The quiet is the first thing I notice as I step outside. The air is cold, biting into my skin, causing a shiver to run up my spine. I rub my arms and exhale heavily, watching my breath mist up in front of me. Somewhere in the distance, a bird begins to chirp, a melodic tune, rising and falling with a steady rhythm.

        The neighbours’ Christmas lights have been left on overnight – they dance and flash beside me, an unnatural performance interrupting the quiet country morning. I turn my eyes away and back to the view from the top of the driveway – the rolling hills, bare trees, and singular houses dotted randomly throughout the scene. I squeeze my eyes shut, and try to recall every detail – I know I’ll miss this view once I leave again.

        I hear somebody moving around inside the house, and hasten to join them, not wanting anyone to see me here. The bird is still singing its lilting tune.

A couple of hours later, I’m dressed casually in jeans and a winter overcoat, waiting for the bus outside the post office. I’m irritated by the fact that there’s only one bus a day, and that it’s twenty minutes late at that. After six months of living in London, I’m used to instant transport, and my patience has faded. I smile inwardly as I recognise this, and my vexation fades immediately.

        I sold my car when I moved, the money a welcome boost for the move abroad, which cost far more than I had anticipated. As the bus finally arrives, and begins the ten minute drive into town, I wonder what’s happened to it - if it’s still in Kilkenny, or has moved further afield, on its own travels.

The bus drops me off outside the castle, and I disembark alongside the other three passengers. The quick walk through town is refreshing – I’ve always loved Kilkenny town, so compact and easy to move around. I love knowing every detail of the place, every street and shop, the sense of ownership and belonging that this gives me. A woman I vaguely recognise from the gym smiles at me as she passes.

        Maebh has text to say she’ll be even later than I am (unsurprisingly), so I take the long way around to Butler’s Café, towards John’s Bridge and up Kieran’s Street. I find a seat in the back of the café, and settle into a well-worn chair in the corner, ordering a coffee while I wait, the usual Mocha. I’ve never being a coffee guy, but in a bid to see what all the fuss is about, I’ve made the jump from hot chocolate to hot chocolate with coffee. I’m reserving judgement for now. I pull out my phone to listen to our practice session the week before. The drums are off beat, jarring against the guitar. I sigh and open Instagram instead, flicking mindlessly through a reel of people I half know, smiling from all the corners of the globe.

A few minutes later, I sense movement above me, and look up to see Maebh beaming down at me.

“Hello there, stranger!” she half-shouts, pulling me into a bear hug as I stand up, grinning stupidly.

She looks exactly the same as the last time I saw her – a little browner perhaps, but still with the same large eyes, beaming smile, and hair pulled back into a ponytail. She’s dressed in yoga pants and a tight t-shirt, showcasing all of her best parts, and has all the attention of the few customers scattered around the café.  We take our seats, me painfully aware of all the stares directed our way, Maebh seeming not to notice.

‘So how is London? How’s the music going?’

We fall into an easy conversation, swapping stories, updating each on friends, families, love lives. We’ve got plenty to tell. It’s been over six months since we’ve laid eyes on each other, and, while I’m out trying to break the music scene in London, she’s in Australia with her boyfriend, working as a doctor. Both of us have uprooted and left home, finding ourselves neck deep in a new culture, and are eager to share the things that are different from back home – some that we love, some we hate, and some we find downright strange.

‘The hours are unreal’, Maebh is saying. ‘I’m in 8-5 four days a week, and sometimes they’re back to back. But then I get two or three days off, and there’s none of this being on call like you have back home. We can actually take the time off and go on a road trip or stay overnight somewhere’.

‘Sounds a hell of a lot better than the system here’, I say, remembering the countless night-shifts, extra shifts, even back to back shifts that Maebh put in when we were living together in Dublin during her junior year.

‘So much better! Then at the same time, you’d miss the people here. The Aussies are grand like, they’re so relaxed about stuff, but you can’t have the craic like you’d have back home. You have to watch what you’re saying and doing all the time’.

‘So will you stay out there for another few years?’ I ask, not wanting to hear the answer.

Maebh bites her lip.

‘I’m not sure’ she says. ‘Like I said, the hours are better, and so is the pay. You definitely have a better life over there. Anthony loves it too. We’ll see, I suppose’.

