Romance Happy Fiction

“Amy! Come on! You can’t hide for the rest of your life. We had two years of a pandemic. Life has to go back to normal!”

The voice shouting through my letterbox was from my best friend, Charlie. I’d ignored her calls about going out, because I didn’t want to. It didn’t feel safe, yet. The pandemic had apparently affected a lot of people mentally in ways that weren’t apparent until the end of it all. Even though the world was vaccinated, and the number of hospitalisations and deaths from the virus had stabilised into pretty much single figures, and everyone was more wary of washing hands… it still felt dangerous to be outside around strangers.

I’d spent the pandemic alone, in my small apartment, going to the same two shops for my food each week. I worked from home, I had a small home gym in the corner (consisting of four kettlebells, resistance bands, and a yoga mat), and I had therapy over the phone after a small breakdown in the middle of summer.

Okay, a big breakdown… but still – everything I needed was in my small, safe space. The thought of leaving that, of having to face people again, of having to go out and speak to new people and make friends… I’d grown comfortable being alone. I’d grown content in sweatpants and not having to look or act a certain way.

But, on the other hand, the other half of my job – my part-time side hustle, if you will – required me to attend a school. A dance academy, actually, right in the middle of London. Me and Charlie are both dancers, professionally. We choreograph and perform for a myriad of things, and it’s fun, but where Charlie does it full time, I do it part time.  I still hadn’t been back to the school, and all measures had been lifted for a solid month and a half.

“Amy! AMY! I will kick this fucking door in.”

“ALRIGHT! I’M COMING!” I roared. I was cocooned on the sofa. I stood, keeping the blanket around me. I opened the door, but I didn’t look at her.

“For God’s sake! Thank you!” Charlie came inside. “Right. We have the performance at the Expo at the weekend – which you’re doing, by the way, because you choreographed half of it – and then there’s an afterparty that you’re coming to.”

“I –“

“There will be food provided, drinks, and kit. You’ll need your warm-up stuff, and your pointes with black covers.” I looked at her. “When did you last wash your hair?”

“I didn’t let you in so you can judge my appearance.” I ran a hand through my hair. When had I last washed it? “Like… last week?” I glanced at my calendar, which had some of the days crossed off. Charlie rolled her eyes.

“Go and take a shower. I’m taking you out to lunch. There’s a new sushi place on the corner. We can sit in the park.” Her eyes said she had gossip. “I’ll wait here.”

“Can’t I finish my episode first?”

“You’ve been in a permanent fucking episode for years. Go and shower.”

It might seem a bit harsh, but Charlie is my best friend – a sister, actually. I met her when I was 9 years old. I had a stint of acting in a movie series, and Charlie’s dad was one of the camera operators on set. Charlie came with him one day, and we hit it off and were virtually inseparable the entire time. After that, Charlie would come to set with him as often as she could, and because we both lived in London, we ended up spending loads of time together outside of school too. I took up dancing when Charlie told me she did ballet classes, and in no time at all we were in the same academy. At eighteen, we moved in together. She danced full-time, and I did acting and university together, and then when I graduated, I found a part-time desk job because acting wasn’t doing it fully for me. Regardless of what we went through, Charlie was there for me, and I was there for her. Even when we moved out and got our own places because I got an acting gig in Belgium for a year, she was still there for me. So, she knew when I needed tough love, and when I needed soft love.

Today was a tough love day.

The expo was a weekend-long event, with starting on Friday afternoon and ending Sunday afternoon. It was a gathering of everything internet, from YouTube to webtoons to anime, gaming, popular TV shows – you name it, they have it. We were there to promote the school on the Saturday, because we took classical ballet and spun it together with pop culture, and they wanted us to fill a performance slot that had been cancelled last-minute. Through the lockdowns, we’d done online performances and lessons, and had contributed choreography to a new fitness VR game coming out. But, even though we were relevant, I couldn’t help but feel massively out of place in my nude leggings and trainers and baggy hoodie, surrounded by amazing costumes and characters.

