Moving On

I penned this a few weeks ago and have been polishing it ever since.

I quite like the story but beware, it is almost 1,600 words, about 10 minutes. It’s slightly autobiographical insofar as I once travelled from Oxford to Hereford for the weekend to meet an ex-girlfriend, What can I say? I was young and foolish. But the plot itself is pure fiction.

Anyway, if you have time, I hope you enjoy.

“Have a great weekend”, he whispers, and we sneak one last platform peck.

“Can’t wait ‘til Wednesday”, I purr. Our next date. Discreetly squeezing his balls, I aim to reassure. And to distract.

I’m glad to get off that chilly platform – not least because my bare legs appreciate the warm carriage. But also, because some details about my previous relationship, I don’t want to share. Not yet.

Sam. Only been with him two weeks. It was our first time, last night. Dreamy. And he’s forfeited his Saturday lie-in to wave me off.

It must be weird for him. His new girlfriend going to stay with her ex. Bad timing. But I hadn’t even met Sam when I arranged this.

The carriage is welcoming; warm, with vacant seats. I stow my rucksack beside me as Oxford fades away. Daydreaming, am I doing the right thing? Should I let sleeping dogs lie? Do I owe him? For the years we were together? Maybe he was right? Maybe we really were too young? Maybe I simply wasn’t thinking straight?

He was the first. Well, not the first, but the boys before were just… boys. The first I fell for. The first where we were a couple, boyfriend and girlfriend. living together. No parents. No questions. No prying. We were good together. Everybody agreed. Something bonded us for so long. And it still makes me reluctant to close this door completely.

“Excuse me? Is anybody sitting there?”

Lost in my thoughts, mine is the next stop. “Let me shift my bag.” I manhandle my rucksack onto the parcel shelf and a young woman settles in. Scooping a well-worn paperback from her handbag, she starts reading. Good! Not a talker.

Hereford arrives soon enough. Soaking up the fresh air of the station, I glimpse him. His 6’7” brick-shithouse frame towers over everybody, and his untidy blond mop is unmissable as he bounces towards me. And that pushover smirk. I pinch myself to stop from melting.

He springs up, envelops me – he’s a foot taller. One of the reasons he hooked me was the shelter of his bear-like embrace. A peck on the cheek. It feels strange, given what we were, and I instinctively brush his lips, but quickly disengage. Still holding hands, we examine each other.

“Babe, you look well. Love your dress. Still looking megahorn”, he jokes, “how’ve you been?”

Megahorn. A word he invented. My chestnut curls made me megahorn, apparently. Or maybe my 36Ds. This far-too-skimpy dress has paid off, I’m glad to hear the compliment. But let it pass.

“How well do you know this place? I’m famished”, I respond instead. It is still only late morning, but I was up early, and Sam and I… worked up an appetite.

Jack’s been working in Hereford a few months, should know some decent places by now. “There’s a Wetherspoon’s right outside.” A budget pub chain, half the price of anywhere else, we used one back at college. Stodge. I’m surprised that he hasn’t gone upmarket, now he’s earning. But right now, I’m plain hungry.

Roast Beef? Why not? Must be a year since I had one of those enormous Yorkshires. I am hungry, I finish before him.

It feels natural to chat to him. Comfortable. Not surprising, we were together three years. “Do you have anything planned?”, I ask when we are done. Hopefully beyond an afternoon in the pub.

“We could stroll the riverbank, it’s so nice.” It is. The cool morning has been replaced by autumn sunshine. “Then I thought… Hereford has a decent centre. Fancy some exploring? I’m only ten minutes out, so we can head back when you’re bored.” I’m staying at his place.

He even carries my rucksack when we leave.

It’s an enjoyable afternoon. I always relished “us” time. I’m impressed with Hereford, I must come back here one day. We slip into Marks and Spencer for tonight’s food.

“I didn’t make plans”, he confides. “I thought you’d take one look at me and turn tail!” He grins again. That fucking smile. “We can eat out if you prefer. I’ve found a blinding Indian…” Curry was always his favourite. But the coolness has returned and I am happy to stay indoors. We settle for paella and a bottle of Prosecco. Jack adds some garlic mushrooms to start, while I can’t resist a tiramisu – just one splurge can’t harm my diet. This eclectic mix will ward off the cold night air.

His bedsit is on the first floor, and on the landing he splutters, “It’s only ‘til I know the area, then I’ll find somewhere better.” “I’ve spent the week tidying.” He opens the door and I’m greeted by grubby-cream walls. It’s been a while since they saw any paint. And I’m immediately assaulted by a smell. It’s a decent-sized room, living and kitchen areas, a curtained alcove housing bed and shower. A French window leads onto a fire escape.

