Seven Minutes

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Romance  |  House: Booksie Classic
Sara's life is average. She works, secretly pines for her best friend Caleb, and dreams of much bigger ponds. But one day everything changes.

Submitted: January 13, 2012

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Submitted: January 13, 2012

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The day had begun like any other. I woke up early to begin my shift at the local K-mart. It wasn’t special but it paid my rent and groceries until I could manage to get an actual salary from my paintings.  The warm April air reeked of rain and the smell of flowers overpowered me as I walked to my car. The sun was just beginning to emerge from the clouds and I hoped the weather channel was wrong when it said to expect another rainstorm.

The engine moaned as I threw my old Buick into reverse and backed out of my driveway. The radio was static until I hit the main road finally producing an audible hum of pop music. My cell phone buzzed in the ashtray.

“Caleb.” I smiled. Caleb was my best friend and in my daydreams, so much more. He was a fellow aspiring painter—although he had much more talent than I did, he lacked any kind of personal motivation.

We first met at my father’s wake. I sat on the couch just outside the gathering room at the funeral home reading a book I found on the shelf. Caleb burst through the heavy oak doors that separated the two rooms. He sat down next to me and lifted a cigarette from his pocket, carefully positioning it in his mouth.

“You can’t smoke in here.” I said looking up from my book. Caleb met my eyes and even when I looked back down at the book, he didn’t break away.

“I’m trying to quit.” He finally said after what felt like a ten-minute pause. I didn’t look back at him until I heard his lighter click.

“What are you doing?” I said. My voice shaky when I noticed how attractive he was. “This is a funeral, you should have some respect for the dead.” I stood up, not aware of where I was going to go since I had no intention of seeing my father squeezed into a suit he would never have worn in life and drenched in condolences and sympathetic tears.

“I’m sure she wouldn’t mind.” He said standing up with me and taking another long drag. He exhaled and leaned closer. “I’m Caleb.”

“Yes, he would.” I retorted and walked to the other room filled with empty couches and decorated in antiques. Caleb followed; halfway finished with his cigarette by the time he spoke again.

“Are you implying my sister was a he?” He leaned against the doorframe and put his cigarette out on the bottom of his shoe. I looked down at my watch and realized that my father’s service had ended nearly two hours ago and I had just irritated a mourning stranger.

“I’m so sorry.” I said not knowing where to begin. “I thought I was still at my dad’s—you know.” I said waving my hand around indicating what we both didn’t want to mention. “I’m just going to—um…” I pointed at the door. The words seemed trapped in my head. Caleb’s icy blue eyes weren’t easy to look at even though they had yet to look away from me embarrassed, like my muddy brown eyes had done.

“I’m Caleb.” He said again this time extending his hand. I forced myself to look at him.

“Sara.” I said taking his hand and hoping he wasn’t disgusted by the clamminess of my own. “I’m Sara.”

Caleb’s stance was relaxed at first glance, but now being friends for almost three years, it was clear that every muscle was in control and a blanket of tension covered his every nerve. It was a running joke between us to blame his anxiety over his obsessive government conspiracy thoughts, although secretly I liked to believe his nervousness had something to do with being in love with me, even if that was just a bit too hopeful on my part.

“Sara.” He spoke into the phone. His voice was rushed like as if he had allotted a certain amount of time and was dangerously running close to going over.

“I can’t really talk—I’m driving to work. Is this very important?” I said, stopping at the only traffic light en route to the shopping center’s parking lot. The static on the radio had returned. I messed with the dial but could no longer hear anything resembling music. “Caleb?” I said when I didn’t get a response.

I heard him hang up on his side. This was typical. He didn’t mean it in a rude way but he hated distracting drivers. We almost never spoke of the details from his sister’s accident but I knew enough never to answer a phone call if Caleb was in the car. His anxiety would tighten over his muscles and a mask of apprehension covered his face. So much that it would distract my eyes from the road to him. I didn’t have the courage to tell him that he was my distraction, so I humored him and waited until I wasn’t driving to make calls.

As I turned into the parking lot and walked toward the employee entrance I saw Caleb leaning on the door. He was smoking a cigarette and running his hand up and down through his hair.

“So I’m assuming it was important?” I laughed taking the cigarette from him and stomping it into the ground. “I thought you quit?”

