A Pretty Red Flower


    A grey umbrella with little pink flowers sits by my door so it won’t be forgotten. I hate it when it rains in London, I always think of all the germs and pollution that are all mixed up at the bottom of the Thames. Sucked up into the clouds, just to fall down again in thick freezing drops. I think about how many diseases you could find lurking in there and how awful it would be to fall in. This is dirty rain that mixes in with exhaust fumes and rubbish, and worst of all hardly anything can keep warm for long once it’s raining.

    London always looks so sad when it rains, but in a beautiful way. It’s as if she’s crying or letting out a tired sigh. I knew it would rain. If you have the time, and time is something I have a lot more of than most folks, you can see rain falling from far away. Before it even reaches you. It’s like watching a movie. The clouds had been tinted gray all afternoon so it was a matter of time really. Sometimes I watch people busy rushing along and I guess who’ll get caught in the rain.

    My shoes squeak with every small step towards Tower Hill tube exit. I have only walked for about five minutes but I look like I’ve jumped in every puddle I could find. My hair is so heavy and soaked it’s stuck to my face. I look like I’ve been crying but I’m just tired. My shoes are probably ruined, I can feel the soles moving under my feet and there must be some holes somewhere. The fur collar of my coat is definitely ruined, even if it dries out it won’t ever look the same. I wish I’d remembered my umbrella.

    My journey starts at Embankment. As usual I can’t find my oyster card. I’ve lived here as a student now for six months and you’d think I’d be more organised but I’m not. Rummaging one-handed through an impractically sized handbag full of everything, tourists and commuters keep pushing into me. My other hand is clutching my phone and a tall red tropical flower. It’s drawing attention to me like a siren with it’s long thick stem and bright crimson petals. The first place I checked, my pockets, is where I finally find my oyster card.

    Sat right across from me there are two birds fighting over a piece of bread. They are the city’s little feathered scavengers, but there’s enough for them both if they could think to share it. Maybe they are just too hungry. They remind me of my previous life, when I worked in an office in San Francisco. I know no one would ever believe me now. Back then all anyone ever thought of was money, myself included.

    The flower is different to anything I’ve ever seen before, I think it’s similar to a hyacinth. Clearly it’s a rare sight for most people on the train too, because they can’t stop staring. It’s only a flower. I’m too tired to feel self conscious about it, I’m sure stranger things have happened on the London Underground. I can’t believe I even got a seat on this train, I was pushed on from the platform by a small crowd of people. Further down the carriage I saw two men racing to a seat only for the man who got it to get off at the next stop.

    I’ve got six stops on the tube and I’m falling asleep after two. I’ve only been at work for a five hour shift, but no one spends five hours under supermarket lights and doesn’t come out tired. I’m sat in the last seat of the last carriage of my train. I don’t even know if it’s the right one I just saw green. My hands are bundled up in my work fleece to try and keep them warm, the plastic name badge is misspelt so I always try to hide it in any time I’m not working. It’s missing an ‘E’ so I never really feel like it’s mine.

    I had got on the wrong train. I was at Tower Hill when I needed Aldgate. I’d just have to walk the rest. The rain has faded now into a light mist but it’s the kind of rain that leaves you shivering in no time at all. Even the red flower has started shivering too in the shock of the cold. It looks like it’s velvet petals will fall off or melt away if we don’t get out of the rain.

    I don’t mind the rain as long as I’m not cold, that’s when things start to go bad. It’s only water, really it doesn’t cause much harm, but the cold is worse especially on older bones. I love to watch how shiny everything turns after it’s rained. The city looks so much cleaner and brighter when the white clouds sit in shallow pools of water. I’ve been waiting under the exit of Tower Hill station for about forty five minutes. It’s getting colder now as the evening gets closer. Normally I wouldn’t stay but there’s more people here than usual. It’s impossible to ever feel lonely when there’s so many people around for company.

    I’m a little bit lost and looking for a road sign, I find a lady sat next to a puddle on a cold patio. People are just walking around her trying to get out of the rain. She hardly has anything except a dark green raincoat. I wish I could have remembered my umbrella because she needs it more than I do . The lady is the first person to ask me about my red flower, everyone else just liked to stare. “It was given to me by chance at work, a couple wanted me to have it. I don’t even know why”.

