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Monday, 15 December 2014

Head Full of Memories

Short Story
Length - 8917 words

Julie's on her way to a gig and her car gives in to the inevitable. She'll miss it for sure. But as luck would have it, she gets an offer from a friendly stranger. Is luck the right word? Guaranteed she'll get a show, but it might not be the one she intended...

__________

Head Full of Memories


1

Julie smiled to herself whilst the last traces of the torrid downpour of rain disappeared as the Delorean’s door closed in from above. Drop after drop fell from a tawny strand of hair pressed against her forehead onto her lap and she fought hard to resist the urge to shake her hair dry like a dog, instead opting to tuck it back behind her ear and patting it in place. Beside her the kind gentleman who’d offered her a lift after the AA had towed her broken down car reached under his seat and pulled out a white plastic bag and brought it up to his lap. He carefully peeled the plastic back and with his other hand held onto the folded white cotton inside, his dark fingers cast a striking contrast as he handed her the clean towel.
                She accepted it graciously but her eyes got caught on the strange mark that seemed to cut a quarter inch thick line across the back of the man’s right hand. When she looked back up she realised he’d clocked her, and for a moment she thought he might be angry.
                ‘Sorry.’ She blurted out nervously. His expression softened and he drew his hand back, extending it in front of him in the face of the windshield to examine the mark for himself.
                ‘It’s okay.’ He said back, ‘Sometimes I forget. Back where I’m from most people wouldn’t think it out of the ordinary.’
                ‘What happened?’ His big brown eyes lost their sharpness as his gaze seemed to travel through the flesh into somewhere distant. Rain lashed at the car roof in droves forced by harsh, howling wind. He blinked a couple of times and turned his head towards her, his face curling into a sympathetic smile.
                ‘I’d rather not talk about it if that’s alright. It feels like it happened a whole ‘nother life time ago.’ It made her feel guilty for asking, but she could see it was not the man’s intentions. ‘Go ahead.’ He said, ‘Dry yourself off. It’s a terrible night out there.’
                ‘Yes and I’d be walking around in it if it wasn’t for you.’ She smiled as she started lightly tapping her forehead dry. ‘Thank you again. Are you sure I can’t make a contribution to petrol? It seems the least I could do.’
                ‘Like I told you outside, I’m going that way anyway. It’s no trouble. I’m just glad I could help a young girl stave off pneumonia.’
                ‘Well thank you. I’m sure even though I’m twenty-six years old my mum would be happy to hear you say that, Mr…?’ He turned round to face her and offered his left hand. The gesture looked awkward, she figured he was right-handed but didn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable about gripping his old wound.
                ‘Lloyd. Emitt Lloyd.’ She took his hand in hers and gave it a dainty shake.
                ‘Julie Brown.’ At that moment another drop of water wrestled free of her hair and formed a path down the centre of her face, falling from her chin and landing on her outstretched sleeve. A small fraction of the splash landed on Emitt’s hand but he didn’t react. Something inside Julie screamed guilt and she immediately withdrew her hand, whispering another apology under her breath and proceeding to give her long dark hair another thorough dry.
                ‘You know, I was pretty lucky you came along actually. You’re the first person I’ve seen on the road tonight in quite a while.’
                ‘That’d probably be down to the weather.’
                Happy that she was dry now she offered him the towel back, which he took from her and folded back up neatly, placing it underneath the white plastic bag. She caught a glimpse of black cloth inside as he rearranged them.
                ‘They’re obviously not as determined to reach their destination as we are. We’re the hardcore.’ She said, smiling. Emitt nodded his agreement. ‘So where are you headed?’
                ‘Oh. Nowhere in particular. Just some place I gotta be.’
                ‘Okay.’ She wasn’t going to push it.
                ‘So you’re going to that musical concert in Hammersmith, is that correct?’
                ‘Yes.’
                ‘Maybe we should get going then.’ She nodded. ‘Buckle up please Ms Brown.’ Smiling, she did as she was told and waited for him, staring outside and trying to make out the shapes amidst the down pouring of the rain.
Emitt put the keys in the ignition and turned. Julie turned back just in time to see elements of the dashboard spring to life as various gauges and indicators blinked in luminescence before the churning sound came to an abrupt end, restoring the vehicle to comatose. Emitt looked slightly embarrassed.
‘It’s alright.’ She taunted, ‘I wasn’t expecting miracles.’
‘What do you mean?’ She sighed.
‘It’s just been one of those days.’
‘Second time’s normally a charm for this girl. I was just hoping she might spare my blushes this one time.’
‘Relax, if I was that concerned I’d have run the rest of the way. Or at least waited for the next car, a Ferrari perhaps.’
‘So why didn’t you?’
‘It’s not often you see a Delorean these days. I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to go for a drive in one.’
‘Very well.’
He turned the key again and this time things stuck. Over the top of the faint chugging sound underneath the CD player sprang to life.
Mr Sandman, bring me a dream.
Send me the cutest boy that I’ve ever seen.
A big warm smile stretched across her face.
‘That is too cool.’ Emitt started to tap along with his fingers on the steering wheel.
‘Oh you know this one do you? It’s one of my favourites.’
‘I’m sure it is.’ She looked at him sceptically. Emitt caught her stare in the reflection of the rear view mirror and ceased at once.
‘Why the stern look young lady? Have I done something to upset you?’
‘Come on.’ He turned to her, perplexed. ‘Okay so you drive a Delorean and you just happen to be listening to this song, just before I come in? No way, it’s a set up.’ She raised her hand to him before he could speak. ‘I bet it comes as part of the Delorean owners’ handbook, like you’re issued a CD with just this track on it to put on just before you pick up strangers, to keep the magic alive. Hah.’ She lowered her voice to mock imitate him. ‘Oh you know this one do you? It’s one of my favourites.’ Her voice then reverted back to normal. ‘”Back to the Future” lives on…’ Even more confused now Emitt was finally allowed to speak.
‘Back to the what?’ Julie was startled.
‘You haven’t seen it?’
‘Ms Brown I don’t have a clue what you’re on about.’
‘Wow, that is just. Wow.’
She fell silent for a few moments, just listening to the song play in the background of her thoughts. Emitt waited for the track to finish before switching the CD player off, slightly conscious of the way her eyes followed his old digit as it extended towards the power button.
‘Right then.’ He said, snapping her out of it. ‘I think we’d better get going, if you want to be in time to see your music group.’
‘Oh uh yeah, thanks.’
Emitt performed his checks, squinting harshly as he started to pull out into the road, the vehicle stuttering slightly as if it wasn’t fuelled by gasoline but by pure force of will alone. Julie looked around slightly concerned, the rain seemed to be pouring down even harder. She started to have second thoughts.
‘Are you going to be alright driving in this weather? I mean-‘
‘We’re the hardcore, remember?’
‘Yeah but-‘
‘Just trust me okay? I said I’d get you there.’ Thinking it best not to disturb him whilst he joined the main road she gave up her resistance, resuming her gaze back out into the night.

