Fiction Fursday/A Missing Belt and Fine Shoes

Another Thursday and another story! This week I was provided with a prompt from Jason over at Aethereal Engineer. Jason has given me some great prompts before and he has done so again. His suggestion was that “a person discovers a portal to ‘somewhere else’ in their closet. What happens?” I thought that was a pretty good one!

Here’s what I was able to come up with. I hope you enjoy it.

P.S. If anyone would like to suggest a prompt for me to use another day, please let me know in the comments.

 

A Missing Belt and Fine Shoes

By Adam Dixon

Jerry Mackintosh was drunk again, but this time he was angry too. He had slaved ten years away at the local mill only to be replaced by a machine. Jerry had walked out of the gates clutching his final wage packet and straight into the pub, and had proceeded to spend half of it on stout. Upon staggering home, he had worked himself into a foul, dangerous mood.

“Jerry, keep your voice down!” Mary, his petite wife pleaded. “You’re frightening the children!”

“Oh, I am, am I?” Jerry sneered, casting about in search of the brats. “Mustn’t do that! Can’t scare the ungrateful little sods, can I?”

“Jerry, don’t, they’re not ungrateful,” Mary said, wringing her hands together. “They don’t like it when you come home late and start shouting, that’s all…”

“I’ll do whatever I bloody well like!” Jerry shouted, balling his hands into fists. His watery blue eyes were bloodshot and angry. “I’m the man of this house, and by God you’ll all know it!” Jerry swung and punched Mary in the stomach. She doubled over, the breath whooshing from her lungs. Jerry followed it up with a backhanded swipe which knocked Mary to the ground. He towered over her, swaying and breathing heavily. Mary began to sob and curled herself into a ball; she knew this part all too well.

“Where’re those fucking kids, anyway?” Jerry cried, his voice hoarse. “I’ll get those little brats! Teach them some respect!” He rolled up the sleeves of his shirt and reached for his belt. He then realised that he hadn’t worn it that day and cursed aloud. Jerry stalked up the rickety old staircase and into the tiny master bedroom. Wrenching open the wardrobe he began searching inside it, throwing moth-eaten trousers and dresses onto the single bed. He knew it was in there somewhere! Growling and gnashing his teeth, Jerry took a step forward and tangled his foot in a pair of stockings. He bellowed as he fell, bracing for the impact of hard wood against his head.

He was stunned when he landed sprawling on the ground. He lay blinking and felt gravel under his fingers and an unpleasant smell under his nose. He raised his head and glanced around him. He appeared to be in a small village, surrounded by people bustling to and fro, all of them wearing strange, dirty clothing. Jerry got to his feet with some difficulty as his anger gave way to confusion. It had been dark when he’d gotten home, so why was the sun burning down on his bald patch? Glancing around he saw wooden houses with thatched roofs leaning against one another and cobbled streets littered with straw and excrement. Jerry rubbed his temples. He didn’t realise he was that drunk!

Jerry’s attention was drawn by giggling nearby. He turned and saw two grubby children, a boy and a girl of roughly the same age, dancing around in a puddle. Jerry’s confusion was forgotten as his rage rose up once again like dead leaves touched by a flame. Sod the belt, he was going to give those brats a good hiding! He snarled and lumbered towards them. As his shadow fell across them the two children looked up. If Jerry hadn’t been so drunk or so angry he might have realised that both children had brown hair, whereas his children had blond hair. But he didn’t, and he cuffed them on their ears, knocking them into the murky puddle. Jerry heard gasps from people close by but he ignored them.

“Take that, you little shits!” Jerry said, towering over them as they sat up. The boy was rubbing his head and staring at Jerry in disbelief and the little girl began to cry.

“Don’t you give me those crocodile tears, young lady!” Jerry raged, seizing the girl by her hair and hauling her upright. The boy protested, getting to his feet and clinging to Jerry’s wrists. Jerry knocked him down again with his free hand and held the girl with ease.

“Ha, that’ll teach you!” Jerry said. “You’re not a man yet, sonny-Jim!”

“Oi, what d’you think yer doin’?” A voice called. Jerry turned, still gripping the young girl’s hair. A woman in a dress which may have been yellow once was staring at Jerry, her eyes wide in shock. There were other women in similar dirty clothes next to her, wearing the same horrified expression.

“None of your bloody business!” Jerry retorted. “Stay out of this, whoever you are!”

