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From the Archive Short Stories

A Shoulder to Cry on

Noami has lost someone close to her, she needs all the support she can get from her friends online. The problem is, you cannot always see the truth from the other side of the screen.

Dingy light spilled into the room. Lit by little more than a flickering screen and a dull bulb. If rooms carried emotions this one appeared hollow and empty. No joy. A room that screamed, or more accurately, whispered concern.

A familiar song floated across, “I was alright for a while…” Several people waited for Naomi to speak. Unsure of what to say, what do you say in situations like this? It still didn’t seem real, it was like a nightmare made flesh.

“Crying over you…” The song continued.

“I just wish that I had done more, I could have done something…” her voice, accent from her youth still lilting, came in short bursts, like an excited child. “He rang before, I, I didn’t know…” her head bowed, an act of contrition?

“Naomi, you did all you could.”

“You’re a wonderful person.”

“We’re here for you… “

Voices with genuine concern and care seemed to come forward. Almost in unison they supported and helped. Connecting with Naomi, her grief.

They were right, she couldn’t have done anything. A shy smile, apparently the first for some time broke then was immediately hidden by liquid waves of grief.

Naomi seemed to bravely move forward. The look between determination and realisation. She had been a good friend, the best. All of them thought and said so. “I still feel responsib” she was cut off before the word fully formed.

“Now just stop it. “the almost matronly tone cut in. Sarah was whisked back to her sensible mother, always there and supportive in the way only a good mother can be. It filled her with a; with a warmth, a platonic hug she so desperately needed. It felt good a moment to embrace and be selfish. All her friends thought so told her so, they wouldn’t lie. Here they were now, waiting to tell her the truth, the way she should be feeling.

A new song had begun playing, the lyrics echoed into her mind, “God only knows what I’d be without you…”

She didn’t know how to feel but tears seemed to threaten brimming up again, it looked like the pain was still too recent. They picked up on it. Silent for long enough to show solidarity then together saying the heartfelt platitudes, the helpful sayings the “well dones,” and the “you couldn’t do mores.”

You cannot know what exists on the other side of the screen.

“look guys, I love you all but need some time.” One by one they formed more platitudes of support and they left.

 Sarah was alone. A strange smile splashed across her face as she threw the newspaper down. It stayed open at the obituary page. Specifically, suicides. She clicked the screen off. The end of the chat. The ‘friends’ she cultivated and needed. People she never met, a pretence just as she was.

Sarah grinned. Next time it would be. More than a friend, next time at least a boyfriend. Fake sublime sympathy. It was perfect, disposable despair, more importantly, it gave attention.

Ironically, she seemed happy.

Eyes were red-rimmed, dewy, and raw. A pale face emerged from the gloom. Sarah was the image of sadness and upset. More than upset, blank to the point of emotionless that only comes with a deep-drawn loss. Her hair streaked with preemptive grey tangled and wove around her face, framing it in limp coils. The darkness contrasting with her face.

With a decisive click her screen dimmed, the image of the young woman from somewhere else closed, ‘Naomi’ had served her purpose. The voices of text disappeared. She was left, ironically alone. Still, at least for a few minutes, she had been the centre of virtual attention. The name in the obituary column had served his purpose, donated sympathy and attention, to Sarah more important than lungs and corneas.

Ironically, she seemed happy.

By magpiestories

An English teacher by trade, an author at heart, it only took a global pandemic for me to start writing my first novel. Along the way, I found a love for creating shorter fiction which I share on this site along with some updates and (hopefully) useful writing tips.

I hope you have a... pleasant time reading.

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