‘Shadow Girl’ is one story from an LGBT Short Story collection – The Isle of Kelham
Pulled up just in time, three minutes to spare and lucky to have a space available just outside the barbers. Lou is still sporting sunglasses despite it being the back end of October and there been a definite crisp autumn feel in the air, the sun is bright and, well, absolutely blinding when driving. Plus, her sensitive green eyes mean’s that she wears shades all year round unless it’s dark, gloomy and overcast. Which surprisingly this year, hasn’t been that often. Lou likes to make the joke, ‘Global warming, good for something eh’ then instantly feels bad that she’s said it. As she does carry a reusable water bottle around with her and is conscious about reducing waste and recycles where she can. There isn’t a Netflix documentary about sustainability she hasn’t watched, and she’s read enough blogs to keep her awake at night worrying about if the palm oil in her products, really is from an ethical source.
She shuts off her engine which cut’s out her blurring chill-hop music. Lou checks herself out in the review mirror, making sure her hair is presented nicely, ready for her hair cut. Lou steps outside and checks her watch, ‘Perfect’ she says. It’s one minute to her appointment. As she’s crossing the road heading towards the barber shop, she hears ‘You my 6pm?’ Lou looks towards the voice as she auto locks her car. She see’s Amber the barber she has booked with, smoking outside the shop. ‘I thought you weren’t coming’ Amber said.
‘Sorry, traffic’ Lou lies, she only lives in the apartments across the way, she only drove because of how late she was. Lou prefers the barbers to the hairdressers. They cut her hair in a more precise way compared to the hairdressers. ‘What do you want doing then?’ Amber asks as she is running her fingers through Lou’s hair. ‘Just an inch or so off the length and thinning out all over. I like the side’s faded starting from No1 please’. Lou is new to Sheffield and as her and Amber chat, Lou begins to discover all the amazing things Kelham Island has to offer. ‘Yeah, as an artist I am lucky to land a good job here, and in such a creative city too’. Lou crows about her new adventure and how she is loving Sheffield life and especially living on the Island. ‘It’s so my thing, I already feel so comfortable and at home here, it would be hard for me to go back to small town living for sure’. Amber looks at Lou via the mirror, ‘so you mentioned you’re meeting somebody in a bit, is it business or pleasure?’ Lou grin’s, shuffles in her chair a little and clear’s her throat but tries to remain casual. ‘It’s er, well. A drink, meeting somebody for a drink’. She looks back at Amber through the mirror, Amber is smiling. ‘So, a date?’. Lou laughs aloud, ‘Well, er… I guess? No. No actually, not a date as such, more like, just a meet-up really. Casual. You know, I’m new here and just want to meet people’. ‘Absolutely yeah, good on ya. Where you off to?’ Amber asks. ‘Oh, just down the road there, The Old Workshop. Not been in yet but their Instagram looks ace, so been wanting to go check it out. You been in?’ Amber nods ‘It’s awesome, nice and cosy. Good choice.’ Lou smiles pleased with her venue choice. It’s got the approval of Amber, and she oozes chilled vibes, so Lou feels it’s set to be a good night, at least she hopes so.
A few moments pass, Amber is concentrating on finishing Lou’s hair. You can clearly see she is passionate about her job. She uses about three different sets of clippers while she does Lou’s fade and uses a small one to tidy all the edges and add the finishing touch. ‘So, a fresh cut for your date eh, let’s hope they are impressed.’ Amber starts to brush all the loose hair away. ‘You met before or…’ ‘No, Lou interrupts. ‘First time tonight, only been talking a week and a bit. Seen photographs of course.’ Amber smiles as she take’s the apron off of Lou. ‘Tinder, where would we be without it eh.’ They both laugh. ‘I know right, well bumble actually if we’re going to be factual’ Lou laughs it off, ‘what’s a new girl in town meant to do eh?’ Amber makes her way over to the cash desk, Lou follows. ‘Exactly Lou, we’re not here for a long time are we, so we may as well have a good time. An old cliché my NanNan used to say.’ Lou like’s it, ‘Nanna clichés are the best!’ Lou hit’s her bank card across the contactless machine and waits for it to approve. ‘Here’s your receipt. Thanks for the custom and I hope to see you again.’ Lou has one last glance in the mirror before she leaves, she has a quick play with it. ‘Defo, love it! Awesome job, thanks’ chick!’ ‘Aww thanks.’ Amber is chuffed, ‘have a lovely evening with your er, new friend?’ Amber gives Lou a playful wink as she’s leaving the shop, Lou sniggers and nod’s in agreeance. ‘Thanks.’ Lou leaves and the loud Barber shop doorbell sounds as she exits.
