She wasn’t going to need it where she was going. They’d said the place was furnished like a palace; room after room of cosy, calm, uplifting colours—every hue of the rainbow and more—and she couldn’t bloody wait. Nobody in the world wanted a poxy pale green velour armchair. And nobody since the middle-ages had owned a knitted zig-zag patterned cushion which clashed with everything.
She’d left her room the way she’d found it. Peeling paint and bits of blu-tak on the walls where posters had been removed and re-stuck over and over. Rust-coloured dents in the carpet which hadn’t gone away no matter how hard she’d scrubbed with Vanish; a year ago she’d have emailed the company—demanded her money back—she could’ve scraped together three meals for £3.95 back then. But now it didn’t matter. Anger and disappointment could stay there under the gaudy cushion on the piss-coloured chair.
She pressed the backpack into the boot of the car, alongside two others, one of which had literally burst at its seams; a piece of netting poking out of the gap. An image of a wedding dress flew through her mind, the gentle rustle of waves rushing to kiss a golden beach then retreating again like a slowed-down Hokey-Cokey to the tune of a distant seabird’s cry.
Weddings were for silly little girls anyway. Like dads who didn’t put mums in hospital and boyfriends who didn’t leave you when you missed a period. Even her half-brother hadn’t texted since Christmas.
And she’d never liked the stupid telly. Nothing ever on. Let some passer-by spot the box and push a finger under the side opening to see if it was empty or not. Good luck to them. She hoped it’d make them happy. Tellies; who needed them? If she’d needed company then she’d have got a bloody cat. Ant & Dec’d never offered to give her a hand with the shopping or the cleaning. Tom Cruise hadn’t ever stopped mid-disaster movie to ask her if she needed a lift to the Job Centre or if he could do the ironing. What good was a box in a room which brainwashed people into thinking life was going to turn out okay? Whose stupid idea had that been?
‘Get in,’ the man’s voice boomed from the driver’s seat. ‘Shove up Carla, pet; make room for your new sister.’
She folded her body into the back of the car and squashed in between two other girls—one looked even younger than her—protective arms across their bellies. They flicked brief looks in her direction and then turned back to their side windows.
‘Don’tchya want that?’ the young girl tapped the glass. ‘That bear thing? With the heart? It’s cute.’
‘Shut it Carla love, yeah?’ The man snapped. ‘She don’t need nothin’ like that no more. Where we’re going’s got everything we need, yeah?’
‘Yeah,’ the girl turned away from the pile on the pavement.
‘Got ya passport love?’ The man asked.
She nodded, held it out to him. He took it and pushed it inside his jacket, patting it down with the bulk of others.
‘Y’excited?’ the girl—Carla—asked.
‘S’pose so.’ She answered, although she hadn’t really thought much beyond getting out and getting away.
‘They say the rooms there are like Buckin’nam Palace. They got swimmin’ pools an’ ev’ryfinn.’
‘Shut it Carla, alright?’ The driver twisted round and rattled a small tube. ‘Ere, give our guest one o’ these… helps to calm travel sickness and stuff.’
Something cold and smooth was pressed into the palm of her hand. The other girl handed her a bottle of water which burned the back of her throat when she swallowed the pill down. Choking and gasping, they all laughed in unfamiliar noises as if it was the funniest thing ever and they were going to have such a blast. Her new best mates; her new family. Her heart calmed, her head buzzed, she felt lighter already.
The driver revved the car and threw his cigarette butt out of the window. Heavy-eyed, she watched it bounce three times on the tarmac before landing in the gutter by the crappy life she was leaving behind.
Written in response to the Creative Writing Ink image prompt for 7th September, 2017