Relative Dimensions In Space - Wednesday in Cambridge

Submitted into Contest #137 in response to: Write a story about a scientist.... view prompt


Romance Science Fiction

[Author's Note: After posting “Relative Dimensions In Space” I realised that I wanted to know more about Tim and Jane. If you have read “Relative Dimensions In Space” you will know some of how this will end. If you haven’t here is the backstory: 

After a quick background check and spending a day with her, Tim Westland, a Canadian high tech multibillionaire, has agreed to fund a research project proposed by Dr. Jane Seymour, a professor at the Centre for Applied Cosmology, University of Cambridge.


Tim was meeting Jane at Le Pain Quotidien in St. Pancras station for breakfast. She was taking the 8:28 from Kings Cross station, just across the street from St. Pancras, to Cambridge. The train would get her back to Cambridge in plenty of time for her Monday lecture. The five million dollars funding she had asked for her research wasn’t an issue for him. However, she had mentioned wanting to leave Cambridge and he had mentioned her doing the research at UVic, (University of Victoria). He wanted her to know that he would fund the research wherever she chose to do it.

He was already seated and had ordered a coffee when he saw her striding down the concourse carrying a monogrammed Paravel Weekender bag. He smiled, ‘A bit of an environmentalist’ He tried to buy products made from recycled material and had his own set of Paravel luggage. ‘She really is quite attractive’. At 35, two years older than Tim, she might not have been most men’s idea of a beautiful woman. 5’ 10’’ with a slim build, short cropped hair she exuded a ‘Don’t mess with me.’ attitude that puts off most men. Tim wasn’t ‘most men’.

Tim stood up as she entered the restaurant. She joined him with the waitress following close behind. With a quick glance at the menu “Le Pain Quotidien breakfast with tea and a croissant. . . . And, separate bills.”

Tim tried not to show his surprise. He couldn’t remember the last time he had breakfast with someone and wasn’t expected to pick up the tab. “Baked eggs and coffee please.”

“Did you talk to your friends at UVic?”

“No, I wanted to talk to you first. . . . Are you sure you want to leave Cambridge? It is a big move - don’t think I am pressuring you to do your research at UVic. There are no conditions on the funding, I will still fund your research even if you want to stay at Cambridge.”

Her tea arrived, Jane just stared at the teapot. Yesterday, after a day on the town and a few drinks, the idea of moving to Canada to do her research sounded appealing. This morning she wasn’t quite so sure. 

It is a big move. I would like to leave Cambridge, but Victoria is a long way to go. . . . I wonder why he said he would fund the research even if I stayed in Cambridge?’ 

Jane had grown to mistrust men, especially men offering to help her in her career. Sometimes it was to make themselves ‘look good’ but more often it was for sex. There were already rumours that she had ‘slept’ her way into her present position. She knew if she suddenly got that much funding for her project the rumours would get worse. Finally, she looked up,

“I think I need to go to Victoria and talk to the people at the university. I can get away for a few days next month. Could you set up a meeting with the department head?”

Tim took out a business card and his pen. He wrote a name and phone number on the back.

“This is the number for Dr. James Foster, the Chair of the UVIC Physics and Astronomy Department. I will tell him to expect your call. I will email him that you might be interested in doing research on time travel and why the Berkeley time travel experiments failed. . . . I am pretty sure they will offer to pay for your trip to Victoria for an interview.” ‘Especially if I reimburse them for the cost.

It was Jane’s turn to be surprised. ‘Why didn’t he ask me to stay at his place? He’s funding my research, surely he wants something in return. Could he really be as nice as the newspaper articles on Google said?’.

Putting the card in her purse - “Time travel? . . . You don’t want him to know what I think really happened?”

“Not for now. Is that a problem?”


“He’ll figure it out pretty fast. But, it will make a good cover story.” If her theory was correct, it had the potential to revolutionise space travel. Tim wanted to make sure he was the first one to take advantage of her discoveries.

Their breakfasts arrived and the conversation changed to more mundane topics.

By 8:10 they had paid their bills and started towards the Kings Cross station. Jane looked askance when Tim picked up her bag but didn’t say anything. It only took a few minutes to get to the Kings Cross station. 

They were saying good-bye in front of the ticket scanners. She put out her hand, he took it. Smiling, she asked “Have you ever been to Cambridge?”

“No. A Rodes Scholar - so just the other place.”

“Well, I won’t hold that against you. . . . I am not doing anything Wednesday afternoon, why don’t you come up to Cambridge and I will show you around?”

Tim had a flight back to Victoria booked for Tuesday. 

“That sounds great. I will text you once I get there.”

Giving his hand a slight squeeze as she released it she picked up her bag and went through the scanner to her train. 

