The dinner conversation is excellent, and we have laughed our way through the starters, chuckled over our mains and enjoyed every sip of each other’s company. I’m looking over the pudding menu, as usual searching for sticky toffee pudding. Success! It’s there. I ask Jules if she’s having anything and notice she looks concerned. She’s looking off to the side of the room and is frowning. I ask what’s wrong and it’s like she suddenly realises where she is, and starts smiling again, albeit with a nervousness in the eyes. I try to diffuse the anxiety I can feel rising in me because of her, and ask if she wants some pudding too. She goes for some ice-cream and I order my sticky toffee pud with custard. The conversations has faltered and so we just wait for our puddings to come, which they fortunately do quite fast.
I’m about to tuck into the tasty goodness on the plate in front of me when I see the glimmer again. It’s closer than it’s ever been, right there on the table in front of me.
I can see my arm reaching out and putting a spoonful of creme brûlée towards my mouth. I can smell it and see it, but at the same time I see my sticky toffee pudding. The experience flickers and is gone, but the smell of vanilla lingers in the air. I look up to see Jules looking back at me. She asks if everything is ok, and I stick a big spoonful of pudding in my mouth, toffee dripping down back to the plate. She giggles, and the air clears.
We have a coffee before we get up and go, heading out the door and onto the pavement. Jules looks around when we get outside, as if looking for something. She only glances before we walk off up the hill. Over coffee she suggested going to the pub near her flat, so we are heading away from town and out to the wilds.
The pub is really nice, that great middle-ground between comfortable and welcoming. The evening has drawn in and the darkness seems more oppressive away from the lights of town. There’s a lovely little table in the corner so we take a seat and continue to talk on, laughing and joking with each other. We are drinking again, but not at the same velocity of last week, so we sit and talk. It feels like we’re old friends, while we reminisce and share our stories. I feel very relaxed and calm, but I keep seeing the glimmer, all over the bar and regularly at our table. Even my pint of beer glimmered at one point.
The more the glimmers appear the more I am able to glean about what I am seeing. In every glimmer it is the same situation, except for one thing. The beer I saw in the glimmer was darker than the beer I’m drinking, and the t-shirt I wear in several glimmers is a different colour than I am wearing. The glimmers are much more visceral now, and I can feel every one as if it were me experiencing it. In one case, the glimmer was flickering much brighter than the others. In it I could see myself knocking a glass off the table, the glass falling to the floor and resting there. I could also see the glass hit a chair leg and crack, but at the same time stay on the table, rocking slowly but not falling.
The weird thing was that all this seemed so natural, that it wasn’t having an adverse effect on our conversation, or the general enjoyment of the evening. The pub was filling up a bit, but we still had plenty of space to ourselves, and the ambient noise wasn’t too loud. Jules is in full swing and is telling me about her upbringing, regaling me with stories of her precocious youth. I can see her sitting across from me, and really focus in on her, without distraction. I notice for the first time that her haircut is asymmetrical, and that her left eye has a slightly lighter colour than the right.
Julie is even more beautiful than I first imagined, than I first saw. Her light brown hair falls unevenly to her shoulders, straight with just a hint of a curl at the ends. She has a profile that is strong, but from the front so soft and welcoming. Her top lip is like a sideways curly brace, with two high peaks beneath her nose. She is slim, with long arms and a long back. She’s probably a foot shorter than me, but has worn heels each time we’ve met, which reduces this distance. That’s how I can always look into her eyes, just below mine. She looked great last week in a black skirt and white shirt, but tonight, in a red check flannel top and blue jeans she looks so naturally gorgeous. I can’t keep my eyes off her, from tip to toe she is radiant in this warmly-lit pub. I breath a sigh of happiness while I listen to her stories.
Suddenly the glimmer comes on fast and bright, illuminating the side of the pub we are on. I can see myself standing and leaving with her, walking to the door and outside. The light is so sharp I can see it through the pub windows out on the street. I stand up and go to the door. Looking outside I see the glimmer about 20 yards away and fading. Just before it fades I see a car pull up and a figure get out to grab Julie, and then it is all gone. Julie has followed me to the door, and as I turn I see the concern on her face. I say it’s ok and we go back in. She looks nervous, but we get back into the flow quickly, restarted with me telling her about how I got the crack in my tooth when I was 7.
Another hour or so passes and we continue to talk, but it is nearly time for the pub to close. I have been suppressing my nerves from the last glimmer, and there have been no more in this place. Julie suggests we make a move, and that I’m welcome to come back to her place. I picture the glimmer, out on the street, and agree to come back to hers. We gather our things and head for the door, she turns to go in the direction where I saw the car, but I stop. I ask if there’s an off-license nearby where we can get a last drink. She says yes and turns the other way, and we head down the hill to the shop on the corner, that I spotted when I followed the glimmer out before. I walk carefully and make sure Julie stays on the side of houses, with me walking along the road’s edge. We get a bottle of wine from the shop and turn a square to get to her flat, and I am relieved that we are away from the pub, and the glimmer.
Back at her flat we walk in and get settled on the sofa. The flat is lovely and comfortable. The wooden floors and soft furnishings are colour-coordinated in reds and oranges. I notice the tiny TV on the stand, and wonder how she watches such a small screen from the sofa. We drink the wine and talk. We talk all through the night and then, as dawn begins to fill the sky with light, we go to her bed and rest our heads on the pillows, facing each other, and just a few inches apart. We continue to talk until I see she is falling asleep. I pull the cover up around her neck and turn onto my back, to stare at the ceiling. The dim blue light of the dawn sky is casting long shadows over the room, and I take it all in. I am exhausted but unable to sleep, as the excitement of being here in this room refuses my mind the relaxation needed to doze off.
I also keep thinking about the glimmer where they took Julie. Replaying it over and over, trying to see just a little longer as they grab her from the car. I can feel the fear rising in me, but I am so tired it has no grasp on my body, and I fall into a deep sleep, here next to Jules, in this warm and quiet room.