Stranger by Marilyn Payne

 Andrea sent me a friend request on Facebook.  I didn’t know her.  She was a stranger to me, but, if she’s a friend of Barbara’s, whom I have known since childhood, I trusted she would be a decent person.  We communicated through Facebook initially but then we spoke to each other on WhatsApp, on a one to one basis.

She became less of a stranger to me and more of an acquaintance.  She lived in the same town as myself, so we could relate to each other on local issues.  Then Covid 19 hit and we shared concerns for our friends and family.  We both had health issues so could empathise with each other.  

My daughter contracted the coronavirus and I was very worried about her and Andrea was concerned for my daughter and also me, as a mother.  She texted me almost daily.  During Lockdown Andrea and I had to order groceries online.  Andrea went to bed about 10pm each evening, always tired with her health issues.  However, this was the best time to find a delivery slot on Asda’s website.  I tended to look on the website each week for both of us and inform Andrea of the available slots.

“What would I do without you?”  She laughed.

“Starve!”  I replied, jokingly.

One day we agreed a time when we would chat on the telephone and we talked for hours.  On several occasions we spoke for long periods. During this time, I found out Andrea is a keen animal lover and doesn’t hold back with her opinions on animal cruelty.  It makes sense she is also a vegan.  What doesn’t make sense to me though, is how she loves snakes. I just don’t like the look of them.  I don’t find them attractive creatures at all.

During one of our texts, Andrea laughed.  “I will introduce you to Tommy one day”. 

“We’ll see.”  I replied, not convinced.

During lockdown Andrea agreed that staying home wasn’t a big deal for us.  Our health issues had kept us at home anyway.  However, we both acknowledged our routines had gone to the wall and we were becoming quite lazy.  We promised each other we would get stuck in to projects.  Hers was the garden and mine was writing.

Over the next five days I wrote something, anything, on a daily basis.  I attended a writing group on Zoom, where I got inspiration from the tutor and members of the group.  I actually got stuck into housework!

I realized I hadn’t heard from Andrea for five days.  I assumed she was busy also.  I sent her a text via WhatsApp and I wasn’t prepared for the reply.

“My brother’s died.  It was unexpected.  I am in shock.  Devastated.”

I felt physically sick.  Whilst I was trying to process the information, Andrea texted again.

“Can I ring you tonight?”  She asked.

“Of course you can.  Andrea, I am so sorry”.

“Thank you.  Is eight o’ clock ok to ring?”

“Yes.  So sorry Andrea.  Speak later”

We spoke for hours.  Well into the early hours.  She spoke of her shock at hearing of her brother’s death, the unexpectedness of it all and the frustration, hurt and anger she felt for losing him.

We spoke many times after that, for long periods.  Andrea supported me when my daughter had the coronavirus and I am supporting her with her grief and the difficulty of being partly responsible for organizing a funeral, with her health issues and in the current Covid 19 climate.

We haven’t yet met but we both agree that we are good friends now and our friendship will grow stronger.  So, a stranger became an acquaintance and is now a firm friend, thanks to our mutual friend Barbara and the power of social media.