Exclusive to By the Letter subscribers – a 5 min read
They caught up with the others just as Maggie was saying, ‘Roller coaster next.’ She pointed to the steel structure rising tall in the middle of the grounds.
‘At last!’ Raine clapped. ‘Thought we’d never get there!’
The screams of the monster’s patrons had been the background tune to the afternoon’s fun and Raine had constantly demanded to ride it. Maggie had mockingly scolded, ‘You have to wait. We do it last because it’s the best, most fantastic thrill and everything else is tame after the coaster.’
Finally, a rollercoaster ride to match Raine’s exuberant mood.
‘I’ll go with Lorraine. If you don’t mind, Lorraine?’ Teddy appeared from somewhere and propped himself in front of Raine. He contemplated her with the big-toothed grin he used when he seemed properly pleased about something.
Ride the roller coaster with Teddy? The idea brought Raine up short. She’d supposed she’d ride with Alf and she could scream and pretend to panic and Alf would understand and pretend to keep her safe.
Teddy? All at once the ride held dangers Raine couldn’t foresee. Where was Alf, to rescue her? He had gone – Teddy had sent him to buy drinks. And Raine couldn’t be a frightened baby now, not after all her nagging.
‘Why not?’ She gave Teddy a big grinning shrug to persuade him – or herself – she didn’t care who she went with. ‘What are we waiting for?’
There was a long queue.
It was Teddy’s turn to ask, ‘Good birthday, Lorraine?’
‘Absolutely! Your sister’s a gem.’
‘Hmm. Can also be a pain.’ His fond eyes softened the criticism. ‘Your sister seems nice. Pretty too.’
Raine humphed and Teddy snickered softly. ‘You’re pretty too, you know. In a different way. Less, what’s the word, less haughty, toffy, than your sister. Cute pretty rather than … elegant pretty.’
‘Thanks,’ Raine mumbled. Her exuberant mood deflated. Irritation prodded at her guts, together with the suspicion she’d had the time the boys walked her home from the stop, how Teddy was only tagging along because of Faye. Faye was a little way behind, talking to Charlie who bent his head close to Faye’s to listen above the coaster’s screaming riders. Surely even the arrogant, self-centred Teddy could see where Faye’s heart lay?
‘She and Charlie are a great pair, don’t you think?’ Raine stared up into Teddy’s eyes, all innocence. ‘He’s elegant too. Lovely manners, good education. He’s going to be a teacher, did you know? When he’s finished at the university.’ Raine brought up the big guns. ‘His family’s well-off. Big house in Toorak Gardens. His dad’s a lawyer, a barrister.’
‘Whew! Fancy! Ain’t we lucky to have his company.’
Raine listened for bitterness, jealousy. She found only a touch of sarcasm hedged with humour.
The queue moved forward and Teddy took Raine’s hand to help her into the steel car. ‘Is there a little brother for you, Lorraine?’
Raine bridled, made herself keep the joking tone going. ‘No idea, haven’t asked!’
The attendant checked the safety bar and moved to the next couple. Raine half turned to wave at Faye, a couple of rows behind. Charlie gave Raine a Churchillian victory sign and Raine returned it. The car jolted into motion … Raine’s stomach jolted with it. They picked up speed …
Raine couldn’t hear her own screams but her mouth was wide, lips stretched tight at the corners. The air pressed hard against the back of her throat.
She would die. She would tumble out of the car, skirt flapping around her head, mouth frozen in the silent scream, legs kicking, body bouncing off the steel girders to at last hit the ground which was now dizzyingly far now horrifyingly close. She gripped the safety bar so tight she should have dented the metal.
The car careened up a long slope, headlong to the top of the ride. A dark sky littered with stars rushed towards them. Raine would fly into those stars, revelling in the freedom of birds – before gravity imposed its deathly demands.
They reached the top. The car wavered. In the moment of heart-stopping stillness, Raine shot Teddy a sideways glance.
He didn’t have his mouth open in a silent scream, eyes screwed tight shut. His head was turned to Raine, eyes crinkled, a smile filling his face. The smile broadened at Raine’s glance and Raine knew Teddy was the only person in the world to ride a rollercoaster with. She shouted her exuberance into the starry sky – and they were hurtling to their deaths and Raine had left her stomach somewhere on the narrow track.