“I shan’t!” the woman replied. “Who d’you think you are to come waltzin’ in our village with yer fancy clothes an’ beatin’ our children? You wait til Big John hears about this!”

“You’ll shut your mouth if you know what’s good for you!” Jerry said. He turned back towards the children but was caught by surprise when a skinny man with a white beard stepped forwards and shoved him in the chest. It was a weak shove by all accounts, but Jerry was so drunk that it threw him off balance and sent him stumbling into a fence. He gripped the fence and eyed the old man with contempt.

“Oh, you’re in for it now, old fella!” he said. The old man swept his bony arms around the children and hugged them tight. His mouth was a thin line of anger and his eyes blazed.

“I dunno who y’are, stranger, but no-one attacks my grandchildren!” the man wheezed, gritting his blackened teeth. “My boy’ll have yer guts for this!”

As Jerry’s stout-addled brain tried to process this information, a huge man with a black beard and a leather apron came charging towards him. Jerry had just enough time to stand up straight before he was lifted from his feet. Jerry was a tall man, but this brute was almost a giant. He choked as a gloved hand gripped his throat and lifted him two inches off the ground. He was brought close to the face of the bearded man and looked into furious green eyes.

“NO-ONE TOUCHES MY LITTLE’UNS!” the man said, tightening his grip. Jerry struggled and gasped, catching the sooty smell of the man’s apron and the sweat on his brow. The man grunted and threw him across the street. Jerry bounced off the cobbles and landed in a heap next to an empty wooden trough. He tried to stand but the man beat him to it again, hauling him to his feet. Stars exploded in Jerry’s eyes as the man hit him hard in the cheek. He felt the skin tear and was dimly aware of blood flowing down his neck. Jerry grasped the man’s wrists with shaking hands.

“No more!” he said, suddenly sober through fear. Like all bullies, Jerry was a coward when challenged. He knew he was in big trouble.

“I THOUGHT YOU WERE A MAN!” the man said, punching him again, this time in the ribs. Jerry thought that his chest would cave in if he had to endure another hammer-blow like that. The man walloped him on the other cheek before dragging him down the village, his feet drawing meandering lines through the straw.

“You’re goin’ to the Town Watch!” the man said, throwing in another punch for good measure. “That’ll teach you! Beat up my little’uns, will ya? Yer a disgrace!”

 

An hour later, Jerry was lying in a dark, smelly cell complete with iron bars and a pile of straw for a bed. His clothes were ruined, covered in mud, dirt and his own piss. He stank, his cheek and ribs ached and his head was raging with a hangover. He had never felt so miserable and he still didn’t know what was going on. He wasn’t dreaming, he knew that much; you couldn’t dream pain so vividly.

“Why did I go into that bloody wardrobe?” he groaned, massaging his head. He knew perfectly well why and as he sat in the cold and the dark, a familiar feeling began to creep into his heart. It was an emotion which had dominated his life ever since he realised that he drank too often, ever since that frightened look had appeared in his wife’s eyes. Jerry drank to stifle that emotion but that only made it stronger the next day. That emotion was shame.

“Oh God, what have I done?” Jerry said, burying his head in his hands. He began to sob and tug at his hair, promising the cell that he would mend his ways if he could only get home to Mary and the kids.

“Do you mean that, wretch?” a sibilant voice whispered from the darkness. Jerry almost yelped in fright and scanned the cell for the source of the noise.

“Hello? Who’s there?” he called, shrinking back against the wall.

“Your cell-mate, wretch,” the voice replied. It was coming from the other side of the cell, not three steps away. “I’ve been watching you since the Watch tossed you in here. You are in a sorry state, aren’t you?”

“I deserve it,” Jerry said, wiping snot from his nose with his sleeve. “I…I’ve shamed myself with my behaviour.”

“But you wish to make amends, do you not?” the voice said. There was a scuffling of straw. “Perhaps…I can help you.”

“How?” Jerry asked, squinting. He could make out a shape nearby, but he couldn’t see any features. “Come closer.” There was a moment of silence before the figure slid closer. As the meagre light from the window fell upon it, Jerry saw with relief that it was just another prisoner like himself. The man was thin with sunken brown eyes, his clothes were ragged and filthy and he stank of stale sweat. He was grinning at Jerry, revealing a dazzling smile which contrasted weirdly with his dishevelled appearance.

