works. But Tobi wouldn’t hate me in the same way anymore. I could return to a normal life. No one would ever know.

Before I do that though, I just need to go back one more time. Just to tell Mum that our experiment worked.

I walk down the stairs to find her sitting in the small living room. This is Dad’s room now. I don’t really remember ever being in here. The small warm room is barely lit. A little candle dancing around, flicking its light out around her, as she sits with an open book in her hands. That’s all this room really is. Just a little hiding hole for living in. The ceiling is also lower on one side where the stairs hover above. The curtains are pulled tight over the window, not allowing any of the precious candle flame to escape. No on looking would be able to see the secrets held within here. Dad told me once he was going to get a radio for in here, that I would be amazed at the sounds coming from it. And while I probably would be, it never happened. He rarely enters this room, and I’m in here even less. It looks pretty much the same as I remember.

“Hi,” I start.

“You made me jump there, I was lost.”

“Sorry, I know the feeling.”

“At least it isn’t your Dad. He’s always jumping in on me. Trying to annoy me.”

“He gave up on doing that to me.”

“Good.”

I wonder if he stopped doing it because I started to remind him too much of Mum. I hope that isn’t what happened. It’s so difficult. People.

“Are you alright?” Mum asks.

“Yes. Sorry. I just came back to tell you it worked.”

“What worked?”

“The face?”

“Really? Good.”

“You don’t sound surprised.”

“I knew it would work. Somehow I just knew. It just makes sense to me. I couldn’t just tell you that though, could I. You had to see for yourself. Nothing wrong with that.”

“Oh,”

“Don’t be sad. It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time. When I was at University, just after I’d met you for the first time.”

“In the cafe?”

“You saw me in the cafe?”

“Yes, you served me, but I couldn’t afford it. Dad paid for the orange juice. I could barely speak. I was so confused.”

“That was you?”

“It was the first time I’d ever used the watch.”

“Seriously? I can’t believe it. I never knew.  Jikwin he was trying to impress me, and he ended up buying our daughter a drink. Our daughter who wouldn’t be born until years later. It’s so weird. It makes no sense.”

“I know, I still don’t believe it.”

“After the first time I met you, I remember sitting there in my dorm room, my flatmate was sleeping while I was staring out into the sky, looking at all of the stars. The endless universe. And yet the future was set. Things would happen and you would come back and see me. Those moments had already been written. Time doesn’t make sense. I think it’s a bubble, expanding. Everything happening at the same time. That’s the only way this makes sense to me. You’ve proven that things aren’t set in stone. That face, it wasn’t there before. I read a book about it once. The belief that all moments ripple along together, that nothing is really gone, and nothing is really new. Look out at the stars. We’re told that most if not all are already dead, and yet they shine away. Their light takes so long to get here that we are seeing them from hundreds and hundreds of years ago. Everything happens at the same time.”

“That’s a nice way to look at it.”

“I want you to remember that. Come here. I know things are difficult sometimes. Believe me I’ve been through enough to know. But just remember that time isn’t the way we see it.”

“Thanks.”

I want to say that I miss her, but that would be too much. I like what she says though. I hadn’t really thought about it before. I just thought my Dad was right, that the past has already happened so any time I go back, it’s the same thing. Nothing can change. I think he was worried that I would go back and try to change something, fail and maybe hurt myself. My future isn’t set in stone for him, not like it is for Mum. Nothing is set in stone. Anything can change.

Mum lets me go, and tells me to go home. That I need to rest. I have school in the morning. One of the many things that other people take for granted, but finally I get to hear her say it.

When I reach back home, I pass out near enough immediately. I wake up in the morning, actually feeling alive. I feel like crap. But at least I’m here, conscious and awake.

The rest of the week drags along. I know I could do this at any time, but I want to give myself a few days to prepare. To make sure I know exactly what I’m doing. That I’m completely sure I want to take this step. I had Saturday in my mind, I couldn’t just go and do it after school. That wouldn’t be smart. I wouldn’t have time to think it through to have some kind of plan. Tobi wasn’t in school for the whole week, not that it’s really surprising. Apparently he had to go to the City on Wednesday with his Mum to pick up the body. Something no one wants to do. I try to put myself in his shoes, to imagine having to do that, but I just can’t. It makes me sick. Knowing that Dad won’t be there forever, deep down knowing I will have to do something similar one day. It’s not right. I hate it. Mum’s words come back to me though. He’s never gone, because he is just in a different time. Just like Mum, living along side me. As every moment is a constant.

