When toddlers have a tantrum, they can sometimes become distracted and forget that they were arguing. That didn’t happen here. When the girls accidentally ran into each other at the entrance to Mary King’s Close, Simi and Zangi said nothing to each other. This made the others uncomfortable. Flinging insults is a sign of friendship, being nice means somethings wrong, but saying nothing? You may as well be dead for all the other cared.
“So, um… where you guys heading?” Ravi asked.
“Hotel. You?” Tahati said.
“Same,” Ravi nodded.
“Not much to do there though, is there?” Tiana said.
“No. Not really,” Ravi agreed.
“I think we could find a game to play or something,” Ravi said.
“I don’t feel like playing games,” Zangi stated.
“not even Cards Against Humanity?” Tiana asked in a last ditch attempt to excite Zangi.
Instead, Zangi shrugged. “No thanks.”
Well then. That was it. She was cutting the rest of them off. she was gone. There was nothing that could bring her back.
The pause was really awkward right now. None of them were sure what to say, or do. Tiana remembered the camera around her neck, and wondered if she could use it to break the silence in some way.
“Actually, I wanted to get a picture of the Edinburgh skyline, so I might not go back to the hotel yet,” she lied.
“Where’re you gonna get that?” Tahati asked.
“I’m thinking of climbing Arthur’s Seat,” Ravi explained.
“Arthurs seat?” Tahati repeated.
Instead of explaining, she gestured to the large green hill that stood in the centre of the city.
“I don’t want to climb that,” Zangi stated.
“Me either,” Ravi said.
“I’ll come. What about you Simi?” Tahati asked.
“I’m hungry,” Simi complained.
“There’s food at the hotel,” Ravi said.
Zangi elbowed her roughly.
“I want to go to a café,” Simi said.
“Go to one then. We’ll meet you in Princes Street Garden later,” Ravi promised.
Zangi and Simi hummed grumpily and stomped off in separate directions. Ravi sighed, apologised to Tiana and Tahati, and hurried after Zangi. Tiana sighed a swear word.
“What?” Tahati asked.
“Now we have to climb the hill. I can’t be bothered with that!” Tiana sighed.
“Oh well. Stay close and we’ll pull through!”
Tahati tried to sound enthusiastic, but honestly, she was regretting agreeing to go too. Neither of them had the energy. But they’d said they would know, and the others would only want pictures.
Red faced and exhausted Tiana and Tahati were laying on the top of the grassy hill. Both were trying to get their breath back. It was pointless through because as soon as they saw the view, it took their breath away.
They were standing in the ruins of St Anthony’s Chapel, looking down at a bustling city that couldn’t see them. Rough stones embedded in the rolling green of the hill below them lead the eye to the city. In the centre sat the ancient castle, as fortified and grand as the day it was built. More modern houses were built around it. The further from the castle you got, the younger the buildings were. Cars glinted in the sun, as did the waves on the distant sea.
Not that they could see that far for very long. With nothing but a crumbling wall to break its path, it was windy up here. That breeze got Tiana’s hair in her eyes, and Tahati’s sky blue hijab in hers.
Tiana leaned her camera up on a wall of the ruins, and set up a long exposure photo opportunity. It didn’t come out as well as she had hoped, since nothing was moving in it, but it was high quality and detailed, so she didn’t delete it.
They hiked onwards and upwards, towards the highest peak, which (as mentioned) was dubbed Arthur’s Seat. On the way, they found placards telling tales of this hill’s history. one told them that woman came here on May first to wash their face in the dew and be young forever.
“If only we’d come here a month ago,” Tahati smirked.
They found another telling the story of a dragon that Celtics believed the hill was made from. A dragon used to fly around the sky, terrorising the region and eating all the livestock. Eventually it ate so much, that one day it lay down and went to sleep, and never woke up again. The grass grew on it, transforming it into a volcano.
“This is a volcano?” Tahati said in surprise.
“Apparently,” Tiana nodded.
“Well shit,” Tahati said.
Tiana agreed. While they carried on hiking, Tiana happily snapped photos of the view, and the ruins of old forts that had been preserved over time. Even statues with drawings of Arthur’s sword caught her camera’s eye. They didn’t stop for a rest until they found a little bench overlooking a loch. It had taken both of them by grateful surprise, as they were getting tired.