“I can send you home!” the man hissed, his eyes widening. “I can see you are not from this world: that much is plain. I have met a few wretches like yourself and I have helped to send them back.”

“You…you can get me home?” Jerry’s mind raced. He wasn’t sure what the man was talking about, but he was so desperate to get out of the cell that he was willing to believe anything.

“I can,” the man said, running a dirty finger along his stubbly chin. “For a price…”

“I don’t have anything to give!” Jerry said, on the verge of tears once again.

“Your shoes,” the man replied, pointing.

“My shoes?” Jerry was perplexed.

“Yes, the Watch did not deprive you of them, but I would like to,” the man said. “The leather is very fine, better than anything I may find in this village. Give me your shoes and I will send you home.” Jerry almost twisted his ankle as he tore his shoes from his feet and thrust them towards his cell-mate. The man received with a smile, running his emaciated fingers across them lovingly.

“Ahh, many thanks, wretch,” he said. “These will aid me more than you realise…”

“Now send me home!” Jerry whined. The man nodded and placed the shoes on the ground. He stood up and walked over to the corner of the cell. Jerry couldn’t see what he was doing, but he heard a low chanting in a strange language and the padding of the man’s feet. A blast of cool, fresh air struck Jerry in the face, raising goose-bumps on his flesh and sending loose straw scurrying across the cell like fleeing insects. A glowing rectangle stretching two metres high light up the man as it pulsed on the wall of the cell. The man turned towards Jerry and flashed his smile.

“It is done,” he said. “Pass through this doorway, wretch, and you will return from whence you came. Farewell.” Jerry stood on weak legs and shambled towards the doorway. The pale glow hurt his eyes after so many hours in darkness, but he didn’t care. He moved as fast as he could and passed through the wall with a cry of desperation. A warmth seeped into his body, rejuvenating his aches and lifting his soul like a hot bath. For an instant, Jerry was blinded by intense light and at bliss…

Jerry hit the floorboards with a thud. Winded and shocked, he looked up. His heart leapt as he recognised his bedroom. He twisted round to look behind him. There was the wardrobe, with its doors flung open and clothes strewn on the floor. Jerry kissed the wooden floor and scrambled to his feet.

“Mary!” Jerry called, his voice hoarse with emotion. “Mary! Kids! Where are you?” He staggered towards the doorway and descended into the kitchen. Mary was standing at the bottom, looking up at him with wide, relieved eyes.

“Jerry!” she said. “Where have you been? It’s been three days! Where are your shoes?”

“I’ve been away, Mary,” Jerry croaked, reaching the bottom of the stairs and pulling his astonished wife into a tight embrace. He breathed in the soapy scent of her neck and felt the flour dusting her cheeks.

“Jerry!” Mary said in surprise as he nuzzled her neck. “What’s gotten into you? Are you alright?”

“I’m fine, Mary,” Jerry said. “I’ve just realised what a brute I’ve been. But no more, I’m a changed man. I’ll never hurt you or the children again, I promise.” Mary was taken aback by the emotion in Jerry’s voice. She returned the hug, patting his back with a bewildered expression.

“That’s wonderful to hear, Jerry,” she said, pulling away from him and smiling. Jerry beamed at her and held on to her hands.

“Where are the kids? I need to tell them I’m sorry.”

“They’re at school, Jerry. It’s nine o’clock.”

“Oh, good. I’ll tell them later, I need to tell them.”

“Of course,” Again Mary was stunned by the depth of Jerry’s emotion. She fidgeted as she thought of something to say.

“Jerry, I know about the mill,” she said at last. “I’m so sorry to hear about that, really I am. But there might be a job for you in town. There’s a man who has just moved here, a stranger, and he’s set up a shop near the baker’s. He said he’s looking for hard workers to get his business going, so maybe you could speak to him?”

“Yes, yes, I’ll go right away!” Jerry said, grabbing his wellington boots and shoving them on. He walked out into the murky morning and breathed a long sigh of relief. He was home again, and now he realised what was important to him. He walked into the town, greeting astonished neighbours who had been worrying about him and assuring them all that he was very well, thank you very much. As he approached the town centre, he saw the new shop. It was a cobblers, with a freshly-painted sign boasting “Shoes of Fine Leather Inside!” Jerry smoothed his clothes before pushing the door open. A merry jingle filled the cool interior as the bell above the door was jostled. Jerry looked around and saw shoes of all sizes stacked on shelves and the almost-pleasant smell of leather filled his nostrils. He walked to the back of the shop and rested his hands on the counter, searching for the proprietor.

