By the time the last bell rang Mina’s head was killing her. She’d had enough of school, stares and people for one day. She stuffed her journal into her bag, zipping it up before getting up. The last few classes of the day had passed fairly quickly, mainly because Mina wasn’t paying attention to any of them. Her mind was on Ridley, and the day she disappeared. If only Mina could remember something from that night, then she could help, but her mind was a complete blank. Dr Wade said not to force the memories, to let them come on their own, but she didn’t really have time to wait them out. She wanted to find Ridley, she needed to help her best friend.
Mina sighed, chewing on her thumb nail as she made her way toward the school gates. Kids were rushing past her, excited to be going home after a long day. They were talking and laughing, making plans and going on with their lives, not giving Mina a second glance. She was relieved not to be the centre of attention anymore. Mina used to love those last few minutes of school every day. The air always had a certain excitement to it, you could feel every student in the school holding their breath, just waiting for that last bell to ring. Silence would fall over the school as everyone waited, and just a heartbeat later the bell would ring and chaos would erupt. Cheers could be heard from some classrooms as everyone raced for the gates. Freedom.
Mina felt something vibrate against her leg and her hand immediately went to her pocket. She didn’t pay much attention to her phone, she didn’t really have anyone to text or call. She wasn’t going to text Vanessa, and if she could text Ridley she would. She could maybe text Myra, who she hasn’t seen all day, but that could just be because they were on different schedules. Cade did say that they all had to move on, but she thought that she would at least get to see Myra, or Ash for that matter. She made a mental note to ask Cade for Myra’s number.
She pulled the phone out, sliding the screen to read the text. It was from Catelyn, telling Mina she was running a little late and Mina should just wait by the gates. Mina snorted, pocketing the phone without replying her mother. “Some things never change,” she mumbled to herself as she walked out of the school gates. Cars still lined the streets as kids hopped into them, but Mina knew they would be gone in a few minutes. She dropped her bag on the ground, trying to ignore the stares of the parents now. She couldn’t wait until people got used to seeing her walking around. It wasn’t as if she died then came back to life, if everyone could just stop acting like she was a walking corpse that would be great.
“Hey Firefly.” A familiar blue BMW pulled up next to her, Scott hanging out of the rear window. He was wearing a pair of dark aviators and loud music was booming from the speakers.
“You’re blocking the road,” Mina told him, looking at the string of cars behind Scott, all eager matrics just wanting to get home. The front window rolled down, revealing Cade and Marx, both of them wearing sunglasses as well.
“Just get in,” Cade said and Mina raised her eyebrows at him.
“What? You’re not even going to offer me candy?”
Cade smirked and shook his head. “Get in, we have booze.”
“Sold,” Mina grinned, not thinking twice about it. She walked around the car, opening the door and sliding into the BMW next to Scott. She pulled out her phone, quickly texting her mother not to worry about her, and that she was with Cade.
“Hell yeah! Now it’s a party boys, crank up the music!” Scott said as Cade closed the windows. Marx reached over to the radio, turning the volume up so loud that Mina’s heartbeat matched the beat of the base. Scott gave another loud whoop before Cade peeled out, the car speeding forward, throwing Mina back into her seat. She laughed, her hand wrapping around the armrest as she held on. Scott grinned at her, Cade speeding through the afterschool traffic at a break neck speed. It seemed to be a regular thing, since Marx and Scott didn’t seem at all phased by Cade’s speed, and Cade was handling the car well. Mina couldn’t help but grin back at Scott, whooping along with him as the music pounded.
“This is awesome!” She yelled above the music, just loving the rush she got from the speed. The base and her heart were pounding in her ears, but she didn’t care. All that mattered in the moment was the speed and the music, and the fact that she was sitting next to her friends. This is what they did now, and she was glad she was a part of it. It made her feel like a normal teenager doing reckless things, and that was the best feeling she’s ever had.
Mina and Scott jammed out on the back seat, moving to beat as Cade sped through town until he hit the city limits. Mina instantly knew where they were going and her grin just got wider. It was going to be a good day after all.
Alder Port was situated just left of Devil’s Peak, a part of the mountainous backdrop to Cape Town. Devil’s Peak was left of Table Mountain, and on sunny days you could see the whole city and the harbour if you were on the right side of the mountain. It was a short drive up to the first view point and you could hike to the very top if you wanted to. Mina and her friends used to go there all the time to watch the sun set and city light up. Being so high up and looking at the tiny lights of one of the greatest cities in the world always made her feel like she could do anything, be anything, she wanted. It gave her a sense of freedom, like she could sprout wings and just fly away. Not that she wanted to fly away, since she enjoyed her life, but the feeling was always there. She guessed that it was something all teenagers wanted to do; to escape and find themselves. They felt like they needed to get away, as if being in a better place would make them better.