The thing is, not everyone sees it this way. I would love to be able to explain it to them. It might bring Tobi some comfort, but it just isn’t that simple. He would rather his Dad be here in the now. It’s like the whole world around me is a lie, and I’m about to find some kind of truth to unravel it all. It’s been a few short weeks since I started this journey, but everything is different now.

I can’t stand the people. They hate me. I come home from school crying, but I can’t tell Dad that. He wouldn’t understand. I grab the watch and go back. I know I shouldn’t. I know I need to save my strength. But I need to see her, if only for a moment. She doesn’t expect me, not that she ever will. But we play chess. I haven’t ever played it before. I didn’t even know we had a chess board. Maybe we don’t anymore.

“You move the bishop diagonally like this, yeah like that,” she says teaching me the rules.

I hug her and tell her goodbye after the game. It’s one of my favourite evenings so far.

By the end of the week people start treating me like normal at school. At first the awkwardness continued. People staring, mumbling under the breath as if I was contagious, that being too close would make them murderers as well. That’s the way they look at me. That’s just the way school is. People want things to be interesting. Dad says they just don’t understand what’s going on, that it’s shock when someone we know dies so suddenly and in such a tragic way. I don’t really care. After the weekend they won’t know it, but things will be different.

When I get home Dad is already cooking dinner. I would have been home earlier if it wasn’t for that extra class. I need to put the extra effort in. Even if I can change things, I should still work towards doing well for myself. I can’t just give myself a good life. I have to earn it. I know it’s going to be a struggle, but in the end it’ll be worth it. I’ve been given this gift, and I’m going to do something with it. After generations of not really using it, I’m going to make a change.

I eat dinner and tell Dad I’m going upstairs to read before bed. He nods, knowing this is what I normally do. I leave him to do the washing up, which I know is bad. But I want as much rest as possible before my mission. I thought about pausing time and sleeping so I could have the most sleep possible, but I don’t think that’ll work. I might wake up even more tired and exhausted. It’s an idea to try a different time, not tonight. Tonight I just need a lot of sleep, as much as I can fit in one night. For tomorrow, everything changes.

To be continued…

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The Broken Pocket Watch – Chapter 16

I spend a couple more minutes with Mum, but then it’s time to go back home. I close my eyes and listen to her say goodbye as I think about the present. I end up back in my room, the eerie silence has returned. I wonder how she feels watching me disappear, if that’s how it works. Am I just there one second, and not the next? Or do I fade away.

I lay down and gently go to sleep.

I wake up. It’s Saturday. I have no plans today. It feels weird. Two full days to read, relax and feel energised for next week. I get up slowly and head towards the door. I can’t remember the last time I felt this hungry. The floorboards squeak under my uneven steps. I feel as if I’m walking through an earthquake. So much aching. Did I get any sleep last night? The door seems to tease me by moving away, with every step I take towards it. I don’t seem to move, and it’s just there, laughing. My whole body drags along, until I pretty much fall into the door. I swing it open and walk towards the stairs. Slowly regaining full movement. I’m so tired. It always catches up when you have nothing to do. Two days to recover though. Lets just take it one moment at a time. Get something to eat and then I’ll think about the rest of the day. Maybe.

I reach the kitchen in record time and find my Dad already cooking some eggs.

“Enough for me?” I ask as I sit down.

“Maybe, maybe not. I see you’ve decided to come downstairs at least today.”

“What do you mean?”

“Yesterday, you literally spend the entire day sitting on your bed reading. Good book?”

“Apparently.”

I don’t remember that, does that mean it’s Sunday. Has it happened again. Should I not have used the watch. It took an entire day away from me. It would explain why I feel so tired. Dad brings a plate of fried eggs over. I eat them up. My belly grumbling for more.

“Did you just not eat yesterday?”

“I don’t know.”

“Good book then? I need to go into the City today and pay the electricity bills. It’s got to be done today. You okay to look after the shop for a few hours.”

“Yeah of course.”

That was something I really didn’t want to do today.

“Thanks. I’ll see if I can get another book for you.”

“Thank you. I’m just going to take a book into the shop today, that’s okay?”

“Yeah of course. Enjoy. It’s probably going to be a quiet day anyway. I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Anyway. You alright today. I mean you were quiet yesterday, but is Tobi still bothering you.”

“No. I understand. He has to let it out some way. It’s not like he actually hurt me.”

