I have just spent four hours cooped up in a car. Mikey doesn’t believe in service stations. He says they make you weak. An hour and a half ago, we stopped at the roadside so I could squat like an animal. He tutted at me. I ask him how much longer to go. He has me pull out a paper map from the compartment between our seats and calls out a coordinate. 52 N, 1 W. No clue how he knows that. I drag my finger across the crinkled paper. Nottingham. I push my face up against the glass and spot a road sign.
Why the fuck are we in Nottingham?
He doesn’t answer.
Why the fuck have you driven us this way? It’s literally in the opposite direction from where we’re going.
His grip on the steering wheel has gotten tighter. The skin over his knuckles stretches white. But he’s giving me a shit-eating grin.
Thought we could take the scenic route.
Are you fucking kidding me?
Oh come on, Soph. Lighten up. This is fun.
Fun my arse.
Mikey wrings his hands around the steering wheel. He laughs. He has dimples when he laughs. Like Dad did. We pass another sign. I find us on the map. We’re going even further North.
Fuck’s sake. You’re lost, aren’t you? We’re supposed to be going Southwest.
He’s still smiling. I throw the map back in the compartment and begin searching for signs. Finally, I spot a return.
Get in your left lane.
I just thought…
Mikey, get in the fucking left lane. We’re going the wrong way.
He opens his mouth, then closes it again. He turns his left turn signal on. I sigh and lean back in my seat. No wonder Mum wanted me to come along on this trip. Mikey is absolutely useless. Probably why he didn’t get in to Uni. I glance over at him as a pang of guilt moves up my stomach to my throat. I feel mean. The skin around his knuckles is stretched so thin it looks like it could crack. I turn to face the window. It’s one of those soggy days. Everything–the ground, the sky, the clouds–is grey. I open Google Maps. Norwich to Cornwall is a six-and-a-half-hour journey. Mikey added two hours to our trip. Twat. I consider rolling down the window. The second I think that, it begins pissing outside. I hate this fucking country sometimes. I know I’m supposed to be entertaining the driver, or whatever, but I’m feeling foul. I lean my head against the window and close my eyes.
I wake up to find we’ve stopped at a petrol station. Mikey is inside, paying. I stretch my arms. My breath is awful. I find a road sign and pull out the map. We’re finally going the right way. I notice something else in the compartment. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. Mikey and I loved that book. Dad used to read it to us. It was our favorite game. Robin and his Merry Men playing in Sherwood Forest. I smile. As I’m rearranging the items in the compartment, I notice a red mark on the map. Mikey circled something in pen. Up North, near where we were. Sherwood Forest. I’m a twat.
Mikey comes back. I stuff the map back into the compartment, hiding the book. Mikey’s smiling, but his eyes look distant. He puts the key in the ignition.
Ready to head off to Cornwall?
The car purrs. Mikey pulls on his seatbelt.
Actually, I was wondering if we had time to see Stonehenge. It’s a little out of the way, but I’ve never been.
Mikey smiles. He hands me a pack of Walkers he picked up for me in the shop.
Yeah, Soph. Of course we can. I’d really like that.
Mikey pulls out of the petrol station. His grip on the steering wheel loosens. Color floods back to his knuckles.