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“This is going to be amazing!”

“I know right! Can you can believe, after all this time, we’re actually going to do this?”

“Yeah.”

“Oh come on Kate, stop killing the mood. This is gonna be great!”

In her seat at the back Kate rolled her eyes, though neither of the others were paying enough attention to notice. Melissa was fixing her make-up in the flip-down mirror, and Amanda was going through her iPod and picking tunes.

“Yeah Kate, come on. We’ve been planning this for ages.”

No, Kate thought. I’ve been planning this for ages. Can you even remember where we going? “So, what’s the plan then?”

“Duh, simple. Drive down through France-”

“Stopping at all the vineyards on the way,” interjected Melissa.

“-exactly, before we hit-”

“Ibiza!” the other two women cried together, before falling about in cries of laughter and hoots of joy.

“You know Ibiza is an island, right?” Kate tried, but neither of them were listening. All she could do was sigh and look out the window again, as they waited to load up onto the ferry over to mainland Europe.

It was supposed to be a two week holiday, but Kate could already see it being two weeks of hell, and it had all started from an idle conversation, what, ten years ago? The three of them had been inseparable at high school, BFFs forever, that sort of thing, and the conversation had happened while they’d been sharing a tent on a school trip, a lifetime ago, or so it seemed.

“I want to travel Europe. Just get a car, and drive from the top to the bottom,” Kate had said, her eyes filled with wonder.

“That would be so cool!” Melissa had sighed. “You could see so much! Meet so many people.”

“Then let’s do it. When we’re older, let’s just go and do it!”

“Do you mean it?” Kate had asked cautiously, as if she was getting a warning sent back through the years.

“Yeah! Come on.” Amanda reached out of her sleeping bag and put her hand out. “Come on, let’s make a pact, here and now. When we’re older, we’ll get a car and drive around Europe, for like a month.”

“Deal!” Melissa’s hand was there and she wriggling in her sleeping bag with excitement.

“Yes!” With Kate’s hand as well the pact had been sealed, and they’d spent the rest of that night talking about where they would go and what they’d see, making up adventures that they’d have on the way.

And now what had started as a fantastic dream was now turning into a nightmare. Over the years the three girls had changed and drifted- or rather, Kate had changed, and drifted away from the other two. At school they’d stayed fairly close, with Kate hiding her own interests for the sake of harmony. While Melissa and Amanda had gone to university and lived their fresher’s life to the full, Kate had stayed at home, gotten a receptionist job on minimum wage and been dropped into the ‘real world’. The others had never appreciated how much they were sheltered by the university, or how good their student loans were.

For some reason though they had stuck to the idea of this trip though. It had been months since Kate had even talked to either of them when the group chat started up and they were booking tickets. For a long time she thought about not going, of just ghosting them and carrying on with her life. But a part of her knew that she’d always regret it if she did. There would always be that question of whether she would have been able to reconnect with them on this trip, or whether they’d developed into more than just party divas, only living for the clubbing and the crazy nights.

It had been only a few hours since they’d picked Kate up, and already any thoughts of that had shattered. The talk on the drive down had been about clubs, or when they’d last heard this song, or that guy that they’d meant last month who had been ‘so delish’. More than once Kate had wondered what would happen if she opened the car door and just got out, at full speed on the motorway.

The problem was she really wanted to do the trip. Her own personal desire to tour round Europe hadn’t faded over the years, but at the same time her confidence to it by herself hadn’t grown either. No-one else that she’d mentioned it to had expressed any interest in it, and it was sadly clear that if she wanted any company then she’d have to take Amanda and Melissa, as aggravating as they were.

“Here we go!” Amanda’s cry shook Kate out of her thoughts, and now they were driving onto the ferry to more childish whoops and laughs.

It’s a wonder they haven’t been asked for ID, Kate thought as she caught some of the evil looks being shot at their car by those around them. There was only so far that she could shrink into the seat.