“Exactly, because if he did. I would deal with him, I’m a trained fighter you know.”

“No I don’t, when did this happen?”

“Well back when I was a teenager I used to fight bears for food. It was tough in the old days. You don’t know how lucky you are.”

“Really? How interesting. I could go back with the pocket watch to see.”

“You could, but it would be too scary. I wasn’t very good. Lost two very good arms. Now I look normal with only two. You know how easy it was to fix clocks with four arms?”

“Sure.”

“Well I’m off. See you later. I shouldn’t be too long.”

He leaves me alone in the shop, wondering what day it is. It’s got to be Sunday, that’s the only thing that makes sense. Which means I’ve lost an entire day. I go upstairs to fetch my book and the book mark has moved considerably through the book. I couldn’t tell you a thing that’s happened. I don’t feel as tired as I did a couple of weeks back though, so at least that’s something, I’ve only lost one day instead of a few. It’s still not ideal.

I spend the whole day rereading what I’ve already read, not remembering a single word of it. Not even the slightest recollection that I’ve read it before. Before I know it Dad’s back. There was no customers, just reading. At least that’s all I remember.

“Hey honey, see told you I wouldn’t be long. I got you a sandwich, and this book. Not sure if you’ve read it again, but it has a nice cover.”

“Thanks, I don’t think I’ve read it. Thank you.”

“No problem, any customers.”

“Nope. Nothing.”

“Shame I kept you here all day then. You’re free now though.”

“Thanks, I’m going to head to my room and carry on reading. I’m feeling a little sleepy.”

“Sure thing, see you later.”

I head into my room, two books and a sandwich cradled in my arms. I drop them all on the bed and sit next to them. The pocket watch catches my eye. I can almost hear it ticking. It isn’t, but I feel like it is. Even that didn’t annoy me today. The ticking downstairs, it didn’t even faze me. I just say through it. It’s an odd feeling, knowing that I’m not completely here. Is this what a drug is like. I’ve heard tales from the City. Is this what it feels like. Because I really don’t like it. Not being in complete control. Doing stuff without realising it.

I fall asleep at some point, and Monday arrives. The evening seems like a blur, but at least I was present for most of it. I get out of bed, realising I haven’t eaten the sandwich. It’s still sitting there wrapped in the paper bag. It’s probably gone off a little now, they don’t stay fresh for long. Did I just not eat at all yesterday. That is probably not a good thing. I really need to eat something.

Downstairs, Dad is preparing something. I can almost smell it before I get to the bottom of the stairs. What is it?

“Hey honey,” he shouts as I push on the kitchen door. “Want some of this?”

“Yes, please.”

It’s bacon. I haven’t had that in years.

“I went to the farm this morning, to give them some money. They gave me some of their freshest bacon.”

“Thanks.”

“I haven’t cooked this in years, so hopefully you like it.”

“You’re a decent enough cook.”

“You’re a decent enough daughter.”

“I try.”

I devour the food, not leaving a scrap. It’s delicious, one of the best things I’ve eaten, I think ever. I walk through to the store front. Is that the time really? I’m going to be late. Did I really sleep in that much? I didn’t think I did. What am I going to do. I really need to get going now. I say my goodbyes and run through the door. I’ll make it, just. God, I’m not normally late. I’m going to get in so much trouble. I don’t need this. The normal straddlers are not on the street, I’m later than them today. Did the watch do this to me? Stupid question, things have gotten complicated since that watch showed up.

There are still some people in the playground, so at least that’s something, no one has come out to tell them to move just yet. They all go silent when I walk through the gates, maybe they’re just as shocked as me that I’m late, but somehow I doubt that would result in stunned silence. Something else is going on.

“Do you think she knows?” I hear someone whisper.

Know what?

“Probably, she doesn’t care though, look at her.”

“Yeah, god Tobi is destroyed.”

“What’s happened?” I ask.

“You don’t know,” Khiln states.

“No.”

“Tobi’s dad, he went into the City yesterday, tried to cause a fight. He seriously hurt a policeman and then got shot. He’s dead.”

“What?”

“Yeah. Tobi’s dad died. He isn’t here today. We didn’t think you would come either.”

“Why wouldn’t I be here?”

“You know.”

“No, I don’t, Why wouldn’t I be here.”

“Because your family caused him to leave.”

“You’re saying it’s my fault?”

She shifts a little, but doesn’t answer.

