I accidently skipped seventy years of my life, so I hosted a full-blown teenage-dream party at an old people’s home with only over 65s. Pretty epic, if you ask me.
It all started, really, when for my fourteenth birthday, I received this parcel. It was a Monday morning, so typically, an incredibly overwhelming and emotional time. Me complaining I had to go to school on my special day through mouthfuls of overly soggy cereal; my younger sister begging me to hurry up so she could open my presents; my mom shouting at nobody in particular because her clothes had shrunk in the wash and she had nothing to wear for work. Even my older brother, who was usually very organized, was doing a panicked little dance as he’d realised, he’d left his textbook at our dad’s (apparently he didn’t even need it that day, and we were going to our dad’s later to celebrate my birthday so he could get it then, but he was anxious our dad would drop it in the bath and ruin all his neat highlighting like “last time”). There was only five minutes left before I had to be out the door sprinting to catch the bus as per usual, and I still had to open the dodgy pile of poorly wrapped boxes spooled in front of me on the kitchen table. I assumed my sister was at fault for the lack of coverage on each present.
Seconds after I’d finished my cereal, my mom appeared half-galloping at me. Within milliseconds of her abrupt appearance, my bowl was whisked from underneath me, lobbed full-force at the dishwasher, and my siblings were being forced into seats at the table. My little sister squirmed to try nick the first gift from my grip, but my mom pinned her in place, smiling sweetly at me as if nothing were happening and nodding encouragingly.
Chocolate: from my sister. A gift voucher: from my grandparents. New phone: from my mom. Packet of sweets: from my aunt. New pencil case: from my brother. Gift after gift – nothing surprised me. Despite asking for it all, I still wanted more. Something unexpected. A few more presents. Nothing surprised me. Nothing surprised me up until the unlabeled gift.
The phone had rung, so my mom had gotten up, leaving my sister to fling forward and latch onto my arm, her insane eyes staring wide at me. “Whozzat from?” she squealed, bouncing up and down and using my arm as support. “Who? Tell me!”
I shrugged. It was just a box. There was no effort of wrapping, and no effort of writing a name. No card attached, either. I opened it up, a hint of hope rippling inside of me that it could be something interesting, a surprise, but it was only a plain, grey diary. Something I had not asked for, yet had little use for.
“Mom! Mom! Maia got an unlabeled gift! Look! A diary! Whozzit from? Mom! Listen!”
My mom didn’t even glance at me. “Probably your distant Great-Aunt Valentina, Maia, she always forgets to write labels,” she said off-handily, and then continued chanting quietly almost cult-like to the phone pressed against her ear.
So helpful, thanks Mom.
However, I tugged my diary from my sister’s grip when she tried to snatch it from me and flick through it, much to her whining complaint, and run upstairs with it. I chucked it onto my bed to be forgotten about and disregarded when I got back from my dad’s later on, after school. I then headed promptly off to leg it for the bus without a shadow of a doubt that I might end up using it.
But I did.
I ignored it for a good, few weeks, but I did. I used it.
Mainly because my sister found it when madly searching through my room for no reason and yelled at me that if I didn’t start regularly using it by the end of the week, she’d steal it, and as a great big sister, I didn’t want her to have her way. But I still used it.
I just wrote my daily thoughts. I had nothing else to write – you think my life was interesting? A couple, short entries with absolutely no good intentions behind them but to annoy my little sister, and then weird things started happening. I mean, my life was weird – uninteresting, but still weird – but these things forced it into that ‘super weird’ category. Let’s start off by saying, my teacher died.
Yeah, everyone dies in the end, but the teacher died during our math test, right after I’d written, whilst incredibly bored the lesson before, that I’d wished he would just drop dead halfway through so we’d all get an instant pass. I’m not psychopathic, don’t get me wrong, it was all a depressed-Maia-in-science-class-joke, but I can’t say I wasn’t a little proud of myself when the class erupted into cheers when a week later, we were all given free passes. I didn’t think it was related to my diary at first, but I still felt proud I’d made that coincidence. Anyway, they’re probably the psychopathic ones.