Cade pulled the BMW into a parking space overlooking the city. The sun was still high in the sky, so Mina guessed that they would be here for a while. Cade switched the car off, leaving the music blaring through the speakers before getting out. Mina and the rest followed, Scott and Marx grabbing the cooler from the boot.
“We’re going to hike up to the King’s blockhouse, if you want to come?” Scott asked, pulling a bag out of the boot as well. He zipped it open, pulling out their hiking gear.
“I’m not really dressed for hiking,” Mina said, looking down at her jeans and sweater. “You guys go, I’ll stay here and enjoy the view.” She walked to the front of the BMW, perching herself on the hood.
Cade looked up from where he was tying his hiking boots, a worried expression crossing his face for a moment as he looked at Mina. Marx caught his look and tossed his boots back into the bag.
“I’ll stay too. I’m too tired to hike up,” Marx grabbed two bottles of beer from the cooler before joining Mina in front of the car. He opened a bottle, handing it to Mina before opening one for himself. Cade nodded thankfully at his brother before he grabbed two beers for himself and Scott for the road.
“Alright, we’ll see you later,” Cade said as he and Scott headed for the trails.
Mina and Marx sat in silence for a few minutes, taking in the view, before Mina spoke up.
“I saw that little exchange between you and Cade.”
Marx turned to look at Mina, his eyebrows raised. “I don’t know what you’re talking about Mina.” He scratched his nose before taking a swing of his beer, and Mina smirked.
“You’re a terrible liar Marx. You always scratch your nose when you’re lying.” Mina took a sip of her beer, scrunching her nose up at the terrible taste. She never liked beer, even before the coma, but it seemed to have gotten worse over the years. “Cade didn’t want me to stay here alone, why?”
“Isn’t it obvious Mina?” Marx pushed his sunglasses up to his head, his eyes were a shade lighter than Cade’s, but still reflected the same pain that Cade’s did. “He feels guilty, and he’s afraid.”
Mina frowned, looking down at her hands holding the beer bottle. “Guilty? Why would he feel guilty? What happened to me and Ridley wasn’t his fault.”
Marx sighed, taking another swing of his beer before answering. “He doesn’t see it that way. When we found out you had been hurt and that Ridley was gone, he took it really bad Mina. It crushed him.”
Mina frowned, not understanding. She knew that it had been hard on them, Cade especially because he loved her, but that didn’t mean that he had to feel guilty. He wasn’t the one who hurt her, he had nothing to feel guilty about.
“I don’t understand.”
“What do you remember about the night it all happened?”
Mina shrugged, putting her beer down on the ground before crossing her arms over her chest. She didn’t remember anything, and it wasn’t for lack of trying. “Nothing really.”
“No wonder you don’t know why he feels guilty.” Marx rubbed the back of his head. “That night we were at the Jetty, and we left pretty late. Cade insisted that we drop you off at home, but you wouldn’t hear of it. He blames himself because he let you and Ridley walk home alone.”
Mina sat back, the breath knocked out of her. She didn’t realise, didn’t remember, that Cade offered to take her home. She got it now, his guilt and why he was so protective of her. He thought that he was the one who let her and Ridley walk home alone, and if he had taken them home he could have prevented two years of pain.
“It’s not his fault Marx, it was our decision to walk home. He couldn’t have prevented this.”
“In his mind he could have. He’s been blaming himself ever since that day. It was bad Mina, those first few months. The guilt was eating him alive, he never forgave himself. He’s been carrying it on his shoulders for two years now. I didn’t think that anything could help lighten the burden.”
“And then I woke up,” Mina felt awful. Cade shouldn’t have been the one to carry the terrible burden of guilt. It wasn’t his fault, what happened to her and Ridley was horrible, but it was not Cade’s fault.
“You should have seen him when he got the call from you mother. Just like that he had hope again, and the burden was a little lighter. That’s why he wouldn’t leave you alone here, and why he’s protective of you. You waking up gave him a second chance.”
Mina sat in silence for a while, stunned by what Marx just told her. Living with the guilt must have crushed Cade. “He’s not the same Cade I knew two years ago.”
Marx shrugged, tossing his empty beer bottle back into the cooler before grabbing Mina’s. “None of us are. Do you remember how invincible we thought we were?”
Mina nodded, running her hand through her hair, a sad smile making its way across her features. “We thought we owned the world, or at least the town.”
Marx chuckled, nodding in agreement. “Losing you and Ridley made the rest of us come back down to earth. We weren’t invincible, bad things could happen to us. We had to grow up, really grow up, and not just pretend we were grown up.”
“Is that why the two of them are hiking all of a sudden?” Mina could see the King’s blockhouse from where she stood, halfway up the mountain, and she could see the two tiny dots that were Cade and Scott making their way up to it.
“They started coming out here a lot after you and Ridley disappeared, said it helped ease their minds.”
