Clubs and Societies by Deborah Fielding

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There’s a song on the radio and like all songs, it is about love. John has heard the song before, but as he sits here in his living room on his day off with his feet up on the coffee table, he hears what the words really mean. For the first time the lyrics make sense to him. [private]There’s something about beautiful eyes, something about time and dreams and being crazy and something about tears. John thinks he can probably leave tears out of it, but otherwise it’s exactly right. He looks at his toes dancing along to the tune and he feels like he’s part of the Real World now. He feels as though understanding love is a kind of society and he’s been invited to join it at last. He smiles, closes his eyes and thinks about Jane.

Jane is at work and her colleagues are complaining about their girlfriends and boyfriends and husbands and wives over coffee and tea. He doesn’t listen, they say, she doesn’t understand what it’s like for me, he hasn’t got a clue, it’s like talking to a brick wall. I wish he didn’t wear that dressing gown, I wish she’d cut her toenails. Jane listens and she wonders about John. She feels as if her colleagues are in some sort of club that she doesn’t belong to. You’ll see, they say. Just you wait a bit. It’ll be the same with you. She wonders as she sips her tea how her colleagues used to feel at the beginning. She wonders when you join the club, and if you have to join it. She thinks about John on his day off at home. She wonders if her colleagues are right, if complaining and misunderstanding is what it’s Really Like.

Later that day John sees Jane across the pub where he meets her after work: her face is shiny and her hair is parted in a funny way from where she’s been running her fingers through it. He looks at her and wonders about those song lyrics. He looks at her with mascara smudged under her eyes and wonders about this society that he’s been invited to join: the society of dreams and sunshine on rain and perfect summer days and clever lyrics … Then he notices how tired she is. And he forgets about the society …

Jane sees John ambling across the pub: he looks very peaceful, fresh from the shower. His hair’s wet, but she bets he hasn’t actually washed it. He’s wearing a jumper that she bought for him and it looks nice. She smiles. She’s very tired after work and thinks what a lovely day John must’ve had. She can see how relaxed he is and how carefree he looks. She wishes she were carefree like that. She feels harddone- by. Then she looks at him and she thinks about the club that she’s been invited to join: the club of greyness and endless complaints and quarrelling … Then she notices how concerned he is. And she forgets about the club …

John sits down opposite Jane.

Are you all right? he says. You look tired.

Jane smiles. I am tired. Can you watch my bag while I go to the loo?

John laughs. Yeah. Can you get the drinks in on your way back?

As she walks past him to the toilets, Jane nudges John with her hip and he puts an arm around her for a moment.[/private]

Since finishing her Creative Writing MA at UEA, Deborah Fielding has been writing short stories and working on a novel. Deborah is fascinated by the relationships between the arts: her current project investigates the connection between the visual and written arts. Deborah wants her writing to look beautiful on the page, but also ensures her words sound good when read aloud. She has read at events in London, Devon and Bucks and is looking forward to reading at the Greenbelt Arts Festival in August 2010. www.dfielding.co.uk
Clubs and Societies is taken from the anthology 100 Stories for Haiti, which was assembled and published in March 2010 by Greg McQueen, in aid of the victims of the Haiti earthquake. All proceeds from the anthology go directly to the Red Cross. You can find out more at www.100storiesforhaiti.org.

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