Reaching Out

Shutterstock © Many hands reaching into centre for uplifting short story Reaching Out


In this uplifting short story, two women are separated by a street, two front doors and fifty years, but it seems they have some things in common…

I’m sitting in the window, writing an assignment for uni on my laptop when I notice the light go out in the ground floor flat across the road.

I glance at the time. That poor, lonely woman! So early to bed every night, even on weekends. She lives alone and I’ve never seen her have a visitor. She seems to have no social life at all.

I think about the gang I have coming over tomorrow night. Just some music and a few drinks in the garden, but it will probably go on pretty late.

I’d ask her to come, but there must be a fifty-year age gap between us. I can’t see her being comfortable around my friends. Even so, I feel bad about her being so isolated. There’s no one else of her age in the street.

The following Monday, we’re walking towards each other on opposite pavements, heading for our respective front doors.

“Hiya!” I call, and cross the road.

“Oh, hello.” She looks wary. I’m used to that. It’s my spiky pink hair, nose ring, leather skirt, Doc Martens and red tights with a hole in the knee.

People shouldn’t judge by appearances, although one reason I dress this way is to wind up the kind that do. My neighbour couldn’t be dressed more conservatively, her hair in a neat bun.

“I hope we didn’t keep you up with the party?” I smile.

“No, it wasn’t a problem.”

“How are you liking the neighbourhood?” I ask.

“It’s all right.”

I glance at her plastic shopping bag, which looks as though it contains just a couple of tins. I wonder if she’s eating enough. She’s very thin.

“Well, I’d better be going.” She waves a key towards her door.

“See ya, then. I’m Izzy. You ever need anything, just knock.”

“Thanks. I’m Olive.”

Two evenings later, I watch Olive go indoors. I hurry across the road before she has time to start cooking.

She opens the door cautiously.

“I hope you won’t be offended,” I say, heart quickening. “But I always cook too much and wondered if you’d like this?”

I hold out a bowl of hot stew, wrapped in a tea cloth.

She looks embarrassed, probably wondering if I see her as a charity case. I just want to make her feel welcome.

“Thanks,” she says awkwardly. Then she smiles warmly. “That’s really kind.”

A couple of days later, she brings back the bowl, along with a plate of biscuits.

“I baked them myself,” she says shyly. “As a thank you.”

“They look yummy! Come on in and have a cuppa.”

I lead the way, before she can say no.

“Sit yourself down.” I move some books from a kitchen chair. “The place is a mess, but it’s cleaner than it looks!”

Olive examines one of my books and I tell her about my chemistry course.

“I wish I was that clever!” she laughs.

At first I do most of the talking, but gradually she opens up.

Turns out she graduated in English and got a job in a library. Despite what I said about judging by appearances, I have to say she looks like a librarian.

Her family live on the far side of the country and although they keep in touch by phone, she misses them. I know the feeling, but I’ve always found it easy to settle into new places and make friends.

Olive is more reserved. Not the sort to speak unless spoken to. She doesn’t say it, but I can tell she’s lonely.

It’s a shame, because once I get past her shyness she’s really nice.

“Do you like poetry?” I ask. “There’s a performance poetry night at the arts centre. Would you like to come?”

Although we probably look like a grandmother and granddaughter, we have a blast at the poetry night. We both like old movies, so we go to a classic cinema night, too. Trips to an art gallery and a museum quickly follow.

Olive even comes to one of my parties. She doesn’t stay late. My friends are a bit raucous for her, and the music, too. They all make a fuss of her, though, and I think she enjoys herself.

We’ve been friends for a few months when I ask her to a fashion fair.

“I can’t this weekend. I’m going to visit my family. It’s my birthday on Saturday.”

“You’re kidding? It’s mine on Sunday! No wonder we get on so well!”

On the Friday, Olive brings me a card with my age on the front: 75 Today!

I hand her one with a glittery 25.

Then, as my young friend heads home, I get back to my Open University coursework, smiling.

Enjoy these romantic short stories:

Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.