Second Chances

You could say that life had been tough for me but that would be a lie. I had lived the average life that nobody ever writes about or bases a movie on. I’m sure I dealt with the same existential crises that everyone goes through at different stages of their lives and felt the heartache of loss and of not being able to find love. What’s different about my life is that when I got to the end I got the chance to go back and correct whatever mistake that I wanted. I didn’t go back into my old body with all of my memories and the understanding that I needed to do better. I was sent back to a time when I could be self sufficient and given strict instructions to only alter events that would directly affect my own life. I was supposed to be an unseen guardian correcting the mistakes I knew that I was going to make so that I would end up happy in the end. But no matter what changes I made I wouldn’t know about them, only the version of me that I was helping would get to live that joy. I still had the memories of the life I had lived and I didn’t feel like watching all of these good things happen to a version of me. I wanted to experience it all myself. That meant only one thing. I would have to kill the version of me I was sent to help and replace him. There was only one problem. They had sent me back to when I was thirteen thinking I would have been capable of looking after myself and staying out of sight. I had all of my life’s experience but I was still in the fragile frame of the thirteen year old me. I had no concept of how I was supposed to kill me and get rid of the body permanently.

I didn’t have an amazing memory at the best of times, not that anybody truly would be able to remember every detail of their past, but I didn’t have much of a recollection of my early teenage years. They all just seemed to blend together and I could only remember key events or chunks of time. I certainly wasn’t able to remember the clothes I was wearing on a certain day or what I was doing. I knew events occurred in a place but not a day, month or even year.

I knew where I would be put at thirteen but none of the minor details that would help me to find myself and stay hidden from anybody who knew me.

I arrived in a rather awkward scene like the ones in Terminator whenever anyone goes into the past and appears completely in the nude. Thankfully I turned up in a place I recognised all too well: my closet. It was my safe haven from the world. My imagination aquarium, the Imagiquarium as I called it. It really had nothing at all to do with an aquarium other than feeling like my own little fish tank providing safety from the outside world. Luckily the other me wasn’t inside when I arrived.

The light at the top of the closet was on so I could see enough by the light that was filtered through the hanging clothes above my head. I was so small and skinny, yet to have the growth spurt that wouldn’t come until I was sixteen. My skin was also so smooth and unblemished, I hadn’t had any of the accidents that had given me any of the major scars.

I realised exactly when I had been put. There was one major regret from around this time in my life and I had arrived with barely enough time to make a difference. Pushing the coat hangers aside I caught a glimpse of the computer screen and stepped towards it, looking at the two MSN Messenger chat windows splitting the screen in half. They confirmed that it was the day I thought. The last message on one of the chats said: If you get here now and do it she will say yes.

That message had been fifteen minutes ago which meant other me had definitely already left and would probably almost be where the event occurred.

I pushed the door open slowly and peered through the widening gap just to be certain that other me wasn’t in the room. When everything looked clear I stepped out of the closet and then turned around and looked at all of my hanging clothes. I couldn’t remember what other me had been wearing but I picked out the clothes that would help me blend in the best with where I had to go.

As long as other me was actually gone, which he definitely was going by the MSN chat, then I was free to move throughout the house without having to worry about being seen. My parents were guaranteed to be working for several more hours.

I ran out of my room rushing straight through the house towards the garage. If someone had been home I could have just yelled that I had somewhere to be and kept running. Other me had taken the scooter which meant I could close down a big gap as I took my old bicycle and ducked under the opening garage door. I jumped onto the bike and started pedalling furiously before realising that I couldn’t push too hard or I would turn up covered in sweat and that wasn’t going to be any better for me. I slowed into a comfortable speed, amazed at how effortlessly my young body could handle exercise even considering how fit I had become later in life.

It took me just over ten minutes to get to the school and I remembered it taking me just over twenty minutes to get there on the scooter. Every detail from this point on I remembered all too well. It was my most regrettable memory after all.

