Updated: Apr 12
The clock struck midnight. First of March. Leap Year day over for another four years. Ally sighed and looked over at her husband, Billy Crudup sleeping. WTF. In the dark, he looked like someone else, another familiar face. Who was it? She racked her brain. The name was on the tip of her tongue. But unreachable. Even if she strained her mind she couldn’t quite get it. Flicking through the various faces and moments in her memories, she nearly found it a few times but the name just lurked around the corner, sprinting away from her every time she caught up with it.
She picked up her phone and opened up Quill Kickers. She typed in everything go back to normal but nothing happened. Even when she switched her phone off and on, nothing changed. That normally worked. OMG. She was stuck.
Every hour, even every minute, she seemed to forget something of her past life. She didn’t want it to disappear all together. Like Guy Pearce in Memento, she started writing down messages to herself on pieces of paper and putting them in various drawers and cupboards to find later on. He’s not your real husband…you have children…this is not real. It felt real enough though. From the constant mewing from her herd of cats to the constant spewing from her husband’s lips. Don’t you think that marshmallows smell of babies’ nappies? Do you think I should have a feather cut to show my character’s multi-layered angst? Do you think we should send a donut basket or a hamster hamper to Oprah? Ally just wanted to roll her eyes at him and tell him to shut up but refrained from doing so.
Even shopping didn’t spark joy any longer. When you could buy anything you wanted, the thrill somehow disappeared. Even a personalised tennis shoe based on her own unique DNA and astronomical birth chart did nothing for her.
The only good thing seemed to be that there was no longer a need for her to volunteer at the local food bank. People were no longer going hungry. That was great news. Wasn’t it? She felt a sudden loss of purpose. What was she doing in this new world of hers anyway? Idly whiling away her day, doing meaningless tasks,
surrounded by inanity. How could she turn back the clock? What was her major, earth-shattering, turning point, action moment going to be?
She decided to watch Big. She had to learn how mini-Tom-Hanks managed to reverse his spell, so that maybe she could do it too. Sad days. All he did was to find Zoltar and make another wish. Simples. Not like her jam. She wanted to scream. She couldn’t wait another three and a half years for Leap Year day to come round again. She would go mad. She pictured herself half-rocking, half-swaying to Phil Collins’s In the Air Tonight over and over again waiting for the big day to come. The big drum roll on loop. Oh dear, how pathetic was she? What had her world come to?
The first year passed. Ally found one of her notes whilst getting ready for an ‘understanding misunderstood animals’ gala one night. It was in her favourite Jimmy Choos, given to her by…she couldn’t quite remember who but she knew that it was a special moment. You have another husband, the note said. It didn’t surprise her. She had felt that Billy wasn’t the one, even though he was this sexy Hollywood star. She always thought that she would be with someone who shared her love of silly humour and didn’t take themselves too seriously. She started writing down what he would look like, what he liked, disliked; a pen portrait. Jackson, auburn with a roguish smile, loves nothing more than having friends round for dinner for some hearty discussions and fine wine. Ally laughed, it sounded like Barbara Cartland’s Tinder page. She tried again. Jackson, social but sensitive, silly but serious, steady but clumsy, likes to spend time with his family…Family, that was that heavy feeling in her heart again. She imagined what her kids would look like. There was Layla, who wanted to be like Daniel Craig and then there was Tom who thought he was Billie Eilish…Her mind drifted off thinking of them.
Year two flew by. Her little notebook of her imaginary family kept growing and kept her sane.
The third year was the hardest of all. Ally found her last note, this is not real, which threw her in a chasm of depression. Even her imagination could not save her. By now, Billy spent most of his time in LA filming and the house had been taken over by the cats. It was like Grey Gardens, but without the glamour.
By the time 29th February arrived, Ally was a shell of her former self. Socialising no longer excited her and bit by bit she was becoming a recluse. So much so that she was taking a car load of her old dresses and party shoes to the local charity for donation, when she bumped into him. Literally. He was parking up with his kids and the tail end of his car gently nudged her as she was leaning in to her boot. The contents of her donation bag tumbled out. He picked up the Jimmy Choo and handed it to her. I’m sorry, he said, I didn’t see you or your pumpkin. Something in Ally stirred. Her heart raced slightly and her face flushed. I’m Jackson, he continued, sorry, bad joke. Yeah Dad, that was awful, said the boy next to him. Jackson playfully punched his son on the arm and introduced him as Tom and the girl on the other side as Layla. Jackson…Tom…Layla. A light in Ally suddenly sparked on. Her heart tightened and she became breathless. She stared up at Jackson and the kids. He had auburn hair with a roguish smile, just as Barbara had described and the two kids were as beautiful as she had hoped. I’m so clumsy, Jackson said, must be something to do with Leap Year day…forgive me? At that moment, Ally suddenly remembered. She remembered Leap Year day. She remembered wishing for Billy Crudup and the cats. She remembered the regrets. She remembered the longing. The longing for her perfect family that was staring back at her. A tear started down her cheek. Are you OK? Did I hurt you? Jackson’s worried face stared back at her. Wiping it away, Ally smiled up at him, shaking her head. I’m fine, she said. Just fine. I need to do something.
Ally leaned into her car for her phone and opened up Quill Kickers. She started typing something, then stopped. She nodded to herself as if she suddenly knew the answer. Turning it off, she threw it back into the car. She then looked back at Jackson and the kids and smiled. Would you guys help me take this in, she asked? I would really appreciate it.
As she followed Jackson and the two kids into the charity shop, she smiled to herself. This time, she wasn’t going to change a thing. If it’s meant to be, it will be. It was.