2

A strong wind swept from Julie’s side, lashing a torrent of water up against the window but the Delorean didn’t teeter. She could hear bits of the exterior rattle as it brushed them and the exhaust now began to displace a steady beat. She felt safe though - Emitt, she felt, was made of stern stuff. She had an image of him as a hardened captain of a boat that had weathered many treacherous storms and his ship, his girl, had made it through them all. It amused her to picture a parrot ducking just out of sight every time she looked over, shy of her and remaining hidden behind his head.
Emitt had joined the centre of the road now, and the vehicle ploughed on straight, rocking side to side as he coasted the waves.
‘I’m not seeing a group actually, well not officially. Just another pop star and a bunch of people playing behind her that don’t mind having their names omitted from the bright lights.’
‘Oh okay, who are you going to see?’ His eyes never left the road.
‘Katy Perry.’
‘She any good?’
‘What, live you mean?’
‘No, I mean in general.’ Julie was staggered.
‘You’ve never heard of Katy Perry? What do you do, live under a rock? Incredible.’
‘You can’t expect me to have heard of everybody. There’s a whole world out there.’
‘Granted, but come on. Katy Perry? Besides, she’s one of yours isn’t she?’ His eyes finally abandoned the windscreen for a fleeting moment as they caught on the CD player. It looked to her as though he was scanning the cases of the CDs that were on display there.
‘One of my what?’
‘American.’
‘Oh.’ Emitt shifted in his seat. ‘You picked up on that did you?’ Inside, Julie felt smug.
‘Yeah. Don’t worry though, it’s not too obvious, if you were trying to hide it that is. I’m quite good at these things.’ Emitt glanced across at her.
‘It’s not that I’m trying to hide it, I just haven’t lived there for a long time.’
‘Yeah I kind of get that. Like I said, it’s not too obvious, you just draw on certain words. Your rrr’s hang a bit too.’
‘Oh. Well thank you, I’ll try and work on it.’
‘But you’re not hiding it?’
‘No.’
‘Then why should it matter?’
‘Well, perhaps it’d stop young ladies attacking me for it when all I’m trying to do is help.’
‘Sorry.’ She bowed her head slightly before reverting back to staring out the window, not able to see through the wet and wild impenetrable gloom. ‘So why did you leave America?’ Emitt let out an irritated sigh. ‘Whoah relax, I’m just making conversation.’
‘In that case can we talk about something else please?’
‘Sure.’ Suddenly a thought occurred to her. Maybe it has something to do with his hand? He probably gets it all the time. I know it would make me tetchy.
Somewhere above them she could just make out the changing colours of a traffic light, the poor man’s rainbow travelling upwards from an amber haze to a red one. The Delorean came to a stop and rain beat down on the roof from directly above.
‘So.’ Emitt said to break the silence, feeling responsible. ‘Do you often go to see musical concerts on your own?’
‘Yeah, most of the time.’
‘Why is that then? Do your friends not share the same taste in music?’
‘Sort of. It’s kind of a tradition actually, but what you just said ties into it as well.’ The light changed colour and slowly the Delorean crept clear, the low humming droning in the back of her mind as she held an internal debate over whether she should just tell him, or wait for him to ask. Emitt peered harder to spot the turning he was looking for as she pondered.
‘What tradition would that be then?’ He said absently.
‘Oh, it’s this thing that goes way back to when my dad was around.’ Loftily, as though she hadn’t expected it. ‘For my sixteenth birthday he took me to see Kylie, just the two of us, it was my first experience of live music.’
‘Minogue is that?’
‘Oh good so you are from this time zone then.’
‘Honestly, I don’t think you’d have to be to have heard of her.’
‘True. Anyways it was the first date of her ‘On a Night Like This’ tour, the seventeenth of March, two-thousand and-‘
‘One.’ She looked surprised. ‘You mentioned that you are twenty-six years old now earlier.’
‘That was quick.’
‘Well,’ he said as the car lurched to the right – he’d found his turning. ‘I’ve got a thing for dates, a bit like you do with accents. You said that he took you for your sixteenth birthday, is that the actual date? Or was it just that Kylie happened to be performing?’ She smiled.
‘It’s the actual date.’
‘Happy Birthday.’
‘Thank you.’
‘Sorry about the weather.’
‘Haha it’s alright, I’m not blaming you.’

