This story is by Victoria Kaderbhai and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
A frisson of excitement runs throughs me, as I turn the calendar over to display the first of November. There is no doubt in my mind that the best month of the year has finally begun. Looking out of my bedroom window, it is clear to see that Autumn is in full swing. The leaves on the trees have abandoned their deep and luscious green, instead favouring burnt orange. They fall from the tree and reconvene on the ground huddling together for warmth. A crisp and crunchy blanket as far as the eye can see, enticing me to run outside and kick it out of place, leaving chaos in my wake.
I skip down the stairs and throw open the front door, excited to be met by the crisp, cold air. The smell of November reaches my nose. A bonfire has been lit nearby and the smoky scent of burnt wood travels stealthily through our quiet little village.
As I bend down to pick up my two pints of milk left by the milkman, my thoughts are interrupted by a loud booming voice. “Morning Sophie. How are you on this fine day?” That is the unmistakable Yorkshire twang of Dan, breaking up the gentle peace of my tiny street. I take a deep breath, stand up straight and give him my most gracious smile. “I’m good thank you Dan. You on your way to Chloe’s?”
“The very opposite.” Comes his reply. “I have been banished from her bed on account of being far too loud and awake at this time of the morning. That friend of yours is not a morning person, is she?” He asks. His eyes twinkling. I feel my head nodding in agreement but am still processing the information that he spent the night with Chloe. “I thought all you Welsh girls were early risers, tending your flock as the sun rose.” He booms. “Ha!” I laugh. “I doubt Chloe has ever been within fifty feet of a sheep.”
I am desperately reassuring myself that spending the night together does not mean that this is leading to something more serious. Surely Chloe wouldn’t want to get serious with Dan?
“You two are moving quickly aren’t you?” I know I sound like a prude but the words are out before I can stop them. “Tell me about it.” He replies, a goofy expression on his face. “I’m more of a love ‘em and leave them kind of a guy, but your friend has hit me hard. She’s pretty bloody special.”
“Yes she is.” I reply, swallowing sharply.
Dan clearly sees the concern in my eyes, as he puts his hand on my shoulder in what he must think is a reassuring gesture. “Don’t worry. I’ve lived in this village just long enough to know you two are each other’s true love. Best friends forever and all that.” I know he is trying to lighten the mood but I feel mine darken.
Taking a breath, I decide to turn on the charm, instead of succumbing to this mood and say to him “Well if you can’t hang out with Chlo’ this morning, would you like to help me take Alfie for a walk?”
“Last night I spent the night with Chloe and this morning I get to hang out with a dog. Life is good!” He roars, throwing back his head and laughing. A deep shudder runs through my body and I have to try hard to make sure the disgust I feel doesn’t register on my face. “Great. Come in. I’ll just put this milk away and grab Alfie’s lead.”
Dan’s oversized, bulky frame looks ridiculous standing in my tiny front room. I leave him, being jumped on by my crazy mutt, and head into the kitchen. My phone is buzzing next to the sink, and as I pick it up to answer, Chloe’s face pouts back at me from the screen.
“Morning.” I say.
“Hey.” Comes her groggy reply.
“What’s up?” I ask, cradling the phone between my chin and shoulder as I lean over to tie the laces on the muddy trainers I’ve slipped my feet into.
“Not much. Dan stayed over last night.” Well at least she’s not keeping it from me. “Woke up stupid early. Told him to do one. Way too loud. Do you fancy doing something? Tea and cake at the garden centre?” She yawns loudly.
“Actually, I’m just about to take Alfie for a walk. I’d ask if you want to join us but I wouldn’t want to aggravate your exercise and mud allergies!” I hear Dan walking up behind me and try to end the call quickly but I’m too late.
“Is that Chloe? Hey lazy bones!” He shouts over my shoulder. “You awake now?” Annoyed, I turn away, covering the speaker with my hand. Too late.
“Is Dan there?” She asks, sounding surprised.
“Yeah he is actually.” I say, trying to sound casual. “He was loitering outside my door when I went to grab the milk.”
There is a pause before she replies. “Right.”
Dan pipes up again. “Seeing as you won’t play with me, Sophie and Alfie are going to take me for a walk.”
“What?!” Chloe screeches down the phone. Now I’m turning away from Dan so he won’t hear Chloe.
“You are not going on a walk with Dan. Do you hear me! I forbid it!”
“What?” I laugh, nervously, hoping Dan won’t pick up the slight panic in my voice. “It’s just a walk.”
“Where are you taking him?” Her breathing sounds loud and fast. “Cos’ if it’s just round the village, I’ll join you.” I can hear the sound of bed covers being pushed back and feet hitting the floor.
“Nah, done it a thousand times. Thought we’d take him to the old quarry. It’s so pretty up there, with all the shrubbery and panoramic views from the top. See you later.” As I end the call I hear Chloe screaming “No” down the phone.
“Chloe says to have fun.” I tell Dan.
Walking around the site of the old quarry, Dan and I fall into easy conversation. He’s not quite as brash as I first thought, but I still can’t see what Chloe is doing with him.
“We should ring Chloe. Get her to join us.” He tells me, picking up a stick and throwing it for Alfie, who chases after it, tail wagging.
“There’s zero signal up here. It’s pretty remote, one of its many charms.” I tell him.
“Shame.” He replies. He kicks at a pile of brown and golden leaves, which fly up into the air, Alfie comes bounding over and snaps at them as they fall.
“I love Autumn.” He gushes. This surprises me, I didn’t peg him as the gushy type. “It’s so crisp and clear. The year’s almost done. It’s a great time to reflect before the craziness of Christmas consumes you.”
We have made it to the top of the quarry now and Dan has stopped, looking wistful. This is my favourite part of the quarry. You can see the city beyond but not be disturbed by the noise and bustle.
“I know this sounds crazy but I’m falling for Chloe. How mad is that? It’s only been a couple of weeks but I can’t get her out of my head.” He smiles broadly at me and I return it with a weak twitch of my lips.
“She’s so vibrant and full of life. She makes me feel alive. I am falling in love with that girl.” He shakes his head, disbelieving of his luck.
“Do you think Chloe feels the same way?” I ask.
“God, I hope so.” He sighs.
I feel myself deflate and take a step back. What if she does? Where does that leave me? I see my hands reach out in front of me, feel my legs propel me forward, sense my fingers touch the suppleness of his back and with one hard push, topple him over the edge of the quarry. He has no time to react, he doesn’t make a sound as he falls. His hands reach out to stop his fall but grab only air. Finally, his fall is broken as he hits the ground.
I grab Alfie and run back towards the carpark, as I get there Chloe is scrambling out of her car.
“Where is he?” She screams.
“In the quarry.” I reply, my body starting to shake.
“Damnit.” She replies, quiet and defeated.
I drop to my knees. “Oh my God. I’m so sorry! I’m sorry!” I shout, breathing hard.
“Shh.” Chloe kneels down beside me, stroking my hair. “I shouldn’t have let him get close. Not so quickly. We’ll handle it, don’t worry. You and me, no matter what. We’ve gotten through it before.”
I fall into her arms, sobbing loudly. “I love you Chloe.”
She holds me closer and whispers, “I love you too. Besties forever.”