The gears clunked as they shifted, he was recklessly speeding through the lanes and side roads as they got further and further away from town. Her body was tossed about in the seat as he took bends, breaking hard. Soon they were on roads that streetlights had never invaded and their only lights were from the car and the gleaming blue moon in the inkpot sky. This was so juvenile, so reckless - she loved it.
They hadn’t spoken in over twenty minutes, he just kept looking over at her as he slammed the gear stick about smiling wildly. Several times her mind had flicked back to Ricky and how she should be getting home to him, but when she realised that wasn’t a problem anymore it just made her feel all the more free. Exhilarated, Christina wound down the window to let the cold, damp air stream in and tangle in her hair.
‘You want to take the wheel?’ He looked over.
‘Yeah!’ She yelled.
He put his foot firmly on the break and the car screeched to a halt. Without another word he got out, walked out of her sight around the boot and came to open her door, he offered his hand to help her out and made no secret of breathing deeply as she went passed as if he was inhaling her.
‘Now don’t be afraid. Just drive.’
She had never done this before, but she didn’t feel nervous, she knew how to drive fast. The wheels spun a little as she revved the engine and they lunged off into a sprint when she popped up the hand break. Christina loved the feeling of the world racing past her, she didn’t know where she was going, or where the end was but she was loving the ride. She had never thought she was the sort of person who would be throwing herself around country lanes at sixty miles an hour.
She didn’t look over at Sep once, she was too deep in the experience to notice him, there was only the speed and the road making her feel alive. He gazed at her for minutes on end, watching her feed off the danger.
‘Stop here’ he said after ten minutes.
‘Why?’ She laughed, not even turning ‘I’m having so much fun.’
He laughed too. ‘I know but you need to stop, serious, I want to show you something.’
She drifted the car a lot more slowly to a stop, taking her hands off the wheel and leaning back in the seat for the last few yards, she felt so relaxed after that.
‘What a tonic for getting dumped!’ she looked at him with sparkling eyes.
‘We haven’t even gotten started yet Christina’ Sep held her gaze.
This time she got out of the car first, and strutted around the front, knowing Sep was looking. He opened the door and started to get out just in time to pull himself up straight right in front of her. They were both still smiling and passed one another without conversation.
‘So where are you taking me?’ She asked as he turned the key in the ignition and pulled off.
He drove a little further down the road, around a few bends, leaning forward looking intently through the windscreen, scanning the landscape. He was driving so slowly now, in painful contrast to the pace before. The whole mood shifted with it, Christina was full of intrigue now. Saying nothing, Sep turned off the road, between two trees and began driving into the woods.
‘What’s down here?’ She said, a flutter of panic in her voice.
With this weird and silent departure from the road, he sensible side made a reappearance. She didn’t really know Sep that well, and there was something about him, you didn’t quite feel safe. Enough of this craziness! This wasn’t a good moment for her increasingly unstable mind to start throwing paranoid delusions about. She forced herself to think reasonably. She probably didn’t feel safe around him because he was the sort of man who just turned up and let you drive his car around dark country lanes at silly speeds. Not exactly the kind of guy you take home to meet the parents. Besides she was in the middle of the woods, she didn’t even know where, it was too late to be scared now.
‘Wait until you see.’ He his eyes flashed at her ‘I think you’ll like it.’
She looked out the windscreen at the tree trunks, bleached white in the headlights appearing like ghosts in endless black as the pair traversed carefully between them.
Suddenly there was a break in the trees, a strange formation in front of them. Sep left the headlights running and got out, popping open the boot and rummaging. Christina stepped out of the car and lit a cigarette. She’d hardly smoked at all in the last few weeks, but there was always a packet in her bag just in case and she blew out a stream of smoke as she walked in the blaring lights to investigate what appeared to be a perfect ring of trees encasing a clearing.
As Christina entered the circle, the air seemed to get a little stiller. A shadow moved across the light beams and she swung around to investigate, to see the silhouette of Sep carrying a small, bulging sack in one hand and a bottle in the other.
She giggled, not really knowing what else to do. As Sep got closer the details became more defined. He walked to the centre of the circle and deposited his sack on the ground. He knelt down and waved Christina over.
‘Come on, come help me.’ He coaxed.
She joined in as he pulled thin blocks of firewood out of the bag and helped him make a pile of twigs and dead wood. He expertly lit the fire, blowing on it here and there, fanning the flames before strategically placing the firewood on top.
‘A fire’ she exclaimed, leaning back on her haunches and looking at the growing orange glow with delight.
‘A wishing fire.’ He said, correcting her.