I dumped the bike directly beside the scooter in the bike racks and strode towards the library. The school uniform I wore allowed me to enter the library unnoticed. I quickly stepped behind a book rack that was both taller and wider them myself and peered through it between the books to the right front corner of the large open room. An enormous rectangular study table filled a space between the glass panelled walls and the bookshelves that ran along the longer edge of the table. Other me was sitting at the closest end of the table and I could only see the back of his head and the top half of his shirt which I was glad to see was his school uniform. Jennifer Blunt was sitting to his left on the side of the table with the bookshelves to her back. I wasn’t close enough to overhear their conversation, not that there was anything being said.

I stepped out from behind the rack and using shelves and the computer stands for cover I moved closer. I ducked in between the shelves two rows back from other me and found a spot that I could see between the books. There were two girls and a boy in the row in front of me all spying through the books on other me and their friend Jennifer.

Other me and Jennifer had been sitting there in complete silence since the moment other me arrived and asked to talk to Jennifer alone causing her friends to walk away only to find the spying place behind the books.

Suddenly Jennifer pushed her seat backwards sliding all the way to the book shelves and turning her head she spoke to one of the hiding girls. I wasn’t visible by Jennifer but as the friends all turned and started to walk away I turned and faced away from them. I knew they were going to return to the computers at the far side of the library where they were before I had arrived and they wouldn’t be able to see me. I turned back to watch other me right as Jennifer stood up and excused herself to go to the bathroom.

Other me didn’t move until after he watched Jennifer walk by through the windows outside. As soon as she was out of sight he forced his face into the palm of his hands and I heard him groan from where I was hiding. All of the sorrow and regret that other me was feeling came rushing back to me in force. One of the friends, the one that Jennifer had told to move away, Jess, had been the one to message me on MSN and tell me to get to the library and ask Jennifer out because she would say yes. Since the moment other me had arrived he had barely said anything beyond hello, too nervous to do something he had never done before. It was sad because whenever he talked to her on MSN he always knew what to say and could hold a conversation, but he knew that asking a girl out other than in person was not the right thing to do. Lucky for other me I was there and I could make sure he did the right thing before Jennifer came back and he blew it again. But that would mean talking to other me and I knew I didn’t have the time to do both that and set him on the right track. So unfortunately I would have to watch him fail again with Jennifer and then step in myself.

Other me got up and walked over to Jennifer’s friends. I knew exactly how the conversation would go and I didn’t need to get close to hear them tell me that I just needed to start saying something to her and ask her out already. Other me, of course, said that he was trying but was just so nervous.

I approached the end of the aisle and turned my back to the door so that when Jennifer returned she would walk by without seeing my face, which she did less than a minute later.

She walked to the back right corner of the library and sat in one of the large reading chairs.

The aisles of bookshelves approached the corner from opposite directions meeting the L-shaped layout of chairs that looked outside through the glass windows. Jennifer chose a chair that backed onto the other set of bookshelves to where I hid.

Peering out of my hiding spot I saw other me start to walk towards Jennifer’s corner with a determined look on his face. Her friends followed closely behind and hid in the closest aisle in the other set of shelves. Once they were all out of sight I stepped out of the aisle and rushed forward, ducking back into the bookshelves in the aisle closest to the corner. Other me had taken the seat beside Jennifer in the otherwise empty chairs and I could barely see the three friends behind them through the books.

For ten minutes they both sat in silence staring down at their hands. They both wanted the same thing but it was other me’s responsibility to ask for it and he would have gotten it. The pain he would suffer as soon as Jennifer stood up would live with him for the rest of his life. Lucky for him that life wouldn’t go on much longer and I would step in to take his place.

Jennifer’s phone started playing a song by a boy band that I couldn’t recognise and she pulled it out of her skirt pocket to silence it. She clearly read the message and then stood up saying, “I have to go, my mum is here.”

Other me said, “okay bye,” without moving and then as Jennifer walked off his head dropped along with his heart.

Jennifer’s friends stepped out of the aisle as she passed and said goodbye and apologised for other me being too scared before they all returned to the computers in the far corner. I knew that none of them would see other me before he left in about ten minutes so I was free to leave my hiding spot.

I caught Jennifer outside and out of sight of the library.

“Wait Jen,” I called and luckily she stopped where we were also out of sight of the car park where her mum was likely waiting.

She turned around and tried to hide the disappointment in other me that had plastered her face since she left him inside.

