Really liked this one. Although I'm not religious, I do believe that people enter, leave, and (sometimes) re-enter our lives for a reason. Life has a plot, if you pay attention to it. And guilt, well that's a commonplace anytime we think about the past, I suppose. It's a really complicated bunch of themes to put in such a short space, but you did it beautifully.
Ben and I stared out of the cabin window – or at least as much of it as was still free of snow. The drifts were so deep that there were only about six inches of clear glass, and they were shrinking by the second.
Behind us, Isabelle slammed the receiver down. “Damn! The lines are down.”
My stomach flipped over. “I have to be back at school for eight o'clock tomorrow. How am I going to let Mr Stanton know that I won't be in?” One of the appealing features of the weekend had been the lack of internet and even mobile 'phone signal.
“Oh, come back to the fire and have a drink, sweetie. Forget about school!”
“That's easy for you to say, Izzy, now you're married to Mr-Rich-and-Wonderful and you've been able to give up work.” Ben's brother Bertie acknowledged this comment with a salute but did not look up from his book. “I, on the other hand, still have to earn a living.”
Ben got down on one knee and looked up at me with adoring eyes. “Audrey, will you marry me and let me take you away from the grinding poverty of teaching?”
I laughed and shook my head. “No, you idiot. But thank you for the offer.”
“I don't see why not,” said Isabelle. “Just how do you two know each other, anyway?”
“It's a long story,” I muttered.
She poured two drinks and held one out to me. “Well, we aren't going anywhere, sweetie.”
Ben and I looked at each other. We probably did owe our hosts an explanation. After all, they had invited both of us here on a kind of blind date. Isabelle had told me all about her husband's jet-setting half-brother who had unfortunately been out of the country when they got married. God alone knew what Bertie had said to Ben about me. Whatever it was, it did not seem to have revealed my identity to him. As for me, the fact that 'Ben' is a common name and the difference in surnames meant that he was the last person I was expecting to turn up.
Isabelle and Bertie had given me a lift to their 'holiday cottage' deep in the Welsh hills but Ben had driven himself over, arriving an hour or so after us. When we heard his car pulling up, I will admit to feeling a small flutter of excitement. But when he walked into the tiny living room, we took one look at each other, burst out laughing and rushed into each other's arms, leaving Isabelle's introduction to die on her lips. The fact that we clearly knew each other, and knew each other well, had sufficed as an explanation until now. But there was no way to deflect their attention any longer.
I accepted the drink and took a good swallow before sitting down close to the fire. “Shall I start?” I asked Ben. He gave an encouraging smile and I allowed my mind to drift back twelve years.
“It was my gap year and I had just turned eighteen...”
I left school with three good A Levels and an offer of a place at a good university but I had spent so many years cooped up either in a classroom or in my bedroom that I wanted to get out, see the world, do something. I learned about a charity that provided outward bound courses to underprivileged kids. It was out of doors, it would look great on my CV and I would be one of the people in charge. It was perfect.
There were a dozen 'facilitators', six girls, six boys, and most of us were on our gap year. During the summer,we were given six weeks training by the three 'senior facilitators', who were really in charge. Then the camp was opened to groups of school kids, who stayed for between one and five days, leaving us free in the weekends.
That was how the trouble started.
I got on with most of the other facilitators but there was one girl who really rubbed me up the wrong way. Veronica Smythe. She walked around like she owned the place. Ben and I decided to bring her down a peg or two. Or three...
We waited until the last but one weekend. Four of us had arranged to go on a two-day hike and camp out overnight but the other girl dropped out. Well, that's what we told Veronica. I'm still not sure why she fell for it so easily. Ego, probably. And the other boy was Theo, who she'd been lusting after all year. He was in on the plan, of course, and spent the first day flirting shamelessly with her, helping her over any rough patches, really playing up to her.
When we got to the campsite, we put up the tents and started a fire. At this point, we could almost have done that stuff blindfolded. The boys got started on cooking and I took Veronica in search of water. She did seem a bit wary but I was all sweetness and light. We collected the water, added a sanitising tablet and headed back. The food was ready when we got back and we had a great meal.
We'd brought some beer, of course, and that helped wash down the food. Then Theo brought out some weed. Ben and I had a couple of puffs for the look of it, then got into one of the tents. We had fun making some noises but I don't know if Veronica took any notice. I think she was probably too wrapped up with Theo. Eventually, we heard them get into the other tent, which was our cue.
Ben and I crept out of our tent and Theo came out of the other one and we started packing everything up as quietly as we could but from the snores coming from Veronica, I think an elephant could have walked past and she wouldn't have noticed. We'd spiked her beer with sleeping pills. There was no way we would make Theo actually... Well, you know.
When our backpacks were ready, we began the hike back to the centre. The moon was full and we had our torches, and we knew the route pretty well. We did crash for a few hours about half-way down but we were back at the centre by mid-day on Sunday. Veronica came back alone and footsore later in the afternoon. When she started throwing accusations at us, we all played dumb and pretended we didn't have a clue what she was talking about. She didn't speak to any of us for the last week.
To be honest, Ben, Theo and I didn't speak much either and we made no effort to keep in touch. I think we all felt a bit ashamed of ourselves. I know I did.
I drained my glass and handed it to Isabelle. “I haven't thought about all of that in twelve years. I've never treated anyone like that since, and I won't allow my pupils to bully each other like that, either.
“God, Ben, why did you have to turn up?”
“I didn't plan this, Audrey...”
“I know... I know...” I took a deep breath. “Well, I'm going to have a bath and then I'm going to try to think of something else for as long as we're stuck here.”
I did not look back as I left the room.
Date: | By: Evan Henry
Trapped in More Way Than One
Date: | By: Joyce Juzwik
Terrific job with this. Sometimes the world is much smaller than we'd like it to be, and your past can come out of nowhere and bite hard. Maybe that's a good thing since it reminds us of things we'd prefer to forget, but they're hanging over us anyway. With it now in the open, hopefully, they can really let the past be past, but never forget the lesson learned.
Re: Trapped in More Way Than One
Date: | By: Rose Green
Joyce - thanks for taking the time to read and leave a comment. The past may be another country but it's always in sight!