The Gift of Friendship
Many people who’ve read my debut novel The Magic Touch have been quite taken with the friendship between the protagonist Emma King and her ninety-three-year-old neighbour, Alistair. I’ve always valued friendship and I think this is reflected in my writing. A good friend can be your companion, therapist or someone you can have a good old giggle with, and, if you’re lucky, they can be all three.
My friends come in all shapes and sizes. There are no rules in the Kelly F spectrum when it comes to friendship. We don’t have to be the same age. We don’t necessarily have to have things in common (although an interest in scoffing cakes and necking wine helps), nor must we have similar backgrounds. In fact, I love contrast. I believe that you glean different things from different people. But one thing I believe a friendship must have is that ‘spark.’
Fortunately, I make friends quite easily but this isn’t the case for Emma King. Having grown up with a very strict father and then rushing into a marriage that turned into a living hell, Emma, quite understandably, is cynical about trusting people. In fact, she can count her friends on one hand and still have digits left over. But friendship isn’t about quantity, it’s about quality. And one friendship she values dearly is that of neighbour, Alistair.
Although they’re generations apart, Emma genuinely loves spending time with him. Yes, she does all the neighbourly things too – brings in his wheelie bins, takes parcels in for him when he’s out, she even does a bit of shopping for him when he needs it. But she also finds him incredibly funny, clever and entertaining. Having two daughters of his own, Alistair sees Emma as a third daughter, particularly as he doesn’t see as much of his own family as he’d like to. He knows how lonely some old folk can get, even ones with big families like his, and he’s grateful to Emma and Harry for including him in their lives with such sincerity and warmth. And likewise, Emma sees Alistair as a bit of a father figure. He’s one of the first people she turns to for advice when she’s in trouble, and you see this quite quickly in the story when she confides in him about the text messages she’s spied on her partner Harry’s mobile phone from a female colleague.
Here’s a short excerpt….
I only popped in to bring him his groceries and have ended up in a game of Scrabble. I ache to tell him about text-gate, but I don’t think I could bear it if he thought badly of me. He’s very fond of Harry. They sometimes play golf together or the odd game of short tennis. But, then again, Alistair is full of wisdom. I’m sure he’d put me on the right track. He’ll know what to do. I haven’t got a very good relationship with my own father, never have, not for want of trying. I idolised him as a child, and Alistair has filled that gap these last three years.
‘I’ve got this friend,’ I begin, swallowing hard and staring at my Scrabble tray.
‘Oh yes?’ He raises his eyebrows and examines the board, chin in hand, thoughtfully.
‘She found a couple of text messages on her boyfriend’s mobile that seem a bit … well, odd.’
‘Yes, you know,’ I wave a hand dismissively, ‘… suspicious.’ I twist my lips to the side as I shuffle the tiles on my tray, giving him intermittent glances. I don’t want to miss any facial responses.
‘Suspicious how?’ He looks up at me with a deadpan expression.
‘She thinks it’s from another woman.’ I stare at him but he doesn’t flinch.
We’re silent for a few moments and then he says. ‘I told you mobile phones are the work of the devil, Emma. But what does an old man like me know?’
‘Yes, well, anyway,’ I say quickly, ‘she’s really worried now, thinks he’s having an affair because he’s sort of gone off her a bit as well.’
‘I see.’ He takes a deep breath, diverting his eyes to the board.
Indeed, apart from their love of Scrabble and gin and tonic, Emma and Alistair have little else in common. But Emma and Harry bring vitality, companionship and vibrancy into Alistair’s otherwise lonely existence, and he enriches Emma’s life with his humour, wisdom and warmth. And he plays a mean game of Scrabble. With a fifty-four year age gap, it is an unlikely friendship, but it has that spark. It works.
The Magic Touch was published in March 2016 and is available to download from Amazon