Friendship Inspirational Funny

“Harvest Mooncha? I mean, surely even you must admit that’s a bit of a stretch?”

I laughed, nervously. It’s my knee-jerk response. Only involving my mouth, not my knees.

Ferry and I were browsing the menu in Bean and Gone. As soon as the first leaves began to fall, they’d wheeled out the chalkboard list of seasonal drinks. The coffee shop was one of five branches the independent had grown in Brainton. People came in droves to photograph themselves and their friends sipping lattes in the reclaimed furniture or against wallpaper bearing fancy calligraphy (‘give us this day our daily buzz’, ‘stay woke’). I chose it because I thought Ferry, a self-styled coffee connoisseur, would be impressed and because I like to give visitors the full Brainton experience.

“So, what are you fancying? My treat. As long as you don’t make me repeat one of these naff names,” Ferry said, sliding his wallet out of his jacket pocket. I saw tiny golden initials monogrammed in the corner and considered how if I had something similar made, I probably wouldn’t have any money left over to put in it.

“Does that mean I can’t try Pumpkin Spice Girl?” I asked with a smirk. Ferry rolled his eyes by way of reply. “Americano then.”

“Okay. BRB.” Ferry wove his way past a couple of oil drums repurposed as tables and took care not to get his clothes caught on cacti while I tried to find regular chairs for us to sit on. I always preferred him doing the ordering. It was a natural process for him to bark orders at others, whereas I would whimper and allow myself to be talked in to spending an extra £2.00 on whatever an ‘Ameraincano’ was.

Ferry returned with a tray and our drinks while I was reading a gig flyer. Another up and coming indie guitar band thinking they were the first people in the world to ever experience a break up, judging by the reviews they’d quoted. I turned my attention from the promise of riffs that would rock my heart towards studying my friend, busy swiping his seat with one hand and loosening his scarf with the other.

We had met when I was in my second year of university. My friend Mandy, one of my housemates, had finally persuaded her brother to visit – although he insisted on staying at a hotel near the cathedral on his first night (“a bit of comfort before the dreary student digs” as he’d put in the text message Mandy had shown me). Fair to say my opinion of him started somewhere around ocean floor level. I was very house proud, as you would be picking up after three very messy women all the time.

When he finally graced us with his presence, he nit-picked his way through his share of the Chinese takeaway and chose to sit on a wooden chair instead of our sofa (‘fleapit’). But once the wine had relaxed him he became incredibly witty, demonstrating a broad range of accents when imitating people from his and Mandy’s past, and asked me insightful questions about my studies. We stayed up talking after Mandy had gone to bed. The wine had hit her hard; I’d only ever seen her drink alcopops that amplified her whinnying laugh, meaning she was always easy to locate at a bar at least. The conversation turned to TV shows and Ferry and I discovered a shared love of an extremely non-PC animated programme. I hurried over to the bookcase to look for the boxset I had, nearly tripping on a rug. He even joined me on the sofa to watch some episodes. Before he left he took my email address to send a link to a blog about the series and fifteen years later we still emailed each other, putting catchphrases from the show as the subject lines.

I snapped out of the memory when I realised Ferry was waiting for a reply to something.

“Sorry, what was that?”

“I said you’ll never believe what the assistant had on his badge.”

“Try me.”

“His pronouns.”

I shrugged. “That’s de rigueur for Brainton.”

Ferry’s eyes widened, but then he acquiesced, mirroring my shrug. The French had probably help sooth his poor flustered soul.

We drank our drinks in companionable silence for a while. I watched a man with a tidier bun than I could ever manage and jeans I didn’t think I could even fit a toe through wipe down the table next to us. A tattoo on his forearm proclaimed ‘DEATH BEFORE DECAF.’

“You know what, Ferry,” I said. “I’m starting to think it’s all shit.”

“What is?”

I gestured towards the window. A man in a suit was riding a unicycle. A mound of rags probably identifying as a hippy went by, carrying drums under one arm. A woman dressed as a 50s housewife laughed into her mobile, flashing a tongue stud.

“Brainton. All of it. I’m just not feeling it anymore. To be honest with you I rarely even go into the centre unless I have a visitor now.”

Ferry nodded slowly and dabbed at his mouth with his handkerchief. I again caught sight of his initials. I thought how my mother sewed my name into my school uniform and PE kit and how Ferry’s personalised belongings were like a grown up version of that. To stop myself sharing that observation out loud, I picked up my rant again.

“In summer you can’t move for tourists and the rest of the year it’s students. I can’t even tell you the last time I actually walked along the pier. And…I don’t know how to describe it…” I lowered my voice slightly. “It’s like everyone here thinks they’re so much better than everyone else for everything they do, from how they vote to what they eat. And, yeah, it was the liberalism that attracted me at first but then you go to other parts of the country and realise not everyone thinks that way. Brainton acts like it’s untouched by prejudice but you look around and it’s mostly white middle class faces staring back.”

