Actions

Work Header

We're Gonna Rattle This Ghost Town

Chapter Text

“What the hell d’you think you’re doing?” he demands, shaking Beth roughly by the arm. “A tattoo? You know what people in this town will think of me if they see that?”
“Of you.” Beth turns her head away from her father. “Right.”
“Look at me when I’m talking to you!”
Beth lets her eyes drift back to her father’s face. A vein bulges at his temple. Her mother has walked through the doorway behind him, steps muffled on the carpet.
“Honey,” she says quietly. “You’ll be late to work.”
Beth’s father looks down at his watch, swears, and shoves Beth away like she’s suddenly become contagious. Stumbling, Beth reaches out to snag a hold of the side table. She catches her balance and then her mother’s eye. Her mother gives her a tiny nod before Beth’s father sweeps past her and she hurries to follow him.

Beth straightens up, breathes into the silence.
She closes her eyes for a second. She jumps at the sound of a knock on the glass sliding door. She turns, hair whirling, but it’s just Sarah. She lets her shoulders drop. Sarah peers cautiously through the glass.
Beth slides back the door, asks warily, “How long’ve you been lurking out there?”
Sarah says, “Just got here,” casually, as if it’s nothing to either of them.
Beth nods and accepts the lie. Sarah steps past her and spins in a slow circle, looking at the vast expanse of space, the mostly-untouched furniture. Beth feels strangely self-conscious, puts her hands into the pockets of her coat.
“Hey,” Sarah says incredulously, “Is that a gun?”
“Yeah,” Beth replies as Sarah walks over to the gun in its case. “Cop dad, remember?”
“How could I forget?” Sarah says, taking the gun out and weighing it in her hands. She holds it as though she’s never seen one up close before. Beth supposes that she hasn’t.

Sarah lets out a breathy laugh, mock-raising the gun as if to point it at Beth.
Beth snorts. “Try taking the safety off first.” Sarah is already lowering it by the time Beth says, low, “Do me a favour.”
Sarah puts the gun down, looking faintly uneasy. “I was just kidding.”
Beth smiles easily. “I know.”
Sarah rolls her eyes, bumps Beth’s shoulder lightly with her own. “You shouldn’t talk like that, yeah? Least not in front of Alison. She’d crap her plaid skirt.”
Beth can’t help but laugh at the image.

//

Helena is lying on her belly on the floorboards of the abandoned house, knees bent up so that her feet appear to dangle precariously off of her ankles, swinging back and forth every so often. Polaroids are spread out in front of her, overlapping, and Helena picks through them, propped on her elbows.
“Hey, meathead,” Sarah says, and Helena turns her head on an improbable angle to grin up at her. Beth tosses her bag by the door and goes to join Cosima, who is leaning far back into the couch with her feet propped on the stripped and paintless coffee table.

“I like this one,” Sarah tells Helena, leaning over to point. The picture is of a small boy pushing a bicycle along the pavement, his head twisted to look over his shoulder at Helena and the camera. The sky is very wide above him, and his eyes are the same green as the bike. Helena nods peacefully and pulls a marker from her pocket. She sets about drawing a pair of feathered wings on the boy’s back, and the indistinct circle of a halo above his head.
Alison bustles in a moment later, halfway through the process of pulling a length of fabric out of her bag. It’s very…pink.
“What is that?” Cosima asks, leaning past Beth to peer at it.
“I brought some curtains,” Alison says briskly. “To brighten the place up!”
“Of course you did,” Beth says, equal parts confusion and fondness.
“It seems like we’ll be spending some time here,” Alison continues, “what with – suspension, and all, since I doubt any of us are planning to tell our parents about this, so – ” she points at the curtains.
Helena nods along to this speech. “This will make it like…home. Yes?”
“Exactly.” Alison gestures at Helena in a movement which says, Look! The only reasonable person in the room!

Sarah squints up at the window frame. “How’re you s’posed to get it up there?”
Alison sucks in her breath. “Who here is tall…?”
Cosima laughs. “Dude, none of us.”
MK says helpfully, “I am…the shortest of all of us.”
“I will jump!” Helena suggests excitedly.
“Sarah.” Rachel’s arrival is preceded by the dry tap of her shoes on the floorboards. “I have something you might like to read.”