“It’s not. I didn’t do anything. My family didn’t do anything. He was just angry and looking for someone to blame. He was jealous that my Dad has a job that actually makes money. That’s not my fault.”

“Yeah, but people will that kind of money should just go and live in the city, not stay out here with the rest of us. It’s asking for trouble.”

“My dad doesn’t keep the money, he puts it into the farm. He helps people.”

“Sure. My Mum says he just buys the best food so none of us can get any.”

“That isn’t true.”

“My dad says he just gives the money to mock the farm,” someone else adds.

“That isn’t true. He loves the village.”

“The village doesn’t love him.”

I walk off, knowing I’m not going to get anywhere with this. If I wasn’t alone before, then I’m beyond alone now. The classroom is silent, I slink into my seat and try ignore everyone around me. I didn’t do anything. How did people find out like this. Does Dad know? Does he care? That’s a stupid question, of course he cares. He loves this village, these people just can’t see that.

After class I stay behind hoping to get a work with Ms Edina.

“Nymia,” she starts. “Is everything okay?”

“No, I don’t think so. Tobi’s Dad. Have you heard what happened?”

“Yes, I read the newspaper this morning. We have it delivered from the city for the teachers room. Even if it is a day old. What’s troubling you?”

“They blame me.”

“Who do?”

“Everyone. They think my family drove him to start the fight.”

“That isn’t what happened. Tobi’s Dad, Salime. He was a drunk. I don’t want to talk disrespectfully of him. So don’t repeat this. But I’ve seen the trouble he’s been in, or caused over the years. He couldn’t hold a job, probably worked for everyone in the village. He didn’t want to work. He looked at the people around the village, like your Father, and he wanted what they had.”

“But my dad works hard.”

“That isn’t how he saw it though. He had a problem with your Dad, everyone knew that. He was quite vocal. He blamed your Father for being born into a family where his life was set in stone from birth. That clockmaker shop has been there for generations, as I’m sure you know. It’s always made money, for as long as I can remember. People have always travelled from this City or beyond for the clocks. They’re high quality and people see that. People hate that success. Your family makes money.”

“But my Dad gives it to the people here. He donates most of it, to get food to the poor, to buy clothes. He doesn’t keep any that he doesn’t have too. I don’t have anything. Other than my books.”

“Which is still more than most. But that isn’t important. People will find a way to be angry, no matter what your Dad does. They would be angry if he moved the village, they would be angry if he kept all the money. Sometimes there just isn’t a way to win. It’s a shame, but that’s the way of the world. I wish it wasn’t like this.”

“It’s not fair.”

“I know, but you will understand when you’re older. There are so many problems in the village, and people just don’t know how to deal with it. I’m surprised we don’t have more riots, we’re probably too hungry to do that.”

“Can I see the newspaper. I want to know what happened.”

“Okay, I’ll get it to you by the end of the day. I promise.”

“Thanks.”

I leave the room, knowing I have to spend lunch time being stared at and blamed for something I had nothing to do with. Maybe I can curl up into a ball and skip it with the pocket watch.

One of the classrooms on the way out is empty, I duck inside, and move to the back wall. I can’t be seen from the doorway here. I drop to the floor and curl up against the wall. I want to just cry. But I can’t. I need to go home. I don’t care about the scholarship. I just want to go home. Get away from these people. I can just live in the shop, no one will bother me. I’ll learn clockmaking. That will be my life, away from everyone else. Maybe I will move to the city. When I take over the shop, I’ll take one of the offers and move to the city. Forget about the village. Never let it bother me again. That’s exactly what I’ll do.

I pull the watch out of my pocket. I know my plan isn’t going to work. I’m going to just skip to the end of the day. Maybe people will forget about it by tomorrow, and I’ll be able to get back to my life. I think about walking home, the setting sun, the cold breeze. But nothing. I’m still in the room. I can’t go forward. I thought I could just skip all of this. I can go back though. That’s the power of this watch. I could go back. I could stop Tobi’s Dad. I could make a difference. Dad was scared to use it, but I could. He doesn’t have to die for nothing. I could change the way of the world. But what if that changes things. What if it destroys the world. I mean in the sense that time itself won’t be right. I would have changed something that has happened, something big that will impact on the wider world. This isn’t ordering a coffee, and adding one extra sale. It’s saving a life. It could lead to other things. I’m not a hero. This isn’t a question I want to answer.

