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Chapter no 42 – Why Want Another Universe

The Midnight Library

e restaurant was on Castle Road, around the corner from String eory, and they had to walk past the shop to get there. e familiarity of it felt strange. When she reached the shop she saw that something wasn’t right.

ere were no guitars in the window. ere was nothing in the window, except a faded piece of A4 paper stuck on the inside of the glass.

She recognised Neil’s handwriting.

Alas, String eory is no longer able to trade in these premises. Due to an increase in rent we simply couldn’t aord to go on. anks to all our loyal customers. Don’t ink Twice, It’s All Right. You Can Go Your Own Way. God Only Knows What We’ll Be Without You.

Dylan was amused. ‘I see what they did there.’ en a moment later. ‘I was named aer Bob Dylan. Did I ever tell you that?’

‘I can’t remember.’

‘You know, the musician.’

‘Yes. I have heard of Bob Dylan, Dylan.’

‘My older sister is called Suzanne. Aer the Leonard Cohen song.’ Nora smiled. ‘My parents loved Leonard Cohen.’

‘Ever been in there?’ Dylan asked her. ‘Looked like a great shop.’ ‘Once or twice.’

ought you would have been, what with you being musical. You used to play the piano, didn’t you?’

Used to.

‘Yeah. Keyboards. A little.’

Nora saw the notice looked old. She remembered what Neil had said to her. I can’t pay you to put off customers with your face looking like a wet weekend.

Well, Neil, maybe it wasn’t my face aer all.

ey carried on walking.

‘Dylan, do you believe in parallel universes?’ He shrugged. ‘I think so.’

‘What do you think you are doing in another life? Do you think this is a good universe? Or would you rather be in a universe where you le Bedford?’

‘Not really. I am happy here. Why want another universe if this one has dogs? Dogs are the same here as they are in London. I had a place, you know. I’d got into Glasgow University to do Veterinary Medicine. And I went for a week but I missed my dogs too much. en my dad lost his job and couldn’t really aord for me to go. So yeah, I never got to be a vet. And I really wanted to be a vet. But I don’t regret it. I have a good life. I’ve got some good friends. I’ve got my dogs.’

Nora smiled. She liked Dylan, even if she doubted she could be as attracted to him as this other Nora. He was a good person, and good people were rare.

As they reached the restaurant, they saw a tall dark-haired man in running gear jogging towards them. It took a disorientating moment for Nora to realise it was Ash – the Ash who had been a surgeon, the Ash who had been a customer at String eory and who had asked her out for coee, the Ash who had comforted her in the hospital and who had knocked on her door, in another world, last night, to tell her that Voltaire was dead. It seemed so recent, that memory, and yet it was hers alone. He was obviously doing some training for the half-marathon on Sunday. ere was no reason to believe that the Ash in this life was any dierent from the one in her root life, except the chances were that he probably hadn’t found a dead Voltaire last night. Or maybe he had, though Voltaire wouldn’t have been called Voltaire.

‘Hi,’ she said, forgetting which timeline she was in.

And Ash smiled back at her, but it was a confused smile. Confused, but kind, which somehow made Nora feel even more cringey. Because of course in this life there had not been the knock on her door, there had never even

been the asking for a coee, or the purchase of a Simon & Garfunkel songbook.

‘Who was that?’ Dylan asked.

‘Oh, just someone I knew in another life.’ Dylan was confused but shook it away like rain. And then they were there.

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