Tag Archives: Friends

Friday Fiction – Just Friends

I know I said on Monday I wouldn’t be posting FF every week, but this week isn’t one of them! I hope you enjoy the story that sprang from Barbara’s evocative photograph. As ever, others can be found through FF HQ.

My Mum’s arriving today, the third in a recent spate of family visits – all very much enjoyed. Family is unique and special, but as they say “Friends are the family you choose” and I’ve been thinking recently about some of the wonderful friends I’ve made along the way. Last night, I was reminiscing about an old friend I’ve sadly lost touch with – I must have another go at looking her up, surely that’s what social media is for. In happier news, my best friend and I are planning a trip for the autumn and I’m at least as excited about spending a week away with her as I am about the prospect of seeing polar bears (!) up close. And this year I’ve started writing more letters (yes, real, paper ones) to the friends who had dropped down to “Christmas cards and Facebook” … it feels good to make real contact, even from 3000 miles away.

Maybe somewhere among all that is where this story came from.

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Just Friends

From the island where Jennie was born, everything seemed distant. Her father’s talk of stores and churches seemed as mystical as the aliens and magic in her books, and she often wanted to stop and ask him, “Are there unicorns on the mainland?” “Cows?” “Centaurs?”

When at last he let her board the boat, she devoured the sights, sounds and smells. Rounding a corner, she saw something truly incredible. Two girls, both about her age, leaning in over a magazine and giggling together.

“It must be nice to have a twin,” she said quietly.

“Sisters?” said one, “We’re just friends.”

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Inspiration Monday – The Man With No Name

Steph’s prompts for InMon this week had the exact opposite effect of the Friday Fiction picture. I was almost immediately struck with a fully-formed idea for a story. It’s quite long, for which I hope you will forgive me, and comes with both a MATURE CONTENT and a COARSE LANGUAGE WARNING. Please be advised not to read this story if either is likely to upset you. It’s some way outside my normal remit, so I’d love to here your feedback – good and bad – on how it’s gone.

 

The Man With No Name

 “You brought him home?!” Alice squealed and slid down on the sofa towards me.

“That’s not the worst part.” Louisa loved knowing something about me before my sister. She took another chocolate from the box on the table and sat back.

“There’s nothing worse than that. She brought him home!”

“So you say.”

I watched them, passing my news back and forward between them, waiting until they let me speak again.

“This guy approached her with the most outrageous chat-up line ever and she brought him home!” Alice wasn’t going to let that go in a hurry.

I could see Louisa’s brain moving behind her eyes. She was desperate to ask about the chat-up line, but to do so would be to give away the high ground. She’d been there when we woke up this morning; that was her position of power. But she hadn’t been there when he appeared last night, and Alice had.

I came to her rescue. “It wasn’t the most outrageous chat-up line ever. That would be like ‘Do you want to see my collection of iguanas?’”

They both looked at me with a mixture of pity and condescension that made me want to leave right there and then.

“That wouldn’t be outrageous,” Louisa said, “Just crap.”

“Promise me, if anyone ever opens with that, you’ll pepper spray him,” Alice warned. “I’ve got to take care of my little sister.” She loves that – eighteen minutes and she’ll be rubbing them in forever.

Now they were united, Louisa clearly felt more at ease. She leaned towards us, elbows on knees. “So, come on, what did he say?”

“He said…”

I interrupted her. This was my story. “He said ‘So, are you going to take me home then?’ It wasn’t that outrageous.”

“Do you fuck on first dates?” My sister was squealing again. I gave her the same sign to cool it I’ve been giving since my first hangover, after our sixteenth birthday: I reached over and hit her on the arm.

“Shut up.”

“Will you two stick to the story?”

“OK. So, he said that and obviously I thought he was a cock, so I ignored him.”

“Ignored him,” Alice said, “I’d have slapped him.” She’d dropped maybe three decibels and half an octave. I hit her again.

“I ignored him and went to the bar. But he followed me. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘You’re here because you’re looking for someone to go home with, same as me.’ I didn’t answer. ‘And we could spend the evening bumping and grinding here with all these sweaty bastards, waiting until we’re drunk enough for you not to care that I sound like a bit of an asshole. Or, we could just get on with it and have some fun.’”

Louisa hadn’t moved from her interrogation. “So you agreed? On the back of that flimsy argument?”

“No. What do you take me for?”

“Nothing. But you did end up bringing him home.” Louisa and I have shared flats for nearly four years, and lived in close proximity for three years of university before that. She knows exactly how many notches are … or rather aren’t … on my bedpost.

“So she comes to me and says we should get outta there,” Alice said.

“I did. And my caring supportive sister says…”

“’No way, Jose, there’s too much talent here. Just tell him to go fuck himself.’”

