Get her to Gretna Green

Following an estranged auntie's letter, Caro and her boyfriend pack up in the night and head for Gretna Green. The search for answers gives them the excuse to run, but what exactly are they willing to find out about Caro's family and about themselves?

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1. get her to gretna green

(INSPIRED BY SHE IS NOT INVISIBLE BY MARCUS SEDGWICK)

Gretna Green – 10 Miles. The adrenaline was starting to wear off. And, in all honesty, Caro had not prepared for that moment. Her eyes were burning with the exhaustion. The warm air conditioning of the car didn’t seem to stop the goosebumps arising on every surface of her skin. In the back seats, faded with dog hairs and crumbs, their rugsacks rumbled around against each other. In the front, they were tense and cold. Beside her, Dunc was sleeping. Of all things he could sleep. His cheeks were pressed against the glass making a circle of condensation. She tried to keep her eyes on the road and not him. Every so often she reached over to squeeze his arm or thigh, just to make sure he was there. She couldn’t do it alone. She was sure of that.

So far in the night she’d stolen their car and abandoned her parents. And following what? All they had planned for was the destination. It was easy, no naive, to say they'd save her auntie Christa in Gretna Green. Once they got there though anything could happen. Suddenly, she realised their actions were based on one flimsy scribble. A letter that she wasn’t even meant to find. That and the timing of Duncan Masterson into her life gave her no option but to follow it. The sky was a perfect black; nothing but the streetlights in the absence of stars. And there was an absence. Was it an omen? Caro tried not to think the stars or gods that nested in stars were condemning her. She didn’t need the trouble; internal forces were already chipping away.

It had been simple. All escape plans were simple when you boiled it down. Get out of the current situation. In this case all Caro had done was to get in the car and start driving. Her license was still shiny and new. She was not a natural driver but the new determination had improved her skills. She could be a little jumpy waiting in traffic, sure, but she wasn’t unsafe. The minute the certificate had been handed to her she had found the feeling deep in her gut. The knowledge that the plan was starting to unfold, that there was no more excuses. Nothing she could shrug off to Duncan. For all an adventure was worth, it still terrified her. The same feeling gnawed at her now.

It wasn’t just Duncan, though they’d been talking about leaving for as long as they had been talking. The thought was hypothetical. If only… It would be different there… They were little whispers in laughter and kisses. Talk. Until the letter from Auntie Christa came; until they finally got what they were looking for. A purpose to leave.  

It was fair to say the letter was unexpected. When Christa was nineteen, she disappeared in the night. No note, a handful of clothes snatched from her door. There was no evidence, but a suggestion it was a planned abduction. Like magic she had disappeared. A little white rabbit into the dark. That was eighteen years ago. Caroline was a child and her sister Mina was a newborn. And that was the last they had heard from her. Until the letter, of course.

Each defining action and mystery always had some letter. It wasn’t even a letter. It was a postcard, and on the front was a picture of Gretna Green. Addressed to Caroline and Mina. All it said was an address - 22 Mooncrescent Way. And a few words; Hi girls, was sitting here thinking how much I would love a visit. Bet you’re two young ladies now. I’ve got some stories I bet you’d love to hear. Mind you, it might be best to not tell your mum about this. Love Aunt Chrissy x

And even though she owed nothing to this auntie; she knew it wasn’t her place to ignore it. Things would be different if Mina wasn’t ill. Things would be different if Duncan hadn’t come along. But the variables had been stuck in place and all Caro had now was her reasons.

A car flashed its headlights towards her. Wake up Caroline! She reached over and took Duncan’s hand; he held hers without waking up too much. The warmth of his fingers spread to her. A steady hold calmed her down and helped her not to cry. It was breaking point and the first time Caroline acknowledged she was breaking.

It was depressing how neat all her belonging had fitted into her cotton rucksack. It wasn’t even big. The bag was just a floral schoolbag yet it hardly strained with her belongings. She didn't have much. It carried all the clothes that were acceptable and a few mementos. No point running away in unflattering clothes, she thought.

All she hoped was that it would be the end of a lonely saga. Now she had the only real partner she’d ever had, if you didn't count her sister. She'd passed years being invisible. Years crushing pens that refused to write something decent. Years straining fingers plucking tired strings. Years of not having a single molecule of talent in her whole damned body. Caroline was the white noise in her own life. “Not anymore,” She breathed to herself, almost smiling. The reflection glinted on her dusty mirror. Maybe she would look again and find someone brave. Someone who had the guts to do what she was supposed to be doing in twenty five minutes. What if he doesn’t come at all?

