Didn’t you have that conversation?

Submitted into Contest #250 in response to: Write a story in which someone is afraid of being overheard.... view prompt


Friendship Sad Romance

I can’t believe it’s been twenty years since we lived here.

I’m standing outside our first home together. The wisteria cascading down the elegant Georgian block of flats on Sandwich house, Sandwich Street in Bloomsbury. Funny even saying it again now and I want to refer to it as Sesame Street as we used to. Looking up towards the third floor, I can see the wall at the back of our bedroom in our old flat, number 83. I remember the first night we slept there:

'What was that?'

'It was the underground bun.'

I shouldn't have been surprised that I could hear the rumble of the trains from King’s Cross main station, after all it was just a hop and a skip away. I remember Kieron calling me at work full of excitement to say he'd found our new abode. The relief in his voice after so many 'mis- advertised horrors'. I think my favourite was the so called 'one-bedroom apartment' in Camden which actually turned out to be a sitting room that the landlady was renting out. The only thing separating her space from ours was a really shabby Victorian dressing screen.

‘I’ve found the place. Our place. You’ll love it.’ Kieron announced proudly.

‘I’m sure it’ll be perfect for us if you’ve found it.’

Funny all the things you say to each other before you live together. Isn’t conversation so breezy, carefree?

I was living in Oxford when we met and after two years of commuting back and forth to London, we just wanted to be in the same place. I had never considered moving to the big smoke until I met Kieron. Friends of mine used to joke that once you'd moved there, you would likely contract 'the rage'. Kieron was sharing a flat in Archway with a lovely friend he’d met from his rugby club: Ginger Dave. Dave was one of the most laid-back chaps I have ever encountered but also the tightest. He would always be eager for a night out but never put his hand in his pocket. If anyone mentioned ‘one for the road’ at the end of the night, he would always immediately say ‘yes’ looking like an eager spaniel but never cough up. ‘The white pony’ or 'sloaney pony’ was where they loved to sink ten pints and have a plate of slop after a match. After many Saturdays' shouting playfully 'go honey bunny' on the edge of the pitch I felt welcomed into the rugby family. The phrase 'a game for thugs played by gentlemen' couldn't have been truer. On Saturday nights, I loved chatting to Kieron's friends and teammates who despite the broken noses, cut lips and cauliflower ears, had the manners and grace of those who had attended The Emma Dupont School of Etiquette. It always surprised me when they uttered something such as:

‘Darlings, mummy is having a garden party in Middle Wollop on Sunday. You will come, won’t you? It’ll be fab, you can meet our working cocker, Sprocket.’

Taking in the glorious scent of Wisteria in front of me, I remembered out first meeting. We had met in a sweaty nightclub in Bath and had spent the evening ignoring our friends, drinking vodka tonics, dancing to 90s rave music in a sweaty cavernous club, he ended the evening by inviting me to his rugby ball. I suppose quite apt a proposal given that I was in Bath and the ghosts of Jane Austen saw no sign of leaving. I panicked slightly as had visions of having to duck during dinner for fear of having a roast potato slung in my face. Surely grown men don't have food fights? I phoned my parents a couple of nights after meeting Kieron and mentioned that he played for Hampstead rugby club. My father immediately googled him and said, ‘aah Hampstead. I recognize a few names on their first team list. Guy. I know his Dad. Oh, your old school mate Matt is also listed here.’

‘Oh dad’ I know you live near GCHQ, but you don’t need to go searching for intel on him.’

‘Well just checking if this Kieron is good enough for our first born.’

‘Oh Dad.’

When I occasionally ‘pop up' to London for a long indulgent publishing lunch, I like nothing more than taking the short walk from my office, over the chaotic Euston Road in King's Cross to leafy Bloomsbury. I love to meander through what feels like a rabbit warren of University Halls and then meet my brother, James, my sister-in-law, Indie and my best friend, Fi for dinner at the most characterful and jovial restaurant ‘Ciao Bella’. The staff sing the menu to you, the grand piano plays and you are full of joy and limoncello at the end of the evening. I love catching up with my younger brother jimmy and his wife as they love a bit of culture and they’ve always explored somewhere new or have been to the latest play or show in the west end.

‘You should have seen the play we were at the other night rebs. The lead slit her wrists on stage, and I thought Jim was going to faint.’

‘Sounds delightful. I’ll stick to Frozen.’

This evening, I felt a bit of uneasy as I wasn't sure what state I would find Fi in. We met at college in Oxford in the late nineties, and she was the most amazingly confident young lass I encountered. She was always sunny on the outside which most people took to mean that she was always sunny, but eyes sometimes showed a deeper trouble. She is the most amazing travel companion and we’ve had an absolute riot over the years but that sort of stopped when we both ‘settled down’.

Fiona is married to another friend of mine Paul. I had met Paul one new year's at a friend’s house in Yorkshire. A mutual friend Eddie had invited us to stay over new year at his parents’ house on the Yorkshire moors. His mother was the most amazing host serving us all in our hungover states 3 course meals and champagne at midnight. I think the thing that surprised me the most was just how relaxed his parents were when we were all hungover and being sick in their toilets. Disgraceful behaviour but they all thought nothing of it. We had a ‘big night out’ in Wakefield on New Year’s Eve and Paul slid his hand around my waste after too many shots and said, ‘fancy a snog gorgeous?.’ My then boyfriend Peter, asked Paul to fly away and he fell asleep in the corner of the club.

