I'm not leaving the house today.
If I stay in, I can keep my marriage intact. But if I go out, I could end up meeting my soul mate.
So I called in sick to work. I canceled my lunch date with my mom, I don't even know why I scheduled it for today, I guess I wasn't paying attention...typical. I'm skipping my evening yoga class (which, frankly, I'm not even that sad about, I keep looking for excuses not to go anyway).
Instead, I'm staying home, prepping some snacks for my son's soccer friends. Greg's picking them up and bringing a few of them back so they can do the whole sleepover thing.
I glance down at my wrist as I scoop some cream cheese onto a slice of celery, the zeros on my Timer blinking back at me, taunting me.
Nope, I'm not going anywhere today. I'm hiding out.
"I'm not going to keep it," I whispered, hoping that was what he wanted to hear. But even as I said it, my heart broke.
"Shut up, of course you're going to keep it." Greg took my face in his hands so that I couldn't look away from him. "You're going to keep it because you want to keep it, and fuck everyone else."
Tears slipped out, despite my efforts to hold them back.
"My mom...will be so mad..."
"And what about...?" I held up my wrist. My Timer continued its second by second march down from 5755 days, 11 hours, 36 minutes, 5 seconds.
Greg took my hand and rubbed his thumb over the Timer. "It doesn't matter."
"But it's not you," I said. "I've already met you. You're not my One."
"We've known that the whole time," he said. "Why does it matter now?"
I couldn't answer him.
"Look, Deb, I love you. I just watched you piss on a stick, for christ's sake. I wouldn't do that for just any girl."
I laughed, wiping a tear away with my left hand, since Greg hadn't loosened his grip on my right.
"We graduate in two months, then what everyone thinks, what your Timer says...it won't matter. We can be together. We can have this baby. It'll be okay."
I sniffed. "And what happens when I zero out?"
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Without dropping my hand, he scooted off the edge of the couch onto the floor, lowering himself to one knee.
My heart raced.
"Deb, I know how stupid this is. I sure as hell don't have a ring for you. But if I'm gonna knock you up, I better have the balls to ask you this question."
Of course I knew what he was about to ask. And I knew what I wanted to say. Should some stranger I wouldn't meet for another fifteen years really affect my answer?
I don't know why I bother making the kids these "healthy" snacks. I know they're just going to eat one out of courtesy, then rip into the Doritos. I guess I just hope that one of these days, Brad will get the hint, and realize that his mom is trying to save him from childhood onset diabetes, or heart disease, or restless leg syndrome, or any of the other latest horrible afflictions they've discovered kids can acquire by eating.
The phone rings as I set the last raisin on a cream cheese-laden celery stick.
"You're not skipping yoga tonight." It's Stacey.
"I am, actually. I'm not leaving the house today, I already told you that."
"Bull shit. I just know it's going to happen at yoga, and I want to be there when it does. He's gonna be some new student trying it out for the first time, and you're going to sit next to him and gently help him through the class."
Stacey met her husband five years ago, their Timers chiming together in perfect harmony when a mutual friend introduced them at a dinner party. She's been disgustingly happy ever since, so naturally, she believes in what the Timer says more than my connection to the family I've already built.
"I'm not going, Stace, I can't do that to Greg."
Stacey sighs. "Deb, no one marries their high school sweetheart and is still happy fifteen years later."
"I don't know, I am." I shrug, even though I know she can't see me through the phone. "I figured by now that he'd be, like, cheating on me or something, or maybe hit by a bus, or...whatever. But he's not. And I still love him."
"That's very cute," Stacey says. "But he's not your One."
"What if he is?"
"But he isn't. You zeroed out last night. You're going to meet your One today, you can't just stay inside and pretend he's not out there."
Suddenly, there's a loud knock at the door. I jump, nearly dropping the phone. "Shit," I say.
"Someone's at the door. The knock scared the crap out of me." I peer over the kitchen counter, trying to see if I can make out who it is through the curtains of the living room window.
"Who is it? Answer it!" Stace demands.
Through the wispy cloth, I make out a man wearing a brown cap.
"No, it's a delivery guy."
"Oh my god. You HAVE to answer the door, that's definitely your One! And he's got a package for you and everything." I can hear her ridiculous grin through the phone.
"Well, he's just going to have to leave his package on the doorstep. I'm not opening that door."
He knocks again. I remain in the kitchen while Stacey shrieks in my ear. Eventually, he heads back to his van and drives away.
"He's gone," I say.
"I hate you," Stacey grumbles.
"Look, I should let you go, the guys are going to be home soon and I still have to do the dishes."
Stacey sighs. "Fine, but I'm coming to pick you up at six whether you like it or not."
I don't feel like starting up another argument, so I just say, "Bye, Stace," and hang up.
I look at the stack of dishes in the sink that I used as my excuse to get off the phone, and I can't do it. The scare with the delivery man has my heart pounding, and I just want Greg to come back home so we can settle into our evening and not worry about any more surprises.
