If you’d have told me 20 years ago I’d be spending my Friday nights driving people to parties, dropping them off and driving away again—I probably would have shown up to my classes. I glance at my last passengers of the night in the rear view mirror. There are two of them, both giggling as one of them holds the phone in front of her friend’s face. She has a tube of bright red lipstick in her hand as she focuses on her makeshift mirror. I hide my smile as I forget to warn her about the upcoming speedbump.
“No...” She cries, drawing a line across her face. “Dammit!”
Her friend continues to giggle, making no effort to stifle it. Solid friend. We’re in the right neighbourhood now, you can tell by the oversized houses and carefully pruned trees lining the road. I pull the car to a halt and smile over my shoulder at them.
“Here we are. Have a good night.”
They shuffle out of the car and slam the door. Lovely. I watch them for a minute, stumbling up the unnecessarily long driveway towards the music. With a sigh, I pull up the handbrake for a second to check my phone. Delilah’s name lights up the screen. She sent me a message 10 minutes ago asking where I’ll be home. I type her a quick message letting her know I’m on my way and release the handbrake.
The door on the passenger side opens and a girl slides in.
“Sorry,” I say. “Advance bookings only.”
She shushes me and shoves a handful of notes in the drink holder. I glance down in curiosity and see a £50 on top of the pile. I’ve never even seen a £50 note before.
“West Street. Now please.”
Interesting. Without asking any more questions I peel away from the curb and back towards the city. She’s on her way to a club. dressed like that? Even if it wasn’t summer, her black on black ensemble was a little odd for the party scene around here. Also, her backpack was huge. What was she doing with that? I glance into the rear view mirror and see her looking right at me. I smile awkwardly and pivot my eyes back to the road.
It’s time to plan ahead. Delilah is expecting me any moment now, but this last minute change in plans could set me back at least an hour. I suppose I could have hit something on my way? Or someone—that’s probably better. Or maybe my last client could have forgotten something in my car and I had to go back to return it. That actually did happen a few nights ago so it wouldn’t really be lying. I bite my lip. Did I use that one already?
The girl’s looking in the rear view mirror again, but this time she’s not focused on me. There’s a set of headlights behind us. Really close, actually. I pick up the speed a little. They do too. I take a turn. So do they. I take a deep breath. There must be a roundabout nearby. If I did a U-turn, there’d be no reason for them to follow suit. I’d see it was all in my head. Yes, that was a sensible plan.
“They’re following us.”
I look at the girl in surprise. She’s watching me now, but there’s no fear in her gaze. Curiosity? God knows.
“Why? Do you know them?”
“No, but I have a feeling they might know me. Try turning left.”
I listen to her and instantly regret it. I don’t know this part of town at all. It’s all residential housing, but there could be culs-de-sac around any corner, waiting to trap us. My phone dings. Delilah. And again. It’ll have to wait.
“What did you do?” I ask, my voice unconvincingly steady.
“Then why are they following us?”
She smirks a little and shrugs. My phone dings again. Dammit, what does she want?
“Do you want me to get that?”
“It’s fine,” I say. “It’s my girlfriend. It can wait.” I’m turning corners at random now, ignoring my GPS as it tells me to turn left into a ditch. Blasted thing.
“She’s sent a lot of messages,” she says casually. “Trust issues?”
“Probably,” I say distracted. “You realise we have more important things to worry about, right?”
“I bet your girlfriend doesn’t agree.”
As if it’d heard us, the phone dings once more. I need to get rid of this girl. I turn another corner and see the welcome sight of cars zooming past at a T-intersection. Time to lose our tail. I feel a rush of adrenaline as I speed towards the end of the road, slowing down as I near the ‘give way’ sign. I see a gap and I go, fast, faster than I thought I could. I see a flash of light in the mirror as the car behind us matches our speed—then a crash. The sounds of screeching wheels and panicked voices fade away behind us as we blend in with the outgoing traffic and draw closer to the city.
I feel a rush of victory and immediately feel guilty about it. The girl barks a laugh and claps her hands together in delight.
“Nice job,” she congratulates me. “You did much better than the last guy.”
“The last guy? You do this often?”
“I didn’t do anything,” she says. “I just got in a cab.”
I shake my head with a chuckle and let a bit of the night’s excitement bleed through the guilt. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt that rush, that adrenaline. It made me feel awake somehow. Free from the predictable monotony of life. Liberated, in a way, from the version of myself I’ve grown into over the years. The version with the decent job, neat haircut and a considerable lack of parking tickets.
We turn onto West Street and I drop her off. It’s unceremonious as far as drop offs go. She thanks me politely, as though it was any other transaction, hauls her bag to her shoulder and disappears into the crowd. I won’t be seeing her again.
I check my phone. There are four new messages for Delilah.
Don’t be too long, we need to talk. x
Are you still on your way? x
Babe, answer me please. Where are you right now? It’s important. x
Tell me where you are.
The last message has no kiss and she hasn’t sent a new one for the last 20 minutes. I write one back.
Sorry, there was an accident on the road. I’m on my way now. Won’t be too long.
I smile at the clever lie. It was true after all, there was an accident. No need to mention that I helped cause it. I turn up the radio slightly louder than usual and push the speed limit, just a tad, as I cruise back home.
After spending the night alone, I pour myself some cereal and contemplate trying to call Delilah’s phone again. So far all my efforts had been rewarded with voicemail, and listening to that recorded message over and over again was starting to get grating. I can’t blame her for being upset after keeping her waiting all that time. I probably would have been too. Though it would have been nice of her to leave a note or something letting me know, if only so I wouldn’t worry. Not that I was. She was probably fine.
The flash of police lights through the window drag me from my worries. Unease tightens in my chest like a fist. How did they find me? There’s a knock at the door, so I answer it.
“How can I help you officers?”
“Is this the residence of Miss Delilah Simmons?”
“Yeah, usually. She’s not in at the moment though. Want me to pass something on?”
“Are you family?”
An odd question.
“I’m her partner,” I say. “Is everything alright?”
“May we come in?”
I nod. They remove their hats as they enter. I lead them through the living room and onto a couch. They sit and look up at me. I sit too.
“We’re afraid we have some bad news.” They exchange a look. The one doing the talking has something in his hand. “There’s been an accident. Last night, at an intersection on the south side of town. We have reason to believe she was texting and driving at the same time. It seems she pulled into an intersection and suffered an impact from oncoming traffic…”
Their voices are drowned out by the drumming in my ears. Delilah? What was she doing there?
“...We’re very sorry for your loss.”
He offers me the phone that is far too familiar. The victory, pride, guilt, rebellion and excitement lingering from the night before, and even their arrival this morning, drain from my body and panic rushes in to fill the space. It was her. That whole time. She’d been there, following us. Looking for answers.
Suddenly, the truth felt a lot less mundane.