Hazelnut Coffee

written by Gemma Rayner 


We’re thirteen.

Our mums finally let us go into town together

Without them

For the first time.

We’re trying to be sophisticated.

We go to the local coffee shop

Stand in the queue

Just enough coins in our hands.

You order a hazelnut coffee,

Take a sip and push it away.

You don’t actually like coffee.

I don’t like it either.


We’re eighteen.

True freedom is upon us.

We meet at the coffee shop

Our favourite spot.

You’re hungover and I’m still drunk.

We talk about last night.

Fill in the blanks, share the pain.

That’s what best friends do.

We’re older now.

Maybe our taste-buds have adapted.

I order a hazelnut coffee.

Neither of us like it.


We’re twenty-eight.

You’re standing in the room, shaking

In a big white dress

Flowers limply in your hand.

I’m crying, you look so beautiful

In half an hour you’ll walk down the aisle

To meet your new best friend

I give you a watery smile

Set my bag down

Take out a cup.

We still don’t like it.

But I pass you the hazelnut coffee.


We’re thirty-six.

I’m pulling my hair out

Screaming myself hoarse to you

Down the phone.

I feel better already;

Your house is a mess too,

You can’t control your kids either.

I go into the kitchen

Hear you do the same

I still don’t like it

But the taste comforts me.

I smile as I pour myself a hazelnut coffee.


We’re forty-five.

Laden down with bags, we walk through town.

You say you don’t understand

Why our girls want to meet in town

For coffee

They’re only thirteen.

We’re trying not to be overprotective mothers

But we stop to peer through the window

Of the local coffee shop.

They’re drinking hot chocolate.

Screw it, you say

Let’s go get a hazelnut coffee.


We’re fifty-four.

You’re crying on my shoulder

Because your baby girl

She’s just moved out

And mine’s going too.

We feel empty.

I sit you in the kitchen

And turn on the kettle

I hug you

(The way only best friends can)

You still don’t like it

As I hand you a hazelnut coffee.


We’re sixty-five.

I come back with you

From my retirement do.

It’s not even ten

But we don’t stay up late these days.

A few years ago

We’d have been on the gin

And a few years before

We’d have been on the floor.

But now I look at you and say

I know we don’t like it,

But how about some hazelnut coffee?


We’re ninety-two.

I sit by your bedside.

Your family just left,

Now it’s my turn.

I hold your frail hand in mine

As you open your lidded eyes

You smile.

How about, for one last time,

We try a hazelnut coffee?

And maybe, just maybe

After all this time,

We’ll actually like it.

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