MONDAY: Sophie, Is That You?


Copyright is held by the author.

IT’S BEEN 31 days since we lost Sophie. One whole, desperate month. Countless sleepless nights spent with that evening playing over like a scratched record stuck on loop.

I remember the moment they told me the news, that strange speckle in time when everything changed. I thought they were lying at first. That the deep, sombre voice on the other end of the phone was one of Sophie’s other friends, one I’d not bothered to make the effort to meet. Sophie was playing a game; she was angry. She wanted to make me feel bad for bailing again.

Yet I knew deep in the hollow pit of my twisting stomach, that Sophie was too kind to play such a mean game.

I think I hung up the phone without speaking. It was like I’d stepped outside of my own body. The noise from the TV swam around me, drowning me. I could hear laughter, blurred words, but I couldn’t tell what they were saying. Spots swam in my vision, and the world shifted as I collapsed onto the floor, tucking my knees against my chest.

It felt like a plastic bag had been pulled over my head, cotton wool stuffed into my nose, mouth, and ears, and I’d been forced to breathe through a dishevelled paper straw. My breath caught in my throat, burning my chest as I struggled for air. My whole body shook as I wretched.

At some point I tried to take a sip of water, but I couldn’t swallow. I dragged my fingers through my hair, clutching at it, wanting to rip it out.

For a long time, I sat that way. It could have been minutes, hours, maybe a whole night, more. I didn’t move. I thought maybe if I froze, time would freeze too. I squeezed my eyes shut and willed the hands of the clock to turn backwards. I convinced myself that if I prayed hard enough, maybe it would work. I’d be able to re-do the evening, do things differently.

Because the truth was, it was all my fault.

The knocking had started about a week ago. At first, there’d only been a couple of dull thuds on the wall, and I’d been able to brush them off as a neighbour, perhaps their DIY rippling through the thin walls of my Victorian terrace.

Only after a few days, I started to doubt my justification. Joyce next door couldn’t possibly be putting up that many shelves. Plus, the knocking was the same time every night: 8:05pm exactly. It was the same time Sophie had text me her final words: “where are you?”

And then, more strange things had started happening. It had been a Saturday morning when a clatter from the kitchen had wrenched me from my sleep. A burglar? No. A plate had tumbled from the side of the sink onto the hard stone floor. I had to take myself out of the house for the remainder of the day. Persuading myself I must have mice, I returned home later armed with mouse traps. I didn’t catch any mice.

That brings me to today, sipping a glass of wine on a Friday evening, alone. Staring at the clock, waiting for it to hit 8:05pm. Hating that Sophie, my best friend, is so angry with me. But hating even more how angry I am with myself. I deserve every smashed cup, plate, vase, whatever she’d like to throw at me. Every knock on the wall. Every troubled night’s sleep.

“I’m sorry,” I whisper. If it really is Sophie, I hope she can hear me. I hold out my hand, imagining her invisible fingers entwining mine. And for a moment, I feel warm, fuzzy. Although that could just be the wine.

“Sophie, are you there?” How much I wish for just one more girl’s night, watching a film, getting a takeaway. A chance to tell Sophie how loved she was. How I would have done anything for her.

I shake my head. If only I’d turned up for our last girl’s night, none of this would ever have happened. And it wasn’t the first I’d missed; it wasn’t the first time I’d let my friend down.

What’s that? I can hear a dripping sound coming from the kitchen. Setting my wine down on the coffee table, I follow the noise to the kitchen; the tap is gushing. The handle squeaks as I turn it to the off position again.

I can still hear water. It’s coming from upstairs. The steps creak underfoot as I climb the staircase, noticing the time as I do so. 8:00pm. I live alone, and even pee and shower with the door open. But right now, the bathroom door is shut.

My legs are jittery. I contemplate calling someone to come over. But how would that conversation go? “I’m sorry I think my friend is haunting me and has shut my bathroom door. Please can you open it for me?” I snort. Like anyone would believe me.

I rest my hand on the doorknob. It’s cold, strangely so. I can feel my pulse in my fingers. I count to three, then push the door open.

And it’s just my bathroom. Same old. The withered spider plant still draping over the shelf in the corner, the same overfilled laundry basket reminding me to put a wash on. But the shower is running, steam spurts out of the cubicle, like a thick fog. I take a deep breath, open the cubicle door, turning the shower handle to off, and exhale.

I don’t know what makes me do it; I put my finger up to the misted glass of the shower cubicle and write the words “I’m sorry.” Perhaps if Sophie can’t hear me, if she’s here but in a different dimension somewhere, she will see.

I gasp. For the briefest of seconds, I glimpse a shadow moving across the bathroom mirror. Sophie. It had to be Sophie.

