As part of our Look After Your Mate campaign, we held a creative writing competition on the theme of ‘friendship’ in partnership with The Student Wordsmith. This is the third and last of our winning entries, a short story called “The Outing” by Aisling Lewis. Thanks to everybody who entered the competition! We hope readers will be inspired to think and write about their own experiences of supporting a friend.
by Aisling Lewis
‘The strangest thing happened to me yesterday.’
‘Well, someone I met on Saturday night phoned me to ask me out for a drink.’
‘I know! I didn’t know what to do.’
‘Wow. I don’t remember the last time anyone who wasn’t my mum, or you, called me. Red or white?’
Surveying the restaurant Kate noticed how busy it was for a Wednesday and assumed that everyone else probably had the Vouchercloud app too. There was an elderly couple a few tables away who were sitting next to each other as opposed to opposite. Kate couldn’t work out if this was a wonderful gesture of enduring romance, or miscommunication and stubbornness.
While Alice examined the menu Kate observed the décor. On the wall behind Alice was a black and white canvas print of Big Ben. Next to that was a poster of a Samuel Johnson quote about being tired.
‘There’s a girl over there wearing an incredible dress. Blonde hair. Quick, she’s looking at her menu, turn around, quick!’
Kate span herself around.
‘Bit much for this place, isn’t it? She must be on a date.’
‘You know, I thought she was that girl you used to hang about with before you went… away’
Alice’s head was turned down into her menu but both could feel her awkwardness.
‘That’s it. She looks a bit like her, don’tcha think?’ Kate didn’t bother turning around to look again.
‘Have you heard from her… since? Or, you know, recently?’
‘Oh. I wonder what she’s doing now.’
‘Use your imagination.’
Both waited for this cloud of clumsiness to pass.
The wall was painted a deep maroon colour, some years ago, and beneath the loud murmur of chatter and the clinks of crockery, Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know could be heard in the background. To their right was a young couple with enough Topshop bags at their feet to explain the lack of conversation at the table.
Alice discreetly checked her watch. ‘Did I tell you that a girl I work with has just moved into a place on the road we were looking at?’
‘She’s living on her own though. I couldn’t do that’.
‘Because you can’t take the tops off your eggs?’
‘Exactly! And who would fake tan my back?’ They exchanged wide grins, long overdue. ‘Right’. Releasing her fingers Alice announced that she would be ordering the ‘Bruschetta, risotto and the house red.’
‘Lovely. Should I have the avocado salad, or, the burger?’
Aisling has recently finished an MA in Creative Writing at Loughborough University. During this time she developed a narrative of historical fiction set in World War Two Britain which she hopes to turn into a novella. At 23 she is yet unable to drive, but rather impressively, can recite by heart, the whole of David Bowie’s Jean Genie.