Taking place across all 33 of London’s library services from February to June 2022, City of Stories Home celebrates libraries as the place to make and share stories in our local communities.
London writers Amer Anwar, Natasha Brown, Jarred McGinnis, Caleb Azumah Nelson, Lizzie Damilola Blackburn, Ruth Goldsmith, Iqbal Hussain and S. Niroshini have written stories on the theme of home to inspire Londoners to get creative and write their own story.
RETURN by Amer Anwar
There was no one to meet Zaq so he took the bus. The sun dazzled him, its staccato glare reflecting from the puddles lining the road as the vehicle sped along. He had been lucky with the weather; it had poured the last few days but this morning the sun had broken through the oppressive grey clouds, brightening everything, transforming the world from monochrome to Technicolour, offering a sense of hope, maybe even new beginnings. He got off the bus in Bicester and walked to the station north of the town centre. There, he handed in the form he’d been given in exchange for a rail ticket then waited on the platform for his train to London.
It was weird, to be there on his own. It should have been the most normal thing in the world, taking a train, something he’d done many times before and yet it felt strange and new. He had over an hour to wait, the later train being cheaper. Thoughts crowded his head, too numerous and fleeting for him to grasp any single one and consider it fully.
He had been away for a long time and had mixed feeling about returning. Things had changed – not so much the places or people he would see again, though many of them would inevitably be different, but rather things had changed with him – and maybe nothing would ever be the same as it was before. He wished he had some music to lose himself in.
His train arrived and he got on. It was afternoon now, off-peak, and there were plenty of free seats. He sat by the window and watched the countryside whizz past, his own thoughts superimposed on the blur of green fields and blue sky. It wasn’t a long journey, about an hour with just two stops on the way. The landscape gradually became more built up: rural to suburban to urban. The train terminated at Marylebone. He joined the throng of people leaving the train, savouring the experience.
Through the barriers, he went to the ticket counter and handed over another form, this time receiving an off-peak Travelcard for it. He went down to the tube and hopped onto the Bakerloo Line, two stops to Paddington. The main concourse here was familiar territory, a place he knew well, once part of his daily commute. He scanned the departures boards for the next Reading service and went to the stated platform. A multitude of butterflies fluttered within him.
The train out through west London was where he really noticed the changes, the remembered mixed with the new. One stop at Ealing Broadway and then it was his. He stepped off the train and was greeted by a sign in both English and Punjabi – SOUTHALL. He felt his heart swell and a tear or two threaten. Idiot, he chided himself.
Up the stairs, out of the station and he was back where he belonged.
After five years in prison, he was finally home.
About Amer Anwar
Amer Anwar grew up in West London. After leaving college he had a variety of jobs, including, warehouse assistant, comic book lettering artist, driver for emergency doctors and chalet rep in the French Alps. He eventually settled into a career as a creative artworker/graphic designer and spent a decade and a half producing artwork, mainly for the home entertainment industry. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Birkbeck, University of London. His critically acclaimed debut novel, Brothers in Blood won the Crime Writers’ Association Debut Dagger and was picked by the Times and Guardian as one of the books of the year. His second novel, Stone Cold Trouble, was longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger. He is currently working on the next book in the Zaq & Jags series.
Get involved with City of Stories Home
Read all the short stories and get top tips on writing a short story at: www.spreadtheword.org.uk/cityofstorieshome
Sign up for a free online creative writing workshop at: www.spreadtheword.org.uk/city-of-stories-home-workshops
Enter your story to the competition with the opportunity to be published in the City of Stories Home Anthology, be part of masterclasses and read your story at a celebration event at your local library: www.spreadtheword.org.uk/city-of-stories-home-competition
City of Stories Home is run by London Libraries in partnership with Spread the Word and is supported by Arts Council England and Cockayne Grants for the Arts.