Friendship Fiction Inspirational

Well, what a surprise getting a text from Carole inviting me for a coffee. It was bizarre to get a text when we had only ever emailed each other, but an invite for coffee, as such, wasn’t a total surprise. Of all the things we two women loved, it was good coffee. I remember our relationship sparked because Carole shared an essay describing her love of coffee. However, it wasn’t just the text that I found strange. It shocked me that Carole had journeyed to Thailand from the USA and hadn’t thought to pre-warn me that she was coming. 

We had both reached pensionable age, although Carole was a little older than me; we both had blond hair, but Carole’s was shoulder-length. The only bone of contention was that she was very slim and beautifully turned out, going by a holiday photo I'd received. She enjoyed describing her newest outfit, and when interwoven with descriptions of social events, I felt I had managed to build a detailed profile of my friend.  Conversely, I was short and struggled to achieve Carole's slim figure. I had always visualised that Carole was tall, which allowed for generosity of thoughts about Carole’s petite figure.  

But, at last, we were to meet! I chose the cafe and selfishly never checked whether Carole would find it difficult. We agreed to meet at 3:00 p.m.

I stood in the cafe, trying to decide the best seat for two friends who would have so much to say to each other. The cafe was so pretty. It was a wooden structure within a flowered garden with large, shady, potted trees and ferns. Giant cooling fans were strategically placed to keep the oppressive heat away from the patrons. I walked in expectantly, seeking Carole. In reality, all I was looking for was someone tall, female and blond - if the cafe had been full of tall blond women, I wouldn’t have stood a hope in hell of picking Carole out.  

How quiet it was in the cafe - there were no other customers. Strange. This was one of those super popular places, so where was everyone? The guy behind the counter smiled and inclined his head to encourage me to give him the order.

“I’m waiting for a friend. We’ll order when she comes.”

“Sure, take a seat and make yourself comfortable.”

I looked at the round pine-wood tables surrounded by comfortable cane chairs with over-stuffed, deep purple cushions carefully placed and arranged. Under the cushions, I could see an aubergine leather covering to prevent the cane from pinching delicate skin.  I decided on one of the tables by the windowless boundaries of the cafe, which was surrounded by palm and coconut trees and, thank goodness, had numerous mosquito lamps preventing the buzzy beasts from nibbling my tasty arms and legs. I sat for a few minutes, glanced at my phone, checked for messages, and impatiently placed the inert instrument back on the table.  

“I wonder why Carole didn’t tell me she’d decided to come to Thailand? Her last email mentioned Chicago and New York. The minx must have deliberately led me astray, as she must have booked a flight to Chiangmai. I must have unconsciously confirmed that I would be in town during her proposed visit, but I’d have thought it was still a bit of a risk just flying in. I couldn’t imagine how many emails I’d have sent Carole if I’d decided to visit her in Albuquerque”.  

The wooden entrance gate opened, and there she was. She was so easily recognisable by height and figure, but the pink lipstick was a surprise. I’d never thought of Carole wearing pink lipstick - god knows why, but I just hadn’t. On Carole’s head was a baseball cap - the last thing I had ever thought of Carole wearing. I had pictured Carole in one of her smart outfits that she’d written about. I’d never received an email telling me that Carole regularly wore a baseball cap and pink lipstick.  

She gave me a huge, welcoming smile and with arms opened wide, she strode to my side.  

“Well, hello, hello”, she said excitedly.  

“Where the hell did that American accent come from?” I thought, but without missing a beat, said:

“Hi, Carole. Finally!” I said, near to tears, as we grabbed each other.

‘What a crisp British accent! You sound like Queen Elizabeth the 2nd. I never imagined you speaking like this.’

‘I was surprised at your accent, too. Silly isn’t it that although we’ve known each other’s nationality, I chose to endow you with my native accent - and what a surprise, the voice I gave you sounds nothing like your real accent.’

The two women laughed until tears wound down their faces and disappeared into their ageing necks.

“I knew you would have a face full of makeup - do you know how often you mentioned cosmetics?” Carole said.

They continued like this for a while, laughing over the differences between detailed emails and real-life meetings.

‘Well, now I know why I never go internet dating”. We both shrieked with loud, companionable laughter.  

After a slight pause, I said: “What on earth made you decide to fly in from New Mexico and not warn me of your arrival?”

