Dried crack soil burning her feet. The girl did not know how she got there, but she was there. Somewhere on planet earth. Her eyes caught the shadow of a tree nearby. She was breathing fast but breathing, so it was definitely Earth. But where on earth? And What year?
The girl got up looking at her bare feet wondering why she forgets to wear shoes each time this happens. Ok, let’s name the girl. It is important to understand the backstory. So here are the names and the two characters.
Mehr and Amaya were sisters that had a passion for time travel. They had studied hard and researched till the family home that now belonged to them looked like a combination of a science lab and a vibrant library. Their passion was to find what almost every scientist wants to know. The truth about time travel. Can we truly go back in time and change the outcome? Is any of that possible or just a simple imagination?
Mehr is the taller one but Amaya is the older one. You will always find Mehr in beige joggers and a white tank. She owns 5 pairs of those which are repeated every 5 days when they do the laundry. Her bob haircut and round black glasses make her look irresistibly pretty but she is unaware of the effect it has on other humans. Amaya is always in grey joggers and black a size too big tee. She too has 5 of those like her sister. Their very ritualistic upbringing has made them quite clean and healthy eating scientists who only care about time travel.
“My eyes burn, Amaya. What are you trying to do in the kitchen?” Irritated Mehr screams to get her sister’s attention.
“Duh! Cooking obviously.”
“Leave it alone. You know you cannot cook. Moreover, we cannot afford another call for help. Seriously, all firefighters hate us, and we cannot afford to move. We have no money.” The younger one tries reasoning with the older one.
“Relax, it is only milk and cereal.”
Confused and scared Mehr asks again, “then what is that burning smell?”
“Oh, I was trying to burn cereal to see if it contains plastic. I saw a video on YouTube last night.”
“When did you find the time for that? Did you finish the algorithm or not? I am waiting for that. You know that right?” Mehr pulled her feet up before they touched the floor, taking off the comfortable flip flops.
“I know. Relax. I worked on it last night.”
Amaya placed her bowl of cereal on a pile of books so she could empty the chair of papers. As she sat down Mehr gave her the look.
“Now what?” Amaya was clearly confused.
“Where are your shoes? Why do you always walk around bare feet? I find it so disgusting and unhygienic.”
“Seriously, look where we live? How we live? My feet are fine enjoying the touch of the floor. Leave me alone. This is my YouTube time. My cereal is ready. So quiet now!”
Mehr rolled her eyes only the way Mehr could and turned her back to her sister.
“It does not add up. Something is off. Did you do something to the time? Wait, what did you do?”
Eating her soggy cereal sitting in a lotus position on her favorite chair, Amaya looked up at her sister expressionless. “What do you want? I am eating. My break.”
Amaya always spoke in short sentences. It was her way of saving precious time. But only when she was in a good mood.
“Are you kidding me? How long does it take to finish a bowl of soggy cereal? Get here and help me.” Angry Mehr reminded Amaya of their dad.
“Argghhhh! Fine, I am coming.”
Amaya unfolded her very flexible legs out of the comfort of her chair to assist Mehr. Her brain full of equations and numbers and one recurring memory. Their mom sitting on the same chair sipping tea and crying. Why would she cry like that? What bothered her so much? She cried like her insides had been scooped out of her. And her emptiness was slowly swallowing her up. Why was she so sad? Why she never spoke to them? Never discussed anything with them.
Amaya had come downstairs for a midnight snack that horrible night. But when she saw her mom with tears pouring out of her big dark eyes, she paused to sit down on the stairs. She did not want to bother her at this moment. Her reflexes stopping her on the 5th step of the staircase. As she moved her eyes to the big clock, she noticed the time, 14:16. A big digital clock, one of the few strange things in their home, now only a house. She stood there forever waiting for her mom to calm down, but she never did. So Amaya quietly backed herself to her room feeling hungry and worried. Wondering why their mom was crying so much and also how beautiful she looked while crying. She would never look as pretty as her, crying. Another reason, she preferred to mourn in the comfort of loneliness.
In the morning she was gone. Without a trace or even a note. The police searched for weeks and months only to conclude in the end that she went away on her own and there was nothing they could do. The last time Amaya saw her mom, she sat in this chair in a lotus pose (one of her favorite). The pose Amaya taught herself, to be more like her mom. Her thoughts were broken by the gurgling sounds of Mehr’s hoarse throat.
“Here eat one of these and step aside.” Amaya handed Mehr a cough drop. Smoking and no sleep would do that to you.
“The numbers are correct. 1416. That is the time we decided.” She spoke calmly.
“No, that is the time you wanted and I said 1614.” Mehr looked angry and hurt. Same big brown eyes as their mom. Painful frustration turned Mehr into a raging red-colored human, literally.
“Mehr, we want to go to a moment when we could have stopped it from happening. Not exactly when it happened. Come on we discussed this.”
“I just want to stop it. I saw her Amaya and I did nothing. I did not know what to do. Or maybe I did. It seemed like no big deal in that moment. Mom walking out of the door in the middle of the night, barefeet. I could have stopped her, or screamed for Dad to help. It was 16:14 am. I remember it very well. I could have stopped her from leaving.” Her red cheeks were shining with tears. She too looked beautiful just like mom while crying. Amaya pulled her close to give her sister the hug she needed.
“Why did you change the time?” Mehr’s voice was like a little sister fighting over which Tv to watch with the older one.
“Because I saw her too at 14:16 am and did nothing, Mehr. I too chose to leave her alone. And went back to my room.” Her eyes followed the staircase up to the 5th step, and she saw herself walking back thoughtless to leave her mother to be by herself. The night it all stopped forever.
No more dancing while cooking. No more homemade ice creams. No more stories to cherish. No more of her laughs. No more of anyone singing while sweeping the floors. No more shouting over the fridge door left open. No more hurried words to catch the school bus. No more of her sitting on that chair drinking coffee watching them fight over the shade of blue crayon. She was gone.
“Mehr, it is 1416. The time we agreed on.”
Mehr nodded in agreement turning back to the calming shade of pink just like their mom.
“Fine, let’s start then.”