love is watching someone die.
He didn’t know her, not really. Not well. Well. He knew her order. Café mocha, non-fat milk, with whipped cream and an extra shot. Some days it was two extra shots, but those were the days when the bags under her eyes were the heaviest, when her smiles were brightest—as if to compensate. Those were the days he thought she was the most beautiful.
He knew she carried a picture of a little boy in her wallet, a small blonde thing with a smile like hers. He knew she didn’t wear a ring. He knew that on Thursdays she bought a blueberry muffin. He knew that she didn’t come in on Sundays, and that she always came alone. He knew that on Saturdays she came in the afternoon, and sat down with a book by the window; otherwise, she was there in the mornings, a to go cup on her way to work.
He knew her name, too. Rose Tyler. Sometimes he would write it on the cup; other times he would draw it. Sometimes he would underline it or write it in cursive. Every time he wanted to add something more, but he never did.
He didn’t know her, not really. He just wanted to. Wanted to know the story behind the little boy in her wallet, about the days when she needed two extra shots, about where she went on Sundays, about why she was alone on Saturday afternoons. He wanted—he wanted a lot of things.
It’s a Thursday—blueberry muffin day—when she doesn’t come in.
It’s a Friday when he sees her picture in the paper, with words like accident and tragic and critical.
It’s a Saturday when she dies in a hospital.
Sunday she doesn’t come in.
(But she never comes in on Sundays, remember?)
so who’s gonna watch you die?
He wakes up to his alarm clock. Knocks it off the stand in his haste to silence it. Pads to the bathroom. His head is splitting and he’s not sure why, but he swallows an Advil and gets ready for the day. Work’s in an hour, and she won’t be in, and he—
It's snowing. Funny for this time of year.
He arrives five minutes early, pulls on his apron and takes his place at the register. Slow morning. He downs a shot of espresso to wake himself, and then there’s the tinkle of the bell above the door and he turns to greet the customer but the customer is her.
Which is impossible. Because she is dead. Died, four days ago, in a hospital. Survived by her mother and father and younger brother (the child in the photo). It was in the paper, which makes it true. Which makes her—
“You alright, mate?”
She’s speaking to him now. He realizes he must look strange—that he’s probably looking at her like he’s seen a ghost. Which—
“Yeah,” he says.
“Too much to drink?”
“Something like that.” Is he hungover? Is he drunk? Is that why he’s hallucinating her? Because she must be a hallucination. What did he do last night and why is his head pounding?
“Hope you get to go home soon, then,” she says, handing him her card.
“Yeah,” he agrees, swiping it and writing her order on a cup. He needs to go home to figure out what the fuck is going on.
She smiles kindly at him and it’s almost too much. His heart is racing, his palms are sweating and, sure, that usually happens when she smiles at him, but it’s not like that this time.
“Anyway, happy new year,” she says, walking away, and he responds in kind automatically, before he can process what she just—
And then he notices the music playing in the shop. And the book the person by the window is reading. And the newspaper on the table over there. And—
“I’m sorry, what year is it?”
“Blimey, how much did you have?” she asks with a laugh. He shrugs. She smiles again, a little softer. “2005, January the first.”
He wakes up to his alarm clock. The sound is almost deafening, and he knocks it off the stand.
What a strange dream.
He checks his reflection in the bathroom mirror. He looks terrible but he feels that way, so. He splashes some water on his face, brushes his teeth, gets dressed. Work starts in an hour and he doesn’t need to spend any more time thinking about Rose Tyler or the fact that he never got to know her or the fact that she’s dead or that dream he just had. So he puts thoughts of her out of his mind and gets ready and leaves his flat.
He walks into the shop five minutes early, brushes the snow out of his hair, pulls on his apron, downs a shot of espresso, and gets ready to face the customer that just walked in.
Rose Tyler smiles at him and it’s good there’s not a glass in his hand ‘cause it’d be in pieces on the floor right now.
His alarm clock goes off and he bolts up. He doesn’t even bother turning it off, just runs into the living room with it ringing through the apartment or maybe that ringing’s just in his ears, the sound of blood rushing about, frantic and confused and—
And he turns on the news and looks out the window and it’s Christmas lights and it’s snowing and the anchors are talking about the holiday and happy new year and—
His alarm clock goes off and he just lies there for a moment. Lets the ringing pierce the silence. After a minute or so he grabs it, switches it off, but otherwise doesn’t move.
2005, January the first.
But no, it is not, it is 2006, it is March the third, it is—
Outside it’s snowing.
He wakes up to the sound of his alarm clock and he reaches out a hand to shut it off and knocks it to the floor. After picking it up and turning it off and returning it to the stand he throws on his trainers and walks down to the news agents—doesn’t even bother locking the door.
The newspaper says January 1, 2005.
He feels a bit like crying, standing there in the street in his pajamas and trainers, no coat despite the cold.
He calls in sick and watches telly all day. As he falls asleep he prays to the God he’s not spoken to since primary school to end this. Or at least explain.
His alarm clock goes off and it’s snowing outside.