“How on earth do you find time to do everything?” My friend, Annie, asked.
“Oh, you know me, not one for sitting still.” I laughed. Once again, I had blown her away with my efficiency.
“I can barely keep up with the day to day chores, let alone even dream about doing all the things you do. You put me to shame, I’d need at least an eight day week to get all that done.”
Little did Annie know, but so did I. But what she could only dream of, I actually had. Ever since I was ten years old, my weeks have had an extra twenty-four hours.
It started on my tenth birthday, I remember being excited about turning to double figures. It felt very grown up. As the middle child of five, I got teased a lot by my siblings. I was the quiet one and loved to read, unlike the rest of them, including our parents, who were constantly messing around and joining in with the games. They joked that they must have brought the wrong child home from the hospital, none of the others were bookworms like me. I loved nothing more than shutting myself away and reading, losing myself in tales of Narnia.
“Don’t forget to make a wish.” Mum said, lighting the candles.
Just as I filled my lungs the old grandfather clock clunked in the hallway, the cogs turned and moved the big hand in line with the top of the hour. I closed my eyes, blew out all the air and made my wish as the first chime rang out. Only managing to extinguish half the candles, I quickly refilled my lungs and blew the rest out as the second chime rang, repeating the wish in my head. Clapping my hands with delight I looked around the table, wondering why nobody was cheering. But they were silent.
Every single member of my family was frozen like a statue, some were looking at the cake, mouths open or smiling. Others, including my Dad were looking straight at me. Expecting them all to burst into laughter at any moment, I tried to laugh it off.
“Very funny. Just another one of your silly jokes. Can’t just have one day when you don’t all gang up and tease me?”
Nobody moved, not the slightest twitch of a smile, or blink. I moved away from the table and looked around them all individually. The twins, being the youngest, would surely crack first. I crept up behind them and waited for a moment, then jumped forward putting my head between each of theirs. ‘Boo!’ I yelled. Nothing. I rushed over to my mum and tugged at her arm.
“Mum, Mum!” Her gaze was fixed on the cake and the lighter still in her hand. “Mum, listen to me, please!”
I grabbed her hands but couldn’t move them, I pinched the back of her hand but there no reaction whatsoever. Her skin felt soft and warm but there was no movement in her joints at all. Utterly confused and scared, I ran from the room and threw myself onto the sofa and cried, what had happened to them all?
I stayed there with my head buried in a cushion for a long time, hours probably. Every so often I would peek out, hoping they had come back to life. But they remained in the same positions like mannequins in shop windows. I looked out the window and saw that all the cars in the road had just stopped exactly where they were.
As the day wore on, I began to get hungry. Hours must have passed but it was still light. I snacked on the sandwiches and crisps that had been laid out, all my favourite party foods. I poked my brothers and sisters from time to time just to check, but they were all just the same. The television wouldn’t switch on, and the music had stopped. With nothing for company and no idea how long it would last, I picked up one of my new books and began reading, before eventually falling asleep on the sofa.
When I woke up in the morning, I momentarily forgot what had happened. But then the silence reminded me.
I ate breakfast and washed my face, then snuggled back down on the sofa again with my books. I played with some of my other new toys, and managed to keep myself entertained. Too scared to leave the house I had no option but to wait out the unknown.
Suddenly, a noise broke into the silence. It was the Grandfather clock chiming. I jumped up and ran back over to the family. It chimed a second time and all at once, my entire family broke into a cheer.
I stood staring at them, eyes wide, and my mouth gaping open. My mothers voice trailed off.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“What happened to you all?”
“What do you mean?”
“Come on, let’s cut the cake.” Dad said.
Distracted by the excitement around the table, Mum patted my hand and smiled at me before dishing up the cake.
After the silence of the last twenty-four hours, my ears almost hurt from the chatter.
“What did you wish for?” My eldest sister asked.
“Don’t tell or it won’t come true.” Dad said.
I thought for a moment about my wish. I had only wished for a bit of peace and quiet, nothing much, just some time to myself. Could it really have come true?
Time has stopped every Wednesday at 2pm since that day. I have twenty-four hours to do with as I wish.
Twenty years on, and trying to juggle work, home, family and interests of my own, I can’t imagine life without those extra hours.
The Grandfather clock now stands in my hallway, reliably ticking away and reminding us of the hour. Each time I hear the chime, I smile, and thank him for his precious gift of time.