March 21, 2030. Another dreary day in what is supposedly my favorite city. So much for that. My childhood self thought NYC would be the perfect place to live due to all the tall buildings and broadway shows. Little did she know my bills would be so ridiculously expensive. I can’t stay warm since I can’t manage to pay my heat anymore. I live a pretty basic life. Wake up, sit at my desk and talk to angry people wanting a refund or who want to know why our company sucks so much. I get it, a lot of people get ripped off and they are furious. I get dozens of angry callers everyday and even my cubicle mate agrees. Not only does my job suck, the office sucks too. There are about 100 of us shoved into a tiny room like sardines. Take subway home. Eat ramen. Shower if I really smell. Stare at my pixelated box TV. Go to sleep. Repeat. I know I am capable of more in my life. I went to college for a better life than doing a minimum wage job. I don’t know why my degree isn’t doing anything. My nine year old dreamer deserved more.
January 9, 2010. IT IS MY BIRTHDAY. I turn nine today on this great snowy day. I love the snow. I hope my mom lets me play outside with my brother. We have this huge hill in my backyard that is perfect for sledding. Sometimes if we are lucky, we go down the hill and into the creek. We mined ice down in the creek and sold it to our next door neighbors. It's only his second year of school so there is no reason he shouldn’t be able to. It is up to my knees out there. We could even build a bump on the hill. I can’t wait. I walk downstairs and find my breakfast waiting for me. No presents. On my golden birthday. Does she not know I am nine years old today on the ninth? This is crazy! I can’t believe her right now. I think I am going to go live with my best friend now.
March 30, 2030. On my way to work this Friday I decide to take myself out to a chinese restaurant with what little money I have. I knew I could only get a simple meal and try to steal some fortune cookies. I walk towards the bad part of town to get the cheapest dinner. Safety is never a concern to me. I am already living a horrible life can it get much worse?
I sit down with my dumplings and notice they gave me extra fortune cookies. I tear the package ever so slightly and crack open the cookie. I take out the slip of paper and begin to read it. It's a tiny map enveloped inside the cookie. Someone probably just screwed up at the one job they had, right some crappy fortune and put it in a cookie. How hard is that? I look at it closer and come to realize this wasn’t a joke. On the back of the tattered piece of paper it says “YOU HAVE TWO WEEKS TO FIND YOUR TRUE SELF BEFORE I DO.” Ok this is some kind of prank by a little kid. How funny. So creative, you really got me this time kid.
January 18, 2010. I had the best lunch today. I had fruit snacks and a pudding! Me and my bestest friends went outside to go play on the snow piles. We run up the piles without falling and make it to the top. We start to push mounds of snow together to make a chair. I always get the first sit in it. That's just how it goes. I am the oldest and the oldest always goes first.
March 31, 2030. I wake up from my disgusting mattress and realize the fortune cookie I threw out last night is right next to me. Man that’s adorable. I open it up and this time the slip of paper says “THIS IS NOT A JOKE. FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS OR I WILL FOLLOW YOU.” I feel the perspiration on my forehead forming after this threat. I call my mom and ask her if I can come home for a few weeks. I need to escape this madness. Even if I make the bare minimum, I can always get another job. I just need to step back from it all.
As I am driving I feel a sense of relief as I come across the city line. ‘Rhinelander, Wisconsin. Population 7508. I roll down my window on this 40 degree day and smell the comfort of cow poop. As I drive into downtown I notice nothing has changed in these 11 years since I have left. Nothing. I would expect a new grocery store since that thing has been here for over a century. It was clean here. No garbage on the streets or homeless people begging for your money. Not having to give up what little spare change I have lets me blurt out a long awaited sigh.
February 2, 2010. Groundhog day. A new beginning. Either six more weeks of winter or six weeks until spring. Even at age 9 I have realized they mean the same thing. I guess it helps people get through the winter. It always was my favorite time. Me and my brother went in our backyard and would farm ice out of the tiny crick. We would build mini cities and make a house for our future selves. I know he is still little but I am getting to old for all of this play pretend stuff. I don’t see why it is so fun to live in another world when there is one right in front of us.