“Wow, I’m in Thailand?” said Carole, looking confusedly at her surroundings. “I’ve never been to Asia. This cafe is beautiful”.

Carole picked up her Latte that had just arrived and took an appreciative sip, leaving a pink lip imprint on the cup's side. Her hand went up to the side of her head, and she winced. “Oooh, that hurt”, she smiled ruefully.

“Is it a headache? Jet lag?” I asked, concerned.

“Not a regular headache, but painful nonetheless”, replied Carole.

Carole wiggled on the comfy chair, her long legs in dark blue straight jeans stretched before her.

“My goodness, I must apologise. The first time we meet, I wear muddy, ripped jeans. What must you think of me?’ said Carole, leaning over and staring at her knees in a confused, concerned manner.  I watched her try to brush the mud off, but it was still wet and stuck to the denim.

I looked and thought, “Wow, yes, she’s right; her jeans are ripped at the knees and muddy. This is not how I imagined Carole would look.” I looked across the table at my friend and began anxiously searching her face.

“Are you OK, Carole? Your headache? Did you hit your head when you hurt your knees and ripped your jeans? Look, I’m thrilled to see you but why didn’t you tell me you were coming? When did you arrive?"

“I don’t know when I got in. I just knew I had to get here and have coffee with you. I had always promised myself that we would have a coffee together. Wonder why I didn’t message to let you know I was coming? When did you last hear from me?”

“Well, that’s the weird part, Carole. I had re-written the draft of my story and was waiting for your critique, but it never came. I wrote again, checking on you, and instead of an email, I got a text inviting me for coffee. ”

She stirred her coffee, saying nothing. Finally, she said:

“Do you know Allie?”

“Allie, your daughter?”

“Allie knows you. I talk about you a lot.”

“Is she OK? Allie? - is she OK? Carole, I assume you’ve come all this way because you’ve got something important to talk to me about. Is it about Allie?”

“She’s going to be so very upset, and I’d like you to talk to her.” Her voice broke whilst she fought to control her emotions and began softly sobbing.

“Why will she be very upset?’, I asked in a low voice whilst trying to control my rising anxiety.

I looked carefully at Carole, and although the pink lipstick was still intact, I noticed a large, nasty black-blue bruise on her left temple for the first time. I leaned across the table and stared intently at the sobbing Carole. 

“Carole, are you OK? There’s something not quite right here. You have a large black bruise on the side of your head, a cut on your knee, and your jeans are covered in mud”, I said.

As I stared at Carole’s black bruise, I noticed a wide, slow-moving slick of deep red blood beginning to slither down the woman’s face.

Struggling to stand up, I said: “Oh my god, Carole, let me call a doctor. I think you need to get to a hospital”.

“Please don’t panic, but I know I am already hospitalised. I don’t think you and I are in a coffee shop. I’m sitting opposite you, but something isn’t quite gelling here.’

I began to cry, too. “Carole, I’m getting worried. Is there anything I can do?”

“I want to make sure you speak to Allie and let her know how important she is to me - if you tell her, she’ll believe it because she knows how important you are to me.”


Carole and I took an online essay writing course approximately five years ago. After each video class, candidates had to submit a short story based on the lesson prompt. A randomly allocated peer member was chosen to critique a classmate’s work, and by chance, Carole and I regularly critiqued each other's work. From there, the habit of writing weekly emails to each other slowly developed. Over time, our sharing became more profound and meaningful as both of us had experienced childhoods dominated by parents unlikely to win prizes for kindness and understanding. I continued to write short stories, which I sent to Carole, and she critiqued them.  

Unfortunately, as Carole’s background history involved an unresolved tragedy, she found she no longer wished to indulge in storytelling. So, instead, we moved on to longer and more frequent personalised emails. We found it easy to share the emotional crises that affected our character development and chosen lifestyles. The more we disclosed, the closer and stronger our friendship grew. It became usual to email each other about twice a week. One email always contained my draft short story, which she kindly critiqued efficiently and promptly, and the second email was our ‘Catch Up”, telling each other what happened during our week. This went on for years …… until about a week ago when all went quiet. 