A year or so later, our group of friends went to Courchevel for a ski holiday, and I sat next to Paul on the plane. He was absolutely hilarious on our holiday, and I looked forward to dinners so that we could hear all about Paul’s exciting life working in the city and going on dates with glamorous ladies. One evening, he told us that his secretary’s nickname for him was ‘sausage’ because his surname was Cumberland which caused lots of hilarity and jibes from the boys. ‘Sausage’ then stuck.

I had been quite taken by Paul and his charm and mention to Fiona that I had an eligible bachelor if she was interested. We arranged a meet in Bath, and they hit it off. Their relationship was a bit dicey to say the least. Fiona said he was always working or going out for work piss ups with lots of Australians and they broke up a couple of times before getting engaged on holiday in Sri Lanka.

After their wedding, we invited Paul and Fiona to our tiny flat in Bloomsbury for drinks and dinner. Fi arrived on time and said Paul was running late but would turn up shortly. We chatted about their wedding which was great fun and their honeymoon in Costa Rica which had been fab. When Paul arrived full of apologies and handed a bottle of Pol Roger, I left the boys to chat and took Fi into our bedroom.

‘This is a fantastic flat Rebs.’ Fi declared in her usually upbeat way.

‘Oh thanks, we like it. We can both walk to work, walk to Rada, or see a show in the evening. It’s all very easy and I’m not missing train travel.’

‘It's just fab.’

‘How are you? How was honeymoon?’

‘It was good.’

Fi looked towards the door to our bedroom, moved to close it and then lowered her voice.

Kieron hollered ‘we can hear you.’

Fi continued to whisper. ‘I have some news’.

‘Oh my, you’ve got a bun in the oven.’

‘Not quite but on my wedding day, I came off the pill so there is a chance I may have a bun shortly.’

‘Ooh how exciting. Is Paul excited?’

Fi went down an octave ‘well this is the thing. I don’t know.’

‘What do you mean?’

‘Well, we haven’t really discussed the subject.’

‘What do you mean? Didn’t you chat about whether you wanted a family before you got married?’

‘I thought I’ll be waiting forever if we have to chat about it so I thought I’d just go for it.’

‘What! Fi. I think you should talk about it and soon. I’m sure he’ll love it.’

‘I’m not sure. He is an only child. His dad philandered till he had a heart attack, and his mum was sectioned so he was sent to boarding school at 8.’

‘mmm, I think he’ll be fine but please do chat to him about.’

At that point, there was a knock on the door and Kieron poked his head around the corner ‘what are you two gossiping about?’

‘you, of course darling.’

‘Ha. I know that’s not true. Well dinner is served if you care to join us.’

It was almost as if we hadn’t had the chat over dinner and Fi and Paul left squiffy after a lot of chianti.

‘you’ll have to give me the recipe for that steak Kieron.’ Paul said.

‘You can’t go wrong with Gordon.’


As I wondered into Ciao Bella, I spotted my brother immediately. He had a habit of wearing atrocious t-shirts.

‘I don’t think I’ve seen this one before.’

‘Hey Rebbie, I know it’s a shocker isn’t it. He keeps hoping he’s picked up by modeling agent, but I’ve told him that day has passed. He’s too old.’

‘Ha. How are you indie?’

‘Good thanks, where is The Fister.?

‘she’s coming. I hope.’

‘Hows she doing?’

‘I’m not sure. Paul messaged me to say they had separated and had she mentioned.’

‘oh no’

‘I know. She has always struggled to talk about her feelings but lets see how it goes.’

‘here she comes.’

‘Hey gorgeous.’

‘Hey darling. How are you?’

‘fine thanks, how are you?’

‘good. Its good to be out. I need a drink.’

‘right lets get a bottle of prosecco…’

May 17, 2024 13:01

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Matt Austin
18:12 May 23, 2024

Nice story. Poignant. I particularly like the way you describe living in Bloomsbury. One of my favourite bits of London.


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Darvico Ulmeli
14:42 May 18, 2024

Lovely story.


Rebecca Detti
12:46 May 20, 2024

Thanks so much Darvico


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Trudy Jas
18:43 May 17, 2024

Didn't you start this one before? I have to agree with Luca. It's a bit round-about to go nowhere. But then it's still in progress, isn't it?


Rebecca Detti
22:54 May 17, 2024

Thanks Trudy, I think I may have. Thanks so much, I completely agree. I think this felt like a streams of consciousness mind dunp so need to work on it for next time ! Thank you for the honest critique!


Trudy Jas
23:07 May 17, 2024

Not that it wasn't fun to read. II do need a primer on brit slang. I;ll read ut again and have a list of terms I would like you to translate. LOL snog I know (and like) mom is sectioned? squiffy? actually it wasn't that much. :-)


Rebecca Detti
12:48 May 20, 2024

Here is the translation: 'sectioned' means being admitted to hospital whether she agrees or not. 'squiffy' is a polite way of saying too much alcohol has been consumed. thanks for reading Trudy!


Trudy Jas
13:10 May 20, 2024

Thanks for teaching. :-)


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Alexis Araneta
17:41 May 17, 2024

Good to see you publish a story again, Rebecca. As usual, it feels super realistic. Nicely done !


Rebecca Detti
12:48 May 20, 2024

thanks so much Alexis!


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Mary Bendickson
13:30 May 17, 2024

Friends being friends.


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Luca King Greek
13:17 May 17, 2024

I tried, I promise, but I got lost in names and places and drinks and miscellaneous stuff. The dialog seemed realistic but vacuous, which was the intent, perhaps? Not sure what to make of it all, and whether or what to care about... Perhaps, in this case, the reader needed a bit more direction?


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