The doorbell screeches out its static call. I frown and groan out loud; I am not dressed to receive. I decide whoever it is, is way past visiting time anyway, so they’re at fault.
I signed at the conclusion and swiftly stomped forward to open the door.
It was her. It was really her. I stared fixedly without saying a word. This was no joke, no makeup, or costume (well, none I would make out) – it was truly her. She stared back at me with awe in her eyes and her rosebud mouth hanging slightly open. We just stood there staring at each other with fascination for awhile, before she spoke up, “It’s you”
“Um…” I started. “It is you!!” She whispered again. Except, this time it wasn’t a whisper and more of a barely contained exclamation.
“You’re my favourite character, and I am here to change the ending of your story.” She continued as a way of explanation, apparently.
“Okayy…” I stretched it out to buy me a nanosecond extra. “I am sorry. You’re my favourite character. Is this some kind of sick joke? It has to be.” I laughed out loud to emphasise I had realised my stupidity at believing for a second it could be true.
She looked utterly dismayed in a way that made me feel I had just chopped off a butterfly’s wings.
“You…you…I- NO! This is NOT a joke! I have travelled across galaxies and got here in sheer desperation and frustration to change the ending of the story!”
I stare at her defiantly back. No one was going to trick me with tantrums. I crossed my arms. “What’s your name?”
“Zoa.” she breathed. I suppressed my gasp and continued.
“Do you kill unicorns for a living?” I challenged, knowing I had told her the answer, but that was not the whole truth to it. The real Zoa wouldn’t stop at this.
“Well,” she started. “Usually, what people do for a living, they don’t like. And I can’t exactly call my thing a hobby, ‘cause I earn all i earn from it, and love doing it. There’s something in seeing the evil rush above them as their life seeps out of the bullet holes, that gives me the satisfaction of contributing back to the society. So I guess…” she signed. “Job it is.”
I can’t hold in the surprise this time. This is Zoa. It has to be. But how can it be?
“Cheryl,” she said my name and made it sound more like Cheral. “Can I please come in? This is urgent.”
I moved slightly so she could slide in. She was wearing a full bodysuit, as usual. But, this was a dark red one- the one she wore during semi-social fancy outings. It felt weird to think she had dressed up and travelled “across galaxies” to meet me.
She seemed to know my living room, as she smoothly surged forward and sank into a corner beanbag. She looked sharply around the room nevertheless, as though confirming what she already knew. Too late- I started to feel conscious about my oversized tee shirt and bare thighs. I quickly tried to smooth out my bangs, but they were a tangled mess from being in bed all day.
I sat a on chair across the black beanbag. “Do I die?” I ask pointedly.
“I would rather not tell you.” Zoa smiled. Her razor sharp straight white teeth seemed to sparkle intimidatingly. I felt a twinge of annoyance. “How on earth will you save me then?”
“Oh. I can just influence you to make different choices than the ones you make in the book. You don’t have to know the existing outcome- and the future will be different!”
“And how do I trust you to get the future better?!” I said indignantly “ I might like it the way it is now!”
“Honey, nearly anything is better than the way it is now” she signed.
The butterflies in my stomach did a tiny somersault. “Do I die?” I repeated.
She sighs again. Somehow, more heavily than before. “Yes. Yes, you do. But don’t worry! We’ll change that!”
I stare at her, and then the clock display behind her. It’s 23:30, and I feel psyched all of a sudden. “We don’t need to. Thank you for offering help, but I would rather stick with the decisions of mother nature.”
Zoa pointedly looks at me. “This is really you.”
I would normally have gotten sick of this it-really-is-you feeling by now, but I could still feel my heart beating a smidge out of key. “Yes. It is me now, and most of the day it is me. Except at night when I revert to my alter ego and organise this underground club, that fights to pelt out everyday disappointments and monotony. Wait. I can’t talk about it; it’s the first rule of the club. Oops!” I had fallen back on my most powerful defense: sarcasm.
I regretted it instantly, and was prepared to see the hurt in her eyes, but she just looked on pointedly. A slow smile creeped up her face.
“In books, I read your trail of thought, but I never feel like it’s reproducible in real life. I just got to watch you in live action.” She said in the same whisper-exclamation.
“I am going to go change.” I cleared my throat.
Zoa’s mobile was apparently a wormhole, into which she furiously kept typing into.
“I have to keep my contacts informed about my location. There are often disturbances and permanent shifts in the space-time dimension, now more than ever. If there’s a major change to be, I might never be able to get back.”
To her credit, she seemed pretty fearless of that possibility.
“What do you mean by ‘now more than ever’?”
“Climate changes, hun. It’s all over, trust me.” She said sombrely.
“So…you change my ending and get back to your life? That’s what you intend to do?” I reconfirmed yet again.
“Yes, absolutely” she placed her portal down on my tiny coffee table, and turned to look at me. She stood upright and clasped her hands together neatly in front. She somehow carried the poise of a dancer, and managed to look intimidating at the same time.
“I am happy with the outcome” I said slowly, in case she hadn’t heard it right the first three times. “I would be glad to die. Now, you don’t have to tell me how it happens, or anything. There is nothing to change. You can get back to your life.” I said that half-heartedly I didn’t want her to go away.
Zoa’s eyes widened as if this was new. “Why would someone as exciting, unique and beautiful as you want to die so soon?”
I glanced at my nails and started to fidget with my hands to clear my head of the compliment that she had thrown my way.
“It’s all too boring. You must surely know all this from the book, since I am your favourite character and all.” I waved my hand for good measure as if to say chicks from distant galaxies often came over to say they had read a book about me.
“Cheryl” Zoa said. She came forward and untangled my hands, before holding them gently in two of hers. We were almost the same height, and she could easily make eye contact.
“You have a great life. I know you. I have read your thoughts and likings- we have to change your ending” She dropped my hands and placed her hands on the either side of my face for the last part.
“I don’t want to…” I barely got that out.
“How about we talk about this tomorrow?” She offered and smiled, her hands still on my face.
“Okay” I said. She was too close.
She finally let go and stepped up. I wordlessly turned around, and she followed me to my bedroom. Again, she was no stranger to the landscape and I felt strangely naked.
“I’ll set your stuff up on the-”
“Oh, don’t bother! I can share the bed with you, if you don’t mind. I don’t need a pillow either.” Zoa said breezily.
I could think of nothing to say. We climbed on to my bed from opposite sides and were suddenly face-to-face. “It’s really you.” it was me this time.
We both were frozen. I am sure what I heard was my heartbeat.
“You do get what I am here to do.” Zoa said, her breath hot on my face.
“Change my-” I started.
“To save you. To save the woman I love”
My gasp was muffled by her lips on my mouth, and they felt as soft as I could have ever imagined. I could sense a million things that moment. The fruity lipgloss on her lips, the clean scent of her silver hair, her teeth clashing against mine, and the tip of her nose touching my face were just a few of the whole magnitude of things I felt, and I knew if there was any moment best described in my story, that would be somewhere on top of the list.