9:00 am. The first class for a day was starting. Biology. Mendel’s laws, hard and boring. Gaby, of course, did not have time to do her homework – how could she, when she spent the whole evening arguing with her boyfriend. Josh was a good, reliable guy, but, my God, how predictable and boring he was! He had everything planned: growing up, getting married, graduating from high school, finding a good job, giving birth to children… Phew, boring! He did not understand her creative soul, her desire to shine, dreams to become a famous actress, famous throughout the world. He said it was silly - hoping to enter a drama school just because she was a diva in some local theater. What a fool! What did he know about art! Wasn’t she the best Juliet in the history of their school theater?
“O Romeo, Romeo,
wherefore art thou Romeo?
Deny thy father and refuse thy name,
Or if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love,
And I’ll no longer be a Capulet…”
When Gaby, while on stage, was reading it, some girls were crying. And still Josh did not believe in her talent… Well, he could go to hell. He would be useless on her way to a great future.
With a school bag in hand, Gaby hesitated for a moment over the familiar words “Gaby + Josh = Love,” and then sat down at the next desk.
- Nick, would you mind if I sat with you?
- No, of course not! - The guy’s eyes sparkled with enthusiasm. - And what about Josh?
- I’m tired of him. Boring. Done with him. – The girl looked over her shoulder with indifferent face, only to see shocked Josh.
They were not talking even after graduation from high school. Josh went to the local college to study mechanics. And Gaby went to the big city to enter a drama school. She entered. Plumbing training courses. Two years later, she returned to her hometown with big belly. The guy she had dated for the past few months had serious intentions, they even talked about wedding. But as soon as he heard of Gaby’s pregnancy, he disappeared. Oh well. Gaby’s mum raised her without a father, so they could handle the baby by themselves. Gaby named her boy Josh. A good name. Shame that her mum didn’t get to know the baby well – she died when he was only a year old. When Josh was three, he was diagnosed with diabetes. No one in Gaby’s family was diabetic, so that was a gift from his father. Oh right, there had to be at least something from him…
At first, of course, it was hard. Then she adjusted. Gaby got a job at a local plumber, on the weekends she was a cleaner in a wealthy family. Her son grew serious. Perhaps because of illness, or maybe it was just his nature… He taught himself how to do injections of insulin when Gaby was not home. He warmed up food for himself, tidied up their flat. Gaby only cooked what Josh could eat because of his diet, thinking that cooking something different for herself would be dishonest, plus they didn’t have much money. Gaby became thinner and thinner, started buying clothes on sales. Her skin, once soft, turned gray and coarse. Her face was now covered with wrinkles. Her hair was dull. She didn’t have money for cosmetics. And so Gaby slowly turned into a twenty-seven old woman, looking like she was in her forties. She didn’t have time for personal life or entertainment – just housework, kid, work…
But sometimes she opened an old box, hidden in the dresser, and found a program from the play “Romeo and Juliet”… She reread the list of actors for a thousandth time, stopping at her name, written the very first, and silently shook her head. Her life has gone through her hands like sand.
Gaby was walking home with six kilos of slightly rotten apples. Of course they were not the best, but she was given a discount. She wanted to make some jam from them. Gaby was happy, so even heavy bags seemed weightless. Suddenly, someone responded to her absent-minded smile. There was a spark of recognition in his eyes.
- Josh… Hello.
Oh Lord, he almost did not change… Even at his age he looked boyish, only 2 little girls with him showed that some years has passed.
He picked up her bags with apples and walked Gaby home. The girls were walking alongside, wondering about how this pale woman knows their father. On their way, Josh told that he had a small business of repairing cars. Married five years ago, the girls were born… “And how are you? You look very thin…” “No, no, all is well, Josh - she smiled shyly and desperately hoped that the man did not notice her old clothes. - Family, work… My son is eight years old. He’s successful, the best student in the class.” “Well, ok then… I thought I would die when you left me. Every night I dreamed about you returning and asking for forgiveness, saying that it all was a silly joke … But you never returned. And here I am, you see, I survived. For the best, probably?”
That evening, Gaby cried for the first time in many years. Her son was scared - he had never seen his mother in tears.
- Mum, why are you crying, mum?! Everything will be fine, you know. I’ll grow up to earn a lot of money, we’ll live better! Don’t think that I’m sick, so I can’t work. I am strong! I will work! Just do not cry, mum, please. I love you, mum…
- Girl, wait a sec! Take a lottery ticket, try it!
Gaby looked at the young man who handed her a completely blank piece of cardboard. She did not have time to open her mouth to politely refuse, as the boy continued:
- I know that you don’t have money, but it’s totally free. Special offer - only for you. It’s an opportunity to come back for ten minutes at any moment of your past and try to fix something in it. You only need to write the exact date and time of arrival and departure - within ten minutes and throw it into the nearest trash - and you’ll find yourself in the past. Is it interesting? I know you think I’m crazy. Believe me, I would not offer it if I did not know you want it more than anything else. Is that right? - He looked at her closely, put a ticket in hand, and disappeared.
Hallucinations from constant malnutrition? Gaby shook her head, closed her eyes and then opened them again. She still had that ticket in her hand. She did not even need to think about where she wanted to go. Gaby remembered the day when she sat with Nick for the first time. The biggest mistake in her life. A terrible mistake. She dreamt about it yesterday, sobbing after her meeting with Josh, to be transferred to a decade ago and fix it? And how did the weird guy know about it? She wrote the date and time: 8.55-9.05am. Then she folded the ticket and threw it in a trash.
…Gaby realized she was wearing a blue jacket, which she wore in her last year of high school! And the same bag on her shoulder. And right in front of her – the school, where the biology lesson would start shortly. She had ten minutes to fix the past. Now she would go to the class, sit next to Josh, apologize for the day before, say that her idea to enter a drama school was foolish. And all things in life would go differently. There would be no poverty, nor the dirty floors in a posh house on Sundays, nor hopeless solitude, nor… son?..
“Mum, why are you crying, mum?! Everything will be fine, you know.” - Echoed in her head. Slender shoulders, sharp knees, pale face, serious gray eyes and the Universe in them. Her personal Universe…
9:00am. The first class for a day was starting. Biology. With a school bag in hand, Gaby hesitated for a moment over the familiar words “Gaby + Josh = Love,” and then sat down at the next desk.