“Yesss,” Maya cheered in a terse whisper at the screen. She puffed on her fingertips as if they were smoking. The concert tickets had been too sweet of a last minute deal to pass on. And now she had the perfect gift to give to her co-worker Gracie at her bachelorette party next week.
She flipped the cover back over her iPad then plumped up the pillow behind her back. With a happy sigh, she stretched out her legs and toes under the bed blanket.
No matter how many things she’d come to enjoy in the Here and Nows of human society she’d lived in, the comfort of a cozy bed had always been her favourite indulgence. Not that she needed to sleep. That was just something fun to do for a night, or a nap, every few decades.
No, it was the warm comfort of blankets and a soft mattress that appealed to the Twenty-third Hour. A bed was the perfect place to read a book, write notes, watch TV— when the things became common household items. And now with laptops and electronic devices, there was even more she could do to occupy her time in the night so as to avoid having to pretend to count sheep til infinity. She just had to pay mind to the fact she was supposed to maintain a pretense of sleeping, that she couldn’t indulge in activities all night long, every night, without end.
Given her living arrangements, Maya had to be careful lest her neighbours become suspicious —her elderly landlady Mrs. Schultz in the apartment below especially. When Maya had arrived from work yesterday, her landlady had been rather conspicuous tidying up the circulars in the lobby.
“Hello Maya, dear. How was your day at work? How you young people manage on so little sleep amazes me.”
Did this mark the start of having to plan to move away and set up a life elsewhere? At least, that’s what Maya had always done before four years ago. Now, things were a little more complicated.
“Oh?” She tried to sound innocent. “Why do you say that, Mrs. Schultz?”
The landlady’s blue perm swished in one stiff mass with the shake of her head.
“I heard your coffeemaker at 2 AM. Coffee’s bad at night, dear. Worst thing ever if you’re an insomniac. Believe me, I know. Just wait til menopause hits you. You’ll sleep even less. Your tits’ll start sagging and your belly and memory go to pot. By the way, rent’s due tomorrow.”
Ah, so that was it.
The tension bled from Maya’s shoulders as she’d nodded with what she hoped came off as a look of genuine guilt. Not.
Amaya ‘Maya’ Linden always paid her rent on time. Exactly on time. The payment always going through the final second before midnight the day it was due. Why not? As the temporal guardian of the twenty-third hour of the day, Maya could never resist doing things at the last minute. It was her nature after all, and her specialty: Last minute deals, vacation packages, bookings, trades… auction closings. There were days when Maya missed her former job as an auctioneer. But never as much as she missed…
She bit down on her lip.
With a heavy sigh, she placed the iPad on the nightstand on top of the shopping list she’d been writing out earlier. No matter how many note apps there were in this age of tech gadgets, Maya remained “old-school”—she loved that expression—when it came to using pen and paper to make lists.
The fridge was getting bare so she’d need to stop off and do the groceries after work today. Like sleep, eating was something fun but she didn’t need to do it. Food was something Maya could not do without for other reasons. Hmm, is it still too early to plan what to make for breakfast?
She glanced at her Clock centred on her bedroom wall and gave a wistful smile to the minute hand that ticked past the XI just then. The clock was a wrought iron piece she’d taken a fancy to back in the late 1500s. The Eleventh Hour had teased her when he’d found out she’d gotten it, accusing her of copying him since he had one very similar.
Maya was looking forward to seeing her Eleventh brother for dinner this evening. It had been a while. Would he have news to share of her other brother and sister guardians? Since they all lived scattered around the world in their Here and Nows, it wasn’t easy to keep in touch… luckily for her.
The Twenty-third Hour purposely kept to herself. And the reason why was a secret only her Eleventh, and First, brothers knew of. A secret that had changed everything in her existence as of four years ago.
Her breath hitched when an icy shiver ran through her. Instinctively she glanced at her Clock again whose hour hand had just moved to I. First Hour’s watch.
Her daughter stood blinking sleepily in the bedroom doorway in her rumpled pjs, pillow and teddy bear dangling from each small hand.
“Bad dream, Mommy.”
“Come here, Zoe.”
Maya lifted her blanket for the child to clamber into the bed and cuddle beside her. The Twenty-third Hour sighed again as she stroked Zoe’s tousled black curls, curls that perfectly matched the little girl’s father’s. Yet Zoe’s grey eyes were all her mother’s, their gold flecks catching the warm glow of the streetlamp outside before little eyelids closed in sleep.
Maya gazed out the window into the night. The full moon was dimming, the sky growing overcast. And yet the forecast had called for clear skies the next 24 hours.
If only the weather were as predictable as the time, Maya thought.
⇛ Next part: III – The wind and nothing more
⇚ Previous part: I – Here and Now