3

The Delorean navigated a few side roads flanked either side by tall buildings that looking nothing more than marauding shadows. There was a bright flash of white light from above that lit the ghostly doorways and reflected like a sign of life in the windows, a roll of thunder following about two or three Mississippi’s later, depending on who was counting.
‘The storm’s picking up.’ Emitt said almost silently under his breath. His eyebrows dipped inwards with concentration but not before a fleeting glance at the clock on the dash.
‘It’s not that I wanted to see Kylie specifically.’ Julie said, reviving the conversation to give herself something to focus on, never a big fan of lightning. ‘I just wanted to see somebody, so long as it was at the Apollo. Or the ‘Hammy-O’ as my dad called it. You know, that was her first time performing at the Apollo and my first time visiting. The atmosphere was electric, I was hooked. I made my dad promise to take me again, and ever since then he’d take me at least once every couple of months.’
‘Why this particular venue?’ Julie smiled at him warmly, it was a question she’d been wanting to answer.
‘My dad used to be in a band.’ She said, reflecting. ‘They never made it to the ‘big-time’ as he liked to say, but they enjoyed some moderate success.
‘The Apollo is where they played their biggest gig, back in eighty-one. They won a battle of the bands competition to open for some Metal band that went on to become a big deal. My dad reckoned it was his best ever performance, he’s talked me through it a thousand times and more, I feel like I was there. In fact…’ She stooped down to her feet and retrieved her handbag. Careful not to let any of its contents get wet she withdrew an envelope that had been wrapped neatly in a sheet of laminate plastic. Emitt glanced over at her curiously as she began to unravel it.
From within the envelope she pulled out her gig ticket, and behind that was another that looked much older, and when she took it out from its own plastic casing it revealed to be screening another. She put the first back into her bag and held the other two aloft, checking the road ahead was clear.
‘He gave me these, unused tickets to that show.’
‘May I?’ She looked up and handed one of them over to him and he looked it over between glances over the steering wheel. ‘You’ve kept them in good condition.’ He said, handing it back.
‘Yep.’ Suddenly she broke out into another smile. ‘He always joked I’d need them to get in. I’ve brought them with me to every gig I’ve ever been to since he left.’ This time her smile was sad. ‘To remind me that I don’t hate him.’ The statement seemed a cue as a fresh torrent of rain lashed against the window.
Emitt never asked, but another look over at her seemed to prompt gently for more information.
‘He umm, left me four years ago.’ She had to pause a second to swallow a painful gulp of air. ‘We were at the Apollo, March 12th, watching Lilly Allen on her first proper UK tour. Lilly was dressed all in black, and she had these men with brass instruments behind her dressed in all white.’ She said, remembering. ‘When she started performing ‘Alfie’ the lights overhead started alternating between blue, green and yellow, and she started the crowd off waving an arm over their head and swaying in time to the music. My dad had never been too fond of joining in when he wasn’t familiar with the artist so he told me he was going to pop to the toilet.’ This time she felt water in her eyes. ‘That was the last time anybody ever saw him.
‘I started to get worried when he didn’t make his way back to me after the next couple of songs but I waited until the end of the gig because I didn’t want to cause a fuss only to find he’d started talking to somebody at the bar. They did an entire search of the building but there was no trace and no sign of struggle so they got me to help them search through some CCTV footage.’ Emitt noticed her voice was getting more determined, and her hand started to squeeze up into a little fist.
‘We found him. After going into the toilet he came out a few minutes later, closed the door behind him and just walked straight out of the building.
Emitt was about to speak, but Julie wasn’t finished.
‘I thought maybe something happened in there, like a man had threatened him or something – but we ran through the tape a hundred times. He was the only person in there.’ Now the tears were starting to fall. ‘One of the stewards suggested he might have gotten a text or a phone call but he’d given me his phone to keep in my handbag so that he wouldn’t lose it. He just left me!’
Emitt watched her thoughtfully for a moment as she sobbed quietly and searched her bag for a tissue. The car lit up as another flash of lightning came crashing down and the sky roared overhead.
‘I’m sure your father had his reasons.’ He reached over to give her leg a comforting squeeze and she recoiled violently.
‘What reasons!?! Have you ever abandoned a child before?’
‘With the greatest respect, twenty-two is hardly a child.’ Julie was furious.
‘I’m still his child! And I’ve never heard from him since! At what age does that kind of behaviour become okay in your book?’ She waited for an answer but he seemed to be more interested in his watch.
‘There are some sweets in a bag behind your seat.’ He said meekly. Julie stared at him incredulously.
‘You’re trying to pacify me with sweets?’
‘They’re for me, please.’ She could see him getting flustered and a cool jet of caution inked its way into her system.
‘Okay.’ She said, and she started fumbling around aimlessly behind her, pawing along the shelf on the back of her seat.
A few seconds passed and she still couldn’t find them.
‘They’re there somewhere.’
He wants me to turn around, she thought and an alarm bell started to ring faintly in the back of her mind. There was another part of her though that told her she was overreacting, so slowly she craned her head around to have another look.
The search came up empty and when she turned back around she was just in time to see one of the panels on the dashboard snap shut. She thought she saw a light snuffed out by the closed flap but that could have just been the lightning, and she braced herself for another slap of thunder.
It came sooner than she had expected and she jumped in spite of herself. Don’t show him you’re scared, she thought angrily, don’t make yourself a little lamb.
‘Sorry.’ Said the butcher. He held an open packet of boiled sweets in one hand. ‘I must have moved them. Are you sure you don’t want one?’
‘No.’ He popped one into his mouth, and she was left wondering whether he took something else out of the dash too, her heartbeat rising.