    I’ve learnt to embrace my anonymity. There’s a kind of freedom when no one knows your name. There’s so much that can be found in a person’s name, a whole identity. It wasn’t easy though. I miss what I had back home sometimes, my favorite bars and restaurants, spending the weekend visiting Mom. I came to London to try to find something different, I just got a little lost along the way. All I really needed was some reassurance that I was still a person. Some recognition that I’m still here.

    I chose to pass it on to her.

    In the moments after I’d done it she looked so happy, as if somehow the gift of a flower had alleviated something for her. I smiled and felt happy too, but it was an act of kindness that seemed out of place in the city, and made me feel so far from home. Homesickness can feel so heavy sometimes. It can bring down even the happiest feelings. It’s a thing most people can relate to at some point in their lives. I find reminders of home everywhere in London, they usually appear just as I begin to feel settled or alright about living away. They are like little hooks that stick in your memory, but it’s the differences from home that confuse me the most. Growing up in a small town is a completely different world to a life in the city.

    I don’t think I could ever forget the day a lovely young girl gave me such a pretty flower. She was such a sweetheart. It was at a time when I had nothing but a jacket and a hat that I could say was mine. Most people just ignored me. My life had looked so optimistic once and I’d lost it all on quick decisions and bad judgment. In this cold and beautiful city there is someone willing to show compassion, when it’s so simple and easy to just let the city take it from you.

    I saw people walking past a woman who had hardly anything to her name, except a piece of cardboard, and they didn’t even look up from their phones. Ever since I was little I was taught to be kind and it’s something I’m grateful hasn’t left me. I passed on the red flower because it felt like the right thing to do. Everyone changes over time and city life is notorious for toughening a person’s outlook on life. But at this time of so much important transition, I’m happy to remain the same.


    Being Jeffrey; a short story


    I’ve been to London twice in my life. Always for interviews or meetings never really to do much writing. I love to travel, to see new things and meet new people, but when it’s travel for work, sometimes it all starts to feel like one long commute.The novelty wears off and things begin to stagnate. However, my most recent visit was different to any other. I was still jet-lagged from my transatlantic night flight that became more of a nightmare with each passing sleepless hour. After drifting from my wide white hotel room and out into the city, I found myself in a tiny cafe, with a double shot flat white slowly going cold.

    Quickly finishing what was left of the coffee, I waited for its effects to start. Soon my eyes sharpened and began to focus on the people sat around me, chatting in their red leather seats in neat rows. I felt like a time traveller and an alien all at once, so turned to my journal to find a refuge.

    I haven’t been here since the mid nineties, just after Virgin Suicides was published, but today in London I’m looking around and that decade is everywhere.

    Can I get you anything else sir?”

    The waitress made me jump. She was small and stood almost statue still with her notepad, waiting patiently for my swimming brain to catch up. Her smile was the effortless kind and her perfect teeth impossible to ignore. When the smile became all I could see, I knew the coffee had been too strong.

    Just a water please”

    I needed some air. It was cold enough to need a jacket and perfect to clear my cloudy head. After a few deep breaths I looked back through the window to my table, right in the middle, and my glass of water, when out of nowhere I saw a girl sat right there reading. Her long blonde hair fell far past her shoulders. She was accompanied only by two empty teacups and a jar of honey that sat on top of her notebook. Her book was well read, the pages could almost turn themselves the spine was so worn. The window’s shiny glare occasionally concealed her from view, or when black taxis drove across the glass. Within a glance I was fixated, not by her prettiness or her tea, but by her bracelet. Star-shaped sparkling beads surrounded the alphabet stamped letters of her name, too small to read from my angle. It was only then I noticed, she was reading my book.

    Kitty had been my best friend since we first started school. Her real name was Kate but everyone called her Kitty. Growing up with two much older brothers, she was the closest thing I had to a sister, and her having three sisters, I was like her brother. We were both thirteen when she started working at Maria’s after school, a hair salon near her house. It was usually full of crazy old ladies but Kitty liked them. As our names followed each other on the register we always sat together in class. Kitty was smart, much smarter than anyone else I knew, and she was always reading. Sat beside her everyday, I would watch her work without ever asking the teachers for help. Her parents forever pushed her towards success, they pushed all their girls. It was their constant intervention, their incessant pestering into her young life, that slowly broke apart her love of school. Soon it just didn’t interest her, it was no longer enough. She always followed the rules and she was always so good, but one day in early Spring she suggested we skipped school. So we did, and the excitement of breaking the rules just once made our familiar suburb transform into unknown territory. We realised later there wasn’t much to do in our neighbourhood, but when we were young it was a playground. Kitty always had to keep her hair up, but on that day it was down in loose dark curls, held from her eyes with a rabbit shaped hair clip. I remember she said it was lucky.