“I’m sorry about that inside,” I said and rubbed a hand through my short hair. I felt so nervous finally getting to do what I had dreamt about for my entire life. “I’m just so nervous around you. What I wanted to ask you, what I should have done inside was…” I was getting so muddled, damn other me had put me in such an awkward position by sitting in silence for so long. “…Jen would you go out with me?”

She seemed stunned initially that after so long inside I had actually managed to gather the courage to ask her. Then her face turned and she presented a beaming smile. The smile that I remembered.

“Yes,” she said. “But I need to go now. So we can talk more later. Text me okay?”

“Of course,” I said and tried to return the same level of smile before she turned and rushed away.

Jess had told me that she was going to say yes but even when I had reimagined the moment over and over in my head and actually asked her out I never imagined her giving me an answer because I wasn’t sure what she was actually going to say. Hearing her say the word was an incredible feeling. Of course I had asked and been out with other women throughout my own life, but this being the first time I had massively screwed up a chance at love I felt incredible to have righted the wrong. It solidified in my mind that other me had to go. I couldn’t allow him to ruin what I had set in motion because even if I talked to him and explained everything he would still be the shy young man who was too afraid to talk for a long time to come. I needed the experience I had gained throughout my life in order to pull this off and make sure all of the other key mistakes I had made wouldn’t ever occur. Finally asking out Jennifer had certainly put me onto the right track.

I broke out of my revelling and jogged towards the bike rack trying to come up with a plan to get rid of other me without getting caught. I grabbed the bike handles and was about to set off to lay a trap somewhere along the route home when I had my first idea. I released the bike and then looking around to make sure that I wasn’t seen I deflated the scooter tyres. It would mean that other me would have to walk the scooter home which would allow him to cut through the park without fear of getting a thorn. I could ambush him there but then I would still need to find a way to transport the body. I doubted I had the strength to overpower him let alone the ability to carry his body anywhere that it wouldn’t be found.

I got on my bike and started riding home along the path that he would take, looking for options. The majority of the route was through the suburbs. it would have been easier if we had lived at the other end of town beyond the chemical plant. It left me with only one option, well two if I relented and let him live but I didn’t feel like watching him enjoy the fixed life I was creating. That left killing him at home and hiding the body. Perhaps underneath the pergola in the backyard.

I had to kill him tonight before he sent the apology message to Jennifer. I could simply steal the phone from him but then I would still have to kill him before tomorrow when he would avoid Jennifer and confuse things more. So I had approximately an hour once he got home before my parents came home or an hour tomorrow morning after they left for work before other me would leave for school. If I did it tonight I would have time to try and reacquaint myself with everything going on in my life and also wouldn’t have to try and hide somewhere over night.

I arrived home with a plan forming in my mind and returned the bike to where I had found it in the garage. I stepped over to Dad’s toolbox to grab a tarp but instead saw the pool gleaming in the distance and a much better idea came to me. Opening the gate I crossed the patio and then went through the pool gate and stood at the edge of the underground pool. It presented a far cleaner murder than what I had been contemplating only moments before.

I didn’t know how quickly other me would return having flat tyres but I remembered that I had been royally pissed when I hadn’t been able to build up the courage to ask Jennifer out. So adding the fact that he would have to push the scooter home probably meant that he would run it home so that he could scream and shout in his room. I returned to the garage and found a mallet in Dad’s toolbox and then hid in a dark corner of the garage, lying in wait.

As expected other me came jogging the scooter up the driveway with the whumping of the flat tyres in almost less time than it would have taken him to ride it home. He threw the scooter into the bike and they both fell with a heavy crash, not that he cared as he walked briskly towards the kitchen door. He hadn’t even stopped to consider that the garage door had been open and I let out a sigh of relief that he had missed that detail by being so distracted.

I stepped out of hiding and closed the gap to him. He half turned when he heard my footsteps but didn’t get time to see my face, his own face, as I brought the mallet around with what I hoped was enough power to knock him out but not split his skull. It hit him square in the temple with a dull thud and he immediately collapsed to the ground in a heap. I threw the mallet towards the toolbox and then knelt beside him. I hadn’t seen my own reflection since coming back so I was amazed at just how young he looked. I know that he was thirteen but he was far more fresh faced and undeveloped compared to what I was expecting. It was a surprise that Jennifer had been interested in such a scrawny boy who had never said more than a few words to her in person. Young relationships seemed so much simpler than adult ones looking back at it from this perspective.

