Anniversary Shenanigans: Author Visit + Giveaway - Suki Fleet

Today for our anniversary shenanigans the unicorns are super excited to welcome Suki Fleet to the clubhouse with her wonderful flash fiction and giveaway. One of my favourite authors but I'm denying all bias when I say you guys are in for a treat. Get yourself a cuppa and a biscuit, and settle in for a mini break.

Gig Night Crush

It’s seven thirty-five pm and I’m washing cars and half wishing I was as drunk as the crowd of teenagers sitting waiting on the pavement across the street. I pretend I’m not watching them. Pretend all my focus is on scrubbing the windscreen of some old white car I don’t even know the make of, and not on their shared ciders, their shared smiles, their laughter.
There’s some new band playing jangly guitar music at The Rose tonight. The queuing started an hour ago and now extends beyond the teenagers and as far as I can see down the street. I’ve stolen a glance at the band’s promotional black and white poster on the door more than once. Way out of my league, but the guy pictured makes my stomach tighten longingly. There’s something a little self-conscious and unaware about him, innocence maybe. If I didn’t know better I’d say people were coming tonight just to see him, but it’s more than that—they’re good, this new band. I keep hearing snatches of sweetness as they warm up, the sound echoing like summer rain around the parking lot. That’s the thing about The Rose, sounds leak out through its crumbling bricks, they seep through its magnificent stained-glass windows that colour the street. It’s a regular church, but once a week on a Friday up and coming artists play and the place is filled with a different sort of devotion. The kind where no one cares about your sexuality or gender. The kind that makes you feel free. I’ve only been inside once. I’d go every Friday, if I could.
“I’m not paying you to daydream, Tommy!” Lennox calls from the wooden hut with its big Perspex window where customers can wait for their cars and watch me trying to make them shine. “We’ve got a backlog to get through.”
I glance at the six cars lined up behind me. My arms already hot and aching. Obviously, I’m not going tonight. And that’s okay, that’s life. But I am listening.