She passes over a sheet of paper, which Sarah unfolds and reads aloud:
“Dear Rachel,
You don’t know me, I’m only a freshman. But I feel like I owe you. Mr Olivier’s been coming after me lately – but he won’t be anymore. I wish I could have been there. Thanks thanks thanks!
Love,
Anonymous.”
Cosima says, “…Holy watershed.” Alison is beaming.
Sarah blows out her breath. “Shite,” she says, and the word comes out halfway to being a laugh.
“We should celebrate,” Beth says.

//

Alison is slumped, warm and hazy from wine, head falling gently towards Beth’s shoulder. A portable radio propped on the coffee table washes The Spice Girls over them all. Sarah brings a bottle of rum to her lips, passes it across to Cosima. Alison watches the stretch of her arm lazily and remembers Sarah confidently pulling her shirt over her head in the candlelight. Remembers the way they all watched her, even Rachel. Helena was the only one unaffected by the presence or absence of Sarah’s clothing, eyes full of the same puppy-dog admiration as always. She thinks about Helena’s head on Sarah’s shoulder, innocent. She knows that was something completely different to the way she is pressed into Beth’s side now (the way Beth looks down at her, eyes full of something achingly soft) (the way Beth lifts a hand to touch Alison’s cheek, fingers slipping down to her jaw, leaning – )

– and Cosima says, “Let’s daaance,” pulling an only-minimally-reluctant Sarah to her feet. They sway back to back, Cosima’s arms twisting – haphazard but strangely graceful, and Helena quickly joins them, hair swinging wildly as she jumps up and down. Rachel, sitting sprawled and wine-soaked on the couch, watches them all with covert amusement. Beth puts an arm around Alison’s shoulders and together they stumble towards a standing position, eventually steadying enough for Beth to attempt twirling Alison beneath her arm. MK shifts from foot to foot, her hands describing small shapes in the air, waves and spirals. Cosima turns towards her, mirrors the movements. Beth’s hands are on Alison’s shoulders, then sliding down to settle at her waist, and Helena is laughing, arms above her head.

Abruptly Helena goes still and silent, eyes wide. She reaches out one furtive hand to Sarah’s arm, rasps out her name.
Alison turns at the same moment Sarah does. There are faces looking in through the window, shockingly close. It’s the jocks: Rudy’s scarred face leering in at them, Seth smirking beneath his terrible patchy moustache, Styles, Mark and Parsons crowding in behind them. Beth’s arms drop to her sides, Rachel immediately straightens up on the couch, and Cosima reaches out to shut off the music.

“What are you doing here?” Beth demands, voice laced with anger and alcohol.
“We have a little problem, girls,” Rudy says, his voice light and mocking. “Known as Duval Olivier.”
“What about him?” Sarah says, dismissive.
“It seems a nasty little rumour got started about him, and now girls are signing a petition to have him fired.”
“Wow,” Cosima says softly. MK catches her eye, teeth flashing in a quick, breathless smile. Rachel looks viciously pleased.
“What’s your point, Rudy?” Alison asks, and he twitches a little at the sound of his first name.
“Our point is,” Miller cuts in, “You girls started it, so you’d better stop it.” The threat in his tone is not veiled.
Beth snorts. “Or what, big guy?”
“Or you’ll be fucking sorry!” he says. “If Coach Olivier loses his job because of you sluts, then you’re gonna pay.”
Behind him, Mark stares off to the side, eyes on one fixed spot. Parsons lets his gaze drift towards where Helena stands hunched with her hands folded together, his expression something like apologetic.

Sarah steps in front of Beth, pushes her torso out through the empty window-frame until Miller is forced to sway back on the spot to avoid her.
“You can run on back to Olivier and tell him he deserves whatever he gets,” she says harshly.
Rudy fixes his eyes on her face, his stare that of a predator – some kind of rough and violent jungle animal Alison can’t remember the name of. He takes a half-step forward, but Mark mutters, “Let’s just go,” barely loud enough to be heard, and Rudy’s gaze slips away abruptly, swinging to take in the tense lines of Mark’s neck, his jaw jutted away.
Rudy jerks his head, and Seth is immediately in motion, turning with Rudy as if they’re connected on an invisible wire. Miller stomps down the steps after them, collecting Mark along the way.
Parsons says quietly, “Is it true? About Olivier?”
The girls look at each other. Helena clears her throat. “Yes,” she says. Parsons nods, his face falling.
“Sorry,” he says, even quieter. Rachel narrows her eyes. Parsons looks like he might say something else, but after a few seconds of silence he just turns and disappears into the darkness.

