18+ short story category
‘Friends’ by Hedva Anbar won 1st place in the 18+ short story category of our Creative Writing 2020 Competition. The piece, read by Jo Lumber a performer for The Story Republic, was recorded for Source FM to be aired on the station’s ‘Story Hour’. Listen and read the story below.
by Hedva Anbar
What a mob! What a racket! I can’t take it much longer. Where is she? It’s almost an hour since the plane landed. Is that her in the red velvet jacket? No, too tall. That can’t be her, can it, that rhinoceros waggling a paw in my direction? My God! It is. It’s Julie. If I looked half that decrepit … half that wizened, awkward, shapeless … I’d top myself.
I take off my glasses. We hug cautiously.
‘How was the flight?’
‘I’m so glad to see you.’
‘I feel dreadful.’
She clutches my arm, managing at the same time to point at a trolley, on which sit a purple pot-bellied suitcase, a purple handbag and two yellow carrier bags with duty-free-shop logos. I manoeuvre Julie and trolley to a bench.
‘Sit down. You’ll soon feel alright.’
‘I must’ve caught a bug.‘
‘You’ll be right as rain in the morning.’
‘I hope so … otherwise … ’
‘You need a hot drink.’
She caresses meagre lips with a pale tongue. ‘Coffee. No milk or sugar.’
‘Don’t move. I’ll be back in a minute.’ I follow the cup-and-saucer symbol. She’s at it already. She’s not ill, just pretending, so that I’ll let her stay longer. I’d forgotten how manipulative she is … even as kids, getting me to do her homework in exchange for ciggies that never materialised. I should have ignored her hints about passing through London … or said: what a shame, I’m away that weekend. How could I be so stupid as to volunteer – yes, volunteer – to meet her at Heathrow and put her up for the night, which is bound to stretch to a week? Never again. Not ever.
I fill two cups with machine coffee, select two packets of mini-digestives and join the queue to pay. Where’s Julie? I can’t see that far without glasses. I shuffle through the throng carrying the tray at eye level. There’s her trolley. But where has that tiresome creature got to? Doesn’t she know that you mustn’t leave luggage unattended … like that untidy bundle on the floor. What is it? I lean forward. Panic chews me into a soggy mess. The tray, cups and biscuits go flying, hot coffee spills on my shoes and licks Julie’s face. I must wipe it off. Where are my tissues? A couple of middle-aged weasels scowl as they wheel their suitcases round us. Julie. Julie. Get up. Please Julie. Say something.
A uniformed man is pushing towards us. ‘Do something’, I shout. ‘Quick. Do something.’
He drops to his knees, feels her pulse. ‘I’ll get a doctor.’ he says. ‘We’ll look after her. Don’t upset yourself. Don’t worry.’
Don’t upset myself! Don’t worry! How can I not upset myself? How can I not worry? Hang in there Julie. Just get better and you can stay with me for as long as you want: a week, a month, a year, as long as you want.