I groped in the dark for my phone. It lit up like an Xmas tree as the email came in. I had slept fitfully since not hearing from Carole, so it was hardly surprising that the email’s arrival had woken me.  Initially, I couldn’t recognise anything from the blurred text and searched in the dark for my reading glasses, squinting and rubbing my eyes until, eventually, the text began to form recognisable words.

“It took me since Thursday to find you in the stacks and computer maze. I am in complete shock. My mom was found completely passed out in our favourite walking spot. She was rushed into hospital and remained on life support for a week. We knew there wasn’t a hope that she would recover, and yesterday, they pulled the plug. I know you two connected. She always spoke of you, so I wanted to try and find you. She loved your friendship. I am heartbroken and miss her so much already.”

I picked up my phone and shook it uncomprehendingly. Carole couldn’t have died. We were sitting in a cafe drinking coffee only a short while ago. Carole was wearing bright pink lipstick. The whole image was so vivid. There was nothing ghostly about Carole - and then I remembered the blood dripping down her face and only now remembered how very grey her complexion was looking. I looked at the email again and saw the sender was “Allie”, and the subject heading was “My Mom”.


I slowly swung my legs over the side of the bed and got up to make a coffee. Once my head ceased swirling, I began drafting a message to Allie. Somehow, Carole and I sitting together in a cafe didn’t seem at all questionable, although the whole thing must have been a dream. I now understood why Carole had visited. Carole had to ensure Allie knew how much she loved her, her only child, even as she took her last breath as the life support ceased its task.


I wrote to Allie numerous times. It had surprised Allie that we two friends had never met, never talked face-to-face, or lived in the same time zone and yet had developed such a close-knit friendship.  

I told Allie about the Coffee Club her mum, and I attended, where we shared a daily morning coffee ritual. Over coffee and meditation, we shared our hopes, worries, joys and sorrows whilst basking in the gratitude that had made two strangers find each other and become such dear friends.


This morning, I invited Allie to the imaginary Coffee Club, and she has written to say she accepts and will be with Carole and me from tomorrow onwards. Carole will be thrilled.

September 22, 2023 12:50

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Michał Przywara
20:37 Oct 11, 2023

That's a really neat take on a ghost story. Really, it's a pre-ghost story - not a haunting, but a final farewell. The scene in the coffee shop definitely gave off some tense vibes, right from the place being deserted, to Carole's appearance and apparent confusion, to the fact that she just decided to pop in to Thailand, as though it was just down the street. There was a sense of something being off. This story raises an interesting idea. These two women never met face to face before, and yet they shared a powerful bond, forged solely th...


Stevie Burges
22:58 Oct 11, 2023

Carole was my pen pal - and excluding the meeting in the coffee shop - the story was based on the terrific friendship we developed. She always looked at my stories for me and gave me helpful advice. She died two months ago, and my goodness, do I miss her - never met her, never spoke in real life to her, but it was a great friendship. Thanks so much for reading my story and your helpful comments. Always love reading your work. Thanks for posting and sharing it with us all.


Michał Przywara
20:43 Oct 12, 2023

Oh, my condolences! She sounds like a lovely person. We cherish the ones we can share ideas with, the ones who listen, and who grant us an opportunity to listen.


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Danie Holland
01:38 Oct 01, 2023

This story was very touching. I like the way you showed people aren’t always what we imagine when we are used to talking to them from a distance and not in person. I thought their friendship was touching. I like the idea of an imaginary coffee club!! I have to have my caffeine though, so I can’t do with imaginary coffee. Thanks for the story!


Stevie Burges
16:58 Oct 01, 2023

thanks so much for your kind comments about the story. Thanks for your comments.


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Jorie Rao
15:04 Sep 28, 2023

Interesting premise, but I feel like it didn’t really meet the prompt. Almost immediately you said coffee shop (telling) and the prompt asked for a story that didn’t directly say it was a coffee shop (showing). The idea was to show the reader through details not tell them outright the story took place at a coffee shop.


Stevie Burges
02:54 Sep 30, 2023

Thank you for your constructive criticism. I was so determined to get my "Carole" story out there that I didn't stick to the prompt. Thanks for reading and commenting.


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Michelle Oliver
13:22 Sep 26, 2023

This was a very interesting concept. Having coffee with a ghost.


Stevie Burges
02:56 Sep 30, 2023

Thanks for reading Michelle.


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Mary Bendickson
00:13 Sep 23, 2023

Strange coffee🫥


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