‘Fair enough’. I pick up my coffee to prevent my having to say anything else. I see the real answer in Maebh’s eyes. I know her too well. As much as she says she misses the people here, she must love having a regular schedule, and the chance to have a life outside of work. She hated being a one trick pony in Dublin. And if Anthony loves it too, then that’s the end of that. Maeve Cawley will stand her ground against anybody else in this world, but she’ll fall over backwards in an effort to keep her boyfriend happy. It makes me a little sad sometimes, to see her running around trying to please him. I miss the Maebh that would pick up the world and move it out of her way if she wanted to go somewhere.

‘What about you? You still haven’t told me about the music scene over there. Are you getting many gigs?’

I hesitate for a second, the lie rising easily to my lips. When other people ask me this question, it falls out easily – the music is going great, we’ve got a few gigs here and there, nothing major, but tipping away nicely. We’re hoping to do a headline show next February, no big deal, yes I’ll let you know when tickets are available, we’d love to see you there if you can make it.

Maebh looks me dead in the eyes as I open my mouth to reply, and the lie falls away, back down my throat and into the pit of my stomach, where it sits like a heavy weight. I can’t lie to her. She’s far too clever to be fooled, and besides, she knows me as well as I know her. In the three seconds that have passed since she asked the question, she’s already read the answer in my eyes.

‘It’s not going great, to be honest’, I say, directing my gaze once again to my coffee. ‘It’s a hard scene to break into – there’s just so many bloody bands in London. We’ve got a couple of pub gigs, but that’s about it. We’ve just about enough to pay the bills and get what we need for the gigs, but it’s a lot harder than even I thought it would be’.

It’s not the full story, but it is the truth. I haven’t told her that we have nowhere to practice anymore, since the neighbours called the police for the second time about the noise we were making in the shed down the back of the garden. Nor have I mentioned that we’re now short a bass player, since we got into a fight over which songs to play going forward. I wanted to stick to our original songs, and indie bands. Dara wanted to sell out and play pop classics in tourist areas. The argument ended in an actual physical fight, him kicking over a speaker and knocking over my prized guitar; me losing the plot and rugby tackling him to the ground. We had to be pulled off of each other by Theo and Mike, and I haven’t seen him since. Of course, I don’t mention this to Maebh. I almost laugh out loud at the thought of her reaction.


Maebh is looking at me. I have the strange impression that she knows exactly what I’m thinking, can in fact read every thought going through my head. She’s choosing her words carefully.

‘Weren’t you happier doing the music on the side? Do you honestly think this is going anywhere? Why do you even need to be in London?’

I read the questions in her silence, her mouth slightly open her head tilted to the left, those big brown eyes filled with concern. These are the questions my parents have asked me - Mam in her loving, concerned manner, Dad blunt and practical. They’re questions I’ve asked myself, while trying to show the rest of the world how well everything is going, with a carefully curated Instagram feed, showcasing the highlights, creating an impression of my life in London that is simply a lie.

But Maebh gets me. She’s always understood who I am, in the same way as I understand her. She’s pragmatic and sensible, and I know that in my shoes, she’d choose the realistic, reliable option. It’s not that she doesn’t understand what it is to want to be an artist – Maeve is an impressive amateur photographer, and we’ve had many long conversations about how she could make something happen with that, how liberating it would be to escape the system and chase a life of pure passion – but I know that she’ll never leave her job unless there’s a clear cut path to success. I’m willing to crawl through the hard times, living day to day, suffering the doubt and the fear and the embarrassment, with no light at the end of the tunnel, but Maebh doesn’t have that liberty. She was the brainy, hard-working kid in school, the star hockey player, the girl the teachers in our school would have pinned a ‘Most Likely to Succeed’ label on if we were in one of those weird American high schools. She’s constricted and defined by her success – I’m liberated by my mediocrity.

‘Do you want to be in a band? Or could you make it happen on your own?’ This is the question she finally asks.

I feel a rush of appreciation run through me at these words. No subtle hints that the music thing might not be for me, or suggestions of giving it all up, of quitting masqueraded as practicality. We’ve skipped over all of that, because Maebh knows as well as I do that it’s not going to happen. To have someone know you intimately, and be able to step into your mind and think as you, not for you, is a wonderful thing. Everybody deserved a friend like Maebh Cawley.

‘I hadn’t really thought about that’, I answer truthfully, mulling the thought over in my head. ‘I suppose I’m so used to playing with bands, I’ve never even considered going solo’.