“Hello?” he called. “I’m sorry to disturb you, but my wife told me that you are looking for workers. I would like to offer my services.”

“Ah, I think I might have some use for you!” a voice hissed behind him. Jerry whirled and was stunned to see a familiar face. The man rubbed his now clean-shaven cheeks and flashed his dazzling smile.

“It is very good to see you again, wretch!” the man said. He threw his head back and laughed as Jerry stood dumfounded before him. He wasn’t sure what to make of this development, but it had to be better than sharing a cell. He swallowed and shook the man’s hand. For better or worse, he was a changed man now and he intended to prove it. He couldn’t help wondering what other surprises his life had in store for him now.

 

A – Z Challenge Day 23

It is Day 23 and today’s word comes from another one of my work colleagues, Jamie. As it happens, Jamie is my supervisor, which makes his suggestion all the more amusing. His prompt is the word “WASTED”, and judging by the grin on his face when he suggested it I knew exactly what kind of story he was hoping for!

Well, I had a bit of a think and came up with an idea that I really like. It’s been partially inspired by my thought process for each word during this Challenge, and I hope you enjoy it. Thanks again, Jamie!

WASTED

By Adam Dixon

“Settle down, class!” the stern-faced robotic teacher commanded. She was fully seven feet of gleaming chrome with stern feminine features carefully painted on to her “face”. She had even had glasses added to complete the academic effect. The babbling group of forty children quietened to a murmur before reaching complete silence. It was a young class as most of the children were between five and seven years old. The teacher surveyed the room with her highly-attuned sensors and confirmed that every pupil was concentrating.

“Your English Language class will now begin,” the teacher buzzed as she spoke, turning towards a large metal disc set into the floor. It looked very much like a polished version of the manholes that used to lead into sewers during the last millennium. The teacher stretched out a shining arm and the disc began to glow. A cone of light erupted from its surface, creating a shimmering image of the word “WASTED”. The teacher turned to face the children.

“Today’s lesson will consider adjectives, and we will begin with this word: wasted. Listen to how it is pronounced and repeat after me. WASTED.” The class dutifully repeated the word back to the teacher. She nodded and waved at the disc again. The image shifted, and in the blink of an eye transformed into a high-definition image of an industrial skip which was filled with half-eaten sandwiches, water bottles and sweets. The children began to talk and gesture at the image, but were silenced by a sharp glance from the teacher.

“Now, here we see an example of the formal use of the word. Please note that the inclusion of this ancient device known as a “skip” is purely for your amusement. This collection of partially-eaten food demonstrates that potential nourishment has been wasted. There was no need to throw it away as there was plenty left to eat. What do we call this kind of behaviour, class? Please reflect on our previous lessons on adjectives.” A few of the children shouted out their answers.

“Juvenile!”

“Ungrateful!”

“Greedy!”

“Shitty!”

The teacher strode over to the desk at the front of the class and pressed one of forty red buttons spread out across it. There was a sharp buzzing sound and a small, ginger-haired boy yelped and leaped out of his seat, rubbing his rear. The rest of the class burst out laughing, jeering and pointing at the unfortunate youth.

“Be advised, Macolm, that whilst your use of the word ‘shitty’ can be considered correct, you are not permitted to use curse words in this classroom.” The teacher said, her painted face aimed at the boy.

“Sorry, miss…” Malcolm mumbled, carefully sitting back down. His classmates stopped laughing and paid attention, afraid that they would be punished next.

“Good,” the teacher said, moving back to the holo-disc. “This word can also refer to an action, a fitting example being Malcolm’s wasted effort at answering my question.” The class sniggered and Malcolm hung his head. The teacher waved at the disc and the image warped and was replaced once again. In place of the wasted food, there stood the image of a badly emaciated woman. Her skin was stretched across bones which could be seen easily even at the back of the class and her gaunt face was skull-like. She glanced up at the class and her long black hair moved away from her face, revealing a chilling smile. A few of the children gasped and four of them started crying. The teacher ruthlessly buzzed the sobbing youths until they held back their emotions. They sat trembling, enduring the wretched image in order for the lesson to continue.

