May 1, 2017

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Turn Back Time

Running into the bathroom, she slammed her stall door shut, the lock soon following suit. “Jessie, come out,” her best friend pleaded. ”I’ll take you to the coffee shop down the street. The one you like so much , with the cupcakes and pastries and the comfy chairs? I’ll buy.”

“Go away.” She sat on the toilet, head in hands, her focus anywhere but on her friend’s voice. Not even the prospect of a free cupcake could tempt her and Jessie’s love for cupcakes knew no bounds. Her appetite had fled when the tears flowed in. No one in their right mind, or so Jessie believed, could have an appetite at a time like this. Even the idea of found seemed wrong.

Her friend’s incessant knocking revealed her differing opinion. ”Jessie, moping won’t do you any good. You’ll feel better after a cupcake.”

”I’ll feel better after you leave, Kate,” Jessie retorted. Giving Kate no time to react, Jessie popped up from her makeshift chair and glanced around the stall. She spun the toilet paper roll twice. She slammed the lid on the waste bin, the tinny sound echoing with each slam. One… two… Three. When that didn’t satisfy the violent urges rising, she flushed the toilet and kicked its base with an agonized grunt. 

The lights shut off. The world began to spin. The ground seemed to slip from under her feet. Jessie stopped breathing, the air squeezed out of her lungs.

When Jessie woke up, head still spinning, she pushed herself onto her elbows, the tile of the bathroom floor chilled against her bare skin. No knocks sounded on the pale green door of the stall. Jessie glanced back at it. Green? Wasn’t it blue? Running her fingers over the tile, Jessie noticed that this, too, had changed.

”Where am…” Her voice dropped. Her eyes widened. ”High school.”

As quickly as possible, she ran out of the stall to the mirrors. The hair, the clothes, the makeup revealed to her the exact date. The day that changed her life forever.

“Crap. Owen’s going to ask me out.”

Stunned, Jessie left the bathroom. Everything seemed so familiar, like she had walked these halls only yesterday, when in reality she hadn’t in almost ten years. The walls still stood in all their awful green glory. The lockers still looked like they had travelled from forty years ago, the paint scratched and peeling. The floor still led its students like some degraded yellow brick road, its alternating yellow and white tile even matching in color. 

”Jessie!” her high school bestie, Violet, called to her, waving her over to table. Their table in their corner. The table they sat at every day for lunch. The table they had all engraved their names in the wood of the underbelly. The table that knew all their joys, woes, and secrets. 

Jessie hadn’t seen Violet in years. An unexpected longing overwhelmed her and she rushed her friend, knocking her out of her chair to the ground. Only slightly miffed, Violet shoved her off. Standing, she laughed, “Oh my god, Jess, it’s not like we haven’t seen each other in years. We literally had class together only an hour ago.”

Accepting Violet’s assistance, Jessie joined her at the table. She would have to remember that not everyone had come from the futur–or present, to Jessie– and thus wouldn’t have the same knowledge she did. She decided to play it off. ”I know, it’s just…” She glanced around. No one listened, all too focussed on their own friends and their own lunches. She lowered her voice. ”I think Owen’s gonna ask me out.”

Violet screeched. ”Oh my god, what?”

Shushing her, Jessie nodded. “I don’t know why, but I just get this feeling, you know?” 

”Owen, as in our Owen? As in Owen Zimmer? As in Owen your best friend Owen?” 

”As in the Owen I’ve known since I was like two? Yeah, that Owen.” 

Violet leaned into Jessie further. ”Are you sure?” Stifling an urge to shout out her absolute positivity on the matter, Jessie nodded. ”What are you going to say?” 

Somehow, the question caught Jessie off guard. The first time (the real time?) this happened, Jessie laughed in Owen’s face and rejected him. She lost him that day. He pushed her away. Refused to talk to her. He made their friends choose between them. Most chose him. Jessie’s rejection made her the loneliest girl at school. 

It affected her for the rest of her life. Rejecting her best friend at sixteen resulted in major self-esteem issues when her friends abandoned her. It resulted in heartbreak and heartache when every boyfriend she’d had since then couldn’t understand an handle her insecurity. It resulted in therapy and the bills to match, but little else to show for it. 

