BY JOANNA LAMBERT
Copyright is held by the author.
WHEN THE sun rose, Maeve was already out. She was sitting beside Ceri on a big tussock on the side of a quarry on the Black Mountain, watching Wynn and Jake noisily trash a car. They were doing fas, erratic loops, with the engine whining and the car sliding sideways and occasionally crashing into protruding rocks. Ceri had brought a flask and some bananas. She started to peel one. Maeve watched her fat little fingers moving deftly. Ceri passed Maeve the banana. “Do you think they’ll be much longer?”
Maeve shrugged. “I’ve got work at three.” She took a bite of the banana. “Thank you.”
Ceri wrapped her coat tighter. It was only September, but the air in the mornings was sharp. “Whose car is it?”
“One of Wynn’s. It’s going for scrap.”
“Are you and Wynn still . . .”
Maeve shrugged again. She felt awkward talking about Wynn in front of Ceri. Maybe because it was embarrassing to be dating someone so annoying. “I guess.”
On the other side of the valley, a van was twisting slowly down the bends. It still had its lights on. Even though it wasn’t too hard to get a trailer here, it was far enough from the road that even if someone drove down the lane, they wouldn’t hear them. And it was too early for the walkers, who would definitely phone the police. The floor of the quarry had car and bike parts strewn about, and empty lager cans blown into corners. Occasionally the park wardens came and cleared it and posted angry things on Facebook about vandals and criminals.
Wynne had reversed into the quarry and left the truck in the entrance. “Wynne’s good at reversing,” she said, in case she had looked disloyal.
Ceri looked at her and grinned. “He’s very good at reversing.”
“Do you think I’ll end up marrying him?”
Ceri stopped smiling and shrugged. They watched a kite, floating across the hillside. Maeve finished her banana and handed the peel to Ceri who put it carefully in her bag. The car was doing doughnuts now, faster and faster. Ceri said, “The rowan’s early this year.”
“It’ll be a hard winter,” Maeve said, like she always did, and Ceri grinned again.
The quarry gave Maeve the creeps. Last year, a ewe had got trapped in a narrow crevice, and even though the wool had gone, her bones were still lying about. It was where Steven had come to drink vodka and swallow co-codamol. They said it was because of exam pressure. It hadn’t worked. The vomit had washed away in the autumn and Steven had joined the army. Maeve never mentioned it and neither did Ceri. Maeve had noticed that they always sat right up here now, up on the rough grass, rather than on the rocks. Sometimes Ceri suggested a walk, and Maeve refused. She wished she didn’t still think about the sheep, and what it would be like to be waiting there – wanting to be rescued, but knowing you were getting weaker. Wynn had looked at her blankly when she told him she dreamt about the ewe, then reached across to pull off her t-shirt.
Down in the quarry the car had risen up onto a steep bank and then tipped, slowly onto its side. It eventually skidded to a screeching halt. When it stopped, they could hear the skylarks. There were some muffled thumps and then the passenger door opened a crack and then bumped shut again. Maeve ate some banana, then felt guilty. “I should go and help.”
Ceri didn’t look at her. Maeve found she was holding her breath, as if she was anxious. Because she was worried about Wynn, probably. “They could be hurt.”
Ceri sounded unusually grim, but she stood up so Maeve did too. As they did, the passenger door was pushed open again, by a firm limb, and this time it stayed open. Wynn’s face appeared. “We’re okay!” he shouted.
The girls both waved enthusiastically with the hands that didn’t have bananas, and then sat back down. Wynn climbed carefully out of the car and tried to pull it back onto its wheels. Ceri took a deep breath. “Maeve — I need to tell you — I applied for a job in Cardiff.”
Maeve jerked her head around to face her so fast that her neck hurt. She winced. Ceri’s mouth twisted sympathetically. Maeve put her hand up to her neck. “It’s fine.”
“Are you sure?”
Maeve tried to keep her voice cheerful and interested. “Yeah, all fine. So Cardiff? To do what?”
Ceri shrugged. “Just office stuff. Like I’ve been doing for Hugh. Just the same, but in Cardiff.”
Maeve rubbed at her neck, trying to stop the pain. “That’s cool. I didn’t know you wanted to go away.”
Ceri shrugged. They watched the boys silently. Jake had dragged himself out of the car while Wynn held the door, balancing on the passenger door. They were both grinning. Together, they rocked the car and then lowered it gently to the dusty ground. Jake gave the roof of the car a slap. They both looked back up at the girls, who were still silent. Jake got back into the car and Wynn slapped the roof loudly. “You go, boy!” His voice carried up the sides of the rocks.
Ceri looked down. “That car” is a mess. They’ll be lucky to get it back on the trailer.”
Maeve found she couldn’t see the car. She wiped her eyes, hard. Her hand was cold. Wynne pulled himself up onto a rock, then looked up at the top of the quarry again. Ceri waved and he waved back while Jake tried to start the car. Ceri was jiggling her leg again. They had a small rip near the top and Maeve could see her thigh. The van was at the bottom of the valley now, and they could hear it accelerate as it pulled on to the Ammanford road. Maeve touched the rip in Ceri’s jeans. “You know I would sew that up for you.”
Ceri’s leg stopped moving. She leant over to get the flask and poured the coffee slowly. Her hands were shaking. Maeve leaned against her, as if she could warm her up through their coats. Ceri passed Maeve a cup. Her fingers brushed against Maeve’s. “I didn’t bring milk. It leaks and then my bag smells. And it’s probably cold.”
“It’s great. Is the exhaust on fire?”
Ceri looked down. “I think so. Have they noticed?”
The car rolled to a stop, and Jake and Wynn leapt out. They started running, towards the truck and trailer. Maeve found she was holding her breath. Ceri took her hand. “You could come to Cardiff with me. If you wanted.”
Maeve turned, and looked into Ceri’s big brown eyes. She leant forward. They were only millimeters from each other. Still not too late to move back and for it to mean nothing. Probably. Maeve’s pulse suddenly seemed very loud and her lips were dry. And then their soft lips were touching and it was definitely too late and Maeve’s heart was full of butterflies and every part of her was singing.
And behind them, the car exploded and the light and flames lit up the sky.
J. Lambert lives in a rainy valley in mid-Wales with her wife, children and too many chickens. She has had work published by The New York Times, The Welsh Agenda, Gwyllion Magazine and Flash Fiction Magazine.