The van wheeled along the bumpy roads just as giddily as the girls inside. Inside, Ravi, Simi and Tahati were pulling up the chairs in the back as they were jiggled about by the road. This left Ravi in the boot, Simi in the back seat and Tahati in the middle seat. At least it did, until Ravi climbed (with a distinct lack of dignity) over the back of the seats, and into the middle, beside Simi.
“Given that we can all fit in the front five seats, why don’t we leave these ones down and have a napping station?” Ravi asked.
Zangi’s head whipped around and her eyes shone. “That’s an amazing idea!”
“But we just pulled them up!” Simi whined.
“And you’re in the front seat anyway! You’d have to climb over me, and over them to use it!” Tahati argued.
“I don’t mind,” Zangi shrugged.
“It would be nice to have a place for people to nap if they need it. It’d mean one of us was rested enough to drive at any given time,” Tiana said.
Ravi frowned. “But none of us can drive.”
“It’ll teach you,” Tiana offered.
“But legally you can’t drive,” Simi said.
“Then make sure we don’t get caught,” Tiana said sarcastically.
Zangi’s eyes lit up. “Teach me first! I’m in the front seat and I wanna learn!”
“What about this seat?” Ravi interrupted.
“Drop it like it’s hot and then shut up,” Zangi snipped.
Ravi raised her middle finger in the direction of the rear-view mirror to make sure Zangi saw your it no matter which direction she looked in. Zangi ignored her because Tiana was already explaining the basics to her.
The van rolled to a stop along the road. One door opened before the other, but the driver and passenger got out, crossed in front of the van, and jumped into the opposite seats. Then the doors shut again. After a moment, it lurched forward an inch, and then stopped.
Then the side door slid open and three passengers from the back leaped out and hurried away to safety.
“Bitches!” Zangi yelled through the window.
That didn’t entice them to get back in. Instead, they wandered off to a safe distance, and followed the van on foot. It was easier than you would expect, because the van kept skidding and stalling. Especially on hills. After an hour and a half Zangi had gotten the hang of driving smoothly. Gears still didn’t quite click in her mind, so every now and then there was an unsettling crunch. Each time Tiana would change the gears and remind Zangi to do it next time.
Zangi slow down and came to a gentle stop in the middle of the road, so that Ravi, Simi and Tahati could jump back in. They were hesitant at first. Then Simi decided her feet hurt so leapt into the back, and the others followed.
Well no one wants to be left behind.
“I’m starving!” Tahati groaned.
“Yeah me too,” Ravi said.
“I gotta go somewhere to back up the photos,” Tiana said.
“Onto what you don’t have a laptop?” Ravi said.
Tiana leaned through the gap between seats to show her the camera.
“This weird little box thing where my flash should go is Wi-Fi connector. If I go somewhere with Wi-Fi it’ll automatically back the photos up to my cloud,” she explained. Then, as she sat back into her seat, she sang to herself. “Hey, hey, you, you, get off of my cloud!”
“Don’t do that,” Zangi said.
“Do what?” Tiana asked.
“Sing. You’re terrible,” Zangi pinned back a smirk.
Tiana swore at her while laughing, and then proceeded to start singing as loud as she could.
Zangi turned her head to glare at Tiana in the passenger seat. As she did, for a little too long, she didn’t notice the cow wandering closer to the road ahead of them.
“ZANGI LOOK AT THE ROAD!”
The other girls screamed. They threw themselves back into their seats and held onto each other for dear life. Tiana latched onto the handle above the door, bracing herself for the crash.
The great white wall came racing closer with each passing second. As Zangi panicked she grabbed every lever and pressed every button. She managed to flick on the headlights and Its eyes glowed like a cats. Now it was a wall of white with glowing demon eyes staring at them.
Simi screwed her eyes shut and started praying. Tahati screamed loudly and continuously. Ravi began to sob in panic and repeat that she didn’t want to die. Tiana threw herself across Zangi and latched onto the wheel. She yanked it to the left, causing the entire van to swing around on two wheels. The screaming amplified. Zangi stamped her foot down on the break. The girls were thrown forwards as the van stopped dead. Tahati smacked her head against the window by accident.
“Shit are you ok?!” Ravi asked breathlessly.
Tahati rubbed her head. Her heart was dancing a jig and her throat ached from screaming. “Yeah,” she croaked, “yeah, yeah I am.”
Tiana looked like she had melted. She was collapsed over the dashboard, burying her face in her arms to try and recover. Simi was gasping for breath. Her stomach was still doing somersaults. Zangi was still gripping the steering wheel and having a panic attack. A bad one. She was wheezing badly and her chest rose and fell like a speaker on a drumbeat.
“Zangi, if you keep breathing like that you could haemorrhage your lungs. You’ll drown in blood Zangi so breath properly,” Ravi insisted.
“She’s having a panic attack! You don’t calm down by telling them to calm down!” Simi tutted.
Tiana reached out to touch Zangi’s arm which made her croak in alarm. Tiana snatched her hand back. Zangi clearly didn’t want to be touched.
“Breath Zangi. Deeper breaths. In,” Ravi said.
“In Zangi! Breath in!” Ravi insisted urgently.
