So, I really, honestly, have spent a large part of today trying to write the next chapter of Sometimes and finish off another fic I started a few weeks ago. Neither of them were really coming together, and then before I knew what I was doing, I was opening up a new word document and writing this. C'est la vie.
Disclaimer: Same as always, not mine.
She's got a sand timer on her bookshelf that takes twenty four hours for the sand to run through. Every morning, she turns it over, and watches the grains start to trickle through to the lower chamber. Sometimes, if she times it right, she'll walk into her office in the morning and be able to see the exact second the last grain falls; then she'll pick it up, carefully turn it over, and replace it on the shelf. And the whole process begins again.
She doesn't remember when she started this ritual; it seems ironic that someone who measures their life in grains of sand cannot remember the day she began to do so, but that's how it is. It was after she lost Sophie, she knows that. It was before her divorce, she knows that too. Somewhere, in the space between two events that dramatically shaped her life, she bought a sand timer and began to use it.
It's not an obsession; she won't go into the office at weekends to turn it over, she doesn't force herself to be present at the moment the sand runs out so she can turn it over at that exact second. But there is something soothing about the way the grains slide down, an element of comfort she is able to seek in the monotony, the routine, the predictability of it all. Twenty four hours, no more and no less. No grain of sand will escape, or fail to fall; no part of the timer will let her down. It measures a day – just one day. And it doesn't matter what that day is – it could be a busy Monday, full of meetings and consultations. It could be a boring, rainy Wednesday of paperwork and typing reports. It could be a Friday, when she's trying to find out what happened to a sixteen year old boy's real parents. The timer doesn't know; it won't allow the day to pass more quickly because the tasks that lay before her are boring and routine, it won't slow down to allow her more time in the moments she truly wishes to savour. And it won't stop; no matter how many moments there are when she feels the desire to freeze time, to halt its steady progress towards tomorrow, to just make it stop, if only for one second, so she can allow whatever it was that she felt – happiness, joy, relief – to linger, just a little longer.
She also derives reassurance from the fact that, when all the grains have found their way back home, she can turn them upside down and make them begin their journey again. It's a comfort to know, somehow, that even if she turns their world upside down, they can still right themselves. That no matter how scrambled, and confused, and jumbled things get, there is always a way for it to correct itself, to find its way back, again, to where it needs to be. There may be frustration at times in her inability to alter or freeze time, but the reassurance of its unbending task prevents her from stopping her use of it. This is one thing that will not change; no matter the course of the day, its structure will stay the same. You can't feel when one day becomes the next, there's no physical way to tell when that day has gone and the next has begun, but this, her timer, is a way to show her what has been, and what is to come. And signal the passing of another day.
But she'd be lying if she said her precious timer didn't have negative connotations as well. After all, every day lived was another day passed, another day gone, another day that, sometimes, felt like it had been a waste. She was another day older, without being a day closer to finding someone to share the rest of those days with. She'd gone another day without being a mother, without taking a step closer to becoming a mother, and she couldn't ignore the fact that the more days there were slipping into yesterday the less there were to become tomorrow.
It hadn't escaped his notice, yet he'd never called her on it. Never asked her why it's there, never teased her about it, never gently probed in an attempt to uncover the reason why it appeared in her office one day and never left. Perhaps he knows she doesn't want to talk about it – not out of guilt, or embarrassment, or shame, but simply because there's no reason to. It's just there for her, like music humming quietly in the background, like a face in the crowd behind the one you're searching for, like the patter of raindrops on the window pane that you don't need to see to know what they are. Or why they're there.
So she sits at her desk, tapping at the keyboard, and every so often she'll offer it a perfunctory glance. It does its job – it reminds her of the stability of time, it shows how even miniscule grains of sand can complete a relentless journey, it offers no promises or prophecies of the future and yet, in a way, it does. I'll be here tomorrow. It'll be the same again. No matter what happens, tomorrow will roll around, just the same as it always does.
With everything that's happened in her life, sometimes, that's what she needs to cling onto.