I watch my friend carefully. Her excitement is glowing all over her pretty face. Exactly 2 minutes left, she tells me. We’re waiting at the bus stop and the bus is coming in 2 minutes. I think she hoped she’d meet them on a beach at sunset or something. Guys, like me, have much lower expectations.
“I mean that’s okay-these things can’t always be romantic. I mean my mom met dad when he was working at the bookstore and it’s not like you can plan it to be romantic I just hoped, I mean everyone hopes don’t they-” she broke off looking at me awkwardly, “Sorry. It’s just a big day for me you know.”
“Yes, I do know. You’ve been talking about it for the past year,” I smile at her, “Don’t worry. You nervous? You’ll be okay, you always are,” I grin, determined not to ruin this for her. It’s selfish of me to be moody. This is her future being determined. Right here. In precisely 1 minute 30 seconds. She smiles at me, but it isn’t quite reaching her eyes. She’s restless and keeps tapping her foot. Her eyes are wide with...fear? Excitement? Nerves? Probably all of them and a thousand more things I can’t imagine. She keeps checking her wrist. So do I. The bus comes around the corner. 1 minute 10 seconds.
“Hey. I’ll leave you alone now okay? The bus is here. I’ll sit a couple of seats away, and be there if you need me,” I say, squeezing her arm reassuringly, “Good luck,” I hope it sounded sincere. The bus pulls up and I climb on first, taking a quick glance at her while I give the driver my ticket. She’s shaking and look a little green. I want to give her a hug but know I shouldn’t interrupt her right now. I look at the passengers and it’s full of pensioners. My heart starts beating frantically. What? I can’t see anyone else at the bus stop. But she’s only 18, she can’t end up with an 80 year old. I turn around and look at her, she’s breathing hard. The bus driver asks if she’s okay but she ignores him. Her eyebrows are creased and her face is flushed. Oh. Oh no. Stay calm. Someone is probably late. I give her a thumbs up and try to smile reassuringly. I think it’s more of a grimace.I take a seat near the back. Look at my watch. 25 seconds. She sits down a few seats away. Suddenly a dark shape runs past my window and a boy jumps on the bus. He has the same frantic look in his eyes. I breathe out with relief.
“Yeah get on, we’re running late,” the driver says, taking his ticket. The boy looks around carefully stepping towards the seats. He’s tall and handsome, holding a sketchbook. I smile slightly; my friend hates art.
He spots her.
His eyes widen as he walks closer, as if being pulled by an invisible rope.
My friend stands up too, that same rope tying her to him.
“I was worried the bus would leave. No way could I miss meeting my soul mate!” He jokes, though he looks just as nervous as she. They smile at each other as they both sit down together. I can’t hear what they’re talking about. I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. Suddenly I’m crying. Hot tears dropping down my cheeks. I look at my wrist, scratching at it. Trying to get rid of it. The numbers have never changed. They’ve always been at zero. My world, our world, has always been like this. Everyone is born with a watch on their wrist telling them how many years, months, days, minutes, and seconds they are away from meeting their soul mate. My mom thought it was a mistake when I was born. No way was I born without a significant other. She asked the doctors and they said it only happens on rare occasions. All of my other siblings were born with numbers on their watch. I have never met another person with nothing on their watch. The bus rounded a sharp corner, and threw me back into reality. It was hard to believe how many people were staring at me. Even the bus driver was. 1 minute 22 seconds until the bus comes to a stop at Marker Park. I have to calm myself down so that I can meet my friend after we stop. I start wiping my eyes. Up a few rows my friend and her soul mate are chatting away. Both of there faces are glowing from happiness. They look like they’re meant to be together. She’ll get over the fact that he’s an artist. 25 seconds. The bus is a few feet away from it’s final destination. 10 seconds. The bus starts sliding to a stop. 5 seconds. The bus is at a complete stop, and people are starting to get off. I snap out of my daydreaming just in time to see my best friend leave through the bus doors, with a guy she just barely met.
“Hey Sidney! Hold up! Wait for me!” I yell at her, standing up and gathering my things as quickly as I can. Once on the sidewalk outside of the bus they both turn to look in my direction. Standing in the doorway is what looks like a disheveled, puffy eyed human being. The boy asked Sidney if she knew me, just to make sure I wasn’t some stalker. After she politely answered yes, they both waved good bye and agreed to meet up tomorrow. There was a light in her eyes I had never seen before. Her whole face was glowing. She had a smile on her face that no one on Earth could change. From the bus stop to home was about 30 minutes.
