Saving Coralie.

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  • Published: 1 Jan 2017
  • Updated: 1 Jan 2017
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Coralie and Erin are more like sisters and friends. They've been through everything together, the good the bad and the ugly. Which is why when Coralie kidnaps Erin and takes her to a secluded beach house, Erin gives her the benefit of the doubt. The girls find themselves in Pembrokeshire, the beautiful West coast of Wales, and the beautiful scenery is almost enough to make Erin forget that she's been kidnapped. Almost. She knows that Cor's acting weird and she thinks that she knows why, a memory that she's pushed to the back of her mind that keeps trying to force its way out. The one thing she does know for sure though is that Coralie needs saving. The trip turns out to be more tumultuous than either girl could ever have imagined. A story of love, friendship, grieving and unforgettable summers.

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2. Chapter 2.

The next day seemed promising as soon as I woke up and pulled back my curtains. It was a beautiful day, with sunny, clear skies and I found myself in a pleasant mood. I cracked open the window and was welcomed to the day by the gentle chirping of birds and warm breeze that brought the aroma of freshly cut grass and fragrant summer flowers, flooding into my room. I felt instantly enthusiastic, floating around my room, getting ready for my day, singing along loudly to my iPod. I tried to convince myself that I had no worries, that I was completely free from them in fact, a compulsion as of late. I showered, dressed and tried to tame my curls slightly, all the while telling myself that Coralie was fine, I was letting my imagination run away with itself, that my parents were going to get on well during our shopping trip that evening, that uni was a good thing, not a scary one.

I packed a few things into a brightly patterned shoulder bag and bounded down the stairs.
“Good morning parents,” I chirped, my good mood miraculously pushing through and overshadowing everything else on my mind. I set my bag down on the round kitchen table and wandered over to fill up the kettle. But that was when the atmosphere hovering around my parents hit me like a brick wall. My dad grunted a greeting and my mum gave me a small, strained smile. How delightful. I held in a sigh, every part of my soul gripping tightly onto my good mood, a wave of desperation threatening to crash up and drown it.

“What’s up with you two now? I asked as lightly as I could, pouring scorching hot water onto my coffee beans, allowing myself the pleasure of savouring its rich scent. Probably going to be the best part of my day, the pushy little pessimist in me thought, dying to burst free and make me just go straight back to bed.
My dad scoffed, folding up his newspaper and tossing it onto the table.
“Ask your useless mother,” my fathers huffed as he dramatically pushed himself away from the table and left the room. Why was everyone I knew so god-damned dramatic?
I glanced at my mum whose flyaway black hair was piled haphazardly on top of her head, which paired with the dark rings beneath her eyes, made her look exhausted and slightly ill.
“Useless!” she was muttering, “what a rude, rude man.” I knew I shouldn’t get involved, it was such a bad idea. I’d learnt that lesson over and over again. But I couldn’t help myself.
“What’s happened?” I asked cursing myself the whole time.
Mum chuckled slightly madly.
“Nothing! That’s what. I just didn’t go food shopping last night because I was too tired and so your father couldn’t have his usual Saturday morning bagel and he’s had a right paddy over it, the precious little thing. Why doesn’t he do the shopping eh? And another thing...” I knew it was rude but that was when I started to block her out. Not because it upset me to hear her complain about my dad but because I’d heard it all before. Every petty argument they had, every blazing row seemed to be repeated and recently their frequency and intensity was increasing. I sipped my coffee as my mum ranted on. My dad was never nice to her, he complained about everything, he was a miserable pig, the usual.

The truth as I saw it, was that they just weren’t in love anymore. When I was little I’d seen their love, it had been one of the main features of my childhood. They’d always be together, laughing, joking, and agreeing on mostly every issue. Every evening without exception they would sit on our living room sofa together, legs entangled, my mum’s head resting on my dad’s chest, their breathing in sync. Every now and then they’d glance each other and smile so adoringly and it was that look that had made me think that I understood what love was. Now that I was less idealistic and much less naive I’d come to understand that love doesn’t last. My parents had taught me that too. Love is a temporary infatuation with someone, which eventually gets boring, gets tedious. I watched as my mother hunched over the sink, her features pinched, her anger and upset still clearly visible. This sort of thing made me feel glad that I was single and would be for the foreseeable future. I wasn’t going to be touching even the thought of a relationship with a bargepole, especially after the year I’d just had. I didn’t need or want anyone, if this is all it resulted in anyway.