***

Each morning the girls meet up along the walk to the old house as if by accident, like raindrops rolling together to form a stream of water. Sometimes the school bus will pass, with students leaning out the windows to cheer or laugh. Once, Rudy and the jocks sweep by in Seth’s car, whooping and jeering. Sarah flips them off and Rachel exhales through her nose in something that sounds suspiciously like a snort.

Sometimes their days are quiet:
Rachel and Alison sit side-by-side in silent solidarity, Alison painting her nails into perfect pink crescents, Rachel painting hers into immaculate sheets of silver. Helena hovers nearby, watching with tilted-head fascination until Alison waves her over.
“Do you want to try some polish?”
Helena looks at her bitten-down nails, dips her head in a nod. Alison produces a sparkling green polish from somewhere and sets to work. Helena wiggles her nails in front of Sarah’s face at least twenty separate times. Sarah stops batting her away eventually and gives in to just laughing, exasperatedly, fondly.

Sometimes their days are less quiet:
A young man crosses the street towards Cosima, blocks her path with a leering smile.
“Hey,” he says, reaching out towards her waist. “Hey pretty girl, all alone…”
Rachel steps up calmly, grinds her high heel into his foot until he cries out in pain. “She isn’t,” she says coldly, “Alone.”

This is what passes for affection from Rachel – conspirational smirks, tiny smiles like the promise of violence. (Nails sharp at the throat of the boy who calls Helena ‘freak’.) (Nails digging hard into her own palms the night when MK says, “I used to have a friend – Niki. She was my best friend.” and when Alison says quietly, “Used to?” replies on the edge of tears, “Some men…hurt her. I don’t see her anymore.”) (Rachel’s nails push deeper into her skin.) (None of them ask any more questions. MK looks so sad, and so small.)

Beth’s affection is something more like this: late at night guiding Alison’s hands away from the bottle, wrapping them in hers instead. Or like this: arranging the unserviceable pink curtain around the shoulders of a half-asleep Cosima in lieu of a blanket, smiling at the mumbled response she receives in return. Like this: her shoulder bumping up against MK’s, warm and comforting.
(One night she is drunk and elated, repeating MK’s name over and over while she swings MK gently by both of her hands. Then she says, “Mika! MK Mika!”)
(The first time MK hears her use ‘Mika’ casually in conversation, she smiles wider than she has since Before, wider than she ever thought she would again.)

//

Helena has turned the coffee table (at various times pressed into service as a footstool, makeshift bar, and candle-holder) into a mess of papers, covered in sketchy drawings.
“This is you,” she points out to Rachel. “With your yellow hairs.”
Rachel looks as though she is trying to think of something to say in response that won’t completely crush her. Beth saves her the effort by laughing and interjecting, “C’mon! Let Rachel think we can’t tell that isn’t her natural hair. Pull your punches, Helena.”
Rachel is clearly formulating something cutting to say in response, but Helena looks up and says guilelessly, “Your hairs are…coloured?”
“Yes,” Rachel says. “With dye.”
“It is good,” Helena says decisively. “Like an angel’s head.”
Rachel’s mouth curls up at the corners, an unexpectedly soft expression. She says politely, “Thank you, Helena.”
“Can I look like this also,” Helena says, still focussed on drawing. “Gold hairs? Someday.”
Rachel looks surprised. “I could bring you some dye,” she says. “Tomorrow, if you like.”
Helena nods. “Tomorrow,” she confirms. “Even better than someday.”

Rachel looks towards the window. The light outside is quickly fading.
“I should be going,” she says. “My mother and father will be at home tonight. They might…notice my absence.” Her voice carries both longing and bitterness in the word ‘notice’.
Helena reaches up to softly tap Rachel’s arm. “We will see you tomorrow,” she says. “For the hair dyings. Do not be late, or we will know.”
Rachel gives her a look that says, I know what you’re doing, but I’ll allow it.
Helena smiles with wide eyes and all her teeth showing.
Beth says, “G’luck with your folks.”

