Tahati was singing praises for the hot air balloon ride in impeccable detail. She described everything in such vivid detail that the others had already started ignoring her while she was still flying on cloud nine. Even though she had just spent four hours floating in the clouds, her head was still stuck up there. Meanwhile the rest of them had been kicked out of Joan’s car and left outside Buchanan Bus Station. Now they were staring at the map they’d just stolen from Joan trying to figure out how far they were from Edinburgh.
“What now?” Simi asked.
“Looks like Edinburgh ain’t that far. Too far to walk, but it’s only an hour’s drive,” Zangi said.
“I’ve got Uber!” Ravi beamed.
“Excellent! See if any of them will drive us to Edinburgh,” Zangi said.
“How can we pay for Uber though?” Tiana asked.
“Ain’t there an option to pay cash?” Simi asked.
Ravi tapped through the Uber screen carefully. “Yeah I think so.”
“Google it,” Tahati shrugged.
“And how would we get cash out anyway? We ain’t got the pin,” Simi said.
“This is Glasgow honey. We can find someone willing to do dodgy deals if they can take a cut. There’ll be a Rab C Nesbit somewhere around here,” Tiana said.
“I don’t know what that means but it can’t be good so Stay close and don’t get lost,” Ravi said to the others.
Glasgow is a pretty city really. But – and anyone from Glasgow really won’t like this – it looked like London. From the river running through the centre to the shiny artistic-designed buildings. It was Morden architecture that gave it a utopia like feel. When the sky began to glow pink and gold, the bridge began to light up. It reflected on the river, beautiful.
However, when they came to the first ATM to try and guess the pin, they found directions written on them, pointing them to the nearest free hole in the wall.
“Handy,” Zangi grinned.
Off they went towards the next nearest free one, because they were cheap.
They ended up in Elmbark Street pressing random buttons on the hole in the wall until Zangi pointed out that they could have their card cancelled if they keep going, so they kept walking around the corner.
Tiana gasped suddenly. “King Tuts Wag Wah Hut! Ah Sapphire would love it there. Tickets are super cheap because it’s kinda a dive.”
“Sapphire would have loved everything on this trip,” Zangi said.
“She would have been good company too. Funny. Logical. Useful,” Ravi said.
“I miss her,” Tiana said.
“She had to stay behind. She’s on the prom committee,” Tahati said.
“AW WERE GONNA MISS PROM!” Ravi cried.
“We weren’t going. We were going to Nando’s. We can still do that,” Simi tutted.
“Let’s do it!” Tahati grinned.
“We’ll do it tomorrow. In Edinburgh,” Zangi shrugged.
Even though they could still do their plans, it still felt like they were missing out on something. Something fundamental.
“I reckon we can hack the pin over there,” Zangi gestured to a sleazy looking hut in an alley.
The other girls were immediately worried about approaching it. Yet they knew they had to because they didn’t have anywhere else to go for money.
Have you ever seen a flamboyance of flamingos on the move? They all bunch together and walk like their socks are wet, and glance around anxiously looking for a towel.
That’s what the girls looked like as they shuffled towards the scummy shack. The guy behind the bar that separated him from the public, eyed them as they approached. He was bulky looking, but it could have been the number of layers he had on. It was well into the beginning of summer, you had to wear a fleece at least. Tahati and Tiana weren’t feeling it yet (because Tahati had stolen the pea jacket Tiana stole from Tristian, and Tiana had packed two hoodies for backup) but the others were. He stared at them with suspicion.
“How you lot interrupting my Scooby?” He demanded.
The other girls were confused and intimated. Tiana lost the bottle. She curled her head into her shoulders and tried to hide back in the crowd with her friends.
Until Tahati and Simi shoved her forward so roughly she staggered into the shack, making it shake. He glanced without moving, to see if it would collapse, decided it wouldn’t, and flicked an accusing glare at Tiana.
“Are you trying to kill me?” He asked in a thick accent.
The others shared a quizzical look, but Tiana’s grandfather had come from Crookston, and she’d grown up with him watching Billy Connolly in front of her. She could decipher the accent.
“Do you need to be killed?” She asked.
He frowned at her. “Are you asking me for my permission for you to murder me?”
“Why would I kill someone I’ve never met before? What would I get from that?” she asked.
“You tell me, murderer. What cha want anyway?” he asked.
Tiana felt like she’d just spun around three times and her head was still spinning. It took her a second to catch up to what he was saying.
