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Unlucky in Lockdown

Unlucky in Lockdown

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Unlucky in Lockdown

4/5 (1 rating)
114 pages
1 hour
Aug 14, 2020


Cora and Xandra have been flatmates for over a year, but they've never been friends. It's not been a problem before - Cora likes her peace and quiet, and Xandra's happy to leave her to it, spending most of her time partying elsewhere. But when the COVID-19 pandemic takes hold, and the UK is put under lockdown, they find themselves forced into spending a lot more time together. Will they put their differences aside and learn to tolerate each other's company? Will familiarity breed further contempt...or will they find common ground and develop a true friendship?


Unlucky in Lockdown is a 26,750 word novella set during the first two weeks of the UK's lockdown.

Aug 14, 2020

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Unlucky in Lockdown - Julianne Benford




Julianne Benford

Copyright © 2020 Julianne Benford


Julianne Benford asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

This novel is entirely a work of fiction. The names, characters and incidents portrayed in it are the work of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or localities is entirely coincidental.

For Adele

Saturday 21st March 2020


Cora suspected something was up as soon as she woke. The room was bright, and she felt perfectly-rested. She rolled over and the red numbers on her alarm clock, 8.45 right in her face, confirmed that she’d overslept. She scrambled to her knees, pushing the duvet away so hard it tumbled to the floor, and reached to snatch her laptop from on top of her chest of drawers. In her head she desperately scrabbled to put together an explanation for her boss’ benefit. Which sounded better? I spilled my breakfast, or my computer took too long to start up, or… Her mind whirled. She hated these 9am meetings. In normal life, the meeting wasn’t until 11, so she had a couple of hours to enjoy her first green tea of the day, say hi to the people around her, and get some work done so she was in the right frame of mind to report to Ruth, her boss. Now she had to go straight into it with no warm up time.

Cora thought she’d enjoy working from home, and at first it was a relief. No more squeezing herself onto the Tube every morning, praying it didn’t pause in the gap between stations, and trying to keep her tiny toes away from other people’s stomping feet. It should be more relaxing, being alone all day, not worrying about what fifty other people thought of her outfit, number of loo breaks, and work habits. But the actual work was worse than before, with these daily check-ins and regular team meetings in which Ruth reeled off all the things the company directors were concerned about, without presenting any solutions or anything remotely practical they could do.

While her computer started up, Cora pulled on a jumper to cover up the t-shirt she’d slept in and put on some lipstick, scraping her hair back into a bun. She entered her password, only glancing briefly at the time and date, not taking the latter in properly. It was only when she opened the web browser that she had a second thought and hovered the mouse over the date in the bottom right corner. 21 March 2020. Saturday.

Flooded with relief, she pushed the laptop away and fell back on her pillows. It was the weekend! No work! A whole world of possibilities opened up before her. Then she remembered COVID-19 and that world of possibilities shrank to almost nothing. There wasn’t an official lockdown in place yet, and the government’s advice was timid and confusing, prioritising the economy over health and safety, as usual. But Cora was sticking strictly to social distancing rules, and had been for eight days, ever since last Friday, when Ruth announced their entire company would be working from home until further notice, after one of the receptionists called in sick with a fever and dry cough. Cora hadn’t stepped foot inside any other building since she got home that evening. She’d ordered a supermarket delivery to the flat and worn gloves when she went out for runs. She needed to self-isolate to be sure she hadn’t got it so she could visit her grandmother again. Cora’s parents moved out of London when they retired, meaning that Cora was the only one who could visit Granny easily, and she took this responsibility seriously. In the meantime, she’d ordered another supermarket delivery to Granny’s and phoned her to check in last night.

‘I’m sure it’ll all blow over,’ Granny had said. ‘Anyway, you’re a healthy girl, you should be out with your friends on a Friday night, not bothering me!’

Cora had explained again that Granny was in danger and shouldn’t ignore that text she’d got telling her to stay indoors for twelve weeks, but she wasn’t sure it sunk in. Last night she’d lain awake for hours worrying that Granny would get bored of books, TV, and the radio, and go out despite her dire warnings. It was all too much.

But this was a new day, and a weekend day no less. Cora forced a smile onto her face, put on her dressing gown and slippers, and went out to the quiet, empty, and perfectly clean kitchen. Everything was where it should be, and that made her heart sing. Cora had a flatmate, Xandra, but she hadn’t seen her for over a week because Xandra tended to sleep elsewhere. She was a loud, dramatic, aspiring actor. They’d only ended up living together because the previous flatmate, Louise, assumed it was okay for her to leave as soon as their last tenancy agreement finished and go travelling, without warning Cora beforehand. Cora had to find someone in a rush and couldn’t afford to be picky, not when she desperately wanted to keep this flat for as long as she could. It was on a nice, tree-lined road, her downstairs neighbour was a quiet old man, and she could just about manage to save £200 a month after rent, bills and food. Thankfully, Xandra was hardly ever around, and slept all day when she was, meaning that Cora got all the perks of living alone without the prohibitive cost.

Cora made a cup of green tea and wondered where Xandra was. She didn’t normally care what she got up to, as long as she wasn’t getting up to it here, but it would spoil everything if she suddenly reappeared, full of COVID-19. Cora’s heart began to race, and she took a deep breath, forcing herself to focus on her to-do list. Book a new food delivery, if possible. Phone Granny to make sure she’s in. Phone Meeta. Phone Mum and Dad. Do yoga. What then? What then?

It was going to be a long weekend.

Tuesday 24th March 2020


Cora’s alarm woke her up at 7.30, while the sun still hid behind clouds and her room was reassuringly dark. Despite her relief at not waking up too late, something she’d worried about since Saturday morning, her head pounded, and she wished that while she was crying herself to sleep last night she had the foresight to change the alarm to eight. She decided she didn’t really need that extra half hour. If she got up at eight, she could quite comfortably have breakfast, do yoga, have a shower, and be sitting in front of her laptop with her second green tea five minutes before the morning meeting. All that extra time gave her was more opportunity for her mind to drift and be anxious, and she had enough of that at night.

Last night the lockdown had been announced. She hadn’t watched the Prime Minister’s announcement because she couldn’t stand him, but she read all the new rules online. Essential journeys only. One walk per day. At least Granny was taking it seriously now.

‘You’ll be alright on your own?’ Granny had asked. ‘You could come and stay with me.’

‘I’m not on my own,’ Cora said. ‘I have a flatmate.’ Though she still hadn’t seen head or tail of her, thank god. ‘Anyway, I’m not safe. I could bring the virus to you.’

Granny sighed. ‘I suppose that’s true.’

Victory at last! But she’d still worried so much she’d made

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