A Year In France – Episode 10

Supplied © A Year In France illustration by Mandy Dixon

“Tina said you were couch-surfing. Where was the couch last night?”

Dannie waved a hand vaguely in the air.

“About twenty minutes away. Oh, bourbons, my favourite. Do you mind if I take two?”

“Of course not.” Maddy put the packet down on the table. “How long have you been in London?”

“Three weeks.”

Maddy took a sip of her own coffee and waited for Dannie to say more, but her mouth was too full of biscuit for her to continue.

Thoughtfully Maddy watched Dannie devour the biscuits then take a gulp of coffee. Something wasn’t right here. The more she looked at Dannie, the more she realised how unkempt she appeared.

When she could finally speak again, Dannie looked at Maddy.

“I came to be with my boyfriend who had a job down here six months ago. What I didn’t know was that he also had a new live-in girlfriend.”

“I’m sorry about that, but why didn’t you get straight back on the train and go home?” Maddy asked.

“I felt such an idiot. I had been telling everyone about this marvellous new life I was going to have in London with my boyfriend.

“We’d been together for over a year,” she went on. “I couldn’t face going home and telling people that he’d dumped me. I thought if I stayed and got a job it would be easier to admit in a month or two that we had broken up, but I was fine and had a life down here.”

“But you’re not fine, are you?” Maddy said gently. “And you haven’t found a job yet.”

Dannie shook her head.


“How old are you?”

“Almost twenty.”

“Do you have any money left?”

A shake of her head confirmed Maddy’s fears.

“When was the last time you ate a meal?” she asked.

“I had something last night from the soup kitchen.”

“Right. Stop eating those biscuits. I’m going to make you something to eat, then we’re going to talk,” Maddy said. “A bowl of pasta and bolognese sauce?”

“Thank you,” Dannie said. “Can I help?”

“No, it’s OK. It won’t take very long. You can talk to me while I do it. So, how do you know Tina?”

For her own peace of mind, Maddy needed to know there was a genuine link between them, that Dannie wasn’t just someone Tina had met who was down on their luck.

“She’s my sister’s friend. I bumped into her outside King’s Cross station.”

Maddy noted the hesitation.

“Were you begging?”

She barely heard the whispered, “Yes”.

“Did Tina realise what you were doing?”

“No. I saw her coming so I pretended to be just leaving the station.”

Maddy sighed as she heated the bolognese sauce. The mention of the soup kitchen and begging at King’s Cross filled her with dismay. There was no way she could let Dannie go back out to that life with all the dangers it posed.

When the pasta was ready she put it on the breakfast bar, but Dannie was asleep on the settee, looking so vulnerable Maddy could have cried.

“Your meal’s ready,” she said, gently touching her arm. “Do you fancy a small glass of wine with it?”

Dannie gave a start as she opened her eyes.

“Sorry. I haven’t slept much recently. I would love a glass of wine.”

“You weren’t telling Tina the truth, were you, about couch-surfing? So, where exactly have you been sleeping?” Maddy asked as Dannie ate her meal.

“Some nights I managed to get a bed in a women’s hostel.” Dannie shrugged. “Otherwise, anywhere I felt safe.” She looked at Maddy as she scraped the last of the sauce from the plate.

“That was delicious, thank you.”

“Right. We need to talk,” Maddy began. “You’ve got nowhere to live, no money to pay rent and no job.”

“That just about sums it up,” Dannie said quietly.

Maddy looked at her, knowing that she had to help this girl.

“So, if I were to give you the train fare to go home, would you take it and do that?” Maddy took a deep breath. “Or if I said you can have my spare room rent free for a month, sort yourself out and find a job, would you do that?”

She held her hand up as Dannie went to speak.

“Don’t make a rushed decision. Think about it.”

She picked up her wine glass and smiled at Dannie.

“Get a good night’s sleep. Tell me your decision in the morning and we’ll sort things out one way or the other.”

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.