There's a screetch of breaks and someone somewhere screams melodramatically. The driver swears under his breath. The driver of another card, a navy ford focus, Neil, leans on his horn a little too vigorously and makes the three mile of traffic all curse in unison. In the distance, Ally and Sasha are in Sasha's sister's BMW convertible, top down, sunglasses, shorts and strappy tops in tow. They sing badly to a song coming over the radio. Ant, whose sitting in the car alongside them, gives them an approving nod and grin, to which they both giggle like school girls. They discuss how "fit" he is, although he can hear everything they're saying. He smiles again, half-amused, half-arrogant.
"What's happened? This is a joke," moans Denny, who's stuck miles back, talking to his brother Rick, a few dozen cars previous to him, over the phone."Dunno, looks like some sort of accident. Silly buggers were obviously too busy enjoying the heatwave to concentrate on the fucking road." Rick spits.
"Yeah well, they want to hurry about it, Cara's waiting for me."
Rick rolls his eyes at his elder brothers' seriousness. Denny and Cara are "seeing eachother" but really, they're super-serious, like ready-to-get-on-one-knee serious, and Rick can't think of anything funnier because "you're whipped mate, you want to show her who wears the jeans an' that."
"Its trousers, you twat."
"Whatever, you know what I mean."
"Yeah. Well. You know she gets snippy if she's got to wait a long time."
"You mean, she's the one with the dick.'"
"Fuck off will ya, I thought you wanted to know what had happened."
"I do, but winding you up is so fuckin' easy."
"You're just jealous. Got no one to toss you off. Your own hand doesn't count."
"Rick why do you have to be such a douche? Why can't you be happy for me?"
Rick laughs, sarcastically. A little too sarcastically. Denny loses his temper.
"Right, unless you know what's happening, piss off and stop bothering me." He hangs up the phone and tosses it onto the passenger seat. It bounces and hits the floor.
Denny takes his eyes off the road and begins to fumble about under the passenger seat for his phone. While he's doing so, the congestion starts to clear and the driver behind him leans on his horn. A familiar horn. Denny forgets his phone, unfastens his seat-belt and opens the car door with such fury and disdain that it just narrowly misses the car to his right.
Thinking he's got one over on the impatient bastard behind him, he approaches the window and demands the man open the door.
The man, quite smugly, does what he's instructed.
"Yes...?" The man questions, staring down Denny profusely.
"What the fuck's your problem mate? Can you not wait a pissing second!" Denny becomes irate. The man's eyes glaze over for a second, before he gets all up in Denny's face and with gritted teeth spits "talk to me like that again and I swear, I'll have your nuts in a vice, got it?"
Denny blushes, steps back, nods and retreats to his car, feeling dejected and embarrassed. As he begins to drive on, dangerously slowly, mimicking that of the rest of the traffic, his phone hollers again from it's hiding place. He presses his hands-free set to answer, and greets the caller with apparent distaste.
"I thought I told you to stop pissing about and ring me when you had actual news?!"
"Excuse me! I think I have a right to know which skank you've blew me off for..."
It was Cara, and as usual, she was pissed. Both in attitude and physicality. Cara tended to have a few drinks with dinner, and breakfast, and days ending in a 'Y.'
"Shit, babe I'm sorry, I can explain..."
Just as Denny is about to explain about what he assumes is the hold-up a few miles along the motorway, the headset pips three times, to let him know he has another call.
"Hold on a sec, yeah?" He tells Cara, trying to calm her down, "I've got another call."
"Yeah?" He answers.
"Right, okay, well I've spoke to Ant and he says he reckons there was a crash a few yards past Middleton junction, so we might be back here a while, there's coppers and fire engines and everything..." Rick drones on, too fast for Denny to properly make out.
"Rick! You've got to be fucking kidding me?!"
"Right foul mouth you've got there Den."
"Stop pissing about! Do you know what's happened or not? I'll have to hurry, Cara's on the other line'
'She been knocking back the vino again?'
"Not funny. You know she's sensitive when people call her up about her drinking habits"
"Piss funny that is. Does she not realise that you put milk on cornflakes, not gin?"
Denny breathes into the line but doesn't say a word.
"You know I'm just messin' with ya"
"You're not though. That's the thing"
"Well, big deal, she drinks. So what"
"So what? You're not the one peeling her off the bathroom floor at 7 am before you need to shower for work. She's draining my bank account, its not even a joke anymore." Denny suddenly blurts all of this out over the receiver.
"Shit Denny, I never realised, I just thought she liked her drink."
"Yeah well, you never ask do you? You're just assuming its a good laugh."
"You're the one constantly defending her, not me"
"But this time I dunno whether I can, that's the thing."
"What do you mean?"
"She doesn't have three weeks paid holidays"
"What I'm saying is, she doesn't have a job"
"Yeah." In a dead-pan tone, "apparently fucking your colleagues in the staff room after hours doesn't bade well. Especially when you're both wasted and high."
Rick doesn't say a word.
"She's been cheating on me, and that's not the worst bit..." Denny's voice breaks. "She's spent all my savings. I haven't got a penny."
"Yeah, I'm screwed. I love her but she's fucked me over big-time y'know. We never said we were exclusive, but I don't know how the hell she got hold of my bank cards too."
"I'd be getting rid if I were you."
"How many times, I don't need your advice"
"Well why are you telling me this then?"
"Because..I.. Because I needed to tell someone. The fact its you is just, bad timing."
"You're telling me, you could've waited to tell me your relationship is breaking down coz your girlfriend's a whore when we were round the dinner table, or at least over a few pints."
They laugh in unison. There's nothing else they can do really. Their laughter is soon rudely interrupted, when Denny's phone pips again. Cara.