“This is another example of the word wasted,” the teacher continued as if nothing had happened. “In this sense, it refers to the body of this woman; it has shrivelled and become very weak through lack of nourishment. This was a common problem among the people of the early twenty-first century due to the “Size-Zero” phenomenon in fashionable society, as you will recall from your History lessons.” The image of the woman gazed around the class with haunted eyes and raised a hand towards them. This time several more children began to cry and the teacher was forced to change the image more quickly. The hologram shifted and a tall, reasonably healthy-looking man replaced the skeletal woman. His face was slack, his movements were clumsy and he wore a ludicrous smile on his face. He hiccoughed, belched and laughed every few seconds, clutching a half-eaten kebab in one hand and an almost-empty bottle of beer in the other.

“Here, we have an example of the informal use of wasted,” the teacher droned on. “This man has been rendered incomprehensible and unbalanced through severe intoxication: therefore, this man is wasted.” The man giggled and dropped his glasses. As he bent down to retrieve them, he also dropped his kebab. Swearing loudly, he leaned down further and performed a crab-like shuffle as he tried to decide which of his belongings needed saving first. Before he could reach a decision, he fell on to his hands and knees and promptly vomited on to the floor. The hologram was very sophisticated, recreating every image in stunning detail. The horrified children screamed as one as the very real-looking vomit spread towards their desks. The teacher frantically waved her arms and the image faded.

“Silence, class!” She ordered, stabbing the shock buttons at random and ignoring the shrieks they caused. “It was merely a computer-generated image and nothing to become agitated about! Please sit quietly so that we can move on to our second adjective of today, the word SCARY!”

The children wailed collectively and the robotic teacher tutted. She was running out of buttons!

 

A – Z Challenge Day 6

It’s Day Six of the April Challenge and that means another story! Hold the applause until the end, please!

Today’s word comes again from the lovely Kate, and it is “FRAGILE”. An interesting word which gave me a few ideas right away, although most of them concerned fragile mindsets or fragile bodies. In the end, I went for something a little different but which I’m sure everyone can relate to!

Here’s what I came up with, and I hope you enjoy it.

Brief note: just a quick reminder to any readers from Across the Pond that it is legal to consume alcohol in the UK from age 18, although I’m sure that the Europeans on the mainland find that laughable!

FRAGILE

By Adam Dixon

Darren cautiously opened one eye and immediately regretted it as the blurred room spun before him. The safe retreat of sleep was unreachable and as he became more fully awake he was welcomed by all the accompanying pain of a hangover; his head pounded along with his heartbeat, his mouth felt as dry as a baked sandal and his neck ached. To top it all off, he was still fully-clothed. Fantastic. A hell of a start to the day. Darren rolled over carefully and the movement tore a groan from his throat.

The door to his bedroom burst open, hitting the wall with an almighty crash and Darren’s father, Mike, stood glowering in the doorway.

“GOOD, YOU’RE AWAKE!” He strode into the room, deliberately stomping his slippered feet on the wooden floor. He slammed the door behind him and made the room shake. Darren clutched his head with both hands and wriggled down under the bedclothes for protection. Mike seized them and yanked them from Darren’s weak grip easily. Darren lay in the foetal position, wincing at every roar and step from Mike.

“OH NO YOU DON’T, YOUNG MAN!” Mike moved purposefully towards the closed curtains. Darren yelped as he realised what he was doing.

“Dad, don’t!” he rasped desperately. “My head…”

“I DON’T GIVE A TOSS ABOUT YOUR BLOODY HEAD!” Mike threw open the curtains, letting a blinding beam of afternoon sunlight crash into Darren’s face like a tsunami against a cliff. Darren squealed and tried to shield his eyes. Mike stood watching his son’s torment, towering over him with both hands on his hips.

“Dad…why?” Darren managed to hiss, turning away from the man who had betrayed him.

“Why? You’re askin’ me why?” Mike said, his eyebrows knitting together in an angry “V” below his forehead. “DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA OF THE CRAP YOU GOT UP TO WHEN YOU GOT HOME THIS MORNIN’?”

“Dad, please, stop!” Darren spluttered. “I can’t think straight, my h-“

“GOOD! THEN THIS IS THE BEST TIME TO REMIND YOU!” Mike swivelled and began loudly pacing the bedroom. Every step sounded as if a hammer was being swung against Darren’s skull from the inside.

