thirteen - time warp

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"WAKE UP, ELIOTT!"

I hear Kylie screaming as I wake up from a deep sleep, my body tossing and turning under my warm covers. I groan to myself and bring my comforter up and over my head.

"Eliott!"

I now realize that I've lost this battle without even trying, because she'll still be calling my name even if I ignore her.

"Coming, jeez!" I raise my voice as I reluctantly push my covers back and stretch before standing up. My legs are wobbly like a newborn calf, but I know it's just from my sleepiness.

I walk down our small hallway to find Kylie in the kitchen exactly where I suspected her.

"Your phone is going crazy. It's just Tinder, a random number keeps calling you, and then some notification about your virtual aquarium," Kylie reads off my phone screen. The lines on her forehead crease when she reads the notification about my virtual aquarium.

"You could have turned it off," I subtly propose as I reach out to grab my phone from Kylie's hands. My voice sounds warped since I just woke up and all I want to do is not wake up.

"Yeah, well, I didn't," Kylie plainly states before diving her spoon back into her bowl of cheerios.

I lean against the fridge and scroll through my notifications until I reach the phone number. Five missed calls.

"I don't know who this is," I mumble to myself while my left hand cups the side of my neck.

"Call them back!" Kylie exclaims while she swirls her spoon in her bowl of cereal and milk.

I shrug and realize that's what most people do when they have more than one missed call. It's definitely not spam, because the calls are less than five minutes apart each, and it's definitely not someone I would know because they're not in my contacts.

My eyes sleepily scan our kitchen counters until I remember the cigarettes I've hidden behind our blender. Casually, I walk over and reach behind the appliance to grab my box of cigarettes, praying that Kylie will keep her mouth shut. I'm sick of everyone telling me to stop smoking.

"I'm gonna go out and call them back."

I open the box of cigarettes, sticking one between my lips as I run my plan off to Kylie. Her expression is definitely not amused once she looks up to see me with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth.

She doesn't really acknowledge me and I don't do anything to acknowledge her—I just make my way to the apartment's lobby.

The sun is shining brightly through the building's front doors. I use my arm to shield the morning sun as I walk outside, where it's cold enough to see every drop of water vapor.

I sit sideways on the bench so I can avoid the bright sunlight, immediately lightning my cigarette before proceeding to make any calls. My phone is already open to the unidentified number so all I have to do is press the call button. I do.

The phone rings for what feels like forever, but in reality is only 15 seconds. A man finally picks up with a deep, raspy voice that can only come from a fellow smoker.

"Hello, who is this?" I ask the man on the other end of the phone after he unenthusiastically greets me.

"Walter Zakharov, why?" The man responds with a tone of irritation to his voice.

"Um, your number called me five times this morning."

"What? This is a landline I barely ever use. Tryin' to get rid of the number."

I pause for a moment with the phone up to my ear, eyebrows crinkled together.

"Do you have any children or something who could have used this number?"

Walter cackles at my question and takes a deep breath in before talking.

"I don't normally chat with strangers on the phone, but I have kids who may have used it, and you sound young."

I hear someone's voice in the background of my call with Walter, and it sounds like a females voice. Slightly high, kind of whiny, and getting louder as she approaches the phone and her dad.

"Hold on," Walter tells me as he muffles the phone so all I can hear are traces of his voice.

"I'm gonna put you on with my daughter, Jackie," Walter tells me as I hear the phone being swept away into Jackie's hands.

"Eliott!" Jackie sings into the phone.

"How the hell did you get my number?"

"Tinder!"

I smack my forehead with my hand and rub my temples.

"So everyone can see it?"

Jackie responds with a yes, and I roll my eyes while making a mental note to delete that app and my entire existence on it.

"I matched with you and..."

"And?" I ask as the other end of the phone nearly goes silent.

"Let's go meet at the, uh, library, to make sure that our research is correct. How about in an hour?"

"What?" I say with a laugh, completely confused as to what she's saying. Is she even talking to me?

"Okay, that sounds good! See you then."

The phone goes flat like a heart monitor.

I slam my phone face down against the bench, flicking the ashes from my cigarette as I look around.

"You're gonna break your phone screen if you keep slamming it like that!"

A familiar voice chimes past me like the whirling sound a car makes as it drives down the street. I immediately remember who this man is, and I take a shot in the dark to confirm my memory.

"Find your credit card yet?" I ask once the man has passed me. I hear the rustling of his jacket stop.

"Oh, it's you! I did find it after all. How are you doing?" 

I shrug and shift my body weight to face Michael. "I've been okay."

Michael smiles and nods, and I realize that he has the same dimple under his lower lip that I do. His eyes are the same color, too, and the tip of his nose is slightly pushed upwards like mine. I shake my head and stop staring, because I notice Michael's smile start to drop like he's seriously concerned with my well-being.

"Uh, sorry, I was just thinking about something important. I have to go," I slowly tell Michael while dropping my cigarette on the sidewalk. I watch it roll down the pavement and into a gutter beneath the sidewalk just to give myself a few seconds to think.

I know he's a busy man, too, and I hear his feet shuffle away without even saying anything in return to me. I don't even know he left until I stand up and shove my hands in my pockets, noticing the empty space in front of me where he once stood.

"Awkward," I mumble to myself while taking a deep breath in through my nostrils.

The next destination is the public library, since Jackie and I apparently have some research to adjust.

•••

Okay, okay. I know you can't see numbers on Tinder, but this is fiction and anything can happen. Case closed.

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