by Sara Nisha Adams
Roshni leaned over the passenger seat to open the door. She looked Natalie in the face, her eyes meeting her eyes, held in a stare, and she apologised.
‘Honestly, I’m so sorry I’m late. The traffic was awful,’ she lied.
‘That’s fine. Thank you for picking me up.’ Natalie settled herself into the passenger seat, doing up her seatbelt.
‘No problem. The station is on my way anyway. It must have been ages since I saw you last. How many years? Two? Three?’ Roshni started the engine, checked her blind spot, and set off.
‘Three, at least. I don’t think I’ve seen you since Jane’s wedding. And I can’t remember much of that night anyway. I don’t imagine you can either.’
‘No,’ Natalie was correct. Roshni remembered nothing, except for a gentle yet uninvited grope on the arse from Jane’s cousin, Ben – the most exciting thing that happened that evening, the rest a blur of boredom. ‘I can’t believe Jane’s going to be a mother. Did you bring her a present?’
‘Only something small,’ Natalie tapped her bag.
Roshni hadn’t bought Jane anything. She’d never been to a baby-shower before – she didn’t know the protocol. But she did know that if you were nice enough to remember or care, you’d probably bring a gift.
‘Are you seeing anyone at the moment?’ Roshni changed the subject.
‘Yes, I’m moving in with her. Into her place. It’s much bigger and no flatmates to contend with.’
Roshni still lived with flatmates, and she hadn’t been seeing anyone for seven months this Monday coming. She was glad Natalie didn’t return the question.
‘Where does she live?’
‘Ready for it? Big step!’
‘Absolutely. You know where she lives, right?’ Natalie said, looking at the unknown road ahead.
‘You said north London.’
It was silent for a while. Roshni had run out of conversation. She turned the radio on. The music was appalling. She turned it up and bobbed her head in time to the beat, the vibration of her rear-view mirror. She laughed and looked at Natalie, expecting a reaction. Maybe a smile. But Natalie just scrolled through the photographs on her phone. Two women holding hands, a kiss, and a beach scene.
Roshni turned the radio off.
‘Check the map for me.’ She demanded, pulling the road atlas, open on the correct page, from the dashboard onto Natalie’s lap, knocking her phone from her hands.
‘I don’t know where she lives. I thought you did.’
‘I do. It’s marked. Just check we’re on track.’ Eyes on the road, Roshni pointed blindly at a vague area on the page, grazing Natalie’s breast in the process. She snatched her hand away, awkward.
“Roshni had never been to a baby-shower before – she didn’t know the protocol. But she did know that if you were nice enough to remember or care, you’d probably bring a gift.”
‘I don’t know where we are.’
‘Look at the signs and work it out.’
Roshni was losing her patience. It was a forty-five-minute drive to a remote country town. She wanted her passenger to play some role in their journey, help the time pass quicker.
Natalie sighed dramatically, flicking to the index. Roshni relaxed. She didn’t need the map. She was a confident driver and, though having a passenger put her on edge, she definitely knew the way.
‘You’re on the wrong road now. You better take the next left.’
Roshni groaned under her breath. She didn’t agree but appreciated Natalie’s effort and took the next left to encourage further participation.
The road wasn’t lit, and Roshni struggled to see ahead. Natalie nodded. ‘Yes, keep going. Then, third right.’
Miles past with no right in sight. They continued, instead taking the first left they came across. And then another, and another, until they discovered they’d driven down the drive of a country house, now closed for viewing.
‘Turn back and take a right,’ said Natalie, with confidence. Natalie didn’t know where the fuck they were.