IV – The Past of Yesterdays

Maya spread a third dishtowel on the counter before plunking the coffee machine on it. There. That should muffle the sound. 

For good measure, she draped another over the machine, blocking out its flashing red 5:40 AM. Even though she’d resisted brewing a pot til sunrise, Maya couldn’t help but feel self-conscious.

‘Coffee’s bad at night, dear. Worst thing ever if you’re an insomniac.’

Really, Mrs. Shultz? I wouldn’t know. What if someone’s been a total insomniac since, oh, say the dawn of time? Maya only drank coffee because she enjoyed the taste. The packets of premium roast she brought home from the hotel after her shifts meant she always had a steady supply.

Scowling into the open fridge, Maya shoved aside the milk and ketchup on the top shelf with a grunt. She forgot she’d finished the coffee cream yesterday.

Black coffee it was then. She needed to keep the milk for Zoe’s breakfast.

It must have been quite the nightmare her daughter had. She’d only settled back into a sound sleep after a long while. Nightmares, dreams… More things Zoe could experience that her mother never could, thanks to Daniel.

Maya wondered if she should ask Zoe if she remembered any of it when she got up. The girl was still asleep in her bed. Zoe had definitely inherited her human father’s ability to sleep anywhere; at the movies, in waiting rooms, standing on a crowded bus, between laundry cycles, on a terrace, in a train…

…behind the wheel.

The top page of the Hello Kitty calendar on the fridge door fluttered when Maya let it swing closed.

Today’s date of June 21st was plastered with glittery star stickers. ZoE’S 4 biRtHdaY was thickly scrawled in purple crayon.

Four. Four years. 

Four years ago today, scared and alone, the Twenty-third Hour had called her First brother in desperation. “I need your help. Please come,” she’d panted through her tears into the phone. The contractions were the first physical “pain” Maya had ever experienced, other than the heartbreak of grief. 

Dr. Andersson had appeared within seconds in her living room, dressed in his scrubs straight from his hospital rounds. Her First brother had taken in her swollen belly in stunned silence, then ushered her into her bedroom.

Zoe had been born at one minute to midnight on the summer solstice.

Her First brother had asked if any of the other Hours knew she’d conceived a child with a mortal man. Only Eleventh, her diurnal twin did. First told her she best not tell any of the other Hours for the time being. “Keep a low profile in this Here and Now,” he’d cautioned. An immortal-human hybrid? Who knew what abilities the child would have. What she would inherit from her mother? What would be from her father? 

First promised to check in on them regularly and help his Twenty-third sister as best he could. And he had, every month dropping by to give Zoe a check-up –physically she was as normal as any human child her age.

Maya smiled as she thought now of the gift she’d gotten Zoe. She couldn’t wait to give it to her at breakfast. A sky projection clock. One that would cast the sun, moon, and stars on her bedroom ceiling along with the time. Maya had stashed its box wrapped in bright purple paper behind the bath towels on the upper shelf of the linen closet. It was the one place her curious, purple-loving climber couldn’t reach… yet.

The book Eleventh –Uncle Kanja to Zoe– was bringing over for their birthday dinner this evening should please Zoe tremendously too. A Wrinkle in Time. Hopefully it would take more than a day or two for the little girl to finish. The child was a voracious reader.

No. The child was a prodigious reader, having taught herself to read by age three. The daycare coordinator kept hinting to Maya that she have Zoe’s IQ tested.

Her hand tightened on the mug she’d taken out of a cupboard.

Just last week, after finishing another stack of books from the local library, Zoe had told her mother in all seriousness how she much preferred the worlds created by words than the boring one of here and now

She’d been so shocked. Maya had always been careful not to reveal to Zoe anything about her true origins. She’d kept it a secret from Daniel their short years together too. 

She wanted to wait until their daughter was older before trying to explain.

There was lots of time still to ponder how.

Maya kept staring at the date on the calendar. She was forgetting something, wasn’t she.

Oh! The cupcakes. 

She had to stop off at the bakery in the hotel lobby before her shift to pick up the purple frosted cupcakes she’d ordered. She planned to drop them off fresh at the daycare during her lunch break for Zoe’s in-class birthday party. Gracie would cover her room cleanings if she ran a little late getting back.

Tonight with Uncle Kanja, they would order out pizza, Zoe’s all time favourite. Double cheese with extra pepperoni –no “yuck onions”– as per the little girl’s request.

Hmm, that reminded Maya too. She meant to text Eleventh and ask him to bring some of that great lager they had in Kenya. She was really looking forward to seeing her favourite brother with the soulful, teddy bear eyes that crinkled with easy laughter.

The delicious smell of apple turnovers wafted from the toaster oven.


Maya hit the timer stop button at the last second before it went off. The buzzer would have surely irked Mrs. Schultz downstairs. She cracked open the oven door. There’d be no better “alarm” to wake Zoe than the warm scent of freshly baked turnovers filling the apartment. Not that Zoe needed an alarm. The child was always on time for everything. And waking up was no exception.

Straightening her shoulders, Maya’s gaze fell upon the small handpainted sign hanging over the counter.

“If it weren’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.” ~Rita Mae Brown.

Daniel had thought it a hilarious gift to present her one time. 

“If ever there was someone who put the ‘pro’ in procrastinate, Maya, that’d be you,” he’d laughed, then kissed her.

What would she give to be able to travel back in time to hear Daniel laugh that day again? To be able to kiss him one more time. To be held in his arms. But even immortals were bound to the flow of time. 

As a temporal guardian, the Twenty-third Hour could only advance her watch through to the next tomorrow. The past of yesterdays was over and done. As an immortal, all she could do was never forget Daniel and the precious gift he’d given her in their child.

Stop it now. She shook her head. Zoe’s birthdays were always so bittersweet for her.  Enough of memory lane. 

Lifting the towel off the coffee machine, Maya poured herself a cup. Its digital clock now flashed 6:00 AM.

And right on time, the excited patter of small feet came rushing into the kitchen.

“Happy Birthday to me, Mommy!”


Zoe was absolutely thrilled with her birthday gift. She wanted to try it out right away. Maya explained that it needed to be dark first to see the projections.

“The circle is getting darker, Mommy.”

Maya frowned.

“What circle, Zoe?” The little girl merely crammed another spoonful of cornflakes with bananas into her mouth.

“Was that the bad dream you had?” 

Zoe didn’t answer, engrossed as she was in examining the projector over her cereal bowl. Maya let it slide.

“Eek!” Zoe cried out in a perfect imitation of her mother. She pointed to the coffee machine. It was 7:00 AM.

“Mommy! Hurry, get dressed!”


“C’mon Zoe! We’re going to be late!”

Zoe giggled as she held her mother’s hand and together they zigzagged at a run between the puddles to the bus stop. The eyerolling bus driver shook his head in the side mirror. But as always, Maya and Zoe made it to the bus at the last minute before its departure. A few of the regular passengers clapped as they always did when mother and daughter dropped into their seats laughing.

And back at their apartment, Maya’s cellphone which she’d forgotten on the counter started ringing, stopping when the call went to voicemail. It started over a second after, and over and over again. The Eleventh Hour’s sigil flared brightly on its screen before it disappeared and the phone went dead.

⇛ Next part: V – Next Departure

⇚ Previous part: III – The wind and nothing more

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