Katherine looks at the underside of her wrist where a slightly raised capsule contains four sets of digital numbers; days, hours, minutes, seconds. The first section already says zero, so does the second. She’s the first of her friends to get so close, so close to seeing her soul mate.
She remembers being told about it by her mother when she had first noticed her clock at three years old. As she became a teenager, her questions became more personal; she remembers asking how her mother and her father met. “I was twenty three at the time.” Her mother says. “I was just walking up from the beach when I looked up from my watch long enough for him to catch my eye.” Katherine was only fifteen and as far as she could tell, the first in her school.
Her eyes darted back to her wrist; the hours margin was at zero also, the minutes were fading fast. Katherine stabbed her salad halfheartedly but never raised the fork to her mouth, her toes curled inside her chuck taylors. What if the clock was wrong? What if the person she would meet in –she looked down- twenty minutes, was not the one? She had never heard of such a thing. She began to feel extremely flustered and hot. She removed her sweatshirt awkwardly and drummed her spindly fingers on the table to her favourite song.
Why did this have to be happening in the middle of a normal school day? Why had her mother made her go to school today? If she hadn’t would that be altering the clock’s fate? The air in the cafeteria was electric; the room buzzed with conversation about the girl who would be united today with her soul mate. Nobody was eating; they were all too busy staring into her back surreptitiously. She squirmed in the seat. Ten minutes.
Katherine continued to push the salad around on the plate and pulled her hair into a bun to stop her from sweating so much on her neck. ‘Why should I be nervous?’ She thought.
“What do you think he’ll look like?” Her friend Amanda snapped her out of the stupor. It took a few moments for her to come up with an answer.
“I don’t know…” she said “Does it matter?”
“Yeah he probably hasn’t even finished puberty yet” Cassidy said.
The table laughed, Katherine smiled, but was too busy to acknowledge her friend’s attempt to lighten the mood. She had just seen Ms. McAllister walk through the cafeteria on her monitoring duty. Staff and students alike whispered about Ms. McAllister. She was the only one that anyone knew of for miles around for having no significant other. Usually, her hair was drawn up in a tight bun and her lips were made up and wound tightly. She was 35, an age simply unheard of to be alone.
She always wore the same style of dress, collared and long sleeved; nobody had ever seen her clock. Today she wore her blond hair down in long, beautiful curls which nobody had ever seen before. She wore a jeans and a light chiffon collared shirt with sleeves that revealed her pale arms.
Katherine’s mind migrated from the subject of her own soul mate to the possibility of one for her. She looked so different than the kids had ever seen her before; she looked free spirited, she looked clean, she looked… her eyes held a laughter Katherine had never seen in them before. She realized that for the first time, Ms. McAllister looked happy.
Ms. McAllister marched over to the principal who was lurking in the corner, waiting for a child to speak a little too loudly. She said a few words, exited, and returned with a box of her supplies. Evidently, Ms. McAllister was leaving. Everyone at Katherine’s table had noticed her pursuits and was mesmerized by her behavior; it would only be so long before others noticed as well.
But before anyone but the immediate people around Katherine saw Ms. McAllister, she turned on her heel and she was gone. Katherine pondered her leave and her change. ‘Why do people change?’ she thought. ‘Because they are seeking something.’ She answered her own question ‘… so she left to seek something…or did she leave to run away from her past?’ She looked down into her lap as she thought about this. Katherine suddenly realized that everyone was silent, but their eyes were now on her. She looked up into their eyes and then glanced quickly down at her clock. Five minutes. The numbers startled her, as if she wasn’t expecting them to decrease when she wasn’t watching. Five minutes. But the seconds column had stopped. In fact the entire clock was frozen.
She felt an uncomfortable lump rising in her throat and her eyes opening wider. Katherine shook her arm and tapped the metallic clock. Nothing. The clock had stopped. She could scarcely breathe, she felt nauseous, and her stomach tuned in her body and tickled her insides. Katherine raised one hand to her mouth, appalled, and rested the other on the table. Her friends leaned in; eager to look at how much time she had left, but their expressions turned, as hers had.
“What does it mean?” She said; silence. “Help me” She wailed and burst into gagging, hacking tears. She didn’t want to believe it, but she knew something was wrong. Everything was wrong.
Everyone in the cafeteria was now silent, all eyes staring at Katherine’s blotchy face. Then there was a terrible crash outside, and for a moment the schools attention was directed to the windows on the far side of the room. People began to run outside and when the windows cleared Katherine could see an accident had taken place on the school street. A bicycle and a body lay underneath a grey car.
Katherine did not know how she came to be outside, her head was in the clouds like a ghost caught in the past, caught on the crumbling idea that everything would be right again, that everything would be okay. She was pulled by the air towards the bike. People had made a circle around the body already but now she parted the crowd easily and knelt down.
It was a brown haired boy, her age or a little older with pronounced eyebrows and long eyelashes, barely alive, scarcely breathing; his legs and half his abdomen crushed.
“Katherine” He said in his last moment here on earth. He died smiling and Katherine burst into tears.
The car door opened and one moccasin-encased foot stepped out of it; a foot belonging to Ms. McAllister.