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 fresh starts by Cleo Gorringe.

By day, Cleo is a current MSc Business with Marketing student at the University of Warwick. By night, she is a writer. She graduated from the University of Exeter with a first-class BA with honours in English in 2019. Her work often draws upon the dark in the mundane, and she finds it most interesting to explore the psychology of a character. She is working on her first novel.

Cleo started writing and illustrating short stories about fairies who lived at the bottom of her garden from the age of five. Since then, she hopes her writing quality has improved, but that her imagination is still as active. She began seriously considering writing after winning a local writing competition for a short radio play, judged by Kay Mellor (OBE). She has written lots of short stories and picture books, and is working on a novel. Most recently, she was longlisted in the International Bath Short Story Award 2020.

‘Undercoat’ follows a woman renovating her house for a fresh start following a breakup.


I sit inside and wait for summer to be over. Sometimes I sit upright in bed and read a book. Fully dressed though, as if I were about to go out. It’s all too easy to fall the long, hard way into bad habits. Sometimes I sit in the bath, the water cool on my skin. I light a candle and pretend it is winter. Mainly, though, I sit on the piano stool in the dining room. I play a little, but I am too conscious of all the workmen hearing – a dud note, a missed note, a pause where it shouldn’t be. The dining room is the coolest room in the house, north facing. It was designed this way, as direct sunlight is not good for a piano.


Yesterday, the painter’s apprentice walked in on me with my hands poised and wizened over the keys, and asked me if I’d like an ice cream.

I said, No.

He said, Wouldn’t you like to be out in the sun? It’s lovely out there. He seemed like a nice boy, officially an adult but with a body, a face, that hadn’t caught up to his age.

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