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Contemporary Funny Friendship


Gillian Wareham was wrestling with her second pair of Charnos 30 denier tights. The first ones had laddered from the heel to the knee as soon as she’d tried to hop into them. Dave was waiting downstairs and giving her a wide birth this evening. He’d learned during their three years of marital bliss that Gillian got flustered if he reminded her about the time.

Gillian’s hosiery was semi sheer or semi opaque, as Dave liked to put it. The tights would disguise tonight’s shaving rash, but not the tiny dolphin tattoo hovering above her ankle. The body art happened in a mad moment at the end of their Caribbean honeymoon. Six months ago, Dave had said that if she didn’t stop snacking during lockdown, her dainty fish would become a bloated whale by the end of their confinement. She’d cut down on the cashews since then. 

During the first lockdown, the Warehams were very disciplined. They’d motivated each other to exercise every day. They went running together and stopped using their car to go to the grocery store. However, after a year of being housebound and working from home, their daily routine had relaxed. Taking a deep breath and counting to ten had replaced their high-impact exercise regime. The balance between work and home-life is always a juggling act and being cooped up together had impacted their relationship. However, they still had a sense of humour, and the effect on their marriage had been less obvious than all those bags of cashews and bottles of Prosecco. 

The salted nuts were supposed to be a post-workout treat, and the fizz was just for relaxing on Friday nights. The regulation of treats and incentives is always tricky when no one is counting. Those savoury delights are so ‘moreish’ and Friday isn’t the only night to kick-back. The dolphin wasn’t a whale yet, but in response Gillian pointed out that Dave’s suits weren’t the generous cut they used to be. 

For a year, Dave had got away with wearing a shirt, tie and tartan pyjamas during conference calls with clients. Tonight, he’d tried on his favourite navy blue suit and muttered something about a belt before consigning it to a pile destined for the dry cleaner’s. Delving further into the interior of the closet, he found a pair of chinos and a blazer. The trousers were tighter than he remembered, and the jacket looked worse for wear. Both items joined the navy blue suit on the floor. He concluded that since it was a warm evening, linen was fine and he settled for an unstructured two-piece suit in oatmeal. 

“Oh, Dave!” she said. “You’re not going in that old thing, are you?”

“It’s my only summer number, love.”

“Why don’t you try to press it at least?” she said, pointing at the ironing board.

They’d both had opportunities to prepare for this evening’s get together. Their old friends, Danny and Miriam, had been talking about the event for two months, ever since the government mentioned relaxing the rules for gatherings. Dave could’ve ironed, pressed and dry-cleaned his clothes, but without a firm date in mind, he’d let things slide.

Gillian was equally surprised by tonight’s wardrobe exploration. She’d wanted to wear her favourite green Merino wool dress. Instead of finding a sleek figure-hugging body-glove, the moths had reduced her pride-and-joy to an open-weave string vest. Gillian had lots of alternatives and after consoling herself with a rejuvenating sip from her glass, she rummaged through her clothes rail. 

There must be something flattering to wear that hadn’t been eaten alive?

“How’s it going up there, love?”

“Damn tights!” she shouts, as the effervescent bubbles tickle Dave’s nose. “I’ve snagged the wretched things.”

“I don’t want to hurry you, but---”

“But you’re going to, anyway?”

“Miriam’s invitation said eight for nine, not nine for ten---”

“Not helpful, Dave.”

#

He was certain that Gillain intended to drive tonight. Dave had serviced their car, and it would be a novelty for her to sit behind the wheel again. Danny’s house was within walking distance, but too far to stumble back afterwards. The second half of the bottle looked inviting, and Dave topped up his glass as he flicked through endless channels of Friday evening eye-fodder.

#

It wasn’t going well in the bedroom. Gillian’s pile of discarded garments was outstripping Dave’s castoffs. She couldn’t find anything to wear, despite keeping a certain online retailer in business all year. Packages and offerings had arrived every week and yet at the crucial moment her wardrobe had failed her. The moths hadn’t helped her, of course. She’d blame the moths if Miriam said anything. Liquid inspiration was required.

“Dave, be a darling and top up my glass.”

“But you’re driving, right?” he said, climbing the stairs.

“Er, no, it’s your turn.”

“But I drove last time, love.”

“You’re joking?”

“No, I’m sure I drove to Marnie’s thirtieth in Brighton,” he said, pausing at the door.

“That was a year ago, Dave.”

“Well, it looks like my night off,” he says, raising his glass.

Gillian kicks the bedroom door and knocks the flute out of Dave’s grasp. The liquid incendiary explodes everywhere and drenches his shirt and jacket.

“I wouldn’t do that again if I were you, love,” he growls.

Gillian charges at the door and wrenches it open. Her face freezes mid-breath, and she bites down on her lip. Dave’s scowl deepens into a frown as her look of confusion transforms into a wry smile. 

“At least you won’t be going in that horrible dish cloth tonight.”

“You know what, love?” 

“I know. That didn’t help.”

“I’ll call a taxi.”

#

The cabbie smiles as the couple clamber into the back of his vehicle.

“Nice to see people dressing-up after a year at home.”

“Inver Gardens, number thirty-three, please.”

