A few hours later, Tristan was woken up by a shrill and angry ringing. His mind was foggy and confused, and he wasn’t sure what the ringing was. All he knew is it wouldn’t stop and he couldn’t sleep while it was going.
Tristan reluctantly sat up, and blinked around the room, groggily trying to figure out the source of the noise. His hazy eyes fell on his tablet-come-laptop. It was laying, half covered, in his bag. The screen was the only source of light even half covered by clothes. Tristan heaved himself out of the covers, and staggered over to his bag. The caller ID told him his boss was calling. At three in the morning.
This couldn’t be good.
Tristan sat on the edge of the bed, and attempted to look awake. Then he answered.
“Good morning boss,” he mumbled.
His boss raised an eyebrow at this morning mess in front of him. Tristan ’s eyelids were too heavy to stay fully open, his hair was askew and messy, his shirt was yanked across his chest uncomfortably, and he was stifling a yawn badly.
“I haven’t slept. It’s not morning until you sleep,” his boss, Nigel said.
“Right. Good night boss,” Tristan said.
“Tristan, don’t be cute. I haven’t the patience. Especially not with you, do you know why?” Nigel demanded.
Tristan knew why he wasn’t in best moods with his boss. “Because it’s three am?”
Nigel glared at him through the webcam, humourless.
“Because of the bill on your company card. Towels? Shoes? A lavish meal at Table-Table restaurant? Enough for seven people to eat well? Were these entirely necessary expenses?” Nigel asked firmly.
Tristan frowned in confusion. The towels and shoes were, definitely, but he didn’t pay for any meal. The girls did. The card was on his table. In his wallet. Safe. Unused.
Or so he thought.
Nigel rolled his eyes as Tristan’s tired excuses.
“Get up, get ready, and get going. You need to stick to the schedule and stop spending so much on food!” Nigel spat.
Then he hung up. Tristan blinked in the dim light of his tablet screen. When he looked at the desk, he found his wallet missing. There was no sign of it.
Tristan stumbled down to reception to ask for his wallet back, and found the lobby doors wide open. A blast of cold air sent shivers across his chest, and shook him awake.
As the cogs of his mind began to whirl as efficiently as normal, he began to put the pieces of the puzzle together. They slotted in easily and he realised what they meant. He had been duped.
A red hot anger grew in Tristan ’s stomach. They had lied to him. Schemed against him. Stolen his wallet.
There was only one possible way to get revenge on them.
The knocking was loud, irritating, and persistent. One by one the girls fought against it, and tried to sleep through. Zangi slept through it longest, but even she broke after ten minutes of knocking.
“Someone tell them to piss off,” Simi’s tired voice was muffled by her pillow.
“PISS OFF!” Zangi shouted into her pillow.
A long silence followed. Satisfied with that answer, the others curled up in their duvets and tried to go back to sleep. Just as peace was descending again, and they were beginning to drift off again, there came a shrill ringing. It sliced through the room like a sword through warm butter. Ravi groaned loudly and pulled her pillow over her head.
Tiana kicked out from under her covers, and hit the leg of the table that held the phone. She knocked the old phone from its hold so it hung from its coiled wire above the floor, and automatically answered. The muffled wakeup call was quieter than the ringing, so they waited for them to hang up. Then the beep, beep, beep of the engagement was loud and irritating too.
“I’m going to find whoever is phoning us, and I’m going to slice them open. Vertically,” Zangi grumbled.
She didn’t like waking up.
“Bitch I need my beauty sleep or I’m gonna be pissed all day!” Ravi hissed.
“Yes you do you ugly -” The end of Zangi’s insult was lost to a yawn.
Tiana groaned as she sat up, and slammed the phone back into its hold. Then she collapsed back down into her bed.
“Tahati you have my permission to murder the next person who tries wake me,” she sighed.
Tahati made a humming noise, but that was all she could manage from the depths of her duvet. They were on edge again. Even as some of them began to drift off, others - more cynical ones like Tiana and Simi - assumed someone else was going to try and wake them, and couldn’t quiet go. Their fears were confirmed when more Hammering came at the door.
“That’s it! I’m going to split their throat with the do not disturb sign!” Tiana spat.
