“It Was Only a Joke” Fiction by Susan Hatters Friedman

If I’d have known that it was going to kill him, of course I would never have done it. We were young and in love. It was a joke. 

The way he smelled. Like a forest.

His ID bracelet caught in my hair during our first kiss. 

Every single thing about him was sexy. It was 1985. We were nineteen and in love and he could have worn shoulder pads and a crop top and I would have thought he was sexy. 

I loved passing gum back and forth between our mouths when we were kissing. Yes, we were young.

I imagined him giving me the ID bracelet when we moved things to the next level. In novels, guys in the army gave women their ID bracelet. I hadn’t seen anyone our age wearing one. Maybe my gorgeous Michael was old-fashioned in this single lacuna. 

Lying in the grass, I played with it on his hairy arm. ‘You going to give me this one day?’ We were meant to be together.

Puzzled look. ‘Are you seriously allergic to shellfish too? You would also die of anaphylactic shock?’

I hadn’t realized that people wore medic-alert bracelets other than great-grandmothers.

We used to play word games. ‘I would walk through fire for you.’ 

‘I would transfer schools so we could wake up together every morning.’

‘I would do anything for you.’ 

Laughing and tipsy with the chardonnay, I passed him a shrimp instead of gum. 

It was only a joke.


Susan Hatters Friedman is a forensic psychiatrist, who is also pursuing a Masters in Crime Fiction at the University of Cambridge. Her creative writing can also be read in the Dillydoun Review, the Centifictionist, and forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys.