1. Time  (A flash fiction taken from the Tales From Coopers Townhouse set of stories at http://northernspirit.org.uk/author/AlabamaRoxanne/. Stories inspired by the Coopers pub in Liverpool City Centre)

    Photography by Pete McConnell.

    “Time is the longest distance between two places”  Tennessee Williams.

    Separated by miles and a timescale that rendered them each a stranger to the other, they had responded aggressively and as though connected by an unseen force, in a manner that sought to lose time altogether.

    Marina, waking up Thursday morning to the realisation that she may never rid her life and her home of the man she had wasted so many years trying to love, had escaped to a lost weekend of booze and forgetfulness – something she never did. Kenny, merely drifting through the monotony of the job he’d held for twenty odd years, had also decided from Thursday morning to escape into a shifting new reality. One that was drunk and continually absent from memory.

    In this manner their lives were dreamlike and questionable, they barely existed, conversations and scenarios remembered doubtfully as though they may have been sleeping the whole time. And when they did sleep, it was only to awake once more and to continue merging the territory of sleep into their waking lives.

    On Saturday at 2:45 pm, both Kenny and Marina found themselves stood across the bar from each other in Coopers, a pub that neither had ever visited, but upon hearing a majestically addled rendition of ‘Love Really Hurts Without You’ coming out the place, both were reminded of their youth and of a love that had escaped them, and were immediately drawn in.

    At once, they were frozen – their eyes locked as though the retinas were waltzing with those of the person before them. For an instant Kenny actually believed that time had stopped, and grabbing the barmaid by the arm (who may or may not have been totally frozen), uttered, nervously, Mate, that woman there – she was my sweetheart when I was a lad. Look at her! Look at her face. Marina.

    The barmaid wriggled her arm free from Kenny’s grasp and looked down the bar at Marina, who was squinting in their direction, and, smiling, whispered Why don’t you go talk to her then? ‘Stead of chatting on to me about her, like.

    Narr, I can’t – I mean, it’s been years. What if it’s not her? Maybe she’s changed? Married? I can’t – look at the state of me, love. I’ve been on it since Thursday. Even me socks probably hum of ale…

    The barmaid took another look at Marina, and sensing that she would also not approach Kenny, suggested Listen, did you two have a song when you were courtin’? Something you’d always listen to together?

    Aye. We had a few, like.

    Well, get up and sing it to her. Nothing good ever came out of just staring at someone from across a bar. Imagine what kind of a film ‘Casablanca’ would have been if Bogart and Bergman spent the whole time just bloody gawping at each other.

    Alright, Kenny replied, adjusting his pants and brushing his t-shirt down, I’ll do it.

    He walked up to the front of the room and put in his song request – David Bowie’s rendition of ‘Wild Is The Wind’, a song that Marina used to love, and that he tolerated for her sake. Personally, he always thought that Bowie was a bit too weird for his tastes. The things you do for love, he thought nervously, and downed his drink.

    The song began and he mumbled his way through the first verse, but upon noticing Marina’s face light up, he picked up courage and started belting it out, Like the leaf clings to the tree, oh my darling cling to me! For we’re like creatures of the wind, and wild is the wind…wild is the wind.  The rest of the drinkers in the pub became animated at his conviction, and began cheering him on – through his voice breaking at the high notes and through his inability to time the line where the music drops out and leaves the vocals open and vulnerable.

    Marina approached the front of the pub before Kenny had even finished the song, and flipping through the songbook found her choice, and put in her request. She wasn’t ready to speak to him, yet. There was too much to say. There was nowhere to start.

    Without even looking at him, she took the mic, and waited for the song to begin. Kenny went back to the bar and ordered another glass of Aussie White, perplexed as to the situation he found himself in.

    The song started, piano dancing down into Marina’s vocal entry Nobody does it better, makes me feel sad for the rest, nobody does it half as good as you! Baby you’re the best… She felt embarrassed at the song choice. It was too earnest, too open, the lyrics took on new meaning appropriated to the way her life was right now and she felt as though everyone in the place could see straight into her like an x-ray. This was never a good song, she thought to herself, damningly. Sentimental crap, probably scared the poor bastard off for life now.

    But it didn’t. They continued in this way, back and forth, communicating only through song. When Kenny sang ‘Yesterday’ to her, she sang ‘Jolene’ to him, when he responded with ‘If You Leave Me Now’ by Chicago (the crowd howling encouragingly as he proudly failed every high note he attempted), she replied with ‘Rhiannon’ by Fleetwood Mac, looking lost as to how they could continue from here as the song faded out into silence.

    A thunderstorm had erupted outside, somewhere around the time that Marina was pleading I’m begging of you, please don’t take my man in the midst of ‘Jolene’. She stood now at the bar cradling her drink. Kenny – in complete silence – came up beside her, and took hold of her hand. They looked at the novelty clock in front of them, with the numbers printed in reverse and Marina prayed that something would change. That she could start over. Kenny tightened his grip around her hand and gestured his head towards the door.

    They walked through the pub together, Kenny noticing once more that it was as though time had actually paused again, as though somebody was holding open an unseen curtain for them with which they could leave the stage totally unseen.

    They came out into the street, noticing the rain and the dark clouds still spilling out across the city, but that the buildings were different. They had reformed into the Liverpool of the 70’s – of the old haunts and the old skyline. Kenny and Marina didn’t dare to question any of it. Of the rewinding and the erasure and of the lost weekend losing them both now, to each other.

    Taken from my guest curator week at http://northernspirit.co.uk. To read all the stories please visit: http://northernspirit.org.uk/author/AlabamaRoxanne/ as part of the Wondrous Place project which aims to show the North of England from fresh and surprising perspectives through weekly contributions from guest curating artists, bloggers and writers from across the north.

    Check out the full archive for all guest curators here: http://northernspirit.org.uk/awondrousplace/