I paused for breath. Everything was coming out fast and jumbled. I glanced at my coffee cup, annoyed with it for enabling me.

Ferry checked his watch.

“My train’ll be here soon,” he said.

“Oh. Okay.” We started putting our layers on. I hoped he was telling the truth about his train and it wasn’t just to shut me up.

Five minutes later Ferry was staring up at the train times. I stood numbly behind him, choosing to look at the backs of his shoes rather than meet the eyes of the people I had been dissing.

“Well, we got here earlier than I thought – platform’s not been announced yet.”

I laughed, nervously.

“Now, honestly, Deborah,” he began. My other friends call me Debs, of course. “I hope the next time I visit I’ll be catching a train going in the other direction.”

I finally looked up from the floor. He continued.

“You hand over half your income every month to live in a place where the bed’s in the kitchen. You work from home now, so you could do that job anywhere, and in much more comfortable surroundings. Despite the green credentials, this place is clogged with Range Rovers and campervans. And you said yourself, you don’t even like the sea; you hate the smell and the breezes always disturb your hairdos.”

I was touched but also concerned he would remember me saying that. Ferry is the type you can rely on to remember the ages of the ascent of monarchs and how to order a meal in seven different languages. But not anything to do with women’s hair.

We had made out once. In my third year of university I emailed him to say my parents had split up. He drove down straight away and, well, a couple of bottles of wine later my eyes started to leak as I tried to relay the details of a messy parent row one Christmastime. He hugged me, we hugged for longer than we intended – in retrospect probably more to prop each other up by that point – and, well, you know how it goes. Not that it ever went anywhere further, and we became even better friends once the sexual tension was out the way. But did he still hold a cand—

Hands clamping my shoulders made my eyes refocus. I stared directly into Ferry’s steely grey ones. 

“Seriously, Deborah. Life should be an adventure, be challenging. Not having you feel like you’re stuck in a rut. I think you know what you’ve got to do. I’ll help you on scouting missions to find a place that suits you for now, rather than have you feel chained to a place which was for then.

Platform six. Well, see you soon Deborah, it’s been a pleasure as always.”

He pulled me in for one of his short sharp embraces. I watched him until I lost him. Then I turned and walked out of the station, found a bench, and lit up. I didn’t often smoke these days but at that moment I was glad I still kept a pack on me.

I watched people coming out of the station. I like to people watch, guessing (easily enough) who was resident and who was visitor, wondering what everyone would be getting up to in their evenings – a ready meal for one or wild headboard pounding sex? In a seafront mansion, or a bedsit on top of a shisha bar?

My whole life, I always felt on the outside looking in. Even back at the coffee shop I felt like I was having an OBE. No, not the award. An out of body experience. It’s happening more frequently these days and not just brought on by spying the cost of a cinnamon frappe.

I had guessed correctly how my own evening would be spent. In pyjamas, looking at maps.

October 16, 2020 12:24

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Princemark Okibe
07:22 Oct 23, 2020

Natural, casual and engaging are what I thought when I read this story. I wish I can achieve this level of flowing narrative and dialogue. Your story is an example that you don't always need great conflict/ suspense and flowery descriptions to keep a reader's attention. Unique characters, engaging and flowing narrative and maybe some well placed jokes will do the trick. I liked the way you interrupted this thought [But did he still hold a cand—] And kept us hanging. It imitated perfectly how the human mind thinks. You separate...


Karen McDermott
11:26 Oct 23, 2020

Thank you so much for those kind words :) really appreciate the feedback. The dialogue separation can be done; it just looks hella clunky and I did wonder about styling it that way. I think next time I'll break it up with description of an action or some such. I am such a lover of commas I am ashamed I missed an opportunity to use one there, as you point out! I'll bear that in mind for next time, thanks. I used to read stories aloud to myself before submitting as that's apparently a good tip to help tighten up the punctuation. I'll try...


Princemark Okibe
11:50 Oct 23, 2020



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Andrew Krey
03:24 Oct 20, 2020

I really liked these characters, so contrasting, yet so close - which is often the case! And I've definitely been a few pubs that sound like that coffee shop. You create such a great atmosphere, you make it feel like I'm sitting at one table over and eavesdropping on their conversation. I liked the way the self-reflection was justified by the comfortable silence, which allowed her to drift off into her own thoughts that is then shared with the reader


Karen McDermott
10:44 Oct 20, 2020

Thank you for that feedback, Andrew. I'd just finished reading a book that had a lot of introspection from female characters (and sadly not that much in the way of plot), so I think definitely seeped into my little tale :)


Andrew Krey
21:07 Oct 20, 2020

You're welcome, and you pulled it off well :)


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Goblin King
16:44 Oct 16, 2020

Awesome story. Your writing was really great and kept me engaged throughout the entire thing which is something I can't say for some of these stories :p


Karen McDermott
16:48 Oct 16, 2020

Haha! Thank you so much :)


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