In the end Caro had decided to write her parents a note. She felt sorry for them, in all her self-loathing honesty. By genes they were forced to love their fruitless child. Heck, even little Eddie could already list his ABCs and he hadn’t even started school. Caro was the sloppy daughter. The dead weight of her family. In leaving she was almost doing them a favour. It wasn’t about them - it was about Caroline. Caroline who suffered and ached and needed more than anything in the world to be let loose. To find out where the stars fell in inky skies and where the mystery became fact. To find where her aunt became a person and not an illusive memory.

Besides, the short attention her parents gave to Caro had been spent with Mina. Caroline knew tonight she could make an easy break for it.  Her parents had friday visits with Mina at the hospital. Sometimes they slept for twelve dreamless hours after. It seemed to suck the life from them. Mina was Caroline’s  younger sister. Until Dunc came along, she would have said she was her best friend. Mina had tried to outdo all her siblings. Out of a good batch, she was the talent of them. But being good at everything made it difficult for her to let something go. To let a minute slide without being perfect. She didn’t cope well with stress. By the time her first exams came around she had been taken into the hospital. They diagnosed her with severe depression and anxiety to rival a wall-street stock broker. And the worst thing? Caro hadn’t even noticed.

So there was Mina, and now there was Chrissy. With them and Dunc, Caroline felt her life was so full of other people, she had no time for herself. No room for herself. And as she was driving, she wondered why. In one way Caro felt she had been driving for days on end. In another she could not imagine her home to be as far away as it now was. Still, a comforting thought nestled in her mind. If you turned back now, they might not even had noticed you left. But that novelty had started to wear.

Her hair was tied in a messy French plait, one so short its ends tickled the back of her neck. As with curly hair the heat began to heat up her face and she needed. She had been sweating for hours, her palms slick as she fumbled with straps. Her stomach curled up, heavy despite the fact she hadn’t eaten for hours.

Was she even doing the right thing? Mina was her sister. She couldn’t just leave her, could she? It was the opposite of a big sisterly thing to do. Still Caroline knew it wasn’t an option to stick around much longer. It was only a matter of time until she joined her sister in that ward. She would find out about their aunt and somehow let Mina know. It was only right after all; the letter was addressed to her too.

Don’t think about Mina, Caro sighed. She had Duncan now. Dunc. There wasn’t a lot of people who could pull off that kind of nickname. If you don’t think it’s possible you have obviously never met anyone quite like Dunc. For starters, Caro was sure she had never seen an Indian Punk. He didn’t care much for punk music but he liked their aesthetic. He wore a lot of black, band t-shirts she would never understand. He had a dozen piercing, and her favourite was the one on the back of his neck. He was still handsome in an orthodox way. Strong jawline, high cheekbones, strong torso. His parents were both Indian, himself raised just down the road from her. He stood out in every way she felt she blended in. 

Welcome to Gretna Green. It was quite a statement to visit in a world like theirs where for the most part people didn't need to elope. It wasn’t an eloping mission and they knew that. Except, maybe Caro didn’t. First they would find Christa but after that they were stuck in a small town for lovesick youth. And what would they do then? It was a mission without return, and the families and school and friends they left behind – they left for each other. Caro still got giddy when she remembered how fast he’d agreed to go with her.

Sure, in the modern day they could do what they wanted to. Yet somehow that made her feel even more lost. Caro probably didn’t need to break for it in the dark night. She could just tell her parents. Yet this wasn’t what this was. And if she pretended it was anything less than necessary she would never find the courage to do it.

She pulled over at the next passing place. Around them they could make out the outlines of the highlands, all streams and rims of mountains. The little lights of the town looked like tealights in the avenue. Caro thought they’d check into a hotel for the night. Face Christa in the morning.

“We need to talk Dunc. I’m scared.” It was a paralysing fear, like a stuck brake heading into a rock. They were fine in the light of teenage comfort. They were great. She didn’t know how to love like an adult yet, or depend on someone you wanted. Whatever happened next would be hard.

“Please don’t leave me. I know I have to do this, but I’m really scared. Everything about being here scares me. You got to get me to her. Make me.” She said, leaning her back against her door. She wouldn’t let herself fall. Not now. Caro wanted nothing more than to know, just know, they would both be heroes in this story. She wasn’t the plain girl who tagged along. They had to be equal. After all it was her letter, her mystery.

