Diary of a Friendship


Diary of a Friendship



I rushed towards the overturned shopping trolley, picked the child up and set her on her feet, ‘are you ok?’

Saucer-like blue eyes stared at me, a tear suspended on her lower right eyelid.

‘Ava!’ A blonde-haired woman with tanned skin and lips as plump as tomatoes, appeared from the next aisle. She hoisted the trolley to its wheels and plonked the kid back into the seat.

The child’s face crumpled, and she began to wail.

‘Thanks,’ the woman shouted over the din.

‘Is she alright?’ I replied.

The woman scanned her daughter’s head with her fingers, ‘she’s fine, thanks.’ She held her forefinger over her lips and glared at Ava, ‘that’s enough!’

‘Are you sure?’ I asked, ‘Do you have far to go? I could drop you off.’

‘That’s kind, but we only live around the corner,’ she smiled, revealing a set of perfect newsreader white teeth. ‘I’m Sara.’

‘I’m Jane,’ I replied.

An awkward silence hovered.

'Well, have a nice weekend,' I waved and disappeared behind the cereals' row, feeling

a little embarrassed. 

The following Monday, we ran into each other again when she dropped Ava off at nursery, and I was on my way to work.

‘Hello,’ I smiled.

‘Hi! I’m just getting Madam here off to daycare,' Sara tugged Ava's arm to emphasise the point.

'I'm glad she's ok,' I smiled. 'Sorry, I have to go; I don't want to be late.'

‘Look, how about you come over for a drink?’ Sara asked. ‘Say, Thursday at seven?’

‘Thursday?’ I hesitated a second to give the appearance of mentally checking my diary. 'Thanks, that’d be lovely.’ It would make a change from heating up a frozen ready-made meal for one, I thought. We exchanged telephone numbers.

Later that week, Sara opened her front door, and I walked in, past the cartons of milk and juice stacked against the walls.

'Ava's at her dad's; we're separated,' Sara poured two generous glasses of red wine. 'Red ok?’

‘Yes,’ I lied, noticing her manicured gel nails, wondering how she managed to do anything remotely practical with her hands.

‘Back in a tick,’ Sara returned with a plate of quiche slices and a bowl of crisps, setting them down on the coffee table. ‘What do you do?’

‘I’m a town planner,’ I reply.

‘Oh right,’ Sara offered me a plate. ‘What’s that?’

'It's sort of checking that new developments take the well-being of residents into consideration,’ I reply.

‘Cool,’ Sara says and refills her glass.

‘And you?’

‘I’m a beautician,’ Sara spreads her fingers to show her work. ‘Nails, skin, massage, facials, you know the kind of thing.’

‘More fun than my job,’ I say.

‘Less well paid,’ Sara replies.

‘It can’t be easy being a single parent,’ I take a slice of quiche.

‘I get every other week off,’ she laughed. ‘But my ex is mean with child support.’

‘I’m sorry,’ I sip my wine.

'Don't be. I'm better off rid,' Sara sighs. ‘You see this?’ She points to a tiny ‘L’ shaped scar on her forehead. ‘He pushed me, and I caught my head on the corner of the extractor fan.’

‘Oh dear,’ I commiserate, for what else was there to say?

‘It wasn’t the first time,’ Sara put her glass on the table, ‘I just need a divorce now.’

'Look, if you need anything, I’m here,’ I touch her arm.

‘Thanks, Jane,’ she smiled, ‘I’m happy I bumped into you.’

The following day, Sara phoned. ‘Can you babysit Ava tonight? I wouldn’t ask, only I’ve got a counselling appointment.’

I sensed the desperation in her voice. It was my chess night, but I cancelled and went to Sara’s.

'You're a lifesaver!' Sara hugged me; her floaty summer frock clung to my sensible work dress. She peered at me through spidery false lashes. 'I've made up a bottle for Ava. Just read her a story and put her to bed; she's no trouble.'

Sara's stilettos clattered through the hallway as she flew out the door. A waft of perfume lingered before dissipating.

Ava snuggled up to me, fairy-tale book in hand.

She pointed at Cinderella, ‘Pretty Thindy.’

By seven, she was asleep. I moved around the house, taking it in. A multitude of shampoos and conditioners cluttered the bathroom. Hair straighteners and eyelash curlers perched on top of the cabinet. A yellow plastic duck lay abandoned in the bath. A purple lacy thong and matching bra hung over the shower door.