If that had been it, I would’ve gotten over the so-called ‘miracle’ and moved on. But that wasn’t it. I began to write in my diary daily, as I had nothing better to do. I took it to school regularly and doodled and wrote lazy little entries every so often. But every time I made a wish, it seemed to come true. I wished my mom wouldn’t give my little sister more chocolate than me like usual – that very day she returned home after collecting something I’d left at my dad’s place for me with a tub of Celebrations to share out. My brother and sister each got six. I got seven. I wished more specific things, too: for 78 on a geography test. Got exactly that. Even wished for my best friend to wear a pale blue shirt and black, baggy jeans when we met up one time, as a joke. That was what she wore. Things that could be just crazy coincidences, however it was still strange, and I was definitely suspicious, so I began to spend days thinking of the ultimate test for the diary. It ended up coming to me accidently.
I had a horrible test coming up the following week: a big, end of year test, to be hold in the exam hall. I’d only had a couple of them so far at school, and they’d been torturous. The atmosphere was so harsh in the incredibly echoey and vast space; if I gave the quietest, most stifled sneeze, the whole room would here it. It was just horrible, and you couldn’t convince me otherwise. I was supposed to revise as well. I loathed revision with a passion, as I saw absolutely no point in it. I’d already learnt all the stuff; why should I have to relearn it in hours of boring notes at home, when I could be doing something more beneficial for me entirely, such as exercise? Schools always encouraged exercise, and revision was far from that, unless you thought your fingers were gaining weight and needed to wear off their excess fat by writing miles worth of meaningless scribbles. But honestly, I think anyone who thought that was already probably doomed. Anyway, big test coming up. That was bad enough.
My mom also decided the next week was the perfect time for us to go visit my grandparents on the weekend. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my grandparents, but my mom only thought the idea brilliant as she was planning a long, tiresome hike up some mountain nearby to, as she put it, “wash some fresh air into our lungs and clear our overworked brains up a bit”. Yeah, no thanks. I’d rather stay with a brain exploding due to all the far from useful facts school gave me than step one foot up something sloped like a mountain. And changing it to a long, tiresome flat walk wouldn’t help the case either.
The test and the hike together were enough to make me want to skip that week. Oh, but no, it couldn’t stop there. My sister was getting a hamster. Might sound awesome to some people, but not for me. That meant hours of her squealing loudly in my ear, shoving the rodent into my face and begging me to bow down to its superiority, because the child is too incapable to do anything other than irritate the living soul out of my poor body. It also meant her bragging to me because my mom had said no when I had asked to get my first pet. It had been a crocodile, and I’d been six, but still. My sister took any excuse to annoy me. If I just skipped the week, my sister would be over the hamster, and my mom would probably be taking care of it. The test would be gone, and I wouldn’t have to worry about any more revision or if I’d sneeze during the examination. I wouldn’t have to do that hike. It was perfect. Well, perfect if it worked out – I’d try wishing in the diary to skip that week. If the outcome was as I hoped, nobody could say it was a coincidence. Nobody.
So, I wrote up my wish one night and went to bed hoping for the best.
I clambered out of bed the next morning, expecting nothing to have changed but the date display on my phone, however the entire room I awoken in was different. It was not my bedroom, or any room in my house. In fact, I’d never seen the room in my life before. The dull beige paint was flaking off the walls like pastry and my mattress creaked if I nudged it in the slightest like it was decades old. Confused, I glanced down at myself.
Wrinkles. They wormed my skin everywhere like a virus that had taken a hold of me. I had no right to be wrinkled. I was fourteen. What the hell had I done? Was this some idea of a prank?
“Oh, beautiful, old and wise Maia, time to have your eyedrops!”
Yep. This was some idea of a prank.
A young man stepped through my door. He beamed warmly at me, eyes scrunched up in innocent joy, shaking a small bottle of some transparent liquid. “Awake for once!” he chuckled at me. “I say, it’s only seven. Did you wake up naturally? I’ve never had one of the over 80s wake up so early!”
