For The December 2017 Writing challenge
Never, or Forever
I stand by the open window, snowy air hitting my skin like daggers. I shiver against the cold and stare out into the night, watching the city slowly grow dark as holiday lights are flicked off.
I slowly draw my window closed and roll onto my bed, turning on the television. On every channel, reporters with fake smiles and too much makeup talk about the coming year. I lean over and check my clock 11:30
Sighing, I am about to go downstairs and make myself a mug of hot chocolate, despite being sixteen, when my phone begins buzzing. “Hello?”
“Megan, I’m down by the giant clock in Main Street with Justin. A ton of people from school are hear, including Michael. Be here in five minutes!” The bubbly voice of my friend Jennifer sounds over the phone.
I pull a thick parka over my black tank top and change out of my fuzzy pajama shorts into a pair of fleece, wool lined tights before pulling on my new, faux fur lined boots, shoving my phone into my pocket and rush out the door, careful to shut it before my cat, Shadow, slips into the night. I pull my bike out of the garage and pedal towards Main Street.
When I reach the crowded square, Jennifer and Justin break through the crowd towards me. Without giving me and time for words, they each grab one of my wrists and drag me through the crowd. “They say that if you make a wish in the minute before midnight, it will come true if you stand at the top of the clock tower.” Jennifer gushes, gesturing to the enormous clock, all the while still dragging me forward.
“Obviously isn’t true.” Justin says, looking back at me.
“Where’s Michael?” I ask, blushing a bit at just saying his name.
“We say him disappear into the tower with Clarissa Parkenson.” Jennifer hisses, as if her name is a curse.
My stomach turns in panic. “What? Clarissa?”
“Yeah. They’ve been dating for a month now, but trying to keep it secret.” Jennifer says. Of course Jennifer knows. Anything remotely exciting reaches her ears before anyone else’s.
I break free of my friend’s grasp and start running. Justin grabs my wrist, I whirl to face him, meeting his eyes. Something passes between us that sends chills down my spine, but then I wrench my arm free and am running, my feet pounding down the street.
I pass through the clock tower’s open doors and bound up the stairs, consumed in a haze of emotion. Rage, horror and grief pump through my veins, filling me with adrenaline.
As I run, I have the sense to check my watch. Twenty seconds until midnight. I crash up the final flight of steps, people pressing against the railing to avoid me.
I sprint frenziedly towards the roof, and trip on the last step. My hands smash against the ground, my knees hitting harder. A barely notice the pain of my scraped hands and bloody knees as I raise my head.
Clarissa is clutching Michael’s hand, leading him to the edge of the tower. Everything seems to move in slow motion as they lean towards each other, as one. And kiss.
“NO!” I scream, tears slipping down my face. “No! No! No!”
“Why do you love her and not me?” I shout, getting to my feet.
Clarissa and Michael whirl towards me, puzzled and outraged.
“I wish I could redo today. As her!” I shriek, faintly remembering what Jennifer said.
Suddenly, the world starts to spin. I stumble sideways, falling to the ground. I faintly hear the pattering of frantic footsteps and I feel a hand on my cheek. “Megan?” Michael’s voice echoes in my ears, sounding miles and miles away.
I soft sigh escapes my lips, before my head lolls to the side and everything spirals into oblivion.
I blink awake in an enormous four poster bed with a soft pillow under my head. I pull the soft covers up to my chin, taking in their comfort.
And then in a crashing wave, the events of yesterday come crashing back. Or, as I realize, looking around, the events of today. I climb out of Clarissa’s incredible bed and relish the feeling of fuzzy carpeting between my toes I stumble to the closet and pick out a two piece ice blue knee length dress and skip into the bathroom to put it on.
I on the dress and do my makeup in her lit vanity before I finally look in the mirror. Clarissa’s long silky, blond hair flows luxuriously over my shoulders, so different from my own, wavy red locks. She has full, pink lips, strong, sometimes cold hazel eyes and long, dark eyelashes. Looking at her reflection in the mirror, I can almost see why Michael likes her. Almost.
I slip on some glittery leggings, white pumps and a cozy white cardigan. I curl my now blond hair and step back into Clarissa’s room. All dressed up with nowhere to go. How sad. I think, the instant the phone rings.
“Michael! Darling, how are you?” I ask, surprised at the melodic quality of my new voice, while trying to sound as much like Clarissa as I can.
“I’m down at the town hall decorating for the New Year’s party with some kids from school. Do you want to come down?” Michael’s voice says through the phone.
“Yes, most definitely.” I purr. “Be over in five.”
I step out of Clarissa’s room and start down her spiral staircase, swinging my hips. I’m enjoying being Clarissa very much.