Zangi breathed in as much air as she could, which wasn’t much.
“Good, hold it,” Tiana insisted.
Zangi held it for a moment, and then let it go with a whimper.
“Good, again!” Tahati urged.
“You’re doing great Zangi!” Simi promised.
Zangi kept gasping for air, holding it, and then letting it out. Each time she could hold it for a little longer. Within two minutes she could breathe with relative calmness. At least calm enough not to haemorrhage her lungs in any way. Once she was safe, the others collapsed back into their chairs. Panic was beginning to ease off, but they were all still shaken up. Badly. Like cans of coke they could feel the pressure building inside of them.
Ravi knelt up and looked out of the boot window. The white cow was happily munching on some grass, oblivious to the terror it had just caused.
Ravi sighed. “Zangi I’m revoking your Hindu card.”
Zangi began to chuckle. A soft, distracted chuckle. The others picked it up too. As they laughed the realisations began to set in.
The realisation that they could still laugh. That they could still breath. That they were still alive. With the realisation that they were still alive came relief. Then came joy. With joy came laughter.
The slow soft chuckle slowly built up into great howls and whooping.
They were alive!
The cow was alive!
They were fine!
Goddamn it felt good!
“Right... are you ok with continuing or do you want me to drive?” Tiana asked.
“YOU DRIVE!” The three in the back yelled.
Tiana shot them a dark look. Then she looked back at Zangi.
Zangi had just about managed to get her breathing under control. She nodded at Tiana.
Tiana nodded. “Alright. Stay close though. I’ll show you what you’re supposed to do.”
Bakewell was a smaller town than they had been expecting. It also had less cherries than they were expecting. In fact, it only had one. She was 86 and worked in the post office on Tuesdays. The girls had gathered around a table in the corner of a café. The café was almost empty. It was just them, two bored girls behind the counter, and an elderly couple with a dog a few tables over. The dog was tiny and chocolate coloured, and hid underneath her chair as she fed it bits of bread.
They’d piled through the black door for three reasons. Tahati had seen a chocolate cake in a display case through the little square windows, realised that no one would stop her having cake for breakfast, and decided she wanted it. It looked cute and traditional in its old brown and grey stones so Ravi was taking a selfie in front of it. Finally, and most importantly, a little sign pinned to one of the square window panes, that read “free wi-fi!”
“The only things in this town are a rock, a railway station, and a couple houses,” Ravi complained.
She had looked up the town on her phone to look for something to do while they were here.
“Well we don’t have to stay here. I was just hungry,” Tahati said.
“We could climb that hill,” Simi suggested.
She got sworn at by all the others. Simi had climbed a mountain in Wales and now she kept trying to convince the others to try climbing too.
“There’s a brewery!” Ravi grinned excitedly, “maybe they’ll give out free samples!”
“No-o-o man!” Simi complained, “I don’t wanna watch you lot get drunk and stupid! Well, stupider.”
“Let’s try the train. If we can afford it,” Tahati said.
“Why? It’s just a boring old train,” Simi scoffed.
“It’s probably a steam train,” Tiana explained.
Tahati frowned as she picked up her cake, “nah fam, it’ll fog up my glasses.”
She bit into four layers of chocolate (icing, sponge, cream and sponge again) and left a circle of crumbs around her mouth. Her fingers got covered in thick icing. The others watched her making a mess while they ate their own food. They had chosen little pastries and sandwiches to try and be less messy. Tiana had a pot of tea all to herself because the others had hot chocolates. No one mentioned the mess.
“We can go up to Abraham heights if you want, but I’m pretty sure we won’t be able to afford it,” Tiana said.
“What’s that?” Ravi asked.
“A cable cart to a view point. I went there once, when I was small. As far as I remember there’s a carousel and a sweet shop at the top,” Tiana explained.
“Good memory,” Zangi smirked.
“I have a mind for sweets,” Tiana shrugged.
“Sounds boring,” Simi stated, “let me look.”
Simi took Ravi’s phone and began to scroll through the visitor’s attractions that she had listed.
“This all look boring,” she declared.
“That’s what you get when you’re broke,” Ravi stated.
Simi held the phone out to the others, “what about this place?”
on the screen was a picture of a pile of old grey rocks. They were piled in a way that had many gaps and scrapes that could make easy handles for climbing.
“I thought we said we didn’t want to climb,” Ravi sighed.
“Tristan wouldn’t let us climb,” Simi countered.
It did seem unfair to have complained that they weren’t allowed to do anything for so long, and then keep refusing to do something one of them wanted to.
“I’ll go rock climbing if we can go on a zip wire later,” Zangi declared.
“It would make good photo opportunities,” Tiana shrugged, “I’m in.”
“Mate can I get dressed first?” Ravi asked.
All of them had come wandering in wearing whatever they had slept in. this was very little in some cases. They sent Zangi out to the van to grab their things. This was her punishment for almost killing them. While the others finished their breakfasts, one would go into the bathroom to get dressed, fix their hair, and do their make-up.
Simi took this opportunity to refill the bottle of water in case they had to make camp away from a water supply again. Once fed, dressed, and dolled up, the girls paid for their breakfast (in cash) and shuffled out the door in search of rocks.