Friday Friends – from ‘Drifting’ by Sean O’Leary

…I take the book and shove my Marlboros into my pocket with a small red lighter. I see light brown hair hanging over the back of an armchair. Ron Wilson is reading the news on Channel 10. I sit on a couch to the left of the armchair, opposite the windows. I look at a young girl in jeans and a light blue t-shirt. I guess she’s about eighteen or nineteen and when she turns to look at me I see those steel-blue eyes again. She has an oval-shaped face and the eyes are clear like the sky now. She’s slim and wearing black runners. She has a wide mouth with full lips. No lipstick. A black mole above her right eye sticks out and she smiles at me.
‘You recognise me from last night,’ she says. I’m not sure if it’s a question or a statement. I feel myself blushing and hate it. She smiles again and says, ‘My name is Kelly Landry. How old are you?’

‘Thirty. And my name is Benjamin.’
‘But Ben is okay, right?’
‘When you looked at me last night I couldn’t quite tell how old you are. You look old around the eyes, some strong lines but you have a young face.’
‘Yeah, I remember you,’ I manage to say.
‘Hey, what’re you reading?’
‘Twelve by Nick McDonnell. Do you know it?’
‘No. Have you read Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami?’
‘Yeah, I have. Um, that’s about the last thing I thought you’d ask me.’
‘I wanted your full attention. Do you know my favourite part of that book is when Midori
gets angry with Toru because he didn’t notice her new haircut? Is that stupid? With all the drama going on that conversation sticks with me, always.’

I look at her for a few long seconds trying to work her out and then say, ‘No, I totally agree. No wait. I need to think about something like that. It’s important.’
Nothing gets said for a minute. Ron Wilson tells us about some bushfires in the Margaret
River region and I say, ‘Have you read Murakami’s After Dark?’
‘Yes. He’s my go-to man at the moment. I went through a Kerouac phase and I carried Girl, Interrupted around with me for a year or so but at the moment it’s Murakami.’
‘Is that the book they based the film with Winona Rider and—?’
‘Yeah, the book is by Sussana Kayson. You’d like it if you like Norwegian Wood. Another
crazy girl.’

‘I’ll try and find it in a bookshop. You should read One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest if you
like crazy people and sad stories about them.’
‘I will. I bet you’re surprised you’re talking about all this; you know, about books and things, here in this pub in Geraldton with a skimpy girl.’ She’s made me turn red again but this time it’s because I’m a little ashamed that she could read my mind and how puerile and small-minded my thoughts were.
‘I guess I am. I … by the way how old are you?’
‘By the way I’m twenty-eight. I have to go to work now. You can come and talk to me there if it doesn’t embarrass you.’
‘Maybe not. Say, is there a good beach here? I mean there must be. Somewhere along the
road that runs by the ocean? Come to the beach with me tomorrow.’

‘Alright, I’ll knock on your door. You do know we’re the only two people living here.’ She
gets up and walks out and I see the line of her frilly light blue knickers above the back
waistband of her hipster jeans. I think about the beads of perspiration I saw on her stomach and breasts. Wow. She rocked me. She’s beautiful and smart and her eyes, they seem to change colour with her mood. In the bar, cold and blue but here, talking with me, they became calm and sky blue. I put my feet up on the small coffee table, pretty happy that it’s just the two of us living here. I shake a Marlboro Light out of my soft packet and light up, blow smoke into the roof and smile. She likes, no, she loves books. I butt my cigarette and go downstairs.

Sean O'Leary is a writer from Melbourne, Australia. His fiction, non-fiction and interviews have been published in Quadrant, FourW, Page Seventeen, Bravado, Takahé, Wetink, Famous Reporter and @ He has published two short story collections, 'My Town' and 'Walking'. His novella, 'Drifting' was the winner of 'The Great Novella Search 2016' and was published in September, 2017 by Busybird Publishing.

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