Rachel collects her things and Helena shifts to the couch to settle beside Beth. She leaves a space between them, and bites at her lip before she looks sidelong at Beth.
“I have something for you,” she says. She pulls a small jar from the pocket of her coat and holds it out across the distance between them.
“What is it?”
“Cream. It is good for bruises.”
Beth goes still. Helena continues, “Bruises from your runnings.”
Beth looks at the jar. They both know that Beth’s stiff movements aren’t soreness from running. Beth lets out her breath. She takes the jar.
“Thanks,” she says quietly.
“I have had this also,” Helena says, meeting her eyes. “Bruises from too much runnings. Sometimes it is good to tell someone that the runnings is too much. To help you before you are too tired to run any longer.”
Beth swallows. “I’ll – I’ll think about that.”
Helena says, “Okay.” She pats Beth’s cheek gently.
Beth rests her hand on Helena’s knee for a second. Then she says, “C’mon, we better make sure Cosima isn’t about to burn the place down with a joint or something, yeah?” She pushes herself to her feet.
“A ban on fire, yes,” Helena says. Then she giggles. “Don’t tell Rachel and her candles.”
Beth snorts and offers Helena a hand up. “Why not keep it going and ban Sarah’s whiskey for being flammable?”
Helena laughs with the thrill of something forbidden. “She would make many grumpy faces! Much complaining.”
“Oi, what are you two plotting in here?” Sarah says, coming in.
Helena turns to Beth and brings her finger to her lips in an exaggerated shushing motion. Beth laughs, her eyes crinkling into tiny creases, and Helena glows.
Sarah looks at them both suspiciously. Helena throws back her head and guffaws.

***

Helena comes bounding home and is halfway up the stairs by the time Mrs S calls out, “Helena? A moment, please.”
Helena clomps back down the stairs. “Yes?” Her hair cascades over her shoulders, a startling shade of blonde.
Mrs S takes this in, nods to herself. Then she says mildly, “Would you like a cup of tea?”
“Mmm-hmm.” Helena sits down at the kitchen table, propping her chin on her hands and her elbows on the table. Her head flops lazily to one side, cheek squashing into her palm as she contemplates Mrs S’ practised movements making the tea.

Mrs S sets down a mug in front of her, settles in the chair opposite as Helena spoons in sugar.
“Chicken,” she says. “I know that you’ve been suspended from school, and I’m glad you told me about that.” Helena nods amiably, takes a slurp of tea and then winces in surprise at the heat of it on her tongue. Mrs S continues, “But I have to ask…these girls that you’re hanging around with all the time. What kind of people are they?”
“They are very good girls,” Helena says, with certainty. “We are all friends now, I think. Like roommates in the daytime.”
Mrs S wraps her hands around her warm mug and nods. “And whose idea was this?” she asks, gesturing towards the general vicinity of Helena’s head.
Helena’s face splits into a grin. “Rachel gave me the dye for this,” she says. “Her hair is this colour also. But like this – ” she makes a slashing movement beside her head at the point where Rachel’s bob cuts off.
“I see,” Mrs S says. “Is it likely I’ll meet any of these girls anytime soon?”
Helena takes another gulp of tea. “They are afraid of parents,” she says. “…But maybe.”
“Afraid,” Mrs S repeats.
Helena looks into her tea, uses a finger to stir the clouds of sugar within. “You know some mothers are not good at being mothers,” she says, her voice coming out a tiny bit hoarse.
Mrs S looks at her sadly. “Yes,” she says. “I do know.”

***

Night is falling gently through the empty house, shortened candles relit to hold it at bay for a little longer. Sarah sits in a loose tank top, knees pulled up to her chest, picking at her shoelace. MK is mixing up a drink for Beth which looks to be at least two-thirds whiskey. Beth doesn’t protest. Helena peers at the tattoo on Sarah’s bicep; she’s close enough to read it this time.
“Who is Amelia?” Helena asks hesitantly.
(The tattoo has a birth date and a death date. Helena thinks of other girls in other towns, dead and gone now. She thinks of Sarah sitting in the candlelight with the needle: “This is so I’ll never forget.”)
Sarah says, “No one.”
(Helena cannot help but imagine other girls in other towns, not dead but left behind. Her stomach is crawling with sick sick sick – )
Sarah catches the look on Helena’s face and relents.
“Amelia was my mum,” she says quietly. MK looks up from what she’s doing, then studiously back down at her hands.
Helena sucks her lips between her teeth. “How?” she asks, whisper-soft.
Sarah turns her head away. “A man stabbed her,” she says. “A stranger. I wasn’t there.” The way she says I wasn’t there doesn’t sound like she is relating a fact, it sounds like a confession. It sounds like responsibility.