“You should’ve met him Kyle! He’s sweet, and kind, and you should have seen the art in his sketchbook! They’re amazing! I know I regularly dislike art, but he showed me how he drew from his soul. Not from his mind, but from inside,” Sidney says smiling. I gave her a few thumbs up and smiles here and there to show I was interested in the conversation. I hope she bought it, because I sure didn’t. It was a long 30 minutes home. They just seemed to drag on and on. I just really need for this day to be over. As soon as we reached my house, I broke off from Sidney and immediately went inside. I was too tired and upset to eat anything so I went to bed.
Beep. Beep. Beep. I groggily woke up to shut off my alarm. 5 a.m my shining clock shows me. 1 hour 30 minutes until I actually have to get up and go to school. Ugh, I must have mis-set my alarm. I’m never going to get back to bed now. I laid back down on my pillow, wide awake, but not quite ready for a new day to begin. The memories of yesterday came flooding back. The bus stop. Sidney meeting Nathan. All of it. I could feel the tears threatening to come out again. I wish yesterday had never happened. It never really occured to me, until yesterday, that I’ll never have someone love me, to hold me at times like this. Without knowing it, 1 hour and 30 minutes had passed. It seemed like these days nothing went past without me counting down to it. Well time to start my already crappy day. The morning went by excruciatingly slow. 25 minutes to get to school. I started walking to school. 5 minutes gone, 10 minutes left to go. I put earbuds in and started blasting the music. Earbuds in, reality and problems out. I was so deeply invested in my music I didn’t realize I was about to run straight into someone. I staggered backward after being punched in the shoulder.
“Hey! What the hell was that for?” I yelled at the jerk in front of me. I finally look up and realize the jerk who I ran into, was Sidney.
“Oh my god, I am so sorry!” I tell her as sincerely as I could without laughing. Sidney laughs with a radiating smile that’s glowing from ear to ear. She is the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen.
"Well, time to go to class," I tell her, trying to hide the nervousness in my voice.
"Bye! Have fun," Sidney says skipping away cheerfully. I slowly turn around to watch her go. She seemed so full of life, full of hope. God I hope Nathan treats her well. She's the best. No one could do better. 2 minutes 45 seconds to get to a class that's on the other side of campus. Better get moving. Fast. 10 seconds before the bell rings I'm in my seat ready for class to start.
"Good morning class. Please welcome Ericka. She's a new student here at Nelson High," Mrs. Larson says beaming proudly. I look up from my school work, and there she was. Ericka. She had beautiful brown hair, eyes as blue as the ocean, and she looked so kind and sweet.
"You can choose any open seat, okay Ericka?" Mrs. Larson tells Ericka with a large grin.
"Thank you," Ericka responds, maneuvering her way towards the open seat next to mine.
"Hi," She says with a voice of sugar, "My name's Ericka," She says extending her hand.
"Hi. My name's Kyle," I extend my hand towards hers and look down. 4 days, 30 minutes, and 5 seconds until she meets her soul mate.
"Are you excited?" I ask, looking up at her curiously.
"For what?" She looks down at her wrist, "Oh, that. Yeah, I'm actually really nervous. I, personally, think it's too soon," Ericka responds with doubt in her eyes.
“Don’t worry. I just watched my best friend meet her soul mate yesterday. You’ll be so excited when the day rolls around.”
“Okay guys, time to calm down. Class is starting,” Mrs. Larson wiggles her finger at us. The rest of the day seemed to go on forever. 8 long periods soon to be over with. 30 seconds until the end bell rings. 25 seconds. 15 seconds. 10 seconds. 5 seconds. Zero. This long and dreary day is finally over. I felt a small tap on my back. I turn around. It’s Ericka.
“Hey Kyle. I was just looking for you. Thank you so much for helping me get around today. I would’ve been lost without you,” Ericka said smiling gratefully.
“Yeah no problem. Listen, I gotta get home. If you need any help tomorrow, I’m always around!” I say waving good-bye. The earbuds go back in as I turn towards the direction I’m going. 15 minutes to home. It went by faster than expected. I walk through the door and the first question I get when I walk into the kitchen is-
“Why are you so smiley?” My mom asks curiously. I guess the whole way home I never noticed there was a wide grin on my face. I talked for 20 minutes straight about Ericka. How beautiful her hair is, how her smile can light up the whole room, how she was so bright, she could cheer up the saddest person. All my mom could do was stand there and stare blankly at me while I went on and on. When I finished, my mom brought to my attention something I had never thought of before.
