A girl walked past eating an ice-cream. She was wrapped in a short, mint-green trenchcoat. He'd seen one like it before, tattered and moth-eaten at the back of his mother's wardrobe when he and his sister had cleared her house out for her move into the home.
"Lily," he called, not really believing himself, but she turned her head towards him, squinted in concentration, then walked over to the bench and sat down beside him.
He didn't know what to say.
"Where am I?" he asked finally.
"Brighton." Well, obviously.
"I mean.. when?"
"OK, I mean... this is going to sound crazy, but what year is this?"
"I'm dreaming, right? I must be. I tripped, getting off the bus, and hit my head."
"I can pinch you, if you like," Lily suggested.
James was saved from needing to reply by a sudden scream. Everyone turned towards the bank.
A masked man brandished a gun at the cashier, then turned to spray bullets wildly. James dived for cover, sweeping Lily to the floor along with him.
Then everything went black.
When he came to, his head pounded as he sat up and looked around. There was the cash machine, the security screens were back in place and the cashiers wore modern uniforms.
"What happened?" James asked.
"You tripped getting off the bus." An elderly lady fussed around him. "Do you need a doctor?"
James remembered a newspaper clipping he'd seen when they cleared out his Mum's house. She had indeed narrowly avoided injury in a bank robbery during her youth. And she'd never again seen the man who saved her. But if he told anybody about his experience, they'd only think he'd been hallucinating.
"No, I'm fine," he said. The afternoon's events would remain his secret. Or perhaps he'd share them with his Mum next time he went to visit the home.
If you enjoy realism with a quirky paranormal twist, why not download a sample of my girl-meets-genie romance, Djinn and Tonic?