Tiana was having fun taking long exposure shots that turned the water into a glorious mirror reflecting the sky. Tahati was thinking. The silence between them was only broken by birds fighting over food in the middle of the loch. It was a content silence. Peaceful. Tranquil. At least it was for Tiana, who was distracting herself with her camera, as she did when things got tough. For Tahati, it left her with her thoughts, which was never good as she could easily over think things.
That’s why it was no surprise that Tahati broke the silence.
“Do you think we’ll have to go home now?”
This tore Tiana back to the thing she was avoiding thinking about. She sighed.
“I don’t know Tahati. We’re booked into the hotel until tomorrow, so we’ll find out then,” She said.
Tahati looked down at her feet as she swung them gently from the bench.
“I don’t want to go home yet,” She muttered.
“We probably won’t. All our arguments tend to end with a good night’s sleep. Things will look better in the morning,” Tiana said.
“Because moonlight reveals things you can’t see in the sun?” Tahati asked.
Tiana smirked. “That’s a pretentious way of saying it, but yeah. Exactly.”
The silence returned. A different, equally painful thought was plaguing Tahati now. Something Tiana had said a lot in the last year.
“Do you really think we’ll never see each other again once we go home?” Tahati asked her feet.
Tiana’s heart skipped a beat. She knew what she thought, but she also knew what her friend wanted to hear. She took a moment to decide if the truth was necessary here. It wasn’t.
“No. I’m sure we’ll try to stay together. Try to keep talking. Maybe we’ll see each other at parties for a while. But then it’ll wind down and we’ll end up being people you used to know.”
Tahati looked up at her. “I don’t want that.”
“It’s nature dude. We have nothing in common aside from a hatred of our school. When we leave it, we won’t even have that,” Tiana shrugged.
“We have things in common,” Tahati argued.
Tiana scoffed despite herself. “Yeah, what?”
Tahati shrugged as she thought.
“We both write.”
“You more than me.”
“We watch TV!”
“We sit in the same room watching different Netflix shows on six different devices,”
Tiana reminded her.
Tahati huffed. “I don’t care what you say. I’ll find a way to keep us together. Because I don’t want a life where you and the others aren’t a part of it!”
Tiana repressed the cynical reply already in her throat, and put her hand on Tahati’s shoulder.
“If anyone can, you can,” she said.
It wasn’t really true, but it was better than nothing. Once they got to the top of the peak they realised they were the only ones climbing the hill today. At least they seemed to be, because they couldn’t see anyone else. They looked out over the city one more time, at how far away everything seemed. A city within a circle of dark, broody clouds. Enchanting. Truly.
“I like it here. I think it’s beautiful. The hill, and this view, and that monument. We should climb that monument,” Tahati said.
She was pointing at Scots Monument. From the ground, it was gigantic. From up here it looked like a toy.
“We can do it tomorrow,” Tiana said.
Tahati nodded. She looked around again. Despite the bracing wind, she couldn’t find a fault in this volcano. Not that she tried. Tahati was falling in love with the city that only came to her attention because of a pun.
“I’m gonna come back here one day. To the university here. I don’t care what it takes,” she stated firmly.
Tiana smirked. “I’m sure you will. They’ll be lucky to have you.”
Tiana’s attention was drawn back to the edges of the city. Those brooding clouds were edging towards them. You could feel it in the air. A kind of static feeling.
“See those clouds?” Tiana said.
“They’ll make a good photo,” Tahati nodded.
“They’re way too dark. That’s a storm,” Tiana said, “What was it O’Malley said about static when high up?”
“If your hair goes up, get down,” Tahati said.
Each of them glanced down at their arms. The hairs were still lying flat.
“Clouds are too far away,” Tiana decided.
“Remember when we had to learn all the different cloud types in geography,” Tahati grinned.
Tiana laughed. “Oh yeah! That was useless.”
“Do you remember any?” Tahati asked.
“Yeah, I think so,” Tiana didn’t sound so sure.
“I remember nimbus, cumulonimbus, and cirrus,” Tahati said.
“That was stratus too,” Tiana said.
“Yeah,” Tahati said thoughtfully.