The blow to the head had been enough to knock him out but hadn’t damaged his face more than to leave a bruise, not that it would matter in a few moments. His chest was still clearly moving up and down as his rapid heart beat had yet to settle from his run home.

I unstrapped the backpack from his back and took the wallet, keys and phone from his pockets and placed them beside the door. Knowing that I couldn’t carry him I grabbed both of his feet and walked backwards dragging him towards the pool through the two gates that I had left open. At the edge of the pool I dropped his legs and rolled him onto his stomach, positioning his head near the edge of the pool and his body at a ninety degree angle.

I hesitated at that moment. Everything I had done up to that point could be reversed and I could back away from actually going through with killing him. But then I had to remind myself that it wasn’t actually murder if I was only killing myself. And it couldn’t count as suicide if I was still actually alive. I didn’t have the understanding to know what it was other than a necessity. He had to die so that I could live. It was the only way.

I stood over his body with a foot on either side of his chest facing towards the pool. I hoped that by killing him now the timeline wouldn’t change and I would cease to exist. I knew that I couldn’t be back there to kill myself if by killing him I ceased to exist so grabbing his arms I forced him forwards so that his head submerged beneath the water’s surface. I knelt on his back and with one hand held his head under the water just in case he woke up before he died.

His body twitched and shook after a few moments but not as much as it would have if he had woken up and then after nearly a minute he went still. I lifted his head out of the water and then let it drop with a plunk before feeling his neck for a pulse and finding none. I took my knee out of his back and grabbed his feet again, this time dragging him along the length of the pool towards the pergola. I took him around the back and released his legs as I dropped to my knees in the decorative rocks and started to push them away from the bottom edge of the pergola with my hands. They were only a few inches deep so once I had cleared an almost two metre long and one foot wide strip I had to dig out almost a foot of sand. Lucky the soil was still soft from the fresh construction of the pergola and it took less than ten minutes to make an opening. I rolled other me’s body over the freshly moved soil and rocks and he dropped into the hole I had created. Luckily the ground beneath the pergola was still lower than I had dug so as I pushed his body beneath the wooden slats it dropped away beneath. I would return to bury the body properly when I had a day that I knew I would be home alone but until then I pushed all of the displaced dirt and rocks back into the hole I created. Once I levelled it all out it was obvious that somebody had been digging because the dirt was on top of the rocks but I doubted anybody would go behind the pergola.

I walked back towards the pool flattening the groove in the rocks that had been made when I dragged the body across them. I closed the two gates as I returned to the garage and then I grabbed the phone from atop his – no everything was mine now not his – backpack. As I pressed the power button the phone flashed up with a lock screen and it took me a moment of worry to realise that it was a simple process of hitting the unlock button and then the asterisk key and the phone unlocked. I navigated with the arrow keys to the messaging icon, it was still a few years before touch screen phones would be invented or programs became known as apps. I composed a new message choosing Jennifer from the contacts list and then moved down to write the message.

I wrote: Hey 🙂 Lucky I caught up to you, I couldn’t live with myself if I hadn’t asked you out.

Almost instantly the phone buzzed in my hand and I read the message from Jennifer. It said: I’m glad you asked 🙂 What are you doing now? Talk to me on MSN.

I distinctly remembered that she hadn’t come online the last time and I now knew that I had been right in thinking that it was because she had been avoiding me.

I picked up my bag, wallet and keys and made my way into the house while I replied: I just have to catch up on some things, I’ll be on soon.

I dumped my belongings in my room and then stepped into the shower to wash off the dirt. Watching it wash away and swirl down the drain was like cleansing myself of all of the pain I had gone through in my life and the regret from not asking Jennifer out. From that point on my life would be completely different. Almost every decision I had ever made would be different. I was certain that things wouldn’t get to the point they had and leave me to feel like the only option had been to take my own life at twenty two. No, this time things would be different. They would be better.

I stepped out of the shower and looked at myself in the mirror. I was genuinely smiling and that was something I couldn’t ever remember doing before.

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