#30stories30days: A Story About Beginnings

It was hot with all those bodies in the room, so she opened the balcony door.

The left speaker had just blown and the room felt unbalanced with music filling only one side of it. It made her feel off-kilter, like the moment the world goes quiet before a fainting episode.

There were people perched precariously on all surfaces – the arms of chairs, the step leading to the kitchen, the glass coffee table. A glass half full of red teetered on the edge of the bookcase.

She returned to the decks and looked up to see a boy she didn’t know enter from the hallway. He seemed to know her flatmate, who was gesturing around the room.

He was wearing a shirt in a pattern of tiny red and white checks and nodding at something she was saying. Her flatmate handed him a beer and he took a swig, letting the bottle fall to his side.

She busied herself with choosing the next song and smiled as her best friend Alice approached the decks.

“I’ve just been talking to that bearded guy. He’s a bit awkward but he seems nice. You should go talk to him.”

“Oh…” she said, trying to think of an excuse.

“You should, go on.”

She tutted. “Alright.”

She motioned for her friend to take over the music and walked over to the boy.

“Hey, how’s it going?”

“Hi.”

“What’s your name?”

“Adam.”

“Nice to meet you.”

He took a long drink of beer and sat down on the ledge between the kitchen and the living room.

“I’m Meg,” she said, sitting down next to him.

“Hi.”

There was a pause just long enough to border on uncomfortable.

“So… do you know Sarah?”

“Yeah.”

She nodded. “Cool. She invited you then?”

“Sort of. I saw it on Twitter.”

It was her turn to take a long drink. Her flatmate is inviting people to their party on Twitter.

“Where were you before this?”

“I was at my mate’s birthday down the road, but I got bored so I came here.”

“On your own?”

“Yeah.”

“That’s kinda brave, rocking up to a stranger’s party on your own?”

He shrugged. “I guess.” He drained the dregs of his beer.

“So what do you do?” she said, grasping for something to talk about it.

“I work in the travel industry, in events.”

“Wow, you must get to go to some good places then?”

“Yeah,” he nodded.

“I’ve only really been to America, but I love it, have you been?”

“Yeah, a few places.”

“Like where?”

“New York, California…”

“They’re both great aren’t they?”

He nodded.

She took a drink.

“Do you want me to go? It doesn’t really seem like you’re that interested in talking to me.”

He turned and looked at her. “No? I guess I just don’t have much to say right now.”

She blinked.

“Wow you’re hard work.”

He shrugged.

“OK,” she said after a beat. “I’m gonna go back and DJ a bit more,” she said.

“OK.”

“OK. Bye.”

She walked back over to Alice.

“You weren’t kidding were you?”

“HA, I know. He seems nice though.”

“How can you tell?”

“He’s just a bit quiet.”

Meg rolled her eyes.

Across the room, Adam rolled a cigarette.

She watched him walk over to the balcony and light up. She decided the best course of action was to circulate with a glass in hand.

By the time she reached him again she was wearing a confidence-boosting booze jacket.

She lit a cigarette even she’d blagged. She didn’t really smoke but it gave her something to do with her hands.

“Hey again.”

“Hey,” he said. He was holding a record.

“What’s that?”

“War of the Worlds.”

“Why do you have a copy of War of the Worlds with you?”

“I was DJ’ing my friend’s party and I wanted to play it, but it’s the wrong version.”

“Why, what’s wrong with it?”

“It’s shit.”

“Oh. I guess that’s a good enough reason. Though I’m not sure why you’d want to play War of the Worlds at a party.”

He took a drag on his cigarette.

“Bet I can throw it over there.” He gestured to the multi-storey carpark on the other side of the street.

She scoffed.

“It’s too far away.”

He took the vinyl out its sleeve, rollie between his lips.

“Bet I can.”

He looked at her, waiting for the dare. She shrugged, “Go on then.”

Hurling it like a Frisbee, he sent the record sailing across the road. They watched it land on the roof of the carpark.

She nodded slowly. “Very good.”

