Where new writing finds its voice
Short Story


Mark Brown

In the Rendezvous Café by the sea, surrounded by pastel blue and yellow paintwork and brightly coloured signs, old men and women at Formica tables ignore the ex-couple.

Looking at the waves through huge crescent-topped windows, Nick avoids Robert’s gaze. Trapped, he thinks of upturning the tables.

Nick knows last night was a mistake.

Cramped and squashed on the coach from London, passing monstrous concrete chimneys and cheerless services, he’d imagined striding up to Robert, triumphantly shaking his hand, leading him to a restaurant.

Sophisticated, silencing him, he’d peck him on the cheek and no more. Buying him drinks until late, Robert would be jealous as Nick flirted with other people.

Instead, Robert led. The bar was loud and smelled of poppers and aftershave. Under flashing lights Nick moved without direction, Robert’s hand on his cheek.

In Robert’s flat on the familiar carpet, Nick’s body moved like a crane, an industrial machine, mindless and purposeful. Looking down on the river while Robert slept, his life in London was an insubstantial dream.

Finally speaking, sipping tea, Robert says, ‘You haven’t changed.’

‘I have,’ Nick says, sounding petulant, wondering how far he could walk into the dark water before it swallowed him.