I enjoyed writing the last short story so much (exciting news about it coming up soon; I don’t know whether I’m at liberty to tell you at the moment!) that I decided to write another. I hope you enjoy it!
On Saturday, April 24th, up-and-coming ballet dancer Meena Mariat was killed by a drunk driver while crossing an intersection on her way to a recital. At only twenty-two years old, the ballerina was engaged to Justin Hartman, a fellow college student at Princeton University…
Justin felt numb as he stood in the back pew, surrounded by people he didn’t know. The only person here that he cared about was lying in the cold black coffin at the front of the church. He stood tall, not noticing the pats and sympathetic looks well-wishers gave him as they shuffled past, draped in black.
Justin turned and walked out the doors with slow steps. He could hear people milling about inside, their voices just a low buzz in his ears. He reached down into the pocket of his suit and felt the cold smoothness of the engagement ring Meena had worn for only two weeks.
They had so many plans… plans that died with Meena. He looked up as he stepped outside into the sunshine. Chilly autumn wind swirled around him, mingling with the sun’s warmth. It was a beautiful day, a day that should have been perfect.
He looked down at his feet as he walked to his car, sounds fading behind him. Pavement moved slowly beneath his shoes. Tears spilled from his eyes, and he only wanted to climb into his car so he could sit and let them come.
He turned the corner to the parking lot and found himself on the pavement, wondering what had happened. He scrambled back to his feet and looked up at the person he had run into.
He froze. It seemed even his heart stopped beating as he looked into the dark brown eyes of Meena Mariat.
His body seemed to act of its own free will. Justin wrapped his arms around her, breathing in the familiar scent of cherry blossom shampoo in her hair. She was here, somehow – it was ridiculous, impossible, but she was alive.
He was shoved backward, the heels of her palms digging into his chest. He stumbled and stared, wide-eyed, at his fiancée. “Meena?”
Her eyebrows were knit, her hand inside her purse. “Go away,” she said in a hard voice, moving around him with brisk strides. Justin turned to watch her walk away, unable to believe what was happening.
His voice re-discovered itself. “Meena?” He broke into a run, chasing after her. “Meena!”
She glanced over her shoulder and a look of alarm spread across her face. Her steps quickened and she sprinted for the sidewalk.
“Meena!” Justin slowed as Meena disappeared into the crowded street. Time seemed to slow down, and people walking past him melted into blurs. He thought he could hear his heart beat.
Life came back into focus and he ran for the nearest newspaper stand. He fished four quarters from his wallet and snatched the first newspaper his hand came in contact with. His fingers shook so much he could barely unfold it; he scanned the top of the paper until his eyes collided with the date.
April 24th, the same year.
No. No. This was impossible. It could not be happening. Justin looked up. Time had gone backwards. Somehow, he was standing here, on this street, in the same world, on the day his fiancée would die.
It had not been a ghost he had seen outside the church, it had been Meena.
And for some reason he could not explain, she had not recognized him.
He dropped the newspaper, which was quickly trampled on by a sudden rush of people eager to cross the street.
Cross the street. Justin’s head snapped up. Meena was going to die today. Whether she knew him or not, he had to stop her.
He looked down at his watch and saw that the hands had moved back – instead of eight o’clock, it was five in the afternoon.
He had one hour until Meena was killed.
But she had disappeared. He leaned against the wall and took a deep breath. He had to straighten his mind out, had to think of a plan…
It was five o’clock… Meena would probably be at the corner café, ordering a latte. That is, if it was the same Meena. He looked up at the street sign – the café was five blocks away. He decided against taking a cab and instead broke into a jog down the sidewalk, praying that Meena would be there. I have to warn her.
Ten minutes later he stood outside the café, panting. He looked inside the glass front, but could not see Meena. He opened the door, greeted by a rush of warmer air. It was a small building, she should be easy to spot –
She wasn’t there.
Justin’s heart sank.
