Continuing our series of short stories set in, or influenced by, London. This month’s theme is ‘sexy, sensual, saucy London' (see below for how to submit entires), and Vincent Wood continues with an encounter between two strong characters.
The Writer and the Dancer
It was one of those houses that, if in Islington, would fetch a fair bit from the middle-classes, who would climb over each other to get their hands on something with such ‘character’. Being in the back end of Lewisham, however, meant the house had become a dive, let out to students and other scroungers who could barely scrape together enough pennies between twelve of them to rent the six rooms, but always had money for parties like this.
She swayed with fluidity, as though it were her natural movement. She drew in men around her then, just as easily, shrugged them off. She looked good doing it and knew so.
He contemplated how someone could be so assured in their body. His rigidity was a statement of how different they were and he gave-up on ever knowing her. He was happy to admire her as a human, and nothing more, but she broke from the pack and slithered her way through. She’d noticed the look of deep thought and the wondering eyes and had found something of interest in them, and interest sparked curiosity.
She threw her arms around his neck, moved into him but never stopped swaying. Bump, flick, grind.
“Are you going to stand there and stare all night or are you going to come and dance?”
“I don’t dance.”
“And I don’t speak to strangers but here we are. So if you don’t dance what do you do?”
“Ah, so you’re the writer I’ve heard so much about?”
“Maybe, and you must be the dancer?”
“Well, I dance but I wouldn’t say it’s the only thing about me. Why, are words the only thing you have?”
“That’s sad, maybe you should learn something new.”
“I learn so many things from what I do, I don’t need much more.”
“You have such faith in words, do they make you that happy?”
“Then you’ve chosen the wrong thing to give your life to.”
“You make a lot of assumptions for someone I’ve just met.”
She didn’t respond but placed her hands around his wrists, fingers forming pinpoints from which a connection surged and grabbed at him leaving him breathless and unable to speak for a moment.
“I suggest you lend your life to anything but writing.”
“Because words don’t solve a thing, it’s all about actions.”
“You sound like American foreign policy.”
“Ha-ha funny or weird funny?”
“You see, the word is ambiguous. You don’t know what I mean. Actions can never be misinterpreted.”
“But what action should I take?’
She smiled a beautiful, heart-breaking smile and pressed her lips to his ear.
“Sleep with me.”
She pulled away and disappeared into the crowd. Now the connection was broken he felt desolate and didn’t know what to do, about her, about anything. His friend slipped up beside him and broke his stream of thought.
“That the dancer?”
“I think so.”
“She was totally dancing with you. You shoulda’ made a move.”
“She’s been dancing with everyone all night.”
“No. She’s been dancing all night, you’re the only person she’s danced with!”
He sped off after her, through the mass of meaningless movements and motions. He caught her, and she was about to gloat of her offer winning him over but she saw this was not why he’d come. She waited patiently to see what he’d say.
“Tell me your name.”
“You don’t need to know.”
Yes, I do.”
“My name is not relevant.”
“It is, don’t you see? It’s everything. You come and tell me words achieve nothing, confident of what you do and what it will achieve but that’s because your actions can only achieve one thing. You want one moment. I want more, I want to know you and if I get that maybe I can build on that, build a series of moments that all connect and mean something rather than just jumping from one to another.”
“And you think by getting my name you can do that.”
‘I think it’s a start.”
He got up and wandered around the room filled with books, all leafed through but not a single one seemed at peace. None had been put aside as though conquered, completed and treasured. They were all works in progress. She woke, saw him and smiled.
“You’re still here.”
“Did you not expect me to be?”
She shrugged but by its mere nature it suggested that she did not. It didn't bother him. Well, not half as much as the books did.
“You have a lot of books for someone who doesn’t care for words.”
“I never said I didn’t care for them, I said I hold no faith in them.”
“Is that not the same?”
“You don’t ever finish a book do you?’
“No, I start them thinking that all those words hold so much potential but they never come to a satisfactory conclusion.”
“Well, of course not if you never finish them.”
“I tried reading some of your work once but I didn’t get very far.”
“You got further than most if you actually bought it.”
“You’re words are beautiful but sad, I couldn’t read any more if I had wanted to.”
“Not everything I write is sad, only the things worth reading. Not that you’d know that.”
“Can you teach me how to write?”
“No, I’d have to teach you how to read first.”
“Then do that, if someone like you has such a belief in the print on a page there must be something I am missing.”
“Maybe, but then you’d have to teach me how to dance.”
She drifted out of the bed and put on some music, pirouetting towards him. He remembered the bump, flick, grind that had first caught his attention and then the bump flick, grind of the night they’d just shared. They danced in the sunlight, naked and happy for a few brief moments.
Please continue to send submissions to email@example.com. As well as general London stories, we’re now looking for tales with a ‘sexy, sensual or saucy’ theme. Entries (whether general or sexy) must be no more than 1,000 words, and must be set in London, or strongly inspired by the city. Full details here.
Previously in this series
- Amelie: Narges Rashidi considers the interactions of three people on a District Line tube.
- Old Nichol: Jill Fricker evokes the woes of the old East End.
- Compatibility: Stephen Lynch conjures the awkwardness of flat hunting.
- Two Four Eight: Lance V Ramsay envisions an Orwellian dystopia in the lingo of future London.
- Shelter Drawings: Stuart Snelson’s tale of a mysterious Circle Line artist.
- Harvest Festival: A spooky Halloween tale in the London suburbs by Helen Craig.
- Jazz Code and the Tube: The ambivalence of dating, by Jenny Mackenzie.
- Bishopsgate: Oliver Zarandi visits the site of a bomb.
- A Free Man: Melanie White’s flash fiction piece considers a recently single guy at a bachelor party.
- Tracks and Albums: Richard Lakin attracts the attentions of the British Transport Police.
- An Extract From the Diary of Kay Richardson, Actor: The surreal tribulations of a washed-up London thesp, by Tom Mitchell.
- Seeing Red: Anthony Fitzgerald on the woes of a cab driver.
- You Were Not In When We Called: A Christmas tale from Megan Toogood.
- The Perfect Gift: A Christmas fairytale in which London’s statues come to life, by Katherine Wheston.
- The City Inside: Tom Butler has some curious metropolitan anatomy.
- The Do: Alan Fisher gets party phobia.
- Clean Living London: Ursula Dewey rolls her sleeves up for some housework.
- Clissar: Grazia Brunello dips into the future of north London, through a glass darkly.
- Ordinary Days in London: Madelaine Hills on a Docklands disturbance.
- Instant Karma on the 263 to North Finchley: one seat left on the bus. Next to you. Raving drunk gets on. By Ronnie Capaldi.
- Swipe Right: Does Tinder have the answers? By Heidi Scherz