THE LITTLE TIMEKEEPER
By: Connie Peete
Vonda drove down Route 33 heading toward the Buffalo-Niagara Greater International Airport. At 40 mph, she was cruising. She stared straight ahead, oblivious to the cars going 60-70 mph that passed her, leaving her trailing in their exhausts. Screw em, she thought. To go any faster would tempt an ill fate of a disastrous car accident, in which she, not her more deserving two-timing boyfriend, would end up dead. Vonda's beau of two years, Elton, had just broken up with her. By E-mail, that jerk. Said he met someone. Said he loved her, never meant to hurt her, but it just happened.
Just happened, my ass!
Being the classy lady she prided herself on being, Vonda told him if that's what he wanted, she wouldn't stand in his way. She only wanted him to be happy.
I want him castrated.
She didn't want Elton to be with her if he really wanted to be with someone else.
I gave him two years!
There was something else, he had said. She's pregnant. And yes, it's his.
I want to kill her, too. Make her suffer and make him watch.
Vonda veered onto the Eggert Road exit. The apartment complex Elton lived in was only minutes away. Vonda's heart raced. Inside the trunk of her car was all the gallons of propane gas she could fit inside; gas that Elton insisted she should have on hand when the all the major utilities shut down due to the Y2K bug. Also inside was a garbage bag containing all of his clothes that were still at her apartment. Burned, of course.
He promised me an engagement ring on New Year's Eve. That prick!
The gas really was an excuse to see him for what would be the last time. To see if she could get him to look at her the way he used to before he met someone'. Tears clouded her view of the road. Vonda blinked them away, determined to shed not one more tear over Elton, no matter how much it hurt. She turned right a bit too sharply, throwing her car out of control. Suddenly the car came to a screeching halt, throwing her forward. She gripped the steering wheel and closed her eyes, silently saying a prayer of thanks. When she opened them, she gasped.
"Oh no! Please God, tell me I didn't!"
A little girl was sitting on the pavement right in front of her car. She winced as she stood up, brushing dirt off of her backside. She had on a Buffalo Bills sweatshirt and denim shorts. Her straight blonde hair was in a ponytail, and she had the prettiest blue eyes.
"Are you alright?" Vonda asked.
The girl stepped back, apprehensive of the frantic woman coming toward her.
"It's okay," Vonda said. "I won't hurt you. What's your name?"
"Millennia," she said. "Most people call me Millie."
"Millennia," Vonda said. "That's a pretty name."
"What's your name?"
Millie smiled. "I like your name better."
"Are you sure you're okay, Millie?" Vonda asked.
Millie nodded. "Yep, I'm sure. You wanna' come to my house?"
"No, I have to get going."
"Where are you going?"
"I'm going to my boy..my friend's house," replied Vonda.
"Is your friend a man or a woman?" Millie asked with a giggle.
"A man," Vonda replied.
"Is he cute?" Millie asked.
Vonda smiled. "Yes, he's cute."
"Is he nice to you?"
He used to be, Vonda thought. "He's real nice to me."
"That's good," said Millie. "People aren't so nice to each other any more. I see them on Jerry Springer. They fight all the time. It makes me sad."
"Honey, you really shouldn't be watching Jerry Springer."
"My big sister Crystal watches it when Mom's not home," Millie said with a sly grin. "She's twelve. I'm seven."
"Well, not everyone is like those folks you see on Jerry Springer," said Vonda. "At least I'm not like that."
"No, you're nice," Millie said. "And you're pretty, too. You have beautiful brown eyes and dark hair. I hope I'm as pretty as you when I grow up."
"Why, thank you," Vonda said. "From what I'm seeing now, you'll be even prettier." She glanced at her watch. It was almost noon.
"Do you have to go?" Millie asked.
Vonda nodded. "It's been nice talking to you."
"Can't you stay just a little longer?" Millie asked.
"No, I can't," replied Vonda.
"You have to," Millie pleaded. "You can't go now. It's not time."
Vonda chuckled. "What do you mean, it's not time?"
"You gotta' stay here, Vonda. You can't go right now."
Vonda was glad to see she wasn't hurt, but Millie was starting to get on her nerves. "Millie, I have to go now. You have to go home and stay out of the street before you really get hurt. And no more Jerry Springer." She cradled Millie's round little face in her hands. "Would you do that for me?"
A tear rolled down Millie's cheek. "If you go, you're gone forever."
