Lizzie was seething; I could tell from her iron grip on the steering wheel as she sped through the wind. Normally, I would point out our alarming pace – that was now tipping sixty-five on what I knew was a thirty road – but now I daren’t utter a word.
Lizzie had been ignoring me for most of the journey but I couldn’t even find a reason to blame her. This – this mess-up – was all my fault.
The thing I itched to do most was lock myself in my bedroom and never have to face the world again but I knew that was dramatic, so I just had to settle with staring out the jeep’s window and wishing myself to shrink into my seat’s torn, mangled fabric.
Why hadn’t I remembered I was supposed to take forty? As I ladled through my thoughts I could easily recall Lizzie instructing me to take what she called ‘forty Gs’ before she was cut off by the screech of the Mercedes as they halted beside us. I knew I was meant to take forty.
The answer to why I hadn’t? I tried to clear my mind by watching the world as it whizzed by and, as I bowed my head, found my reason. My hands were clasped on my thighs, fingers knotted together in a tight white grasp not unlike my friend’s. I was scared.
As soon as the men in suits had climbed out their Mercedes I knew that I didn’t have the guts to do anything. The sheer intimidation and confidence that radiated from the group set off an instinct inside of me; I had wanted to run. I might’ve, had I known I would screw up this badly.
The silence that concealed the car was killing me, but I didn’t want to open my mouth in fear that Lizzie would do something irrational – she could sometimes be an impulsive person. I was also desperate to know where we were going. It looked like we were driving down Madison Street, but it was hard to tell through the onslaught of snow.
I attempted to keep myself from wondering what the consequences would be for Lizzie. Horrible, I could guess. Of course I didn’t want to be put on a pedestal and become hated by Stephen and Michael – I knew if they found out I ruined their most important business day of the year I would never be invited to ride along again, at least – but the guilt I felt over Lizzie taking the blow for me was unbearable. Part of me hoped Stephen wouldn’t believe her and see through Lizzie’s lie, but the other selfish side of me rejoiced over the fact Lizzie was an excellent liar.
I truly was torn. I would be a coward not taking responsibility for what I’d done, but on the other hand I wasn’t even sure I had the strength to face Stephen. I hadn’t been brought up in this business; I had no experience, no training – I didn’t have any special tricks I could whip out to make everything ok. I knew Lizzie could handle it; she was stronger than anyone I had ever met and Stephen was more like a father to her than an uncle. And Lizzie meant the world to Stephen, it was apparent as the fear coursing through my veins. He’ll forgive her. It’s Lizzie – he won’t mind.
“Welcome home.” I was too lost in my thoughts to even notice the car had stopped, so the sound of Lizzie’s dry voice was what jolted me to attention. I quickly glanced around, eager – and a little fearful – to see where we were, past the windshield wipers to what looked like….my house?
“Wha…wha..wh-“ I was right. There were the extravagant Christmas lights my dad had hung up earlier this week, the corny ‘Welcome to the Zopipes’ residence- where it’s Christmas all year round!’ sign that sagged off the front door and there, just visible through the rectangular windows, was our thirty foot all-organic Christmas tree.
I turned to Lizzie, who was totally still, looking out the windshield. “I thought we were going…,” I began, then drifted off. What was I expecting - a hot chocolate from Starbucks? Lizzie was hardly going to bring me along to face Stephen, was hardly going to want to hang out. “..somewhere else,” I finished, defeat clear in my tone.
My mouth hung open slightly, my forehead muscles pulled down into a frown. Lizzie’s order shook me, her voice sounding as hard and impenetrable as diamond – she’d never spoken to me like that before. She was still staring dead-ahead, but my hesitation had angered her.
“Get the fuck out my car.”
Hurt blasted me like a hurricane over her words, her total disconnect. I couldn’t find any coherent words, so I creaked open the truck door and let myself out. Immediately, the truck raced away down the road, the tyres inches away from my feet. As I watched the scarlet red round the corner I wondered if the reason Lizzie was so desperate to get rid of me was because she was disgusted by me, as if she was trying to run away and leave me behind in a barred cage.
I was far beyond sighing, so I simply turned and trudged my way across my front lawn, pulling my keys out of my- wait! Where was my Chanel bag? My frozen hand jumped to my chest – my necklace was still there. Jesus, of course! Lizzie placed my bag behind a bench back down at the fair. Feeling like an idiot I turned towards my car- shit! The Range Rover was down at the pier too!
“Fuck,” I muttered. It had to be sub-zero, I thought, as I remembered I was also wearing Lizzie’s hoodie. My footwear wasn’t exactly appropriate for hiking – my black knee-high boots were suitable for walking short distances, but definitely not four miles in foot-deep snow. I had no choice in the matter though, so I begrudgingly turned on the spot, made my way back down to the roadside and started following Lizzie’s tyre tracks back to the pier.