An excited hush goes through the crowd as the doors finally open. Even the teenagers with their ciders fall silent. The air crackles. Or perhaps I’m just imagining it. Perhaps it’s just that so little ever happens in my life but work and study that even concerts I’m not actually going to are a big event.
Eight fifteen and I’m on my third car when music spills from the church in a beautiful, chaotic rush. The hairs on the back of my neck stand on end as the singer’s voice holds a single clear note and his yearning floods out into the street. From that moment on I listen to nothing else.
The beginnings of each song are so full of longing they break my heart. The finales, all crashing crescendos that fill my broken spaces and make my heart soar. It’s been a while since music has done this to me—taken my hand and tugged me so far away from myself. Far enough to forget my aching arms, my hot prickling skin, the near endless scrubbing it takes to make each car sparkle. Far enough to feel so suddenly alive.
Five songs in, the singer introduces himself and the band. His name’s Michael, his accent’s strong, northern, Yorkshire maybe, and he’s the driving force behind the music. The band started out as session musicians who just clicked. Their musical connection has been obvious since their first song, and even from Michael’s few words I know they have a strong bond—particularly his bond with Shell, the drummer, who he speaks of with so much warmth.
If I imagine being part of something like that, deep longing tangles threads around my heart and pulls so hard it physically hurts my chest. I know my life won’t always be the way it is now. I know that, I do, I just…I’ve stopped dreaming a little perhaps, stopped searching for my way out.
“I’m really shy,” Michael adds so softly I stop thinking and hold my breath to hear him. His voice warm and deep as the low evening sunlight. “It probably seems weird that I’m fronting a band, but singing is about the music, and I’m fine with that, but talking to people is about me and it’s something I find hard and need to build up to, so…bear with me, please? God my hands are shaking…” he murmurs, not quite off mic.
His vulnerable honesty makes me want to hug him. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
The band play four more songs, and in the dying light, customers waiting for their cars stand swaying on the pavement, their eyes never straying far from The Rose. I don’t want the music to stop, but I can feel the change in energy, the way the concert is winding down.
After the fourth song ends, there’s a pause and my disappointment peaks. The concert is over. Only… Michael clears his throat and starts talking again.
“Not many people know this about me—I mean, probably no one but Shell, really—but until a few months ago I used to clean buses.” He coughs, clearly uncomfortable, but after a breath he carries on. “I’d take every night shift that came up so I could pay my rent and spend every second I wasn’t working or sleeping writing songs. It was kind of lonely, as I said I’m shy…I actually can’t believe I’m up here speaking about this to be honest. I am complete jelly right now.” He pauses as the crowd murmur supportively. “I really want to say this though, even if it’s hard, because we’ve all got to do hard stuff. That’s life isn’t it?” A cheer goes up. “So, anyway…back when I was cleaning buses, I knew most of the songs I wrote were rubbish, but I felt driven to keep writing and writing them, and it took me a few years to get to even writing something that came out anything like I wanted it to. Anything I thought was good enough. And then I got…I just got lucky. Someone heard me sing and play on an open mic night and despite me being so shaky, they liked what they heard. They helped me get a band together—and this band by the way, they’re the best. I love these guys, and they’ve helped me be so much more than I was. They’ve got my back.”
“We’ve got your back!” someone yells, and everyone laughs, even me. Because it’s true. Every single person listening must be rooting for him.
“And what I’m trying to say is: that’s all this is.” He pauses and I can imagine him looking around the church, the crowd drunk on his music looking back at him, hearts beating hard like mine, because he has that sort of pull. “It’s hard work and a yeah, little luck, but mostly hard, hard fucking work.” Now he’s smiling. I can hear it in his voice. “So, if you have a dream keep going, keep believing, even when you wonder what the hell you’re doing picking chewing gum off the floor of the number 52 to Clapham Junction at two am. Sometimes opportunities come from unexpected places up, so don’t ever, ever give up. Wow, I need a lie down…”
The crowd roars. For Michael, I think, as much as anything he said. People on the pavement are clapping, the customers in the waiting hut, Lennox, me, I’m clapping hard.
“Okay, for our last song I’m going to play something really new.” He has to shout over the roar but the crowd quickly quieten. “This is something I wrote this afternoon. I wasn’t going to play it tonight but Shell, our awesome drummer, liked it a lot. It’s called Gig Night Crush and it’s inspired by the beautiful person I spent too long watching clean my car today and was too shy to go say Hi to…story of my life…”
A tingle shoots up my spine, even though I know he can’t mean me. For one, I doubt anyone has ever thought my boring, square face was beautiful. And two, I am not the sort of person someone notices and is inspired by. But a little voice whispers, you are the only person washing cars in the vicinity. Lennox has been in the hut all evening.
“And um, if they’re listening, I hope they’re flattered and not weirded out.”
My heart swoops to my stomach. I stop rubbing the wheel rim of a new Ford Focus and steady myself against the car’s door. A few wolf whistles ricochet through the crowd inside. Michael laughs self-consciously, the sound low and sweet.
He can’t have been inspired by me. I’m not special…I’m not anything. I’m just a lonely boy struggling to make ends meet while finishing a seemingly endless English degree.
A punchier, heavier guitar riff starts up. The drums come in pounding, oozing frustration. And Michael gives it everything. Not polished but perfect and heartfelt and beautiful.
My heart is a high rise blocking out the sun
It makes me wait and I’m tired of waiting
I always get it wrong.
In my head are dream boys who’ll never take me home
They tumble me when my eyes are closed but their mouths are cold
So fucking cold and their hearts are made of air.
Before I know what I’m doing, I’m walking across the street to The Rose. There’s no one on the still-open door anymore. The casually dressed security guy, likely a member of the church, is standing just inside, his head turned towards the stage, watching, just like everybody else.
On stage, Michael is electric. He’s the guy from the poster only he’s so much more in person. His dark hair wild from an hour on stage playing guitar and singing, baring his soul. I don’t believe in any god but I feel like I’m watching something holy, something more than me, this crowd, this church, this narrow life.
We all need something warm and real
A second glance or two
Tonight I don't know anything
but afternoon sweetness
Tonight I don’t know anything
But sweetness yet to come
Everything is yet to come.
For a few seconds after Michael hits the last note, there is complete silence, and then the crowd erupts as one. I don’t move. I can’t. I’m still obliterated.
I don’t know what to do, only that I want to do something. Talking to him now would probably be weird and I doubt he wants that so I grab a church flier and ask the security guy if he has a pen. Luckily, he does.
I stare at the blank back of the flier a minute before writing.
Just. Wow. Your songs are amazing and inspiring. Especially the last.
I look up and find a slightly out of breath girl with flushed cheeks and a high blonde ponytail, clutching a pair of drumsticks and watching me with an intense expression I’m not sure how to take.
“You’re the guy from the car wash,” she says, still catching her breath. “I saw you come in just now. Jesus Christ getting around that crowd to get to you wasn’t easy.” I’m still staring at her somewhat blankly. She tilts her head as if she’s weighing me up, probably from my lack of response. “I’m Shell, the drummer. Come back stage with me.”
Behind us people are starting to chant “encore” at the empty stage.
Glancing over the shoulder, Shell smiles briefly and her whole expression softens. “They’re going to be disappointed. We played everything we had. This encore thing is a bit new for us.”
Turning back to me, she says, “I kinda hoped you’d still be around out there, and you’d hear the song. Michael’s adorable, but fucking awful at connecting with new people…when he’s not on stage anyway. You like him, don’t you?”
I bite my lip. Even though I’m out, I wasn’t always so open about my sexuality and her directness makes me squirm a bit. Obviously, I like him, and I want to meet him, but… “Look, I’m not shy but he is and this doesn’t feel right. Telling a crowd something that inspired a song doesn’t mean he wants to meet with me. I think it’d make him feel super awkward.”
She raises an eyebrow but nods. “You might be right.”
“Would you give him this though? I hold out the paper.”
“A church flier? I’m sure he’ll be thrilled.” She grins.
I smile as I turn it over to show her the back, but before I hand it to her, and look down at what I’ve written. Not enough.
Not at all weirded out. I’m gig night crushing on you, too.
At the last second, I add my phone number.
Shell smiles even wider. “Well, maybe we’ll see you around then.”

