This short story was written for the WineTourismSpain short story contest, with the brief of ‘how might aliens discover earth through wine?’
It was another rainy day in Oxford, and Julie was leaning on the wine shop counter. Next to her was a chalk board – today’s offer, a nice Tempranillo – and she flicked it with her fingernail in time with the ticking of the clock.
No-one had been in for the last half hour. She was fairly sure she could have curled up and fallen asleep under the counter, and no-one would have been any the wiser.
Julie glanced out of the window. The sun was shining weakly through the clouds. An ordinary April day. She would have given anything to be somewhere else.
She looked at the bottles of Tempranillo. Like Spain. She hadn’t been there for ten years, not since she was a teenager, but she could remember. Seventeen, sitting on the beach, with a stolen bottle and a warm breeze. And a smile in a tanned face that she’d never forgotten.
A smile twitched the corners of Julie’s mouth. David hadn’t been her first crush, but he’d been the star that shone out of her teenage years. He’d been on holiday, like her – she guessed with his parents, although she’d never seen them. He’d been the one who’d stolen the bottle of red. She remembered how he’d laughed as he’d taken the first sip, holding the glass up to the setting sun and staring at the colours.
The bell on the door rang. Julie looked up, straightened up, then stopped.
David. But it couldn’t be. A young man had walked through the door, his face exactly the same as the one she’d just been remembering. Exactly the same. The ten years that had changed her had had no effect on this face.
So it couldn’t be David. But the boy was identical. A son? No. A younger brother, maybe.
“Hello.” The boy was already smiling, but as he saw her, the smile grew wider. “Julie?”
No. Julie realised her mouth was hanging open, and shook her head. “How do you-?”
“I remember you.” The David who couldn’t be David stepped forwards, leaning on the other side of the counter. “You remember me too, don’t you?”
“But – you can’t be-” Julie shook her head again. “You’re too young.”
David frowned. “How old should I be?”
“Oh.” He stepped back. “Excuse me.”
Walking back across the room, he pushed open the door and stepped outside. Julie stared after him as the bell rang once, and then again, as David stepped back in.
Julie grabbed the counter. Her legs nearly buckled. Now David was the way he should have been; ten years older, even more handsome.
“Hello, Julie,” he said, with that same familiar smile. “Is this better?”
“It’s…what…” Julie stared at him. “What are you? Why are you here?”
For a moment, the smile flickered. Then it was back, as strong as ever.
“I’m a visitor,” David said. “And…well, I’m here for the wine.”