Breakfast With Timothy

Shutterstock © Illustration for romantic short story Breakfast with Timothy, with woman sitting listening to a vinyl record


The radio interview would bring more business to her little record shop – but it brought so much more as well…

Cathy wasn’t a morning person. She was a laying on the couch in the small hours with her headphones on listening to classic albums from before she was born sort of person.

She’d promised herself she wouldn’t do that last night, but after breaking up with Robin there was no way she could have come home and gone straight to bed. Like an alcoholic promising herself to have “just the one”, she’d slid Carole King’s Tapestry from its cover and put it on the turntable. James Taylor’s Sweet Baby James had followed, and before she knew it, it was stupid o’clock in the morning.

Now here she was at even stupider o’clock, pointing her face into the spray from her showerhead two hours earlier than she had ever risen in her life. She’d almost turned the alarm clock off and flopped back to sleep, but she wasn’t going to miss a golden opportunity because of Robin.

He’d complained that she put her work first. He was a nine-to-fiver and resented the fact that she was so often busy during what he felt should be “their” time. Well, he couldn’t make her feel guilty about it any longer.

Wriggling bare toes into her psychedelic rug, Cathy perused a wardrobe full of band t-shirts from Abba to Zappa. She decided it was a Ramones day; spiky and defiant.

Muttering the words to Rockaway Beach, she teamed the shirt with “double denim” – a badge-adorned jeans jacket and skirt – fishnet tights and black pointy-toed ankle boots decorated with buckles and chains. She tucked a pair of black sunglasses into her top pocket in case she felt like hiding her red-rimmed eyes behind them later.

Outside, the clouds were pink in the rising sun. Her Mini had her name, Cathy Vinyl, emblazoned on each side, along with big stickers in the shape of LPs.

Vinyl wasn’t her real surname, of course, but it had served her well, whether she was hawking her stall around the country’s record fairs, trading online or, as she did now, running the shop she’d always dreamed of owning.

Pulling away, she turned on the radio and heard the voice of a DJ she’d never been up early enough to hear before.

“… it’s 6.33 and you’re listening to Breakfast with Timothy. Now when was the last time you bought a record? I mean a proper vinyl LP. Today is Record Store Day and later this morning we’ll be joined by local record dealer Cathy Vinyl who’ll be telling us how old-fashioned LPs are making a comeback.”

Cathy let out a whoop at the mention of her name. Perhaps today was going to be a good one after all.

“Or maybe not,” she muttered as the DJ went on to announce, “… Bruno Mars and Just The Way You Are…”

She almost turned it off. Not because she didn’t like the song, but because she didn’t want to be reminded of how much it had once meant to her. There had been a time when its words had filled her head and heart all day. It had been their song – hers and Mike’s.

A decade before Robin, Mike had been the boy she’d never thought she’d meet. He shared her sense of humour and love of music. His smile gave her tingles. Their kisses made her melt.

They’d been inseparable. But that had been in their last year at school before their careers took them apart.

Well, his career. She still wasn’t sure that selling records was what anybody would call a career. Her family and friends certainly hadn’t seen it as such the first time she’d lugged a cardboard box of CDs and LPs to a vintage festival. To them it was a hobby that would never get her out of her job at the Co-op – although as it had turned out, they’d been wrong about that.

Their new worry was that she’d never settle down, Cathy reflected, wryly.

Letting Bruno’s love song play on for once, Cathy remembered her last day with Mike at his parents’ house…

While he’d gone to the kitchen to get them some juice, she’d picked up the Bruno Mars LP that she’d bought for him shortly before. She’d slipped it from its bold orange and cream cover and written in felt tip on the inner paper sleeve: Mike, I’ll always love you, Just the way you are, Cathy. She slipped it back into the sleeve as he came into the room, and pretended to be reading the back cover.

Then they’d snuggled up on the sofa together for what she’d sensed even then would be the last time.

In the months that followed, while Mike was away at university, she’d waited for him to find the message she’d left in his album and call her to assure her that he felt the same.

She wondered if maybe he’d never taken the album out of its sleeve again. Perhaps he hadn’t liked their song as much as she did after all.

Now, as the song came to an end and brought Cathy back to the present, she turned the radio off and bit her lip.

Raw from the split with Robin, she hadn’t needed that reminder of an earlier heartbreak.

The car park under the shopping mall was deserted. The shops weren’t open yet. Cathy parked next to the lift and went up to an equally empty precinct.

Even the radio station was locked up, but when she pressed the buzzer a woman with glossy black hair, an olive complexion and a wide-awake smile came to let her in.

Morning, Cathy! I’m Fabiana, the producer. We spoke on the phone. Can I get you a coffee?

“The stronger the better!” Cathy stifled a yawn as Fabiana showed her into a waiting area. The chirpy chatter of the breakfast show blasted from a speaker.

“Sorry to drag you in so early,” said Fabiana, “But Breakfast with Timothy is our highest-rated show, so it will be good publicity for your shop.”

