If you could chanGe one thing you’ve done In the past year, would you?
Go Back?
Whether Tis Nobler To Change...
Jatin Marwood walked slowly along, his head down, gloved hands in his pockets. The quiet beauty of the stark trees and ground that lined the path went unnoticed by him. A sharp breeze brought the scent of winter. Fluffy white clouds floated slowly over and around the sun, but all of it was nothing in his eyes.
Sighing, Jatin glanced over at the empty path beside him, where his best friend usually walked. The fight hadn’t even been over something important. In fact, Jatin really couldn’t remember why they had fought in the first place. It was New Years Eve now, they had fought on the day before winter vacation, about a week ago.
Jatin looked up. He was at the end of the park. Turning he walked aimlessly along the sidewalk, going nowhere.
A cold light rain began to fall. He shivered. Between the rain and the wind Jatin was freezing, even with his coat and scarf.
“Maybe I should head home,” He muttered, pulling his scarf higher so it covered his nose. He didn’t want to go home. He didn’t want to celebrate New Years without Peter.
Then Jatin’s phone buzzed. He stopped walking and pulled it out.
Are you heading home? I noticed it has started to rain. Your brother got back from shopping and I’ve already started to make dinner.
Mom
He sighed, and typed a quick reply.
Okay, I’m heading back. See you soon
He stuffed his phone back into his pocket. Jatin looked up into the sky and closed his eyes, letting the ice cold rain fall on his face.
With his eyes closed he thought of all the things he would have to do without Peter this New Years Eve: eating homemade New Years nachos, watching their favorite TV shows for the tenth time, saying up to midnight eating candy, and starting the New Year with a best friend crashing in his room.
This year would be different. He would have to do everything without his best friend. Everything.
Jatin’s phone buzzed again. He blinked, his thoughts shattered and his face very cold. Wiping his face with his sleeve, Jatin pulled out his phone.
How far did you walk? Do you need Dad to pick you up?
Mom
Jatin turned around and started walking, while he texted back.
No, I’m fine. I’ll be home in a bit.
“There you are!” His mother cried. “I’m glad you got home safe,” She touched his face, “But you’re freezing!”
Jatin smiled, “Sorry it took me so long. Maybe I should’ve worn a hat too, it was way colder than I thought.”
“Next time remember to dress warmer then you think necessary.” His older brother, Roy, home from college, said. “You’re making mother worry.” He grinned, riffing Jatin’s hair.
Jatin pushed off his hand, “I know.” He gave him a half smile and walked into the living room.
“There’s our wanderer,” Jantin’s father said, from his armchair. “Did you get lost?”
“Not all who wander are lost,” Jatin said, quoting his father’s favorite author.
“And not all who are lost wander,” Roy said. He had followed Jatin into the living room. “And you’ve looked pretty lost these last few days. Is something wrong?”
Jatin nodded, “Yeah, Peter and I had a fight.” He stared at the rug, “It’s been about a week since we’ve talked, and I can’t even remember why we fought. This will be the first New Years Eve I’ll have to spent without him, since I met him.”
“Well, you can’t keep waiting for him to make the first move. Someone has to admit they’re wrong.” His father said. Roy nodded in agreement.
Jatin sighed, “I know, I just,” he shook his head. “I just don’t know what to say, and what if, no matter what I say he won’t listen? What if we stop being friends, forever?”
“You’ve been friends for a long time right?” Roy said.
Jatin nodded. “Three years.”
“Then you know each other well, Peter probably wants to make up too. He’s probably just as scared as you are.”
Jatin smiled, a little sadly, “Probably.” He could picture Peter pacing his room, trying to think of what to say. “I’m just not ready yet, I need more time.”
His father smiled, “You have all night. Calling him and saying sorry would be a great way to start the new year.”
“Okay,” Jatin said. “Thanks.”
“Anytime little brother,” Roy grinned. “I’m always here.”
Jatin grinned too, “I was talking to Dad,” he said.
“Alright everyone,” Their mom called from the kitchen, “Dinner’s ready. Do you have it all set up out there?”
Roy, Jatin and their father looked at each other, “Almost.” They called, hurrying to start what should have been finished.
“It’s almost twelve,” Roy said, looking at his digital watch.
“Yeah,” Jatin said, muting the credits of the ended TV show.
Their mom yawned, “Talk quietly, your father is asleep.”
They nodded, and stretched. “Mom, is it okay if I go outside?” Jatin asked.
“Outside?” His mother said, frowning. “Why?”
“I want to look at the stars, and maybe call Peter.” He answered, quieter than necessary.
She smiled, “Of course honey, go ahead.”
Jatin pulled on a sweatshirt and sneakers, then headed out the backdoor.
His house was on the edge of a pine forest, so whenever you stepped outside you could smell their sticky scent. He breathed it in, and looked up at the vast sky above him. Some of the stars were washed out by the city lights, but some still shone brightly.
Staring up at them, Jatin remembered how their awesome quiet had always intrigued him. He loved to find the constellations, putting together the dot-to-dots in the sky.
It happened so slowly, Jatin barely noticed it. But yet he did notice. Three stars moved closer together and closer to him. They moved closer and closer, until all three of the stars were one and they were right in front of him.
