Old Friends

Allison Hay © Illustration of two friends hugging.


Jen felt a little in awe of Lou’s high-spirited lifestyle…

Although on paper they had very little in common, Jen and Louise were best friends. Thrown together by work – they were both nurses in the same hospital – they had bonded over their love of cake, their hatred of back shifts and their enthusiasm for cleaning.

But anyone who knew them could point out that those were probably the only things the two women had in common.

With an age gap of almost thirty years between them, they had very differing views on life, love and loss, with Jen far more quiet and reserved in her outlook. Louise, on the other hand, was a force of nature, full of fun, always laughing and focused on finding her Mr Right in a world seemingly full of Mr Wrongs.

“I don’t know how you can be bothered, Lou.” Jen sighed after hearing about another of Louise’s disastrous dates. “Just the thought of having to get all dressed up, putting on make-up and doing your hair – wouldn’t you rather just stay at home and watch TV?”

Louise laughed.

“Listen to yourself, Jen! Life is for living, not just for watching. There’s nothing like walking into a busy pub or club on a Saturday night, hearing the throb of the music, and knowing that you could meet the man of your dreams…”

Jen smiled shook her head.

“I admire your dedication, Lou, but it’s not for me.”

Jen had a tidy, one-bedroomed flat in the town centre and spent her nights reading, watching telly and knitting.
Louise had guffawed loudly when Jen had told her about her latest hobby.

“Are you serious, Jen? Knitting?” she laughed. “Have you found a time machine and travelled back to the olden days?”

Jen pretended to take offence.

“Knitting’s becoming quite trendy, actually – Julia Roberts, Ryan Gosling and Lorraine Kelly all knit these days… ”

“That may be so,” said Louise, as she cut up a carrot cake to go with their morning coffee. “But it’s hardly the most sociable of pastimes, is it? How are you going to meet people and make new friends if you’re stuck at home with your knitting needles?” Jen helped herself to a bit of cake.

“Why would I want to meet new people? I’m quite happy how I am.”

Jen had always been a solitary person. An only child, she’d had one or two friends at school, then at college, but she had never actively sought out relationships. Although she was a popular and respected member of staff at the hospital, she never went out of her way to build on this.

The two women were almost always on the same shifts and worked well together. The other staff referred to them as “J-Lo” and teased them about being like a couple of kids in the school playground, the way they chatted constantly, shared every detail of their lives and kept in touch via WhatsApp whenever they weren’t in work.

Louise was constantly inviting Jen along on nights out with her ever-changing group of friends but Jen was reluctant.

“I like it when it’s just us together, Lou. Your friends are so boisterous and chatty. I’d feel like a mouse, sitting in the corner. Plus I’m from a totally different age group – people would think we were a mum and daughter out socialising!”

Louise tutted.

Who cares what people think? And anyway, what’s wrong with a mum and daughter hanging out together? Age is just a number.

One Friday, as the two women finished their shift, they walked out of the hospital together, chatting about the weekend when, for once, they were both off.

“I have a packed schedule, starting in an hour with my nail appointment,” Louise said, scrolling through her phone to see if she had any matches on Tinder. “Then I’m getting the eyelash extensions I told you about, before picking up a couple of click-and-collect parcels – potential outfits for tonight’s karaoke session.”

Jen, as always, watched and listened in amazement.

“How do you have the energy, Lou? And the confidence…”

Louise turned to her friend.

“Jen, I’m fifty-four years old, a stone overweight and I’ve been married and divorced twice! I don’t actually have much to be confident about but that doesn’t mean I can’t make the most out of my life.

“And there’s nothing to stop you doing the same, babes. You’re only twenty-five! Wouldn’t you rather pack your life full of adventures than watch it all happen to someone else?”

Jen smiled at her friend, so funny and wise and kind, and gave her a hug.

“You know what, Lou? Maybe I’ll come along to tonight’s karaoke session after all.”

Louise shrieked in delight and hugged the younger woman. Jen felt grateful to have such a good friend to go out with.

But she was also grateful that her TV and her knitting would be waiting for her when she got home again!

Read more uplifting short stories:

Read Open Mic Night, A Bicycle Built For Two, Curtains Up, plus many more in our archives.

Georgia Grieve