He scanned the café one more time, hoping against hope that she would appear. Head bowed, he turned to leave, but as his fingers wrapped around the door handle, he saw another person approach it from the outside. Their eyes met.
Meena’s eyes widened and she turned when she recognized him. Justin yanked the door open and raced to catch up with her. She was fast, but he was faster. He grabbed her arm in a desperate grip.
She struggled to pull away from him. “Go away before I scream!” she gasped.
Justin pleaded. “Meena, you have to listen to me! I’m not going to hurt you, I’m trying to warn you-”
“Let go of me!”
Justin released her, instantly crying “Please don’t run! I’m trying to help you!”
She took a step back, watching him with wary eyes. “Look,” she said in a voice that tried to be firm but trembled. “I don’t know who you are, but just leave me alone!”
“I’m trying to save your life!”
Her face froze. She was obviously trying to decide whether he was crazy or telling the truth. Justin strode forward and grabbed her shoulders, shaking her.
“You’re going to die later today, okay? I know, I’m from-”
“The future?” she interrupted. When she spoke again, her tone was dangerously low. “Let go of me.”
Once again, Justin released her. What could he do? Kidnap her? There was no way he could drag her through the streets without somebody noticing. Convincing her wasn’t working; she was not going to believe him. Why should she? He knew what was going to happen, but Meena did not.
“Please,” he said softly, looking at her with intense pleading. “You have to believe me.”
“Hey, Meena, you okay?”
Justin’s eyes moved to a young man who had walked up next to Meena. He wore an apron that said he worked at the café.
“No,” said Meena, looking at the newcomer. “Can you walk me to my car?” She looked back at Justin with hard eyes. Don’t even think about following me.
Justin swallowed hard.
“Sure.” The barista looked at Justin with a raised eyebrow before turning, his arm protectively around Meena’s waist. “Buzz off,” he called over his shoulder.
Justin slid down the wall, his vision blurring with tears. This had to be a dream. It had to be! He slammed his fist into the brick wall, pain exploding in his fist. He punched it again and again until his knuckles dripped blood, and let out a scream as raw as an open wound.
Several people stepped into the café, moving carefully around him. They thought he was crazy, why shouldn’t they? Was he? Was he imaging this whole thing? Justin leaned his head against the wall and stared at the gray sky. The weather had changed.
He looked down at his watch. Five thirty. He staggered to his feet. If he could not convince Meena, he would have to save her himself.
He hurried to the street corner, stumbling a little over cracks in the sidewalk. He raised a hand, hoping a taxi would see him. They rushed past, not stopping. The intersection where Meena would die was over a mile away.
“Taxi!” he shouted, desperation filling his voice.
It was as if this strange, time-warped world had chosen to ignore him. He was out of time. He turned and began to run, pushing his body as hard as he could, as fast as he could go. His lungs ached, sucking in gasps of cold air. His legs burned, but adrenaline kept him going. The jacket of his suit caught on something, but he didn’t stop to look at what it was. He tore it off and sprinted faster. Please, let me be in time. Please, please, let me be in time…
He saw the familiar street sign far ahead amid traffic lights. The intersection! There was Meena, but she was still so far away…
His lungs threatened to rip apart, his body wanted to collapse. He forced himself into a final burst of energy. He was still fifty yards away when Meena began to cross the street. He knew what would happen. The ear buds in her ears would make her unable to hear the car approaching. It would slam into her, breaking her body. She would die.
A car appeared out of nowhere, screeching around the corner with no headlights on. Ten yards.
Justin reached out, his hands colliding with Meena’s back.
Please let me be in time…
On Saturday, April 24th, twenty-three-year-old Princeton student Justin Hartman was killed by a drunk driver while crossing an intersection. Onlookers say he arrived just in time to push up-and-coming ballet dancer Meena Mariat out of the way. The only items on his body were a wallet and an engagement ring found in his right pocket…