“D’you know where I can access cash without a pin?” she asked.
He held out a hand for her to give him the card. She held her hand out to Simi, who was being the guardian of the card. Reluctantly, she handed it over. Tiana handed it to him.
While he examined it, he asked, “Is it your card?”
“Yeah,” she lied.
“So, Tristian, why don’t you know your pin?” he asked.
Behind her, Ravi muttered curses about forgetting Tristan’s name was on the card, and how dumb they all were.
“Forgot it,” Tiana shrugged.
Behind her, Simi sighed and muttered, “bismillah”.
“How?” he asked.
“I got drunk and forgot it,” She said, with a little more confidence.
He glanced her up and down. “You got drunk?”
“Yeah well, y’know, old … mac was visiting,” Tiana said.
Suddenly, his attitude changed. “Mac? Oh, aye I know a mac. What’s his surname?”
Tiana’s heart skipped a beat. “Mc... Finley.”
“Oh aye! Billie! Billie McFinley?” he asked, enthusiastically.
Tiana grabbed what she got. “Yep. He’s… my… uncle. We were celebrating him coming to visit.”
“Grand. That’s grand that is. How is the lad? I know he’s been having trouble getting around since his funeral last year. That better, is it?”
All the others looked like they were about to have a heart attack. But she didn’t.
A smile grew across her face. Of course she’d been caught out. Of course they’d just towed her along. What was she expecting?! This was Glasgow! Something in this situation helped her feel at home.
“Yep. Fit as a fiddle now. Just needed a cuppa,” she grinned.
“Good lad, back on his feet so quick, good on him. So yeh wanting his money?”
“Yep,” she nodded.
“Yeh better off talking to Jamie down the alley. He’ll sort yeh out nice,” he said.
“Will he?” she asked.
“No, not Willie, Jamie. Get yeh ears checked,” he tutted.
Her face fell into the unimpressed look. “Where is he?”
The guy leaned over the edge of the shack to look down the grungy, empty alley.
“OI! JAMIE! GET YEH ARSE OVER HERE!” He yelled.
A youth in a grey hoodie appeared from behind a dumpster. He was wearing track suit bottoms despite never having been near a track without greyhounds in his life. His face was covered by the flap of a snap back cap, but the stubble across his jaw was still clearly visible. When he raised his head and lifted the cap, the girls were distracted from whatever colours his eyes were supposed to be, by how red raw they were.
“Whatyouwant?” Jamie asked in one, gruff, mutter.
“These girls want a yescard,” The first guy said.
“A yescard?” Jamie repeated.
“Nice hearing, fandan,” the first tutted.
Jamie flipped the bird at him. He held out a hand for the girls to hand over the card. Reluctantly, Tiana held it out. He grabbed a weird looking device from his hoodie pocket. It was a big enough for a card to slid in, but mostly made out of green circuit boards. The lip where the card went in, looked like the part of the ATM where the card entered. But when the card was in the new machine, it stayed in tight, and a light gleamed though the gaps. Then he grabbed a link wire from his pocket, and plugged it into the machine. He took a laptop from the floor of a shack, and plugged the wire into it. Some tapping into the laptop, and then something started printing. Jamie dropped down to reach around to the back of the shelter, where a printer had been set up. Jamie yanked the card from the copier and examined it, close to his face.
“Just wear yah glasses yeh Jessie!” The guy behind the shelter tutted.
Jamie swore at him, and handed both cards back to the girls.
“Use this one. The pin is 1234,” Jamie explained.
The other guy scoffed. “Creative,”
Jamie swore at him again. While their bickering escalated to Jamie trying to jump into the shelter to attack him, the girls slipped away. I say slipped, they just walked off like it happened daily.
“Back to the free one or just to the closest?” Simi asked.
“As soon as we use it, they’ll be able to track us,” Tahati warned.
“So what fam?” Ravi asked.
“Call the Uber first, Then we can find the closest hole in the wall to where we gotta meet,” Tahati said.
There was a bit of a kerfuffle over Ravi’s phone as they tried to hire an Uber. Uber X or Uber XL was the biggest problem. It was more pricey for XL but it was a guarantee that they could all fit in. They were more than happy to be paid in cash though.
As soon as they knew how much it would cost, (up to £110) they knew how much they needed to get out. The rest was just a guess.
A guess that would mean needing three different ATMs to get as much as possible before the card was cancelled.
Tahati came up with the idea of a relay race. Three of them could wait by the machines, and two of them could tag team to keep the card moving.