My snooping was interrupted by the telephone ringing. Who rings a landline these days? I didn't answer it; after all, it's not my house. The call went to voice mail, and a male voice spoke.

‘Sara? Sara? Please pick up,’ his voice was calm, begging. ‘I just want to say goodnight to Ava.’

The husband sounded reasonable, not at all how Sara had painted him.

While waiting for the kettle to boil, I ran a clean cloth over the kitchen surfaces. I checked the baby alarm and sat down to watch a documentary about the rebuilding of Ypres after WWI. I eased off my brogues and wiggled my toes. I must have nodded off because the sound of the front door slamming woke me.

'Sorry I'm late, Jane,' Sara set her handbag on the table and removed her dangling earrings.

‘No worries,’ I checked my watch; eleven forty-five, an hour past my usual bedtime. ‘How was the meeting?’


‘The counselling?’ I swept my hands down my dress to straighten the creases out.

‘Oh, yeah,’ Sara smiled, ‘interesting.’

‘I’ll be off,’ I gathered my things. ‘By the way, not a peep out of Ava.’

‘Thanks a million,’ Sara’s eyes flitted to the flashing light on the answering machine and back to me.  ‘Oh, by the way, I’m planning a pizza night with the girls. Are you up for it?’

‘That’d be nice,’ I said as I stepped out into the dark.

‘Great, I’ll let you know. Bye!’ Sara waved.

During the walk home, I thought about Sara. She was flighty and fun, everything I wasn’t. It felt good to have a new friend in an unfamiliar town.

The pizza evening fell a bit flat, with only two of Sara's friends showing up, but still, it was good to chat.

I babysat a couple of times a week before Sara invited me to a make-up party at her place. Selling cosmetics to friends supplemented her income, she told me. Six women sat in front of mirrors, cleansing their skin. Tiny circular cotton pads were scattered across the dining table like miniature pancakes.

‘Jane, let me show you the value of a good foundation,’ Sara indicated towards the chair.

‘It’s all about tint and texture,’ Sara held a shade card up to my skin. ‘Mmm… almond sheen.’ She scraped my hair back, dotted the liquid over my face, and smoothed it in; this was followed by a blusher, eye shadow, liner, and mascara.

Fifteen minutes later, when she gave me the mirror, I gasped, all my freckles had disappeared, and my eyes shone like turquoise jewels.

'Ta-da!' Sara said.

The other ladies muttered oohs and aahs.

‘Next?’ Sara asked.

A lady with corrugated ginger hair squeezed into the chair.

I went to the toilet, checking my face in the hall mirror on the way; I looked pretty glamorous.

The tail end of a conversation filtered through the open door, ‘…not your usual sort of friend?’

I patted my hair back in place and turned towards the stairs.

‘Free babysitting,’ Sara laughed.

My heart jumped. I stopped mid-step, took a sharp intake of breath and felt my face flush. Surely, Sara's joking; we're friends.

The following week, Sara invited me round; I arrived with a good bottle of chilled white wine. We sat on the sofa. Ava climbed onto my lap with a storybook, 'Weed, Jane weed,’ her sticky fingers clutched mine.

After Sara put Ava to bed, we chatted.

‘My ex was so annoying; he never cleaned the filter on the dishwasher!’ Sara said.

‘Didn’t you love him once?’ I dared to ask.

‘I suppose so. I did marry him,' Sara giggled.

I yawned and stretched my arms; listening was tiring, and Sara's separation from her husband was an ongoing soap opera.

The following day, I returned home to find two policemen at my front door.

‘Hello, Jane Sandgate?’ The grey-haired man asked.


‘I'm Police Constable Harrison, and this is my colleague Constable Taylor. May we come in?’

The keys rattled in my hand. I felt my heart beating fast; I managed to insert the key in the lock, turn twice and push the door open. I led the pair into the sitting room.

'What's this about?'

‘We received your details on a report of domestic violence,’ Constable Harrison said. ‘Sara Coleman told us you witnessed a violent attack upon her.’

‘W-w-what?’ I gulped.

‘Do you know Sara Coleman?’ Constable Harrison took his notebook from his pocket.