“I can’t make you do anything. I don’t need to make you do anything.”  Dunc replied. His eyes were lit low and serious. He took her hand and they got back in the car. “You’re going to find your auntie and whatever she’s been doing for sixteen years, and you’ll do it on your own initiative. Trust me. I’m just a sidekick. I call shotgun.” He laughed and she thought as she started to drive, it would be easy to elope with a boy who smiles like that.

 

ad not prepared for that moment. Her eyes were burning with the exhaustion. The warm air conditioning of the car didn’t seem to stop the goosebumps arising on every surface of her skin. In the back seats, faded with dog hairs and crumbs, their rugsacks rumbled around against each other. In the front, they were tense and cold. Beside her, Dunc was sleeping. Of all things he could sleep. His cheeks were pressed against the glass making a circle of condensation. She tried to keep her eyes on the road and not him. Every so often she reached over to squeeze his arm or thigh, just to make sure he was there. She couldn’t do it alone. She was sure of that.

So far in the night she’d stolen their car and abandoned her parents. And following what? All they had planned for was the destination. Once they got there, anything could happen. They’d save her auntie Christa in Gretna Green. Suddenly, everything they had she realised their actions were based on one flimsy scribble. A letter that she wasn’t even meant to find. That and the timing of Duncan Masterson into her life gave her no option but to follow it. The sky was a perfect black; nothing but the streetlights in the absence of stars. And there was an absence. Was it an omen? Caro tried not to think the stars or gods that nested in stars were condemning her. She didn’t need the trouble; internal forces were already chipping away.

It had been simple. All escape plans were simple when you boiled it down. Get out of the current situation. In this case all Caro had done was to get in the car and start driving. Her license was still shiny and new. She was not a natural driver but the new determination had improved her skills. She could be a little jumpy waiting in traffic, sure, but she wasn’t unsafe. The minute the certificate had been handed to her she had found the feeling deep in her gut. The knowledge that the plan was starting to unfold, that there was no more excuses. Nothing she could shrug off to Duncan. For all an adventure was worth, it still terrified her. The same feeling gnawed at her now.

It wasn’t just Duncan, though they’d been talking about leaving for as long as they had been talking. The thought was hypothetical. If only… It would be different there… They were little whispers in laughter and kisses. Talk. Until the letter from Auntie Christa came; until they finally got what they were looking for. A purpose to leave.  

It was fair to say the letter was unexpected. When Christa was nineteen, she disappeared in the night. No note, a handful of clothes snatched from her door. There was no evidence, but a suggestion it was a planned abduction. Like magic she had disappeared. A little white rabbit into the dark. That was eighteen years ago. Caroline was a child and her sister Mina was a newborn. And that was the last they had heard from her. Until the letter, of course.

Each defining action and mystery always had some letter. It wasn’t even a letter. It was a postcard, and on the front was a picture of Gretna Green. Addressed to Caroline and Mina. All it said was an address - 22 Mooncrescent Way. And a few words; Hi girls, was sitting here thinking how much I would love a visit. Bet you’re two young ladies now. I’ve got some stories I bet you’d love to hear. Mind you, it might be best to not tell your mum about this. Love Aunt Chrissy x

And even though she owed nothing to this auntie; she knew it wasn’t her place to ignore it. Things would be different if Mina wasn’t ill. Things would be different if Duncan hadn’t come along. But the variables had been stuck in place and all Caro had now was her reasons.

A car flashed its headlights towards her. Wake up Caroline! She reached over and took Duncan’s hand; he held hers without waking up too much. The warmth of his fingers spread to her. A steady hold calmed her down and helped her not to cry. It was breaking point and the first time Caroline acknowledged she was breaking.

It was depressing how neat all her belonging had fitted into her cotton rucksack. It wasn’t even big. The bag was just a floral schoolbag yet it hardly strained with her belongings. She didn't have much. It carried all the clothes that were acceptable and a few mementos. No point running away in unflattering clothes, she thought.

All she hoped was that it would be the end of a saga. Starting something new, alongside her accomplice. He was the only real partner she’d ever had, if you didn't count her sister. She'd passed years being invisible. Years crushing pens that refused to write something decent. Years straining fingers plucking tired strings. Years of not having a single molecule of talent in her whole damned body. Caroline was the white noise in her own life. “Not anymore,” She breathed to herself, almost smiling. The reflection glinted on her dusty mirror. Maybe she would look again and find someone brave. Someone who had the guts to do what she was supposed to be doing in twenty five minutes. What if he doesn’t come at all?

