ShutUp30.24: Black or White


Choose a character. Put them in a moral dilemma and see what they do.

It’s the morning of big sis’s big day, and I can’t sleep in spite of the wine we’d shared the night before. We’d shared butterflies, too, and perhaps that’s why I was so restless. You told me how, every time you heard the word “forever”, your insides went on a spin cycle. Best get it out of your system before the ceremony, we joked. But it scares me too, truth to tell. Even watching someone else go through it.

After four and a half hours of tossing and turning, trying different positions in the unfamiliar double bed, I turned to my usual solace, and went for a run. It was dark enough that nobody would spot that I was sweating into my PJs. Besides, it’s not like anyone in Keswick knew who I was. Perhaps I would go down in local legend. The Pyjama Poltergeist of Derwentwater.

I turned left out of the hotel and jogged past the Cumberland Pencil Museum, feeling the crisp night air between my ribs. I kept to the main road, not wanting to become headline news for getting lost, or, well, worse. It wasn’t long before I hit the bypass road, so I turned south to run along the lake road. A faint pinkish light was beginning to illuminate the gloom.

I hadn’t gone far when I saw him. He was standing in the car park of a rustic lodge, set back a little from the waterfront. Even with this tall skinny girl’s tongue down his throat, I knew him. Ben, our groom, my sister’s intended. He needed to be with his parents tonight, he’d said; from tomorrow, they’d be together forever.

This goodbye was lasting too long for me to believe it could be final.

I stood in the shadows, shivering a little as my heart slowed, until she got into her car and – kiss through the window, some hand-holding, another kiss – finally drove off. Which left me, cold and in the dark in my pyjamas, wondering what to do. I had no idea who the girl was. If my sister found out, it would break her heart. Mum would be inconsolable.

One option: confront Ben.

After he’d left the car park, a solitary light had appeared on the second floor, three rooms across from the reception area. There was no movement on the ground floor of the hotel, but when I pushed the front door it swung gently inwards.

I padded up the stairs and along the corridor to the third door. Light spilled out around the sides. I knocked, twice.

Feet padded to the door and paused, long enough for him to realise that it was too dark to see through the spy hole. The door opened.

“Jessie?” said Ben, desperately moderating shock to surprise. “What are you… what are you wearing? It’s 5 in the morning. Come on in, for god’s sake.” I did.

“What do you… Are you cold?” he said, reaching for a hoodie draped over a chair back. I shook my head.

“Ben, I saw you,” I said. “I know what you did.”

His body seemed to tumble. Before he could fall, he sat down heavily on the side of the bed, and put his head in his hands.

“What happens next?” he said, looking up at her, head still hung low.

“All this time, and you two were-” Jessie choked. “All I want to know is, all this time, why not me?”


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