Cassie was swallowed up by dark fug. In the swirling bowels of the cellar bar, strobe lights punched flashes of light into her retinas. She lurched towards his familiar outline, but he vanished. She bumped hard into a young girl.
‘Not to worry. I’m good,’ said the lass, as she waved and gyrated away into the dancing mass.
Cassie once loved nights-out in these subterranean places. Afterwards, he’d collect her and take her home. Nowadays, music-fuelled frenzies in seedy venues unnerved her, but she had to find him. Earlier, when he’d turned to leave her flat, she’d frozen and let him go. Minutes later, adrenaline fired, she’d thrown the carbonara she’d rustled up for them both into the bin, swigged a glass of Muscadet and left in pursuit. Her street snaked straight through to town. He was clearly visible from a distance, him in his orange puffer-jacket.
Cassie got his letter only yesterday, so no time to adjust. It was three weeks late, mis-delivered to a neighbour who’d been away. She took ages to answer his light taps on her door. Their eyes locked,
‘For fuck’s sake. Why now?’ she said.
In silence, he pressed three red roses wrapped in silver paper into her hands.
‘You’d better come in.’.
He didn’t stay long. Her angry interrogation mauled him. Too much time had passed and he needed a drink.
Cassie couldn’t cope with the cacophony in the bar. She’d lost him. Again. She headed for the EXIT sign, snatching an abandoned litre of vodka on the way. Her legs went to jelly on the uneven steps up to street-level. She gulped from her looted bottle. An outsize rat ran over her boots. She screamed. A pair of padded, orange arms encircled her. Her Dad held her close, as he’d done when she was small and terrified by nightmares.
Ceinwen E Cariad Haydon, [MA Creative Writing, Newcastle 2017]
Ceinwen lives in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK, and writes short stories and poetry. She has been widely published in web magazines and in print anthologies. She is a Pushcart (2019 & 2020) and Forward Prize (2019) nominee. She believes everyone’s voice counts.