In the end Caro had decided to write her parents a letter. She felt sorry for them, in all her self-loathing honesty. By genes they were forced to love their fruitless child. Heck, even little Eddie could already list his ABCs and he hadn’t even started school. Caro was the sloppy daughter. The dead weight of her family. In leaving she was almost doing them a favour. It wasn’t about them - it was about Caroline. Caroline who suffered and ached and needed more than anything in the world to be let loose. To find out where the stars fell in inky skies and where the mystery became fact. To find where her aunt became a person and not an illusive memory.

Besides, the short attention already given to Caro had been spent with Mina. Caroline knew tonight she could make an easy break for it.  Her parents had friday visits with Mina at the hospital. Sometimes they slept for twelve dreamless hours after. It seemed to suck the life from them. Mina was Caroline’s  younger sister. Until Dunc came along, she would have said she was her best friend. Mina had tried to outdo all her siblings. Out of a good batch, she was the talent of them. But being good at everything made it difficult for her to let something go. To let a minute slide without being perfect. She didn’t cope well with stress. By the time her first exams came around she had been taken into the hospital. They diagnosed her with severe depression and anxiety to rival a wall-street stock broker. And the worst thing? Caro hadn’t even noticed.

So there was Mina, and now there was Chrissy. With them and Dunc, Caroline felt her life was so full of other people, she had no time for herself. No room for herself. And as she was driving, she wondered why. In one way Caro felt she had been driving for days on end. In another she could not imagine her home to be as far away as it now was. Still, a comforting thought nestled in her mind. If you turned back now, they might not even had noticed you left. But that novelty had started to wear.

Her hair was tied in a messy French plait, one so short its ends tickled the back of her neck. As with curly hair the heat began to heat up her face and she needed. She had been sweating for hours, her palms slick as she fumbled with straps. Her stomach curled up, heavy despite the fact she hadn’t eaten for hours.

Was she even doing the right thing? Mina was her sister. She couldn’t just leave her, could she? It was the opposite of a big sisterly thing to do. Still Caroline knew it wasn’t an option to stick around much longer. It was only a matter of time until she joined her sister in that ward. She would find out about their aunt and somehow let Mina know. It was only right after all; the letter was addressed to her too.

Don’t think about Mina, Caro sighed. She had Duncan now. Dunc. There wasn’t a lot of people who could pull off that kind of nickname. If you don’t think it’s possible you have obviously never met anyone quite like Dunc. For starters, Caro was sure she had never seen an Indian Punk. He didn’t care much for punk music but he liked their aesthetic. He wore a lot of black, band t-shirts she would never understand. He had a dozen piercing, and her favourite was the one on the back of his neck. He was still handsome in an orthodox way. Strong jawline, high cheekbones, strong torso. His parents were both Indian, himself raised just down the road from her. He stood out in every way she felt she blended in. 

Welcome to Gretna Green. It was quite a statement to visit in a world like theirs where for the most part people didn't need to elope. It wasn’t an eloping mission and they knew that. Except, maybe Caro didn’t. First they would find Christa but after that they were stuck in a small town for lovesick youth. And what would they do then? It was a mission without return, and the families and school and friends they left behind – they left for each other. Caro still got giddy when she remembered how fast he’d agreed to go with her.

Sure, in the modern day they could do what they wanted to. Yet somehow that made her feel even more lost. Caro probably didn’t need to break for it in the dark night. She could just tell her parents. Yet this wasn’t what this was. And if she pretended it was anything less than necessary she would never find the courage to do it.

She pulled over at the next passing place. Around them they could make out the outlines of the highlands, all streams and rims of mountains. The little lights of the town looked like tealights in the avenue. Caro thought they’d check into a hotel for the night. Face Christa in the morning.

“We need to talk Dunc. I’m scared.” It was a paralysing fear, like a stuck brake heading into a rock. They were fine in the light of teenage comfort. They were great. She didn’t know how to love like an adult yet, or depend on someone you wanted. Whatever happened next would be hard.

“Please don’t leave me. I know I have to do this, but I’m really scared. Everything about being here scares me. You got to get me to her. Make me.” She said, leaning her back against her door. She wouldn’t let herself fall. Not now. Caro wanted nothing more than to know, just know, they would both be heroes in this story. She wasn’t the plain girl who tagged along. They had to be equal. After all it was her letter, her mystery.

“I can’t make you do anything. I don’t need to make you do anything.”  Dunc replied. His eyes were lit low and serious. He took her hand and they got back in the car. “You’re going to find your auntie and whatever she’s been doing for sixteen years, and you’ll do it on your own initiative. Trust me. I’m just a sidekick.” He laughed and she thought as she started to drive, it would be easy to elope with a boy who smiles like that.

 

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