I dream about my mum, someone I try not to think about. It hurts to much. I didn’t really know her before she died, I was way too young. Dad doesn’t really talk about her, instead I let the faint memory of her smile, the hum as she cooked, the warmth of her hugs, be the only things I know about her. I try not to think about her that much though, it hurts to much. I miss her all the time, and I barely remember why.
Now I can see her, though. Now I can finally spend some time with her, and I’ll actually remember it. I won’t be a small child. The watch will make it all possible. My hand jumps to my neck, where I think the watch is, but it’s not there. I sit up in bed and look at the bedside table. Just the book I’ve been reading for the last few weeks and the candle I read by. I flip my legs of the side of the bed and stand up, creaking the uncovered floorboards as I do. There is a pile of books near the door, all ones I’ve read multiple times, and a wardrobe next to it. Apart from that the room is empty. Tiny and empty. Just the way I like it, the rest of the house is a cluttered mess.
From the moment I open my door, all I can hear is ticking. Enough ticking and tocking to drive anyone insane. Anyone apart from my dad, apparently. He tells me all the time, that I’ll just get used to it, that it won’t bother me when I’m helping him fix and build clocks of all sorts. I gave up complaining, I just sit with gritted teeth through it all.
Our family has owned this little shack for generations. A small little two story building, made of cranky old wood. Slanted glass pains, in every room. The entrance is the shop, a little area, where you can just about move. It’s crammed from floor to ceiling with just clocks. It’s not a busy shop, we very rarely have more than one person at a time come in. It’s usually people from the city who buy the new pieces, the local people can’t afford them. They normally just have dad repair one of their own clocks or watches if it’s broken. Not many of them even own a clock though.
He wants me to learn the trade, but I don’t really want to. The ticking, it just drives me insane. If I close my door, they become just a mumble that I can deal with, but whenever I help out by serving people, like when dad has errands to run, then I just want to shove my fingers in my ears until they bleed.
As I walk out of my room, my dad’s room to my left, I continue walking to the bathroom. I throw some water over my face and look in the crooked mirror. It’s so faded, and grubby. As if no one has cleaned it for years. Probably no one has. There is a small crack in the bottom right hand corner, that’s been there since before I was born. It’s only fortune that has kept the old thing together. Not that we really need one, we don’t exactly look prim and proper. The city people show us that every time one of them gallops up, gets off their horse and walks in. Most of them with an air of disgrace, even spending a second in the poor district is too much for them. But dad’s clocks are masterpieces. He sells them to the upper classes from the closest city and beyond. God knows why, but people actually travelling to buy from here. Maybe it’s because I’m used to being around clocks, but surely there must be another one in the city somewhere. Not that I’ve ever been to the city. As much as I’d like to.
The face looking back at me in the mirror smiles. Got to try and look my grubby best. I know that dad’s got to post some things today, which means I’ll be behind the counter for an hour or so before school. I have to walk downstairs to see the time, I don’t allow clocks on the upper floor of the building, if I did then I’d have shoved a screwdriver in my eye by now. Dad just laughs at me, and agrees. Apparently mum was the same. I walk out the bathroom, and walk down the stairs on the left. They sway and bow with each step. I’ve given up on worrying they are going to break. Everything in this house is made of old wood, probably from before my dad was born, so you just kind of get used to it. The creaking, the shifting, it’s all just part of life. I’m sure everyone struggles to get used to it at first, but as time goes on it gets easier and easier.
I pause at the door at the bottom of the stairs, not wanting to unleashing the hounds of ticking upon me. A little ritual I go through every day. It’s like a tidal wave as I open the door, waves and waves of ticking, just out of synch with each other, battering me. I just want to shut it again.
“Ah, Nymia, the princess has joined us at last,” my dad greets me with a smile. “And what time, does the princess call this?”
Stupid clock humour.
“Ha. Ha. Dad. Good morning.”
“If you say so, the morning has only just begun so it might be the worst I’ve had to date, but if you say it will be a good one, then I’ll trust your royal princess’s opinion.”
I just look at him, he’s like this most mornings. As if he wants me to get wound up. Just something else you have to get used to in this house.
“Don’t you have to go to the post office today?” I ask
“Not today, that’s tomorrow. Don’t worry about it. I plan on getting their as early as possible, so you don’t have to miss too much of school.”
I look at the sea of clocks, six in the morning. Or thereabouts. An hour until school. Normally I would spend this time reading, but today I have questions.
“That pocket watch you gave me, yesterday? Where is it?” I ask
He eyes widen, a moment of painful silence.
“What do you mean?” he starts. “Have you lost it?”