4

They must have been close to the eye of the storm as another bolt streaked across the windscreen and she gripped the side of her seat tightly. The man was feverishly checking out of all the windows and mirrors and she nervously traced his eye line to see what he was looking for. When she looked out of her own window her stomach tightened.
‘Why are we slowing down?’ She demanded.
‘I’m being careful.’
‘This is too slow.’ This time he didn’t say a word, too busy looking around and at his watch and the speedometer. Inside panic was taking over.
‘I’m getting out.’ She blurted and shot out a hand towards the door.
Up until now all the thunder had come from the outside of the vehicle.
‘No!’ The man boomed as he sprawled across her, catching the door an inch from the frame and hauling it back shut as she screamed and beat against him with her fists.
He held her down against the seat with one arm to restrain her flailing as he fought to keep control of the vehicle. One last look at the speedometer and his watch and he let go of the steering wheel all together, grabbing her tightly on the tops of her arms.
‘Please. ‘He implored her. ‘Be brave.’

5

Julie heard the sky above her crack open and a bolt of pure white light engulfed the Delorean on all sides. She felt the world fall out from under her and screamed so loud she thought she might rupture a lung. Blood rushed to her head and her consciousness slipped away but an instant later she awoke to find the man still gripping her tightly. She mumbled something incoherently and he let go, though whatever he was saying to her wasn’t passing through her gobbledy-gook filter and a jumble of noise exploded in her ears like she’d head butted through a wall of sound.
Memories flooded back like the crack in a dam to remind her of her situation, bringing the fear back with it, and she threw herself against the door, her body spilling out into the night.
Fortunately they had pretty much ground to a stop so the fall wasn’t fatal but the rain was still pouring down in droves and in the time she found her feet she was soaked to the bone.
She heard the other door slam as the man got out to find her and she ran towards the nearest path. Her legs felt heavy as she moved and she almost stumbled up the curb but she kept her footing.
She kept to the path – fortunately the man had gone the same way she had done on occasion so she knew roughly where she was and didn’t want to chance her luck down one of the corridors between buildings, plus if the man had driven her to this area deliberately he probably knew the alleys and back roads much better than she did.
So she kept running. The longer she went the looser her legs were becoming and she could feel her pace increasing. The weather had driven everybody indoors so she kept going, looking for the café she used to work at, but as she made her way she felt an unfamiliarity about the buildings she passed.

6

She didn’t know how long it had been since she’d heard the man’s footsteps fade away but she used the rest bite to come to a sudden stop, hunching her body over and resting her hands on her knees to draw in huge breaths of air, watching the path behind her as she recovered. The shops around here would be closed, she knew, but what she hadn’t anticipated was the amount of buyouts and renovations there had been since her last visit. Driving past she must not have given them a second glance.
She followed the road as it turned the corner and peered into the distance, knowing her café was on the corner of the other end, but the rain was too heavy to see through so she bowed her head and carried on walking, thinking about the manager, Don, and how he’d react when she told him what had happened. A free cup of coffee was a certainty, but would she have to restrain him from charging out to look for him? He’d always been fierce to protect her, if a touch overdramatic.
When the wind forced the rain away from her face she stole another glance up.
No, she thought. No no no!
She broke into a slow run again and the image of Don holding out a towel disappeared from her mind.
It was the wrong colour for a start, the main theme colour from the café from her memory had been a vibrant red, where this was a dusky brown and had an old, barely readable burnished gold font that proclaimed the café as ‘McCays’. The name sounded familiar to her but it was hardly a consolation and she stood outside as the rain continued to pour, thinking of her next move.
Is it possible I’m on the wrong street? Most of them looked the same, the man could’ve taken her down one that was similar. Then she looked a couple of shops down to see the newsagents, the small ember of hope extinguished by a painfully familiar sight. She thought that chain would still be around when robots were herding humans off the street. Wait a minute.
She moved forwards to get a better look at one of the papers trapped behind the metal grating and pressed against the deep blue board behind it.
The headlines were declaring Taleb as acting president following Sadat’s assassination at an army parade in Egypt the day before, but Julie didn’t think that sounded right. She had a vague recollection that it was Tantawi who took charge following Mubarek’s resignation during the Egyptian revolution earlier this year – and she thought she’d have heard before had his tenure ended so abruptly.
Confused and a little agitated she stepped back into a man who was walking past and she jumped out of her skin. He dropped all that he was holding onto the floor and muttered a curse under his breath until he looked up and saw her, shivering and bedraggled. His hard features immediately softened.
‘Is everything alright Miss? It’s no night to be walking around idly.’ He looked smart in his deep blue pin striped suit and bent down gracefully to pick up his umbrella, she thought him about forty.
‘I umm.’ She supposed he must have come out of one of those alleyways a little further down whilst she was experiencing tunnel vision. He gave his black umbrella a shake and raised it above his head, stepping toward her and leaning so as to offer her some cover as well. He smiled at her, then remembered what else he’d dropped.
‘Could you hold this a moment please?’ He said, offering her the umbrella. ‘The name’s Baxter by the way, Rory Baxter.’
‘Julie Brown.’ She returned, before taking it from him. Rory stooped back down.
‘Ruined now.’ He said over his shoulder. ‘But I won’t have them call me a litterbug.’
‘I’m really sorry.’ She said as he shook what damp he could from the newspaper. He favoured her with another smile.
‘Not to worry. This late in the day it’ll be old news now anyhow.’ Julie’s eyes widened.
‘Can I see that a moment please?’
‘Of course.’ They performed a deft switch of newspaper and umbrella and Julie unfolded the bundle to check the front page. Once again she was confronted by Taleb, but this time she looked at it a little more closely.
‘This is today’s paper?’ She asked meekly.
‘Sure is.’ The date read Thursday March 3rd, nineteen-eighty-one.

