The Broken Pocket Watch – Chapter Six

A small building, between a clothes shop, and an unmarked building. Hidden away, by the more impressive towers next to it. A couple of tables outside. A little sign with “A Cup or Two” written on it, hanging over the door. Through the window, I could see more tables, the counter and a person working behind it. For a second my heart stop, even though I knew it couldn’t be mum. I hadn’t used the watch, so it couldn’t be. But for just a second, everything stops.

Dad leads us inside and sits us at a table in the far corner, near the counter. There is a small pot of flowers in the middle of the table, they look healthier than anything in the village outside the farm. There are flowers on every table, all shapes and colours, giving a light summer smell to the air. I wish I knew more about flowers, how pretty and colourful, but I know nothing. I’ve never seen anything quite like it before. Wonders of the city.

“What are they?” I ask

“They’re roses, those ones, tulips. I think they are orchids. Your mum used to love flowers. The village she was from has loads.”

“Is it still there?”

“What? The Village? I think so. I haven’t been that way for a long time, but I haven’t heard otherwise.”

A young woman, who was behind the counter earlier, walks up to our table with a wide smile.

“Good morning, can I get you anything?”

I didn’t reply, instead I just stare at her blue uniform, wondering if mum wore the same thing.

“Is that all?” she continued, making me realise dad had ordered for me.

“Yes, thanks.” Dad said.

She walked back to the counter, and started putting cups under machines. I’ve read about things like that, designed to make life easier, but I’ve never seen one this close before. And she’s using it, as if it’s normal. I suppose it is here.

“What did you order?” I asked.

“Orange Juice for you,” I love orange juice. “And a coffee for me.”

My dad loves coffee, but it’s not a common drink in the village.

“That’s what I used to get when I came here to see your mum. Near enough every other day, for months. Just to speak to her. I never had money for anything else.”

“So this is where she worked?”

“Yes, about twenty years ago. It looks different now, but mostly the same, those posters behind the counter, of flowers and green fields, they weren’t there. The paint was different. But essentially it’s the same. The same coffee, the same nice polite service. Only the people and colours have changed.”

I had to stop my heart from fluttering. This was the closest I’d been to my mum since she died. We don’t have anything of hers in the house, dad gave most of it away, and the rest is in boxes under his bed. He used to get them out and show me, but that’s been a long time.

“Yeah she used to work here, while going to University. She wanted to teach, but then I ruined her plans. I don’t think she minded though. She always seemed happy enough, but her life could have been completely different if she wanted it to be.”

“Did she know about the watch?”

“Yes, but she couldn’t get it to work. I showed her a couple of times, sunsets, stuff like that, but she couldn’t replicate it. It has to be someone with the blood that was spilled into the clock, all those years ago. I don’t understand why.”

“Where’s the university from here?”

“Just a couple of roads away, about a five-minute walk. She lived in a flat in the street behind this place, with two other students. Lovely people.”

The drinks arrived, and I took a sip of my orange juice. I looked around the room, at the walls and tables my mum had looked at so many years ago. She never thought I would see this place, not while she was here. That couldn’t have entered her mind, but here I am just wanting to be close to her. I didn’t realise it, but I’d been holding the watch in my pocket. I don’t know when I started, but when I realised I pull it out.

“Did you want to try to use it now?” Dad asks.

“I’m not sure,” I reply.

“Go on, if you don’t want to carry on using it, then just don’t. Return to now and live your life. It’s a blessing not a curse, so don’t let it control you. You have the power, and I’ll be waiting for you to get back.”

“How will I get back? Can I over shoot and end up in the future.”

“I wouldn’t worry about that. The future hasn’t been written, so there is nowhere to go. The past can be bent, but not changed. Nothing you do will change the world around us, just hold the watch and think of the present moment, me, school. It will bring you back, quicker than you think.”

I close my fist around the watch, holding it tightly. I think about the past, about when Mum worked here. At first nothing happens. My dad just looks at me, waiting. Almost reassuring me that nothing can go wrong. For a second I start to think this is the worst joke in history, and I’m the punchline. But then I realise Dad has stopped moving. I lean closer, and he’s completely still. And then the world shifts. Light disappears from the room, and reappears so quickly.

“Maria,” I hear someone call. That’s my Mum’s name. “Has that customer been served?”

“I didn’t see her there, sorry. I’ll get to it now.”

She walks over to me, smile from ear to ear. Her tied up hair flicking from side to side.

“Good morning, can I help you with anything?”

“Orange Juice,” I stuttered. “Please.”

“One glass of orange juice. I’ll be right back.”

She turns away and half skips back to the counter. It’s her. She’s real. More vibrant and alive than I could ever have imagined. What do I do now? Just sit here and observe, or maybe try to talk to her. But what about? She doesn’t have a clue who I am, and it’s not like I can tell her. She wouldn’t believe me.

Maria, orange juice in hand, begins her walk back to me. She places it on the table in front of me.

“There you go. That’s one coin, please.”

Money. I didn’t even think about money when I was ordering. I’ve never had any for myself. A flash of waves over me, as I start to shake.

“I think I’ve left my money at home,” I mumble. “I’m really sorry.”

“Oh,” my mum starts. She knows I don’t have any money. She would be able to tell from my grubby face. Dirty cloths. Everything about me shouts poor. I can’t believe this is how I meet my mum. My head drops.

“One coin? I’ll cover that,” states a male voice.

“Thank you, but you don’t have too. I’ll leave.” I respond.

But then I look up and see my dad’s unmistakable face gazing at me. He’s younger than I’ve ever seen him before, even in pictures, but it’s him. No doubt about it. He hands my mum the coin.

“You’re so nice,” she says, almost laughing.

“Thank you.” I state.

“Don’t worry about it, drink up,” he says, while winking at me.

My dad just winked at me. I’m not sure what’s stranger. Being here, seeing them together like this. Or his winking. The two of them ignore me and walk to the counter, deep in conversation before they finish one step. They were both completely oblivious to me. I slowly lifted the glass, trying to keep my hand steady, while focusing on the pair of them. He sat down on the stall at the bar and she went behind and started pouring him a cup of coffee. The same he was having earlier. Well future earlier. So this was his routine. Both of their routines. It looks like she enjoys seeing him as well. It’s really weird being able to see them together. I don’t remember it. And at the start of their relationship as well, when they don’t know the future in front of them. They barely know each other. I can’t do anything but watch. Maybe next time I will be able to speak to her.