Tanya J. Banthorn woke up under her covers, glanced around the marsh-mellow interior, and thought it best to close her eyes once more. It was obvious that the sun, in some advanced state, had tumbled through her curtains and had made her duvet glow. But she ignored this and did her best to recall again the images she’d half been thinking about…

      That insane water fight with Alex here in this very room, their simple joy at soaking everything. (Shit, that reminded her, she’d have to do her laundry sometime today – push away, push away). She saw again the water pistols, the large wet puddles now covered in towels, and finally remembered how they’d had the ridiculous idea of trying to kiss with their mouths full of water. Liquid had seeped everywhere, down their chins, across their chests, and they found their desire keeping pace with the fun as they hauled their way out of their sodden clothes.

      They’d gasped and groped, stumbled and splashed and somehow managed to end up on the bed. A hasty run of foreplay, then both of them hoping around on each other. A laugh from her before a pause as he fumbled with the Durex wrapper, moaning about how tight they always seemed, her loving the fact that he was big enough for this to be a problem. She smirked, slapped him on the arse, said “Get you big boy!” and pressed his newly attired groin down to meet hers. She felt her warmness mould around his rigid cock, easing herself down, expanding then contracting in a clench of pleasure and…

      Again the brightness of her covers interrupted her thoughts, and waking slightly more, she found herself yearning for the softness of his skin. Gone.

      She pulled the duvet down and squinted at the room. Green tasteless carpet, magnolia walls, her stuff spread tidily around caught in a losing battle with her landlord’s decor. Her room? What a joke, Mr (tight arsed) Mellor’s room, her occupancy. She forced herself to look briefly at the concentration of light coming through the gap in the curtains, saw a strip of dirty lace, then pulled back remembering something unpleasant.

      About a month ago she’d had the distinct feeling of being watched throughout one of her rare evenings in, and when she’d finally plucked up the courage to turn off the lights and peer through the almost closed curtains, she’d found the pervert from next door peering back. She’d called the police who had turned up with the haste of a bored rural city division and, after a brief scene (in which she decided not to press charges), one of the officers suggested that she replace the thin paisley print with something more substantial. He had then promptly left taking the cringing weirdo with him. Now, looking into the light again, she vaguely considered why she still hadn’t got round to replacing it?

      Somehow she summoned enough energy to sit up and lean over to the bedside table. Here, fumbling for her cigarettes, she glanced at the scorched ashtray and thought; one day this is going to kill me, either through cancer or trial by fire. She registered the thought, forgot it instantly, and snuggled down to enjoy the acrid taste of blue smoke. The window drew her attention again.

      Outside she imagined the avenue in the midday sun, and followed its gradient up towards the perilous turn that led to Earl’s Road (the only connection between the student hovels of the ‘Golden Triangle’, and the heart of the sleepy city of Hornwic).

      In her mind she let the drag of the main road compliment her own gentle pull on her cigarette until her cerebral journey reached the flowered roundabout at its source. Left to work (push away, push away), straight over to the hospital, right to… Freedom.

      The road passed the blue tower block where she’d once received computer training from the local insurance giant – Hornwic Alliance. There, she recalled, she’d somehow managed to crash her terminal on the second or third day by simply typing “Roger Ramjet” in a fit of chronic boredom. It was an ominous start to her career in pensions and, just one year later she’d been fired – far too much sick leave they’d said.

      She continued to move on down remembered highways, fast-forward now. A series of cross-roads, roundabouts, traffic lights and past the imposing town hall. It was rumoured that Hitler had decreed that it should be untouched during the bombing raids that had flattened a percentage of the city during the war. She had no idea whether this were apocryphal or not, but the idea had somehow lodged in her head and now she always imagined elongated red Nazi flags draped down it’s towering columns. She turned her minds eye away from this fearful vision of totalitarian control and pushed forward at speed once again. Ring road, more traffic lights and then a millisecond blaze through a village on the city’s periphery.

      Finally she found herself on the road back to her home town, and was surprised to remember that it had recently been blocked off. Now, as with the last time she’d hitched, she stood facing a cliff of freshly turned earth, scaled it, and looked across the field of roads that had seemingly sprung up over night. She looked left, then right, but all the roads appeared to cross rather than follow her desired path. She looked beyond, trying to make out the far side of the network, trying to discover some landmarks that would draw her forwards. But there were none.