“Fair point,” said Louisa. “Joe’s is a decent joint on a Saturday and you’d paid to get in.”

It’s nice to know who your friends are. “So I head back to the dancefloor, get into the music, try to forget about the guy and about my ever-supportive sister.” I shot her a glare. She’s immune to them and just poked me with coral pink toes.

“And then I end up pulling this cute bloke from the army and that’s the last I see of her,” said Alice. “For the record, by the way, I did not take him home. One of us has to maintain the family’s reputation.”

Louisa caught my eye and we both collapsed at once. Alice pretended to be offended for all of three seconds then joined in. My sister’s bedposts would both be sawdust if she bothered notching them.

“Aw, shut up. Tell me what happened after.”

“All I know is, I get up in the night to take some more painkillers,” began Louisa, who’d cried off last night because of her period, but seemed much better since she’d switched from paracetamol and bed rest to Cadbury’s and me-bashing. “And I find the hallway strewn with clothing like something out of Indecent Proposal.”

“There was, like, one shoe.”

“And a shirt. A man’s shirt.” She raised an eyebrow.

“Hardly makes me Sharon Stone!”

“Who cares?” Alice had let go of the gain control again. “How did you get from ‘Go fuck yourself’ to ‘Come fuck me’?”

“I don’t really know,” I admitted. “He came back and started talking more normally. We just got chatting, and then kissing, and then…” I wanted to make it sound persuasive, but my brain wasn’t playing along.

“And then she brought him home and fucked him!” Louisa’s outburst rivaled any of Alice’s for volume, although she would never match my sister for squeak.

“Can we use another word?”

“No!” They both yelled at once.

“This isn’t Jane fucking Austen!” Louisa added. “And you still haven’t told her the worst part.”

“Tell me the worst part.” Alice was sitting up now, her back against the arm of the sofa and her feet digging even more into my thigh. The thigh that had been wrapped around him just a few hours ago, I realised. It was weird, how distant a memory it felt and yet how fresh at the same time.

“She doesn’t know his name!” Louisa threw a chocolate into the air. It missed her mouth, bounced on her cheek and hit the floor, ruining her commanding moment.

Alice stared at me with new-found respect, covered by a look of extreme scandal. “Is it true?”

“Because obviously that’s the worst thing here,” I said, feeling my cheeks prickle with heat.

“I expect him to forget your name,” said Alice, “But he’s only like the third guy you’ve ever slept with. You can’t forget his.”

“I haven’t.”

“So what is it?”

“I don’t know. He never said.” I whispered it, wondering why this of all things should be the point I was ashamed of.

“He never said!” Louisa was catching Alice’s habit of echoing things she found extreme.

“He’s probably a Norman,” said Alice, as though that explained it.

“Or a Brian,” Louisa agreed. “I wouldn’t tell people if I was a Brian.”

“What’s wrong with Brian?” Louisa doesn’t know, but Alice’s first boyfriend was called Brian. She’s never quite got over him.

“Nothing,” I said. “I don’t think he’s ashamed of his name. He just didn’t say.”

“So. When you were fucking him…” She caught my eye. “Sorry, when you were making love to him, what were you screaming?”

“I wasn’t…”

“She was.” I can always count on Louisa to back me up. “I can give you a sodding transcript.”

“I don’t think you need to,” I said, glaring at her. She’s immune too. I need to get lasers fitted to my eyes.

There was a moment’s silence: deafening compared to the conversation before it. I tried to think of some way of changing the subject, but this one was too novel for either of them to let it go. I took a handful of chocolates and waited for the next question.

“Did you give him your number?” asked Alice, eventually.

“If he gave you his, you could save it under The Man With No Name!” Louisa shrieked at her own joke. I pulled my phone off the table and stuffed it into my pocket. Later, I changed his entry to “ZZZ”.

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Friday Fiction – Man, what are you doin here?

This week’s FF photo nearly made me quit. I just couldn’t get the story to work – I had a few “scenes” which I tried out but none of them was really a story or worthy of the group. What I ended up with still isn’t made favourite ever, but I’ve decided to post it so let me know what you think.

You can read other people’s responses to John Nixon’s photo by following the links on Rochelle’s page

Alternatively, just go here to enjoy what a clever writer can do with 300 words and a piano man.

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Man, What Are You Doin’ Here?

“I’m worried he can’t reach the pedals from there,” said Darren, indicating a joke piano with two legs sticking out of it.

Miranda felt a giggle creep up from her stomach. The whole date had been a disaster, from the parking ticket on his car to the appalling service at the restaurant. But then, what was it they said about friendships formed in foxholes?

“That’s not funny,” she said, holding back the laughter.