They were going to get a divorce when I left, I just knew it. They were staying together purely for my sake and when I was safely away at uni they were finally going to give up. My whole childhood would seem like a lie if that happened and it would absolutely destroy me. I should stay here forever, not go to uni, just to spite them, I found myself thinking, they’d just hate that. Even the thought of them not being together gripped my chest in a sort of panic. So I did what I did best and pushed the thought away, buried it under a pile of other thoughts. The toast I’d put in for myself out of habit, jerked upwards loudly, ripping me from my thoughts.

Mum had finished talking and was swilling her mug in a bowl of soapy water, her face expressionless. I walked over to her and silently kissed her on the top of her head. I didn’t know what else to say. Well I did, but if I said everything that needed to be said it’s likely that I would be there for years and it would be emotional and teary and I couldn’t deal with that. Not today. She gave me a tight smile and the sadness of it made me need to leave the kitchen. I briskly buttered my toast, picked up my bag and made my way outside.

I plonked myself down on the curb outside my house and closed my eyes, lifting my head towards the sun, letting it wash over me, its heat strangely comforting. I stayed posed like that, taking deep breaths until I felt calm again. Everything was ok. No everything wasn’t ok. But it could be if I just calmed down. Or maybe my mood wouldn’t make a difference to the state of everything going on around me, my mind didn’t have power over anyone else after all.
“If I was someone with aggressive tendencies, you’d be dead right now.”
My eyes snapped open, interrupting the stream of irrational thoughts cascading through my head.

Coralie was parked a little further down the pavement on the other side of the road and was leaning out of the window of her Citroen, staring at me with an amused expression.
“You do have aggressive tendencies,” I laughed, heaving myself to my feet, thankful to have something to distract me from myself. As I stood up I made a big deal of  touching an area on my arm, where weeks ago she’d jokingly punched me and left a huge bruise that I hadn’t let her hear the end of, showing her its progression from red, to deep purple to yellow.
“Oh get over it already,” she huffed, “You shouldn’t sit like that by the way, so near the road. I regret not squashing you flat now.”
I laughed and let myself into the passenger’s seat.
“You couldn’t kill anyone, let alone me. Your stomach is too soft.”
“True,” Coralie nodded as if she was conceding, peeling away from the curb and speeding off down the street, “Damn my softness.”
The breeze from the open windows hit me from both directions, making my hair sweep madly into my face. Normally I would complain about the (in my opinion) idiotic speed at which Coralie insisted on driving, but today it felt more invigorating than irritating. Instead I reached over and turned up the music that was already blasting from the speakers, until my seat was vibrating slightly with the volume.
Cor turned to me and smiled approvingly.
“Beach time!” she shouted over the music and in the same breath started singing along. Her obvious excitement seemed a little over the top and out of place to me but at the same time I was sick of thinking and just wanted to sing along. Her smile was infectious and I laughed, threw my head back and started singing along too.

                                                                          * * *

“It’s those who read the most who make better writers after all, Erin,” Mr Jenkins’ voice always seemed to trickle into my mind whenever I picked up a new book. I’d been reading one for about 30 minutes or so of the journey, as Cor had smoked multiple cigarettes, paying very little attention to me. In fact I might have been reading for longer than that, time not registering properly when I got lost in the pages of a book. After my Nan went into the home and my parent’s hatred for each other began to emerge, I’d needed someone to talk to about everything, losing my main confident to dementia something that I was finding unbearable to deal with. I’d started to think about the fragility of life, searching for meaning. Cor had been there for me sure, but Cor’s mind was on boys and discos and clothes. And so I’d stared talking to Mr Jenkins more and more on my almost daily visits to the Jenkins household, the topics of conversation getting deeper and deeper.