He was poised to write, 'do you know her husband?'

‘No, I’ve never met him,’ I shake my head.

‘Did you see anybody attack Sara Coleman?’ Constable Harrison insisted.

‘No,’ I reply, ‘not at all.’

'We're sorry to have disturbed you, Ms Sandgate,’ Constable Harrison said, rising to his feet. 'Here's my card, in case you remember anything relevant.'

When I shut the door behind the policemen, I leant against it. Tears of frustration and rage trickled down my face. How dare she implicate me in her hornet's nest of divorce; that was taking advantage of a person’s kind and generous nature.  I was taken for a fool. No more.

That evening, I organised my social life in a structured way. I joined the Arts Society and The Mermaids’ outdoor swimming group; together with the chess club, at least three evenings a week were full.

I shifted the furniture around the living room and removed the net curtains to allow sunlight to flood the room.

My smartphone beeped; I ignored it. I ordered a Chinese takeaway and drank half a bottle of Chablis. Empowered, I slept like a baby and woke rejuvenated.

At work the following day, I googled how to block phone numbers from calling you and blocked Sara's number. I deleted her messages without listening to them.

I left the office and walked to the sea. The salty air tasted delicious. A mass of birds gathered on the pier, their shapes silhouetted against the sunset, and they swooped up and down, performing a dusk dance.

That evening, the doorbell rang. I peered through the window to see Sara standing on the doorstep. I hid out of sight.

'Please, Jane, I just want to talk to you,' Sara shouted, 'I can explain.'

The ringing became more insistent, and she even started kicking the door.

‘Jane! Jane!’

I took a deep breath and exhaled.

Sara hit the door with her fists, 'Jane!’ Bang, bang, bang. The windowpanes in the door rattled.

I felt a tightness growing in my chest. Suddenly everything went quiet. I ventured into the hall to see if Sara’s shadow was visible through the frosted glass of the front door. Nothing. Phew.

The reassuring silence was shattered by an almighty crashing of glass. I screamed as tinkling shards settled on the living room floor. My heart thumped; a brick lay on the exact spot where I had been sitting just five minutes before.

With trembling fingers, I called the emergency services, 'Help! Someone threw a brick through my window!' I yelled and managed to give my name and address.

I peeped into the room and saw Sara through the jagged glass, standing in the front garden hands-on-hips, glaring.

‘All you had to do was open the door!’ Sara barked, her eyes bulging with anger. ‘Now look what you made me do!’

My jaw dropped open.

‘You stupid bitch! All you had to do was say yes, you saw him hit me!’ Sara shook her head and stomped her feet, and pointed at me. ‘But no. You decided to drop me right in it!’

In the distance, Police sirens wailed, getting louder as they got closer.

Unabashed, Sara ranted on, ‘it's not too late; you can change your statement.'

I ran out into the street as the police car skidded to a halt.

The policemen arrested Sara. When they led her to their car, she spat at my feet.

‘Sad cow!’ She glared at me.

‘We’ll have none of that,’ the policeman placed his hand on her head and bundled her into the car.

Still shaking and with tears streaking my face, I poured myself a brandy and sat down until I felt ready to call a glazier and clean up the damage. 

I never saw Sara again, and I heard that Ava went to live with her father. My window got repaired, and I became more careful about who I spoke to in supermarkets.


Sheila Kinsella


Belgium based writer Sheila Kinsella’s short stories draw inspiration from her Irish upbringing. An avid watcher of people’s behaviour, and blessed with abundant natural curiosity, Sheila lures the reader into a shrewdly observed world via imagery and comedy.  Sheila graduated with an MA in Creative Writing (Distance Learning) from Lancaster University in the United Kingdom in 2017.




‘Maddy,’ in Story Radio Podcast on Spotify (30/6/2021)



The Birthday,’ in Funny Pearls  (07/2021)



‘Mormor’s Will,’ in Bewildering Stories (2021)



‘Lena,’ in Severine Literary Magazine:  (1/12/20)



'The Girl On The Till Can’t Spell,’ in The Blue Nib Literary Magazine (12/06/20)



‘Red Flag,’ in The Galway Review (09/11/20)



  1. Interesting story. I did want to know more about the baby at the end and the future for Jane.
    Perhaps you could make a series out of this baseline?

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