She pushed herself to her feet, and stomped over to the door. Tiana pulled the door open enough for her to slip out, but pulled it shut behind her so no one could get in. As it clicked shut she realised that she didn’t have the key, and was locked out. She blinked in pain as her eyes adjusted to the bright light. The itchy carpet acted like Velcro to her socks. She wrinkled her nose as she tried to move her foot and found herself unable to.
“You look drunk,” Tristan sniggered.
Tiana glared at him. He had brushed his hair into a quiff and pulled on a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows. Something about what she was seeing was undeniably attractive. But it was half three in the morning, and the first one of them to fall asleep (Tahati) had done so at midnight. Tiana was still mostly asleep, and willing to claw her way back to bed.
“You look tired. Go back to bed,” she said.
She frowned in disgust at the taste of her breath. It had been five hours since she brushed her teeth and already her breath was toxic.
“Go wake everyone up, it’s time to go,” Tristan ordered.
Tiana grabbed his hand, and forced her eyes to focus on his watch. Then she scoffed. Loudly.
“Trissy, breakfast doesn’t start for another two and a half hours. We’ll be driving hungry, and you’ll be driving tired. Both is something that will end in death. Probably murder. Definitely yours,” she said.
Tristan shook his head. “We gotta stick to the schedule.”
“Stick to your own damn schedule, we’ve got sleep schedules to think of,” she spat.
“No we need to leave,” he repeated.
Tiana leaned against the door, sighing.
“Look, it’s going to take twenty minutes just to get everyone up, and then like an hour and a half to get everyone showered, and then an hour for them to do their locations and make up and all that jazz. Then ten minutes to get dressed and ten to pack. That’s like three hours. By then we’ll be hungry so well need breakfast which will take at least half an hour. Stop trying to get us up to leave now because it’s gonna take time. Time best spent asleep.”
Tristan wasn’t buying it. He frowned at her firmly.
“Get everyone up.”
Tiana shrugged. “Cant. I’m locked out and they’re already asleep by now.”
Tristan huffed. “You’re useless.”
Tiana yawned “Ok,” as she slid down the doorway and sat on the floor. Tristan stormed off to find another way in. Tiana raised her head to watch him vanish around the corner. Once he was gone, she knocked on the door and said, loudly:
“Let me in or I swear to god I’ll sleep on you in the van!”
After a moment or two, the door creaked open. Tiana slipped through, and let it click shut behind her. Tahati staggered back to her mattress, and collapsed back onto it.
“He’s going to be back. We might as well get ready to go,” Tiana yawned as she climbed into bed.
The only reply she got was a snort from Zangi as she pulled the covers tighter around her.
Tristan settled the bill at the desk, trying to at least get some money back, considering that both rooms were only used for a few hours. Despite his arguing, the receptionists were having none of it.
Meanwhile Zangi and Ravi were feeding their duvet through the window of the hotel room, to Simi and Tahati, who were outside. That’s where being on the first ground came in handy. The van was only a few feet from their window, and Tristan had unlocked it so they could load it. Instead, Simi, Ravi and Zangi piled into the far back, and pulled the duvet tight around them.
Tiana was gathering stray items – dropped mascaras, lone socks, a bra, hair bands - anything that they had a limited number of, because they were certain Tristan wouldn’t let them stop to buy new ones. Not anymore.
“Oi, you done,” Tahati asked, leaning through the window.
“Not quite,” Tiana said.
She went to the tea tray on the desk, and gathered up all of the little packets of biscuits that they had left. One packet of three biscuits for each bed. Someone would have to share, but it was better than starving.
“Now I’m done,” Tiana grinned.
She passed the last of the bags and stray items over to Tahati, before climbing through the window herself. Needle prick thorns dug into her clothes and skin, but she brushed it off.
Tahati heaved the last of the bags into the boot of the van, and slammed the boot shut.
Tiana climbed into the middle seat, and laid across all three of them. Tahati shoved her legs.
“You’re in the front seat because you slept on the floor. No backsies,” Tiana said.
Tahati huffed. She climbed into the front seat and found herself unable to lay down, but in control of the heating. The pre-morning temperatures were almost freezing, as were the girls. They had given Tahati the power to change that. For better or worse.
Tristan huffed as he climbed back into the driver’s seat.
“Everyone ready to go?” He asked.
