Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about coming out by Amy Ridler.
Amy Ridler is a writer and English Teacher in East London, where she runs the LGBT+ society. She has written about her experiences as an ‘out’ teacher, most recently in a chapter for Big Gay Adventures in Education, published by Routledge in 2021. She has worked with the queer, feminist, live art theatre company Carnesky Productions as an associate artist since 2009 and continues to be a member of the company’s advisory board. She is currently an MA Creative Writing student at Birkbeck and writes for MIR Online.
‘At Last Your Life Begins’ follows a woman making a difficult choice about her relationship.
You try your best to hide in the crowded room; it’s nearly impossible. You clocked her the minute she came through the door. You had hoped to see her, yet now she is here you find yourself making polite excuses to leave.
‘It’s not that late! You can’t leave yet! I’ve just bought you a pint.’
‘Ok.’ You begrudgingly accept the drink, ‘But after this, I’m outta here.’
Your friends haven’t spotted her yet. Why would they? You sip your pint and wait patiently for her to notice you, willing it to be soon, simultaneously feeling queasy at the thought of her coming over. You lower your gaze and try to focus on the conversation taking place at your table, but you can feel her presence. Every move she makes jolts through you. Her shape takes hold of your peripheral vision − it’s trained on her, you know where she is without moving an inch. She nears. You squeeze your eyes together momentarily and when you open them again, you lean in close to your friend sitting on the opposite side of the table in an attempt to concentrate on his story. The few details you absorb are dull. Something is alight inside of you and you can’t quite shake it off.
You can’t resist. You turn your head a fraction and she is back in view. Now standing at the end of the bar, she leans on her elbow, running her free hand through her hair which hangs in her face. The clock on the wall is deafening as the voices around your table dissolve into nothing. You wonder who it is that she is talking to and how they know each other. Does she live close by, is that why she is here so often? You wonder if she has seen you, if she would even recognise you. You only realise that you’ve been staring at her for far too long, consumed by unanswered questions, when she raises an eyebrow, looking directly at you, and nods.
‘Are you listening?’ His question snaps you back into the here and now.