"No I'm not," Vonda said. "I'm just going to my boyfriend's. He lives just a mile away. That's not forever. I want to catch him before he leaves for NetEra."
Millie made a funny face. "What's NetEra?"
"It's the bank where he works at."
"I thought he was a friend," Millie added with a smug grin.
"Actually, he's my ex-boyfriend, Miss Smarty-Pants," Vonda said. "Meaning he's no longer a boyfriend."
"Why?" Millie asked. "You don't like him anymore?"
"No, I don't."
"Did he do something bad?"
"Did it hurt your feelings?"
"Yes, Millie, it hurt me really bad!" Vonda snapped. Jeesh, I'm getting up close and personal with a seven year old, she thought. "Millie, don't you have any friends to play with?"
"I want to play with you," Millie replied.
"Girls my age don't play," said Vonda. "Well, we do, but our toys are much bigger and more of a pain in the butt."
"I bet I can play with your toys," Millie said.
"No, baby, you don't want to. Trust me. Enjoy being a seven-year-old." Vonda again glanced at her watch. It was almost twelve-thirty. Elton would be leaving in an hour.
"Don't worry, you'll get there in time," said Millie.
"Not if I stay here with you," said Vonda.
Millie looked past her, toward the sky. She appeared to be looking at something, making Vonda turn around to see if someone was behind her. She saw nothing but the cloudy skies that greeted her that morning when she woke up. When she got the heart-breaking E-mail.
"What are you looking at?" she asked Millie.
Millie's eyes stayed on the sky for a few moments, then focused on Vonda. "Goodbye Vonda. I liked talking to you."
"Oh, you mean I can go now?" Vonda asked, sarcastic.
Millie smiled. "Yep, you can go now. I couldn't let you leave before your time."
Vonda shot her a puzzled glance before getting into her car. Millie waved at her as she drove off. Vonda looked in her rearview mirror and saw her watching her. She blinked, then did a double-take. Millie was gone. Vonda was wondering how the girl disappeared so fast when she noticed the red light ahead of her and slammed on the brake.
Vonda pushed herself back against her seat. Her vision was hazy but slowly clearing.
"Ma'am, you alright? Are you hurt?"
"Millie?" Vonda opened her eyes. Instead of Millie's pretty face, she saw a man with green eyes and dark hair, holding her car door open. The smell of aftershave filled her nostrils.
"What's your name, ma'am?"
"Vonda. I like it much better than ma'am."
He smiled. "Emmanuel. Friends call me Manny. I called the police and ambulance from my cellular."
"The police? What happened?" Vonda asked. "I know I made a sharp right and lost control of my car, but I thought I handled it okay."
Manny shook his head. "No, that's not what happened. Are you on any medication?"
"No," Vonda replied, a bit defensive. She looked around, trying to re-familiarize herself with her surroundings. "I was on Route 33 and I got off on Eggert Road. Then I made a right."
"No, you made a left off the Eggert Road exit, then you ran the red light and just missed being broadsided by a tractor trailer truck. You veered out of control before hitting this light pole. I was right behind you, luckily not following too closely."
"Oh my God!" Vonda could see it all clearly now. She was supposed to turn right at the red light, but for some reason she kept going straight.
"You were out cold for awhile," the man said. "I was kind of worried about you. Who's Millie?"
"She's someone I know. " At least Vonda thought she knew her. Right now she wasn't even sure Millie was real, but somehow she was a part of all this. Vonda just wasn't sure how.
"No one else got hurt, did they?"
"Nope," Manny replied. "Thank God. Hopefully you'll be okay, too."
Vonda managed a weak smile. She heard sirens wailing in the distance. Manny gave her a reassuring nod. Vonda found him handsome in a rugged kind of way. Not centerfold gorgeous like Elton, but attractive enough to want to see more of him.
"Hey Manny. If I don't die or anything like that, you think you'd be interested in going out with me sometime?"
Manny smiled, and what a knockout smile he had. "You read my mind. Why do you think I'm sticking around?" he joked.
"Then it's a date," Vonda said, smiling. "That's is, when I get my walking papers from the hospital. By the way, you wouldn't know anyone who's in the market for some propane gas, would you?"
Manny responded with a puzzled look.
Farther in the distance, on a grassy hilltop, Millie sat and watched as Vonda was wheeled away in an ambulance. She came close to being in Millie's world, but it would be too soon. She was a toughie, though. Grownups never listen to children, Millie thought. Even if they're an angel who happens to be only seven years old.