Following his impromptu excursion into the past and metaphysically impossible reunion with his dead girlfriend, the day to day routine of Charlie Gillespie became something of a waiting game. He would eat, sleep, smoke weed and shoot the shit with Kat, but he did all of these things on autopilot – the whole time, he was listening for something. Fine tuning his senses as best he could to the whims of the universe, trying in vain to anticipate his next Quantum Leap.
But a watched universe never boils, and Charlie found the weeks passing with worrying regularity. Before he knew it, well over a month had gone by, and he began to despair. Might he not get another chance to put things right with Alicia? Had he wasted the chances he’d been given? Or, more probably, had he simply imagined the whole bizarre affair?
He could tell that Kat was feeling less and less inclined to humour him. He never intended to bring it up in conversation, knowing only too well how deranged he sounded, but he found it hard to stop himself. They’d be watching a reality show and Charlie would feel the topic bubbling up in his throat like a hiccup.
“I know it’s going to happen again, I just don’t know when,” he said once without provocation, and he swore he could see Kat physically resist the urge to roll her eyes. She very patiently explained to him that it had in all likelihood been a rather complicated coping mechanism, and he should see the fact that he was no longer experiencing these blackouts as a sign he should be moving forward.
But forward was not the direction Charlie was interested in, and they both knew it. At the end of the second month, Friday night came around but Kat didn’t. He knew he should pick up the phone, but it just never quite transpired. Nothing at all seemed to carry much importance anymore.
After what felt like a lifetime of avoiding the local shop like the plague, Charlie’s cupboards were now well stocked with all the essentials; lager, whiskey, vodka, schnapps for when he was feeling exotic, and a variety of hard-boiled sweets to go with the treats he had been able to procure from Twig, whose acquaintance he had decided to renew.
Friday nights became quite the party chez Charlie, not that anybody received an invite. He would crank up the Arctic Monkeys, work his way through a bottle of spirits and a dash of whatever else he had handy, and while away the hours rehearsing what he would say to Alicia when he next saw her.
“Don’t call her a bitch,” he would tell himself. “Don’t get into that row again, don’t ruin your last night together. Make it perfect, like it should have been, like it has to be.” He would play ballads and practise his slow dancing moves, knowing that “Careless Whisper” or “I Will Always Love You” could always be relied upon to make appearances at the end of the night in Yoko’s.
Charlie became so focused on preparing for his next trip that he stopped trying to predict it. He had no notion of when his reunion with Alicia would occur, only that it would, and this was where all of his energy went.
Once, on his way back from a fruitful meeting with Twig, he ran into Janelle in the street. He smiled and went to give her a hug; she shrugged him off and marched away at a steady chop, glancing back frequently over her shoulder, her eyes wide and panicked. She didn’t recognise him. Charlie tried to think when it was that he had met her, and where. The details eluded him; anything that had happened in his life before Yoko’s reopened for business seemed not quite real.
Even the most impatient children know that Christmas morning will always come eventually, and whether Charlie was good or not, he knew the same was true of that club, of that night. And not long after he saw Janelle, a week at most, Christmas came for him.
The third time that Charlie was plucked from his linear existence and thrust back into Yoko’s, torn on this occasion from a half-finished bowl of cornflakes, he recognised the pure Eighties piano synth assaulting his ears before his vision even had time to clear. Tears For Fears, one of the few old school groups Alicia had time for. “Head Over Heels”.
He was standing on the edge of an empty dance floor. He turned around, scanned the entire club, but saw nobody. The place looked completely deserted. His chest began to tighten, he should have known dreams didn’t really come true…
And then he saw her.
“You’re late,” she said, emerging from the doorway that led to the Ladies.
“You’re dead,” he replied.
“Don’t change the subject, you’re still late.”
“I know. I’m sorry.”
“I’ve been waiting so long for you,” she told him, taking him by the hand and pulling him towards the dance floor.
“I tried to get here sooner,” he said. “But I forgot the way.”
“Doesn’t matter, you’re here now.” The song changed to something by The Cure, and Alicia began to rock gently.
“I’m still not sure I understand,” Charlie murmured, not entirely sure he cared anymore.
“Think about it,” Alicia whispered in his ear. “When was the music here ever this good?” She stepped back and held out her arms.
“Dance with me,” she said.
Charlie took her by the hands and pulled her closer, as close as she could be to him without their bodies merging. It dawned on him that he need never leave this place, that he had always belonged here, at Yoko’s, with Alicia. He would only ever be a stranger anywhere else.
The DJ spoke into his microphone, informing the club that the final song of the night was about to be played. Alicia wrapped her arms around Charlie’s waist and he buried his face in her hair, breathing her in, and together they began to sway.