by Claire Eamer

He had picked up the old clock and was about to smash it down on me. I couldn’t dodge. I couldn’t even move. The last swing of his fist had caught me on the side of the jaw and somehow disconnected my thoughts from my body. All I could do was lie there and watch the second hand tick toward the top of the clock.

Two a.m., I thought foolishly. Time change. Spring forward in spring, fall back in the fall. That’s what started this whole thing—a stupid argument about whether to put the clock forward or back for the time change. Spring forward in spring, I said, but he wouldn’t believe me. Or he didn’t care. Stupid arguments are as good as any other kind of argument when all you want is an excuse to light into someone.

He was taking his time, holding the clock high above his head, enjoying my helplessness. Tick, tick, tick, the second hand jerked on its way. He snarled and started the clock on its downward swing at the same moment that the second hand reached the twelve.

The moment vanished. So did he.

I blinked and shook my head carefully, thinking the blow to the jaw must have been worse than I thought. But he was gone. The clock was back on its shelf, the second hand ticking steadily away from the hour. Three a.m. Spring forward. The time change had happened, and we’d lost an hour.

The police have stopped looking for him. They think he’s on the run from the assault charges, but they don’t really care. I’m healed, not a bruise anywhere. I’ve got a new job, a room of my own, new friends who don’t know anything about him.

They always say, with the time change, that you lose an hour in the spring and get it back in the fall. I’m not sure what happened last spring, but I know I don’t want that hour back. I’m sorry about the clock—it was a good friend and a legacy from my mother—but I can’t take the chance. The flames are licking up around its base now, as the second hand marches around the face and the minute hand glides toward midnight.

By two a.m., the clock will be gone, and the room, and everything. The lost hour will be lost forever.