Out on the street Lou breaths in the fresh cool air, checks her hair out again via a reflection in a van window parked outside the shop. She ruffles it a little more, she likes the just-out-of-bed look and checks it’s all good from every direction, turning her head left, to right and placing her hair just where she likes it. Ruffled and forward. Happy with her final look, she gives her reflection the nod of approval and chirps ‘not too shabby I guess’ and pulls her jacket on, setting off up the street towards The Old Workshop.
Lou take’s in the area, she loves it. The vintage shop just across the road, the old warehouses and courtyard where the food market is once a month, an array of music and artist studios dotted about and the street art kicking around on many of the street corners of Kelham. The sound of the River Don running close by and one of her favourite things about the apartment where she lives. It has a small balcony overlooking the river and the bustle from a couple of the bar’s and restaurants below on an evening provides her with an atmosphere she thrives in. Lou take’s in another deep breath, closes her eyes for just a moment and feels thankful.
The bar is busy, Lou wasn’t expecting it to be this full. It’s a Tuesday evening and from the outside, it’s very deceiving. Where have all these people come from? Walking towards the bar, she was one of the few people on the street, it was so quiet. You could walk past this venue and not have the slightest idea it was even here, let alone how full it was inside. She instantly loves it. The Old Workshop looks just as the name perceives and it most certainly lives up to its awesome Instagram profile. She makes her way towards the back where the bar is situated. She knew it was ten minutes too early but cruised the room as she went to see if her meet-up was here yet? She couldn’t see her at first glance, but there was quite a sea of brunettes scattered around so Lou thought it best to get herself a drink and then find a perch to spy from, see if any of them are her friend as Amber the barber would put it. Lou asks at the bar for a suggestion of a pale ale, she enjoys her craft beer and likes to try different ones. She’s sold on one that has a hint of passionfruit and heads over to a seat in the corner of the room, facing the door and with quite a good view of the whole space. She checks her watch, almost seven. She scans the room for about the third time. There seems to be no sign of the woman she’s supposed to be meeting. She checks her phone, no txt’s. Lou take’s a sip of her pint and enjoys it. She lets out an appreciative sound and maneuveurs to get comfy in her chair.
Looking around Lou see’s people chatting and enjoying themselves. It’s actually quite loud when you tune in to the chatter, a constant murmur as though on a loop. There is a communal table in the middle of the venue and a group of ladies fresh from work are letting loose with a few glasses of wine, the laughter from their table roars through the bar. It makes Lou smile, she can’t wait for her friends to come visit her in Sheffield. She will definitely bring them here and she can already picture them all sat around that table just like these ladies are doing this evening. She checks her watch, ten past seven. She checks her phone, nothing! ‘Hmmm’ she exhales. A no-show she assumes in her mind. Lou places her pint on the table and begins to text.
“Hi, I’m here! You still up for meeting chick? X”
A group of four hang around near where she is sitting. Lou looks at them and then looks at where she is sitting. An area with a small table and four seats. She rolls her eyes but knows she should do the right thing. ‘You wanna sit here guys?’ The group reply, mumbles of uncertainty and awkward politeness. ‘No worries’ Lou says, ‘I’m going to head outside.’ Her and the group exchange pleasantries and they take over the area and Lou make’s her way through the busy bar towards the exit.
There is a wooden bobbin turned on its head, acting as trendy make shift table and a couple of wooden crates masquerading as seats around it. She puts her pint down and takes her phone back out of her pocket again before taking a seat. She’s the only one out there and still, hardly any action on the street. Lou is starting to think her meet-up has bailed. She txt’s.