“What, no?” I cry.
“Didn’t think you did, it’s been with me all night. Here you go.”
I take it from him, and spend a few moments studying the small engravings, every single little mark was put there with reason. This would be worth a bit, even if it was just a normal watch.
“I don’t want you abusing that,” Dad says in a calmer tone. “It’s not a toy, and nor is time. So don’t muck around when you don’t need to.”
“I won’t. But why don’t you use it to get to the post office and back, that would save me from missing any school.”
“That would be mucking around with time.”
“How would it? How is that any different from last night?”
“I wasn’t using it last night to gain anything. It’s unfair that I could get to the post office before anyone else. It’s in the city. We aren’t the only ones who use it. We have to be respectful of others. It may seem like only a small thing, but small things lead to big problems. I don’t want you to cause anything like that. That watch is your birthright, I’ve used it well, and now you will too. But if you use it to make things easier for yourself, you won’t be just disappointing me.”
I look up at him, studying his face, there isn’t a morsel of anything but seriousness on his face. I can’t think of anything else I could do to abuse time.
“I mean things that will make your life easier. No breaking laws. I know your not a thief, but stealing money. Stuff like that. It shouldn’t be done. Not by any of us. Your not a superhero. Don’t think your better than others because of the watch. Use it to make the best out of your life. Extend moments, don’t miss a thing. But don’t mistake yourself into believing your a god. Don’t take things when they don’t belong to you. Don’t reverse things, if you mess up you mess up. Live with it, that’s a part of life.”
I stand there, feeling like I’m being shouted at, even though I’m not. I know he trusts me, it just sounds like he doesn’t. He’s just worried. I understand that it’s a massive responsibility. It’s not like everyone gets a watch like this when they get to my age. At least I don’t think they do. Maybe it’s a secret club you join as you get older. But somehow I don’t think so. The world would be caos if it was like that. Maybe there would be time police stopping people from messing up too much. But again, I don’t think so. That’s just my imagination getting away from me.
“Has anyone actually messed things up then?”
“People have come close. The stories have been passed down, but how true they are. I don’t know. It’s not like there is a public record about all of this. It’s still just as weird to me now, as it was thirty years ago. I think most of it is just down to being a good person. You wouldn’t want someone else to abuse a birthright into making your life worse, so don’t do it to anyone else.”
“But what about saving people?”
“No. Don’t get involved in things you’re not supposed to. What if something happens to you, when you go back and stop someone from being murdered. There is a good chance you will be dead yourself. Don’t mess around with things like that. There is a natural order to things, and that’s the way it must stay. Our place is here in this house, not anywhere else.”
I understand his reasoning but I don’t want to. If I was being murdered, and someone else could save me, I’m pretty sure I’d want them to at least try. Surely that’s the right thing to do. I don’t argue with him though, he’s had long enough to think about it. I know a fight I can’t win when I see it. I have other questions anyway, something I admit is a bit more selfish.
“What about going back, have you ever done that?”
“Yes, I have a couple of times. Not that many times. But for our honeymoon, I took your mum back to see her favourite band as a child in the city, when she would have been a child. It was one of the best nights of my life. Being able to give something to her, she never thought would be possible. She wasn’t rich either, but I saved up enough coins and took us. The trick is to make sure the coins have the right date on them, that’s what my dad told me the dates were for. Easier for us to use that way.”
“Can I go back?”
“Sure,” he said hesitantly.
“I want to see her.”
“I know you do.”
“Do you ever go back and see her?”
“I’ve had my time with her, it would be selfish to take hers away from her. Everything up to that point when we met was what structured her into the woman I love. I couldn’t take that away from her. Even though I want to see her. Sometimes I go back and sit outside the cafe she worked in when she as the city university. I watch her serve tables, but I never speak to her. But you are different. You wouldn’t be stealing her time. She would hate me if I didn’t tell you to go back, at least once.”
I don’t know what I should do. I don’t want to change history, but I want the chance to see her in person. Maybe just once. That would be enough, just enough to form my own memory of her, the way she walked, talked, her actual smile. Maybe I could go and buy something from the cafe she worked at, that would be nice. She wouldn’t even recognise me, would she.
“Have a think about it, don’t make any rash decisions. It’s your life, and this lets you make the most out of it. So enjoy it. But first you should probably head to school. You don’t want to be late.”
I blink out of my thoughts, and have to stand there for a second to think about what he just said. It makes sense. But I can’t not see her. It’s the one thing my life has been missing until now. She died when I was so young, I’m not sure if my memories are even accurate. Maybe it’s not her I remember. What if I don’t recognise her.