Breakfast in Bradford
by JY Saville
“It’s depressing, there’s no-one around.” Tina poked the spoon at the congealing surface of her porridge and looked out across the deserted plaza again.
“I like it,” said Stephen. “Cities are often at their best without the people in. Full of potential, without all the shouting and fighting and kids running around.”
“Not at half-nine on a Tuesday morning. More coffee?”
She held her mug out and he strode across the almost-empty pub to the coffee machine on the far wall. He’d suggested a café up by the university, but as soon as Tina had seen the Wetherspoon on City Square, she’d brightened up. You knew what you were getting with a Wetherspoon, she’d said, and Stephen couldn’t argue with that.
“We’ve probably got time for a quick walk round before we go for the train,” he said as he sat back down.
“Why did we come here?”
Stephen looked at the student he’d woken up next to. Had this pub been an ironic suggestion? At twenty-three he was already feeling out of touch, he hadn’t realised how much till he’d felt like the oldest person at last night’s gig.
“I thought you…” His sweeping gesture took in the table, the cold porridge and the dog-eared menu.
“City,” Stephen said with a smile. “It’s got a university and a cathedral.”
“Why did you bring me to this city?” she enunciated, and Stephen laughed though she wasn’t smiling. “Why didn’t we go into Leeds? I thought you lived near Leeds.”
“I do, but on the Bradford side so either’s easy on the bus.”
Tina continued to look at him, waiting for an explanation.
“I thought it would be romantic,” he admitted. “I work in Leeds so I’d have waved you off at the station then walked to the office, whereas this way we’ve both got to travel. I get on a train to Leeds and you get on a train to Victoria.”
“Manchester Victoria,” he confirmed.
“Victoria’s miles from where I live.”
They walked in silence across the square and up the short hill to the Interchange, Stephen gazing round at the Victorian buildings, Tina watching her feet and periodically tucking her hair behind her ears. They bought their tickets and waited amid echoing tiles.
“We could go to the coast on a whim,” said Stephen.
“I thought you were on flexitime, not skiving.”
They passed through the ticket barriers as the Manchester train pulled in, and Stephen walked her to it.
“You haven’t given me your number,” he said, pulling his phone from his pocket.
“No,” she said, and stepped onto the train.
He watched it reverse out of the peculiar dead-end station and waited for his own train. As he began the journey back to Leeds, the Victorian architecture and peaceful streets were obscured by concrete towers and the teetering junk yard.
JY Saville lives and writes in the north of England and blogs and tweets at thousandmonkeys.wordpress.com and @JYSaville respectively. She released her first short story collection, The Little Book of Northern Women, in 2013. Some of her flash fiction has appeared at Short, Fast and Deadly, FlashFlood, and The Rusty Nail.