I want to be brave. To stay. To try and make further contact. But I feel like my insides have just deserted me. My heart is drumming. A dryness in my throat. And I stumble backwards, almost falling down the stairs, as I turn every light in the house on, whack the volume on the TV up, take a large gulp of wine, and await the nightly knocks.


Unsurprisingly, I didn’t sleep well last night. I spent my night lying in bed with the lamp on, thinking about the night Sophie left us.

I was supposed to be seeing her the night it happened. We had arranged a night in, pizza, a trashy film. Sophie was really looking forward to it, she’d been having a hard time. I was really looking forward to it too. My phone was pinging all day with ideas for films, what snacks I wanted. I had to turn it to silent, as I’d been getting too much side-eye from my boss.

We used to hang out so much, but I’d been busy with work. I was always busy with work. Finishing late, crawling home, straight to bed. No time even for a phone call. But I’d promised her that night I’d finish on time, and we’d do something together.

Ten minutes before the end of the day, I got called into an “emergency” meeting. Emergency was such an overstretched term. No-one would have been hurt had it waited until Monday.

I don’t know why I just didn’t say no. I always wanted to impress, didn’t want to get in trouble, or let people down. I just wish I had seen how I was letting the people who mattered the most down. I logged back into my computer, sent the pointless emails, ran the reports, and before I knew it, it was dark outside. It wasn’t until my stomach grumbled, I realized I’d missed dinner, and I remembered where I was supposed to be. I was over three hours late to Sophie’s by then.

I checked my phone, and I had missed calls from her. Text messages asking where I was. The last sent at 8:05pm. Thirty minutes after that Sophie took an overdose. I had let her down when she needed me the most.


I swallow the last dregs of my coffee, hoping the caffeine will soon kick in, and head into the bathroom to shower. It’s as I turn the water on, the hairs on the backs of my arms prickle upright. My smeared words from yesterday, I’m sorry, are still there, but there is something else beneath them.

It’s unmistakeable. A handprint. I’m sure it wasn’t there yesterday. I place my hand over it. It’s smaller than my own.

I shower quickly, throw on my dressing gown and head back downstairs. Upon entering the lounge, I freeze. On the coffee table is a photo; it’s one that usually belongs on top of the bookshelf in the spare bedroom. It’s Sophie and I on our last day at school together. I sink into the sofa; I hadn’t so much as been in the spare bedroom for days, let alone moved the photograph.

I take a deep breath, and say it again: “Sophie, is that you?”

I remember seeing somewhere a while ago that you can communicate with ghosts by knocking. I’d thought it was complete nonsense at the time, but now…

“Sophie, knock twice for yes. Once for no.”

I wait. I’d been right; it is complete nonsense. I am just overly tired, not sleeping, worrying every night. It is probably normal to be imagining things after what had happened, after the guilt I feel…

Two knocks. Right on the coffee table in front of me. I think.

I try to disguise the slight wobble in my voice. So, it was Sophie. I ask again, just to be sure it wasn’t Joyce next door being ill-timed with some bashing around. And there it is again. Two knocks.

Right. I have Sophie listening. Maybe. Part of me wants to run away, to slam the front door. But how many people get chance to talk to someone they’ve lost?

So, I apologise. I tell her how much she means to me, and how much I miss her. But how most of all I hope she is OK, at peace… “I know you must hate me for what I did…”


I stop. One knock. Perhaps I am just being hopeful. “No, you don’t hate me?”

Two knocks. Two knocks yes, she hates me? Or two knocks yes, she doesn’t hate me? How I wish we could just have a proper conversation.

It’s then I feel it. A touch on my shoulder, down my arm, around my back, as if an invisible blanket is being wrapped around me. Sophie is hugging me. I just know it. And a tightness in my chest I didn’t even realize was there until now, feels lighter. Tears sting the corners of my eyes. I am sure I can smell her perfume, feel the bristle of her hair against my cheek.

I close my eyes and breathe it in. Sophie forgives me.                            

The sensation vanishes.

“Sophie?” I whisper her name. “Are you still there?”

Silence. The knocking has stopped.


Image of Sarah Hunter

Sarah Hunter is a fiction writer. She lives in Bath, U.K., with her husband, baby boy, and very excitable dog. She has previously had short fiction published in Writers’ Forum Magazine, A Spot of Writing Magazine, Free Flash Fiction, Crossing the Tees anthology, and featured on BBC radio. She is currently working on her first novel. You can find out more about her writing at

  1. Exquisitely written, sensitive without a hint of maudlin. Just the right touch and a satisfying ending.

  2. Well written@

  3. Great suspense.

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