“Mummy, could you take me to the town hall?” I ask the woman at the foot of the staircase, as I twirl a strand of my hair.
“Of course, dear.” She says, following me to the door. “Aren’t you dressed up nicely.”
A couple minutes later, the silver Porsche pulls into the parking lot and I step out, feeling, and probably looking, for all the world, like a movie star.
Only after the car do I realize that I am going to be there. Well, Megan, not Clarissa. I force myself to take a reality check. I have to do everything exactly as Clarissa did.
I waltz into the building. The other me is sitting at a fold out table between Justin and Jennifer, cutting out templates. and grinning, though I can catch her making sidelong looks at Michael frequently. Michael himself stands on a ladder in the corner, hanging a tinsel from the ceiling.
I move over to the edge of the ladder and peer up at him. Seeing him, I can’t help but blurt out, “You know Megan has a crush on you?”
“That’s too bad.” Michael responds, looking down at me.
“What? Why?”
“Because Justin has liked her since sixth grade.” He replies. “I was hoping they would work out.”
My world reels. One of my best friends like me? Justin likes me? Justin? I always thought that he was so cool and collected, so nice. I always believed that he would end up living happily ever after with a beautiful girl.
I cast a look back in the direction of Justin and see him gazing at the other me, smiling, eyes filled with something I can’t name. How was I so blind to it before?
The rest of the day passes in a blur, and I am still so filled with thought about Justin that I notice as Michael leads me up the stairs of the clock tower until we reach the roof. Only when I hear the sound of other me’s feet pounding up the stairs do I remember to lead Micheal to the edge of the clock tower.
I had imagined swooning in Michael’s arms as we kiss, but it takes all that I have to kiss him back. I am almost relieved when the other me starts screaming.
I lead Micheal towards other me’s limp body. As he whispers her name, I take a deep breath and make another wish. I wish I could do today again as me.
“You too?” Michael asks exasperatedly as I lose consciousness.
The day passes like the day before, but this time, I stick a little closer to Justin’s side.
“Again.”
“Again.”
“Again.”
Crying, smiling, screaming, laughing. The word slips through my mouth again and again, feeling like a month of liking not Michael, but my best friend. I am nearly considering redoing for a tenth time when it happens.
I start my familiar routine of screaming, when Clarissa stalks towards me.
And slaps me across the face, her ring cutting into the flesh of my cheek. I gape. That wasn’t supposed to happen.
She grabs my shirt and lifts me to my feet. I hear the pounding of footsteps on the stairs and Justin reaches the roof.
Clarissa drags me to the edge of the roof. I had been watching in a stupor of shock previously, but in a flash I am kicking and screaming. “He’s mine.” Clarissa hisses.
“Clarissa, stop!” Michael and Justin shout as one.
The blond girl drops me, and I try to scramble away, but her high heeled foot connects with my gut and suddenly I am falling.
Everything moves slowly. I see the look on Clarissa’s face, shocked at what she had done. Michael and Justin’s faces illuminated with horror.
“Please don’t die.” Justin whispers, but somehow I hear it, coursing through my bones. A wish in the minute before midnight.
Suddenly, the world moves at normal speed again. Air flows around me, shoving my scarlet hair forcefully over my face. I barely have time to take in the feeling before the impact.
Somehow, I manage to hang on to consciousness as I hit the concrete. For some reason I don’t feel pain, only an empty numbness. Out of nowhere, the agony hit, consuming everything. Then darkness wraps around me, an escape, and I welcome it.
When I wake up, I wish I hadn’t due to the pain that devours everything. The beeping of the heart monitor increases to a frenzied pulse. Finally, darkness reaches up to welcome me again.
It has been a week, the doctors say since Clarissa shoved me off the tower. I suffered a concussion, two broken ribs, a fractured wrist and broken leg. I should be out of the hospital in three more weeks.
I step into the house, the lights suddenly flicking on. All of my friends from school leap out from behind furniture. “Welcome back, Megan!”
At least everyone asks me what happened, and each time I tell a slightly different story, to throw them off. I have three pieces of pizza and at least five Cokes, but all the while I wait for Justin to approach me.
I heave a sigh of relief when he does.
“You feeling okay?” He asks, not meeting my eyes.
“Yeah. You?”
“I just feel like I could have stopped that from happening.”
“No, it’s fine. I’m actually glad it happened. I deserved it.” I reply.
“You didn’t.”
“Yes I did.”
Justin finally meets my eyes. How didn’t I ever see it before? He is perfect. “You know, I’ve had a major crush on you since-“
“I know.”
And I break off his next words with a kiss.
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