Ten minutes later, Fabiana said, “I’ll take you through to Tim now.” She slid aside a soundproof glass door and Cathy stopped in her tracks.

“Mike!” she exclaimed.

He was older, of course, but more mature, more handsome, and his eyes and smile were still the same. They still made her heart skip like a needle jumping over a scratch in a record.

“Cathy…?” Half rising from his console, the DJ mirrored her shock.

“When did you become Timothy Day?” Cathy stammered.

“There was already a famous DJ called Mike Read, so I needed a new name,” he explained. “And what about you? When I saw the name Cathy Vinyl I had no idea it was you.”

“I wanted a name no one would forget,” she smiled.

“As if anyone could forget you!” Mike’s eyes sparkled and Cathy’s cheeks instantly caught fire.

“Thirty seconds, Tim,” Fabiana cut in.

“Time waits for no DJ!” Mike quipped and returned to his chair. “Sit down, Cathy, and we’ll go straight into it.”

Glad to take the weight off knees that had turned to jelly, Cathy watched in a daze as Mike turned on his microphone.

“That was Taylor Swift with Lavender Haze,” he said in a voice so smooth that Cathy barely recognised it. “Did you know that Taylor’s album Midnights sold 80,000 copies on vinyl last year? The LP is back in a big way and here to talk about it is local record shop owner Cathy Vinyl…”

For the next half hour they talked on air about records, and while the records were playing, they caught up privately on the last ten years: how she’d built her record business and he’d carved his DJ career in radio stations around the country before landing the breakfast show in his hometown. “I’ve only been back a month,” he told her.

Eventually, Fabiana interrupted.

“If you can wrap up after this record, Tim, your next guest is ready to come in after the news.”

“I still can’t believe it’s you, or that we ever lost touch,” said Mike, his gaze making Cathy’s stomach as gooey as a melted chocolate bar.

I’m off air at nine. Would you like to go for a coffee and a catch-up?

“I have to open my shop,” Cathy demurred.

“Some other time, then.” He shook her hand and his suddenly professional manner reminded her that they were no longer the 18-year-olds that used to part with a long drawn-out kiss.

“You know where to find me,” Cathy murmured, and then she turned away abruptly before all her resurgent emotions spilled out.

It’s not about Mike, she told herself as she wiped her runny make-up on the way out. You’re just upset over Robin and you’ve only had about three hours sleep.

Thanks to both Record Store Day and the exposure on the radio breakfast show, Cathy Vinyl – the shop – was packed all day.

Cathy was glad of the distraction, although her mind was only half on her constantly beeping barcode scanner.

She kept thinking about Mike and telling herself not to.

They’d been sixth formers when they were together. They were nearly thirty now. Different people with different lives. They even had different names.

Maybe they’d run into each other again and be friends, but there was no point thinking they could go back to the way they’d been.

Mike hadn’t even made definite plans to see her again. He probably hadn’t thought of her at all in the past decade.

If she were honest, he hadn’t crossed her mind very often, either. She’d been busy with her business and other relationships. He would have been, too. For all she knew, he was married now.

“That must have been the best day we’ve ever had,” said Gus, the student who helped her out on Saturdays.

“Yes, thanks for coming in today.” Cathy handed him his pay. “I’ll finish up from here. Flip the ‘closed’ sign on the door as you go out, will you?”

A few minutes later, the bell jangled as the door opened again.

Cathy glanced up and her mouth fell open in surprise.

“Hello, Cathy.”

Mike stood in the doorway with all his old teenage shyness. She glimpsed a flash of something orange and cream tucked under his arm.

I was so shocked when you turned up this morning that I couldn’t think straight.

“I wondered if you’d like to come to dinner for a proper chat,” Mike continued.

“That would be lovely,” Cathy said, her throat dry and her heart pounding.

“Remember this?” Mike showed her the Bruno Mars LP he was carrying. He pulled out the inner sleeve and Cathy stared, now mortified, at the message that she had scrawled in a moment of teenage optimism.

“I found it years too late, on a visit to my parents’ place.” Mike shrugged apologetically. “I tried to find you on social media but didn’t know I should have been looking for Cathy Vinyl. It was like Cathy Simpson had disappeared off the face of the earth.

“I guessed it was probably too late for a reunion, anyway,” he went on. “I mean, we were kids, people move on… but I thought you might like to see what I wrote on the other side in the hope that one day I could give it back to you.”

He handed her the record in its paper sleeve. With trembling hands, Cathy turned it over and read his biro scrawl: I’ll always love you, too, Cathy.

The words blurred as Cathy’s eyes filled with tears.

“My timing is probably awful,” Mike said, his cheeks red.

“Actually, it’s perfect.”

Cathy put the disc on the shop’s turntable and dropped the needle on the second track, Just The Way You Are.

Then she stepped into Mike’s arms and they danced together, just the way they always had.

More uplifting and romantic short stories:

Read Behind Closed DoorsSweet DelightsThe Midnight BakeryThe Right Choice and A Winter’s Kiss, plus many more in our archives.

Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.