      Once again the familiar had become unfamiliar all too quickly and, as she stared at the distant idyll of the countryside, her countryside, it seemed to shimmer in the haze and fade. Disquietined she returned to the present and her own body in bed.

      Her fingers became dusted with ash as she reached across to put her cigarette out. As she did so, a dull pain twinged somewhere behind her eyes – the last remnants of a hang-over cunningly side-stepped by sleep.
Last night had been a riot.

      She had started off in the T-Shades with Cushy and Copey on full mad lads form – pranksters extraordinaire going through their routine beneath the retro adornments of the bar. Perez, the barman, had been good for her too. He sleepily watched her through half closed eyes then asked her to come back at closing time and head on to a club. In true Perez style he hadn’t been put out when she’d said no.

      After a few drinks, she and the boys had strode out of the place and headed back towards the Triangle, pausing only for one or two at the Garden House. There, some guy had almost started a fight over the pin-ball machine (fat fists, veined jugular, much sideways posturing etc.). Leaving seemed the best option, so again they moved on.

      An hour before closing time they’d eventually turned up at the Belle View. Her local, her home from home.

      She’d breezed in at the head of the group, comfortable with all the faces there, smiled and said “Hi” at least twenty times before she got to the bar. She’d ordered, turned round, leant back on her elbows, and looked out through the windows to the streets beyond. No “Belle View” there, just the endless frontage of terraced housing and glowing windows stretching away. But all she had to do was look back to the pub’s interior to find the promised vista captured in the faces of its patrons.

      Back in her bed Tanya remembered how she’d relaxed, breathing easy among “her kind of people”, and how there’d been a charge in the air that night. Faces turned to faces beneath the nicotine stained Victoriana.

      Over in one of the bar’s dark corners, a gang of the ‘beautiful people’ had decided to slum it for the evening, and she was shocked and intrigued to spot her friend Molly amongst them. She’d sidled over.

      Apparently they were all bored. A long summer’s afternoon cruising around had left them frantic with a desire to make the day last as long as possible.

      “Why not go tobogganing?” She’d suggested, laughing inside at their looks of disbelief. She quickly explained that the security around the dry slope was hopeless this time of year. Molly and her two companions immediately jumped on the idea, and before she knew it the girl had slipped a coffee coloured arm through hers and had walked her away from the beer stained table. Hustled past the bar she shouted her apologies to Cushy and Copey – shrugs from both – and found herself propelled back outside.

      Justin Brown, the reluctant driver for the evening, was loaded, good for the drinks, good for the drive, but bad (very bad) for anything else. So she’d done her best to avoid his ‘undress you’ eyes, and tactfully jumped in the back seat of his jeep. Minutes later they’d been cruising open top through the city. The wind whipped her hair into a living frenzy and she a fleeting sense of near perfection. It was if she could slip chameleon-like from one environment to another, seamlessly changing, controlling the evening and steering its thrills without effort. For one night she was the electric blue goddess of all she surveyed, and it felt… Delightful.

      Quickly the orange burn of the street lights dipped behind and the shadows in the lands beyond the ring road did their best to douse the jeeps headlights. Soon, though – surprisingly soon – they reached the turn off for the dry slope. As she’d predicted the striped barrier to the slope’s car-park was unlocked and pointing skywards.

      Justin killed the jeep’s lights and eased it across the silent expanse of Tarmac. Then, looming out of the darkness, stood the artificial hill, a hump of man made obsidian against the star spattered sky. Down one side a ghostly white slash of marked their eventual destination.

      “What are we going to use for sledges?” Molly had asked, and Tanya had replied that the last time she’d been here some industrial plastic sacks had been found behind a maintenance hut. Hopefully they’d still be there.

      One by one they carefully hauled themselves across a low chain-link fence, selected a suitable sack from the hidden stash and then began the arduous climb up the hill.

      Halfway up Tanya realised that they’d all stopped talking, concentrating instead on the assent. It was only at the top that they began to chat again, giggling in excited anticipation. Justin, plastic stuffed tightly under him, just had to be the first over the edge, and with a mighty “Wheyhey!” he rapidly zipped off into the shadows below. Molly’s current beau (a tanned surf-boy called Paul) was next, jumping on his mate’s enthusiasm and following him down with equal abandonment and noise.