We performed, we spent some time wandering around the place, I spent way too much money on merch, Charlie rolled her eyes when I got excited over a couple of Doctor Who shirts. I rolled mine when she got excited over the Supernatural merch. We had conflictingly similar tastes.

“Right. Dinner, and then party time?”


“Attagirl.” Charlie said. She pulled me towards the exit, but we got accosted by a professional photographer, who wanted some ballerina shots. Naturally, to annoy a hungry Charlie, I obliged him.

A little way away, two young men sat against the wall, tired from the day they’d had. Meeting and greeting fans was an entirely new aspect to the job, but they’d loved it, and their faces hurt from smiling. One, with wild, curly hair and a generally happy face, watched his friend lost in thought.

“Penny for them?” he asked, taking a drink from a metal water bottle.

“Oh? What? Nothing.” His friend, wearing a red shirt, went as red as the shirt, and picked at a lint on his grey hoodie.

“Who were you looking at?”

“No-one.” His friend looked up again. He followed his friend’s eyeline, and met a girl, balancing on a ball-balance-board thing, grinning ear-to-ear. She was charming, laughing, as a professional photographer took photos of her. She had great balance.

“Want to see me do it on one leg?” the girl asked. Her voice carried. The photographer watcher her lift one leg in a graceful arabesque, her leg rising well past ninety degrees, her other leg perfectly balanced, her thigh muscle solid. It seemed to make the photographer happy. Her smile made his friend’s insides twist.

His friend sighed softly, unconsciously.

“You could always go and speak to her, instead of staring at her.”

“Absolutely not.”

“Your loss, then.”

I hate clubs at the best of times. Music so loud I can’t hear what anyone’s saying to me. Hot, sweaty, gross bodies pressed together, moving in what could be described as a dance, but usually is more like softcore porn. People drunk. Sticky floors… yet there I was, swaying to the innate thump of a techno-pop song. Charlie was dancing with some of the other girls, drinks in hands, enjoying themselves. I’d finished my diet coke a while ago, but there were no tables for me to put it on. Just people everywhere. I fucking hated it. I didn’t want to fucking be there, but Charlie had confiscated my keys and phone and purse, so I wasn’t going home without her whether I liked it or not.

Across the dancefloor, I met a pair of eyes. I smiled, despite myself, and the guy returned it. I blushed and looked away. He’d done the same thing. I scanned the dancers for Charlie, but she’d been eaten by the throngs. So I stood, bored, nodding at people I vaguely recognised until a hand, Shaun of the Dead-style, reached out from the crowds and pulled me in, just as the music got real good. An hour later, we fell from the dancefloor and collapsed against two chairs.

“So, who is he?” Charlie asked me. I looked at her.


“The guy you keep smiling at?”

“I don’t keep smiling at anyone.”

“Yes, you do. Which one is it?” she craned her neck. I could see him chatting to his friend. They looked like they were having fun. “Crazy hair?”

“No. Red shirt.”

“Oh… go and speak to him.”

“No!” I went beetroot. “He’s not even smiling at me, anyway.” He was. He had been all night. I’d seen him at the expo, too, meeting people and making videos. They’d been outside later on, recording something. But his smile made my insides funny. I didn’t know if he’d seen me at the expo. A large part of me hoped he had, but the small voice inside my head begged him to be smiling at someone else. I didn’t date. Too much trauma. But that’s why I was in therapy.

A few minutes later, Charlie stood and shouted something about getting us drinks. I nodded and started talking to one of the other dancers, a girl called Alishia.

Charlie made her way over to where the men sat. The one Amy had been smiling at all night was off to the side, chatting with some others. His friend was on his phone, scrolling through something that looked like Instagram.

“Hi!” she shouted. “Hi! Sorry to interrupt!” there was a lull in the music.

“Oh. Hi.” He looked apprehensive.

“Sorry to interrupt – my mate’s been making eyes at your friend all night. Can we chat quick?” He seemed to relax at this.

“Sure!” he stood and, making sure his friend’s hand was still on the table, made his way to a quieter area of the bar with Charlie.

