With a pen in her hand, Barbara took hold of a copy of her new book and opened the first page to sign it. She was seated at a table at the front of the bookshop and a queue had begun to form on the other side. Pleased with the turnout, she smiled at the lady in front of her and scribbled her name and message on the page.
“Thanks for coming,” she said to the woman after she’d signed a number of copies already that day. She tried to keep her discussions on the book to a minimum to avoid a long wait, despite wishing to converse a bit more about her area of expertise with like-minded individuals.
Her book on the Aztec civilisation had proved popular in historic circles for its description of the period. One critic remarked that it had been almost as though the writer had been a witness and even participant to the time period itself, placing herself among the history and learning from her own misconceptions and prejudices.
Barbara was pleased with the reaction to her work and no one was as big a fan as her husband Ian. In fact, as she looked up at the next fan at the table, she smiled as Ian came to the front, clutching a copy of her book.
He smiled as he placed the book down. “Ian’s the name. Just the one I.” He shut one of his eyes and laughed. “Sorry, little humour. Anyway, I’m your biggest fan.”
“Are you?” She raised her eyebrow. “Ian, some of the people here are waiting to see me.”
“Can’t a husband be proud and want his wife’s signature?”
She smiled. “Of course he can.”
Ian turned around to the queue. “I’m married to the author!”
“Ian!” She took hold of his copy and wrote: ‘Dear Ian, stop coming to my book signings. I love you, see you later.’
He read the message and laughed. “I’ll be off then. I’ll grab you a coffee. Oh, and Barbara, just remember the part I played in the researches of your great achievement.” He smirked and hurried away, laughing as he disappeared into the crowd.
It was at that moment a young blonde woman appeared almost out of nowhere at the front of the line. “Time for a quick scribble?” she asked in a strong northern accent.
“Of course. Who shall I make it out to?”
“For me. John Smith.”
Barbara’s eyebrow rose. “Oh, alright. Did you enjoy the book…John?”
“Did I enjoy it? I loved it. Best book I ever read and I’ve read quite a few. I loved that bit in chapter thirteen, well thirteens a good number anyway, but I loved that bit about the false goddess. That seemed so true.”
Barbara felt herself blushing. The woman had such enthusiasm.
“I love the Aztec period. So fascinating. Met a wonderful Aztec once. Got myself in a bit of a pickle and I drank too much cocoa.”
Narrowing her eyes to look at the woman, Barbara was lost for a moment. “Have we met? You seem very familiar.”
“Sort of yeah, actually you taught me a lot, in the present and future as well and I’ve gotta tell you, I am not good at being taught stuff.”
“I’m afraid I don’t recognise you. What year was it we met?”
“What year is it now?”
Barbara was taken aback by the idea the woman didn’t know the year. “It’s 1990 of course.”
“Sorry, yeah, of course. Ah, well we met ages ago, the sixties.”
“You must have been very young; explains how I don’t recognise you.”
“God no, looked older then. Grey hair, walking stick, monocle.” She suddenly leaned up on her tiptoes. “Oh, I should get a monocle again! I’d look good with a monocle!”
Not knowing what to think, Barbara smiled along, unsure whether she was being tricked or that Ian was playing a practical joke on her. The woman reminded her of the Doctor but that was ridiculous.
“Well thank you for coming,” Barbara uttered, confused at what was happening.
“The pleasure is all mine, Barbara. I’m your biggest fan, well after Chesterton, because he’s nuts about you, obviously.”
“Glad I could be some sort of inspiration.” Barbara couldn’t stop staring at the woman, sensing a connection, a history, a link.
“Yeah, the most inspiring person. You couldn’t save a civilisation but at least you helped one man, eh?”
“I beg your pardon?” Barbara shivered. She hadn’t quoted it like that in the book. The only person who’d know that was the Doctor.
She looked around for any sign of Ian. Did he know what was going on? Where was he? She was about to reply when she noticed the woman had disappeared. She looked around but couldn’t see the blonde woman in the strange clothes.
“Here’s your coffee, darling,” Ian said as he returned to the table a moment later. “Took me ages. Coffee is getting so complicated. I had too many choices. And I got stuck behind these three people who just couldn’t make up their minds. What’s the matter, Barbara?”
They agreed to take a short break whilst they drank their coffees and chose to sit in the quiet outside underneath the shade of a tree.
“Well, what happened?”
“You’ll think I’m stupid.”
“Barbara, I could never think you were stupid. What is it?”
“I think I saw the Doctor.”
Ian spun around. “Where? What? How is he? What did he say?”
Barbara took his hand. “I can’t explain it, Ian. It was him but it wasn’t, oh, it was like a dream. She said things that only he would’ve known and there was this glint in her eye like she knew everything.”
“It was a woman. But it was him, Ian, I know it, I can feel it.”
Ian laughed. “It’s alright, I believe you. So, how’s she looking these days?”
Slapping him playfully, Barbara smiled. “Very good as it happens. Do you think it really was him?”
“He’s an alien, who knows what life span or culture they have. Anything’s possible. And he wasn’t very forthcoming about information when we travelled with him, was he?”
“No, but our Doctor, Ian. After all of it, our Doctor came back to get my autograph and to read my book. That means something, doesn’t it?”
“It means you’re bloody good at this Aztec lark,” Ian said, hugging her.
There was a pause.
“Hold on, how come the Doctor never visited me when I was offered that science award?”
Barbara sipped her coffee and ignored his question, averting his gaze and smirking.