I can go back and ask Mum. She will know what to do. She’s more open minded than Dad. He gave this to me, like it’s my birthright. But he never helped me use it. He knew I should know my family, but that’s it. He’s not thinking about the rest of the world. Even just the village. Some of the stuff I could change with this. The good I could do. He wants to save the village, give it all the money he has, but why not more. He doesn’t even use it to make his trips to the City instantly. He just leaves it. Why did he give it to me, if he couldn’t use it himself. He could have saved Mum, couldn’t he? If the doctors knew sooner then she could still be here now? Is that how this works? Is that too much power for one person?

I don’t think I can do it. I can’t change the past. It would make too many problems. Too many things that couldn’t be fixed. I really am my Dad’s daughter.

The rest of the day drags along at a slow pace, I sit in the back of the classroom and hope that no one turns around. When they do I just ignore them, and keep to myself. I feel alone more than normal. No one wants to talk to me, or be friendly. It’s just ignore me, talk about me as if I’m not there and then occasionally give a stare of hate. I suppose I deserve it, if not for the reason they have, but because I have this watch, that could change things, and I’m not using it. I’m scared. I don’t want to change everything.

When I get home, Dad is deep into working on some clock. I close the door quietly behind me and stand still. He doesn’t realise I’m there at first, completely absorbed in his work, making the tinniest adjustments, as if it was the most precious thing in the world. To him it is. I don’t know what’s more amazing watching him work, or looking at how many things are in some of the clocks and seeing that work.

The big rectangle, with the face on one side, struggles to tick when he cranks it to life. It tries, but can’t make it. There are intricate pillars on either side of the face with plants strangling them, moving higher until blooming out above the clock face, an arch way above everything, as if it was meant to be a portable clock.

“Hi,” I say softly, hoping not to mess anything up.

“Oh, hey, I didn’t see you come in. Very quiet, what’s up? School okay?”

“I don’t know. Did you hear what happened?”

“No? I’ve been in here all day working.”

“Tobi’s dad, he died.”

“What?”

“He started a fight in the City and got shot.”

“Really? That’s such a shame. He really was a troubled man.”

“They all blame me for it.”

“Why?”

“Because of this family. They blame us for having money, making him jealous. All day, that’s all what happened. People hate me.”

“Come here,” he starts while walking towards me and wrapping me up in his arms. Finally I can start crying. “It’s not your fault, it’s not my fault. He made his decisions. He was angry about his place in the world. A lot of people are, and he lashed out. It doesn’t work that way, sadly. Life is unfair. You’ll understand when you’re older. He’s right to be angry, but there just isn’t anything we can do about it, but try and help each other. Most of the money I make goes to the farm, it helps him keep the prices lower so people can afford to eat. If he didn’t have my donations then he would have to increase the prices.”

“They said that you do that out of pity.”

“No, I do that out of compassion. You see the world is broken. That’s something we can actually agree on, and I’m in a position to help some people, as you will be one day. You can choose not to, it’s up to you. But if you want to help you can. I give as much money as possible to the village. I don’t keep it for myself. I know some people don’t see it that way, but I was born here, my parents were born here. I feel the need to give back. I’m sorry for getting worked up, but it really pushes me. I can’t believe people would have a go at you for that.”

“I’m sorry for saying anything.”

“Don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault. The world is just really broken.”

I spend quite a while just standing within his grasp. Letting him hold me and feel safe, even if it only lasts a moment.

“Dad,” I start, not knowing how to continue.

“Yes?” He lets go of me.

“You want to help out so much, but there is something else you can do.”

“Where are you going for this.”

“The watch,” I start.

“Nymia, think about what you’re saying,” Dad interrupts.

“Listen to me. What if we could go back and stop Tobi’s dad from doing anything. We could stop him from dying.”

“No. You need to learn that right now. No. It’s more complicated than that. It’s in the past, it’s already happened. It can’t be changed. There is nothing we can do to stop that. The watch isn’t there for that kind of thing. It doesn’t make you a hero. You have to understand. It’s a gift. If you use it correctly it can help you a lot. You can learn more. Never miss a deadline. Spend the day with someone and study. It will help a lot at University. I can assure you of that.”

“But have you tried?”

“To change something, no. But you can’t. And don’t try either. I know that sounds like I’m just crazy, but you can’t change the past. Learn from it, don’t go chasing dead dreams.”

“Okay, I trust you.”

“Thank you. I know you do honey. Now go and clean up. I’ll cook us some dinner. I’ve got us some chicken.”

“That sounds good. Thanks.”

