800-WORD STORY ~ FRIENDS

Friends is the latest in the 800-word story series. You’ll find the first one here and the second one here.

I can’t speak for Eden, but I’m fairly confident that, like me, she finds that our collaboration continues to help us learn more about both our own writing and writing generally. This month it was my turn to write the opening and, having to include the seemingly unpromising prompt of ‘She found a diamond bracelet in the back of the car’, I really had no idea where to start, so, not even trying to guess where it would take us, I decided that the sentence suggested something about luck and took it from there. In fact, as you’ll see, the subject became something else altogether.

Prompt: ‘She found a diamond bracelet in the back of the car’
Parts 1 and 3 and title: Bill
Parts 2 and 4: Eden

* * *

 Friends

 

Petey and Joe had been friends since Primary School and, even back then, it was Petey who had the girls and Joe who wondered why he didn’t. Neither was funny-looking, but Petey had the chat. He even used it to try to shift some of the girls’ attention to Joe. It sort of worked a bit but, in the end, it was always Petey they wanted to be with.

Up until they were both fifteen, it was OK, but when kissing and the other hormone stuff kicked in, Joe’s frustrations and envy began to show more openly and they spent less time in each other’s company. In one way that was good, because with Petey out of the picture, Joe got more female attention, but each missed the other and the rare times they were out together, they talked mainly about the pre-girl bits of the good old days.

One Saturday evening, though, the girl thing did come up.

“It’s just luck,” said Petey.

“Yeah, but it’s all one way,” said Joe. “Luck’s supposed to even out.”

Petey couldn’t argue with that and anyway, he was meeting Sally at ten, and so it was nearly time for him to go.

+++

Joe had no interest in meeting Sally, but Petey insisted. The boys left the pub and walked toward where Petey had parked his car.

“Come on, you’ll like her. Besides, I’ll give you a ride home after I pick her up. You’re on the way.”

“Oh, where are you going?” Joe tilted his head in his friend’s direction.

“Umm … well …”

An uncomfortable silence filled the air. “Is it a secret?” Joe said.

Petey blew out a loud breath as if exhausted. “Of course not, don’t be daft. Sally wants me to see something at Colemans, that’s all.”

Joe screwed up his face. “You mean Colemans, the jewellery store? That Colemans?”

Petey nodded. “That’s the one.”

“It’s late, the store’s closed, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is, but she wants to show me something in the display window, been bugging me about it for weeks.” He raked his fingers across his hair. “I’ve put her off, but I can’t any longer. I’ve been meaning to tell you, but …”

Joe stopped mid stride. “Tell me what?”

Petey turned to him just as they arrived at his 1980 beat-up Ford Mustang. With a sheepish look, he said, “Sally and I are getting married.”

+++

The silence as they drove was awkward, menacing. At Sally’s house, Joe, looking straight ahead, asked, “Why?”

“Why what?”

“Marriage. Why?”

“Dunno,” said Petey. “Love, I s’pose”.

“Yeah, right,” said Joe.

Sally was waiting for them. Joe moved from the front seat to the back. She took his place and kissed Petey, who jerked his head towards the back seat, said, “This is Joe” and drove off again. There was tension between them, an edge, and the silence stretched. At last, Joe’s voice, its pitch higher, came from the back seat.

“Better than your last… fiancée.”

The final word was a sneer. The silence returned, then Joe again.

“Daisy, was it? Debbie?… No wonder they put her away… Bloody liar… Just a slag… Said she found a diamond bracelet in the back of the car… a Rolex on a basin in the bathroom… that credit card on the pavement… Yeah, right.”

Silence again.

“Bloody chancer … She was anybody’s you know. All over Bennie every Friday night… it was his watch she nicked…”

Sally looked at Petey, who shrugged his shoulders.

There was the echo of a laugh and the silence fell again. Sally turned her head. Joe was crying.

+++

Before the car came to a full stop, Joe opened the door.

