My dad brought me in close for a tight hug and held me there for a long time. He was very relieved, thankful, proud. All our concerns literally vanished overnight. With my sweepstakes win I had just paid off what remained on my parents’ mortgage and was now I was at liberty to choose whatever college I would be attending in less than two years.
“Would you like to go to the mall? We could stop for a slushie on the way home.”
“No, I’m fine,” I said for the twentieth time. Never in my life had I seen him so eager to buy me things. Antithetically, never in my life had I ever wanted to shop less. All I wanted was an answer to how all this happened. How did I become so fortunate? I no longer had to worry college tuition or fees; I could afford to go anywhere. Had something like this happened to me a week ago, I would’ve been harassing my parents to take me on college tours, researching school’s night and day until I found the perfect one for me. Had I even entered this contest? I enter so many that I can’t remember the prizes, just hoping I’ll win something.
There was something I’d done last week that I would call irregular. Something I hadn’t done in almost a decade. But it couldn’t be that, it was such a small thing, but more than half of me was certain that was it that was it. I did just as my babysitter had instructed to do almost ten years ago when I cured my best friend Jillian of cystic fibrosis.
Her name was Arrina. My dad had been telling me all kinds of things about what my new babysitter should do and should not do. If Arrina did anything that made me extremely upset or did anything very bad I was supposed to call him calmly and simply ask “if he or mom knew where my tutu was.” Thankfully I’ve never had to use that phrase.
Arrina arrived while my mom was still getting ready, so my dad talked to her for a bit. Soon they left leaving me alone with the babysitter. She was pretty average looking as far as teenagers go, I guess, except for her eyes. She had green and golden yellow eyes that turned to brown. I continued to color as I had been, the movie I had been watching with my dad still playing in the background. Arrina didn’t bother me much, just asked what I was coloring and if she could color too. I let her have a page out of my coloring book and she joined me. Later she fed me then spent a good deal of the night on her phone. And then she asked me if I wanted to hear a story that her grandmother once told her as a child. She made me brush my teeth first and put on my night shirt and then she began the most wondrous tale of how the world was formed.
In the beginning there was one great being that created all things. Once the great one formed the universe, he created twelve children in his image. And his twelve children, the ancient ones, were responsible for the daily goings on of the great one’s favorite creation: earth. During the day, the ancient twelve would sleep and dream for hours and hours sometimes for a whole day and when they woke up, they would write down all the wonderful things and stories that unfolded in their minds. It may take hours, days, but everything the ancient ones wrote in their books came to be. Sometimes when their dreams begin to be repetitive these sleeping giants will intercept the private conversations between humans and their God and write down the desires of the humans in their dream books . What the ancient ones love most of all is when people ask them what they want. And when an ancient one responds to your request the first time it makes it more likely that they will respond again in the future.
“Terra,” Arrina leaned in close, the green overwhelming the colored part of her eye.
“Is there anything on your mind that you wish you could change? Anything you wish didn’t happen?”
“I wish Jillian was better and never had to go to the hospital again,” it poured of me without much thought. Jillian had been in the hospital for over a month now and she was the only friend I had at my new school.
She grinned. “That’s very selfless of you. Her name is JILL-ian, you said?”
“You and Jillian used to play together?”
I nodded enthusiastically.
“Okay. Terra, with your eyes closed, remember all those times you and Jillian would play together. Remember when she was happy and healthy. Keep thinking about how happy she looked when the two of you would play… Okay, open your eyes”
I did as she said. I felt the smile melt from my face.
“What did the ancient ones say,” I squealed.
“They are sleeping now. Dreaming up all our tomorrows, when they wake, they will recall that you asked them to make Jillian happy again. Instead of writing that she is in the hospital, tonight when they wake, they will write that she is with you running, playing, healthy. Jillian will never have to go to a hospital again.”
“Okay.” I didn’t believe her one bit. Thinking about Jillian made me feel bad now because I knew she wasn’t going to be at school on Monday. Arrina let me stay on the couch and color all night until my parents retuned. My parents weren’t going on a date the following weekend so I would have to wait another week to see Arrina again.
It was Friday afternoon when the doorbell rang. We almost never had visitors.
“Terra, I think it’s for you.” I was not the kind of kid who made their parents repeat themselves. I slid off the couch into a skip toward the door.