I leave the room and head to my room. Slumping on the bed, I take off my bag and throw it aside. My hands dive deep in my pockets, as if I’m not controlling them, and pull out the pocket watch. I wonder. What could I actually do with this. Has Dad tried. Does he know for sure, or is he just scared. I’ve read so many books about time travel, but it’s one thing reading about it, another living it. He obviously trusts me, or he wouldn’t have let me keep the watch. I’m surprised he didn’t just destroy it, or bury it somewhere. Even if it is a family heirloom, he still doesn’t like it. I close my fist around the watch and let it take me, transcending the world around me and throwing me backwards. It happens in an instant, and even if I’ve done this a millions times I’ll never get used to the feeling. I stand up, and walk out of the familiar room.

Mum is downstairs in the kitchen. I knew she would be somehow, I imagine Dad is in the shop.

“Hi,” I say when walking in.

“Hi? I didn’t expect you today. I never expect you really. I can’t believe you’re here again. Do you want anything to drink? Anything to eat?”

“No thank you, is Dad in the shop?”

“Yes, he won’t be out for a while, so don’t worry. Is everything okay?”

He’s here, Tobi’s Dad. Just outside of these thin walls, he’s here. Just out of reach. He is alive. I can tell him how he is going to die. But that’s the same as the person standing in front of me. Her blonde hair curling in under her chin, just under her concerned smile. Deep inside knowing something must happen that I wouldn’t be here, if she was still with me.

“I don’t know.”

“What’s up you can tell me?”

“It’s hard. Something has happened, and I can do something about it. With the watch I mean. But should I do something. Is that the right thing to do.”

“Have you told Dad?”

“Yes, he tells me that I can’t do anything, that the past has already been written that I can’t change anything. But I feel like I can. That this hadn’t happened until I made it happen. Shouldn’t I use that for good.”

“Maybe he’s right, maybe he isn’t. But that isn’t the question. You already know the answer. If you go back and change something, it could change too much. That isn’t a gift, that’s a curse. But if you feel like it’s really the right thing to do, then it’s your responsibility to do it. I can’t answer those questions for you. But maybe I can help. Follow me.”

We walk back through the house, and upstairs to my future room. Mum lifts a knife that I didn’t realise she was still carrying.

“Make a mark, on the wall, just above your bed. Where you know there isn’t a mark.”

“Why?”

“If you’re sure it wasn’t there in the future, then you can either add it, or it won’t work. The past is already written? That’s what he says. Time to find out. Your dad, he’s a cautious one. He doesn’t like feeling special, all he wants is a normal life, but we’re different. Both of us. So be free, and try.”

I take the knife, slowly. Thinking carefully about what I’m about to do. I have to be sure this isn’t something that I remember being there. Something I would have noticed a long time ago. The wood resists to the knife, but only at first. Slowly I edge out a shape, a circle, add a couple of pin points, and a wide smile.

“Really? A smiling face?”

“Yes, I would have seen that, it’s just above where my bedside table is. I would have seen it, I’m a hundred percent sure. That’s where I keep my books.”

“Well as long as that is still there when you get back then you can change things. That’s one thing sorted. You just need to decide if it’s the right thing to do. You’re not just going to resit a test or something are you?”

“No it’s not like that. Something happened to someone I know, and I feel like I should do something. I know Dad says I shouldn’t, that it would change things for the worse. But I should do it. This watch should be used for helping people, not for my own gain, to give myself a better life. Dad told me I should use it sparingly, but he’s just scared. I don’t like saying it, but he is wrong.”

“Do yourself a favour and don’t tell him about this. Let’s keep it between us. I’m so proud of you, deciding to do it like this.”

“Thanks, next time I see you, I will just come back to talk, and see you.”

“Don’t say anything else, I don’t want to sit here wondering what you mean.”

“I’m sorry. I know this is hard.”

“I don’t mind, I’m here for you. Now and forever. You can talk to me whenever and wherever you like. Remember that.”

“See you later.”

“Bye.”

The world around me spins, making me dizzy. It blurs together like wet paint, and turns dark, like the blackening sky. This sight is becoming as normal as the passing day. The darkness subsides and light is regained. All with just a simple thought, home. That one word means so much.

The face, it’s there. I can feel it, the smooth engravings. The nearly 20 year old marks, that I made only moments ago. It’s the same. I’ve never seen this before, have I? It wasn’t here for the whole of my life, was it? I’m sure it wasn’t. Positive it wasn’t. But it seems somehow so familiar. That I line books up next to it. It wasn’t there yesterday, was it? That I know for certain. It wasn’t there. At least I think it wasn’t.