There was a few grumbles from the girls that he took as agreement. As he pulled away from the carpark, Zangi pulled a lever in the shoulder of her chair. It threw the chair down flat, and gave her the chance to lie down. Tahati noticed it in the mirror of the passenger sun visor. She smirked and kicked the back down onto Tiana’s legs. Tiana retaliated by kicking the back of her chair.
“You’ve got three! Leave it! Bismillah!” Tahati spat.
Tiana kicked her again, to drive her point home, and then adjusted her position so her feet weren’t as squashed.
Tristan focused on the shining cat’s eyes that kept him on the road. Since he thought that the girls were asleep, he put on the radio. Through the crackle of the waves, he heard Patient Love by Passenger.
Tahati was awake. Each bump and jolt of the road rocked her asleep and then jolted her awake again. The hum of the engine relaxed her. The warmth of the heaters radiated from her toes upwards. She ignored the music on the radio as it seeped into the van. Instead, Tahati watched the headlights from the passing cars shimmering across the roof.
The darkness swallowed everything else.
Since they were dropping off and sleeping through the darkness, none of them really had any effective way of keeping track of time. Except by counting songs.
It could have been an hour later, could have been two, but around a hundred and seventy songs later, Tiana cleared her throat.
“Tahati? You up?”
“Mmm,” Tahati hummed.
“Can you put this on charge please?” Tiana slipped her phone onto Tahati’s chair.
Tahati reached blindly for the phone and the charger for her. There was a popping noise as it accepted the charge.
“It’s anyone else awake?” Tristan asked.
“Yeah,” Ravi said.
All of them spoke in slightly quieter tones than usual, but their voices were clear and awake. It was that wonderfully odd time when you wake naturally in the early morning, and everything is chill.
As the sky turned that pale bluish grey that it goes before the sun has a chance to rise, Tristan felt a pang of guilt. He was exhausted and he knew they were worse, because they had slept even less than him. His stomach growled with hunger. They must have been starving too. But he’d told Nigel he’d keep spending to a minimum. That meant no restaurant and no cafe. Which left a garage breakfast.
Tiana, Ravi and Tahati walked the length of the sandwich fridge in the garage they had parked up in. Each soggy sandwich looked more disappointing than the last. The crisp packets had a thin layer of dust across the top. The drinks were cold though. Cold and refreshing. Tiana and Ravi picked up a sandwich each, but not Tahati.
Tahati waited until Tristan finished filling the van with fuel, so she could point out the problem.
“I can’t eat any of these. Neither can Simi. They’re not halal,” Tahati said.
“Does it really matter?” Tristan asked helplessly.
“Here we go,” Tiana muttered to Ravi.
Tahati’s bushy eyebrow furrowed. She glared at him furiously. Her nails dug into her palm to stop herself lashing out at him.
“Yes. If it’s not halal then I can’t eat it or I’ll be dammed to hell with these idiots forever. Is that what you want? Me in eternal damnation? With them!”
“Love you too bitch,” Ravi muttered.
Tristan glanced up at the hijab she was styling. It had been thrown on lazily, and barely covered her whole head, but it was there. A constant reminder of her faith. Tristan sighed. He couldn’t ask her to compromise her religion. He’d have to find something halal for her to eat.
They found themselves in the back of the van again, waiting for Tristan . He was googling where the nearest halal shop was. While he did that, Tiana furrowed on the floor of the van to find the biscuit packets from the floor. She slipped one to Tahati, and handed the other to Ravi, who had moved to sit beside her. The other two were still dead to the world.
“What’s the plan?” Ravi asked, through gingernut.
“Well I’m not allowed to spend much more since I spent so much on a lavish meal yesterday,” Tristan said, his words laced with venom, “so you might have to buy sandwiches and you two will have to have extra crisps, I don’t know.”
Tahati mouthed the word crisps at Ravi, as if she couldn’t understand the audacity. Ravi shook her head and bit into her biscuit.
“Why don’t you go down to McDonalds? I’m pretty sure McDonalds is halal, I mean we’ve ate there together before,” Tiana said.
Tahati opened her mouth to agree, when Simi’s tired voice came from the duvet to correct Tiana’s grammar.
Tiana shot a humorous bemused look at the duvet covers.
“Shut up little miss “sheep go moo”, you don’t get to correct my English!”
Simi sat up and blinked at her to adjust her eyes to the light. “Good morning to you too bitch.”
Ravi grabbed a packet of biscuits and threw them back to Simi. That was the closest thing they had to breakfast right now.
