Her driving made me hold my breath at the best of times, and this was an entire new level. She was almost laughing as the car swerved around corners of the country roads, heading recklessly into the path of any oncoming vehicles that remained unseen since she turned the lights off, and a stork of a corn plant shot towards me from the other side of the windscreen. The car jolted over the edge of the corn field, the suspension making a worrying sound.
I turned around and peered out of the back window. Blue lights were still flashing, but a bit further away now.
“I think they’ve lost us,” I said, almost hopeful.
“That’s irrelevant,” Jaq growled through gritted teeth, her eyes fixated on the road. “We were stupid. They know who we are; they know this is my car. We’re out of excuses. We’re caught.”
I glanced at her in shocked silence, then leant back onto the headrest.
“You’re unbelievable,” I muttered under my breath, but I knew she was right. It was just impossible to even try to comprehend the fact that this might be it. This could be the last time I’m in this car with her, it could even the last time I ever see her; the girl who changed my life.
We emerged into the suburbs and Jaq switch the lights back on. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, running her hand through her hair that rippled like water around her fingers. She did a double take then turned her face away again, hardly bearing to look at me.
“Anna, for what it’s worth,” she began.
“No,” I shot back. “Just don’t say anything.”
We carried on in silence, and I treasured every second of her presence, neither of us knowing where we were going. I stared out of the window and the light of streetlamps cast circles around us, digging us a deeper hole with each metre we drove. Jaq slowed down and pulled into a car park, parked the car neatly and got out.
“We’ll try and have this one night,” she sighed defeatedly. “Then we’ll go. We won’t get in any more trouble for twelve more hours, it’s gone too far anyway.”
I nodded in agreement and pulled two cigarettes from the box in my pocket. I put them both between my lips and lit them, the orange glow of the flame illuminating Jaq’s face as well as mine. I passed her one, and slumped down onto the floor, leaning against the car. Jaq slid down next to me, simultaneously taking a long drag of her cigarette. I looked at her intently, and she blew the smoke out from her lungs before turning to face me. Neither of us dared speak, and we sat there in each other’s gaze as time seemed to slow down.
We spent the final five hours that we had granted ourselves wandering aimlessly through towns, detouring through random parks and open spaces. We even went into a play park on the swings at one point, then disappeared into some dense woodland that looked like it wasn’t a common walking place for the public at night, and emerged half an hour later both picking leaves and twigs out of our hair, the pair of us laughing for the first and last time tonight. We tried to make it as enjoyable as possible, it was all we had.
Now here we are, standing either side of the entrance to our church, 270 Sundays on, puffing away on cigarettes. We’ve already decided that we might as well enjoy them, they feel precious now, but also a representation of how we have our own free will back. Anyway, our lives are already five wasted years shorter. Jaq finishes first and dabs her cigarette out on the floor. She peers in through the curtains over the door. I follow her and we head inside. I don’t know if this church is anything like how we left it, but it looks just as warm. I walk slowly over to the chairs in the middle of the room and sit in the front row. I don’t think anyone other than the vicar and maybe a couple of other people will be around yet, the service isn’t for another few hours – the sun is barely up – but we take the time to reflect, and relish in the fact that it’s our church, we are home and it’s like the good old days, not that cold room we spent hours in while we were inside. Jaq slinks into the chair next to me, looking at the altar with her dark eyes sparkling in the light. I put an arm around her and she rests her head on my shoulder.
“Let’s not talk about the last few years,” she whispers. “Let’s just live as we were before.”
Neither of us have a clue where to go, not many people seem bothered with us any more, especially our families. But the world is out there, and we are out in it, with years ahead of us full of possibilities.
Yet something feels off.
Maybe it’s the strange relationships we’ve each made and acted on with others over the last few years, knowing that the other was only a few thick walls and clunking doors away or maybe it’s just that even the local world is different to how we left it, I don’t know. Maybe I never will. Maybe we’ll never be the same people we were last time we were here. But I have some cash that I took with me when we went in, and it’ll get us somewhere.