I go back downstairs and walk into the kitchen. Dad is leaning over the crooked stove, watching his creation. Not many people have stoves in the village, or even working toilets. But we do. That’s why people don’t like us. I think I understand that now.

“Dad?”

“Yes? Dinner won’t be long. I promise.”

“Thanks. I was wondering, that smiling face on the wall in my bedroom. Where did it come from?”

“You’re asking this again? I’ve told you a hundred times, at least.”

“I want to hear again.”

“You sure do like that story. Well, the year was something. I can’t quite remember it. It was at least a hundred years ago. I was sitting at this very table, just after I’d gotten back from the war. There had been a horrendous explosion down the road and half of the village was living in this very house. We had one bite of food each, for days and days. We even got attacked by a crocodile, but that’s another story. Anyway, I was upstairs telling all of the children of the village a bedtime story. Outside it was cold and windy, but we were so close together all we could feel was warmth. I told then a story, and when I got to the part, and they lived happily ever after, someone asked me what does happy mean. Really touched me you know, this small child didn’t know what happy was. So I pulled out the knife, same knife I killed that crocodile with, even though it took one of my eyes, it was a good fight. I took the knife and drew the smiling face in the wall. The room fell silent and everyone looked at it, mesmerised they were. They just couldn’t stop staring. Beautiful one of them called it. And then they all just started crying. It’s when I knew the gift I’d been given.”

“Of making up stories?”

“No, of just being me.”

“Sure,” I didn’t stop him from talking, even though I’ve kind of grown out of his stories, I still love them. “But the real story. How did the face get there.”

“Really? You want me to lie. Well if you insist. I don’t really know why, but your Mum did it. I’m not sure when. I found it when I was making the room up, just before you were born. I was going to paint the walls, give that crooked wood a nice sheen. But then I found that face. Your mum said she wanted you to be happy. She said that the face would remind you to be happy. That she hoped it would bring a smile to your face from time to time. But that’s not true, just to be sure.”

“I understand.”

“Why are you asking?”

“I don’t know, it just caught my eye, and I started to wonder.”

“Well I’m sure dinner is ready now, so let’s eat up.”

“Thanks.”

After dinner I went back to my room, sat on my bed and stared at the face. I feel like I would have noticed it more if it had already been there. But Dad’s story? I remember it. Not clearly, it’s like a dream. I feel like I’ve heard it before, but I’m not entirely sure.

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The Broken Pocket Watch – Chapter Fifteen

As the week progresses, I become more and more aware. The world around me becomes more real. And finally Friday comes around, and I know it’s time to actually get to work. I hadn’t really put much thought into the exams at the end of the year. It’s not like they have been shoved down our throats since September. Not at all. I try not to think of anything to far in the future. I know I want out of the Village, that there is a better life in the City, or at least somewhere that isn’t here. But I have no idea how I can get there. Now this is put right in front of me, I know exactly what needs to be done.

The day starts off normally, everything is pretty much the same as every other day. Until we get to lunch. That’s when Tobi walks up to me. I’m just reading my book, or rereading what I missed over the last week. He comes up to me and sits down. At first I don’t react, not knowing what he’s doing. But no one normally talks to me.

“Why do you live here?” He asks.

I hesitate, lower the book, and look at him.

“What do you mean?”

“Your family. You have money. You live here. Why?”

“It’s not up to me.”

“Your a city dweller. Why don’t you live there?”

“I’m not. I was born here.”

“You don’t belong here. My dad told me.”

“What does that mean? I was born here. My dad makes some money, but he spends it all here to help people.”

“Where’s my money? Where’s my help?”

“What’s going on?”

The rest of the playground stops and looks at us. Tobi is raising his voice. My legs start shaking. He’s normally so quiet. What’s going on.

“My Dad he says walking past your shop makes him feel sick. Knowing you have city dwellers in the village. It made him leave. He hates you, he hates us. He left us.”

“I’m sorry. That wasn’t my fault.”

“That’s not what he said. That’s not what Mum says. She says he couldn’t stand living in the next street to someone who deals with the City. You don’t belong here.”

I’m speechless. He sits there for a second longer, and then stands up an walks off. What does that mean? I have nothing to do with anything. I’m just trying to stay focused. I didn’t do anything to Tobi’s Dad. I know he and my Dad have problems, but nothing has ever escalated out of it. It’s just one of those things.

