All I've ever wanted is a bit of independence, a little trust and respect. The problem is, we live in the middle of nowhere, a pathetic little village stuck out on a limb. Civilisation is an hour's bus ride away, and that means all the nosey grannies can see where you've been – and with whom.
It's like living out your whole life in front of a panel of judges, if you put a single foot wrong the gossip goes round the village within ten minutes, and before you even get home you're grounded. Even with all the freedom in the world, it's still a dull place to exist unless you can drive, which I can't, not for a couple of years yet.
It was Nicky's idea to go clubbing; she suggested it casually as she gazed in her bedroom mirror, pouting to herself.
“Go clubbing?” I echoed in surprise, knowing she was serious, recognising that mischievous tone in her voice. She grinned and said, “Don't worry, we'll be back before the neighbours' curtains twitch!”
It was like watching someone else's life unfurl: the usual trip to town but then getting changed under the fluorescent lights of a pub toilet, slicking on make-up and trying to look older, then Nicky breezing confidently past the bouncers as I shuffled in nervously behind her.
It was all going just fine until Nicky went and lied to the DJ.
“Keep smiling, I've just told him it's your eighteenth!” she exclaimed.
That was the turning point; he gave us each free champagne and a 'birthday cocktail'. My previous experience of alcohol had been limited to a glass of wine on special occasions, perhaps a small cider on a hot summer's day. The champagne was bitter and its sharp bubbles stung the back of my nose, but I pretended I was used to it, and drank it straight down. On the dancefloor was a mass of heaving bodies, moving and bouncing to the heavy bass beat that thumped up through the floor, and we threw ourselves into the moves we'd practised so many times in our bedrooms. I had to drag Nicky away after a while because I was so thirsty, and we downed our fruity cocktails with a gulp.
Quite what happened after that, I'm not entirely sure. There was more dancing, and more drinking, and I think we talked to some boys, flashes of memory smudged into a blur.
Sobering up abruptly some hours later, I became aware of the heavy, shuddering growl of a diesel engine, and realised Nicky had managed to get us onto the first bus of the day. My head reeled and throbbed, and my throat felt swollen, but worst of all was the sickening, gut-wrenching guilt. Uneasily, I took stock of my surroundings, Nicky slouched, dozing, across the back seat, looking tired but graceful, my own straggly reflection in the window superimposed against the hazy purple dawn. My cheeks flushed as I realised the only other passenger was gawping at us in our short skirts, so I scowled and managed to croak at him, “Perv!”
Whether I slept, I don't know, I was still in a daze as the familiar route flashed by against the lightening sky. I do remember that when we got to our stop, the sudden effort of standing up made my stomach lurch, and I retched against the bus shelter, eyes watering with the acrid taste, hating my own body's reflex.
“Your shoe's got sick on it,” Nicky had pointed out helpfully as we stumbled home as quietly as we could, vowing never to drink again (until next time). It's not at all how I expected it to be, going out on the razz.