“Cade I get, but why Scott?”
Marx laughed, shaking his head. “We were blind to the things we didn’t want to see back then.”
Mina raised her brows at Marx, giving him a small laugh. “When did you turn into such a philosopher Marx?” Marx was the only one of her friends whom Mina didn’t really know that well. He was almost identical in looks to Cade, but he was the quieter one. He kept to himself mostly, and if Mina remembered correctly this was one of the longest conversations they ever had.
“I read a lot,” he answered.
“So all of you grew up huh? Does that mean no more wild parties?”
Marx laughed, shaking his head. “No we still party, our priorities are just a bit different now. All we really want is to leave.” He looked out over Cape Town and Alder Port, the sun was starting to dip low behind the mountain and some of the city lights started to come on.
“Where would you go?”
“Anywhere but Alder Port.”
“Do the rest want to leave as well? Vanessa seems really happy here.” Mina lifted herself up so that she was sitting on the hood. Vanessa seemed like she was enjoying the high life here, from what Mina’s seen.
“Ash and Myra already left, and Vanessa…well she’s a complicated girl.”
“Hold on, Ash and Myra left? Where did they go?”
“Myra’s father got a job in Johannesburg, and Ash wasn’t going to lose anyone else so he went with her. I think they’re much happier there.”
“When did that happen?” Mina asked. It all made sense now, why she didn’t see Ash and Myra at school, and why they didn’t come to see her.
“About six months after you slipped into the coma.”
“Do you still have contact with them?”
Marx nodded. “Yeah, I’ll send you Myra’s number.”
“Thanks. What about Vanessa? What does she want?”
Marx shrugged. “I wouldn’t know what she wants, I’m not an expert on women.” Mina laughed and punched him playfully on the shoulder. So much has changed, the people she knew changed, and the world seemed a little less bright without all her friends. “How are you Mina, truthfully?”
“I don’t know Marx, I honestly don’t have a straight answer to that question. I’m tired of that question. It’s all anyone can ask me.”
“That’s because we don’t really know what else to ask you. You’re practically a stranger to us.”
Mina gave Marx a look, but he just shrugged. “It’s the truth.”
“We’re all strangers then?”
“Yes, we’re strangers with memories.”
“Enjoying the view?” Cade asked a little while later after they returned from the mountain. The sun had set and it was hard to distinguish between where the sky ended and the city started. The bright lights looked like stars and the view was breath-taking. Mina was leaning against the windshield, her hands behind her back. Ed Sheeran was playing softly from the speakers in the car, making Mina feel like she wasn’t even on earth anymore, like she was just floating through the galaxy.
She looked over at Cade, shivering a little. The night air was cooler up on the mountain and the temperature was dropping fast. Cade leaned into the car, grabbing a jacket and handing it to Mina. “Thanks,” she said, throwing the jacket over herself. “And yeah, I am enjoying it. It’s nice to see some lights in the darkness for once.”
Cade hopped onto the hood next to Mina. Marx and Scott were sitting on the ground in front of the car, drinking beer.
“I missed this, the view and everything,” Mina said, gesturing at her friends. “We’re just missing a few people.”
Cade nodded, leaning back as well. “Yeah we’re missing a few people, but at least we got you back. That’s a bonus.”
Mina turned her head to look at Cade, his eyes were closed and his mouth was pulled down. They did get Mina back, but they were missing the person that kept them all together; Ridley. Mina shivered again, but she wasn’t cold this time. It was the first time she truly felt alone, and broken. They were all broken, when they lost Ridley they went their separate ways. Mina went into a coma, Ash and Myra left, and Vanessa, she turned into someone none of them knew, and the boys…it’s clear that they were a little bit lost. Ridley was their glue, she kept them all together, and without her they were all lost.
“Marx told me, about the guilt and everything, it wasn’t your fault.”
Cade opened one of his eyes to look at Mina for a moment before closing it again.
“I knew that something was going to go wrong, I had a feeling in my gut that night and I ignored it, losing two friends in one night. So yes, it was partly my fault, because I could have prevented it.”
Mina sighed, not knowing what to say to make him believe that it wasn’t his fault. He had a guilt complex and she didn’t know how to snap him out of it. She opened her mouth, about to tell him that she wasn’t going to stop telling him it wasn’t his fault until it got through his thick skull, when her phone buzzed. She sighed, pulling it out and reading the screen. It was from Vanessa.
“Could you drop me at the Jetty? Vanessa wants to meet there.”
Cade nodded, getting up and smacking Marx and Scott on their heads. “Time to go boys.”
Jetty 1906 looked just like Mina remembered it. It was a small wooden building about 200m into the ocean on Pier 12, windblown and rusty. The wind had picked up, blowing in off the ocean. Mina felt a rush of emotion as she stared at Jetty 1906. It was the place where the old Mina had spent many nights laughing and talking and being carefree with her friends. It held many memories, including the memories of the night Ridley disappeared. Mina didn’t know why she didn’t think of it before, going back to the Jetty should unlock some memories, and hopefully something that could help her find Ridley.