“First of all, you got home FOUR HOURS later than you initially said!” Mike began, waving his arms for effect. “Your mum was worried sick! Just ‘cos you’re eighteen now doesn’t mean you don’t have to send her an update every now an’ then!”

“Secondly, you woke the bloody dog up when you tripped in through the door at FOUR O’CLOCK IN THE BASTARD MORNIN’! He started barkin’ like there was a bloody murderer comin’ in! Woke everybody up, includin’ half the bloody street! I’ve only just finished apologisin’ to them all!”

“Oh, crap…” Darren moaned. “Dad, I’m so sor-“

“SHUT IT, I’M NOT FINISHED!” Mike interrupted, thrusting an angry finger at his son.

“Not only did you embarrass me at stupid-o’clock in the mornin’, but you then decided to go upstairs an’ use the loo. Your mum followed you to make sure you were alright, only she found you our bedroom…YOU HAD YOUR TROUSERS ROUND YOUR ANKLES AN’ YOU WERE PISSING IN OUR LAUNDRY BASKET!”

“Oh, fuck!” Darren covered his face with his hands again. Mike nodded furiously.

“’Oh fuck’ indeed, Darren, you bloody piss-’ead!” He growled. “You gave your mum a good eyeful when she tried to stop you, too! A couple of things to note there! One, that it’s nice to see that at least you’ve taken after Yours-Truly in that department, and two, WHERE THE HELL DID THAT TATTOO COME FROM?!”

“Tattoo?” Darren was nonplussed. “I didn’t get a tattoo!”

“WELL SOMEBODY DREW THAT BLOODY LIGHTNIN’ BOLT ON YOUR ARSE!” Mike screeched. His voice was becoming hoarse and his face had turned an interesting shade of crimson. He raised his calloused hands to his temples and massaged them, taking deep breaths. Darren felt himself changing colour too; he was probably covered pink with shame, perhaps in contrast with his green gills.

“…An’ then,” Mike finally continued, speaking slowly and carefully. “You walked into the bathroom an’ flushed the bloody toilet!”

There was a tense silence in the room as Mike and Darren stared at one another. The corners of Mike’s mouth twitched once. Twice. A brief ripple of hysterical laughter racked Mike’s body, and Darren couldn’t help but laugh too. Soon they were both laughing uproariously despite the noise and the action bringing fresh waves of pain searing into Darren’s skull.

“Son, you are a flamin’ idiot sometimes,” Mike said fondly, wiping his eyes. “But I needed to shout at you while you’re feelin’ like death, it’s the only way to teach you a lesson. My old man did it to me when I was your age, an’ I never came home that drunk ever again!”

“Ok, Dad,” Darren mumbled. “Cheers, I ‘spose. I’m really sorry about this morning.”

“I know you are, mate,” Mike said, turning to walk out of the door. “But not as sorry as you’ll be once your mum gets hold of you! She’s outside waitin’ for her turn!” With that he wrenched open the bedroom door and Darren recoiled in horror as a livid woman stormed in. His petite, usually cheerful mother seemed to have been replaced by a raging demon! Mike darted out of the room and closed the door behind him, his smug laughter filling the hallway.

Oh God, thought Darren, Please kill me now! He closed his eyes and braced himself for his next onslaught.

Live a Little

I wrote this story for the lovely Jen over at Ink And Quill. She has very kindly featured me as her guest writer today, which is exciting! 🙂 She asked me to write a brand new story to be used as part of that post, and this is what I was able to come up with.

Please visit Ink and Quill for some wonderful poetry and inspiring guest writers and poets 🙂

https://jennifercalvertwriter.wordpress.com/

 

Live a Little

By Adam Dixon

 

I can still remember the night that I died; it’s seared into my mind like a cattle brand, white-hot and permanent. I can still hear the sound of my own laughter in my ears coupled with the cheers and encouragement of my friends. I can still feel the bitter wind tearing at my hair and clothes as I waved my arms above my head. I can still see the painted lines on the tarmac racing past in a blur of white. I’d never felt so alive, and I’d never been so reckless. It was all their fault.