Helena doesn’t know what to do. This is Sarah. Sarah makes them laugh when things are bad. It’s not supposed to be like this.
Sarah’s arms are pulled tightly around her knees. MK reaches out and rests a hand, soft, on her wrist. Sarah shudders a little and looks down at it, her eyes shimmering.
MK says hesitantly, “When those men attacked Niki, I was there. It didn’t help. I only…got hurt too.”
Sarah lifts her free arm to wipe roughly at her face. “Yeah,” she says hoarsely. She takes a breath. “Yeah.”
Helena scoots across the floor, presses into Sarah’s side.
“When I was baby,” she says, “my mother put me into basket and left me by the side of road.”
“Kinda like Moses,” Beth says. After a second, Sarah snorts.
“What is funny,” Helena says.
“Just – you as a prophet.”
“I would be very good,” Helena says confidently.
Sarah raises her eyebrows. “Yeah?”
Helena nods. “Yes.”
“Guess that’s settled, then,” Beth says. She stands up, holds out a hand to Sarah. “Let’s get the others and get out of here for a while, yeah?”
Sarah nods, takes both Beth’s hand and the distraction gratefully.

Rachel is home again tonight, her parents erroneously present. They find Alison and Cosima standing behind the back wall of the house, Cosima holding a spray can and Alison standing back and surveying the brand new mural they’ve created. Cosima has several more cans at her feet, and paint flecks criss-cross her fingers in multiple colours.
“You let Cosima do all the work, Ali?” Beth asks, nudging Alison’s crossed arms.
“She’s art director,” Cosima says, adding the empty paint can to the pile.
“Nice,” Sarah says, taking in the huge monkey with its tail curved into a spiral. “C’mon, we’re going into town.”

//

Helena glides up and down the skate rink on her roller-skates, moonlit. Occasionally she pauses in her motion to snap a hazy picture of Beth huddled in her coat, Sarah swinging her legs over the drop, Cosima talking with her hands. MK peers at Helena from beneath her fringe, and she lowers the camera. Helena rolls over to the others, entrusting the camera to Alison.
“Do you want to try something?” she asks MK.
“Try what?” MK asks carefully.
“Go on, Mika,” Beth says, grinning.
“Hold onto my hands,” Helena says. “And put your feet on top of my feet.”
MK tries to step onto the tops of her skates, slips off. She takes Helena’s hands for balance and tries again. Helena holds her steady until she stops wobbling, and then slowly starts to roll backwards, carrying MK like a very strange dance partner. She carries them in an unhurried circle, watching MK’s face. MK giggles.
Helena breaks into a wide grin and spins them into a loop-the-loop.
“Be careful,” Alison calls from the sidelines, but they are both already laughing, Helena’s hair fanning out behind her.
Helena catches a lopsided half-smile on Sarah’s face, a fond calm on Beth’s.
She slows their movement down, spinning them gently on the spot. MK’s hands have automatically shifted into a monkey-grip on Helena’s wrists, holding her there firmly. Helena lets herself drift back over to the others, Cosima catching her shoulders as she bumps up against the upward curve of the rink.

//

Helena’s skates are slung over her shoulder, knocking gently against her back as she walks.
“Bet Beth could kick your arse in a skate-race,” Sarah says.
“You’re damn right,” Beth says, satisfied.
A car skids to a stop in front of them. Beth stops walking so abruptly that Helena bumps into her shoulder. It’s a police car.
A man gets out of the car. He isn’t wearing a uniform.
He points at Beth. “I have been out all night, looking for you.” His voice is full of suppressed rage. “Get in the car.”
Beth moves immediately to the passenger door. Her father slaps her across the back of the head as she sits down. Beth barely flinches.
The car screeches away and Sarah turns, face somehow hard and crumbling at the same time.

“It’s okay, Sarah,” Helena says desperately.
“No. It’s not,” Sarah says roughly, and walks away.

