A flash of lightning awoke me from my slumber, so bright that my eyes felt seared even behind my eyelids. A crack of thunder immediately followed it, so loud it hurt my eardrums. I jolted upwards, my neck aching terribly. How I had managed to fall asleep against a gravestone was beyond me, but I did. Rubbing my neck, I turned to the gravestone I had fallen asleep against.
“Sorry, grandma, I didn’t mean to fall asleep.” The words on the gravestone weren’t visible in the darkness, so I ran my hand across the top of the gravestone rather than tracing the letters as I usually did. The top of the stone was bumpy and scraped against my hand. I walked over to my car, which was parked in an entrance to a cornfield that was next to the cemetery. My grandparents’ grave was right at the edge of the cemetery, so the cornfield was the ideal place to park.
I was still unable to see very well; it was cloudy and about to start pouring rain at any second, and the sun had probably gone down hours ago. My mom had surely texted me a dozen times wondering where I was. I reached into my pocket to pull out my phone, but it felt much different than normal. My phone case was smooth on the back, but this case felt like the OtterBox I’d had when I was a freshman, kind of rough on the back, like you could scrape a fingernail over it. Frowning, I decided to check it out in the car when I got the light in there on. Turning it on, I saw no notifications from my mom, which was weird, so I decided to check the messages anyways.
Hey, did you get the flowers dropped off yet?
Where are you?
I let you drive my truck down back roads to the cemetery and you disappear for three hours!
My truck better be in one piece.
We’re staying at grandma’s tonight
Are you okay?
Where are you?!
That was so weird, why did my phone not give notifications for the messages? Last time it did that was… wait, what did she mean she let me drive the truck? She sold that last spring, and I would have just taken my car. And staying at grandma’s? That was empty of any furniture, and it was sold last year.
I reached for my car handle, and my hand hit the side of a door instead. Squinting through the darkness, I realized that I did have the truck. What the hell? I stared at it for a long moment, but then the sky opened up and began to pour down onto me, so I swore under my breath and jumped into the truck. It smelled like stale horse like it had before, which made me think this might be real. I started driving toward my house, before recalling my mom’s texts. We were “staying at grandma’s tonight”, whatever she meant by that. Was it possible that I was truly in the past, like I suspected, and I hadn’t moved house yet?
And… whispered a voice in the back of my mind, but I pushed it down. I wasn’t willing to let myself get my hopes up quite yet. My brain was slowly starting to grasp all the possibilities of what this could mean. If it was the past, then maybe I could…
No. I needed to stop letting myself hope until I had definitive answers. I peered through the pouring rain as I drove slowly along the road. I wanted to go faster but I also didn’t want to crash the truck before finding out if my theories were correct. As I drew nearer to my grandma’s house, my mind racing faster than a rocket reentering the stratosphere, a bolt of lightning flashed right as I glanced down a road in search of headlights as I waited at a stop sign. I continued staring even as the light faded and left spots in my vision. In the road lay a tree that I had loved as a child that I had begged my mom to go out of her way to drive by just so I could look at it. There was a pattern on the side that looked just like a dog’s face.
I remembered when it fell because I remembered my mom having to turn around and go a different route than she was trying to take. It was my senior year of high school, a few months before my grandma had gone in for that fateful doctor’s appointment. That meant… this really was three years ago. In January, she would go in for a doctor’s appointment, they would find some discrepancies, send her for some tests, and she would be in the hospital for about a week before going home. And then, two months later, right after the schools closed, she would be gone. My last day of high school, though I didn’t know it, was March 13th, then on March 19th, all my hope of my grandma getting to see me graduate were dashed.
Shaking myself out of my dark thoughts, I pulled into my grandma’s driveway and just sat there for a moment, looking at the illuminated windows, windows that I hadn’t seen light shining through in over two years. I briefly contemplated waiting until the rain let up a bit before I went in, but I quickly determined that I couldn’t risk losing my chance.
I dashed into the garage and darted up the steps onto the back porch. Everything was exactly the same as I pictured it in my head, plants all over the room. I took a deep inhale, then stepped in through the door into the kitchen. My mom stood there, clearly quite angered, leaning against the kitchen sink out of sight of where my grandma always sat in the dining room through the doorway. My gaze darted to her chair, but my heart sank as I saw it sitting empty. She wasn’t in the living room either, as there was no telltale sound of Family Feud ringing through the house. Just as I was about to give up hope, I heard water stop running that I hadn’t previously noticed before and heard the telltale sound of a walker scraping against carpet.
Ignoring my mom entirely, I walked into the dining room, staring at my grandma.
“Oh, there she is! How’s my little girl doing?” she said as soon as she saw me. “My goodness, I’ve gotta put a stack of books on your head to keep you from growing!”
“Grandma…” I whispered. I didn’t know how I had ended up here standing in front of her, but I didn’t care if it was a trick or a trap or something else, but frankly I didn’t care. All I cared about was that I was getting another chance to get a hug from my grandma, and I would never miss that up.
I leaned forward and gave my grandma the biggest hug I’d ever given her. And as I felt her warm embrace wrap around me again, something I never thought I’d feel again, I felt so grateful to the universe for this beautiful second chance.