They spent a while reminiscing about the kinds useless things they’d learnt, and what they’d done to make things fun. Like the time they stole the schools patronising “encouragement” banner. Or when they stole brooms from the supply cupboard and used computer chairs to play jousting. Or when they piled tables and chairs in a barricade to keep their religious teacher out of the room. Or when the whole school had gone marching in protest of the school’s new rules that meant they had to go outside at lunch, and ended up being filmed and going on the local newspapers website. That same protest had broken the fire alarms so they went off seven times in half an hour and destroyed all attempts to continue their final lessons.
As they began to head back down the hill again, it was Tiana who was stuck in her thoughts.
“I’ll tell you one thing though, Tahati, while no one else is around,” she said.
“Yeah?” Tahati asked.
Tiana reached out to pull her shoulder back and make her stop walking. Just for a moment, she wanted them both to be in complete seriousness.
“I’m pretty damn sure that I’m going to miss you most of all,” Tiana stated.
Tahati couldn’t help smiling a little. “Really?”
“Yeah,” Tiana shrugged, “Don’t get me wrong, you’re insane and kind of psychotic, and if it ever comes on the news saying you’ve been arrested for murder I won’t be surprised, but I’ll miss you. You’re funny. And kinda nice. You feed us even though we’re never grateful for it, and steal your food when you’re not around... That’s the kind of friend everyone needs.”
“Really?” Tahati grinned.
“Yeah. But if you tell anyone I said that I’ll deny it,” Tiana warned.
She began walking again, trying to get away from feelings as fast as possible. Tahati followed.
“I believe you. And thanks,” she said.
Tiana shrugged. “It’s nothing.”
“Not for that-” Tahati scoffed.
Tiana laughed loudly and pretended to be offended. “Wow! Thanks!”
“Shut up, that’s not what I mean!” Tahati grinned and shoved her.
“What do you mean then?” Tiana asked.
Once again, they stopped walking, just to be serious for a moment. Tahati shrugged. She couldn’t look in Tiana’s face while she talked because they were friends, but they weren’t friendly. The only times they ever showed affectionate towards each other was when they took the heat for each other, or threw a punch to defend the other. (That was Tahati taking the blame for Tiana, and Tiana throwing a punch to defend Tahati)
“I mean… thanks for everything. If you hadn’t started talking to me back in year eight the others wouldn’t have either, and I’d still only have Kadijah for a friend. Having you lot to fight with, and know you’ll stick by me even after our fights, and even when everyone say’s I’m crazy… it helped my anger management... So, thanks.”
Tiana shrugged awkwardly. “You’re welcome… but you’re still crazy.”
Tahati shoved her, laughing. Both of them were smiling as they continued down the hill again.
“Hey, remember when we bunked off sports day to roll down that hill?” Tahati asked suddenly.
“I remember being caught by Mr Conduit when I fell in brambles and being lectured about health and safety while you lot ran off to hide,” Tiana said, with a hint of spite.
Tahati grinned back. “Wanna roll down the hill?”
Tiana chuckled and shrugged. “Sure.”
Tahati laid down on her side like a sausage and rolled down the hill as fast as possible. Tiana, to protect her camera, sat on Tristan’s pea coat, and slid down the hill like she was sledding.
By the time they got back to the hotel room, big splats of rain were already slapping down onto the pavement.
“Storms getting near,” Tiana noted.
“Storm?” Simi asked, confused.
They’d found her in the base of the monument, hiding from the rain. Blue skies had vanished, to be replaced with the grey clouds. They weren’t dark yet, but those clouds were following close.
“Don’t worry about it,” Tiana said.
For a moment, as they stepped inside the B&B, their gadgets connected with the WIFI. As they headed down the stairs they were connected long enough for two pictures to upload to Tiana’s google account. It cut out abruptly as they rounded the corner at the bottom of the stairs. Back in their room, Ravi and Zangi were watching Pretty Little Liars on Zangi’s phone.
“How much Internet are you two wasting?” Tiana asked sarcastically.
“We’re on WIFI,” Ravi said.
“What? How?” Tahati asked.
“The guy at the end of the corridor heard us complaining as he was leaving, and said he had a WIFI amplifier that the front desk gave him. It makes the WIFI stronger down here,” Ravi explained.
It was currently plugged into the plug that the TV wasn’t needing. Since they had WIFI again, the girls flopped down on their beds, plugged in their chargers, put on their headphones, and ignored each other all night. Most of them had been asleep for a while when the storm hit.