Have you ever been to Cambridge? . . . I wonder what he thought? . . . He is quite charming. . . . Not bad looking either. . . . Stop it, you’re acting like a schoolgirl. 

Tim decided to take a taxi back to the Taj Hotel. With all the traffic it took nearly a half hour for the trip. Tim couldn’t get her off his mind. ‘She was definitely flirting.’ Arriving at the hotel, the doorman gets the taxi door.

“Good morning Frank”

“Good morning Mr. Westland.” Frank smiled. Not many guests said good morning, even fewer remembered his name.

Heading to the front desk “Good morning Alice.”

“Good morning Mr. Westland”

“Alice, I would like to extend my stay until next Monday.” ‘Might as well stay and take in a show on the weekend.

She checks her computer. “I am sorry Mr. Westland, all our Executive King rooms are booked through the weekend. I do have a Junior Suite that we could move you to.”

“That will be fine.”

“I can move you right away if that is alright.”

“Yes, thank you. I just have to go up and get my laptop.”

Alice processes the file, and writes down the new room number.

“This is the new room number. Your key card will work on both rooms until 2:00pm, then just the suite. We will move everything except the items in the safe. You will have to move them yourself.”

“Thank you Alice.”

After changing into something more casual, picking up his laptop, and moving the items in his safe, Tim walked to Caffe Grana in the St James's Park Tube station. While the Taj had excellent coffee and even better service, he found the atmosphere too formal for ‘just a coffee’. At heart, he was still a small town boy going to Tims (Tim Horton's) for coffee.

Finding a table, Tim emailed his PA ‘Never thought I would have a PA’ asking her to rebook his flight to Monday and cancel his breakfast meeting with the scholarship committee. ‘They can pay for their own breakfast for once.’ Another email went to Jim Foster telling him Jane would be calling and for him to offer to pay for her trip. Tim would reimburse all the costs.

Then he booked himself in at the Hilton Cambridge for Wednesday night under the name ‘Tim Eastbrook’. He used the Tim Eastbrook nom de guerre whenever he wanted to get away without attracting attention. Finishing his coffee he decides to take a walk through St. James Park to Oxford Street. He didn’t want to take his suitcase with him for an overnight trip. There were lots of stores on Oxford Street where he could get a small backpack.

Tim’s walk through St James park gave him time to think. His pace slowed and he finally found a bench. He started to go over the events of the last two days.

I hardly know the woman yet I can’t get her out of my mind. Why did I enjoy spending yesterday with her so much? . . . We didn’t do anything I hadn’t done before.’ 

Slowly the truth began to dawn on him. 

It wasn’t what we did - it was because we did it together. . . . I like my own company, I don’t mind going out on my own. Still, I did like having her with me. . . . Hell, I’m too old to be falling in love. . . . Was she really flirting with me? . . . Stop it. You are acting like a schoolboy.

It didn’t matter; he just knew he could hardly wait until Wednesday afternoon.

About 10:30 on Wednesday morning Jane was heading to meet her PhD candidate when she got Tim’s text.

 'Arrived early. Staying at the Hilton. Ask for Mr. Eastbrook.'

She smiled to herself. ‘He’s a bit anxious. . . . I hope that is a good thing.’ She texts him back.

'At Centre for Mathematical Sciences, 24 Wilberforce Road. Meet me in the lobby in 1 hour'

The Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics (DAMTP) at the Centre for Mathematical Sciences was not what most people envisioned as a Camgridge college. A mile from King’s College and on the opposite side on the River Cam, it is made up of a number of modernistic circular buildings around a central courtyard. It is in a rural area surrounded by farmers fields and housing estates. Jane’s own house, a small cottage, was a short walk away on Madingley Rd.

Tim was on time - Jane met him at the door.

Smiling - “Mr. Eastbrook I presume?”

He smiles - “You would be surprised how many strange people come up to me and ask for money when I use my real name.”

She laughs - that is how they met.

She spent the next hour showing him around the centre, introducing him as Mr. Eastbrook, her friend from Canada, to her colleagues. 

They go back to her office. “Have you spoken to Dr. Foster yet?”

“Yes - I talked to him last night. I will be in Victoria for a few days next month. You were right, he did offer to pay for the trip.” ‘Which I am sure you arranged.

Smiling “Let's get into town - I will show you the places the tourists aren’t allowed to see. . . . Taxi or walking?”


“Good, Madingley Road Kabob is along the way. They have the best kabobs in Cambridge.”

Jane gets on her computer. “Can I order for you?”

“Yes” He was alway ready for a new food experience.

Signing off her computer - “Come on, they will be ready by the time we get there.” Tim has no idea what she has ordered or where they are going.

They head down Wilberforce turning right on Madingley Rd. Trees line both sides of the road screening the large houses and apartments. Jane is setting a brisk pace “If we don’t hurry they will be cold by the time we get there.”