“Will you be alright?” Cade asked through the window of his BMW. Mina nodded, pulling her book bag onto her shoulder. “Alright, call me if you need anything.”
“I will,” Mina said, waving goodbye to Scott and Marx before making her way toward the Jetty. The water lapped softly against the pier and the wood creaked beneath Mina’s shoes as she walked. She used to love the walk to the Jetty, the water was so bright and blue you could see straight through to the reef underneath. She liked watching the fish swim beneath her, in world so different and beautiful.
Mina walked into the Jetty, taking in the smell of food and the ocean. The Jetty was still the same, the black bar in the middle and the tables around it. The windows were closed as the wind blew against them and no one sat outside. Mina spotted Vanessa easily; the blonde was sitting at a table close to the bar, her hands wrapped around an empty cocktail glass. Mina was surprised to find that Vanessa wasn’t sitting at their usual table. They always sat at the table in the back, in the right corner where they had the best view of the harbour.
“Vanessa? Why are you sitting here?” Mina asked as she walked over to Vanessa. Vanessa looked up at Mina, giving her a sad smile before it turned into a smirk. She was so different, yet she was exactly the same. Mina had the feeling that this mean, vain, twisted person in front of her was always there just below the surface, waiting to pounce.
“Things change Mina.”
“So I’ve noticed,” Mina muttered under her breath, there more things changed the more they seemed to stay the same. She swung her bag over the back of her chair before sitting down. A waiter walked past, handing Mina a menu before rushing off. Mina stared hard at the menu, as if she wanted to reacquaint herself with it. She was just avoiding eye contact with Vanessa, because let’s be honest, Vanessa didn’t invite her here just to have dinner with. “You’ve certainly come into yourself.”
Vanessa’s smirk grew wider as she reached for her handbag. She put it in front of her on the table, pulling out a tube of lipstick and a small handheld mirror. She flipped the mirror open, slowly reapplying her lipstick, as if to prove a point. Mina wasn’t sure what that point was, but it couldn’t be good.
“I asked you here for a reason,” Vanessa said when she was finished. She put the lipstick and mirror back into her bag, putting it back on the floor.
“Let me guess, you’re concerned about me?” Mina’s voice was dripping with sarcasm. She knew that was the last thing Vanessa had on her mind when she asked her here.
“Not about you, no.” The waiter came by and Vanessa ordered herself another Cosmo. Mina shook her head, indicating that she didn’t want anything. She wouldn’t be staying long.
“Who are you concerned about then?”
Mina almost snorted. Of course Vanessa was only concerned about herself, the girl had the emotional range of a toothpick. She was shallow and vain. “Please go on.”
“Things have changed Mina. The wheel has turned, and you’re no longer on top. I am, and I intend to stay there.”
This time Mina outright laughed. Of course it was something stupid. Vanessa was worried about her popularity at school, and that Mina’s return would cause her to go back to being second best. Mina was always the one Vanessa had to beat. Mina was popular, smart and always in first place. When Mina and Ridley disappeared, Vanessa easily stepped into the queen bee role. Mina clapped her hand over her mouth to muffle her laughter when she saw Vanessa’s cold stare. If looks could kill Mina would be dead by now.
“That’s why you invited me here? So you can tell me not to go after your social rank?”
Vanessa nodded, her expression serious. “You were on top once Mina, I just don’t want you to get your hopes up. The world runs differently now, and I don’t want you to make a fool of yourself trying to return to the top.”
Mina raised her eyebrows, not believing the bullshit she was hearing. She had more important things to do than try to get her status as queen bee back. Ridley was still missing and Mina still had to find herself. She was not concerned with petty teenage things at the moment.
“So you’re actually doing me a favour?”
“Yes I am.” Vanessa reached across the table to take Mina’s hand, a concerned expression on her face. If only it were real. “I would hate to see you get hurt, after all you’ve been through. Just keep your head down and get through the year.” Vanessa’s Cosmo came and she let go of Mina’s hand, taking her drink from the waiter.
Mina was stunned and speechless. She couldn’t find the words to tell Vanessa how stupid and pointless all of this was. She honestly didn’t care about her social standing at the moment. She also felt angry and betrayed, but the feelings weren’t that strong. She knew all along that Vanessa wasn’t a true friend, it was just a matter of time before she showed her true colours.
“I’ll keep that in mind thanks,” Mina said, getting up and grabbing her book bag. She didn’t need to hear any more of this.
“One more thing Mina,” Vanessa said as she sipped her cocktail. When her eyes met Mina’s they were deadly serious.
“Stay away from Cade, you’ll be the death of him.”