Meadow had woken earlier than usual. For some reason, the rushing ambience from the neighbouring ring road, with its optimistic, morning commuters, freight lorries and high-speed trains click-clacking towards the city, had seemed louder. Before the sun had even had time to stretch above the colossus of the imposing shopping centre, her heavy, dry eyes were open. The atmosphere outside, seeping into the dense, humming air of the hatchback, was tainted with the smell of dampness; a night of rainfall having passed, that even to her surprise, she’d managed to sleep through. Her arms were sore. Massaging them tenderly, she stretched over to the passenger seat of the Peugeot, opening the glove box, rooting around for breakfast. She winced. Her lower ribs, swollen with a new, near-forgotten, tender bruise, throbbed with a determined vengeance, much like her eye (although that seemed to be healing). In the sky high above, gulls harped and hovered, chasing scraps left by muntjac and foxes the night previous. Removing shimmering scores of chocolate bar wrappers, rank fast food boxes and stale citrus peels, her search turned up nothing. She sighed to herself, before rolling a scruffy cigarette and using a black cylinder from the central unit, lit up.
The faithful hatchback was given originally as a loaner from her ex-girlfriend’s brother, not that her ex had any authority to lend her his pride and joy, especially given that both parties knew it would not be returned. Meadow enjoyed the satisfying combination of letters on its angular rear: GTI. It made the vehicle itself seem more prestigious than it was, especially given that its doors were always on the blink, that its engine rattled incessantly like a combine harvester, and that its windscreen wipers had packed in after their first week of use. The Peugeot had been home for Meadow now for a year, come Sunday.
Lifting her arm, she curiously sniffed at a furry pit, before running a hand across her skull, savouring arid tobacco. Her stomach rumbled. Since living in the hatchback, Meadow had found herself smoking more, but eating less and as happy as she was for the weight loss, a growing self-hatred for succumbing to a habit as this was hard to shake. She’d often loiter around the staff exit of the shopping centre at closing time, skateboard in hand, cuts and bruises fresh across her shins and arms, small-talking with the workers. The perfume-counter girls were particularly warm, gifting her with smoking supplies, gossip and the occasional stolen sandwich.
‘And I said to her, right,’ Alicia, the plumpest girl of the entourage would say as they both leaned against the brick wall beside a row of steel bins, ‘Love— I’m not being funny, but if Tom Ford suited you, don’t you think I would have suggested it to you? Like, I’m not being funny, but what do you think I’m here to do? Stand here and look pretty?’
Meadow did her best to entertain her temporary friends, sometimes genuinely interested in the minutiae of their lives, other times, too famished and fiendish for sustenance to properly play her role. There was a symbiotic relationship in place; the workers were fascinated by Meadow and would film her excitedly, cheering as she performed tricks beneath the hazy car park floodlights, while she would gladly receive any scraps offered from their designer handbags or overstocked staff room fridges.
Hugging the back of the driver's chair, Meadow gazed at the backseat. Three sets of eyes blinked back at her, blankly. They moved none.
‘So, I suppose it’s down to me to go sort breakfast, huh?’ she asked. Each said nothing. High above the car, a helicopter whirled about the virgin sky of the day, grumbling over the warm, dewed land. After one last unsuccessful reccy, scouring every dust-covered nook and cranny, she surrendered, stepping out of the car, releasing a loud yawn. Searching for her trademark yellow tank top in the boot, she robed her naked top half, letting the oversized piece hang above a pair of stained khaki shorts. She knocked on the roof, twice, in the way she did every morning. All three knew what that sound meant.
‘Come on then, you lot. Let's go now. Come on. Move it.’