      “So, what do you think of him then?” Molly had quickly asked after his departure, to which she’d said, “He’s cute.” All in all a pretty non-committal answer about someone she hardly knew, but it seemed to satisfy her friend. They’d settled themselves down for a tandem run, and shuffled their way inch-by-inch towards the edge.

      “Oi!”

      Tanya winced against her pillows and thought back over the adrenaline fuelled mess of snap shots that followed: Click – looking back and seeing two torch beams bobbing up the hill’s far side. Click – hearing a large dog bark. Click – pushing Molly over the lip of the run, and then click – plunging down herself. A blur of roaring filled white.

      They’d passed the boys, who were climbing again, and slid to a halt on the flattened run-off. Up and running in seconds and away.

      Justin and Paul instantly got the picture even before they saw the security guards and somehow managed to beat the girls to the fence. The two lads quickly made it over in a bounding panic, whereas she – left with Molly in those fucking heels – had been forced to give her a boost first. She’d watched painfully as the short brown legs wiggle themselves over the top, and had then hoisted herself. Behind she heard the distinct scamper of clawed feet, and as she landed she turned to face a German Shepherd snapping at where her arse had just been mere seconds before. So close.

      Any-which-way they piled into the jeep. Justin behind the wheel cranking the starter, Molly and Paul a sprawl of panting arms and legs across the back seat.

      Even now, in the dozy silence of the morning, she could still hear their hysteria above the jeep’s angry engine as Justin punched the vehicle across the empty parking spaces. He drove back towards the city fast and loose, the kick of the chase now spilling over onto the road. Furious heel and toe work, gear stick shoved through its paces, avid concentration set ahead, broken only by the glances he gave her legs. She suddenly realised the charge of the drive was getting him hot. He’d punched the jeep into top gear and reached out a tentative hand and placed it over her knee. She’d left it there, waited, and waited, and waited some more – waiting for his concentration to shift, his speed to decrease – until his courageous fingers began to work their way up her thigh.

      Suddenly the Hornwic boarder sign flashed past to the left, and realising she was no longer completely stranded. She turned politely to Justin and said, “You’ve got more chance of getting it on with your precious jeep than you have with me fuckwit.”

      A predictable screech of brakes. Justin yelling a tirade of abuse in which “Prick-tease” was frequent applied. Him telling her to “Get the fuck out!” and her gladly accepting.

      She’d found herself standing by the jeep looking painfully on as Molly tore herself apart over friendship, and the chance of an ongoing night with Paul. She’d stared imploringly at Tanya, who had eased the situation by saying that everything was okay, and that she’d see her again sometime soon. No hard feelings. Molly’s face broke with relief and immediately she began to move off, speeding down the road until all Tanya could make out was a hazy dot framed by a bloom of curly hair.
Alone she’d begun to plod the pavement home.

      Step-by-step she wound her way back through the now quiet city. Expensive houses started to emerge, their exclusive designs made uniform under the street lights. After a while they’d fallen away to be replaced by wide industrial spaces; a building site here, a supermarket there, each structure ascending in height to the squat commercial towers of the city centre. To her right the bus station. A reassuring sign at this deserted hour, crowded with memories of rattling journeys back to her parents. Pleasant cruises home far removed from this trudge. She texted Alex. Was he still awake? He was. Suddenly the journey seemed less wearisome.

      She’d urged herself onwards with thoughts of Alex, a four pack of canned G&T in the fridge and hopes that her flat-mate Martina hadn’t beaten her to it. Finally the familiarity of her own turf, her street, her door and…

      “What fucking time do you call this?” Alex, all mopped hair and lop sided grin sitting on her doorstep. Suddenly the faded diamond of perfection began to dazzle within her once again.

      In a roundabout way she stretched, and thoughts of the previous night drifted away to be replaced by a list that invaded her comfortable state. Things to do, things to do. Get up – Breakfast (anything to eat?) – Chat to Martina if she was around – Launderette – Sort some clothes for tonight, then off to the club, her shift starting at?

      Push away girl, push away.

      If she put a spurt on later she could turn breakfast into brunch, dig out something clean and still have time to make the last wash. She crept the covers back over her head and watched as she recaptured her cosy and luminous world. Seeking darkness between the pillows, she closed her eyes and dreamt of water tumbling across Alex’s absent skin.