The rain was howling. Torrential bullets shooting towards the ground. Typically Scottish weather really, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that it didn’t wake anyone up. Even the whipping wind that lashed the rain against the concrete outside, slapping puddles against the windows, couldn’t wake them. Creaks and groans of old trees being beaten by the same mother nature that had created them, wasn’t enough to even stir the girls. Mother Nature stepped it up a gear.
A snap of white crackled through the air, filling the room with spindly shadow monsters for a split second. White hot veins split the furious sky, ignored by all. Mother Nature wasn’t having that. She screamed. A blood-curdling, furious roar, thundering across the sky and ground, shaking the buildings.
That woke them up.
“Holy shit!” Ravi gasped.
The room temperature had dropped two degrees, and the cold was creeping in. the only light was the spits of lightning from the crack in the curtains.
“Guys? I’m scared,” Zangi muttered.
“Dont be. Its outside and you’re not. It cant get you in here - HOLY SHIT!”
Tiana was corrected by a lightning bolt slapping into the metal handle bars on the concrete steps from the front garden to the street.
Even though it had hit something outside, it shot through each of the girls, forcing them to sit bolt up right in their own beds. Tiana and Tahati in single beds, Simi on the sofa. Only Ravi and Zangi were sharing a bed.
“If we err... if we push my bed and Tahatis bed either side of the double... we can all fit on it together,” Tiana suggested.
For a moment no one moved. They wanted to pretend they were brave enough to stay on their own. It worked for the small crackles of lightning and the low rumbles. Then, out of no where, with no lightning warning, there was a great crash, which made them yell or scream in alarm.
Immediately after that, they leapt out of bed. Simi and Tiana heaved one bed to the left of the double bed. They had to drag the bedside table out of the way to do it. Ravi and Tahati yanked the other bed to the other side. They lined the bedside tables in a row along one wall. The wall separating the gap between bedroom and bathroom.
Now they had an extra large queen sized bed, all five girls crammed into the middle, with their blankets and pillows, to huddle together against the storm.
Ravi hooked one of the blankets from the top bed posts, and stretched them to hook on to a post on the left outer bed. Zangi did the same on the right. Together they set up the blankets, using their pillows as pillars, to build a fort.
It wasnt any quiter under this fort, but it felt safer. They had no choice but to stay close together to stay under the fort. This meant that they were stuck side by side. In a strange, vulnerable intimacy. Which was probably why Zangi chose this opportunity to clear her head, and throat.
“Simi?” She said, in a low voice.
The others looked at Simi. Zangi had extended an olive branch by acknowledging her. It was up to Simi to take it, and save their adventure.
“Yeah?” Simi asked.
“I’m sorry,” Zangi said.
Simi nodded. “I am too.”
“Can we never metion this again?”
The others clapped them on the back, proudly. It looked like they might not have to go home so soon. But that brought its own kind of bitter-sweet under tone.
“I dont want to go home,” Tahati muttered.
“I thought id miss my family but ive been phoning them too much to. I dont wanna go home yet either,” Ravi explained.
“Once we go home I’ll miss my fam i miss my family,” Tiana said.
“Huh?” Simi said.
“I’ll miss you more than i miss my sisters,” Tiana tutted.
The others scoffed a little. It was beginning to feel like that part of a sleep over where things get really existential. The emotional part of the night. It was brought on early by the sounds of an apocalyptic storm raging outside, and the sanctuary of the blanket fort protecting them.
“Worst part of being separated with be that no one else will understand our inside jokes. No one will understand why Eskimos have to be white,” Simi smirked.
“No one will know why sheep say moo,” Ravi grinned.
“No one will get the two of hearts,” Zangi sniggered.
All five girls were caught between laughing, and wanting to cry at the idea of their secrets and inside jokes being left to wither away.
Like all sleep overs though, they had to end up alseep. As sad as they were, talking about jokes make them start wanting to make up new ones. That made them laugh more. One by one they began to roll back, and either fall onto the extra bed, or collapse across the main double. Eventually they ended up in a tangle, wrapped in their duvets (although Ravi and Zangi ended up still sharing) sleeping through the storm. All of them felt safer with the others close by. As the storm eased and began to move on, they slept soundly.
Peace returned for another day.