It seems that Gran’s idea of a solution is to introduce Corrine to Rowan. Okay, sure, maybe eighteen year old Rowan is gorgeous – but he has his own troubles. And right now, Corrine doesn’t need complications in her life.
But in a world of surveillance and secrecy, complexity is inevitable. And as the tension mounts Corrine realizes – maybe Gran can help her, after all.
The car roared along, going faster, and our lights flicked along the hedgerows. Leaves brushed against the sides. It was like passing into hyperspace, or traveling backwards through time. These hedges, these roads, were ancient.
‘Like it?’ asked Rowan
Unthinkingly, I had moved into the middle of the seat, so my chin was resting on my hands, between his shoulder and Gran’s.
‘Yeah.’ I had never traveled so fast down these lanes. It was kind of hallucinatory.
‘Rowan!’ Gran was gripping the dashboard.
‘Ah, Mrs Walker,’ said Rowan. ‘We can see someone’s coming by their headlights. Don’t worry.’
He rounded a curve and passed into an even narrower lane. ‘Is this really a road?’
He turned his head, grinned. ‘Yes. This is the back way to your Gran’s house. I’m giving you the scenic tour.’
I laughed. In the dark the scenery was fairly limited. ‘Thank you.’
‘You’re welcome,’ he rounded a corner, the motor roaring. ‘Shit!’
Shit was a deer, stuck in the headlights like a statue. Staring straight at us.
Things happened in slow motion: Gran clutched the dashboard; Rowan hit the brakes; the wheels locked. We slid toward the deer. Desperately, Rowan spun the steering wheel back. The car righted itself, slowing to a stop just as the deer leapt up, up and out of the lane. Clearing the hedge, it seemed suspended in the dark. Its eyes were black as the night but in the headlights of the truck its skin appeared almost translucent. It was easily the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
Rowan stopped the truck. We sat in the dark, all of us panting as though we’d run a long race. There was a faint smell of burning plastic from Gran’s fingers squeezing the dash. Quickly, she tucked her hands into her lap.
‘Shit,’ he said again.
I couldn’t stop laughing.
‘What’s so funny?’ Gran sounded angry, so I tried to hold the giggles in, but it was really, really funny. The look on her face. The look on Rowan’s face. Both of them, stuck in the headlights, just like the deer.
Rowan started to laugh too, like he had just realized what an idiot he’d been, or how lucky he was. Or both. Gran stared at him and at me, then shook her head. ‘Teenagers!’
‘Terrible, aren’t we?’ Rowan started the truck again, driving slower now.
And strangely, I didn’t feel annoyed at Gran, or worried about the men in London, or guilty about Mr Patel at all. I felt free, light as thistledown. As if it was me, not the deer, that had jumped the fence and galloped away into the dark.