This is part two of a two-part story. Read the first part of Dead Ends here.
by Sara Nisha Adams
The next right was a winding, country lane. Natalie was satisfied. Roshni thought to strike up a conversation.
‘What’s your girlfriend like?’
‘Cool. She works a lot but I like that. What’s yours like?’
‘I don’t have one.’
‘I don’t have one of those either.’
‘Right!’ Silence again. Natalie picked a spot on the map and said, ‘There should be a left coming up. Take it.’
Of course, there was no left. The lanes were getting narrower and windier and now it was dark enough for full beams on an empty road. Roshni dreaded meeting another car coming the other way, and having to reverse for miles to let them pass.
After a few more random turns, they arrived at a village neither of them recognised. Roshni stopped by the green. In the centre was an old-fashioned signpost with three arms, pointing in three directions.
She snatched the map from Natalie’s hands. Natalie growled, nursed a paper cut.
She turned the lights on inside the car and looked for the three place names engraved on the sign before her. She found where they were. Pointed to the spot and passed the map back to Natalie. They were still twenty minutes from Jane’s house. They were late.
Natalie began to direct again, but her unwarranted confidence was gone. Roshni followed her instructions anyway.
“Natalie began to direct again, but her unwarranted confidence was gone. Roshni followed her instructions anyway.”
‘I want to use my phone,’ Natalie said after a while. ‘That way we’d actually know where the fuck we are.’
‘That’s a good idea,’ Roshni knew there’d be no signal here.
There was no signal.
Natalie growled again.
‘I don’t know. How late are we?’
‘No point worrying.’
‘You said you knew the way.’
‘I followed your directions.’
‘I thought you knew the way.’
They were bickering now.
Natalie calmed herself down and took ownership of the map once and for all.
They turned left, but found a cul de sac. They turned around. They continued down a long road. They saw signs to Town Centre and cheered. There were other cars around now: they had found civilisation at last. Natalie, in control, followed the signs but, after a right and a couple of lefts, all Town Centre signs vanished.
Another long, lonely road.
‘Where do you work?’
‘With textiles. But as art, not clothing.’
Roshni nodded, imagining Natalie in a studio making big patchwork quilts. She told Natalie this and Natalie laughed a cruel laugh.
‘Left at the crossroad sign.’
Roshni nodded. ‘Maybe we could play a game of I-Spy.’
Roshni turned left and then right, then left, then left, then right, as per Natalie’s instructions. A blocked-off bridge and a picnic bench.
‘Bite to eat?’ Roshni joked. They carried on, only to meet another dead end. A fallen tree.
Roshni started to panic. Still no phone signal and still no clue.
‘Let’s try a right then take the fourth left down there. That looks better,’ Natalie said, calm, reasonable. ‘I’m pretty sure that would be a good route to Jane’s.’
‘Right, I trust you.’ She didn’t, but she followed the route until a young deer blocked their path. It stared directly at them, unfazed.
‘Look how cute she is. Just like Bambi. Hello, Bambi . . .’
‘No, it’s fine, she’ll go. So cute!’
‘It fucking won’t. This fucking road.’
‘Stop swearing.’ Roshni began to rev the car. The deer remained composed.
‘Run at it.’
Roshni tooted the horn. Nothing.
‘Fucking run at it.’
‘Please stop swearing.’ Roshni was tempted to run at the deer. Make her bolt.
‘Just do it, and it’ll move. Trust me.’
Roshni nodded. Natalie was right, she would move. Roshni reversed to give her a run up. The deer stayed still. She changed from reverse to first gear, and put her foot on the throttle. Natalie tooted the horn as Roshni sped forward. The deer: unperturbed. The deer was near now, too late to brake.
Bambi didn’t move at all.
And then Bambi would never move again.
‘Fuck!’ Natalie shrieked. Her hands grabbed at her hair. ‘What the fuck did we just do? The bloody thing was meant to move out of the way.’
‘She didn’t.’ Roshni was a bit shocked, a bit pissed off.
‘What are we going to do? It’s fucking dead.’
‘We’ll have to move her.’
‘Fuck that, no way am I moving it. I am not touching that.’ There was some blood on the windscreen. Some on the bonnet. The deer had made a dent in Roshni’s car. Her bones had made a cracking sound as she had hit it. She was dead; the car would be fine. But they’d have to move the deer. Or run over her. But even with her four-by-four, Roshni wasn’t sure it would manage. Wasn’t sure she wanted to feel Bambi’s flesh give beneath her tyres.
‘We’ll have to move her.’ Roshni undid her seatbelt and opened the door. She shivered. It wasn’t cold.
‘No way. Roshni, no way.’
‘You wanted to run her over.’
‘Run at it, I said. I thought it would move. We can’t move this ourselves.’
‘We’ll have to. You want to get to Jane’s, let’s do it.’
Natalie got out of the car and muttered something under her breath about how stupid it was of her to accept a lift from this incompetent woman.
‘Just shut up and help.’ Roshni had already bent down next to the deer, hauntingly illuminated by the headlights. Bambi’s neck: at a funny angle. Bambi’s legs: twisted. Bambi’s eyes: dead.
‘We really fucked this up. Are we going to tell Jane?’
‘I don’t think we should. She’s big on animal welfare. And we didn’t mean for this, but I doubt she’d see it that way.’
‘I wouldn’t say that, now grab her rear legs.’
‘Just grab. I’ve seen it done before.’
Roshni took the two front legs, tried to avoid the dead stare of the animal. Natalie took the back legs, tried to ignore the soft shit coming from its backside.
They heaved. The women’s arms high above their heads, the deer in the air, the its head dangling towards the floor, sometimes scraping along the tarmac.
‘Move it over to the side.’ Natalie directed.
‘I know.’ Roshni sighed.
‘I don’t know if I can carry it over there.’ Natalie wavered. Her arms were shaking: energy expended.
‘We’ll have to put it down, I can’t hold it,’ Natalie said.
‘Let’s just get her out of the way, poor thing.’
It took fifteen minutes to clear the carcass onto the verge, providing a clear and empty road for them to continue their journey. There was blood on their hands.
They sat back in the car, exhausted.
‘Straight on,’ Natalie said, fingering the map. Leaving sticky, red prints.
‘Right.’ Roshni buckled up, turned the engine on, washed the windscreen, waited as the wipers wiped away the red residue of the evening, grey-pink jellies sliding up the screen and flicking far into the fields beside and behind them, and set off.
‘We won’t tell Jane.’
Soon they were on the right road to Jane’s. Roshni recognised it and said, firmly, ‘Nat, please put the map away now. I know where we are.’
‘I don’t like Nat. You’re sure?’
‘Absolutely.’ Roshni didn’t like Nat either.
Natalie put the map away. As they approached Jane’s, she clapped her hands and ‘yipped’, looking over and smiling at her driver.
They parked. Natalie grabbed her present from under her feet, taking it out of the carrier bag carefully so as not to get any blood on the paper, beaming at Roshni as she did so. Perfectly wrapped, with a bow as well. Bitch, Roshni thought. ‘Here,’ Natalie handed Roshni some wet wipes pulled from her handbag. They both washed the congealed truth from their hands, drying off the lies on their trousers. Good as new.
They left the car together, closed the doors in harmony. Walked side by side to Jane’s door. Party in full swing.
Knock. Knock. No response. Knock, knock, knock.
‘Hey!’ Jane said, arms wide, belly fit to burst. ‘My best friends! Did you get lost?’
‘Traffic,’ Natalie and Roshni said. ‘Fucking traffic.’