I spend the rest of the day feel very unsure. I don’t know why. It’s not like I did anything, even my Dad didn’t do anything. It’s just something that happens. Families fall apart. He’s angry, wants someone to blame. I think he can understand that I’ve been there too. It’s a horrible place, but he shouldn’t just take it out on me, should he? I’m not going to cause trouble for him, but still. He shouldn’t be causing problems.

Eventually the final lesson ends, and the halls start to empty. I make my way towards Miss Edina’s classroom. She’s waiting for me, reading some students work as I walk in. I feel like I should mention what happened earlier with Tobi, but I decide against it. It isn’t that big of a problem, I should just ignore it. That’s all I can do.

“Nymia, thanks. I didn’t know if you were coming.”

“I wouldn’t miss it, I need to focus.”

“Good that’s the spirit, now. I’ve noticed you’ve fallen behind on some of the basics, like Maths. That’s a good a place as any to start.”

We spend about an hour going over things, things that I should already know. It goes reasonably well. At the end I’m feeling more confident. We agree to meet again next week and I start my walk home. It’s already pitch black when I leave the school, and it’s barely four o’clock. Not even dinner time.

My Dad’s finished work for the day and is cooking when I walk in. The sea of ticking on remains for a second before I head to the kitchen in the back.

“Hey, how did extra class go?”

“It went better than I was expecting. I’m feeling good about it.”

“Good. Good, that’s what I like to hear.”

We stand there in silence for a while.

“Have you heard about Tobi’s family?” I ask.

“No, why?”

“His Dad up and left, apparently he blames it on us. Because we don’t belong here.”

My dad stops stirring the pot and looks at me.

“That’s just not true. You shouldn’t believe things like that. Tobi’s just angry, and just too young to understand. Their marriage had loads of problems, has done for years, even before Tobi was born. Some people aren’t meant to be together. It’s not our fault. I’m going to tell you this, but you don’t tell other people. Don’t spread around gossip and rumours when you don’t have too. I know you wouldn’t anyway, I’m just making sure. They had money issues. A lot of them. Tobi’s Dad didn’t like working. He would go home halfway through the day on the farm, and sometimes not even turn up. They lived on half wages for a while, and then eventually the farm got rid of him. His wife worked in the cafe. There’s nothing wrong about that, as such. But then he started resenting everyone else with money, and this shop brings in some money.”

I understand what he’s saying, but it doesn’t make it any easier. I can’t get it out of my head for the rest of the evening. Tobi’s face as he told me. His pain was all over it. I don’t know how to get rid of that image. It’s just there, burned into my mind’s eye.

After dinner I go to my room and sit on my bed, I know I’m not going to sleep easily tonight. I look out the window, at the stars hung so high above us, the distance between us and the stars, while knowing Tobi is one street away, probably crying himself to sleep, maybe in his Mum’s arms. Why did his Dad do that? It’s such a horrible thing. Making Tobi believe there was something he could do to stop it. I don’t want to just sit here, but it’s all I can do really.

I take the pocket watch, and fiddle around with the chain as I look into the sky. I know I shouldn’t, but I really just want to hear her voice, just for a little bit.

Before I know it the world around me changes. The room becomes bare, and becomes oddly unfamiliar and yet the same.

“God, I’ll never get used to that,” Mum says as she walks into the room. “I came in just to hang out some washing, and here you are? Did you know I was going to be here?”

“No?”

I’m trying to comprehend how my room was originally a room for clothes. Considering there are only a handful of clothes in the whole house. I suppose it was Mum’s job to clean them in the river before it became mine.

“Really? You don’t seem sure.”

“I didn’t know.”

I instantly forget what was worrying me before.

“Well anyway, it’s good to see you again. What brings you here.”

“I just wanted to say hello.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes. Kind of.”

Mum walks over to me and holds me, I feel safer than I’ve ever felt before.

“Come on, sit on the bed, and tell me what’s bothering you. I’m sure it’s not as bad as you’re thinking.”

“It’s just I’ve been blamed for something, I’ve got nothing to do with. I know it’s not my fault. He’s just blaming me because it’s easier for him that way, but I still feel guilty.”

“Sometimes things make us feel like that. It’s not nice, but it’s just the way some things are. Don’t worry about it. I’m sure it will work itself out. People are weird, but as long as you try to be a good person, there isn’t much else you can do.”

“Thank you,” I say as I lean into her already warming hug.

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