Rose Winter, in ‘Up The Stairs’ adds to our Winter submissions to The Inkpot.
On the way down: there is vodka in the back of our mouths, the remainder warming our bellies as we fluff back our hair and tug on our earrings to check they’re still in.
We are laughing so loudly between the three of us that we don’t see the two women walking towards us in time to duck into a doorway or cross the road. Only as they pass us do the brown hair and glasses of two teachers appear in streetlight. One grabs Kay’s arm, spinning her halfway around as she loses momentum. We all turn to face them with the same stunned face and growing, familiar dread.
Where are you three off to? Not boarding tonight then?
No, we are.
We’re going to a family dinner.
Ok, alright. I’ll buy it for now. Don’t do anything you’ll regret tomorrow, and don’t be breaking the curfew, not again.
They don’t walk away, instead they stare at our eyeliner and low-cut, glittering tops. They watch us self consciously shuffle our feet in their white trainers, and they know, of course they know, that we are doing something that they will hear about in the following days.
They just don’t know how bad it will be yet. As always, they let us make the mistake, turning their shoulders and walking off with a slight smirk.
We walk quietly the rest of the way, slightly shaken. For all we know, they have already given us up: all it would take is a quick text to our housemistress.
On the way back: the wind sends our hair flying, but across our faces instead of behind us, curls and straggles sticking to our lip balms. Park Street seems longer and steeper than it ever has before. We run past the turning for the Haymarket and its flaky-paint shops and sequinned bars. We stream past whole food shops and overpriced bistros as we breathlessly shout “Why did we do this on a board night?.”
The cold air snatches the words from our mouths before the others can hear them. It is no lie that the music is gone from our heads, won’t return in drips until we are safely in bed, past the gatekeepers of due decorum.
And they are waiting for us, holding the small black stick of a breathalyzer. We haven’t forgotten that our every move will be policed, though, so we have calculated the timings just right - we will be ok.
The small digital numbers that flash up as we breathe are accepted one by one, and we are allowed to pass. The woman on duty still gives us suspicious looks, doesn’t believe our story about dinner somewhere in the city.
She stands at the bottom of the stairs, watching us as we walk up to our floor, holding in fits of laughter as best we can. One foot in front of the other, mostly. Slowly, her pinched expression recedes from view behind the white painted metal railings of the stairs.