“One suggestion I can make,” Mr Jenkins had said softly one afternoon as the three of us had sat around their kitchen table drinking hot chocolate, “is to read more.” Cor was always present for our conversations. I think she was just as in awe of her father’s wisdom as I was, but I could tell that what we spoke about didn’t always interest her. This was one of those times, you could tell by her body language. She was turned away from us, flipping through the pages of a magazine and as her dad spoke she got up to refill the empty plate that had once been laden with chocolate biscuits. “Reading helps you to put things into perspective, to get a fresh view on something, or even validate your own thoughts. It’s so comforting to know people out there are thinking the same things that you are.”
I’d read books before he’d said this of course, but never anything with any substance, I was twelve years old after all, still hooked on literature about ponies and boarding schools for girls and it was these topics that were often reflected in my own writing. Mr Jenkins had suggested a few books and somewhat hesitantly I had approached them night after night tucked cosily in my bed. They were thicker than anything I’d ever read before, the writing smaller, the words more complex. But I’d battled through my initial wariness and read his first few suggestions, which had happened to be the Little Women trilogy. And by the time I’d closed the back cover and placed the third book upon the covers of my bed I was hooked on literature. From then on I had sought out books that made me question things, like right and wrong or how things are versus how they should be. I devoured books with a hunger I’d never realised it was possible to have. And even though it was probable that I would have discovered my love for reading on my own, to this day I still felt like I owed it all to Mr Jenkins.

“Thirty year old woman with an unflattering ponytail and a baby sick stain on her top,” I guessed as we approached a dark blue Picasso on the motorway.
“Kay, make sure you get a proper look then,” Coralie said as she moved into the right lane to overtake them. After Coralie had flicked the stub of her 200th cigarette out of the window and had violently sighed followed by a complaint of boredom I’d felt obliged to put down my book and entertain her instead. We’d been playing this game since were little and going on long car trips together, normally with my parents or her dad, to the beach, the swimming pool, the shopping arcade. I’d been surprised when Coralie had suggested it but pleasantly so and as immature as I knew it was, I was basically in my element. I sat forward as we sped past and expectantly stared shamelessly at the driver in the car next to us.
“I’m so bad at this game,” I laughed, settling back into my seat.
“I know you’re rubbish. Who were they then?” Coralie grinned, manoeuvring back into the left lane.
“An old guy, with a pretty immense moustache.”
“See I could have told you that. He was driving like an old guy who was weighed down by the weight of a moustache.”
I laughed, “How does the weight of your moustache effect your driving?”
“It’s complicated but you just know these things Erin. When you’re a driver that is.”
I rolled my eyes.
“Fine, you can do the next one then.”
“Fine.” Coralie replied, still grinning and pulling into the right lane again, preparing to overtake a little yellow KA.

As she did I stretched my legs out in front of me, feeling my rigid muscles relax. I felt as if we’d been driving for ages. I glanced at the little clock on the car’s dashboard which confirmed my guess, we’d been driving for just over an hour and a half. I frowned, trying to work it out in my head. I was sure it didn’t normally take us this long to get to the beach. My heart skipped unpleasantly as I glanced out of the window again at the unfamiliar stretch of motorway in front of us. I’d noted a few times along the journey that I didn’t recognise our route but I’d put that down to the fact that I wasn’t one of the most observant people on earth and directions had always been a sore point for me, not to mention that I’d been completely enthralled in my book for a time, then in our game. But now a bad feeling was beginning to rise from my stomach to rise and my whole body tensed up.
“Young girl with a wrist tattoo and a purposely messy bun,” Coralie was saying but I could barely hear her over the ringing sound in my ears.
I turned in my seat and peered into the back of the car and to my horror saw a number of bags, backpacks and suitcases, piled neatly on top of each other, all seemingly full. My panic beat in my head like my temples were being used as a drum.

