Riding off into the sunrise

by Jenny

The taste is vile and fills Katie’s mouth, trickling down under her tongue and sticking to the back of her throat. Her stomach objects strenuously and for a few horrifying, nail biting seconds she thinks it is going to bounce back out onto the bar.

She stands absolutely still for a moment, palms sweating praying the nausea will pass. It does. The room swims back into focus, loud and hot and intrusive. She looks up, eyes watering and a boy in a Sheriff's badge shoots her a sympathetic half smile across the bar. She tries, and fails to return it.

Sharon is dancing on the table now, the tassels on her cropped cowboy shirt flapping in time to Steps’ 5,6,7,8 and her neat, flat midriff is exposed to the delight of the crowd. Behind her, the giant cardboard cactus trembles precariously and a boy in a ten-gallon hat is ready to rescue Sharon if she falls. Katie stumbles away because Sharon’s boots are too small on her feet. But no-one is there to rescue her.

She never enjoys these Union events. They are always the same people in different cheap outfits drinking the same cheap spirits trying to shag or avoid one another by turn. But what can she do? Wait at the house again for Sharon to roll in with a boy or a group of shit-faced friends and wake her up at 4am?

So Katie buys a cheap felt stetson, lets Sharon dust her with glitter, plaster her in sticky foundation and eyelash glue and tells herself that Kate-No-Mates has been left behind with high school. Here she is Katie and Katie goes to parties and dances till dawn and drinks shots of sambuca till she nearly throws up. Katie doesn’t need rescuing. Katie is cool, Katie has friends, Katie has fun.

Except none of that is true. She is miserable in this too hot room in her too tight clothes. Above all things she would like for someone to sweep her up and take her away back to a cool quiet place where they could talk about books and never think about 5,6,7,8 ever again. But no-one wants to ride to Katie’s aid any more than they wanted to ride to Kate’s.

So Katie sits in a corner waiting for sunrise to save her, checking her watch and wondering if it’s too soon for another trip to the ladies, when she sees the boy in the Sheriff's badge again. He is sitting in the corner opposite hers, nursing a pint of watery lager. He looks as miserable as she does.

He looks, she decides, like someone who needs rescuing.

She throws a glance at Sharon, who dragged her here, now surrounded by admirers. She stares around at the disintegrating paper decorations strewn around the room. She looks down at herself; Kate wearing Katie’s clothing, dressed up like someone she doesn’t recognise.

Then she stands up, pushes her way through the sweating, throbbing dance floor to the boy in the Sheriff’s badge and decides to rescue them both.