I'm not sure what happens if you don't meet your One on the day the Timer says you will. Do you meet him tomorrow, or is the Timer invalidated? I don't know of anyone who's ever tried to avoid it before. Usually people are excited. After all, why would you get a Timer if you don't want to know who you're going to end up with? That's why I got mine as soon as I was old enough. And now look at me...
Greg doesn't have a Timer. He thinks they're unnatural, and he always says he's already found his One.
God, this whole thing is stupid, I just want to be with Greg!
"I don't even care about you!" I yell at the zeros on my wrist. "You don't matter to me!"
Just then, I hear the rumbling of the garage door opening. Greg's home, with Brad and his friends. I breathe a sigh of relief. If I had to be alone with my thoughts for much longer, I probably would have smashed something.
The door opens and Greg walks in, shaking off his jacket and hanging up his keys. "Hey, hon," he says, giving me a kiss as the boys filter in behind him and make their way to the snacks, groaning predictably at the lack of junk food. Greg glances down at my wrist, then raises an eyebrow. I shake my head and smile weakly. He squeezes my hand.
"Mom," Brad says behind me, "can we get some chips? I told the guys we had some."
"Sure, honey," I say, turning around to the cadre of teenagers that have invaded my kitchen. "They're in the closet-"
BEEP BEEP. BEEP BEEP. BEEP BEEP. My Timer is going off.
I'm making eye contact with some kid on Brad's soccer team I haven't met yet. His Timer is beeping, too.
"You've gotta be fucking kidding me," I say.
I can hear the other boys snickering. One of them whispers, "Dude, you're gonna bone Brad's mom." I hear another one say, "Kate's gonna be pissed." I glance at Brad, and he's turning a deep red.
Greg drops my hand. He turns and leaves the room without saying a word.
I don't know what to do next. These kids are staring at me, giggling to themselves. All except Brad and the poor kid who I'm apparently supposed to end up with. "Shit," I say, forgetting momentarily that I'm a mom. "Uh, guys, have whatever you want from the pantry."
I follow Greg. He's in our bedroom, laying face down in his pillow.
I sit down next to him and rub his back a little. He doesn't look up at me. After a while, the silence becomes unbearable, so I say, "I guess not leaving the house didn't work as well as I'd hoped."
It's meant to be a joke, to lighten the mood, but it comes out like an ominous death sentence.
Greg rolls over and looks at me, his eyes red and damp. "That's not funny."
He sighs, and a sob comes out. "I don't..."
"Shhh, we don't have to talk about this right now," I say, brushing a stray hair off his forehead.
He grabs my wrist and pulls my hand away, sitting up, shaking his head. "I don't think I can do it."
My heart sinks. "Do what?"
Greg looks me in the eye. "I don't think I can stay here."
All at once, I feel like I might throw up. "But..." I choke on the word, swallow, and try again. "But you were the one who said, I mean, you said, we'd cross that bridge..."
"I know what I said." He takes a breath.
"I don't even know this kid," I say. "I'm a decade and a half older than him, for fuck's sake."
"Jesus, I know you're not going to ride off into the sunset with him tonight. But you will."
I shake my head, tears pouring out of my eyes, hot, angry, what the fuck is happening to the life I built?
Greg takes my head in his hands. "You will. One day. Look at my brother, it took him and Maggie six years to realize the Timer had them pegged for each other, and good luck separating them now."
I nod, because I don't know what else to say. I know he's right. I know the Timer's right. But I still hate it.
"I don't think I can go to Brad's soccer games, and watch him playing alongside some kid who's going to grow old with my wife."
There's a tap at our door. Brad opens it slowly.
"Uh, hey, Jared called his mom to come pick him up. So, you know, he's not gonna stick around. If, um...I mean, yeah. That's all."
I don't need to ask who Jared is. Brad shuts the door.
Greg snorts. "Jared's mom."
"What if we move?" I blurt out, desperate to fix this. "We can put Brad in a new school, you'll never have to see Jared, we'll..."
Greg holds up his hand. "Deb. You know I can't leave my job."
"Even for us?"
"There is no us."
I grab onto him, pulling him tightly to me. "Don't be an idiot, I love you. I love you so much."
He sobs into my chest. "Fuck, Deb, I love you too. You know I do. If we could have just fallen apart naturally, that would have been one thing...but this knowing...it's worse. I can't." He pulls away, and I've never seen his face so wet with tears, his eyes so red and worn. "I just can't. I'm...so, so sorry."
He stands up. "I'm gonna see if Matt and Maggie have a spare room for the night." He leans down and kisses me hard. "I love you."
"I love you, too."
Then he leaves.
Thanks to roina_arwen for her initial feedback!
This story is based off of the universe established in the movie Timer. If you have Netflix, I highly recommend checking it out. In the movie, they briefly mentioned the chance of not liking the person the Timer matches you with, and this story began to form.
One idea that intrigued me, but didn't really get explored in the movie, was the fact that you could theoretically meet someone waaaaaaaaaaay before you were ready, emotionally or even physically, to be with them, and that's what I wanted to play with. The Timer goes off the first time you meet the person, not when you're supposed to get together, so there's a lot of crap it could stir up, and a lot of ways it could go horribly, horribly wrong.