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A week until I turn sixteen. Also, a week before I have to fulfil my promise to Mum that I will spend at least two hours per night revising for my GCSEs – four on a weekend. Basically, the day I turn sixteen is the day I lose all semblance of a social life.
I open the door to my playroom, thinking I’ve got to sort out stuff for school tomorrow… and stop dead in the doorway.
There’s someone in here.
A second before I scream, I realise that this person is me, only old.
“Shut the door will you, before Mum notices?” Old-me says, glancing up from whatever she’s holding.
Is that what my voice sounds like?
I shut the door and we stare at each other. Old-me is what? Twenties? Thirties? Forties? God knows. I’m not wildly enthusiastic about how bad her skin looks, how long her hair is or how many pies she must have eaten. She has a nose-piercing, though and cool boots. They look a bit like the ones Tank Girl’s wearing on the poster behind me. (Behind Now-me, not Old-me. This could get confusing…)
“I miss having short hair,” Old-me says, looking wistfully at my head. “And tapes.”
She holds up the cassette box in her hand – it’s the one Dad sent me that has a song called ‘Fuck off’ on it.
“Don’t they have tapes where you come from?” I say.
“You mean, when I come from: the future…” Her eyes go all wide and she waggles her fingers. She looks a bit of an idiot. “No. We have USB sticks and MP3 players.”
I don’t know what those things are.
“Um, why are you here?” I ask, edging round until I can perch on the farthest corner of the workbench that surrounds the room. Old-me is sitting on the chair by my desk and her gaze follows me.
“I’ve got to write a blogpost about the thing I’d like to tell my fifteen-year-old self.”
“What’s a blogpost?”
“An article on the internet. Kind of.”
“What’s the internet?” I’m losing patience with all this future-speak.
Old-me frowns and looks at my desk again, taking in the open folder and corkboard, the lamp and the pile of revision guides I’ve not yet touched.
“I forgot you don’t have a computer down here yet. You’ll see.”
Which is infuriating.
“So what now?” I ask. “Do I get to ask you three questions and then you vanish?”
“Do I look like a genie?”
“What are you then?” I’m properly annoyed now. “A figment of my imagination sent here to piss me off?”
“Oh, little Non, you are so delightfully belligerent.” Old-me looks amused. She might not be a genie, but she is a bit of a dick.
I decide to ask her questions anyway. “Do I really need to revise as much as Mum says for my GCSEs?”
“I think we both know the answer to that.”
OK, that was a pointless question. I notice the wedding ring on her finger. “Who do I marry?”
“No one you know.”
There’s a beat in which our attentions slides as one to the passport photo pinned onto my corkboard. That photo probably shouldn’t be there, given that the boy in it isn’t going out with me any more.
Old-me smiles at the photo and then at me. “You go to each other’s wedding.”
I try and think of something else to ask. “Um…” I almost don’t want to know the answer to this, but if this is me from the future (and I’m depressingly sure she is), she won’t think I’m stupid for asking the question. “Am I – are you – a writer?”
Old-me stares at me for quite a long time, her expression more serious than it was a second ago. “You’re already a writer.”
“You know what I mean.”
“I’m not going to tell you,” she says.
“Because I’m not here to give you life advice.”
“Bit pointless you being here, then,” I roll my eyes.
“Is it?” Old-me takes a breath and looks down to fiddle with the sleeve of the manky old navy jumper that she’s wearing. It’s huge and old and tatty and looks like something my mum would do the gardening in. “The brief I’ve been given is: if you could tell your 15-year-old self one thing, what would it be?”
“OK, so what is it?”
Old-me looks up and I realise she isn’t just serious, she’s sad. “You need to tell Grandad that I love him.”
“That I love him?” I ask, confused.
Old-me stands up and springs a hug on me, which is weird. The jumper she’s wearing is soft and smells different from how I’d expect. Not like me, not like Mum. Like Grandad. She takes a step back, her hands on my shoulders as she looks me in the eyes. I always thought mine were blue, but perhaps not.
“You still do love him,” she says.
And when I blink, she’s gone.