Tick. Tick. Tick. Emily glanced down at her watch. Then, she looked down at her feet at the tattered letter that came with it and quickly peered around her front yard to make sure that no one was watching. She was safely concealed from view by the densely packed bushes and the fence she was hiding between. In the dim evening light, she could see the flashing of the TV and the muffle of the news echoing through her nearly empty house, cheerfully announcing the weather for the next day as her mother paced back and forth in the otherwise dark room.
You know what you have to do, Emily. Taking a deep breath, she began to adjust the watch time. 7:46 PM, May 15, 2021. 12:30 PM, June 20, 2012. She lets go. The watch begins to tick louder and more rapidly. However, this did not phase her for she knew exactly what was going to happen. A sinking sensation, as if being pulled by the center of the Earth. The ticking sound stopped. Silence.
Everything was suddenly bright as Emily felt the heat of the summer sun on her skin. She squinted her eyes and looked around. The house looked so different; the bushes she was hiding behind were short and stubby, vibrant flowers bloomed left and right, and the windows of the house were all opened to let the fresh breeze in. A gray minivan was parked at the end of the driveway, waiting for its passengers.
“Mom, come on! We’re going to be late!” Emily perked up at the familiar voice. Her older sister, Ruby. Her footsteps were jumpy and near the front door. Emily resisted the sudden urge to walk up to the house and see her sister. Just one more time.
“Ruby, can you take me with you? Please! I really want to go to the amusement park with you,” whined young Emily.
“Sorry, Emily, you can’t,” said Ruby. “You’re too young. Only big kids and adults ride on roller coasters. Mom, are you ready now?”
Hearing the sound of car keys jingling, Emily quickly stood up and shrunk back into the crevice of the fence, picking up a rock the size of her palm while doing so. Her heartbeat pounded in her ears and her vision blurred for a split second as she squeezed into the corner, her wind going haywire with nostalgia from the conversations she heard between her and her sister. Now. Her mind blanked out completely as she instinctively flung the rock straight for the driver seat window.
“What was that?” All of the ruckus in the house stopped. And before Emily could catch a glimpse of Ruby running out of the house to inspect the sound, she felt the pulling sensation again, followed by the silence.
Emily was back in the present. The dim evening light caused her to have to adjust her eyes from the previous brightness of the summer day. She decided to take an inventory of her surroundings, and her eyes popped out of her sockets.
The house was completely different from the original state. Flowers were still blooming, budding in the spring season. The gray minivan remained in the driveway, its window fixed. The window was open, and bright white curtains flapped gently, hiding the rooms inside. Laughter and cheerful conversation could be heard from Emily’s hiding spot. She ran up the yard, possibly trampling over some of the flowers, and pried open the front door.
“There you were! You’re late for dinner. Let’s eat.” Ruby, now much older but still resembling the chipper teenager, stood in front of her. Emily’s mouth hung open in disbelief.
“What- Wait! Did this really work?”
“What do you mean?” Her mother looked at her from the dining room table with a smiling expression. It was so unusual for her to smile.
“No car accident?” Emily looked back between the undamaged car and Ruby. Everyone’s faces showed concern.
“Of course not! No car accidents! What happened to you? Did you hit your head?” Ruby looked at Emily with a confused expression while Emily beamed the biggest smile.
Emily was happier than ever. She could now see her sister, all grown up and experiencing life; her mother and father were so much different from her previous present day, being cheerful instead of blank and distant.
“Do you think we should go to the store later? I want to buy more flowers for the front yard. Maybe some morning glories?” Ruby asked as the two sat by the front door, enjoying the beautiful spring afternoon.
“Sure. Should we go to the hardware store down the street?”
“The hardware store down the street? What? There’s no hardware store down the street, Emily. It closed years ago.” Ruby’s smile faltered into concern. “Are you okay? You’ve been strange since last night.”
Emily tried not to make eye contact with her to conceal surprise. She shuffled her sneakers on the gravel, pretending to feign a sudden interest in the little pebbles under her feet and looking down. “I must’ve hit my head on the fence last night or something, I don’t know, it’s probably just a brain fart.”
“Of course, yeah, that happens to the best of us.” Ruby’s understanding voice made Emily look up from her trance. She was shocked to see her sister smiling with a sparkle in her eye.
“You sure you didn’t use this?” Emily froze.
The watch was on Ruby’s wrist.
“What- How- Where did you get it?” Emily struggled to keep herself composed. How did she get the watch? Although Emily vaguely remembered keeping her watch on her wrist when she slept the night before, she couldn’t quite remember where she lost it.
“Yeah, I think you might’ve thought it was yours? I took it from you last night while you slept because you never wore watches. And it’s been quite useful for me. In fact, I think I might keep it. So thank you so much for the gift.” She examined the watch sarcastically as if it was the first time she was looking at it on her wrist. “It looks quite nice as well. An antique?”
“What have you been using it for?” Maybe for minor inconveniences. But it’s not a toy! Emily’s voice trembled as she tried to distance herself from her sister.
“Well, just some minor things. Like slipping answer keys into my backpack for tests, stealing things from stores, maybe- maybe erasing someone? You know, it was an accident at first. I went back to the day I was born, just to see what happened. And when I came back, the hardware store owner was gone! I was utterly surprised, let me tell you that. But now, it’s kind of convenient. If I think about it hard enough and turn the circumstances the right way, inconvenient people disappear right before my eyes.
“When you broke the window so many years ago- and I saw you there- I saw that you left the watch. And I’ve been using it ever since. When you had it on your wrist last night, I knew that it was you who had it first. Anyways, I stole it back. After all, I need it much more than you.”
Emily was speechless. Her mind wandered as she tried to connect all of the events Ruby talked about. Heartbeats pounded loudly in her head as fear coursed through her veins. She immediately regretted that day, and she knew that she had to fix it.
“Well, I think I might need it. Is it okay if I can use it for a little bit?”
“Oh, no. Sorry.” Ruby stretched her legs and stood up, walking towards the minivan. “I think I like the situation now. Anyways, do you want to go to the hardware store? There’s one a couple of minutes away.”
Responding quickly, Emily got up to go back to her room to figure things out. Before she could leave, however, Ruby grabbed her arm.
“Oh, please. Can you just go with me for once? It’s not like I’m going to get rid of you. Come on, it’ll be fun! Just don’t think about it.”
The car AC was pumping, the cold wind adding to Emily’s chilly feeling as the car sped on down the street past what she knew would have been the hardware store that was now an apartment building. Unfamiliar music played on the radio, and Ruby hummed along to it, looking at Emily pointedly, aware of the fact that Emily didn’t know it.
There was nothing Emily could do about the situation. Not only did Ruby seem unwilling to return the watch to her, but Emily feared that if she tried anything brash, Ruby would get rid of her existence by going back into the past. She tried not to think about it. It’s okay, right? Ruby seems fine. And after all, that’s what you wanted. You wanted your sister back. When she tuned out of her surroundings, she could still hear the battered watch hands moving slowly, marking each second passing. Tick. Tick. Tick.