7

Julie awoke to find Rory clutching hold of her with an arm around her waist as he struggled to stay upright.
‘Miss! Can you hear me?’ He was asking desperately. The strength returned to her legs and they won their fight for balance.
‘What happened?’ She asked, groggily taking a step backwards.
‘I… I think you fainted! Would you like me to call you an ambulance?’
‘No, that’s okay, thanks. I’m just having a really strange day.’ She tried a smile and it took a lot of effort, but the man seemed satiated.
‘Okay, but at least step out of the rain.’ This time her smile came more easily and she linked arms with him as he positioned the umbrella to cover the pair of them. They set about walking at a gentle pace.
‘So this is…’ She was having trouble teasing it off the tip of her tongue. ‘…1981?’
‘Yes.’ She looked up to see a stern expression on his face. ‘Are you sure I can’t call you an ambulance? You don’t seem wholly aware of where you are.’
‘No. It’s just a … lapse in memory. Maybe you could remind me of some of the things that have happened this year? It might help.’
‘Okay.’ He said uncertainly, but then being given the focus of a task seemed to set his mind at ease. ‘Let’s see…’ He said, rummaging through his thoughts. ‘Of course! The Royal Wedding! How could anyone forget such a sight?’
‘Of course.’ Julie echoed.
‘The princess looked so beautiful didn’t she? With those beautiful blue eyes of hers.’ Julie found herself remembering an old stock photo of the princess but then it was immediately replaced by an image of a wrecked car and morbid newspaper headlines, little did Rory know what was to be her fate.
He continued to recall the day of the event and Julie nodded in the right places, her own mind a jumble of thoughts but none he need not be concerned with. She was content to let him tell tale.
‘I wasn’t having any of it. So I tapped him on the shoulder…’
They were alongside the café again now and Julie re-read the sign. Suddenly she realised why it had seemed so familiar to her.
‘Is that a Delorean?’ He was pointing through the glass at a vehicle parked around the corner. For a moment Julie grew tense and sucked in a gasp of air until she ran though events in her mind and everything seemed to fall into place. Emitt she thought, can this really be happening? She couldn’t help but smile and a wave of relief swept through her.
‘Let’s go see shall we?’
Rory was clearly excited. Their pace increased dramatically as if he feared the vehicle would pull away, but Julie of course knew better.
‘Do you know much about cars Miss –‘
‘Julie.’
‘Miss Julie?’ It came out muddled where she had interjected and he seemed a little embarrassed.
‘Ermm.’ Instinct told her to play dumb, lest she wanted to risk talking about something that hadn’t happened yet. ‘Not really.’
‘Well then you’re in for a treat.’ He said, tugging her along eagerly.
He led her around the corner and she smiled as she observed the interior car light as they approached.
‘The Delorean is a new car, with an unconventional design.’ He was saying. ‘The engine is in the front instead of the back, and the doors –wait till you see the doors! They –‘
As Rory stood transfixed Julie gently broke free of his arm and ducked out from under his umbrella to greet the onrushing Emitt who must have seen them approaching in his rear view mirror.
‘Julie!’ He said, panting from the effort of his dash. ‘I’m so sorry! Please, let me explain – it’s –‘
‘I thought we were meeting on the other side of the street.’ She interjected, gesturing with her eyes that they were not alone. When Emitt saw Rory his eyes widened so far Julie thought they might be about to fall out of his head. Whatever it was about the man it seemed to put Emitt in a really good mood, he had to take a breath to compose himself. ‘But then I remembered you talking about the café. I bumped into Rory on the way.’
At the mention of his name Rory came forward to greet Emitt and shake his hand, fortunately, Julie thought, Rory was left-handed. For some reason Emitt just could not stop smiling, she didn’t think it was his hat.
‘How do ya do?’
‘I’m very well, thank you.’
‘May I… May I have a look?’ Emitt followed Rory’s gaze to the car.
‘Certainly.’ He replied before clapping a friendly hand on Rory’s back.