    We were both terrified of being caught, but sat on the swings in the shade of the park we kept the paranoia at bay. I can’t really remember much of that day, only really the evening that followed. Kitty and I got to Maria’s just in time for her to start her weekly shift. I waited on the faded beige sofa in the window of the soap perfumed hair salon. It was almost eight thirty when her parents’ car pulled up. But looking through the artificial jungle of plastic flowers in the salon window, I remember seeing Kitty’s sister Joanna in the drivers seat, looking unusually anxious. My parents sometimes worked late so Kitty’s Mum would drop me home. Joanna held my nervous stare in her deep blue eyes, as I approached the dark brown car. She was sixteen and by far the most responsible of the girls, despite not being the eldest of the four.

    The smell of vomit and alcohol hit like a cloud as soon as I opened the door. I slid quietly into the middle of the long warm seat and sat right next to Lux, the youngest of Kitty’s sisters. Her sandy coloured hair was wild and knotted all the way through, and with a beaming grin, she showed me the latest dead insect she had acquired on her school trip. It was a beetle for her secret collection, carefully wrapped up in tissue and preserved in her lunchbox next to a brown apple core and a half-eaten sandwich. Kitty climbed in beside me, and said nothing at all.

    Debbie, the eldest, was curled up like a baby in the front seat. The window next to her was half down to stop us all suffocating. Her thin, inanimate arm clutched a bag in her lap, while her other sick-stained sleeve had slipped outside. Just before Joanna went to drive, she slowly pulled Debbie upright, dragging her lifeless arm back into the car. She turned to face her sisters and looked at each in turn with heavy, dark eyes. Tears left her face completely shining in the gaps between black makeup streaks. The fading daylight concealed what she had done to every suburban gossiper beyond those metal walls, but we all knew what had happened.

    Kitty rarely told me much about her parents, other than the fact they were strict and very protective.They were highly suspicious of any visitors. I was hardly a stranger, but I always felt like I was in trouble whenever I saw them. They were the only people who insisted upon calling Debbie Debra. She was the one meant to set a good example for her sisters, when that night, sat in the front seat at barely eighteen years old, she’d almost drank herself unconscious. She’d been seeing a boy who worked in the gas station in town. He was a few years older than her, a drop out and he always stank of cigarettes. At first the younger sisters only guessed that Debbie was with him, she never told them, but Kitty hated him. She told me about a week before, that when her and her sisters went to see a movie, they saw Danny kissing another girl. It was right in the street for anyone to see. Anyone except Debbie who was already inside getting their tickets. The state she was in that night confirmed to us all, she’d found out. Joanna had found her sat by a tree three blocks from their house and stumbled with her into the car.

    Joanna drove slowly through the quiet streets of our small town. That night I learnt so much about the closeness of sisters, despite only really knowing Kitty. I watched Lux concentrate as she held her lunchbox perfectly still, as if it was a treasure chest. That was when I saw it. She wore a handmade string bracelet around her tiny wrist, with the three alphabet stamped letters of her name. The patterned string looked so familiar until I realised and looked down to my left to Kitty, who wore one too. The monotonous, tapping rattle I heard was the sound of Joanna’s name against the steering wheel, and my final glance caught sleeping Debbie’s ankle, and the most faded of all the bracelets, the original.

    We had arrived at the driveway of my house. Since that day, despite every interview on my novel about five sisters, I never told anyone what I had learnt. Each sister had their secrets and on the surface they were all so different. Yet with something as simple as a bracelet, their closeness became their most striking quality.

    I retreated back into my journal until I could forget how bad I felt. The girl with golden hair had stopped writing her notes and was just reading, but she looked calm and very quiet, only occasionally shifting in her seat. I had the feeling she would leave soon and had to decide, should I introduce myself or just keep at an author’s distance. She looked too engrossed for me to potentially destroy the image she could have already created. But it was then, when my doubts had almost convinced me, I watched her reach down into her bag. Her bracelet caught the last of the sun, and it was time to share my hidden memory.


    About Me

    My name is Evie Dyas. I love to write but I’m not great at writing about myself, so here’s the basics; I live in London where I’m currently working towards my degree in English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Westminster.

    I’d like to use this blog to begin to share my creative projects with others and will be uploading new things regularly.