Each week, we pick a short fiction piece from our Fairlight Shorts archives to feature as our story of the week. This week, we’ve chosen a story about loneliness by Harley Carnell.

Harley Carnell lives and writes in London, England. He has been writing for over ten years, both in the short and longer forms, and had his first story published in 2011. Since then he has had varying success, but has tried to use all rejections as positive experiences to learn, hone his craft and improve his writing.

Harley’s work has been published in ConfrontationLitro and Riptide Journal, among others. He has an MA in Creative Writing from Royal Holloway, University of London.

‘Coping’ focuses on the relationship between a lonely woman and her new friend.



Mrs Clarke opened the door. It was on the latch, and she peeped cautiously through the small gap.

‘Hello,’ I said. ‘My name’s Jennifer. I’m here from the Sunshine Programme.’

Mrs Clarke’s face brightened immediately on hearing this. She closed the door, unlatched it and then opened it fully.

‘Hello,’ she said. ‘Please come in. So sorry about that, but you can never be too careful.’

‘No, of course,’ I said, as I walked into the house. ‘Would you like me to take my shoes off?’

‘Oh no, no,’ she said, waving her hand dismissively. ‘Don’t worry about any of that nonsense. How can you call this a home if you have to be wiping your feet and worrying about where you sit and all that kind of rubbish? Unless you stepped in something that is, in which case you can take those shoes right off and throw them into the front garden!’

She laughed, and I smiled back at her.

It’s obviously difficult, and unwise, to make judgements about people solely on first impressions. But I thought that I was going to like Mrs Clarke.

Read more…