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Anonymous, St Helens College

February 2022

The luring dazzle of red and white lights distorting my vision; the screeching sound of wheels tearing up layers of tarmac as they move from left to right on the road; the putrid stench of bile rising from my throat: Sunday morning. Our fingers, bruised and red, prying onto the handles swinging either side from the ceiling as the crazed woman in the front throws her prized mini into the sixth gear, tearing through the orderly traffic in her usual disorderly fashion whilst we give apologetic looks to those we force off the road.

Every Sunday; our covers thrown back, a dishevelled lettuce sandwich placed just off-centre on a china plate in front of us, a neatly ironed collar smoothed down, the hasty bundling of Adam and I into the back seat of the mini, followed by the perilous journey to church. This particular morning, after being dragged from my beloved bed, force-fed a revolting lettuce sandwich and had my collar smoothed several hundred times by four different aunts and uncles, her driving is seemingly worse than ever. We’ve only passed the second junction and already several honking horns and bickering figures are shouting into our red-faced grandmother’s half-open window, no dismay reflecting in their red-rimmed frames as she rolls up the window and overtakes whoever is unfortunately in her line of hold one of those reusable Tesco bags out for one another to lurch into; as gross as it seems we have learnt to think practically rather than self-consciously.

With the sign of our junction beginning to appear on the roadside, I lean forward and brace myself against the empty seat in front, the car jerking suddenly to the left across several lanes of traffic until she forces us in front of other patiently waiting drivers onto the slip road. I suck in a sharp intake of breath as she turns around and throws me back into my seat with one hand and glares, her other blindly turning the wheel the wrong way around the roundabout. My eyes widen as I point my shaking fingers at the oncoming drivers swerving frantically in all drivertions - but she smiles and rectifies her mistake and pulls off into the third exit, swimming the car into the church car park.

Tilting my spinning head back against the headrest, I attempt to slow my breathing having finally reached the journey’s end. Without much thought, one of my shaking hands seems to reach out to open the car door, my other hurriedly pulling at the seatbelt to escape the cage I’ve been trapped in throughout this weekly frightening ordeal.