//

Sarah is sitting on the roof of the empty house when Helena finds her. She climbs out the window to sit beside her on the shingles. Sarah has her knees drawn up again. Helena mirrors her posture. Sarah glances at her, and then away.
“Helena –” she says. Stops.
“Yes?”
“I’m thinkin’ about moving on in a couple of days.”
Helena stays very still. She holds her reaction in, face twisting silently. Then she wraps her arms around her thighs, squeezes her hands tightly together. Finally she says, “Where?”
“Wherever,” Sarah says.
Helena doesn’t know what she wanted her to say. I’m coming back, maybe. Here’s where you can find me, maybe.
Her voice comes out in a cracked whisper: “Please don’t leave me.”
Sarah turns to look at her. “You’ve got Mrs S, yeah? She wants to look after you. Don’t take it for granted, alright? Not everyone’s got someone like that.”
Helena hunches up her shoulders. “She is the first person, to want to keep me. You were the second.” Then she adds, after a pause, “I thought.”
(Sarah watches Helena avert her eyes, something cracking a little inside her.)

She says uncomfortably, “Mrs S is your family, okay? Stick with her.”
Helena says, sad and slightly accusing, “You are my family. Too.” She waves one hand at the air surrounding them. “This is all I have.”
“You wouldn’t like it,” Sarah says. “You wouldn’t wanna come with me.”
They both know that she would. Helena doesn’t say: Then stay.
Instead, she says mournfully, “…I love you.”
Sarah swallows and blinks. “I know,” she says. She reaches out with one arm and pulls Helena against her side. Helena buries her face in Sarah’s hair, winds her arms around Sarah’s waist. After a moment, she feels the press of Sarah’s face against her own hair.
Helena wants to be angry. She wants to be furious at being left (again again again – ), but she can’t quite make herself give this up. She clings to this last hug, this last time that Sarah will not hide that she cares.
“You’ll still have the others,” Sarah mumbles. “You’ll be together. It’ll be okay.”
Both of them pretend that Helena believes this.

//

“Alison?”
Alison turns to look behind her when she hears her name. Krystal Goderitch is standing outside the old house, cautious, high heels a little askew on the grass.
“Krystal?” Rudy Coady’s girlfriend is the last person Alison would have expected to show up here.
Krystal takes a few steps closer and dips her head. “I’m scared,” she says, with a little breath that is obviously meant to sound like a laugh but comes out more like a sigh. “Rudy and I got into a fight. He started pushing me and…” she takes a breath. “...hitting me. I took off on him, but he’s, like, out looking for me. I’m sorta scared to walk home alone.”
Alison says, “Why did you come here?”
“You girls just…sort of have this reputation. I was kinda hoping you’d help me out, you know?”
“I can easily walk you home, if that would make you feel better.”
“I’d like, really appreciate that.”

An air of relief settles over Krystal as soon as Alison falls into step beside her, although Alison fancies that she can still see something uneasy lurking behind Krystal’s broad smile. She keeps up a constant stream of good-natured chatter as they walk though, examining and complimenting Alison’s pink nail polish and holding up her hand to show off her own sparkling nails.
“Thank you so much for doing this. It like, means a lot, you know?”
Alison shrugs her shoulders a little, pleased. “We girls have to stick together, hm?”
“You guys really messed up Olivier. They like, totally fired him.”
Alison says primly, “He deserved it.”
“I know,” Krystal says, then adds quickly, “But – Rudy says it’s all bull.”
Alison shoots her a look. “You really think Rudy is worth listening to? Even after today?”
They turn onto a side street and Krystal stops in her tracks suddenly. “You know what, Ali? I can walk the rest of the way alone, it’s okay.”
Alison flinches. “I only meant –”
Krystal rushes out the words, “No, it’s – I’m not offended, I’m just, like, fine now.”
“It’s okay, it’s not far.”
“I know but – you should go home,” she says with more urgency.
“What’s going on?”
Seth’s car pulls around the corner, the passenger seats loaded up with Rudy, Styles and Mark. Alison stares at Krystal, who won’t meet her eyes.
“We’ll take it from here, babe,” Rudy calls out.
“Let’s just like, forget this whole thing, okay?” Krystal tries, but Rudy is already out of the car and moving in a kind of hyped-up prowl towards Alison.
“We’re gonna go for a little ride,” he says, tilting his head to stare at her.
Alison snorts. “Cheese and crepes, if you think I’m getting in that car – ”
Rudy cuts across her, his voice mocking. “You say that like you have a choice.”
Behind her, the jocks have piled out of the car, and abruptly there’s four of them surrounding her.

