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 conversation by Toby Wallis.
Toby Wallis lives in Suffolk, UK. He has had an interest in writing since he was young, but started taking it seriously after he survived a brain haemorrhage when he was thirty. Since then, Toby’s writing has been published in a number of places, both online and in print. He has won the Glimmer Train New Writers Award and has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, the Brick Lane Bookshop Short Story Prize and the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest. He is currently working on a novel.
‘Light on his Feet for a Big Man’ follows a man meeting an old friend and reconsidering their past relationship.
From the table I had chosen in the coffee shop I could see the entrance of the train station. Already I had seen three trains arrive and the crowds emerge and disperse. Absolutely everyone that walked out of the station looked like they could have been the lead in a charming romantic comedy. I had bought a coffee, thinking I might have to abandon it when Kevin arrived, but by that time I was on my third, still watching people come and go.
I hadn’t seen Kevin in more than ten years. I was wearing my best jeans and my best jumper, and under those, my best t-shirt and best underwear. Kevin had been attractive in a deceptive sort of way. The first time I saw him I thought nothing of him, but over time I started to notice how subtly handsome he was, like a vague figure emerging from a thick fog. The first thing people usually noticed about him was his size. He was six foot five and tended to stand with his shoulders back and head up, so he seemed even taller than that. I noticed the size of his hands before I spotted anything else about him.
Another train pulled in and sixty seconds later another crowd spilled out of the station. I looked through it, wondering if I would still recognise him after all this time, but he wasn’t hard to spot. He was a full head taller than everyone around him and looked like he had barely aged at all. He walked out of the station and stood there like a moored boat in a moving tide, glancing around, trying to find me. I abandoned my third coffee and headed outside.
I weaved through the parked taxis, waving to catch his eye, and when he spotted me, he paused, almost as though he didn’t recognise me, then smiled and came striding over. He had a rucksack on one shoulder, his hair was cut short, and he had on a pair of glasses that he hadn’t used to need.
‘Stephen,’ he said, overpronouncing my name like he was enjoying the shape of it. I went to hug him, but he put out a hand to shake. We ended up doing both, hugging awkwardly with a loose handshake trapped between our stomachs. I looked up to see his face again from that familiar angle.
‘Come on,’ he said, looking around like he had no idea where to go. ‘Let’s get out of here. I want to get checked into the hotel and then go for some food. I’m starving and I want to hear everything.’