“Cor,” I said as calmly as I could, turning back in my seat to face her, “where are we going?”
There was no answer and I glanced sideways at her to see that she was no longer grinning, her expression now stony.
“Awh man, I was way off, it was the middle aged woman you wanted to see in the last car!” I ignored this comment, now thoroughly convinced that she had tainted our childhood memories by using our beloved car game as a way to distract me, so that I didn’t notice when she had strayed off the route she was supposed to be on. What a betrayal, I couldn’t help thinking, perhaps slightly dramatically.
“Coralie, where are we going?” I repeated, my mind racing, trying to work out what was going on, why she’d felt the need to lie about where she was taking me. She knew I wasn’t fond of surprises and the sudden atmosphere in the car confirmed to me that something was going on that she knew I wasn’t going to be best pleased about.
Once again she didn’t answer and instead reached for a cigarette.
“Coralie, this isn’t funny.”
“Well the look on your face is pretty funny to be fair,” she smiled but it was forced and toothy.
“Cor! You know I’m meeting my parents at three,” I exclaimed, my heart racing.
“Oh calm down Erin, oh my goodness. We’re just going on a little trip, that’s all!” The car swerved slightly as she tried to light her fag. I officially lost my temper with her, snatched the unlit fag from her pale pink nails and threw it out of the open window.
Coralie mocked gasped gazing out of her rear view mirror at the little scrap, disappearing rapidly from sight as the car sped along. The sound of her teasing infuriated me even more. I didn’t have time for her games anymore, I had more important things to deal with now.

“Don’t be so uptight Erin. Uni has changed you already and you haven’t even been yet!” She sped up the car, her tone slightly hysterical, her hair floating around her head in the breeze, catching the sun and creating the illusion of angry flames flickering in the wind. I couldn’t help but feel a little scared. It was as if she genuinely saw no madness in the fact that she’d tricked me into coming on this mysterious trip with her. And she’d become so defensive over the whole situation so quickly, it was as though her temper had been crouched down ready to strike the second I’d tried to find out what was going on. It was official, she’d gone completely crazy. I’d known there was something up with her the past few days, past few weeks even. One minute she’d been tranquil or giddy with happiness and she’d been tense and on edge the rest of the time. It had been as if she was perched precariously on the edge of a cliff, torn over whether to be paralysed by fear or dizzy with the exhilaration of her situation.

My anger began to slowly ebb away but was replaced all at once by an overwhelming anxiety, all of my worries for Coralie resurfacing.
“Where are we going?” I repeated, my voice small.
Coralie’s hands were now gripping the steering wheel so hard that her knuckles were turning purple. Trying not to make her jump and knowing my luck crash the car causing a five vehicle pileup, I slowly and deliberately placed a hand on top of one of hers.
“Cor?”
“It’s the summer!” she snapped suddenly, causing me to quickly snatch my hand back. I’d barely ever seen her like this, worked up and angry, especially at me, not in the whole twelve years that we’d been friends and I really didn’t like it. She must have noticed my alarm because she took a deep, shaky breath and seemed to calm down.
“As I was saying, it’s the summer Erin, we’re going to the beach.”
“Which beach?” Knowing that the pebbly shores of Ogmore which we usually frequented wouldn’t be the answer.
“A nice beach, not far from a pretty little seaside apartment that’s been rented out for the rest of the summer.”
Right, at least I’d finally got a sort of straight answer out of her, even if it wasn’t one that relieved my fears. I took a deep breath, trying to seem calmer than I felt.
“You’re kidnapping me,” I said, half seriously, half as a way to calm her down, to diffuse some of the tension.
“No I’m not,” Coralie replied but as if to contradict herself she took one hand off the steering wheel and pressed down on the internal lock.
“Oh yeah, because that’s going to make me feel less freaked out. Plus what was I gonna do, roll out onto the motorway, or hold up a sign saying ‘being held hostage by an insane person’?”
Coralie’s breathing had returned back to normal but the earlier grin she’d been sporting had been replaced by an anguished grimace.
“Please just be cool. You would have totally been up for this a couple of years ago, hell a couple of weeks ago!”
“Yeah Cor, before I had basically my life to sort out. I’ve got goals now, responsibilities!” I expected her to scoff like she usually did whenever I got serious, expressed my desire to get somewhere in life, be ready, be prepared. Instead she turned to me, her turquoise eyes wide.
“Please RiRi,” she whimpered, the words getting caught in her throat. Her lips that were smeared with a vibrant shade of red lipstick, trembled as if she was trying to smile but gave up halfway through. The soft way that she spoke unnerved me, the look in her eyes scared me. She no longer gripped onto any pretence of happiness and showed me the raw emotion she’d been hiding under her happy little act. It was almost too intense for me to handle.
I had to look away so that she didn’t see my eyes welling up. I had to be the strong one if Cor wasn’t going to be.
I cleared my throat painfully, the lump at its base refusing to budge.
“Fine,” I tried to say as firmly as I could, so that she couldn’t hear my doubt, how apprehensive I actually was. Of course I didn’t want to go along with this madness but what other choice did I have? Cor clearly had her mind set on this and there was no way I was going to abandon her or leave her by herself. I had to stay with her because as much as I was irritated by this whole situation, I was too worried about her. As unnecessary as it might be, it was clear that I couldn’t control it, especially when it came to Coralie. It had been a while since I’d accepted that worrying about Coralie was my job, because it was no one else’s. It always had been and it probably always would be.
                                                                      