Oh. Oh, great. My plan had worked just as I’d hoped – I’d skipped that accursed week – however, not exactly as I’d imagined. I’d never specified when I wanted to skip to, I’d just wished to skip that week, and I had. I’d skipped a whole seventy years, as well. And, now, thanks entirely to my stupidity and unawareness, I was stuck in an old people’s home, in elderly Maia’s body, probably with some eye problem, according to the young man. Oh, I was just bursting with glee. (Sarcasm. I realised I couldn’t use that anymore, as I was supposed to be a sweet old grandma. Great, great, just great...)
“Maia? Oh, please don’t tell me your hearing’s going too…”
“No, no. I’m fine.” I croaked out a feeble resemblance of what was my voice just yesterday. I shivered when I realised, I sounded exactly like my grandma, who was probably dead currently. Probably the same for my parents, and perhaps my brother or sister too.
The young man did my eyedrops. I shook silently, holding back tears as I tried to accept my fate. Such, such a horrible mistake I’d made. I’d be stuck like this, no doubt. Stuck until I die, most likely depressed and half or fully blind, here in this lifeless old people’s home. There was no hope of any happiness there.
Oh, how wrong I was.
I got over my wrinkles. I decided that my best bet was to talk to some of the other elderly and try to make some friends, yet I ended up starting a whole party. I don’t really know the details of how, only that I talked to one funny little grandpa (of forty-three grandchildren, apparently, which I marveled at), who went by Mr Kedgee and had dementia, and then the next moment we were playing ‘put the false teeth on Mr Kedgee’. Unsurprisingly, the one old lady who was fully blind was the one who won, as of course, she was used to having a complete lack of sight and having to do things. After that, it was simply a chain reaction into the most marvelous of party games.
Wheelchair bumper-cars were especially fun. The young caretaker from before who’d given me my eyedrops joined in using a spare wheelchair and ended up breaking off the left wheel and being spilled out sideways, much to everyone’s wheezing chuckles. I managed to master the wheelchair pirouette and was quite popular when I thought of doing a walking-stick juggling contest. Mr Kedgee was, to my amazement, an athlete when it came to this, and managed to spin three about consistently without knocking anyone – or his – false teeth out.
None of us had any reason to be doing any of these games, but they continued until late that night, at one point morphing into some serious gambling, which was an unhealthy habit to start for most the residents were already significantly in debt. It went by in a happy blur and I managed to forget all about leaving my fourteen-year-old self behind. We kept on going, with no intentions to stop, until the owner of the home marched in and tried to ask us politely (whilst her voice was clearly shaking in anger) to be quiet and head off to bed. I hobbled away to my dusty room, heart dancing in my chest.
Until I saw my diary.
It was tucked away in a cardboard box in the corner, coincidentally open on the very page I’d scrawled my last wish. Coincidentally. Nothing involving that diary had seemed to be a coincidence in the end. It was testing me, to see if I’d take the opportunity to wish my conscience back into teenaged Maia. I stood, silent, staring intently at it for a few minutes, questioning myself of why I wasn’t snatching it and eagerly hunting for a pen. I thought I wanted to go back, but was that the truth? Would I be happier if I got to actually experience being twenty, thirty, forty, and so on?
That day had proven it. At least, aged eighty-four, if I died in a few years, I’d know I’d be happy and surrounded by love and fun. I’d know I’d die smiling. That was what mattered.
I went to bed that night. I woke up the next day. I didn’t touch the diary. I left it and taught myself to ignore it. I played nights away with wheelchair bumper-cars and allowed Mr Kedgee to teach me how to juggle walking sticks (although he’d forgotten it had even happened because of his dementia and in some ways, I retaught him). I gambled. Checked my bank-balance one day and found out I was a minus-millionaire.
Wow. The things a diary probably-from-your-Great-Aunt-Valentina-but-you’ll-never-really-know can do.