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Blue Hour

Sophie Lou Wilson

Autumn, 2015

Nick and Clare were standing on the Park Hill amphitheatre behind the station as the sun began to rise. They watched it gently light up the city as the streetlights faded. Warm yellow light started streaming through the windows of houses and cafés and dismal corner shops. In the blue hour, tall buildings soared and their artificial light glittered like a jewellery box. Grey faced morning people stomped down the streets while Nick and Clare, still up from the night before, glided, like ghosts, down from the steps, weaving a sad trail through the grass.

“We should go home,” Nick said.

Clare nodded. Then she looked up at the concrete building behind them once more before entering the train station.

They walked to the taxi rank and slipped into an unmarked black cab. Nick told the driver where they wanted to go then sat down next to Clare. They watched the metre climb as they climbed up the hill. They paid the driver then walked back to Nick’s flat. Inside, Nick started kissing Clare sloppily. They were both still drunk as they fumbled in the grey early morning light of his room. Clare felt slightly dazed but apathetic. It wasn’t like she cared much about her first time or who it was with. Nick cared for her. He was a good friend. And it was impossible for him to break her heart because he had never held it.

Clare got dressed afterwards and walked back to her flat where she climbed into bed and fell asleep for nine hours. She woke to a headache and a stream of messages from Nick on her phone. Clare sighed as she scrolled through them: “Are you ok?”, “Sorry if I came on a bit strong last night.” “Sorry.”

Clare sighed again, swallowed two paracetamol and wondered whether Nick loved her. She yawned. She didn’t love him. She wanted something unexpected to happen. Yes, that was what she wanted, she said to herself as she got dressed then went to the kitchen to make a cup of coffee. She wanted to rush towards life just for the sake of it. Nick would not be the one to do that with. She wanted to fall for something more; to be weak, to go crazy.

Clare sipped her coffee and typed out a reply to Nick: “I’m fine :) it was fun.”

Immediately Nick began typing again, but Clare put her phone away and put down her coffee. She picked up her bag, threw on a coat and left the flat.


Elsewhere, Nick sat on the edge of his bed and thought about how he hardly ever took any risks. The city was cool today. A breeze blew in from the Peaks through the city centre. Nick wondered whether or not Clare believed in him. He looked down at his idle hands then picked up his guitar. He played a few chords to try and forget about it all for a bit. He loved her and he knew she didn’t feel the same.


“Boredom isn’t for me,” Clare thought, as she walked through the Botanical Gardens. “I need change. I can't just sleep or stay in the same place.” Maybe all she wanted was to be free, and to move about as much as she wanted to.

She sat on the edge of the fountain to think about this some more. She thought about what would be and whether she would ever calm the fire that burned inside her. She wanted to just get on a train to anywhere and watch the landscapes and cities roll by. It had been a long time since she had done something like that. She was about to stand up when someone sat down near her. Clare turned to see who it was and recognised Alex from her course. Looking at the water from the fountain made her feel cold. Alex lit a cigarette and watched the squirrels. He had not noticed Clare.

“Hi,” Clare said, eventually.

Alex turned his head, “Oh hi.”

“You alright?” Clare asked.

“Yeah, I’m not bad. You?”

“I’m good.”

“Did you read that book you ran off to buy the other day?” Alex asked, blowing smoke up into the air.

“Yeah. I finished it last week. It was pretty good,” Clare replied.

Alex nodded. “Got mixed reviews.”

“You can borrow it if you want,” Clare suggested.

“Maybe,” Alex said. He finished his cigarette and threw it in the fountain. Clare watched it fall and lie there, sodden and tragic looking. “Wanna get out of here?”

Clare nodded. “Could go for a drink or something.”

“Yeah, alright. Let’s go into town.”

They stood up and walked down the hill to the park’s entrance. As they walked along the cobbled streets, it started to rain. At first, the raindrops were light and inconsistent, but soon the sky opened up and the rain beat against the street in furious bursts. Clare and Alex hurried along the pavement, avoiding puddles and talking about new wave music. Clare had bonded with Nick over their favourite band. Did the bands we liked really indicate the people we were meant to be with? It felt shallow. Maybe youth was shallow. She was searching for something deeper, yet she still felt that she could find that with Alex. Perhaps because he made art or because he talked about doing drugs that she had never tried.

He told her about the novel he was writing. It was inspired by Marcel Duchamp but set in the 21st century. He explained the plot so far, but admitted that he had been stuck all week on what should happen next. He was struggling to find his voice as a writer and felt shrunk down by all the books he had read that were better than anything he could hope to produce. He sounded self-obsessed, but Clare didn’t mind.

