By the time evening rolled around, Olivia felt certain several days had passed. She desperately needed a shower, some pain reliever, and perhaps 12 hours of sleep. With 15 minutes left of her scheduled office hours, she was packing her things to go. No one usually showed up this late, and anyway, Olivia had stayed every other time.
Before she got up, there was a knock at the door and a head peeked around.
Olivia felt like a cartoon character whose color drained from them into a puddle on the floor. It was Emerson from Witch.
“Hi,” he said. He stayed in the doorway like a vampire. “Olivia, right?”
“You’re not in my class anymore.”
Emerson snorted, which didn’t seem like a very vampire thing to do.
“No, but you’re the only one who can explain things like I’m not an idiot.”
He came in. Also not a vampire thing. Though probably a school auxiliary room didn’t count.
“I’m trying to plan a future analysis of an acid-test ratio, but—are you okay?”
“What?” Oliva felt panic prickle her neck.
Emerson gestured vaguely around her head.
“You have some serious vibes. You also look like you haven’t slept in a week. Can math keep you up all night?”
“Endless strings of numbers, the balance of equations around a single variable.”
He looked around her again and made a short hum in the back of his throat. Shane did something similar when she thought the other person was lying. Olivia trained her eyes on the papers in Emerson’s hand and worked very hard to control her face. She wanted to go home and scream and cry and never be okay again. It wouldn’t happen, but that’s what she wanted. She always ended up okay again, which made it hard to give the appropriate weight to things.
“Acid-test ratio, right? Something about the potential for liquidating a business. Whether or not it will be easy to sell it outright or if there will be loss.”
“Right, so, these are the numbers now,” Emerson said. He didn’t sit down, just placed a stack of neatly arranged papers on her desk, covered in equally neat rows of numbers and simple calculations. For a moment, she forgot that Emerson was terrifying and people died and she was possibly an alien abandoned on this planet and left to die. For a moment, she appreciated neatly arranged numbers and a relatively simplistic, real world math problem.
Her eyes pricked and stung and the foundation of her rationality quaked, but she focused on the numbers and dove in.
Just for a moment.
“I know futures are all about guessing,” Emerson continued. “But I don’t understand what I’m doing wrong that suddenly the ratio drops 10 points here four months out.”
She spread the pages correlating to the next six months in front of her and let them speak. They lined up like well trained children at an orchestra recital, then one by one, the sections began to play. Numbers and labels jumped out. She saw that the profit range was broad, some of these items barely made the cost of supplies, much less overhead, where others could have been discounted by over half and would still support a thriving business.
An instrument was flat in the third movement. She pointed to the page.
“Here,” she said. “You include this roof repair twice. Once this month and once two months later. Do you anticipate needing the roof repaired more than once in three months?”
He hung his head in shame.
“I knew it would be something simple, something I overlooked.” He pulled out a small pen from a hidden pocket, circled the double roof repair, and compiled his papers again. “And you’re right, you aren’t my TA anymore, so I should pay you.”
Olivia shook her head far too many times. The pricking in her eyes returned.
“No, it was nothing. Really, this could have been a lot more complicated. Would have been nice—Sorry, no, I don’t need payment, thank you.”
“I’ve seen you at my shop, you know,” he said.
She stared at him a moment. His face was very symmetrical. She supposed she should find that attractive, but she couldn’t quite muster anything but anxiety at the implications of this conversation. Attraction got messy, anyway. The cons always far outweighed the pros.
“Consider it a gift, then,” Emerson said with a customer service smile.
Then he turned and walked out.
She sat in her chair and waited for something to make sense. Finally, after several moments of still nothing making sense, she did realize her office hours were officially over. She hiked her bag up on her shoulder and closed the textbook. Beneath the front cover was a small mesh bag Olivia definitely hadn’t seen before. Confused, she opened the bag. First, she only saw a piece of paper, folded twice. Opening it, she read:
“Saw you ogling these in the store window today. Glad you finally decided to stop a little closer after all these years of lurking. Keep them in your bag or under your pillow or wherever feels right.”
She dropped the bag and tried to pretend nothing happened. It didn’t matter, no one else was there, but it was a habit, pretending like she wasn’t doing anything weird. It’s a habit one develops when they are regularly doing something weird and are highly cognizant of that.
Did Emerson leave these? When did he do that? How did he get them there? Could he control time? At this juncture, Olivia considered anything might be possible. It took great care and calming breaths before she picked up the bag again. Something clinked lightly inside. She tipped it over and out fell two stones, both no more than two inches tall and thinner than a pencil chopped in half down the middle. One was milky and clear like frosted glass in a diamond, and the other was the stone made of layers of sky and ocean she had seen earlier.
Somewhere down the hall, probably on the farthest end of the hallway, a door closed and feet began their journey in some direction. Olivia dropped the stones back in the bag with the small piece of paper. Panic had her leaving the bag then picking it up then leaving it again before ultimately deciding she would have more control over whether the bag were seen or not if she were in possession of it. It got shoved in an inner pocket of her purse and she shuffled out of the office, head low and suspicious. Not that it mattered, no one had been paying attention.
Devin Overman is a screenwriter, author, and freelance writer. Her first screenplay, Immaculate, advanced at the Austin Film Festival in 2015, where she went on to consult in 2016 and 2017. Her newest project, Falling Into the Sound (Korean title: 음에 천천히 떨어지다), has been optioned by Little Studio Films in association with Nite Lite Pictures. She’s been interviewed and quoted by MTV on the cross-over between music and literature.