The lost drone of friendship

by James

Alice left the path and pushed her way through the bushy growth of self-seeded ash trees to the bench where her brother’s name was etched into a brass plaque screwed to the back. Her parents could no longer come to see what time had made of it, but her brother would have loved it – the patina of life he’d have said, and boy was this bench dripping with patina.

Alice unclipped the tough fabric shopping bag from her travel backpack and spread it across the tramp-stained surface before she sat. She had a thermos of tea. She had a book. She had a bottle of the vile blue Thundershoot alcopop her brother had always insisted they both down on his birthday. She was good for a couple of hours.

Fifty pages later she looked up to an odd sight. It was a young man, about her brother’s age, and he was pacing up and down alongside the metal railings that fenced the small block of flats opposite her hidey hole. As Alice set her book aside this young man turned decisively towards the flats and climbed the fence. She left the bench and moved to the edge of the tree cover to watch him as he set his own travel backpack on the floor, fiddled about, and then launched a drone into the air with a buzz.

She muttered, ‘Perv,’ as the drone shot skywards, then left, then right, before it made a hurried descent and then was followed by an even more hurried scramble of the young man back over the fence. Alice began to panic, because now the weirdo was making his way with purpose right to where she was lurking in the trees. She began to ease back to the bench where she had left her phone in her bag when he burst through the foliage and then hesitated when he saw her.

He took half a step, paused, squinted then said, ‘Alice…? Is that you? Jesus.’

Alice screwed up her eyes, then slowly realised. ‘Russell? Wow.’

Her brother’s best mate – ever – slowly grinned at her. ‘Alice. You look. Wow. I haven’t seen you in…well.’ His grin widened. ‘This is great! I mean, I went to your parent’s house, but they’ve moved, and that scuppered my plan, you know?’

Alice shook her head. ‘What were you doing, Russell? You know how dodgy you look?’

‘Yeah…’ Russell smiled unceasingly. ‘I had this plan: get another drone, the same kind I bought your brother when he was twenty-two. You know, the one we lost after ten seconds. So then we could come down to the same place where we flew the old one, and I know he’s a stubborn one, but that’s an olive branch, right? Bygones be bygones, we’re still mates. Only, I never counted on your parents having moved, or some wankers building a block of flats right where we flew the last one.’

Russell grinned. ‘But meeting you like this. It’s fate, and I can’t even remember why we stopped speaking to each other.’

Alice said, ‘Russell.’

‘I know how stubborn your brother is, but come on, the two of us, we should-‘

Alice had to raise her voice. ‘Russell!’ She smiled, and in a softer voice, said, ‘Come sit down. There’s a bench.’