“I did,” he said. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and then looked at me seriously. “I don’t know what’s going on with me. I have this bad feeling. Like, worse than usual…Maybe it’s something in the water?” Caleb sank down and sat on the ground.

The first time Caleb and I ever hung out we watched a movie. Or at least we tried, but Caleb kept huffing about the practicality.

“Can we just turn this off it’s so unrealistic!”

“No! I like the special effects.”

“But it would never happen like this. This is so Hollywood.” Caleb moaned. He reached over for the DVD player but I grabbed his arm.

“It’s not supposed to be realistic. No one knows how the world is going to end.” I let go of his arm realizing I was holding on to it for an awkward amount of time.

“Well if the sun was to die…” Caleb started. I rolled my eyes. “Stop rolling your eyes at me I’m serious!” He laughed.

“You know I’ve only known you for three days and in that time you have talked about the world ending, like, fifty times.”

“If the sun would die,” He repeated, “Earth wouldn’t be affected until like seven minutes later because of the speed of light.”

“Fifty-one.”

“Alright, well let’s see what you do when the world ends. You’ll be begging for my help.” Caleb laughed. His roommates were gone and the T.V was silent, leaving us alone in his small, cluttered house. He leaned closer to me his smile had faded into a serious stare. He leaned his head slowly to the side and inched closer stopping two inches from my lips. “I’m glad we’re friends.”

Caleb was good at worrying. He worried about everything under the sun from conspiracy theories to global warming. He even troubled over my neighbor’s dog vet appointment last week. When he asked for my advice, he rarely took it, and when he did take it he’d modify it somehow and end up back where he was. Like when he asked for help to reconcile with his estranged father. I suggested meeting up together and talking it through about why they were no longer close, instead Caleb went over to his dad’s house, uninvited and drunk. He laughed about it the next day to me, insisting that he took my advice he just needed to be drunk in order to say everything he wanted to.

Now, he looked to my face and smiled, probably feeling my attempted hidden disinterest.  “I guess I’m just having a midlife crisis, I have this need to buy a sports car.” He stood up and brushed his hands over his jeans. “But you should probably not drink any tap water today.” he added.

“You’re only 22 and already crazy you know that, right?” I laughed, switching my purse to the other shoulder. “I’m sorry Caleb, it’s not that I don’t want to talk it’s just I’m already late for work and I haven’t—“

“It’s okay, it’s really nothing serious.” He smiled at me reassuringly and kissed my cheek like any friend would. My face heated but Caleb pretended to not notice. He was exceptional at avoiding situations that made him uncomfortable. My feelings for him, although never technically professed to him, being one of them. He turned and walked towards his car parked at the absolute farthest spot from the door.

“I’ll come over after work today.” I said as a last effort to see a real smile. “I’ll bring pudding.”

“…And lemonade.” He called over his shoulder. “Lots of lemonade.”

“Deal.”

“Hey, Sara?” He yelled halfway to his car.

“Yeah?” I said. The sun beamed down and I shielded my eyes with my hand.

“I really—never mind. You’re going to be late.” He pointed to my boss who was standing behind me with an annoyed look on his face. Then Caleb turned around and got into his car.

I sported my red smock with my crooked nametag pinned to the side. In fact, it wasn’t actually my nametag. However my frugal manager didn’t see the difference between Sara and Sarah, so for the eight hours I worked a day I adopted the letter H. It didn’t make a difference to me, but ironically I couldn’t help but wonder about Sarah with an H. At times I assumed things about her. She was prettier than me. She also had stopped working at Kmart to go to Julliard full-time as a ballet dancer and later starred in a production of Swan Lake where she met her future husband. Her legs were long, and her hair although tied in a bun, never kinked when she wore it down. Her make-up was flawless and her laugh didn’t sound like a child gasping for air like mine did. Her nametag gave me a small opportunity to forget my humdrum schedule and become someone new, someone with an H in her name. Deep down I knew I had invented her, only to permit myself to resent her. She was everything I wasn’t and could never be and I hated her for my own insecurities.

