A short story by Sarah Drinkwater.
Illustration by Kate Wilson.
Once, I was a girl who fell in love with dresses. Actually, ‘fell in love’ isn’t strong enough. I was consumed by clothes; daydreaming of outfits and shopping whenever I could. It seemed like I’d ‘get’ life if only I could find the perfect red pencil skirt first.
Then, in 2007, at a strip-lit Brick Lane curryhouse, I was sat next to a brash Bradford boy with a silly name and a Tintin quiff. I thought he was crude; he thought I was stuck up. We were both right. The girl on the other side of him spent the evening with her hand resting on his thigh; the first of all the red flags I chose to ignore.
Over the next four years, we were on, then off, then on, then off, more times than I care to remember. But then it settled down, and we moved in together. Six days later, he got up and left. I got a text when I was at work saying he’d moved all of his things out.
At first, I didn’t feel much of anything. People kept saying how OK I seemed, even when I had to griddle pasta for dinner because he’d taken all the saucepans. I even had a little fling with someone I’d liked for years. When they left my house, saying they’d ‘see me soon’ over their shoulder, it hit. I felt like someone was trying to pull my heart out through my throat with a dinner spoon. I’d find myself crying on Sunday mornings in the flat I loved but had to leave – as soon as I’d paid a £900 charge for people too stupid to insist on a break clause.
I was sad and angry. Then something changed; he wanted me back. There were the rambling emails sent in the middle of the night, full of ‘I’s and no ‘you’s, the hackneyed presents, the begging texts from his mother. I didn’t reply. One day, I threw my ‘I heart Tintin’ mug at the kitchen floor and it bounced right back up again, unbreakable. I took it as a good sign.
Then there was a box on my desk at work from Selfridges, crackling with its own worth. Inside was a bag I’d blogged about, a really beautiful bag in soft pumpkin coloured leather. It was £795 worth of apology and it made me feel sick. I hauled it home, where it stayed inside in its bright yellow bag, and began writing. The words poured out of me like water. A story started itself and carried on. The day I sent my scribblings off for a creative writing course, I was wearing jeans and a T-shirt. I was in something similar the day I sold my Mulberry. I don’t remember what I was wearing the day I got accepted for the course; once I was a girl who fell in love with dresses, but now I’m a woman who can take them or leave them.
This story was featured in the last issue of the HZ zine. You can read more by Sarah Drinkwater on her blog, The Enchanted Hunters.