Illusions or Reality

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On a hot day, I rubbed my nose with my knuckle in thought. The next minute the shop in front of me changes appearance. Was it real, or a touch of heat-stroke?

 

The heat, as I came out from the house, made my sandalled feet stick to the tarmac. The smell of hot tar regaled my nostrils as I pulled my glued feet across the road towards the local sweet shop.

As I touched my nose with my knuckle in thought, I saw the sweet shop change in cloudy waves from a modern shop of a plain glassed window painted white, covered in posters and stickers, to a Victorian sweet shop with bottled sweets stacked in rows behind a black latticed bay window.  A green fabric sheltering the window had the shop name on it printed in gold. Its black door tinkled the bell as it opened.

 A lady in a long skirt, shawl, and grey hair topped with a broad blue hat, was walking across the road towards it. I, surprised, looked down at myself to discover I was in similar attire. ‘Was it the heat affecting me?’ I asked myself, as I followed her into the cool interior of the sweetly scented shop.

The shop assistant was young and dressed in the traditional black dress, white pinny and mob cap of the period displayed by the date printed above the shop’s door. She stood with folded hands as she gazed at me entering, bringing heat waves in with me as the elder lady bypassed me on her way out.

I ordered a quarter of jelly sweets. Instead of the enjoyment of watching the assistant weigh and bag the sweets, they appeared in my hand as soon as I had asked, ready wrapped in a paper bag. I was lost for words to say to the assistant. She smiled and asked ‘Half a farthing please ma’am.’ Her smooth skinned face belied her greying hair. Even her dress was of the kind the younger generations wore.

Tension mounted within me. "I don't have any!' I said as I put my hand in my pocket.

The assistant’s friendly smile turned into a prim straight mouth. 'I’m sure you do miss. I'll keep hold of the sweets while you find your money.' She menacingly reached across the counter to grab the sweets from me.

I could feel anxiety curling my stomach muscles and clouding my head as she reached across the counter. I tried to breath normally knowing it would clear my head. After thinking a moment, I lay the sweets on the centre of the white marble in from of me, leaving my hands free to search.

I had reached my third pocket in my flurry and could feel the searing tightness of anxiety building again, within my stomach, now tightening my chest, but I didn't give up looking through my new attire's pockets. I pulled my hand from the third pocket grasping what appeared to be some money. I immediately lay it on the surface, and dazed at the sight, let the woman take what was due for the sweets while I muttered an apology.

She clanked the coins into a brass till then said 'Apology accepted ma’am. I think you are new around these parts. Come back tomorrow afternoon and we will have a chat.' She came around from behind the counter to hold open the door for me saying 'Hmm let me see. Will three o’clock be fine with you madam?'

I nodded dumbly, exited the shop, and waved to her before crossing the sticky road.

It was when I was outside my house gazing across at the shop, when I noticed another change as I mopped my damp forehead. It was the same modern shop I had always known it, and I was in the clothes I had ironed that morning, with tell-tale signs of breakfast on it. I had to look twice at what was in my hand to believe what had happened. What was this place? I had lived here all my life, yet it wasn't only that shop that changed, but the other shops along my street. Whoever approached them were greeted by premises that matched their personal tastes. I concluded it may have been the heat that had caused an illusion, yet the sweets in my pocket were certainly real enough to me. I spied a poster in front of the nearest café advertising cream teas were on offer. ‘Ooh heavenly!' I thought, and went into its cool bright interior, for a long quiet reflection over what had happened, and what could happen the following day, while enjoying sandwiches, scones and freshly brewed tea I had ordered after the milkshake. Would tomorrow be the same as today, full of things that seemed like time changes in hot weather, or will it be a normal day?

 

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