At around two, the store was completely empty. I sat on the couch in the compact break room. There was an old T.V permanently set to Kmart commercials, and an overworked coffee pot. The commercial was of a mother and her two children smiling wildly and running around the store getting fantastic deals on all their household product needs. I looked around at the few co-workers sitting around exhausted from customers’ bad attitudes and thought how false the Kmart advertising was. It was sad that everyone I dealt with on a daily basis was simply interest on ‘Buy Two Get One Free’ deals. I was starting to believe that no one contained any substance anymore. There was a tiny window just by the emergency fire exit that proved the meteorologists were wrong about the weather. It was beautiful. The sun glowed. Past the parking lot I could see a small grassy patch covered by overgrown trees. It was littered with old coffee cups and crumbled paper but I still wished I were outside even if I was just collecting shopping carts.

My manager Andrew walked in. He had a doughnut in his hand but already began to creep over to the last remaining Boston Crème at the table. “We’re completely dead out there. Labor is at 30 percent. “ He licked his fingers and picked up the other doughnut. “Who’s volunteering to leave early?”

My hand shot up without hesitation. He gave me a nod and took another bite. “Go ahead, Sarah. Clock out.” I could hear the H in his tone. Sarah with an H wouldn’t have clocked out three hours before the end of her shift. She would’ve understood that nice weather wasn’t as important as paying her rent. Sarah with an H would probably need the money to fund her perfect wardrobe and her weekly manicures. Luckily my plain jeans and chipped fingernail polish confirmed I wasn’t Sarah with an H. I rushed to the food aisle and grabbed pudding and lemonade and rang myself up.

“Caleb?” I called as I walked into his house. His roommates were always out so I wasn’t worried about disturbing them. Caleb stared at the television in the living room a cigarette dangling unlit from his lips.

“Hey,” he said. His expression was worried but he had a smile on his face. “I’m not smoking.” He lifted the cigarette up at me in verification. “It’s not lit.”

“What’s going on?” I said pointing to the T.V. The signal was completely lost. “It’s a nice day out the signal shouldn’t be out.” I bent towards it but Caleb stopped me.

Now, the satellite signal was still loss and the sound was making a horrible crashing sound. “It’s been doing this all day.”  Caleb said. “The radios are the same.” The T.V flicked on just then. An emergency warning flashed the screen. As I read the message my thoughts flicked back to that night on Caleb’s couch.

“What does that mean?” I read the NASA warning three times again until the electricity was cut. “Caleb, what does that mean?” I looked over at Caleb. His eyes were red and his hair fell into his face as he pulled me in and buried my head into his chest. I hadn’t even realized I was crying until Caleb’s navy blue cotton shirt was wet. We pulled away and looked outside. The sun was still shining brightly making the warning seem like one of Caleb’s theories. But there was an unnerving peacefulness outside. All the theories, the lame science fiction movies, and the constant ‘what-ifs’ no one wanted to face in reality, not until they had to. I pictured Sarah with an H at Julliard practicing her routine. She would roll her eyes at what her classmates heard and continue to practice. She would let the next seven minutes go by because she was convinced that after that seven there would be another seven and another. She wouldn’t live as if the world was about to end. She wasn’t going to tell all of her secrets because the T.V was convinced the earth only had seven minutes left until it’s demise. Caleb laced his fingers with mine but I let go. Without speaking he walked through the back door and sat on the grass. The lemonade I had bought was sitting on the counter and I picked it up nonchalantly. Sarah with an H wasn’t going to turn into a maniac because a satellite in space detected a problem and neither was I. I looked out through the open back door. Caleb was sitting peacefully under the sun. Staring into it, it didn’t look any different but the speed of light was deceiving.  

“Sara—come here.” Caleb called from the grass. “Put that down, and come here.” The sun felt brighter blinding me and causing our skin to look transparent. Caleb looked down at his stopwatch and laced his fingers with mine.

“Sara,” He breathed into my ear and leaned over to my inaccurate nametag unfastening it off my shirt. He stabbed the pin into the ground. “I’m sorry.”

“For what?” I had stopped crying. It’s incredible how quickly you recover your composure when you realize that you have less than ten minutes of your life left. “What do you have to be sorry for?”

“I never kissed you.” He leaned over my body and lightly brushed over my lips.

The ground erupted in violent quakes. Caleb whispered almost completely imperceptible as the world began to collapse around us. “Ten…nine…eight…seven…six—“

I pulled him towards me and kissed him feverishly, before the beginning of the end commenced and the last four seconds of everything I’ve ever known and everything I ever wanted terminated forever. As the Sun flashed brighter flooding the color around us, I looked into Caleb’s blue eyes.


© Copyright 2017 Dalia Shehata. All rights reserved.

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