“Is there anything halal in the garage Tahati, or is it all wrong?” He asked.
Tahati shrugged, “you only told us to look at sandwiches.”
“Like that stopped any of you. What, did you think I didn’t notice Ravi’s packet of pringles? They’re not well hidden!” He said.
Ravi’s expression of guilty surprise as she pushed her pringles out of view, was priceless. The others giggled at her. In class she was awful at hiding her food - and being quiet as she ate - and she was just as bad here.
Tiana knelt up on her seat and wrapped her arms around the headrest on Tahati’s chair. “Trissy you’re being miserable again. You need to get some sleep. Why don’t you come back here, take a nap, and I’ll drive for a while?”
Tristan stared at her in a kind of alarmed terror at the idea of allowing her to drive. Tahati and Ravi bit back a laugh, but Simi found herself horrified at the idea of him being any closer to her.
“Are you insured on this van? Do you have a licence? Can you even drive?” he asked.
“No, no, and yes.”
“Then no, no, and no. Sit down and let me think about where to get breakfast.”
Tiana scowled. “Sure. While you’re thinking of that, I’ll think about ways I can stop you being such a miserable bastard.”
“Never gonna happen. It’s his nature,” Simi said.
Tristan’s eyes were beginning to hurt from rolling them too often.
“I’m not even that hungry,” Simi said.
“Same,” Tiana said.
“I’ve got pringles so I’m good,” Ravi said.
Tahati leaned around to hold out a begging hand. “Give some man, I’m starving!”
Tristan glanced in the rear-view mirror to see the girls sharing out what little food they had, so they could eat.
“Well, if you’re all fed, we’ll move on again,” he said.
There was a low groaning. They might not have been hungry, but this trip was not fun. It wasn’t what they were expecting, and they were already wishing they were back at home.
“Shut up. We’re already most of the way towards the next stop, so just shut up,” Tristan huffed.
They weren’t already halfway to where they needed to go. In fact, they were heading back in towards London. Only, instead of following the signs into London, they followed the signs towards a sacred stone circle.
The complaining woke up Zangi, who joined in because she didn’t like being woken up.
Eventually they turned off of the main road and ended up trailing down a dirt track.
As they parked at the bottom of the dirt track, they got a full view of the very large, very boring stone they had come too far to see. Tristan turned around to warn them to behave. As he did, he looked between them. His jaw dropped.
“You’re all still in your pyjamas?!”
Each of them glanced down, then glanced at each other, and then snorted with laughter. Tristan rolled his eyes yet again. They really were beginning to ache.
“Fine. You wanna play this way? We’re gonna play this way!” he spat.
He threw the door open, and leaped of the van. The others looked at each other in alarm. Each of them grabbed their phones and opened snapchat, ready to post their complaints. He threw open the door into the back, and had five cameras pointed directly at him. He didn’t care.
“Get out. Now.”
No one moved.
“Get out!” he shouted.
Tahati glanced at Tiana, hoping she would fight back. Ravi leaned back in her seat, to get away from him. Simi kept her eyes on him, keeping her finger on record, so nothing he did could go unwitnessed. Zangi and Tiana shared a look. They were both rigid in terror. The only support they would have right now, was each other. Zangi nodded.
Tiana leaned down slowly, and picked up her camera from her bag. She carefully climbed over Ravi, and stepped out of the door.
Tristan was still steaming in anger. He waited, arms folded, scowling, as each of the girls climbed out of the van. Some of them had no shoes on, and all of them were in pyjamas. Tahati grabbed her hijab, but didn’t have time to put it on properly. She just wore it like a veil again. Simi didn’t even have that.
“Thank you.” Tristan spat.
He slammed the sliding door shut behind them, causing the timid girls to wince. Simi was clinging to Tahati, and Ravi’s hand brushed anxiously against Tiana’s.
“Stay close girls. We don’t want to give him any chance of endangering us,” Zangi said, softly.
How she was able to keep her head so level when the others were panicking, none of them knew. Not even her. Simi could only think of running, Tahati was doing everything in her power not to attack him and give him reason to hurt anyone, Ravi was thinking about walking across all that mud in her nice purple socks, and Tiana was hell bent on making sure everyone was alright. Even if it meant getting in the way of Tristan .