8

The Delorean’s door was still up and open as a result of Emitt’s haste to get to Julie before she could run away again. It was here that Rory started his inspection. He reached up to close it, but paused to look at Emitt. Emitt gave him the nod and Rory pulled it shut, his face alight with boyish wonder. With Emitt still running whatever high he was on the pair of them were grinning like idiots. Julie couldn’t decide if it was annoying or enchanting.
 ‘Can I see the engine now?’ He asked excitedly. Emitt was more than happy to oblige, stepping back to open up the boot. ‘Hoho that’s the ticket.’ He said when he saw it. ‘What a marvellous machine. I’d love to have one of these myself one day. Thanks for showing me.’
‘Not a problem.’ Emitt replied, and then he turned to face Julie. ‘Speaking of tickets, I think we’d best be on our way to the Apollo.’
Rory guffawed and shook his head in disbelief, surprising the pair of them.
‘You’ve got a Delorean and tickets to see Budgie performing? Some people have all the luck.’
‘Oh, you know Budgie?’ Julie asked. Rory beamed.
‘Of course I do! The tickets to tonight’s show sold out so quick I never got a chance to grab one myself, otherwise I’d be banging my head right beside ya.’ Julie giggled.
‘I didn’t have you pegged for a metal head.’
‘I could say the same to you, Miss. Are you familiar with the support act this evening? I would quite like to have seen the Jackie Lynton band performing, I didn’t get the chance to go to the Reading Festival this year but I heard they made quite the impression. Typical of my luck really, I’m usually the one missing out.’
‘I’m looking forward to the other support act actually, the local band?’ A flicker of recollection passed across his face.
‘Hmm… oh yes! The battle of the band competition winners. What an opportunity! Once in a lifetime for sure. Give them a hearty cheer on my behalf won’t you?’
‘Of course.’ Rory took a step back.
‘Well don’t let me keep you then. Pleasant meeting you both.’
‘And you.’ Emitt replied. Rory started to turn away.
‘Wait.’ Julie said. Rory turned back around and looked at her inquisitively. ‘Don’t miss your opportunity, get a Delorean before they…’ She had a guilty glance over at Emitt. ‘Just get one.’ Rory grinned.
‘You know, I just might.’ Then he laughed to himself. ‘Think I’ll get one just like yours.’ He tipped his hat to them from underneath his umbrella and was on his way. Emitt started to raise the passenger door.
‘Not exactly like yours though.’ She ducked her head and went to go inside but then when Emitt didn’t respond she pulled back out into the rain.
‘Well…’
‘I knew there was something going on! Who is he then?’
‘Sorry to interrupt, but may we please continue this inside? You might be so wet as to not feel the difference but I’m finding standing out here in this rain quite unpleasant.’
‘I umm… sure.’

9

When they were both inside Emitt quickly patted around his face and brow before handing over the towel.
‘Thanks.’ She said. ‘So owning a Delorean really does provide access to time travel then. He doesn’t seem to be aware of it yet though.’
‘No. We caught him at an early point in his time stream it appears. He doesn’t know anything about me or time travel yet.’
‘That must be weird, seeing him. Well, like a different version of him.’
‘Ahuh. I must say, you’ve taken this all pretty well. Most people take some convincing of the situation. I’m just relieved I didn’t have to spend half the night trying to track you down.’
‘Yeah, I’m not totally convinced I’m awake yet. But I’m too scared to pinch myself.’ Emitt chuckled. ‘Good call on the café though, I won’t ask how you knew.’
‘Best not, if you want to stick to dream theory.’ Julie brushed it off, trying to process it all.
‘So.’ She said. ‘Does Rory, still wear that hat? Wherever you know him from?’
‘He certainly does. I always wondered why he chose to use a Delorean like me though, I guess it must have been your doing.’
A feeling of pride swept through her at that and she started to wonder at the grand scale of things. What if’s battled away for focus at the back of her mind and questions of things done and undone poked through, vying for her attention.
‘So when do I get mine?’ Was the major question that burst through.
‘I’m afraid it’s not as simple as that.’ It was amazing how one response could kill her enthusiasm so effectively.
‘What do you mean?’ Emitt considered how to start, stretching his arms out in front and resting them on the steering wheel.
‘Would you mind buckling up? We really do need to get going.’ He waited until he heard the click until he made his first attempt on the ignition. The first attempt was a failure.
‘Ninety-nine percent of people just get the one night.’ On the second attempt the lights on the dashboard stuck and the engine started its consistent chug-a-chug. ‘To witness something they were or will be unable to. Then they’re taken back with a head full of memories and trusted to keep it to themselves, and in any case if they were to tell somebody –‘
‘Who’d believe them anyway, right?’ Emitt nodded as he pulled back out into the road. Julie bit down on her bottom lip to stem her frustration. ‘So I just get one night and then get on with the rest of my life?’ She harrumphed and then ran the towel through her hair in a short sharp burst. ‘You know in ‘Back to the Future’ Marty McFly pretty much comes and goes as he pleases –‘
‘So long as he reaches eighty-eight miles per hour and has access to 1.21 jigawatts of electricity to power the flux capacitator, I know.’ Julie smiled ruefully.
‘Oh good so you have seen it.’
‘But this isn’t a movie, the rules are different.’ The indicator blinked on and off as he constructed his thoughts. ‘I guess you could say it’s more … Cosmic. What will be will be.’
‘There are some similarities though, I mean, we were struck by lightning.’
‘Yes, and I’m really sorry for that. I should have prepared you, but I got distracted by something you said and lost track of time.’ He turned to face her briefly. ‘I’m really sorry.’
‘It’s okay.’ She gave him a reassuring smile and he picked up the thread of the conversation again.
‘First rule of time travel; always pack a towel.’ He chuckled. ‘Sometimes we get called ‘Rain Chasers’, we use the charge from the storms to pass between time zones, and unfortunately for our new passengers it’s got to be a direct hit.’
‘The hardcore.’ That seemed to please him. ‘How do you know where to go though? Presumably you have to know that the storm is happening in both time zones, that both doors are open.’
‘I receive information and instruction from my consulant who in turn receives it from his, though mine and my consulant’s consulant’s time streams will never cross. Some of us have a theory that it all goes round in a big circle, but nobody knows for sure.’
‘Wow.’ Said Julie, genuinely intrigued. ‘And the Delorean?’ She gripped the seat with her legs as Emitt took them round another corner. He allowed himself a smile.
‘I’m afraid you were onto me there. Most people find it easier to accept the situation if there’s some familiarity to it.’ Julie found herself nodding in agreement; it worked for her. ‘Plus, I really like that movie, so ….’ He made sure she was watching before leaning across and opening the panel on the dashboard.
The glow she caught from earlier turned out to be from a digital interface beneath the panel. There were three separate lines of numbers representing time and dates, red on top, green in the middle, and yellow on the bottom. Just like in the film. Julie’s face cracked into a wide grin.
‘Destination time, present time and last time departed. That’s awesome.’
‘I had it made specially.’
‘It’s not just for show though is it? You were fiddling with it earlier.’ Then she leaned back against the seat and laughed. ‘I thought you were reaching for a gun.’ Emitt sat and considered that for a moment.
‘Yes, I’m sorry to have caused you any distress.’ Julie could feel the atmosphere hanging low and steered the conversation back into a positive direction.
‘Any other similarities?’
‘Hmm, let me think.’ He took them round another bend and they rejoined a bigger road. ‘Well the speed requirement was not too far off, but instead of eighty-eight miles an hour it’s actually a much safer eight.’
‘Not as exciting then.’
‘Perhaps not, but consider this. If you were to flip the figure of eight on its side you get the sign for infinity, which could represent the amount of possibilities of time which can be travelled to.’
‘I suppose.’ She said, non-committal. ‘It’s still pretty close. The amount of similarities has got to be more than coincidence, surely.’
‘Well, there are those of us who wonder whether he might have received a visit and made the movie as a sort of thank you, purposely jumbling the facts. But again, it’s just another of our theories.’
‘Our theories.’ Julie echoed sadly before clamping some of her hair between the towel to press it dry.
‘Hey.’ Emitt said softly. ‘Don’t be so quick to write off the one percent. I’ve never had a passenger cross paths with another guide before, it could be a good sign. Especially as it turned out to be so influential to his own induction.’ She seemed to drift away in thought – and positive ones too, if the faint smile on her face was anything to go by.

