Originally published 27/05/2018
You know what? Sometimes, it’s murder coming up with a good title for your story. I wrote this little flash-fic ages ago, and although I don’t think it’s the best story I’ve ever written, I wanted to at least share it on the blog but… I just haven’t been able to come up with a decent title for it to this day; and believe me, it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. Still, it’s been sitting on my computer doing nothing for too long so for better or worse, here it is. Feel free to suggest better titles in the comments.
As always what follows is entirely my own work and has not been published anywhere else in the world, whether in print or online, nor do I expect or permit it to be. And so without further ado, I give you:
The Girl & The Car
by A. Ferguson
The car was mine. I found it, so it was mine.
I don’t know how it got there. I was just playing in the bushes at the bottom of the hill one day and there it was, in the clearing. It didn’t have any glass in the windows and two of the doors were missing. Also the steering wheel came off if you turned it too hard.
I couldn’t have been happier. My own car. A real one. I let Michael and Paul use it too, and sometimes I even let them drive it because it’s no fun on your own. That was okay because they knew it was mine because I found it. I didn’t tell Mum and Dad about it and I told Paul and Michael not to tell their mums and dads either. Adults have funny ideas about things like that. I knew they wouldn’t let me keep the car, even though I found it fair and square and it didn’t really go.
It was Sunday. Me and Michael were playing Batman in the car while we waited for Paul. His family went to a different church from me and Michael so we always met him after lunch. I was Batman (obviously, because it was my car) but it was Robin’s turn to drive.
When Paul arrived, he had a girl with him.
‘Girls aren’t allowed in the car!’ Michael objected. ‘Why’d you even bring her here? This is private property.’
‘Aw, c’mon Mikey, she’s my cousin!’ Paul whined. ‘Mum said I had to. It’s just for today. I swear I tried not to but they said I had to or I couldn’t come out. I swear I tried!’
‘Well, she’ll have to sit in the back!’ I decreed, thinking myself generous. I don’t know how old she was but she was younger than us. Too young. And a girl.
‘I want to drive!’ She cried with glee. ‘Please please please please, pretty, pretty please!’
‘No.’ I said. Enough was enough.
‘Cause. It’s my car. Girls aren’t allowed.’
‘Come on, Haitch, let her have a go.’ Paul said. ‘It’s only for today.’
‘He’s siding with her!’ Michael jeered, gripping the wheel even though it had fallen off again.
‘I’m not! It’s just Mum said I had to or I couldn’t come out. It’s only for today. Come on!’
‘Your mum only said she had to come with you. She’s with you.’ I ruled. ‘She doesn’t even know about the car so that doesn’t count.’
‘Henry!’ Michael hissed, grabbing my arm. ‘What if she tells?’
‘I’m telling!’ The girl taunted us. ‘I’m telling, I’m telling!’
‘That was your fault!’ I said, punching Michael in the arm.
‘How’s it my fault? Paul brought her!’ He hit me back, though not hard. I guess he knew it was his fault.
‘I’m telling, I’m telling!’ The girl sang in words that didn’t rhyme. ‘Let me drive or I’m telling!’
‘Henry, just let her drive!’ Paul pleaded. ‘What’s the big deal? It’s only for one day.’
‘She’s a girl!’ I exploded. ‘And she’s too wee, she’ll tell!’
‘I’ll not tell if you let me have a go.’ She promised. I was about to argue but–
‘Alright.’ Michael said, opening the imaginary door and climbing out. ‘You can have a go, just a quick one mind! But you’d better not tell!’
‘That’s not how it works!’ I said, clambering across to the driver’s seat and grabbing the wheel. ‘It’s mine!’ I said, pointing to the place on the dash where I had scratched ‘HBS’ into the dashboard. That’s my initials: Henry Barrington-Smyth. ‘I found it, so it’s mine!’
‘Fine!’ The girl shouted. ‘It’s a stupid car anyway! I’ve got a better one at my bit, with proper doors and windows and everything! And it drives for real! And you’re not getting a go!’
Then she went away. Paul went after her.
‘Just let her go!’ I shouted after him. He turned to face us but kept walking backwards slowly.
‘I can’t! My mum, she said…’ He trailed off. Then he turned and ran after her.
‘Paul! Paul! Just let her go, Paul!’
He ignored me. Michael ran after him, leaving me alone in the car. I couldn’t move. It felt important to hold my ground in the car. The car was mine as long as my bottom was on the seat and my hands were on the wheel. Ahead, at the edge of the clearing, I saw Michael grab Paul by the arm to pull him back. Paul shrugged him off and shouted something at him. I don’t know what it was but his face was livid. He stormed off through the bushes, out of the clearing. Michael followed him, shouting after him but was back a few moments later. He came back to the car.
‘Henry, what if she tells?’ Michael asked again. His voice was quivering and his face was ashen.
‘She won’t tell.’ I said, fighting to ignore a hollow sensation in my stomach. ‘Paul won’t let her. She won’t tell. She was just saying that.’
* * *
Well, she told. Ten minutes later, Michael’s mum came down into our clearing where our car was parked. We were still sitting there, forcing ourselves to be Batman and Robin. Michael got such a blazing row off his mum that I didn’t know where to look. She gave me a good tongue lashing as well, then I went home and got more of the same from my own mum. I wasn’t surprised by that. Once one adult knows something, they all know it.
We never saw Paul again for weeks. He didn’t go to the same school as me and Michael and whenever we went in for him, we were told he couldn’t come out. I felt sick. What if he wasn’t talking to us any more, all because of some stupid burnt out car? Michael and me never spoke about it but I think he felt the same. Then one day Paul came in for me. Turned out his parents had just grounded him and never told us, not even when we went in for him.
We never saw the car again. In some ways, it was a relief. We went back to the clearing a while later (and I mean a long while later) but the car was gone. I don’t know where. We didn’t dare ask. It didn’t matter that it had my initials on it or that I found it. It wasn’t mine any more. I don’t think it ever had been.
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