She let go of Ravi’s hand, and followed Tristan . It was her fault they were there. If anyone got hurt, it was her fault too. She fiddled with her camera anxiously. Her keen photographer eyes were picking up everything, from the wild rabbits in the distance, to the cracks in the stone they were heading towards. The others followed, being sure to stay close.
Small things change the world. It just takes the right situation to make the pieces fall into place. A driver taking a wrong turn that gives a gunman a clear shot to the duke. A country voting the way no one really expected. A man forgetting to pick up binoculars. A warning note that goes unread. A scientist forgetting to close a window. Tiny moments that seem insignificant change the course of history, and change the way the world develops.
The same can be said for moments in your personal life. Any decision you ever made, any mistake, all hold the power to change your world.
The mistake that changed everything tonight, was the moment that Tristan dropped the van keys.
The situation was set. Bored, reckless, terrified teens who had already discussed a rebellion plan. A previous failed attempt to steal the keys. A revolution waiting to happen. The keys were all they needed.
In that moment, everything changed.
Simi, Zangi and Tiana all noticed. The three of them shared a look. Zangi raised an eyebrow. Tiana wrinkled her nose and gave a nod of encouragement. Simi casually leaned down, and scooped them up. Ravi had gotten ahead, so Zangi sped to her side, trying not to be noticed by Tristan. Zangi whispered in her ear.
Ravi’s expression looked like a silent gasp. Her eyebrows shot up and she leaned back in alarm. Zangi held her gaze until Ravi silently agreed. A smile crossed her face as she did.
Simi tugged on Tahati’s arm. She looked up. Simi beckoned for Tahati to follow. Confused and curious, Tahati obeyed. As Simi passed Tiana, she slipped the keys into her hand.
Being in their socks, they were basically silent as they headed back to the van. Tristan didn’t notice. Tiana climbed into the driver’s seat. Simi and Tahati climbed into the back, pushing Ravi into the middle. Zangi got into the front beside Tiana. Very quietly, they gently shut the doors. When each one clicked, they thought they were done for.
But they weren’t.
Tristan was in too much of a huff to hear anything.
Electricity tingled in the air, the way that it does when the world is about to change.
“Everybody ready?” Tiana asked.
Her voice was low, as if someone could hear and stop them getting away.
There were nods and grins of expectation all around. Tiana gripped the steering wheel. She had practiced driving hundreds of times with her sister, but this was the first time she’d drive on the open road.
The others were still where they sat. For a moment, everything was static. She took a deep breath as she pinched the key.
Suddenly that static became a current. The engine roared into life, the girls squealed with excitement, and the gears crunched. Tristan wasn’t too much in a huff to hear that. He glanced back to see the girls missing, and looked to the van in alarm. His faced changed to horror as the van pulled away from its parking spot.
With no other way to stop them, Tristan started running. He raced straight at the van but it didn’t matter. Adrenaline pumped through the girls and they yelled in excited encouragement for Tiana to speed up.
She floored it.
The back wheels spun out and caused the back of the car to zigzag. The baggage slid to one side of the boot and thudded against the wall. Just as Tristan reached where the van had been parked, the front wheel mounted a rock by the exit. Tristan hesitated as he thought the van had ground to a halt. He winced at the screech as the rock scraped the undercarriage and down the side of the car. Even that wasn’t enough to stop the girls.
Tahati slid open the side door of the van to throw Tristan ’s bag out into the road, and then slammed it shut again. The danger of the moment caused her heart to thunder, but she couldn’t stop grinning.
The others were bouncing in their seats as they went screaming down the dirt road and back towards the tarmac. Leaves were torn from the treetops by the rush of wind they caused. Inside the car there was a golden atmosphere. Absolute thrill filled all of them, and they became stereotypical teenage girls in their joy. They talked loudly, quickly, and filled the gaps between words with excited giggles.
Even as Tiana slowed back to a legal speed, the high didn’t stop.
Meanwhile Tristan stared at the van-shaped dust cloud in horror. He was furious and terrified. Hs boss was going to kill him. First for losing the van, then for losing the equipment, then for losing the girls and opening them up to lawsuit. Even if he didn’t kill him, he wouldn’t have a job anymore. No one else was going to hire him after this.
But Tristan wasn’t thinking any of that. All Tristan was thinking of was a long stream of every swear word he knew, on repeat.
Needless to say he was not looking forward to phoning his boss.