The Countdown


Drawn by: Sheyla O’Donnell

Sheyla O'Donnell, Staff Writer

          New years didn’t naturally mean a clean slate. Once the clock hits midnight and rings in the new year, you don’t automatically get a do-over. People are still haunted by their mistakes and choices from the year prior. Julia knew that on a personal level. 

         Her year was coming to a close. The seconds were ticking, and Julia’s life throughout the year flashed through her glacial blue eyes. First, there was the dumpster fire friendship breakup between her and Will, the time she fell down the stairs and the time she broke her leg. Then there was the botched homecoming, the lost prom date, and another break up of the acquaintance sort. 

         Juliette adjusted the plastic NEW YEARS EVE headband above her black curls, took the noisemaker, prepared herself to watch friends pair with their respective partners, and pasted on a smile to act like she enjoyed being at the party alone. 







                                          ……… 4

                                               ……… 3

                                                     ……… 2

          The ball nearly dropped on the screen, and she went to wish the only person who was single a “Happy New Year’s,” but when she turned she was alone. Julia turned back to look at the screen and noticed the clock rewound. Her mouth opened in a silent scream before the clock hit 60 seconds, and her head hit the couch. 


        DECEMBER 22nd 


           Anyone in Julia’s circle would know that this day would be forever treacherous. Well, Julia didn’t precisely have a “circle” at the moment. She had spent the last half of her year with her life slowly unraveling. Julia had everything before the beginning of school. She had a best friend who she loved dearly and whom she assumed had loved her as well. Her heart was bursting with love. Julia’s summer consisted of spending time with her best friend. It was a perfectly average teenage summer. And, that’s all Julia desired. Or, so she thought. 

          Julia had started the day knowing that this was the last day she had to endure at school. She spent her entire week prior to being held in academia’s chokehold. Julia was tested in every class and spent her weekend sleeping due to the lack of sleep from the previous week. But, Julia wasn’t worrying about that. Instead, she had a wide grin as she skipped around the halls and delivered presents to her teachers. She found Marissa, her best friend, in the hall and exclaimed a giddy “Merry Christmas!” to her, only to find Marissa ignoring her greeting and walking past. 


           Julia attempted to ignore the brush off during the rest of the day. She plastered a smile on her full lips that wobbled between the crevices of heartbreak and churning anger. Julia ignored Will, her old and previous best friend, as he glanced over at her during chemistry. They had chosen seats next to each other before falling out and never bothered to move. It required more work to acknowledge that they were no longer each other’s safety nets. In all honesty, it was heartbreaking for Will, for he never assumed he would lose her this early. 

           Julia had dreams that wouldn’t be contained to the small town they were confined in. She dreamed of the world she had never seen, and while Will knew it would be his last wish to hold her back, Julia loved people too much to let go of them for her dream. He just never knew that she would leave him this soon. 

           Throughout the day, Julia ate lunch with Marissa in silence, as it seemed Marissa desired. Julia tried to smile along with what Marissa was babbling about to another acquaintance at their lonely table. However, all Julia could think about was that Marissa wasn’t talking to her. She wasn’t telling her how her dog got stuck in the cabinet under the sink or the fact that Marissa finally got her license. 

          It all bubbled to the surface when they reached their shared study hall. On most days, the time was consumed by laughing and gossiping. Rarely did Julia actually achieve the goal of doing her homework. Julia was used to sitting by Marissa and giggling hysterically until her lungs hurt. But on this particular day, Julia walked in to find Angela, another girl at their designated table, sitting in her seat. Julia shared brief eye contact with Will before sitting on the opposite side of the two. She pulled her chemistry homework out and attempted to tune out the unwanted chatter she was being pushed out of. 

           What had Julia done to deserve the prolonged silence that filled their group? She was too busy to even hang out with Marissa during the school year. There was no way that Julia had time to do something wrong or cruel. But as the rest of the class in the small, confined space began to talk amongst themselves, she was spiraling. Julia found herself desperately grasping at straws for a reason as to why she was losing her person. 

          As much as Julia didn’t want to admit it, these occurrences had been happening far longer than she wished. The cold shoulder, and shushed gossiping had been occurring since Julia’s birthday party. Who knew a meager little get-together of a few of her closest friends could derail a seemingly solid friendship? Only friendships built on the foundations of toothpicks could crumble so easily. 

         She wanted it to stop. Julia wanted the hushed whispers between the two to end. She wanted the pitied glances her way to cease. But, let’s be honest, Julia just wanted her best friend back. Instead, Julia was subjected to the cruel act of Marissa and Angela babbling about their plans throughout the period. As if Julia could be happy watching her former best friend love someone else. It hurt. It hurt far too much, and she couldn’t breathe. Her lungs ached, and her heart was in someone’s grip while they were squeezing it until she keeled over from heartbreak. 

         Marissa was supposed to be someone she found solace in as her friendship with Will fizzled out. And Marissa served her purpose if that was the only goal of the friendship. Marissa would gently pry Julia away from the dumpster fire that blew up between the two friends and coax her back into the land of giggles and grins. Will had said it himself. He admitted that he wasn’t the friend Julia deserved, and with that confession that nearly broke Julia’s heart, she agreed in haste. She did deserve better than Will if he would continue with his antics. But maybe Marissa wasn’t any better than Will. 

          At that thought, she was rushed back into the present on the couch with the countdown paused. Julia knew this wasn’t the case, for everything else seemed frozen. Her friends were grinning at each other, and their faces were frozen with glee. Her cat, Juniper’s position, was locked in a mid-sneeze. When Julia finally went to look back at the screen in desperation to find an explanation for literally time-traveling, an ethereal-looking woman smiled down at her. 

           “Hello, Julia,” the woman gently brushed out the wrinkles on her silky blue dress. 

          “Who are you? And why do you keep making me time travel? I just want to sleep and forget that this year even existed.”

             “Don’t you see what you need to do? Your mindset is terribly dismal and dull. You do not see the bigger picture. And until you do…you will repeat December 22nd until you finally see the bigger picture and fix what happened.” The magical being coyly smiled at Julia before disappearing into the mist, leaving Julia confused until she was brought back to where she had left off on December 22nd.