Union Square Romance

By Rachel H Grant

The sandstone walls of Aberdeen Train Station added an edge of timelessness to the otherwise modern Union Square, progress hand in hand with the past, history shaking hands with the future.

Stephanie clung to the escalator rail as though it might float away, her hazel green eyes sparkling with inner fire, her auburn hair like autumn leaves lit from within.

She glanced at the downward escalator, her eyes reaching those of a tall, greying middle-aged man. He stared back with a secret smile. Stephanie froze; time stopped all around her. There was only her, and this stranger. They were in a Union Square universe of their own. Stephanie blinked. The moment was over.

At the top of the escalator, Stephanie looked back. The man was now coming up towards her. Her senses somersaulted.

Box depicting two seagulls

She waited for him, her eyes never leaving his face. Then he was there. “Will you come for a coffee with me?” The only answer was yes. So they sat in Starbucks like old friends, Stephanie sipping a vanilla latte while the stranger enjoyed a honey almond milk flat white.

“My name is Neville. I knew I had to speak with you, the moment I saw you. Speaking like this seems so superficial, yet I just had to!”

They spent a heaven-sent half hour discussing hopes and dreams. It was like speaking with a long lost best friend, someone who already knew you really well, someone who understood your unique traits and eccentricities, and who loved you anyway.

When they parted, Neville took her phone number and said he would be in touch.

Stephanie never heard from him again.

A year later, back in Union Square, she sipped her vanilla latte while watching the world go by.  Then she saw him. A tall dark stranger, yet so familiar. He looked like a much younger version of Neville, at least by two decades.

And he was smiling.

“Hello, I am Neil. The minute I saw you, I had to speak with you, I hope you don’t mind?”

It was love at first sight.

Months later, their romance a fire that could not burn out, Neil held her hands as they sipped their lattes in Starbucks. Neil enjoyed a honey almond flat white, which he had only just discovered. Stephanie still savoured her favourite vanilla latte.

Neil was a PhD student physicist. Today, he looked solemn. “I am undertaking an experiment tomorrow with a prominent research group, however the research is secret. I am only telling you this as there is a chance, albeit a very small one, that something may go wrong.”

Stephanie squeezed his hand. “Don’t take any risks, if it is not safe don’t take part. I don’t want to lose you!”

“It is an exciting project, I am honoured to be part. And yes it is safe.”

The next evening, he did not answer his phone. She went to his flat, it was empty. He was gone, as if he never was, a figment of her imagination, her love a fickle fragment of delusion.

Weeks passed, and still no word.

One day, as she sat in her favourite seat in Starbucks, she saw him again. The older Neil look-a-like. Neville, her first fleeting experience of love at first sight.

“Stephanie.” He sat across from her with stern eyes. “How long I have waited. I am Neil, returned. I am your Neil.”

“But … how … why …”

“I time travelled as part of a research project and became stuck in the past. Living under a false identity, I have waited and waited to be with you again. It is me, Neil, now under the alias of Neville. I will never leave you again.”

The impossible gripped her brain in a vice. How could this be? Was this really Neil? Was time travel possible? Where did they go from here?

There was only one thing to do. She took his hand and smiled. “I don’t care who you are or where you have been. You have been alive in my heart always. You are here, and here you will stay.”

Shoppers walked busily past, a throng of individuals with their own hopes and fears, a million worlds colliding as strangers passed each other without a second glance.

Stephanie only had one hope and one fear. She held on to Neville’s hand more tightly. He smiled. As the mall around them receded, their own world glowed more brightly with a sun that could never burn out.

It was time to cheat the past, to flirt with the future and to trick time itself.

It was their time, it was all time. It was a Union Square dimension where all dreams can come true.

It is the ending to a story that can never finish. Words unwritten will court a tomorrow, as poems cry for a lost past. The lyrics of love will sing forever.

Decorated bicycle outside restaurant in Union Square, Aberdeen