“I have never heard you talk this way about anyone other than Sidney. You sound like you’re in love.” I didn’t know it was possible for the male gender to blush until this moment. My face was burning with embarrassment. I hoped it wasn’t too noticeable. From the look of my moms smile, I guessed it was pretty noticeable. Ericka was on my mind for the rest of the night. I didn’t even notice all 14 texts I had gotten from Sidney until the next morning.
Beep. Beep. Beep. My alarm clock was correct this morning. I practically jumped out of bed this morning, ready to start my day. I threw on the first shirt and pair of jeans I could find, put on my back pack, and was up and out the door on my way. Today was a sunny, and for the most part, cheerful day. The birds were chirping, and there was a light wind blowing down the street. 1 minute 30 second until I make it to school. It felt like it took only 10 seconds to get there. The first person I saw when I got there was the magnificent Ericka. She had a smile from ear to ear while she was talking, to some other Senior. 15 seconds later, when she was done talking to the other person, I asked if we could walk to class together. She politely answered yes with the most beautiful smile. It took us 2 minutes to get to class, and 10 second for me to ask if she wanted to go grab some coffee after school.
“Sure, I’d love to,” was her cute response. I could feel butterflies flying around in my stomach. I never knew one little response could get me so excited. I was overjoyed for the rest of the day. I could not wait for this day to be over. Every 5 seconds I was turning and looking at the clock, wondering when this long class would be over. I wasn’t the only one who was anxious. I noticed that every so often Ericka would look toward the clock, look at me, blush, and look away. It was so cute. Finally the end of the day came. I bolted up and out of my seat so I could find Ericka right away.
I found her.
“Hey there you are, I was looking for you!” I try to say without sounding without desperate. To my surprise she gives me a big side hug and says-
“I’ve been looking forward to this all day. I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” This sentence put a large goofy grin on my face, she continues, “My house is a disaster area. I have three siblings, who are constantly fighting, so I need to get out of the house. Lucky for me, you asked me to go out.” This gave me a mini heart attack. I began breathing again when she started doubling over in laughter. She could tell I was confused. After about 20 seconds I got what all the laughter was about.
“Using my crush on you as a cruel joke. That’s hilarious,” I say trying not to break down in laughter, “Shall we get moving?” Her face turned a light reddish color after I was done speaking. She nodded her head yes, and we were on way to the Mercury Cafe to get some coffee. It took me about 15 minutes to drive there. The couple hours we were there I learned so much about her. She loves singing, she’s an artist, and just moved here from California. We talked the night away. There was so much laughter and happiness emanating from our table that everyone had to stop and stare. We never noticed, not once. We were so invested in each others funny and embarrassing stories to look around. I was greatly depressed when Ericka told me it was time for her to head home.
“Let me drive you. It wouldn’t be very gentleman like to have his date walk home, now would it?” I ask her.
“No, I guess it wouldn’t,” Says Ericka smiling and getting the red back in her cheeks. More stories were exchanged on the way to her house. I felt sadness come over me when we neared her house. When I pulled up to her house I got out and walked up the walk way with her.
“You really didn’t have to walk me up here, you know,” She said shuffling her feet.
“It was my pleasure,” I said grinning at her.
“If I haven’t already said it, thank you. For the coffee,” She gets on her tippy toes, closes her eyes, and quickly pecks me on the cheek. Truthfully, I was expecting another hug. As soon she’s on her feet again she hurriedly tells me thank you again and good bye. For the next few seconds, all I could do was stand there flabbergasted. I snapped back in to reality, and headed back to my car. The kiss was on my mind for the next few hours. I layed in bed, and kept replaying, and replaying that moment in my head over, and over again. It was like my mind couldn’t comprehend that it actually happened. That night I only got two hours of sleep. The next day at school was a blast. Me and Ericka talked through most of our classes. We pushed some teachers buttons doing that. The only time we got in trouble for talking was at the very end.
“Ericka. Kyle. Detention. Both of you. You have been disturbing everyone for the whole class, you haven’t been paying attention, and all the things we’ve gone over is on your test tomorrow!” Mr. Rogers yells at us fiercely. I could practically see the steam coming off the top of his bald head, “Starting tomorrow you guys have detention. Today we have too many kids joining us.”
