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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A short story about a depressed young guy, who has his mind opened by someone new



Winter had just begun. Roads were more slippery, hypothermia was a high possibility, the days were shorter and people were more inclined to stay indoors and do things people do indoors.

These were the things that came into Barnaby's head as he lay in total darkness in his room, curtains closed, heating off, body limp, feeling little emotion. Normally this would not be how Barnaby would be feeling. But at this point in time, Barnaby was depressed. These thoughts evoked no inner emotion, they meant little to him, like much else. He had been feeling this way for several weeks now, maybe longer. He didn't know why and didn't want to have the energy to find out. Nobody ever asked him to find out either, so he didn’t try. But this is not a story about Barnaby's depression.


As he lay in silence, only paying slight attention to his pattern of light nasal breathing, a faint buzzing sound murmured from beneath his pillow momentarily. After at least a minute and much mental nagging, Barnaby reached behind his head, under his pillow and drew the phone out from under him. The light illuminated his face and he winced as he clicked in the unnecessarily long pass code.

Who would look in my phone anyway, he thought. The text read:


Hey B.Winter!

We've recently refreshed your mobile allowance. Enjoy!

If you have any queries please contact this number and we will pass you on to a friendly member of our support staff


Brilliant. Someone wanted to talk to him? No. Why would they, he wondered, somewhat frustratedly.


Barnaby waited a few more minutes before emerging into the living room, where his mum slouched on the plush leather sofa, staring absently at some episode of some daytime show on the TV. The ghostly white smoke twirled out of the cigarette in her fingers.

“Hey” she said briefly.

He grunted as he went and sat down

“You have your things for school tomorrow?”

She was still looking at the screen. He looked at her briefly, then looked back to the computer and waited for a few seconds.


She didn't reply. He made a random Google search for funny winter ice accidents. They weren't very funny, but he could see how they could be.


The next day Barnaby trudged his way to school, passing cautiously between the icy barriers just outside the school premises, trying not to slip and fall again. A small crowd of year sevens were waiting in their, all pretty much identical, Adidas puffer coats all zipped up, making a gradually louder 'oh' as they watched, waiting for him to slip. When he didn't, they ignored him and repeated the same thing for the trio of sixth-formers a couple of seconds behind him, who told them all to get lost. The trio received an icy snowball to one of their faces in typical reply.



Barnaby somehow managed to sit through all the lessons he had until lunch. In his biology class, while scrawling a random swirl on the back cover of his textbook and paying as little attention as he could to whatever the fuck the teacher was talking about, he noticed a girl a few workbenches across from him looking out the window. She had been for a while. Her long, auburn hair gripped roughly in her left hand as she propped up her head. Barnaby watched as the teacher called out to her.

“Florence, the trees are very interesting I'm sure. But eyes this way please.”

He noticed the slightly embarrassed look on her face as she turned, eyes wide. This was the first time Barnaby had ever noticed her before. He’d been back for the 3 months, every day, since the year started but this was the first time he had, apparently, peered out of his prison cell to look around.

Her brown eyes gleamed from a subtly rounded face of mixed complexion. It took him a few more seconds to comprehend her delicate beauty. She looked tired and like she had been crying a while earlier. This was all Barnaby's slow, depressed brain could handle right now and he spent the remaining time pondering this information until lunch. Nothing else was going in anyway.


He reached the front of the queue and felt the usual sense of inexplicable anxiety.

“What can I get you?” the guy asked, who looked like he hadn’t showered in two days. It wasn’t a good sign for the food.

He seemed to stare absently straight through him.

“Hello?” he asked, dipping his head down slightly and looking up into Barnaby’s eyes with an articulate wave. Barnaby came to.

“Fish and Chips. No beans.”

“…Please?” The kind beast said, dipping his head to stare into Barnaby’s eyes, apparently trying to make some sort of point.



After he had collected his cutlery from the usual spot, he turned to the crowd. Hundreds of people, so many conversations. Too much to decide...

“Where do I go now? Fuuuuuckkkk.” Barnaby whispered to himself.

He forgot to prepare time to consider this shit. Now he was going to look stupid again.


He stood there, looking around for few moments before hearing a peculiarly loud crackle of laughter from a table of girls. He looked along the long bench and noticed the girl he saw from earlier, Florence, sitting a seat over from the group, eyes down, jabbing her fork into her fish.