The party had been a riot. A mutual friend had just joined us in the ranks of the over-25s and we four were still buzzing from it. Jen hadn’t wanted to leave, but Bradley had insisted. He never would back down once he’d got an idea into his head, and Jen never would resist him for long. I’d have happily gone home, myself. If only I’d said something, then maybe all this wouldn’t’ve happened. But I didn’t, and sometime after midnight myself, Jen and her older brother, Steve, all piled into Bradley’s car and set off down the motorway. We were laughing and joking, singing loudly and badly to whatever was on the radio and passing a bottle of vodka around. The familiar burn in my throat and the rush of alcohol to my head was as exhilarating as ever, and I soon got in the mood to find another party.

But it was then that I noticed how drunk Bradley was. He was blinking rapidly behind the wheel, grinning like an idiot and slurring his words whenever he spoke. He hadn’t seemed that bad before, but then again we hadn’t really been watching him. I’d told Jen to keep an eye on him, damn it! At one point Steve said something which made him laugh and he sent us careening across two lanes! The motorway was deserted, of course, but still…

After a while I asked Bradley to slow down. He wasn’t listening because Jen had her hand on his crotch and was whispering something to him as she caressed him through his jeans. Steve was being a nuisance; he seemed to think that because I was drunk I would be doing the same. I can still feel him nuzzling my neck as one hand clumsily pawed my breasts and the other slid up my skirt…I can still hear the ‘crack!’ as I slapped him, too. Christ, that was satisfying, and it succeeded in finally getting Bradey and Jen’s attention.

“Oi, what the hell are you playin’ at back there?” Bradley thundered, glaring at me via the rear-view mirror. Steve was stunned, rubbing his cheek and staring at the back of Jen’s seat.

“Oh, Lisa’s just bein’ a spoilsport, babe!” Jen mocked, rolling her decorated eyes and flicking her perfect hair. “Looks like she doesn’t wanna have some fun with Steve. Can’t blame her, really, he is an ugly bastard!”

“Oi!” Steve protested, still rubbing his cheek. He wasn’t that ugly, but drunk or not I didn’t appreciate him being so forward.

“C’mon, Lees!” Bradley said, annoyed. I hated it when he called me that! “What’s wrong with old Steve-O, anyway? C’mon, live a little, for fuck’s sake!”

“Shut up, Bradley,” I spat, but secretly I felt bad for hitting Steve. That was the effect that Bradley had on people: he was too bloody good at making you feel like the bad guy. The next few minutes consisted of Bradley and Jen laughing about how uncool I was and how much of a stick-in-the-mud I could be. I angrily disagreed with them, of course, but it really got under my skin. Steve didn’t say much, he just carried on sitting there looking like a kicked puppy. Maybe it was the drink, but I was suddenly determined to prove them wrong.

“I’m not boring, I can do anything you twats can!” I said after downing another mouthful of liquid fire.

“That so?” Bradley asked, still laughing. “I don’t believe you, Lees. Look, you’ve still got your bleedin’ seat-belt on for a start! Why can’t you live a little?”

“Fine!” I had practically ripped my seat-belt off at that remark. I immediately felt it was a bad idea, but I ignored the thought. Big mistake.

“Oooh, look at the balls on you, babe!” Jen had twisted round in her seat to flash a big, stupid grin at me. I felt like we were back in the school playground. “Betcha won’t do anything else though! Betcha wouldn’t lean out of the window while we’re movin’, would you? Nah, course not, you’re too much of a wimp!”

“Just watch me, bitch!” I said and moved towards my window. I remember clearly the struggle I had unwinding the stupid thing, and the memory comes to me in slow motion. It’s torture to recall it, to remember how I gripped the cold roof of the car with one arm as I leaned my torso out into the night. I even lifted my leg and rested my thigh on the thin glass so that I was more out of the car than inside. The wind buffeted me and tore a gasp from my lungs as I steadied myself. I remember squealing like a giddy child as I raised first one arm, then both into the air as my soul rejoiced at my freedom.

“You see me now, you arseholes!” I screeched at them, laughing deliriously. “I can fucking do anything!” They were laughing too and even Steve was cheering. It was fantastic. It was fatal. Leaning out of a car travelling at ninety miles per hour driven by an intoxicated monkey in a shirt has consequences. Nobody saw how close to the edge of the railings Bradley had gotten until it was far, far too late.

Now I’m trapped in a lonely existence on this barren stretch of asphalt, doomed to watch speeding cars and fester with impotent rage.

Live a little, they had said….

They all wear their seat-belts now.