Madingley Road Kabob turns out to be a food truck. Jane picks up her order of two kabob wraps. Handing one to Tim - “This is their ‘special wrap’, you’ll love it.” 

She was right.

Walking much slower as they eat their kabobs, just getting to know each other. They wind up on ‘The Avenue’ a path leading to the Trinity College Bridge across the River Cam then to the rear entrance to Trinity College. After touring places in Trinity College most tourists don’t see, they go on to King’s College. 

Tim had a DPhil (equivalent to a PhD) in Economics from Oxford. Not too surprisingly, he wanted to see the Keynes Building; a part of King’s College not on any guided tour. After touring King's College and a quick tour of Queen’s College, at about three o’clock, they found themselves having a pint on the terrace of ‘The Anchor’, a pub overlooking the River Cam by the Silver Street Bridge.

Tim spotted the punt rental on the other side of the bridge. He had had a job giving tourists punting tours of the Cherwell when he was in college. It was also a way to impress young ladies. He was looking for a way to impress Jane.

“Let’s rent a punt.”

Jane smiled “OK” ‘It has been a long time since anyone asked me to go punting on the Cam

Finishing their beer and crossing the bridge Tim rents a boat from Cambridge Chauffeur Punts. The attendant, a man in his late fifties who has run the business for the last twenty years, asks if Tim needs instructions on using the punt.

“No - I have done this before” 

The attendant looks at Jane, she nods in recognition and smiles. ‘If Jane trusts him it is good enough for me

Tim quickly finds punting on the Cam is much different than the Cherwell. The mud at the bottom of the river is thicker and ‘stickier’ than on the Cherwell. Tim was having trouble keeping the pole from sticking in the mud. Jane gives a running commentary on the history of each of the landmarks. She is smiling and looking at him as if anticipating some disaster. On the way back down the Cam, within sight of the dock, disaster struck. 

Tim pushed the pole in too deep, the pole was stuck in the mud. To keep from falling into the river Tim had let go of the pole which now stuck out of the river like a silver channel marker. The punt drifted just out of reach of the pole; Tim scrambled to find the paddle that had come with the rental; Jane was laughing so hard tears came to her eyes. Another punt, seeing the problem, retrieves their pole and passes it to them. Before Tim can react, Jane kicks off her pumps, hops up onto the deck at the rear of the punt and takes the pole.

Tim sits down in amazement as she straightens out the punt, which had turned sideways in the river, and starts heading back to the dock. As she approaches the dock she can see the attendant is laughing. ‘She could alway handle the punt better than any of the boys I hired.’ Tim was not the only one to have a job taking tourists on punting trips.

By the time they get back to ‘The Anchor’ Tim has overcome his embarrassment and is laughing at the situation. After a few more drinks they decide a college ‘pub crawl’ is in order. At about 7:30 and after only a few pubs, they decide to leave ‘pub crawls’ to the younger crowd. Winding up the day with dinner at ‘The Stolen’ pub.

Tim calls for a taxi and they drive back to her house, arranging to meet for breakfast at the Hilton at 8:30 the next morning. Telling the cabbie to wait, Tim walks her to her door. As they get to the door, she pulls him close, kisses him then whispers -

“You can always stay here tonight.”

Tim holds her close for a few seconds then reluctantly steps back.

“See you tomorrow for breakfast” He takes the taxi back to his hotel.

She just stands there watching him leave. ‘Bastard!’ Embarrassed, she doesn’t know if she is angrier at herself or at him.

It is 9:00, Tim is in the restaurant nursing his third coffee. ‘She isn’t coming. . . . I did the right thing. How do I fix it?

Jane storms in and sits across from him. She waves the waitress away, she isn’t going to stay long, she just needs to know one thing -


Tim struggles to find the right words.

“We have only known each other a few days and I really like you. . . . I can’t get you out of my mind. You are unlike any other woman I have ever known, smart, confident and absolutely gorgeous. But . . . ” ‘Christ - he is going to say he is married.’ “we were both pretty drunk last night, I didn’t want to take the chance you would regret it in the morning. . . . Believe me, leaving was one of the hardest things I have ever done.”

Christ - that is part of the lecture on sexual consent the college requires every new student to take. He is right, I was acting like a drunken schoolgirl. How could I have been so stupid?

Slowly she smiles and reaches across the table and puts her hand on his.

“I am not drunk now. . . . Do you really have to go back to London today?”

He shakes his head. “No”

“Come over at six. . . . I will make dinner. . . . We’ll see what happens.” 

March 18, 2022 20:17

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Frank Adams
22:16 Mar 22, 2022

Good choice on point of view l had no trouble fallowing the story


Michael Regan
15:24 Mar 23, 2022

Thank you


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