Friendship Plus

Woman, 52, medium-build, brown hair, seeks man (N/S, GSOH) for dinners out, walking, friendship +

Dee wrinkled her nose and poured herself another glass of Rioja. The only interesting bit was the plus, but she wasn’t even sure if she dared include it.

“But it matters! It matters almost as much as the friendship,” she murmured, staring at the page. Plus encompassed a whole gallery of dreams, moons, rainbows, candlelit caviar, weekends in Paris and fabulously naked bodies writhing under the bedclothes…stuff that at fifty-two you weren’t supposed to feel that bothered about. But bothered was exactly how she felt. She grabbed the biro and scrawled ten more plusses all over the page.

If only Alan could see her now!

She frowned. How were you supposed to make yourself sound desirable without either boasting or lying? The ads in the magazine by her elbow were peppered with words such as ‘attractive’ and ‘slim’. But could she in all honesty describe herself as either of those?

She forced herself into the hall and inspected her reflection in the long mirror from every angle; close-up, distant, directly under the glare of the light-bulb, a little back from it, stomach sucked in, stomach released into habitual paunch. It wasn’t good news.

There must be something about her that could kindle a spark of interest in the male psyche. Men had, after all, shown interest in the past. Alan had anyway. But interest was a slippery issue that came in many shapes and sizes. She would need to mull it over for a while.

The evening sun was filtering through the spots and smears of the kitchen window which she should have cleaned months ago. She downed her Rioja and went outside. The garden always helped when inspiration was called for. She noticed a couple of foxglove plants pushing up through the cracks between the paving stones. They would be better off in the border; they could fill up that bald patch of earth she disliked so much. She transplanted them tenderly one by one. Digging was always a therapy, the quiet rhythm of it, the warm, private feel of the soil.

Half an hour later she laid down the trowel with a sigh and took up the secateurs. Brambles – they were her job now, like so many things.

“You need me, Dee,” Alan had said. “You need me and I need you. We’ll be together forever.”

Forever! She grunted and tore at a bramble. It tore back at her through her gardening gloves. She winced. Her tolerance levels were not what they used to be. It was all to do with hormonal changes she believed.

A chill hung in the air and dew was beginning to form on the grass. Dee went back inside, looked at the wine bottle and got a pot of tea instead. She allowed herself just one chocolate hobnob. The brambles had pierced through her sleeves in several places and scratched long, red lines that criss-crossed the other wounds on her arms.

Back to business.

 Woman, 52, very passionate, a dreamer, chestnut hair and eyes to match, likes foxgloves, dislikes brambles. Seeks N/S man to share Rioja and friendship +

She liked that better. Yes, perhaps the secret was in being specific. Maybe she should be more specific about him, too:

 …seeks man not in the least bit like my ex-hubby, Alan.

No, she could not write that.

seeks kind, caring, honest, reliable, gentle, lovely man.

Now she was being ridiculous. Did any such creature exist? Her mind zizzed round in circles a few times and refused to focus. She’d have to sleep on it.

Alan came to her in her sleep. He sometimes did that these days. This time he was walking towards her with a pair of shears, slicing them open and shut in slow motion. She did not run or scream, just stood there, interested to see how far he would go.

She was relieved when she woke up. The dream had not been very real – shears would not have been his style – but it made her shudder all the same.

She missed him, in spite of everything. She was not used to being alone.

Woman seeks man. Desperate. Please love me!


They strolled around the lawn together, their shadows growing long. It was a compromise, of course. Matthew was not everything she had ever dreamed of, but he would do. She had pitched her wording just right in the end, keeping the ‘passionate’ and the ‘dreamer’ and mentioning her love of gardening – that bit had obviously registered. Matthew was courteous if a little full of himself, could not exactly be described as handsome but had nice dimples when he smiled, and he had bought her a pink camellia for the border (pink was a kind, gentle colour, she thought). Matthew worked in a bank, so money would not be a problem. And he liked food and travel, which boded well. It was even quite romantic, the speed of it all. He was moving in with her next week. He had wanted it to be the other way round but she’d insisted. She would never sell her house, her garden. Not now.

They’d already toasted their future and were a little tipsy. Soon would come the fabulously naked bit. But now, as they meandered, the talk was of the camellia.

“Where will you plant it?” he asked, hand linked in hers.

“Oh, there, I think, next to the foxgloves.” She’d been so busy with the border recently there was only one little space left.

“Lovely!” he said.

She smiled. She’d have to be careful not to dig too deeply. But it was nice to think of the camellia growing there right over Alan, drawing up new life from his pitiful remains. An image of herself baking his weed-killer pie flitted through her mind, but she quickly banished it.

That was in the past. Now she had friendship plus, and that was all that mattered.

HAZEL PRIOR has written many stories for both adults and children and has won several national writing competitions. She is currently working on her second novel. In between writing, she teaches English as a foreign language, sings a lot and enjoys being a freelance harpist. She lives in Exmoor with her husband and two cats.