There were more evils as they parked up and got out. Families and other patrons that went past them tutted and glared as the two women acted as though they were on a hen do, with poor Kate trailing along behind, wishing the ground would swallow her.

“Where’s the bar here then?” Amanda asked.

“But… you’re driving.” The idea that Amanda would drink and drive didn’t surprise Kate, but it did add a fresh level of dread on the whole experience. The last thing she wanted was to be pulled over by the police in a foreign country.

A smirk passed between the other two. “Oh, that’s true. But you don’t drink, do you Kate? You can drive.” And before she’d had a chance to reply the other two were already off, chatting away again and prancing as if they owned the ferry.

“Oh.” It all made sense at least. This was just a party trip for those two, and they’d found the perfect designated driver in her. There would be no visits to monuments, or museums, or areas of natural beauty. It would be bar, after pub, after vineyard. Then they’d probably make her try and drive them across the sea to Ibiza.

By the time she got to the top deck Kate was crying, her dream holiday ruined before it had even gotten going. She was in such a state that she didn’t notice anyone around her, although she was positive that neither Amanda or Melissa would find her as long as she stayed out of the bar.

“Are you okay Miss?”

The question surprised Kate and it was a few moments before she could answer. “Yes. Yes, I’m fine. Sorry. I’m fine, thanks-”

Wiping the tears from her eyes she finally made out the person who was speaking to her. It was another woman, a little older judging by the crow’s feet at the corners of her eyes, dressed in the most bohemian outfit Kate had ever seen. The woman was wearing harem pants, that were catching in the breeze and flapping about like flags, and she had about a dozen piercings, and that was just the visible ones. She even had dreadlocks, with an array of ribbons and feathers in them.

“People who are fine don’t go bawling their eyes out in public. Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Fine. Just… ruined holiday.” Kate did her best to shrug it off- it was a stupid thing to be so upset about, but she just couldn’t help it.

“Coming back or going?”

“Going. We’re off to drive round Europe.”

“That doesn’t sound that bad,” the woman said with a wink.

“No, it’s what I’ve always wanted. It’s just…”

“Not perfect?”

“Yeah, I guess. But that’s life isn’t it? You just make the best of what you’ve got-”

“To hell with that,” the woman snorted. “If it doesn’t work for you, make it work for you. It’s your life isn’t it?”

“You make it sound easy-”

“It is. What’s the problem?”

The old vestiges of loyalty still clung to Kate, and for a second she thought about just walking away from this bizarre woman. But then that smirk, that knowing look that the other two had shared as they dropped her in it, swam in front of her vision. “It’s the people I’m travelling with. They’re not after the same thing I am. They just want to party, but I want to travel, to explore.”

“Then leave them.”

Now Kate had to laugh at this woman. “You make it sound so easy. I can’t just leave.”

“Why not?”

And now Kate had to admit it, though somehow it was easier to say to a stranger. “I’m scared. Of travelling by myself that is, and no-one else wanted to come with me.”

“I’ll come.”

“Excuse me?”

The woman shrugged, as if such an offer was an every day thing. Maybe it was for her. “I’ll come with you. At least until you find your feet and can go by yourself. Wherever you want to go. It’s not like I need to be any place in a hurry.”

It was crazy, utterly crazy. Travelling around Europe with a random woman she’d just met on the ferry? There was no way she could-

Before she knew what she was doing her hand was out. “I’m Kate,” she said, as her stomach did somersaults. It was the most reckless thing she’d ever done in her life, but at this stage she had nothing to lose, and so much to gain.

The woman grinned, her eyes squinting up, and shook the offered hand. “Bethany.”

And without another look back, without even warning Melissa and Amanda that they had lost their designated driver, so should probably hold back on the drinking, Kate started her own new road trip.

I wonder how long before they realise Ibiza is on an island, she thought with her own smirk.

September 13, 2019 23:15

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