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Today's Story by Rin Simpson

He told me to leave my engagement ring at home. Just in case.

Under the bridge

She lives in Sweden now, the girl I used to know. I heard from her the other day on Facebook. Funny thing, Facebook, the way it instructs you to reconnect, like a teacher encouraging friendship in the playground. The girl is a woman now, I suppose, has a son to prove it and everything. And a boyfriend. A Swedish boyfriend. You’d never guess she once… but that’s her story to tell.

I wish I’d kept in touch. When uni ended – the last exam sat, the last joint smoked, the last fry-up licked clean from chipped and borrow plates – we went our separate ways. She drifted to London with the rest of them. Scratched a living from a pick ‘n mix of not very nutritious jobs. Recreated the colourful, butterfly-printed digs of student days in a house in Hackney with peeling walls and loud neighbours.

And me? A white dress, two weeks in the Caribbean and then… what? Happiness? I guess. For a while. Date nights every Tuesday, a bottle of wine and dinner in front of CSI in our well-appointed, two-bedroom flat. Making love on the kitchen surface, not caring if the neighbours saw. We didn’t make too many plans but I didn’t worry about it then. The moment was enough. He was enough.

One weekend we made the trip to Hackney. He told me to leave my engagement ring at home. Just in case. Five minutes after we arrived I lit a cigarette, the first in a year or more. I hovered between past and present until the wine and the laughter kicked in. The conversation lasted long into the night, but he was in bed before 11pm, that man I loved. We never went back again.

But life went on, as it does, like the Queen’s speech at Christmas and tax hikes on budget day. There wasn’t always time for date night. Not after we moved, and there was work to do on the house. Or the flat: tenants to look after, toilets to unblock, radiators to bleed. Imagine me, a landlady! The garden took time too. The fuchsias wanted cutting back, and the rhododendrons. And the patio needed weeding, cleaning, a good spraying down. We made love in bed, occasionally.

The girl I knew, she lives in Sweden now, with her boyfriend and her son and her thriving experimental art career. She’s coming back for a week this summer, invited me to a party. A reunion. All the others will be there. They still live in Hackney, I think. Somewhere in London anyway. I won’t be there though. The gap between then and now is too wide to bridge, and too many tears have run beneath. I couldn’t face the sympathy. I’ll stay in instead. In a flat I never thought I’d call home again. In a bed that’s meant for two.


Formerly a features writer and magazine editor, Rin Simpson (@rinsimpson) now works as a freelance writer and teacher. Her short story In her shoes is published in Honno’s anthology Cut on the bias, and she is currently working on a collection of her own. She is also the founder of The Steady Table writer’s group (@TheSteadyTable), which is based in Bristol.


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