April 1, 2030. I arrive at my childhood home to only feel disappointment. I think a piece of my heart has been torn out. I open the door and hear the familiar creek as it opens and smell our laundry detergent. I squeeze my mom as soon as I walk into the door and feel a ton of bricks come off my shoulders. We sit down on the couch and I catch her up on everything going on in my life.
“Mom, I am not where I want to be right now. I am a waitress in a run down apartment. I got my heat turned off the other day.” I say sobbing.
“Hun. I wish I could say I am proud of you. I raised you better than this. I expected more out of you. I know you can do it and still become successful,” she whispers shaking uncontrollably.
“I know I have failed you. Sorry doesn’t begin to express how I feel.” I say.
“I am not the only one that is disappointed in you.” As she stretches out her arm with a letter. I cautiously grab the letter and open it up. It reads Hello again. I see you have taken a right step in your journey. Good progress, but not good enough. You need to progress faster. I need to see you make it. My time is running out and yours will be soon. My hands were shaking after I read this. Who could be this upset with me?
March 10, 2010. My best friend Annabelle walks with me when I busted my knee. I was jumping up and down when this ball comes out of nowhere and I trip over it. It was probably one of those boys who chase us around the playground. We hobble into the health room and get all bandaged up. All of the sudden I start bust out crying for no reason. I know I am not a baby when it comes to pain. Maybe it's just the stress of my dog dying. I miss her everyday.
April 5, 2030. I sit in my childhood bedroom and ponder about what the cookie is trying to tell me. I know I have to do something in the near future before some creep starts to follow me. My mom and I go out to dinner and she tries to get me to move back home. I can’t pick up and leave the city, but I could use the money. I have people I need to take care of. My next door neighbor relies on me for my extra food. My neighbor downstairs. She uses my metro card to take the bus when its cold. I can’t leave my second family. But if I did I could regather myself and figure out my actual goals in life. I have the knowledge for it just not the motivation. I don’t understand why I am letting my life slip away so easily. I had it made; I went to a good school, got my masters, and found a group of friends I could rely on. I don’t know where I went wrong.
April 7, 2030. I decide to tell my mom about the fortune cookie and she breaks down crying right away.
“Honey, I have horrible news. Do you remember Annabelle?”
“Of course how could I forget” I say.
I immediately cry. I come down to my knees shaking. I left her and now she is dead. I never got to tell her how sorry I was.
“How did she die?” I question.
“Kidney failure.” She states.
“I have something to give you, another letter.”
I grab it and start to read it. If you are reading this then my time has come. Way sooner than I would’ve liked. It is your job to succeed. I know we have had our rough patches through our lives but I never stopped being your friend. I need you to succeed for me. Please.
“Annabelle.” I whispered. I look up at my mom and she starts nodding her head. After all these years she still cares about me.
“You knew all this time and didn’t tell me?” I ask.
“I was instructed not to tell you. Annabelle has a point however. You can be so much more.” she says. I regretted that one day what happened in middle school. I need to change my life. Now.
October 17, 2015. Middle School. Ugh. I don't want to make new friends I just want to keep my Annabelle. Well, kind of. I met this totally awesome new group of girls who wear makeup and are totally cool. I want to be in their group now and ditch Annabelle. Maybe I will talk to her about it at lunch today.
“Hey Annabelle, I um can’t sleepover this weekend I have some family thing I need to be at.” I sigh.
“Oh you must have plans with your new friends right?” She questions.
“Uh… yeah they are just cooler than you.” I say.
“So you are just gonna ditch me when I have been at your side this whole time even through your dog dying?” She yells in my direction.
“We are so done and I am never going to regret this. Ever.” I sob.
April 14, 2030. I moved out of my apartment. Quit my job. Moved home. Finding a job I am passionate about. I am changing. For her. And myself. I deserve this. My new life starts today.
January 9, 2040. I have changed for the good. I have a stable job as a salesperson at a paper company. I met my future husband and we are raising a dog together. Everything I do is for Annabelle. I regret that fight to this day and do everything for her now.