Jatin gasped, and shielded his eyes. The stars glowed brightly, but not as brightly as he expected from three stars put together. Their glow was like the glow of a full moon on snow, purely white, the way a crystal glows in the sunlight.
If the stars’ appearance had surprised Jatin, what happened next astonished him.
“Hello Jatin Marwood,” a soft voice, neither male nor female, said.
Jatin stopped breathing. He stared at the stars, so suprised that he didn’t notice that his eyes were accustomed to the light now.
“How-“ he stammered, unable to speak a full sentence. “What-“ he looked back at the house, then back to the stars. “How do you know my name?”
“I’m a star, I know everyone’s names.” The stars said, in a matter-of-fact tone. Its voice was as soft and shimmery as its glow. A mixture of a kids’ voice and an grown mans’, an immortal voice.
Jatin frowned, “I guess that makes sense, but why are you here?”
“Why?” The voice asked. “Your regret called me. I heard the longing of your heart, to make a wrong right.”
“My regret? The longing of my heart?” Jatin felt even more confused, “I don’t understand. You’re made of stars, big things of gas that burn in the sky. How are you down here? How are you talking to me?”
The stars shimmered, “Is that really what you want to ask me?”
A sharp wind suddenly whipped through the pine wood, and made Jatin shiver. The stars in the sky glinted brighter, and the moonlight wavered.
He thought over the star’s words, then taking a deep breath Jatin said, “Can you help me?”
Even though the stars had no facial features, Jatin was sure he heard a compassionate smile in its voice, “Yes, that is why I am here.”
“How can you help?” He asked, excited.
“I can give you one chance to go back and change what you’ve done,”
“Go back?” Jatin asked, “Is that possible?”
The stars quietly huffed, “I’m a star, of course it is.”
Jatin frowned, “I just, if there was a way to go back, wouldn’t people have used it?”
“They have,” The stars said.
“But wouldn’t people have noticed?”
“Would they notice?”
“Well, maybe not,” Jatin allowed. “But wouldn’t people have told about a way to change the past?”
“Would people?”
“Yes-“
“Would you tell someone if you had met a star and traveled back in time?”
Jatin sighed, “No, I wouldn’t.”
“There you have it,” the stars said, in a end-of-discussion way. “Are you ready?”
“Ready?”
“To change the past.”
“Right now?!”
“Yes, there’s only twenty-one minutes until midnight and the new year.”
Jatin checked his watch. The stars were right. “If I go back, how long do I have?”
“Three hours,” the stars replied.
Jatin took a deep breath, “Three hours to change the past.”
“Exactly,” the stars said. “Now, when you’re ready, reach your hand into my center and think of the moment you want to change.”
Jatin stared into the center of the star and thought of all the things he regretted that he had done in the last year: his fight with Peter, not trying out for the soccer team, breaking his father’s favorite CD, not taking the time to welcome a new kid at his school and then ignoring him when he was being bullied, forgetting to thank his grandparents for their gifts, not spending more time with his dying Uncle. There were so many things he regretted. So many things he could change, so many mistakes, so many memories.
Jatin took a big breath then breathed it out. His clouded breath rose into the air, clear and distinct in the moonlight. He reached out his hand, then stopped, his fingers just touching the stars’ glow. He swallowed. His fingers were tingling and they felt lighter.
“There are only nineteen minutes left,” the stars reminded him.
Even so, Jatin hesitated, his thoughts swirling like snow in a blizzard. One thought was impossible to pick out from the rest. They were all mushed together. Then, one thought pushed its way through the rest:
Should I change the past?
Then another:
Is it right for me to change the past?
Jatin shook his head and pulled his hand back, “I’m sorry, I can’t.”
“What?” The stars asked, the soft voice confused.
“Despite all the things I’ve ever done wrong, or regretted, I don’t want to go back. I don’t want to change a thing. Because everything I’ve ever done, whether wrong or right, is something I’ve done. It’s me. If I mess things up, I have to live with it, and try to fix it, the right way. That’s my final answer.”
The stars glimmered again, “Your answer is unexpected, but not the wrong one. You are the first to decline the chance to change. I am surprised, but if that’s your final answer, I except it.”
Jatin nodded.
“Farewell then, Jatin Marwood,” The stars said, the voice becoming distant.
Even though the voice was getting further away, the light hadn’t moved. Then, Jatin realized he was seeing the imprint of the light, not the light.
The stars were gone.
He stood there, looking into the dark pine wood, stunned.
“Did that really just happen?” Jatin asked, starting to put a cold hand to his forehead, but he stopped. His watch had caught his eye:
11:49 PM
“Eleven minutes,” Jatin whispered. He stared at his watch, still dazed. Then he remembered, “Peter!” He looked back at his watch, “Eleven minutes.”
Jatin reached his freezing hand into his warm sweatshirt pocket. His numb fingers closed around his phone. Pulling it out, he pressed Contacts. His finger hung over the contact Peter Dalton. He took a deep breath, and pressed down.
...calling Peter Dalton...
Jatin paced waiting for the ringing to stop, “Please pick up Peter. Please, please pick up.”
Then the ringing stopped. The small click, that meant the call was picked up, sounded, stopping Jatin’s heart.
“Hello?”
“Hey Peter. I just wanted to say, Happy New Year.”
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