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If I Had Known – A Short Story

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Originally published in City Lit Adult Education Centre in London in their Between the Lines Magazine in 2010, Tavinder Kaur New deftly deals with one of the hot button social issues of our times.

If I had known, would I have done what I did?

After my relationship with Dennis, I was fed up with men, with dating and looking for someone. Dennis was a friend of Kate; I’d met him at her Christmas party. He was nice at first but became possessive and began to call me every day to check on me. I was trapped–like a balloon tied to his chair, so I left him after four years.

I felt drained from the breakup; Kate felt responsible. She had introduced us. All I could do was stay inside and watch television, but after a year, Kate insisted I get out and meet people when I had nothing left to give. On her birthday in July, she turned thirty and had her new boyfriend Mark. But who or what did I have?

I felt obliged to attend; yet I had butterflies since I knew questions would be asked of me–the party’s only single girl, at age thirty five.

I arrived at Kate’s flat holding a large bouquet, heels killing me. I began to panic and turned to leave when I saw him.

“Hi there, are you okay?” he asked.

I was mesmerized by his green eyes and felt myself swimming in them. My bosom heaved while he stood nearby, and he took the bouquet from me.

“Sandra you made it!” The spell was broken when Kate hugged me and ushered me to the party. I looked around to see if he were there, but he had gone.

On entering her flat, a huge disco ball hung from the ceiling. Streamers draped from pictures and the banister. There was a huge balloon at the back of the wall with a sign that said “Happy Birthday, My Love Kate.” I saw couples holding hands, looking into each others eyes and felt naked as they watched me walk through the flat. I was introduced as the “single” who needed to be “set up.” I could feel my cheeks turn red and my eyes fill with water.

“Excuse me.” I hurried to the bathroom, and saw the man who had taken the bouquet from me, wearing jeans and a blue jumper–standing alone.

“Don’t you hate these parties? There is always a queue for the bathroom,” he said.

I had never seen this man at any of Kate’s parties. I rubbed my eyes hoping he wouldn’t notice the tears.

“Are you okay? I don’t mean to be nosy, but I heard how Kate introduced you, and I understand how you must feel. I just became single myself. Perhaps we can dry each other’s tears,” he laughed. Voices in the room grew louder, then broke into strains of “Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Kate….” Couples gathered around the cake holding hands. But I had no hand to hold.

Then his hand clasped mine, and he said, “Everything will be okay, lovely.”

After I left the flat. with his number, I skipped down the road feeling warm. Why hadn’t Kate introduced me to this guy before tonight?

***

The day I left to meet with him, I got flustered; I couldn’t help it. My heart was beating furiously. I straightened my hair and put on my best outfit, a lovely yellow dress. I even shaved my legs! It had been more than a year since I had met a man, and I’d forgotten what it felt like.

I arrived at Liverpool Street station where commuters ran and trains hurried to platforms. The rush was about keeping timetables for arrivals and departures,

I had arranged to meet him under the board and nervously awaited his arrival. I stared at the escalator like Elizabeth watching Darcy come down the marshes in the Kiera Knighltly movie Pride and Prejudice.

“Hi. Been waiting long?” he asked.

“No,” I said. “Not long.”

“How about we have coffee?”

I gulped. I couldn’t speak. We left the station and entered a sandwich shop, Prêt a Manger. I felt like slapping myself and couldn’t get a grip on reality. I was sixteen again. My cheeks were flushed as he ordered drinks and sat down with me. I had forgotten how my emotions had impacted me on our first meeting at the party. This time my feelings were even stronger, and I could hardly meet his eyes.

“You look really nice. I just had a talk with Kate. She said you’ve only recently broken up.”

“It’s true,” I responded. I could have kissed Kate for telling him.

“I know how you feel, pet. I recently ended a relationship myself.”

“How long were with you with her?”

He looked at me with one eyebrow raised and leaned back.

“Not a her–a him–my partner John.”

I thought I had misheard. “Not a her–a him,” was it? I was caught in a moment, wishing the Earth would swallow me or time would reverse itself. My heart had been stabbed with the knife of embarrassment.

“You’ll have no problem finding someone; you are so pretty. You do realize that don’t you? We should go out next week to a club I know,” he said as he touched my hand.

I held my breath, relieved he had no idea of my intentions, looked into his lovely eyes and knew I’d found a friend for life.
***

Tavinder Kaur New is primarily a short story writer, who lives in Dagenham Essex. One of her short stories ‘ If I had Known’ has been published in City Lit Adult Education Centre in London in their Between the Lines Magazine in 2010.

She has been also chosen to read her poem ‘I Want’ in the Barking and Dagenham Folk Festival in 2015. She has attended many writing courses in City Lit Adult Centre and currently in Barking and Dagenham Adult College.

Tavinder has a BA honours in English and Cultural Studies and also a Level 3 diploma in Counselling Studies. In addition she has a blog where all of her collection of poems and short stories have been published: http://tavindernew.blogspot.co.uk/.
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One Comment

  1. Russell MacClaren Russell MacClaren

    Love the twist at the end of this well-written story. It adds a touch of levity that lightens the thrust of the plot from tears and drama to a smile .

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