10

Emitt drove on, until eventually Julie broke the silence.
‘What did I say?’ Emitt looked across at her. ‘Earlier, I mean. What did I say that distracted you?’
‘Well.’ He said and drew a breath. ‘You were talking about your father’s disappearance. Hate is a powerful word, I wanted to hear your reasons.’ Julie nodded uncertainly. ‘You see, for all the wonders of time travel, it isn’t always as light hearted as Spielburg’s version.’ There was a pause as he considered how to continue, and Julie noticed him take a glance at the scar on his hand. A sad smile crept over his face. ‘How familiar are you with American history?’ He asked.
‘I know a little, but I wouldn’t claim to be an expert.’ Emitt nodded.
'Are you aware of Lincoln, and his declaration of free men?' Julie paled. The scar on his hand made sense now. It wouldn't be the only one he carried. She nodded sadly.
'I managed to get my sister and her daughters holed up with some nice folk across the border. They were to wait there until such a time me and my nephew could meet them. We got thrown into the conflict shortly after. He got hit. I told him I'd go for help, but he was woozy, so I'm not sure he understood much of what was happening.'
He had a sorrowful look down at the steering wheel and Julie could sense the impending tragedy.
‘I told my sister I'd protect him, but then right there on the battlefield, I had my intervention.’
‘Intervention? You mean…’
‘Yep. I was whisked away through time before I was even given a chance to ask anybody for help.’ His voice was heavy with emotion. ‘My nephew must have thought I abandoned him. I just disappeared, with no explanation and no trace. So when you talk about ‘hate’ it makes me wonder…’
‘My dad walked out.’ Julie said defensively. ‘I saw it.’
‘Do you think my nephew would have believed me had I explained why I left? Or my sister should I ever see her again?’
‘No, but –‘
‘All I’m saying, Ms Brown, is that things aren’t always as straight forward as they seem. You know my background now, don’t hate on assumption. I know hate, it’s not a pleasant thing.’
‘I’m sorry.’ She said, after a time. Emitt just raised a hand and waved it away.
Julie looked across a couple of times as though to speak but she couldn’t find any words. Emitt took note, and made a point of catching her on the third.
‘I’d like to hear that story.’ He said softly. ‘Of your father’s performance, if you’d like to tell it.’ Julie smiled warmly.
‘Wouldn’t you rather listen to the radio or something?’
‘I umm… don’t have one.’ That set Julie about to laughter.
‘So you drive a time machine but it doesn’t get radio?’ Their eyes met in the rear view mirror and the corner of Emitt’s mouth upturned in embarrassment.
‘Just the CD player.’
‘Alright.’ She said, fumbling for the tickets. ‘Let’s see, it’s October the eighth, nineteen eighty-one, which by complete coincidence also happens to be today’s date, according to the clock in green…’