They reached the end of the street and realised they had been so caught up in conversation that they had forgotten to find somewhere to go for a drink.

“I live near here,” Alex said. “We could go and listen to records at mine. I have some beers.”

“Yeah, alright,” said Clare.

She knew that she was too clever to be going back with him, but as puddles gathered on the streets they walked through, she decided she was fed up with being clever. Where had clever got her? At school, her teachers had given her As, but she still wandered through lectures and appointments feeling like she was behind where she should be by now. She smoked one of his cigarettes and they kept walking.

“I don’t really feel like I’m anybody,” Clare said, “Just a collection of people I might be in the future. Does that make sense?”

Raindrops sparkled on Alex’s eyelashes as he reached out and took her hand in his. They walked into the apartment block and ascended the stairs.

“The lift always stinks of sick,” Alex explained.

He opened the door to his flat and the corridor was littered with clothes and empty takeaway boxes. “Sorry about the mess,” he said. “I live with all boys.”

He unlocked the door to his room and they went in. “Put a record on and I’ll go and get the beer.”

Clare flicked through the records in the box underneath the desk. She picked out a Talking Heads Best Of record, but couldn’t work out how to turn on the player. She scanned Alex’s bookshelf instead. It was fairly sparse, but she picked out a Haruki Murakami book. She had only ever read ‘Norwegian Wood’, but it was one of her favourites. Thinking about it now, she heard the words to The Beatles song, she showed me her room. Isn’t it good Norwegian Wood?

Alex came back in with some beers and put the record player on. He took the book from Clare and placed it back on his shelf, mumbling something about how it was a gift from his grandparents and he hadn’t read it. As Clare watched Alex put the book in the exact same place on the shelf, she noticed how neat and tidy his room was and wondered what that said about a person.

They drank more beer and played more records and the afternoon turned into the evening. The light coming through the windows slowly faded. By the time the sun set, they were drunk and dancing around Alex’s room. Alex switched on some coloured lights he had and Clare watched them flash across the ceiling. She was talking about how badly she wanted to be part of something. When her eyes turned back down, his face was close to hers. Then he kissed her, stopping her mid-sentence. He pushed his hand up her skirt. She let it happen. Part of her knew it was a bad idea but she let it happen anyway. She kissed him back. In those moments, she thought she loved him. She wanted to be weak.

Afterwards, Clare sat up on the edge of the bed and started to cry.

“What’s the matter?” Alex asked softly.

“I like you,” Clare said through tears, “but I think you have a girlfriend.”

“Yes,” was all he said.

“Do you love her?” Clare asked.

“Yes,” Alex said again. “She’s the first and only person I’ve ever loved.”

The harshness of his words made Clare sob. She realised how drunk she was.

“Why are you crying?”

“Because I’ve never been in love with the right person.”

“Don’t cry." Alex sat up and put his arm around Clare. “You’re beautiful and interesting.”

They went outside to share a cigarette and Clare pictured the buildings all around them falling to the ground. She wiped her eyes and asked Alex about an essay they had both been assigned. They were back to making regular conversation and Clare felt the dream slipping away. She knew she would never be the same again.

They went back inside and lay on Alex’s bed. He kissed her again, but it was a friendly peck on the lips this time. Clare waited for the ceiling to fall in.

She opened her eyes and the ceiling was still there. Alex was still there too. The record player was still there and the Murakami book was in the same place on the shelf. The room smelt of beer. Empty bottles from yesterday lay still in the ashtray morning light. Alex’s arms were wrapped round her.

Clare climbed over Alex without waking him. She got dressed. He had placed his shirt on her the night before. She breathed it in one last time before taking it off. Alex awoke as Clare left, but he just watched her open and close his door.


A week later, Clare sat at Park Hill again. This time she was alone. She thought about Nick and wondered if the way he felt about her was the way she felt about Alex. This thought made her feel terrible. Why did all of their love manifest in the wrong people? Nick had not contacted her. Perhaps they would never speak again. Clare thought about how there was so much hurt in looking for long lasting friendship and romance and she turned her head down in tears when she remembered that friendship and love were supposed to provide the opposite of hurt.

She had spent the day pacing through the city alone. She thought of everything she’d seen and everything she would see. She thought about how she had sent the first boy she had been with away. Time was in her hands now and it kept her moving. She noticed the pain it took. She sighed. On the bridge behind her, a message hung over the city like a futile plea I LOVE YOU WILL U MARRY ME.

Sophie is a writer and nostalgic interested in pretty clothes, honest prose, sad music, and happy days by the sea. As a teenager she liked staying up too late on Tumblr, writing angsty poetry, trying to dress like Tavi Gevinson and listening to The Smiths.


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