Extract from the short story – If


If is a short story, set in the market town of Loughborough, Leicestershire.  It is based on real events that took place over ten days in 1975 and is told from the point of view of a seventeen year old girl.  Feeling detached and unnoticed her observations lead her to make a desperate decision.


Thursday 13th November
I’m not supposed to like it, but I do. The Fair. It starts today. They’ve transformed the market square into a devil’s paradise, in full view of Loughborough’s Town Hall. I can’t resist taking the detour to the bus home and taking my first walk through. I would have said I’d gone to Woolworths for file paper or ink if I’d been asked why I was late home from school, but I wasn’t missed. I’m not even sure I’ll go on the rides when we meet up on Saturday, but I’ll be there. I want to stand under the bright lights and feel the heat from the yellow bulbs that are strung along the canopies of the stalls. They’re within reach. I want to smell the burnt sugar of the luminous pink candy floss. I want to be surrounded and engulfed in the noises: the tinny music, the grinding of the diesel machinery, screams and shouts, each stall and ride owner competing with each other for customers. We’ve received our annual warning, forbidding us from talking to the raw, flirting boys who have become men.
      ‘You are not to talk to them, and I don’t want to hear that any of you have gone                                   on the rides in your uniform.’
We’re also reminded in assembly that ladies don’t eat in the street and we have to keep our berets on. It’s funny how the town makes them welcome while trying to make us afraid, wary and on our guard. Travellers; not just travellers, but travelling show people – the worst sort, apparently. Funny that. They’ve more right to be there than we have, in a way. In history, Mrs. Maudsley told us that they’ve been coming to Loughborough for hundreds of years. Henry III had issued a decree that allows them to set up the fair on the second Thursday in November for three days. There’s something about being part of something that has gone on for so long. I like the way the stall holders look at you. They look right at you. Of course they want our custom, but it’s nice to be seen, to be looked at, to be noticed. Some of the boys look as if they should be at school but they’re like men the way they move around and watch us, inviting us for a ride, a go on their stall.
My essay on Browning will keep me in my bedroom tonight, thank goodness. I wish I could remember quotes. I love the sound of,
  ‘A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?’
I know what it means, but I’m not sure I remember it the right way round. Mrs. Ward said I’m not worry. I’d like to remember that one, but I don’t want to use it in my exam just for the sake of it. I love Browning. Andrea del Sarto – the faultless painter. I feel sorry for Andrea. He loves more than he is loved. I’ve just checked. The quote was right. Mrs. Ward will be pleased. I bet I get it the wrong way round tomorrow though.
Friday 14th November
I handed in my Browning essay and we were given our next one.
    ‘Everyone makes a choice, of one kind or another. And then they must take the consequences.’ Discuss how this statement might be true of Celia in T. S. Eliot’s Cocktail Party.
I feel like Celia, not because I want to be a mistress. I just want to do something, go somewhere, be someone. Not much chance.
Saturday 15th November


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