“This is where you’ll sleep”, he gestures at the double bed. I remember choosing that bedding.

I detect the source of the odour. His “tidy” always had gaps. “Can’t you smell the bin?” He detects my unease, and quickly changes the liner. Momentarily opening wide a sash window, cool air pours in. With the source gone, I begin to smell the fresh flowers he has arranged in the disused fireplace. Sweet.

His combi-thing heats the food efficiently. He knows I love garlic and the flat now smells homely.

“That was delicious”, I smack my lips as I chew my last prawn.

“Let me fetch more wine”, he offers, retrieving both bottle and pudding from the fire escape. Who needs a fridge in October?

When we’re done, I’m warm, full and nursing another glass. He sits next to me on the sofa.

“I’ve missed you.”

He speaks tenderly. I’ve been expecting this, I’m semi-prepared. I must admit I’d had similar thoughts. “Me too”, I concur, “I’ve enjoyed today”. I have. He’s made an effort, relaxed me. He moves up a gear.

“I owe you an apology.”

He owes me more than an apology. I turn serious. “You deserted me when I most needed you.” I’m clinical. I’ve thought this through.

“I’m sorry.”

I’m not sure he understands why he’s sorry.

He babbles recycled excuses. “The timing was awful.” “We were on the verge of graduating.” “There was so much going on.”

“I didn’t choose to become pregnant.” The contraception failed. “You think I didn’t share your doubts? But you made me deal with them alone, when you were the one person I needed beside me.”

“I’m sorry. I couldn’t handle it. I wasn’t ready.”

“Nobody’s ever ready”, I retort, “but people still have babies”. It’s true. I wasn’t sure about this either, but I was sure that a child needs a father. Jack bailing made the abortion a no-brainer. And my decision to leave.

I shatter the pause.

“Besides, that wasn’t the only reason.” He looks up. “All the sports, the rugby, the cricket… the nights home alone, while you were out drinking with your mates. And all your muddy kit. You needed a mother, not a girlfriend.”

He jokes that off. “Mum and I never did half of the things we used to get up to.” But I’m undaunted.

“You never pulled your weight. I expected equal partners, but it always seemed 60:40. It was you who suggested we move in together, remember? When we got pregnant, it simply brought everything to a head. You had growing to do, and I needed someone fully-grown.”

“Well, I think the baby made us all grow up.” For good measure, he adds. “I’ve stopped all of that, now I’m working, anyway. I’m too busy.”

Maybe he’s changed? He tries to convince me that he’s matured. I don’t know. I do know that being with him always felt right. Before I can stop him, he is caressing my neck, and I am responding. He takes my hand.

“I always believed we were inseparable. Fred and Ginger. Bonnie and Clyde. Stan and Ollie, he smiles. Don’t we deserve another chance? Please?”

Confused, tipsy, I diffuse the scene. “I don’t know. I’m tired. It’s been a long day.” I kiss him softly on the lips. “I’ll think about it, I promise. But now, I need shuteye.”

While I enjoy little sleep, I gain some invaluable space.

Next morning, nothing is mentioned, but there is a spring in his step.

My train back to Oxford departs shortly after one, allowing me to complete at least some weekend chores.

“You said you were going home at lunch, so I agreed a shift for this afternoon. I’ll wave you off, then head straight into work.”

After breakfast, he announces: “Make yourself comfy; I want to shower before I go in.” As he washes, the doorbell rings. I call through to him. Can I answer it?

I greet a squat Asian man, about Jack’s age. He is surprised to encounter me.

“Hi, I’m Kamlesh. Is Jack in?”

“I’m Helen.” What the fuck do I call myself? “I’m his… er… friend.” I hit my stride. “He’s getting ready at the moment, but I’m sure he’ll be done soon. Care to wait?”

“I’m just passing. Can I leave a message?” I grunt. “Tell him that they put our tee-off time back thirty minutes. I’ll be round to pick him up at half two instead.”

My journey home will be easier than I imagined.


    • Yeah, it’s a timeless story. I’ve written it before, different details but the same basic thing.
      There was a get-out which I didn’t explore. Maybe he only said “I’ve given it up” because of what she said? Maybe he only lied to try to convince her? Maybe he was that bdesperate to get her back?
      I mean, it’s possible, but even if they did get back together I can’t imagine it lasting very long.
      Funny that both times I’ve written it, it is the guy who has lied. I wonder what’s going on in my subconscious?

      Liked by 1 person

  1. The dialogue really makes this story exciting and personable. I think relationships are complicated and no one is perfect.‘ Your story illustrates that and how hard it is to move on.

    Liked by 1 person

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