Eventually he mustered up something he might once have called courage and wandered shakily over. He sat down, not opposite her, but one seat to the left – two seats away from the commotion – and started eating slowly. She looked up, noticed him, looked down and continued to jab at her fish.

“Hey” he murmured quietly.

She didn't seem to notice.

He felt embarrassed and a round of internal cursing and abuse ensued. After a brief while, she spoke.




“Why did you sit there?”



He looked up with surprise to her big, questioning eyes examining him.


“You looked lonely.”


“I'm with these guys?” she replied, gesturing over to the girls sitting a seat or two over from her.


He looked at the girls, who seemed totally oblivious to her presence, let alone the conversation the two of them were having.


“You can be in a crowd of people and still be alone.” he said.


She stared at him for a few seconds, then smiled slightly and looked back down at her plate. Barnaby didn't really know what to do, so he did the same.


“Well thanks” she said.

“That's okay”


Another pause.


“Who are you?”

He looked at her, somewhat surprised by the phrasing of the question.


“Barnaby Winter” he replied.


“Hm” she said. “I'm Florence”

“I know, you're in my Biology”

She smiled again, paused for a moment, and looked back down again. After a while she started to get up.

“I'll see you around Barnaby.” Florence said as she stepped out of her chair.

“See ya.”


He watched her go, sliding her tray onto the bench with the others. He noticed her thick-soled Doc Martens and black tights with a gash down the back of the thigh. A thin red scar, or maybe a few of them, were clearly visible on her skin. She walked off. He didn't see her until the next day.


It took him a lot of effort to even make it to school that day. It was one of his more ‘grim’ days. His thin blonde hair wouldn't seem to stay the way he wanted it to, and it bothered him all morning.


He sat down for lunch again. This time alone, a few seats over from a couple of younger kids who seemed to be having a strangely intimate conversation about their new contact lenses.

He sat for a while watching his soup go colder. After about 10 minutes of irritating remarks from his right, Florence sat down directly opposite him.


“Me again.” she said. He looked up and smiled perniciously.

“Uhh,” he was shocked, but had to not look stupid. “Hey, Florence.”

He surprised himself by remembering her name, he wasn't too good with names at the moment.


For a while they exchanged small talk about school, particularly teacher troubles and homework. She said something about her mum but it was too intense and he couldn’t remember it all.

But by the end of the meal they were speaking with increasing confidence about themselves and discussing music tastes. She liked the same sort of thing as him, which surprised him even more.

He noticed the delicate signs of eyeliner that he hadn't noticed before.

It brought out her eyes, he thought. But he couldn't quite figure out how to convert that to words, so he just listened to her instead.


This was probably the first 'more than okay' experience Barnaby had had for a while.


Later that day Barnaby was walking out of school, zipping up his coat and plugging in his crappy headphones for the quiet journey back home. Before he could fit in the right ear, he noticed a tap on  his shoulder. He turned around in shock, only to see a girl standing before him, only a few inches shorter than he, in a thick black coat with the hood up.


He recognised her eyes.


“Can you text me later?” she asked, “I wanted to tell you that song lyric I was going on about but couldn't remember.”


He paused.


“Yeah sure...” He took a moment to think. “What's your number?”


She stepped closer to him as he replied and he pulled out his phone with his cold, right hand. She read out the number, he typed it in, then wrote 'Florence' under the name section. He wondered.

“What's your last name?”


She seemed surprised.



“Your second name. It's for the phone contact… and because… I’m just wondering.”


She smiled a small smile.


“Its Summers. Florence Summers.”


It was a nice name, he thought.

After that, she said a quick goodbye and turned back to the school and began walking. It took Barnaby a few moments, as usual, to take in what had just happened.

For the first time in a long time, a big, uncontrollable grin was emerging, festering in the back of his mind.


He began to continue his walk, with a completely different set of emotions flowing through his body. He thought this might be what 'happy' used to be like.


Then he slipped on the thin patch of ice. The small group of year 7s thought it was brilliant.

They put their small hoods up and scampered off out the gate, giggling hysterically.


Winter was hilarious.



By Sean Kelleher

Submitted: January 18, 2021

© Copyright 2021 S.Kelleher. All rights reserved.

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