Zangi (having long legs) was often encouraged to join these races for sports day, but (being lazy) chose to sit in the sun at the side-lines, eating the picnic her friends had brought. None of them ever raced. From year seven onwards, they had loved their annual, sunny picnic in the local outdoor sports centre. But it did mean that none of them enjoyed exercise.
Tiana, Ravi and Simi bagsied standing still first, so Zangi and Tahati were forced to be runners. The only urgency in this was when someone was finished with the card, and someone else was sent running. It was a lot less energetic than they wanted. Most of the urgency came from hopping around swearing at the machine to work faster.
Zangi and Ravi were standing by an ATM by a bench. While Ravi was withdrawing money, Zangi was stealing a pasty from the Tupperware. They had all left their things piled on one bench to run easier. Ravi was supposed to be looking after it.
Much to Zangi’s anti-social dread, a drunk woman in high heels, a low-cut dress, a pink hen night sash, and a head band with a cone on top, came staggering over. Like a drunk zombie after food.
Zangi straightened up and looked at her. She was lost for words so all she could ask was, “You all right?”
“Yeah hen. I’ve been on a wee swally,” the woman beamed.
Three Question marks in a row isn’t something you can say out loud in any single word. You can, however, show it in your expression. That was the look each girl had for most of their interactions with people in Glasgow. They were friendly as anything, but so very confusing.
“Do yeh mind if I nick a pastry?” The woman pointed to the mostly full Tupperware box.
Zangi threw a look and Ravi. Ravi shrugged.
“No, no, go ahead,” Zangi said uncertainly.
The woman was already scooping up armfuls. “Ah thanks hen I’m famished. I’d kill for a Scooby snack but I ain’t got the cash. Spent it all on bevvys, didn’t I?”
Ravi wandered over, partly to back up Zangi, partly to give her the card and let her run.
“What is it with this place and Scooby doo?” Zangi muttered.
“No idea. Just smile and nod,” Ravi muttered.
“Aye that’s mint that is,” the bridesmaid said, through a tart. She began to tug on the cone on her head, “Ere, you have this hen.”
She laid it flat on top of Zangi’s head, which just confused her further. Before either of them could say anything, she began to rub her bare arms.
“Oach its pure Baltic tonight isn’t it? You lasses wrap up warm. Dunne want yeh catching yeh death now, no?”
Without another word, she staggered away like a happy, fed zombie, off to find a drink. What was most confusing about this encounter (as opposed to all the other less interesting encounters the others were having at this point) was that there was no one else around who looked like they were from a hen party.
At eight in the evening.
With the sun only beginning to set.
Zangi left the cone on the pile of their things, and raced off to take the card to Tahati, for her to take it to Simi. It took half an hour for the card to be caught, flagged, and cancelled. By that time they had two thousand pounds in cash on them.
“Can I keep the card?” Ravi asked.
“Why? it ain’t gonna work anymore,” Zangi said.
“Yeah but I want it anyway,” Ravi said.
“Can I have the copy?” Simi asked.
“Why?” Zangi asked again.
Simi shrugged, “To remember it for my prayers.”
“That sounds like bull but none of us care,” Tiana stated.
The others hummed in agreement.
“Call the Uber,” Zangi said.
They hiked up Queens Street, and suddenly the cone hat made more sense to Ravi and Zangi. The Uber driver was going to pick them up from Royal Exchange Court to take them to Princes Street. They had to stand beside a statue of a Duke on a Horse, with a florescent orange cone on his head like a hat.
“I like it!” Tiana declared.
“You’re going to art college Tiana, you can’t just say you like it, you have to give a reason,” Tahati said.
Tiana shrugged. “Cause it’s cool.”
“Man’s beginning to understand why you dropped out of Art,” Simi muttered.
“Fine!” Tiana huffed. She raised her hand to mime having a cigarette holder, and added some pretentiousness. “It’s a reflection of the city its self. Stoic, and classy, like a statue. Strong and noble, like a duke riding into battle. Yet, the flare of colour with the cone reflects the wacky, unpredictability of the city and its people.”
“Nah love, it’s just for a laff!” A random passer by declared.
Tiana blushed red. She was used to putting on performances for her friends in London, where no none batted an eyelid, but here? Where people noticed? Where people joined in? Embarrassing!
When the Uber arrived a minute later, Tiana leapt in and buried her face in Tristan’s pea jacket. The others, as caring and sharing friends do, laughed their heads off as they joined her.