“Shall we go back inside?”

They sat beside each other on the sofa.

“Your dress is like digital chainmail,” he said.

“What?”

He laughed.

“Do you maybe want to hang out this weekend?”

“Are you asking me out on a date?”

He had been hard work. She wasn’t giving in that easily.

“Yeah… If you want to.”

He was looking down at his hands. She waited a few seconds. Let him sweat.

“Yeah alright.”

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#30days30stories: A Story About Change

The air stewardess nudges me from a fitful doze for the third time. I know she means well but it’s getting kind of irritating.

“How are you feeling?” she asks.

She has the mask of someone concerned for my welfare but really, I know she’s anxious I’m spreading my germs around flight QR21.

“Well, I’m… ill… again,” I say, carefully choosing my words – I’m British, I can’t possibly say my guts are on fire.

The stewardess nods and says, “Well I really think you should see a doctor when we get to Doha.”

“Oh,” I say, “No no, I’m fine. I just want to go home.” Oh God, the fuss. My misery multiplies.

“Well, I really think you should,” she says more firmly.

Her tone purveys concern, but the undertone screams, “you’re not getting on that flight to Manchester until you see a doctor because I’m not bearing the responsibility of a pandemic.”

“Fine,” I mumble.

I’m hustled into first class to wait for an escort to the medical centre. It’s a glimpse into a world I will probably never know on a journalist’s wage – the leg room, the BIG PILLOW! I can see why cabin crew might think you’d enjoyed your flight.

I’m collected by a curt airline rep who barks, “Come!” and I wonder if he’s been briefed that I’ve not eaten in three days and can’t hustle at such a pace.

“Can you walk?” he shouts over his shoulder.

“Umm…” I reply weakly.

A wheelchair magically appears. He asks when I’m due to change planes and I tell him my next flight is in two hours, which increases his pace tenfold.

Doha airport is like a small island deposited in the desert, where you’re advised not to go outside because you’ll burst into flames. We pass a huge teddy bear sculpture which looks like the stuff of nightmares. Ruth Googles it and learns it cost someone with more money than sense $6.8m.

I’m transferred to a buggy which we share with a woman in a burkha. I perch on the back, hunched as my stomach cramps.

“Are you ok?” she asks

“Ah… yeah, fine!” I say brightly.

She pats me on the hand, “Welcome to our state,” she says with a smile.

I arrive at the medical centre where a doctor swiftly hooks me up to a drip.

My terror of needles leaves me quivering on the gurney and Ruth carefully extracts her hand from my knuckle-whitening grip and proceeds to distract me.

I end up telling her the entire plot of The Good Wife, substituting Cary Argos’ name throughout with the phrase, “that lad from the Gilmore Girls” because I can’t think straight.

I realise my trembling isn’t fear but the ice cold fluid of the IV coursing through my veins. In some sort of strange panic, I kick off my flip-flops and hear them drop to the floor.

I’m heaped with more blankets to combat the shivers and Ruth decides to retrieve my Havaianas.

“Where’s the other one?” she says.

“What do you mean?”

“There’s only one.”

“There can’t be, I heard it fall on the floor.”

“Yeah, but it’s not here. Did you definitely have both of them on?”

“Of course I did, I’d remember walking around with one shoe.”

She shakes out the sheets, lifts up the mattress, crawls around on the floor.

“For fuck’s sake, I’m not going home with one shoe,” I grumble.

“Well it’s not here.” She laughs. “Where is it?!”

It’s a good distraction. The situation suddenly seems quite funny and I laugh hysterically like I’ve been sucking on helium.

With the drip sucked dry a nurse comes into help with the flip flop search and locates it behind a trolley on the other side of the room. How it got there will forever remain a mystery to all involved.

I hobble to my awaiting chariot and am zipped to the gate and chivvied through to the waiting area. Priority boarding was made for rich people and separating those with infectious diseases away from the general public.

I have successfully changed planes but lament that I seem cursed when it comes to Asian air travel.