Behind the door, Jillian stood beaming and ready to play, the way a child is supposed to look. Behind her, her mother, just a bigger version of Jillian, stood with a big bag around her shoulder. I was already in her arms.
“Terra, invite her in.” My mother’s voice carried over from the kitchen
Jillian and I ended up playing in my backyard for hours. The huge bag her mom left for her was filled with sleep over necessities. Two days later she was at school too. It was like it had been before Jillian got sick. For the remainder of the week I harassed my dad if Arrina would be my babysitter again.
The weekend finally came around. I could hardly contain my excitement the whole day. When the doorbell rang that evening, I leaped off the couch and followed inches behind my dad. Again, another exchange and finally I had Arrina all to myself.
“Guess what happened last week? Jillian came! She’s all better now!”
She mirrored my enthusiasm.
“I’m glad your friend is all better now!”
“The story worked! Can we do it again tonight?”
“What are you talking about, sweetie?”
I didn’t know how to reply at first however, the longer I looked at Arrina I noticed she looked very different. There was no green in them tonight… and she didn’t remember the story.
“Maybe it was one of the stories my mom reads me at night.” I feigned a look of confusion.
She left me alone to color and watch movies, never once asking if I was thirsty, hungry or if she could do anything with me. This was not the same person that had looked after me two weeks ago. I was thrilled when my mother and father came home. I clutched my mother’s arm very tightly as soon as she came in.
Arrina couldn’t collect her belongings quick enough for my liking. When she swung her bag over her shoulder something small and black tumbled out. Being closest to the ground I reached for it. A small black leather-bound book. It fell open on a page with five names; Olivia, Spencer, Jordan, Terra, Gabriel.
“You wouldn’t want to lose that,” my dad said, taking the book from me. “Thank you, Terra.”
“Yes. Thank you, Terra. Goodnight Mr. and Mrs. Hollis.” I didn’t know it then but that would be the last time I ever saw her.
A decade later she was all I could think about today.
The car stopped, home finally, the place where it all began. Lunch was already waiting for us, but as we ate my mind still ruminated on that small black book. I had told the ancient beings what I wanted and a week later it had appeared to me: one million dollars. I could not shake the certainty of it despite how absurd it seemed to my rational mind. That little black book that I picked up a decade ago had names of people in my grade from when I was eight and I was still acquainted with now.
The first day back to school since my exhilarating weekend I decided to sit next to someone new: Jordan. The same Jordan that I knew when I was once eight. During our assignment I brought up my old babysitter and if remembered ever knowing someone like that.
“Yeah, I had a babysitter that looked like that.” Bingo!
“Didn’t she tell the best stories?” I set up the question.
“Nah, she didn’t ever tell stories.”
“One time she told me about the twelve powerful creatures that God had assigned to look after earth.”
He looked at me like I was crazy. I played it off as a story book she had read to her as a child and maybe he somehow remembered the name of it.
She never even read to him apparently, they spent most evenings watching movies or playing video games. She never read to any of the other children as I soon found out when I met with Olivia and Gabriel the following day.
Spencer was difficult to find. It was a common name at my school. I think I was on my fourth Spencer by the end of the week, which was good because there were only four Spencers in my grade level. After a week’s worth of stalking his routine from the bus drop off area to the library every morning before class. Spencer number four by far was the most daunting with the poutiest, plumpest lips, thick lashes, and, of course, cheekbones that could cut diamonds. He sat alone enveloped in a novel, only inches away from his face. Not quite sure how I wanted to approach this. All the others had been classmates, I had remotely reasonable reasons to approach them in conversation.
“Oh! I really loved that book. Did you enjoy it?” It was an upperclassman, they appeared out of nowhere. Reflexively, I began to answer.
“I thought the plo-”
“Stop inquiring about Arrina.” A voice boomed from the slender lips of the kid in front of me before me, accompanied by the piercing green eyes Arrina once had.
“I am whom you seek, not the girl. Enjoy the gifts for now, I will return to you when you are ready.”
He blinked and his eyes returned to blue.
“Oh excuse me,” his demeanor was a pleasant again and his interest in my book completely fell away.
I took a seat to collect my thoughts of what I had just experienced. An ancient being had just talked to me. The green eyes just now meant an ancient one had been the one to babysit me ten years ago.
By some ironic fate I was sitting next to Spencer.
“Hi.” There was a flash of green in his eyes and then back to their normal brown.