Instantly I could see fear cross over Ericka’s face.
“What’s wrong?” I ask her immediately. She looks up at me with fear in her eyes and flashed me her watch. 1 day, 24 minutes, and 19 seconds. Oh god. Her watch can’t be right. And just when I was started feeling I had a connection with her. I gave her a shaky smile to signal that everything was going to be okay. The rest of class we were completely silent. When the bell rang, Ericka was the first out the door.
“Hey hold up!” I yelled running after her. She turned toward the sound of my voice. I could tell she was on the brink of either crying or breaking completely.
“I thought I had more time!,” She yells, “To get more prepared. And then you come along and change the whole plan. You make me feel something that no one else can, and I just don’t know what to do,” she says starting to cry. I nudge her into my welcoming arms, feeling wet drops dripping down my shirt as I hold her close.
“You know what we’ll do?,” I ask her,”We’ll just go along with your original plan. You’ll meet your soulmate, fall in love, and live happily ever after,” I say hearing my voice become more depressing with each word.
“But I love you,” I heard Ericka whisper. I pulled her in even closer to show that I loved her too. We stood there holding each other close for a few more minutes. The bell rang, and soon enough there were hundreds of people pushing past us to get out of there. I detached myself from Ericka, told her to go home, rest, calm down, and that we’d talk about it tomorrow. Walking home I knew I wouldn’t get any sleep that night.
The next day I was bolting through the halls trying to find Ericka. She was no where to be found. 1 minute 45 seconds until our first class starts. Maybe she’s already in there, I thought. I ran towards the classroom, dodging all the pedestrians in my way. I threw open the door and-there was no one in there. Not a single soul was in that whole room. 30 seconds until class starts. People started filtering into the room and sitting in their seats. I was the only one standing dumbfounded in the doorway with a blank face.
“Kyle, please make your way towards your seat,” Mrs. Larson says motioning towards the back of the class. I slowly walked to the back of the class. Ericka was still no where to be found. I was anxious to get out of class to continue looking. In each class I got annoyed stares because of the constant drumming of my foot. I felt dread wash over me when the bell signaled that the day was over. I jumped into my car and drove as fast as I could to Ericka’s house to get some answers. I knocked fiercely on her front door. Her mom was the one to answer.
“Hello Mrs. Williams, is Ericka home?” I ask looking all around her.
“Yes sweetheart. She’s up in her room. Third door on the right. Knock before going in please,” motioning for me to come inside. I run straight past her and start taking three steps at a time to get to her faster. I immediately found her room and pushed my way in. I looked around her room, and found her sitting at her desk listening to music on her laptop. Time to get some answers. I pull the headphones out of her ears.
“Why weren’t you at school today? You scared me half to death!” I tell her frantically. Her eyes were red and puffy, as if she had been crying all day. I could tell answering the questions would make her start crying all over again. I get down on one knee and pull her into a bear hug.
“How long do you have?” I ask her. She shows me her wrist. 19 minutes and 44 seconds it reads.
“Dry your eyes, you’re coming with me,” I tell her pulling her up and out of her chair. She wipes her eyes. In the silence I could her breathing becoming more calm, and even. As soon as she’s completely calm she asks-
“Where are we going?” I give her a shoulder shrug and answer-
“Anywhere. We need to get away. From responsibilities, problems, the pain. We’ll go anywhere, as long as we’re together.” I take her hand in mine and we start running down the hall and out the door.
“Hey! Where you kids going…?” Mrs. Williams trails off as we bust through the front door. Running down the street and away from everything I felt, free. We went wherever our feet would take us. At last we ended up at an empty football field. Ericka looks at me.
“5 minutes exactly,” she tells me. I could tell she didn’t want to go. I look into her beautiful eyes, as we sit in the center of the field and say-
“Don’t go. We found love right here. That guy can go find someone else. He’ll get over it. I just want to be here, with you. You make me happier than anyone else can. When I’m with you, you give me a feeling that I can’t explain. It’s amazing. You’re amazing. If you leave, and I’m here stranded alone, I’m afraid I’ll never find someone as beautiful, and amazing as you ever again. I love you. Please don’t go.” She looked down about to reply when, she showed me her watch. 5 seconds until zero.
Zero. She look up at me with a glowing smile and says-
“I won’t ever leave you. I love you too.”