The Girl Who Wasn't There

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I met the the girl of my dreams in a shop window in Camden Town. What I was really looking for was a new set of bookends, but instead I found my self distracted by her reflection in the glass. She wore a wool hat from beneath which her red hair emerged, falling over the collar of her bright green coat. Her soft features were peppered with freckles. Such was her contrast to our surroundings, I could not stop myself from turning to look at her. But, when I did, I found myself gazing into an empty street.
I turned back to the shop window, only to see her still beside me. For a moment, I imagined she must have been on the other side of the glass — that she was a mannequin inside the store. But, seconds later, she turned her head to look at me. I recognised that confused expression on her face. She could not directly see me either. I watched her reflection as she raised a hand slowly toward me, testing the air before her. As she did, I followed her in the glass and raised my own hand to meet hers.
When we touched, we both recoiled as if we had exchanged charged atoms. I turned to face her and, once again, all I saw was the street I stood on.
Then she spoke to me.
“Can you see me?” she said.
“Only if I don’t look at you directly.” I could feel my hands starting to shake a little.
“That doesn’t surprise me,” she said, removing her hat and shaking her hair. “It’s been a strange week.”
“Where are you?” I said. The question sounded strange as soon as it left my lips.
“Right now, I’m stood in my hallway. I can see you out of the corner of my eye.”
“I’m not sure I understand,” I said.
“Me neither,” she said. “Things have hardly been predictable since I pulled at the thread.” She reached out and put her hand on my arm.
As soon as I felt her touch, everything became a little more certain. I couldn’t see her, but I knew she was there, wherever there might be.
She began to tell me about her universe. She knew so much more about these things than I did, but she explained that in her reality, knowledge of the quantum universe was almost complete, so there would be a rational explanation. She also told me about the thread she pulled.
She’d been sat in the cinema when she felt something brush her arm. I didn’t ask her what the cinema was like in her reality, but I imagined it was more fanciful than our version. Whilst I wondered if they had popcorn, she told me that what she had touched was a loose thread in space-time.
“I couldn’t see it, but I could feel it. Just like us now.”
“So what did you do?” I said. An old woman passed us on the street and stopped to stare for while. She clearly thought I’d lost my senses, talking to a window.
The girl’s reflection laughed. “Well, I pulled at it of course. I’m fairly predictable in that respect.”
“What happened then?”
“Oh, I just messed my reality up a little. It’s happened to other people and there are plenty of support groups out there to help deal with it.”
I nodded, not really knowing how to respond.
“Anyway, my name is Madison,” she said.
“I’m Jake. Would you like to go for a walk, Madison?” I said, watching her in the glass. Even though the items in the shop blended into her reflection, her beauty gave her some kind of solidity. She nodded, hooking her arm around mine and I was thankful that I could feel her touch even if I couldn’t always see her.
“We’re just reflections in each other’s universes. You know that, right?” she said as we walked down the street.
I nodded, trying to play it cool, hoping to give her the impression that I had the slightest idea about what was happening. Even in this strangest of moments, I found myself wanting to impress her. Every window we passed, I tried to catch a glance of her reflection, but I felt myself flush each time our eyes met.
“How long will you be here?” I asked, not really wanting to know the answer.
“Well, I don’t think I’ll always be here,” she said.
It felt like a blow. I’d only known her a few minutes, but I suspected I’d never meet anyone like her again.
“Of course, I’m just being pedantic,” she said. “I don’t think there is a way of reversing what I have done.”
“I don’t understand,” I said, stopping by a the glass of a bus stop so we could see each other.
“Well, technically, I’m not here. So I guess you could say I always won’t be here.”
I opened my mouth to say something and then realised there was nothing I could say that would make any sense. Instead I took her hand and for the rest of the afternoon we walked through the Autumn streets, exchanging stories about our very different realities and looking for bookends.

About the Author: 
Tim Roberts is a short story writer based in Somerset, UK. His untruths have won several prizes and appear in various anthologies. He is currently editing his first novel. Praise can be thrown @timstermatic on Twitter.