After that, I kind of tumble out into the night, light as air. I finish the last car without really noticing. Gravity could have failed and sent us all drifting through space, and I don’t think I’d pay any more attention.
For the first time since I started working at the car wash, I forget to collect my evening’s wages when I leave. Lennox will keep them for me for tomorrow I’m sure, but still, it’s not like me.
Absently, I rub my arms as I walk home. It’s a couple of miles, and without the sun it’s cold, but I don’t pull on the sweatshirt I carry in my rucksack. My skin feels hypersensitive, as though the air in the streets all around The Rose is still electrified and I don’t want anything to dampen the feeling. Not yet.
Every so often I pull my phone out of my pocket, pretending to myself that I’m checking the time.
If I’m honest, I don’t think he’ll contact me. As he said, it’s a gig night crush, and by the time I get home to my little garden flat, gig night is just about over. Whatever happens, I’ll treasure tonight for the brilliant unexpected thing it was. Who else is ever going to write a song seemingly inspired by seeing me? What other beautiful boy am I ever going to make pine, even for a moment? Which other song writer is ever going to make me feel so connected that everything around me suddenly seems brim full of magic? He will likely be the only one. What’s the harm in letting myself believe and dream for a night?
I leave my phone on the kitchen counter, so I don’t keep staring at the screen, and open the back door. Sitting on my cracked concrete back step, I listen to the music of the trees as they sway, their leaves brushing in the dark, soothing and peaceful. When I try and replay the concert in my head, it’s like trying to catch a hold of smoke. I wish I’d recorded something on my phone. I hope one day I get to see them play again. If tonight has shown me anything, it’s that I need to stop putting my life on hold, I need to start living again.
Later, I’m curled in bed sleepily listening to a church bell a long way from The Rose ringing in midnight, when my phone pings with a picture message sent from an unknown number.
London, from the bank of the Thames, the city lights blurred like a dream. Written beneath it:
Funny how you can miss somewhere you’ve never known. Michael x
Or something, someone. I think, before texting back, my heart kicking.

Well be still my beating heart! I hope you enjoyed that as much as I did - thank you Suki! 

If you want to read more from this author then don't forget to enter the giveaway below for a chance to win one of her back copies. The giveaway will end a week today, so come on and enter - you've nowt to lose!

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The giveaway is open until 12:00AM (EST) on 11/29/17. Shortly thereafter, we will contact a winner!

Please respond to the winning notification within 48 hours or we will choose another winner. Good luck!

Don't miss entering in our month long unicorn giveaway HERE! It ends 12/1/17!


  1. Such a sweet story. Now I need to know more about these two...

  2. Amazing! I always love Suki Fleet's writing - so poetic.

  3. Angela:
    Loved it!! I wouldn't mind reading more ;)

  4. EEE! LOVE that the rock boy has the crush on the civilian!!!


  5. Another good flash fic! Thank you, Suki!

  6. Thanks, Sukie for the flash fic. As always, you drew me in.- Purple Reader,
    TheWrote [at] aol [dot] com

  7. Wonderful. Thank you for the story =)

  8. Awwww! That was all kinds of charming & hopeful. Loved it! I love stories about singers even if they're not in a band. <3

  9. Lovely! I'm a sucker for hopeful romances. ;)

    1. Oops, I forgot to sign my comment. Ariadna (Mazingergirlie (at) Gmail (dot) com)

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Great fic. Thank you for sharing

  12. This was lovely.

  13. I really enjoyed this ficlet!

  14. power of music.
    gotta love the feelings that
    music stirs in all of us !