‘Think about it’, she presses, leaning forward, almost sending her orange juice flying off the table. ‘You’d be able to choose your own gigs, and your own songs. You’re already the singer, and you’re ever bit as good on guitar as whoever is in your band – don’t even try to tell me you’re not. So all you’d need is some backing drums and a little bass, and anyone can do that with a MacBook these days. Jesus, Ed Sheeran sold out Croke Park with a bloody guitar and a microphone this summer!’

I cringe slightly at the reference – I have no wish to be the next Ed Sheeran, but her words have had an effect on me. Now that I think about it, most of the problems with the music over the last few months have come from being in a band – choosing the songs, choosing the venues, trying to schedule practice sessions around everyone’s busy lives, dealing with arguments and breakups and mood swings – all distractions from what we’re actually trying to create. Going solo would solve all of that overnight.

Again, I get the impression that Maebh is inside my head reading my thoughts, and I know we’ve both hit on the same note, jarring slightly in what was a pleasing little melody. It’s me. I’m the problem with that plan. I’m just as prone to messing up the group’s plans as anybody else. In fact, in all honesty, I’m probably the most highly strung, and the most likely to let a bad day get in the way of a productive practice session. But at least if I was on my own, I could work on my own problems.

‘That’s not a bad idea’ I say at last, pushing the last few bits of food around on my plate. ‘In fact, it might just be a bloody brilliant one’.

‘I think you should give it a try’, Maebh says. ‘You were way happier doing your own thing before you moved over, and I feel like you had a pretty good thing going. I know you don’t want to teach fulltime, but at least if you did a few days a week here, it would pay the rent and you could actually focus on the music without having to worry about all the other crap’.

‘I’ll think about’, I say, and I mean it. ‘Thanks, Maebh. If the career in medicine doesn’t work out, you could go back and take over from Murphy as the guidance counsellor’.

We laugh at that, and the conversation moves on. Maebh wants to know all about my family, how Ronan’s getting on in college, if my mam is still going to Spain for the wedding in June. We leave Butler’s and take a walk around town, hands stuffed into jacket pockets to protect against the bitter cold. We pass a few people from school and have the same stifled conversation each time, exchanging two minutes of conversation before wishing the other party a happy Christmas and moving on

As we say our goodbyes at the bottom of High Street, a forty foot Christmas tree towering above us, sparkling with light even at this early hour, I feel a pang of loneliness at the thought of not seeing Maebh again for who knows how long. Both of us make promises to visit the other, Maebh proclaiming that she’d love to come back to London, and listing off the shows that she’s dying to see on the West End, but we both know that they’re empty promises. Close as we are, we live two separate lives, Maebh joined at the hip with Anthony, and I know that this is goodbye for a long time.

A few weeks later, I’m back on a Ryanair flight to London Luton. I watch the traffic stream through the streets of Dublin beneath me as we ascend to forty thousand feet, and find myself replaying that conversation with Maebh once again. I think of a lesson I’ve taught often at the beginning of a school year or block of teaching practice, when creating a good classroom environment is the main priority. The question I would always ask the students was ‘What does it mean to be a good friend?

        Soaring over the Atlantic on that January morning, I find myself answering my own question. A good friend is someone who lets you be yourself, who accepts you as you are and doesn’t try to change you. A good friend is someone who thinks differently than you, but can step into your world and see life through your eyes. Maebh Cawley is a good friend, and my world is a better place because of her.

October 12, 2019 03:57

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Sadia Faisal
06:39 May 26, 2020

nice story, also like my stories if you like them and send me me feedback if you would like and please follow me.


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Eva Adams
04:32 Oct 18, 2019

I read this story because I wanted to read one that hadn't yet been 'liked'. I'm new to reedsy and about to post my first story, so I wanted to get an idea of what kind of stories people were writing. Were stories with 30+ likes any better than stories with none? The title was quick to catch my eye. I wanted to know what it meant. It took quite a few reads to fully get its meaning, especially the first few paragraphs. It's not until the point at which Maebh arrives at the cafe, that the narrator's voice sounds like his own. From ...


Eoghan O' Connor
18:13 Oct 18, 2019

Hey Eva, thanks so much for the comment! This was the first story I've written in a long time and I just wanted to challenge myself to get something out there 😆 Thanks so much for taking the time to read my story, and I really appreciate your comments! I wrote it over two mornings at 5am so that might explain some of the inconsistencies 😂 Looking forward to reading your stories 😆


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