“Off to an all-nighter, then?”

“It didn’t start off like that.”

“Oh, sorry,” he says, pulling his face into a wince. “I thought with the puffer coats and beanie hats you were off to a rave or---”

“It’s a dinner party and---”

“We should’ve been there an hour ago but---”

 “Crikey, what happened?”

“We were a bit disorganised and---”

“You should get out more often, sir.”

“Yeah, yeah, hilarious.”

“Jokes are extra.”

“I hope you don’t expect a tip?”

“You’ve gotta laugh, madam.”

“It was the moths.”

“Moths?” 

“They ate my all my posh frocks.”

“It’s the wool they’re after.”

“Ah, moths, yes.” He nods. “I’ll have to warn the missus.”

“Is there anywhere to buy flowers?”

“I can detour past the seven-eleven?”

“We ought to replace that second bottle, Dave.”

“Has it got a cash-point, mate?”

“I reckon.”

“Great, let’s stop there.”

“Right you are, sir.”

#

Inver Gardens is a residential tree-lined road populated with white stucco-fronted villas. Each property has six steps to a doorway recessed between two stone columns. The taxi pulls up outside Danny and Miriam’s imposing home, which is tucked away behind a sprawling privet hedge.

“Number thirty-three it is, sir.”

The cabbie adjusts his meter and the red electronic display illuminates the interior with the digits 16:50.

“Here’s twenty, keep the change.”

“Thank you, sir.”

“Do you have a card, for later?”

“Call this number and ask for Jimmy, sir.”

The vehicle pulls off as the couple walk up the pathway and climb the stone steps. The front of the house is quiet, the curtains drawn and no lights visible. Dave presses the metal button and they hear a brass bell clanging away somewhere inside. There are kids’ miniature bikes and plastic outdoor toys littering the front garden and a hint of charred meat lurks in the vicinity.

A light flicks on inside and illuminates the arched glass window above the door’s wooden casing. It’s Miriam’s red and swollen face that peers over the security chain. She’s been crying, however, her mouth raises a welcoming smile. 

“Danny, it’s Gill and Dave!”

“Miriam, are you?”

She sniffs and opens the door. Miriam is wearing an outsized sweatshirt and pyjama trousers. “We’re so glad to see you both.”

“I’m sorry we’re late, darling.”

“Oh, Dave, are those for me?” Miriam smiles, taking the bunch of flowers. “They’re lovely, Gillian, thank you, darling.” Gillian moves forward to hug her friend and Danny clatters down the hallway to join them.

“Come on in, guys,” he says. “Dave, give me your coats and make yourself at home.”

“Are we the last to arrive?” Gillian asks. 

“No, you’re not the last.”

“We’ve had a hellish night.”

“To be honest, we thought you weren’t coming but---”

“We’re so late and---”

“You’re the only ones here,” says Danny.

“Oh, no, is it the wrong night? or---”

“No not at all, darling.”

“The phone’s been going all night.” 

“It’s been none stop.” 

“I don’t understand, what do you mean---?”

“I mean you are the first to arrive because---”

“Because everyone’s bailed out,” says Danny.

Dave and Gillian look at each other, and he puts his arm around her shoulder.

“People are so unreliable, I was saying to Danny that---”

“We knew we could count on you guys to show up.”

“Some excuses were unbelievable and---”

“There’s a mountain of food and---”

“No time to prepare they said. I mean, can you believe ‘moths’ for goodness’ sake?”

Gillian shakes her head and squeezes Dave’s arm.

“Nothing to wear and---”

“You’d think people would be glad for a night out.”

“We knew you’d throw on some scruffies and rock up.”

“Anyway, it wouldn’t be the same if you were punctual.”

“It’s not like we expected anybody to go to any trouble, Gill.”

“Of course not, Miriam,” she smiles. “Who would’ve thought it?”

“We’ve got something for your fridge, Danny,” says Dave.

“That’s wonderful, let’s all warm up.” 

“We’ve got a proper fire and food out at the back.”


The End


===


May 15, 2021 03:41

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7 comments

Drizzt Donovan
10:40 Dec 15, 2023

Great story Howard.

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Howard Halsall
21:32 Dec 15, 2023

Hey Drizzt, Thank you for reading my story and leaving your positive feedback. Take care HH

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Drizzt Donovan
15:10 Dec 17, 2023

You too Howard. You’re very welcome.

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Mary Sheehan
21:29 May 24, 2021

Engaging, realistic, excellent pacing. An enjoyable read!

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Howard Halsall
02:23 May 25, 2021

Thank you, Mary. I’m glad you enjoyed my story and I appreciate you took the time to read it and return such a positive response. HH :)

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Cathryn V
04:27 May 17, 2021

Hello Howard! I really enjoyed this one! Cute and humorous all the way through and so true to life. I like that it ended well. Easy flow and excellent descriptions. Good job!

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Mary Kate
11:44 May 15, 2021

Love it- this made me chuckle! :-) Especially the part about the suit top/tie and pyjamas, so true! During lockdown I had to do a formal symposium talk over zoom and my mum burst out laughing when I came down the stairs in blouse and suit jacket and a pair of faded shorts....

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