                                                                 * * *

For about half an hour I could hardly look at Coralie. It was petty yes, but I was battling with a strange mixture of anger, anxiety and despite myself a little excitement. As much as I hated to admit it she was partly right. I would have loved the idea of this, an impromptu road trip, a well-deserved holiday, staying by the beach with my best friend, doing nothing but relaxing in the sun, day after day. But I had so much on my mind, so much to do. As I’d sat there stewing in my nonsensical mix of emotions I’d tried to push all the reasons not to go on this trip back into their little boxes in my mind, but I couldn’t do it. They kept overflowing spilling all over each other, merging into one big mess. But nevertheless, I still felt slightly excited and the look on my face would have let her off the hook slightly and I wouldn’t be having that. Instead, I waited until I had composed myself before turning towards her again.

“I need to text my parents, they’re expecting to meet me soon.”
She’d taken my phone earlier in the journey, saying I’d been paying more attention to it than to her ‘one liners’. I was now starting to realise that perhaps she’d taken it from me for other reasons, perhaps more believable than missing her ‘one liners’ but equally as ridiculous. Such as to stop me from informing anyone of my recent kidnapping.
Coralie who had apparently made a miraculous recovery in regards to her mental state within the past thirty minutes had to stop singing to answer me.
“Nope, no phones. I’ll sort it,” she said, her tone bossy, her voice composed again, back in control, although I refused to believe that she actually was. I was going to assume that everything from this point on was one big act, all of it a disguise for her obvious mental breakdown. My thoughts must have been reflected onto my features because Coralie passed me the cigarette she’d been nursing.
“Relax RiRi. And don’t wimp out on me and waste that,” she nodded at the fag. I took it gingerly, wondering whether the foul smelling article could really calm me down.
I took a drag, not expecting miracles. In fact it made me feel even more worked up, the smoke trickling into my lungs, burning and feeling as though it was eating away at my insides. I stared at the side of Cor’s face, waiting until she looked back at me before I stared straight into her eyes and flicked the whole thing out of the window. She rolled her eyes and my little victory against her made me smile. I turned away from her again then, letting my head flop against the headrest as I watched the scenery speed past. The beautiful countryside, trees and fields bathed in the sunlight’s golden haze. The blur of the world outside the car started to make my eyes feel funny and so reluctantly I closed them, half feeling like if I closed them for too long Cor would end up deciding to drive us to the Eurotunnel and I’d open my eyes and we’d be in France. Not that I’d normally complain about being in France but right now it didn’t feel right to go away. None of this felt right. Despite my reservations I still somehow managed to fall into an uneasy sleep, last night’s nightmares making a new appearance.
 

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