“Hey!” Petey looked in the rearview mirror.

“Let me out!”

“What the—?” Petey hit the brake; the car lurched forward. Joe lost his balance and fell into his seat. The door slammed shut.

Petey immediately turned to Sally. “You okay? You hurt?”

“I’m fine … fine.” Sally smoothed down the front of her dress. “You weren’t going fast.”

“You sure?”

“Yes,” she said, breathless.

Joe ran out of the car. Petey put the car in park and ran after him. Moments later, he grabbed Joe by the arm, swung him around, and punched him in the face.

Joe fell, blood flowing from his nose.

Petey stood over his friend, hands on hips. He appeared ready to kick Joe when Sally ran up behind him. “No!” she yelled. “He’s bleeding.”

“I don’t care! You shouldn’t be here. Get back in the car.”

Sally ignored him, knelt in front of Joe and handed him a tissue.

Joe wiped his nose. “I love Petey.”

“I know,” she said, in a voice filled with compassion. She took his bloodied hand and pulled it to her belly. “Maybe you can love Little Petey too.”

* * *

As usual, comments, critical or otherwise, are welcome.

 

5 comments

  1. Hey Bill!

    Love the look of the site. I see you’re changing around some colours.

    I like this story. It’s sweet, really. You know how hard it is for me to write a twist ending that doesn’t involve killing someone … but the story didn’t call for it, so I think it deserved to have a positive ending.
    xo
    eden

    1. The site changes are thanks to you, of course, Eden. I’m glad you find they work. And I think the way you wrapped up the ending is perfect,. You’re right, a negative one would have been wrong.

  2. I love the atmosphere of this story. The first time I read it, I had a different interpretation. I assumed Joe suffering from losing his close friendship with Petey. Something that happens so often. There’s no twist that way. I was not mislead by the story, but by my mind.
    One thing, though. I wondered why girls preferred being with Petey. I

    1. Hi Anneke, thanks for commenting. Bill asked if I could offer some insight to your question about why girls preferred Petey. As Bill wrote, Petey did have “the chat,” and that can be taken so many ways. Maybe women found him chatty or charming or he had some other quality not revealed in the story.

      What I hope comes across is he loves and cares for Sally deeply, even though he’s not particularly forthcoming about this to Joe — that macho ‘guy’ way of talking is just a front. In private, I would see him as a real softie with women. He’s a protector, evident in how concerned he was with Sally when the car jerked to a stop, and how angry he was with Joe for almost causing an accident that could’ve hurt Sally and the unborn baby. That’s why he punched out Joe.

      If he’s this way with Sally –the woman he plans to marry, I think it reveals how he might have been with women in his past.

      Joe may lack the gift of gab, but we cannot know if this is the only reason women don’t like him. His jealousy of Petey turns him into a mean, sad character. He’s not happy for his friend but instead is concerned about his own needs. These are not attractive qualities for a man and may have been what he portrayed to the women of his past.

      I hope this answers your question a little, and thanks again for your comment!
      eden

  3. Thanks, Anneke. As usual, you pose interesting questions. My immediate reactions to your points are:
    • The Joe/Petey relationship is a long-term, childhood thing which has lasted long enough to follow them into adulthood. I don’t ‘know’ anything about it because, even though I set it up, I’m now speculating ‘objectively’ on the fiction. So I think you’re right and that both of them would suffer if/when the friendship ended – for whatever reason.
    • I think the other question (about why girls preferred Petey) should really be answered by a ‘girl’ but there’s the clue that Petey ‘had the chat’. Not only that, but he also used it unselfishly to try to help Joe whereas Joe was frustrated, envious and his comments about Petey’s previous ‘fiancee’ were unpleasant and designed to hurt. When writing my bits, I didn’t consciously think of this but as a reader I now see a difference between the two characters (although Petey’s violence towards Joe in the end is hardly attractive).

    Interesting to think that we’ve somehow given them life beyond the fiction.

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