“Sorry about this. I’m Charlie.”


“Excellent. Who’s your friend?”



“Yes he is. And he’s been all moody over your friend. I keep telling him to go and speak to her, but he won’t. I’m half-tempted to do it for him.”

“She’s Amy. And she’s been a bit moody too, but she’s better at hiding it.” Charlie gave a wry smile at the same time as Matt did. “But you’re not going to do it for him. We’re going to do it for them. Fancy interfering in our friends’ love lives?” Matt grinned.

“Absolutely. He’ll speak to her if she happens to be where he is. Can you get her to the bar?”

“I certainly can.” Charlie grinned. Matt held out his hand. They shook on it.

“Good luck.”

“Likewise, friend.”

It took a number of glances, of vague hand gestures, and then the mouthing of ‘go go go’ before Charlie turned to Amy and insisted that she go get some more drinks. Matt did the same with Tom.

I looked at Charlie with hate in my eyes. My drink had been full, but she’d snatched it off me and drained it. I wanted even more to go home, but it was only just half eleven. Charlie wasn’t about to let me go home before midnight. Unless I died.

“Have you lost wit?!” I asked her.

“I was thirsty. Go get another round.”

“It’s a free bar.”

“Yeah. So go. I got the last one.” I stood, shaking my head. I forced my way through the now-drunk crowds, and leaned against the bar. One of the perks of having a bright yellow VIP wristband was preferred service, so the bartender leaned over and I yelled my order at him. Another yellow-wristband-wearing wrist rested next to mine, and I looked up, straight into a pair of green-grey eyes. My heart rate spiked. I looked away as two drinks were put in front of me.

“Hi!” he shouted, above the music.

“Hi!” I shouted back. I couldn’t suppress the grin. The music had been annoyingly loud at first, it was now unbearable.

“I – I saw you dancing, earlier. You’re good!” he ran a hand through his hair. I flushed with colour again. I really didn’t want to be at the fucking party at all, now.

“I’d be worried if I wasn’t,” I laughed.

At that point, I should have continued on with why I’m good, seeing as I’m a professional. But for some reason, my brain stalled and I said nothing. I just left it at that. And it got awkward.

“So…” he took a sip of his drink and licked his bottom lip. “I’m Tom.”

“Oh – Amy,” I smiled. I was already sick of shouting. “Nice to meet you! You should come and dance with us!”

“I can’t dance!”

“Everyone can dance!”

The conversation, shouted over thumping music, was a little stilted, but I have to admit I liked how close he got to me to speak in my ear. He smelled really good. When we were both hoarse from shouting, my phone vibrated in my pocket. I checked it quickly. Charlie had text me. Terrace is open. I looked over towards the double doors at the side of the room. I looked up at Tom and smiled, beckoning him closer.

“I’m going to go outside, I need some quiet. Want to come?” I gestured to the terrace, and he nodded. We picked up our drinks and made our way through the inebriated, relaxing instantly in the electric-feeling pre-storm air. It was calm, the ground wet from recent rain. One small umbrella sat on the far end. We made for it, and sat. There wasn’t a single other person there with us.

“Gosh, that’s a beautiful view,” Tom said softly. I followed his gaze towards the sparkling lights of the city. In the distance, flashes of lightning came from behind a thick cloud.

“I love London.”

“Are you from here?”

“No,” I said, taking a seat. “I’m actually a Northerner. North west. Near Liverpool.”

“Interesting. I’m midlands. What made you move?” We were sat a little apart.

“Work. Acting, and dancing. Both brought me down here.” I smiled at him. He smiled back. I cannot express to you how beautiful he was. “You?”

“Much the same. This is where the work is.” He looked at me for just a touch too long. I felt my cheeks heat again. “Where do you live?”

“Oh… between Earl’s Court and Fulham. Clem Atlee Court?”

“I know it!” he grinned. Melting. “I’m near Mortlake. Not too far away.”

