Not a Rehearsal

Greenham Banner by Thalia Campbell

Not a Rehearsal
by Anne Summerfield

We should have gone to Greenham and slept under the tarpaulins, under the stars. We said we would, knew too that there was more at stake than protest. Hadn’t I skipped my work’s Christmas do to sew green polyester into a dress for you to wear in the ball scene of Much Ado? Hadn’t there been that time in the theatre kitchen with its perennial scent of cheap coffee and horse hoof glue, when my hand brushed the soft curls of your almost-black hair? A spark that wasn’t static and I’d thought it had been the same for you. And later, when we talked in the dressing room, we said we should go and join the line. We’d be like that poster for Stand Together, our arms stretched straight like gingerbread women, finger tips touching like real girls. We’d sleep at Yellow Gate then get up before dawn to bolt-cut the wire and dance on the silos at sunrise. Instead of sending dry bags of lentils via Reading Women’s Centre, we’d be there, hand in hand, we’d be loud and soaked and alive. We’d agreed it between the acts as I laced you up in shiny green, we toasted our plans at the last night party. We exchanged phone numbers, dreams.

Except when you called you told me your work said you needed to set your pupils an appropriate example and you couldn’t afford to have them sanction you. Except my team leader said, if you’re arrested you’ll be sacked, no question, and I’d fought hard to get that job, to be the first woman in the test group. Let’s leave it for a bit, you said. I’ll call you when. And then I was back to sending pulses and never signing the sheet for Night Watch. In time, I went back to living with men. And the moment never came, would never be the same as you in that fake silk dress and the dream of Greenham, that dream of a woman-shaped world.

Anne Summerfield writes short and long fiction and poetry. She has had work published in various journals, included Flash Frontier’s historical issue, and has been shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Award twice. Anne was one of the judges for this year’s National Flash Fiction Day micro competition. She lives in Hampshire, England and tweets infrequently as @summerwriter.

Greenham Common banner by Thalia Campbell, 1980s, via of The Peace Museum.