“I know,” he smiled, “But at least you’re smiling now.”

Tears welled in her eyes as she fought back a guffaw. “He gets really into his music!”

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Why blog?

I was reading the wise words of my blogging friend Sandra this weekend, about why she has a blog page on her website, and it reminded me very much of my own thoughts about blogging. You can see Sandra’s post here.

In this Information Age, a lot of people share a lot of information, and much of it is, in my view, pointless. I struggle with Twitter because it has such a high noise to value ratio. When I log on, I am overwhelmed by the number of messages I could read, most of which are of no interest whatsoever, a few of which are idly diverting and only occasionally is there something I’m glad I’ve stopped by to see. On Facebook, I enjoy the chance to catch up with friends and to keep an eye on the major life stories of acquaintances, but I am endlessly confused by the updates which talk about incredibly private, personal details of either the poster or their family members. Do these posters not realise just how many people can read what they write? Or has it suddenly become appropriate to share details of relationship breakdowns, bra sizes and toilet habits with the world at large?

The same can be said of blogs. When I flick through blogging sites, I’m overwhelmed by the sheer volume of content, and how much of it I can’t imagine being of interest to anyone at all, except possibly the spouse or parents of the blogger.

BUT

I love my blog. When all my other writing projects go to the wall, this is the one I defend to the last. I enjoy the discipline of posting three times a week, according to a schedule which works for me, and hopefully provides something for readers too. I enjoy the writing challenges that Inspiration Monday and the Friday Fictioneers give to my writing, and the chance to exercise the muse regardless of what else she’s doing (which is frequently editing, something neither she nor I enjoy). And most of all, I enjoy the community: the small band of readers who stop by every week to give me feedback and encouragement, and to reassure me that I’m not talking to myself here.

Not only do I love my blog, I also love the blogs I read. For various good and bad reasons, I read a lot fewer novels now than I used to, and that is a sad development in my life, but one I’m not currently in a position to rectify. However, the addition of blogs has allowed me to get a healthy dose of fiction almost daily, and in bite-sized chunks. They exercise my imagination, they feed my muse, and they sate my inner editor when I want to keep her away from my own work for a while. And on top of that, I feel as though some of the other bloggers have become my friends, and you can never have too many friends.

Now I accept that if I spent less time blogging, I’d have more time to write “proper” pieces for submission and even to read the novels my life seems to lack, but I’m not sure I would actually do more of those things, or whether I’d procrastinate in other ways. Plus, my biggest publication success is Reader’s Digest – which was a direct result of my Friday Fiction compositions.

So until someone persuades me there’s something better, you’ll find me here at elmowrites – writing, reading and critiquing to my heart’s content. I hope to see you around!

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A Brief Literary Interlude

A few weeks ago, I was in the Peak District (that’s a rural area of England for those from further afield) spending a few lovely days with a few lovely friends. In spite of the changeable weather, we had decided to go for a walk. Those of us with “conditions” had decreed that said walk should be reasonably flat, and so it was decided to walk around a lake. We had a choice of two lakes, and eventually decided on Tittesworth Reservoir – man-made with a fancy dam at the end (there are enough engineers among my friends that “engineering porn” is a well-worn phrase where I come from, and dams count).

However, the OTHER lake, the one we didn’t visit, is Rudyard Lake. The story goes, that Mr and Mrs Kipling -to-be spent some time at Rudyard Lake and thought it so beautiful they named their son after it. Presumably an early precursor to the Brooklyn Beckham school of thinking. It has since been voted the “3rd most romantic spot in Britain” or some such honour.

It’s probably a good job the courting couple went to Rudyard Lake, Tittesworth Kipling doesn’t have the same ring to it!

One of Mr Kipling’s exceedingly good poems came to mind this week. It’s been a favourite of mine and an inspiration for years; I learned it by heart as a teenager, not for a class project, but simply because I wanted to take it with me wherever I went. The last line has proved controversial in our modern age of gender equality, but I think the point stands regardless of the wording, and I enjoy it for what it is.

If…

If you can keep your head when all about you, are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, but make allowance for their doubting too,

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies;

Or being hated, not give way to hating

And yet don’t look too good or talk too wise.

If you can dream and not make dreams your master

If you can think, and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with triumph and disaster,

And treat those two impostors just the same.

If you can dare to hear the truth you’re spoken,

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

And watch the things you gave your life to broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools.

If you can make one heap of all your winnings,

And risk it on one turn of pitch and toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about your loss.

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew,

To serve your turn, long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing left within you,

Except the will, which says to them “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings, nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

And all men count with you, but none too much.

If you can fill the unforgiving minute,

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth, and everything that’s in it

And, which is more, you’ll be a man, my son.

 

 

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