We’ll Always Have Vienna

By John Dorsey

Based on characters created by Richard Linklater in the movie Before Sunrise.

This story ignores the events of Before Sunset and Before Midnight.


December 16, 1994

The two lovers spent the day on separate continents.

It was a sad day for both. A day of mourning. Of sorrow. And of guilt.

Jesse sat in his ranch in San Antonio, Texas. He found himself listening to a familiar recording of a W.H. Auden poem:

Oh, let not time deceive you.

You cannot conquer time.

In headaches and in worry

Vaguely life leaks away.

And time will have its fancy

Tomorrow or today.


Those lines never felt more prophetic.

Time had finally defeated him. Back in June, he had promised Celine to meet her today in the very same spot where they had parted. But he hadn’t gone to Venice. He could only pray that Celine hadn’t gone either.


Jesse could still picture her face so clearly.

He should have gone to Vienna. Why hadn’t he?

Oh, yeah. There was the money thing. He was essentially broke right now. He had struggled for months to find a job ever since he got back from Europe, and when he finally got one, there was simply no way to get any time off until after he’d been working there for at least six months.

Perhaps he could have called in sick for a week. Or two. But was it worth risking this job he desperately needed when he had no way to know for sure if she’d even show?

The train station. Track 9. 6pm. That was the arrangement. In retrospect, it was a dumb arrangement. There were too many things that could go wrong. All it would take it the fluke of a delayed flight and they could easily miss each other.

Jesse cursed himself again for not getting her phone number. But maybe it was better that he hadn’t. He could only imagine trying to explain to Celine that he couldn’t come because of a job. Could her really ask her to wait another six months? Could he himself wait that long?

It just didn’t seem fair. To either of them.

Jesse ached for her. And yet he also ached for… someone else.

There was another woman who recently caught his eye. Mary. At the local bar. He suspected she was interested in him as well.

Jesse’s new feelings made him feel guilty because he still loved Celine. He had never met anyone like her. But he feared that if they tried to pursue this romance to the ends of the earth against all odds, it might ultimately destroy them both.

More doubts plagued his mind. Even if they did find each other in Vienna, could they ever repeat the magic of that night? And even if they did, where would they go from there? They still both lived on separate continents. It might as well be separate worlds.

Perhaps if he truly loved her, then he needed to let her go.

Jesse stood up, walked to the window, and looked into the mid-day sky. It was 6pm in Vienna right now.

He could only pray she wasn’t there right now.

Forgive me, Celine.

Forgive me.


Celine slowly walked through the train station.

She looked numb. She felt sad, depressed. Celine glanced around nervously, as if she was expecting someone. But she wasn’t expecting anyone.

I’m in the wrong train station, Celine thought. I should be in Vienna right now, not Paris.

But here she was in Paris not far from her school waiting for a train to take her home.

The train soon came, and within an hour Celine was at her parents’ house. School was finally finished. She had just finished her last two exams that afternoon. For her to have gone to Vienna, she would have had to skip them, and that would have meant failing both courses. It just wasn’t an option.

Looking back, her agreeing to meet with Jesse on an arbitrary date with no planning was just stupid. And with no phone numbers, there was no way to change plans. It was December 16th in Vienna or nothing. Unfortunately, it was going to be nothing.

Her parents couldn’t help but notice how sad she seemed, but Celine just brushed off their concerns. She was fine. Nothing to worry about. She went into her room and looked out the window. It was after 6pm.

Celine might have felt less guilty if it the exams were the only things that had kept her from going to Vienna. But there was another reason.

Part of her was afraid to go. She couldn’t help but remember that moment at the train station, as she and Jesse were about to part, right before he told her he wanted to see her again. The grief, the despair that she felt. It had torn her heart out. Jesse’s proposal to meet again had filled her with hope, but now she dreaded the thought of the moment when she would have to part with him again. Would they be able to meet again in another 6 months? Could she handle that? Could she really do a long distance relationship?

Celine didn’t think she could. She was always a realist. She suspected Jesse was more the romantic. He was probably in Vienna right now at the train station waiting eagerly for her. She couldn’t bear the thought of how his heart would break when he finally realized she wasn’t coming.

Celine had finally reached the tipping point. She broke down and cried. And cried. And cried.

Forgive me, Jesse.

Forgive me.


Days passed.

Then weeks.

Then months.

The period of mourning eventually came to an end.

Jesse and Celine discovered that life went on. They also discovered something else.

That day in Vienna wasn’t a sad memory, but an empowering one. What ultimately mattered wasn’t what was lost, but what was gained.

Jesse and Celine found themselves stronger because of what they shared that night. They also found themselves able to live more fully, love more passionately, and with greater courage than either had had before.

New romances began, and old regrets soon faded.

Years passed.

Love, marriage, family.

Jesse and Celine experienced all these things. They never saw each other again, but it didn’t really matter. Deep down, a small part of their hearts would always belong to the other.

It was a love that could never fade. A connection that could never be broken.

Time had taken so much away from them, but that night in Vienna was like a midsummer night’s dream that time could never dissolve.

And whenever there was a starry night, Jesse and Celine would both look up into the sky.

And, with a smile, they would remember Vienna. 

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