“Look maybe this is just a bad idea!” Krystal exclaims, her voice higher even than normal.
“We’re not gonna do anything she doesn’t want,” Miller says. “Deep down.” He presses closer.
Alison elbows him as hard as she can, but it just hits the hard wall of his abdomen and he closes his arms around her in a vice grip. Alison kicks ineffectually at his legs, screams, “Krystal!”
Rudy says tersely, “Get her in the car.”
Krystal, eyes meeting Alison’s for a second past the flurry of boy-limbs, shrieks, “What do you want me to do!”
Alison is being dragged backwards, her flailing legs grabbed, slipping free, grabbed again. Her back hits the leather seat, and there’s pounds of muscle between her and the exit, malicious and bearing down. Krystal is squealing something at Rudy and the doors of the car are all slamming shut except for the one with Miller halfway through it, and then –
“Let her out!”
Rudy’s back thuds against the side of the car, his hands raised. Alison can just see the glint of the knife at his throat.
Sarah repeats, “Tell ‘em to let her out, you bloody bastard.”
Rudy’s voice sounds strained. “Let her out.”
Miller swears. “But –”
“Shut the fuck up, Miller,” Rudy says. He might be gritting his teeth. Miller’s weight lifts off of Alison and then Helena is scrambling into the seat beside her. Beth shoves Mark out of the passenger seat into the road and leans over to take hold of the steering wheel. Helena kicks open one of the back doors, her leg swinging perilously close to Alison’s still-slumped torso, and Beth yells, “Sarah, get in!”

The car is already in motion by the time Sarah moves the knife from Rudy’s throat and takes a running jump to make it into the backseat.
“I can’t drive,” Beth says evenly, as Miller stands in the road yelling obscenities after them. Helena turns around in her seat to blow a raspberry at him.
Sarah clambers into the driver’s seat and takes over from Beth, still accelerating. An oncoming car honks angrily at the swerve they make in the transition.
“You alright, Alison?” Sarah calls without turning her head.
“Yes,” Alison says, sitting up and brushing off her clothes, more indignant than scared now that the danger has passed. “Those – brutes –”
“Holy shit,” Beth breathes out. “Did we just steal his car?”
Helena gives a joyful, guttural laugh.
“What’s he gonna do?” Sarah says. She makes a screeching turn and Helena shouts in excitement – both at the movement and at the sight of Rachel walking along the road towards them.
Rachel barely blinks as the car squeals to a standstill beside her.
“Hello Rachel,” Helena says casually through the window.
“Get in,” Sarah says impatiently, and Rachel climbs carefully into the empty seat. The moment her feet have cleared the ground Sarah has the car shooting away again.
Rachel says in a faintly disapproving tone, “What happened?”
“We stole Rudy-brother’s car!” Helena pipes up.
“…I gathered.”
“They had Alison,” Beth explains. “We had to – leave.”
Rachel’s eyes flick to Alison, take in her expression before flicking away again. “And where are we going now?”
Sarah meets her eyes in the rear-view mirror. “Wherever we want,” she says, with a crooked grin. Beth reaches out to turn up the radio, and without much encouraging Helena begins to belt out the lyrics slightly out-of-time. Sarah barrels through an intersection to a chorus of car horns, and Alison grips the leather seat tightly.
“Sarah,” Rachel says in a very steady voice. “Don’t you think this is –”
“Cops!” Beth says. “Hey, hey – Cops!”
A siren whoops into life behind them, and Sarah steps on the accelerator. Helena says, “Oink, oink,” and snorts loudly.
“Sarah, we can explain this,” Alison urges.
“Sarah!” Beth says, staring at the side of Sarah’s face. Her eyes are fixed on the road.
“Shut up!” Sarah yells. “I’m trynna drive.”
“Sarah,” Rachel says sharply. “Why aren’t you pulling over?”
Sarah ignores her.
Helena leans forward in her seat. “Why so scared, Sarah?” she says wonderingly.
“I don’t like police stations,” Sarah says tensely.
And then Alison is screaming, a police car has shot out in front of them, Sarah swerves to avoid it – the ridge rears up instead and they tip over the edge of it – the car is rolling over and over and Alison’s ears are ringing and ringing and ringing.