It resulted in her boyfriend-recently-become-ex panicing and breaking up with her when she tried to have a reasonable conversation about their future together. 

Maybe that’s what this was all about. Maybe she had received the opportunity to change her past and thus change her future! Jessie shrugged. “I think I might actually say yes.”

Violet shrieked again. “Oh my god, are you serious? You two would be like the cutest couple in the school! Everyone has wanted you two to get together since pretty much ever. I’ve even told creeps who were interested in you that you had a boyfriend and pointed Owen out and the creep just responded with an, ‘Oh, I should have known.’ Jess, this has got to be the most exciting news!” Violet pulled Jessie into a violent hug. 

“Vi, he hasn’t technically asked me yet.” 

Violet’s grip loosened but not enough to allow for Jessie’s escape. “I know but I still don’t care.” Holding Jessie out at arm’s length, Violet trapped her with her eyes. “Promise me that if he doesn’t ask you, that you will be the strong independent woman that you are and ask him.” 

“Fine. Alright. I promise. But–” catching sight of a nervous Owen approaching– “I don’t think I’ll have to.”

Owen stopped at their table and cleared his throat to catch the girls’ attention. When Violet noticed, she popped up from her chair with a bubbly excuse and rushed around the corner to leave the two theoretical lovebirds alone. Owen took her vacated seat beside Jessie. 

Jessie’s heart fluttered but she couldn’t tell why. Was she remembering how she felt the first time–scared, apprehensive, worried that something had gone wrong and Owen needed an ear to listen? Or was she feeling all the emotions of a girl in love? Everything seemed to blur together and she couldn’t quite separate the different emotions. 

“Hey, Owen, everything okay?” she asked. The same words she had used the last time. Half subconsciously, she reached out a hand and placed it on his knee. His shaking rattled through her bones but her touch had a calming effect on him. His violent shaking lessened to a mere quiver. 

Owen nodded. “Yeah. I- I’m not sure exactly how to do this. We’ve been friends for so long, I’m not sure if I’m reading things correctly now. Especially with everyone speculating about us constantly. I just…” He paused to take a deep breath, but Jessie couldn’t leave him hanging. 

“Do you want to go out with me sometime?”

Owen stared at her, a look of confusion and relief. “How did–”

“I know?” she asked, a laugh painting her tone. “Like you said, everyone’s already been speculating that we were a thing for a long time. According to Vi it’s been since like middle school. I figure we should at least give us a shot, right? And if we don’t work out, we can both agree to still befriends, right?”

“Right.” Owen shook his head. “Still can’t believe that you asked me first.” 

“Don’t get too ahead of yourself, O,” Jessie laughed. “We have to even set a date.”
A week later, Jessie waltzed into her house after her date with Owen, her heart dancing in time to the beat of her steps. She hadn’t expected things to go so well with Owen, but after the initial awkwardness passed, both lightened up and became the people that they knew each other to be. It felt familiar, despite being the first date. 

The first of many to come. Jessie and Owen continued their little romance. Their junior year passed and their senior year and before they knew it they had graduated. Even through all of college, at separate colleges, all the way across the country from each other, they continued their romantic ventures. True, they had their rough times, but since when did a strong relationship not? The rough patches only made them stronger. 

When they reunited after their college graduation, Jessie could have sworn she had read the exact scene in a novel somewhere. Anticipation and separation can do that to a person. 

By the time Jessie and Owen had reached their twenty-sixth birthdays, Jessie had put her old future behind her. This one pleased her more than any other could have. She still met Kate, but she didn’t lose Owen or Violet. She didn’t have to experience the heartache that she had before. Her life held for her many an adventure and many a joy. She couldn’t ask for anything better, frankly. 

She would always wonder, however, how it had happened that her random combination of frustrated responses in that bathroom stall could change her life like that: spinning the toilet paper twice, slamming the trash bin lid three times, flushing the toilet, and kicking its base. It carried some sort of magic. Who would have guessed that such a mundane response could trigger such a life-changing adventure? 

It turned back time and Jessie would have it no other way. 

***

Prompt: Turn back time in someone’s sorry to relieve a regret that they have. 

(Sorry for the absence! When emotional drama hits, you sometimes have to break from things you love dearly.) 

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