"Fuck. This is her. Right, I'm going to have to tell her, I'm going to be late."
"Fair enough, good luck with that mate, don't envy you. In a bit, bye."
"yeah, see ya."
He presses the button on his hands-free device and it clicks over to Cara. Waiting. Impatiently.
"Sorry babe, had Rick on the other line. We're stuck in traffic. It's a fucking joke. Backed up for miles, I'll not make dinner."
She didn't respond. Cara just breathed heavily down the line.
"Cara? Cara?! Stop pissing about will you, I'm trying to tell you, this is important."
"Is it now?" She droaned, tell-tale signs she was drunk.
Denny didn't even have the energy to humour her.
"Cara, look. You need to stop this."
"Everything. I know what you've been doing."
"So you want to control every move I make now, is that it?"
"I didn't say that."
"You didn't have to."
"Just sober up before I get in, we need to talk. Properly."
"Denny, everything's all wet, it's like, I don't know. I think there's petrol or something all over the floor.."
"What are you on about?"
"Well, I was angry that you weren't back. I was going to prove I loved you."
"What? Cara, what the fuck are you talking about?!"
"When you were dodging my calls, I presumed you were with Kathy."
"Kathy? Babe, we've been over this. She's my best friend's girlfriend, why would I even-"
"So, I've had a long think about it and I think we should get married."
"Cara? How much have you had to drink?"
The headset pips again. Rick.
A message appears on the dashboard.
"Cars are moving up here, probs won't be much longer for you. I'll stop by later. Rick'
"DENNNYYYY! Who the fuck are you talking to?!"
She'd begun to get hysterical now. That was never good.
"CARA! Can you please sober up and I'll speak to you later, I'm driving! I've got to go. I can't do this now."
"Do what?! Oh god, no. You're planning on breaking up with me, aren't you? AREN'T YOU?!" Her screams were deafening. She was slurring her words, and hiccuping in between her yells. "I can't believe it. I'll do it you know. I won't hesitate!"
"Leave me, you'd be doing me a favour. You're a state! Can't you see what you're doing to yourself?!"
Cara didn't say another word, but she began to whimper down the phone. Denny had hit a nerve. She'd sober up and go to bed.
"I'll see you soon, the traffic is clearing now. I shouldn't be that much longer."
Denny was trying to reassure his girlfriend, but it seemed impossible in her state.
"Okay, Cara. I've got to go. I'm hanging up, give me ten minutes. I'll put my foot down, when I get past this accident."
"NO! Don't leave me, Denny! I'm scared of what I'll do.."
Shit. Denny, hearing that, he slammed his breaks on. The car behind him quickly came to an abrupt halt. Another lean on the horn. A few more choice words. He turns, waves his hand to apologise, and tries to carry on driving.
"What do you mean, Cara....?"
"I can't let you leave me! I've got nowhere to go!"
She seemed to be swigging something. Probably wine. Denny's stomach somersaulted. 'I dread to think of the state of the house," he thought to himself.
"THAT'S IT. I'LL DO IT. I SWEAR. I'M NOT FUCKING ABOUT ANY MORE!"
"DO WHAT? CARA! You're not making any sense!"
Luckily, the traffic had cleared, and it was only a few minutes drive to Denny's house.
"I'll be home in a second, just don't act stupid. Sit down. Make a coffee or something."
Denny was used to having to talk down Cara. She was always up a height after a couple of bottles of wine.
"No, I'm FINE. I'm FAN-BLOODY-TASTIC. I'LL WAIT. You're not getting out of it that easily."
Totally confused at Cara's drunken ramblings, Denny just mumbled something incoherent into the receiver and said he was nearly home. He turned right off the dual carriageway, left into the estate, and then right into their street. Cara was still on the line, but she wasn't speaking. She was, he presumed, in the kitchen. There was a lot of banging and clattering, but for Cara, that was nothing new. He pulled onto the driveway. Eventually home. A day from hell, and for what? What a fucking waste of time.
"See you in a second. I'm here."
Denny got out of the car, shut the door behind him, and locked it. He dreaded to think of the state that Cara was in. His head was pounding. He didn't have the energy. Maybe he'd just have to tell her. Straight away. It was over. It was finished. They were finished.
Opening the front door, he already wanted to fast-forward until she'd sobered up. A docile little girl, of only twenty three, turned into the most heartless bitch imaginable, when intoxicated. And there she was. Standing in the hallway. Dripping wet. Her eyes were bloodshot. Her clothes clung her to like they were drenched. Wait. What was that smell? Denny's eyes stung. There was something in the air. What was it? Apart from a sickeningly horrible feeling of regret?
"Why are you all wet? Let's get you cleaned up and put to bed."
"No. Stay back. I want nothing more to do with you.
Instinct told Denny to step forward anyway, so he did. His phone rings again. Rick. Ignore. He can wait.
"NO!" Cara screamed. It took him by surprise. The noise that sprung from her lips was murderous, so shrill it gave him goosebumps.
"I told you. I told you I'd do it," she kept saying.
Denny's eyes soon became fixed on something in Cara's hand. A lighter. Shit.
"Cara, let's put the lighter down.."
"NO. YOU PROMISED! YOU PROMISED ME!"
And with that, she held it up to her hair, clicked it twice, and let the flames engulf her. The whole house was dowsed in petrol, and Denny's eyes couldn't believe how fast everything went up. She stood there, fascinated by the flames charring the wallpaper around her. She began to laugh. The alcohol was acting as a temporary anesthetic She laughed, heartily, such an evil, wicked laugh. And Denny just looked on, in horror, as the flames and the smoke devoured everything, in front of his eyes.