11

Emitt pulled up a couple of streets away from the Apollo. The rain by now had diminished to fine spittle and he reached back into the bag the towel had come from and handed Julie a change of clothes.
                ‘Everything’s black.’ She said.
                ‘Well I thought you might want to fit in with your fellow metal heads.’ She could see the logic in it, she had after all come dressed to see Katy Perry.
She held out the t-shirt and let it roll out in front of her.
                ‘The Pinheads!’ She read aloud, elated and amazed all in one. ‘Is it safe to wear this? I mean, ‘Back to the Future’ doesn’t exist yet.’
                ‘Just another young band that failed to make the big time if anybody asks.’ She nodded and put the clothes bag in the bag. ‘Are you all set?’ Emitt asked. Julie took a deep breath.
                ‘I’ve heard that story a thousand times, and retold it several, but now I finally get to put a picture to the narrative. Thank you.’ Emitt just smiled. Julie undid her seatbelt. ‘So are we going inside to find a place to change?’
                ‘I’m sorry Ms Brown, there’s no we.’
                ‘Oh.’ Julie said, stunned. ‘But, I don’t understand. Are you not allowed to come in with me? I’ve got two tickets.’
                ‘Well.’ Emitt said, gesturing for her to look out the windscreen. ‘I believe the second is supposed to be for your narrator.’
                Julie’s heart leapt into her throat as she gazed up out onto the street. She watched in a stunned silence as the shape of a man dressed warmly in a dark coat walked towards them from the far end of the path. He was the only man in the street. With every step closer an uncertainty and trepidation swept over her until finally he came close enough to see, walking out underneath a street light two buildings away.
                A mop of dark curly hair, windswept with a light coating of rain, bounced up and down as he stepped and he had the lower half of his face buried into a scarf, a dark pair of close set eyes squinting against the wind and searching for the car. Julie felt her bottom lip quivering, he looked almost exactly the same as the day he left her. She was playing the CCTV tape over and over in her mind.
                ‘Emitt, I, I can’t. I don’t want to –‘ As she turned to give a face to her plea a tear worked its way free and rolled down her cheek. She was met with a stern expression. ‘Emitt, he left me!’ But Emitt held firm.
                ‘It’s not always as it seems.’
                ‘I saw him walk away!’ Emitt raised his hand.
                ‘You need to talk to him.’ The tears were flowing freely now and Julie fell back into her seat.
                ‘I can’t.’ She kept mumbling. ‘I won’t.’ All the time he was getting closer.
                ‘Julie.’ Emitt said, and Julie wasn’t so far gone as to miss the reservation in his voice. ‘He’s my…’ Then there was a moment’s hesitation. ‘Consulant.’ The word proved to be a hurdle – once cleared, it got easier for him to speak. ‘He’s a guide, like me and Rory.’ Julie was struck for six.
                ‘A… Rain Chaser?’ She asked feebly, all the while her eyes never leaving the man’s approach.
                ‘Yep. That’s three guides in one night, very rare indeed. Looking good for potential membership…
But that was lost on her now. The man was only a few feet away. She was angry. He left me! Inside she was holding a debate. But he’s a Rain Chaser! Something called out, deeper. Like Emitt! She thought back to Emitt and his family, the way he was cruelly plucked out of his time without a chance to explain, the shame in his voice as he told it.
                Meanwhile Emitt had raised his hand in greeting and the man had waved back, his head lifting out of his scarf for a moment. He was peering past the reflection of the street lights on the windscreen. Julie saw the moment he got past the light, the recognition that she was there. His face was a confusion of emotions; happiness, sadness and … shame, shame was there too.
                ‘It’s not always as it seems.’ She heard Emitt say, but she didn’t know if it was in person or just in her head. He disappeared from view as he moved round to her side of the car but she couldn’t turn around, just braced herself as the door began to slide open.
                ‘Julie?’
                She turned round to face him, stared at him, into him. Her face was devoid of all expression.
                ‘I… sweetheart.’ He moved forwards and raised his arms slightly as if to hug her, but then he pulled back. ‘I don’t know what…’ He just looked at her helplessly.
                And in that moment she knew.
                If he’d left her that day she thought  he’d have gone one way or the other; either start straight out with the apologies as a result of crushing guilt, feigned or not, or blame the circumstances, absolve himself of responsibility. No, he felt the guilt, she could see it, but it was an assumed guilt, one born of not knowing and repeating the pain he might have afflicted until it was believed to be so. He was just as lost as she was.
                ‘Dad.’ She said, and lunged towards him, wrapping her arms around him a hard as she could to make sure he was real.

12

Minutes must have passed as they embraced, soundless, swinging with their eyes closed to shut out the rest of the world, though Emitt didn’t mind his third wheel designation one bit, rejoiced in it in fact. He sent them on their way, tears and laughter streaming about all over the place as they walked away, arm in arm.
                With a warm heart he turned the key in the ignition and bingo! The love had spread and his girl sparked into life at the first time of asking. He buckled up, reached into the dash and withdrew to pop a sweet in his mouth before folding his towel up and placing it back underneath his seat.
When he raised his head, Julie was standing in front of the vehicle, her smile cockled into a grin and she pointed that she was coming round to the driver’s door. She disappeared as she walked round and Emitt opened the door.
‘Is everything alright Ms Brown?’
‘My dad says I need to give you this.’ She said, passing him her ticket to see Katy Perry some years in the future. ‘Keep it safe, you just might need it someday.’ And she turned away. He leant across to put the ticket in his dash. ‘Oh and Emitt?’ She said, pivoting in place.
‘Yes Ms Brown?’
‘Julie, please.’ Emitt nodded. ‘I’ll be seeing you around.’
Emitt broke into a grin that matched her own.
‘Welcome to the one percent.’

__________

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