“I’ve got a drink, sat outside, I’ll wait till seven thirty X”
She puts her phone away and takes a sip of her refreshing passionfruit pint. ‘Don’t suppose you have a light?’ Lou’s surprised to see somebody appear from near the door area, from the shadows. She could have sworn she was all alone when she came outside? ‘No, sorry. I don’t smoke’ Lou replies, unsure if this is her online connection finally. ‘Nor do I normally, still trying to ditch it when I drink though. I’ll get there.’ The voice moves away from the shadowy doorway and towards Lou and the table. ‘Mind if I join you?’ Lou realises that it’s not her date but kicks open the seat a bit more for the mystery shadow girl to take a seat anyway. ‘Please do’ Lou lets out a cheeky sideways smile. Shadow girl is pretty hot! They get comfortable at the table, Lou has a quick glance at her phone. ‘You waiting for someone?’ Shadow girl asks, casting her eyes over at Lou’s phone. Lou quickly slides it off the table and into her jacket pocket. ‘Er… not now no.’ Shadow girl smiles. ‘They can’t make it, but damned if I’m wasting my pint’ Lou takes a swig. Shadow girl follows suit and takes a sip of her wine. ‘I’m Lou by the way.’ She offers out her hand to greet her officially. ‘I’m Elizabeth, nice to meet you Lou’ They shake hands and hold eye contact for a short while, longer then would normally feel natural. ‘Nice to meet you too Elizabeth. Sorry I couldn’t be more of a help on the smoking front’. They giggle together, Elizabeth shrugs it off. ‘It’s ok, like I say. I only smoke with a drink now. I’ve left my vape at work like a nob.’ Lou nods, ‘they are so in aren’t they, vapes. I keep wondering if I should take it up?’ Elizabeth laughs at her ‘If you don’t smoke, why would you start vaping?’ ‘Because it’s in fashion and those big clouds of smoke look fun. I enjoy a shisha pipe on holiday.’ Lou say’s smugly, as though to show off somewhat. ‘That’s all a vape is, isn’t it!’ Elizabeth is giggling along to her ‘What?’ she asks Lou to explain. ‘A vape pen, it’s just a mobile Shisha pipe isn’t it.’ They both laugh, Lou notices what an amazing smile Elizabeth has, she embraces the moment, taking it in. The two women are locked on each other, gazing into each other’s eyes and smiles so wide even a stranger walking past could see there was a chemistry forming between them both.
Lou has an instant attraction towards Elizabeth, she likes the way she carries herself. Confident and a little cocky. Her eyes are a deep hazel and her laugh always ends with a sexy grin that could have the power to make Lou blush, if Lou was the blushing kind. Which normally, she isn’t. Though on this occasion, she does feel a little bashful around Elizabeth, this is a new feeling for Lou and one she doesn’t mind experiencing. As they talk, chair’s shuffle edging closer to each other, they brush up against one another as they laugh, a touch on the arm, a playful shove with the sound of giggling coming from their little doorway table for two. Elizabeth holds eye contact with Lou, ‘You’ve got the most amazing green eyes’. Lou grins, finishes her drink and looks at Elizabeth. ‘Thank you, and you have the most amazing smile.’ Elizabeth acts shy and playfully shoves Lou with her shoulder. ‘Shut up’ Lou laughs at her, she’s clearly not as cocky as Lou first thought, which is endearing Lou thinks. ‘Can I get you another?’ Lou asks Elizabeth as she indicates her glass is empty. Elizabeth shoots to her feet and down’s the last mouthful of her wine. ‘Allow me!’ Lou waves her wallet in the air, ‘no, no. I asked first, here, let me…’ Lou tries to get up and past Elizabeth, but she pushes Lou back down and into her seat. ‘Seriously, stay put woman. You can get the next ones.’ Lou tries not to show the smugness striking across her face as she registers that the “next ones” indicated Elizabeth could be up for making a night of it. Elizabeth picks up the empties and asks Lou, ‘a pint of?’ Lou shrugs, ‘anything.’
Elizabeth heads towards the door to go inside and order their drinks. ‘Let’s find a table inside, it’s getting chilly out here’ she disappears through the door and back inside The Old Workshop. Lou stands to follow her and heads for the door. As she reaches for the handle. Her phone sounds. She’s forgot all about the meet-up. She has a text, it’s from her.
“Sorry, I got cold feet. You still there? I’ll get a taxi now xx”
Lou looks at her phone, reading the text and she ponders her reply. She wonders, looking towards the door, through the window she can see Elizabeth inside ordering their drinks, and looks back towards her phone. Lou bites her lip, then nods, making up her mind, she texts back. “No, I’ve left. Some other time maybe” Lou turns her phone to silent, put’s it away in her jacket pocket, Grins to herself and heads inside.
Photo by Vlad Bagacian from Pexels