The conversation after that flowed easily, seeing as we had another thing in common. As the storm approached, we grew closer together, until we were huddled under the umbrella together, watching the spectacular lightning and enthusing about the thunder. He’d wrapped his suit jacket around both of us, so much so that I was leaning against his body. Even in the not-cold summer breeze, his warmth was delicious.

After a while, we moved inside. The DJ was starting to wrap the party up, and a lot of people had already hit the streets of London for the next party. Charlie found me, introduced herself to Tom, and proposed a shared car home. Matt also appeared, giving Charlie a wry, knowing smile.

“Alright, sounds good. I don’t fancy the night tube, anyway.” I murmured, yawning.

“Same for us?” Tom asked Matt. He nodded. “Alright, let’s head out.”

Outside, Tom and I walked side by side down to the taxi bay, where cars waited for us. I wanted him to take hold of my hand. Our fingers kept brushing, and the entire time, our arms were touching.

Behind them both, Charlie and Matt high-fived discreetly. The entire night had been tense, right up until Tom and Amy had made their way out to the terrace.

“Keep it going?” Matt asked. Charlie nodded.


They’d spoken at length about how similar their friends were, and how bad lockdowns one-to-n had been for them. This was good. They’d make a solid couple.

“It’s been a really nice night.”

“I’m sorry I monopolised you,” Tom said, gazing down at me. I realised now that there was a look just for me.

“I’m not,” I smiled. His phone buzzed in his pocket, and he pulled it out with a quick ‘sorry’. He looked up at me, the smile gone. Uncertainty. Like a mirror.

“Erm… do… do you fancy lunch tomorrow?” he asked. “If the weather’s good?”

“Sounds great!” I grinned, nodding. “Even if the weather’s bad.”

“Haha, sure,” Tom said softly. “I, er…”

“Take my number? Call me?” Tom nodded, but I got a glance of his screen before he created a new contact. Ask her for lunch tomorrow, dickhead! I grinned, and put my number into Tom’s phone. He locked it. “I think our friends have been meddling.”

“I think they have, too.” He smiled regardless. A moment of silent ease passed between us. I wanted to kiss him. So fucking badly. But I didn’t want to scare him off. Charlie called my name. I looked over. Both her and Matt were waiting by cars.

“Well… good night.” I spoke perhaps a little too quickly. I stepped forward and kissed his cheek, and then – before he could recoil in horror – I ran back towards the car. My cheeks were flushed, but as I looked back, Tom was standing with a stunned look on his face, and a small smile. He went on to tell me that he’d been smitten all night, but that had sealed the deal completely.

I really hate parties. Both Tom and I do. But the one party we didn’t want to go to brought us together… and we’ve just had the best party of our lives. Our wedding reception. After three years together.

So I guess parties aren’t so bad after all. 

May 14, 2021 22:37

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Marie Bishop
12:37 May 17, 2021

“You’ve been in a permanent fucking episode for years. Go and shower.” ^my life in one sentence. This is REALLY good, I have no idea why you don't have more comments on this because it's really great. Thanks for sharing!


Amy Jayne Conley
19:40 May 17, 2021

Thank you so much!! <3 I appreciate your comment, Marie! You rock! <3 I'll be honest, it's my life too ;) I feel like I was born having an episode. Like that cry babies do? For me, that cry was a tantrum xD


Marie Bishop
20:33 May 17, 2021

Ha.. My life is one concentric circle of episodes! I am like the series lost,I have no idea what's going on, am I alive.. who knows? And where did that polar bear come from ;)


Amy Jayne Conley
07:31 May 18, 2021

Hahahahaaaaaaa!!! oh man, you are AWESOME!!! xD I like you a lot, Marie! Keep tabs on that polar bear. Call me if it becomes a penguin. Or a turtle. Turtles are vicious sumbitches... ;)


Marie Bishop
09:10 May 18, 2021

I have an irrational fear of snapping turtles. And I live in England so it's not like I will ever see one in the wild!


Amy Jayne Conley
10:11 May 18, 2021

XD Same here - no wild turtles in Belgium, but the fear is still there... ;)


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