Claire ran a nail across the charred toast top, chipping it so it rained black dust. Her mouth was heated sand, throat as tight as a cat’s asshole, her initials scratched in the burnt-out bread, she tossed it across the grass.
“Mmm yummy.” A familiar voice, girly and high, hidden inside that wild mane of scrubland, bent down to pick up the piece of cinder between somehow still perfectly painted nails. She laughed lightly, pitched it back over to Claire who surprised herself by catching it very calmly and dropping it back into Rosa’s tiny collection of flames in one fluid movement. They both watched as fire licked the edges, breaking it down, dissolving and fizzing, within seconds. Claire tried to stop her hand from touching the slimy parts of her head, flecks of dry shampoo were stuck up between the strands.
“Yeah, I prefer mine a little more well-done,” she glanced at K, felt her eyes move, tiny but inflated under the sting from a wet wipe. Only two shirt buttons were done up and, although she was pretty sure she had donned her Calvin Klein best and could see K trying not to stare, she felt stripped back and exposed, and not in a good way. She was uncovered.
Rosa wasn’t paying them any attention, lounging back away from the fire, eyes fixed on a fabric seam a few tents over, waiting to see if any female body parts emerged from the crack. She kept blowing out air through her teeth, muttering about never being allowed to sleep in the Spanish guy’s tent and Claire wondered how long she’d been up for.
“What’s happening?” Claire asked, surprised by the calmness of her tone, leveled in a way she didn’t feel, as K glanced at Rosa and then back again, making Claire’s skin redder and prickling every time those eyelashes flicked her way.
Claire poked the miniature branches, took out another piece of bread from the squashed up slices and held it up, to which K nodded, and Claire stabbed it with a spiky twig, held it over the blaze like a pro scout.
“Nothing much,” K sank to the ground, crossed her legs, started pulling strands of grass up from their roots. “Just saw you and thought I’d come say hey. I’ve been up on the hill, watching the sunrise.”
“Oh yeah?” Claire flipped the slice. The girl looked duller than before, like someone had been siphoning off her light, “Busy night? Lots of work?”
As the Spanish guy’s tent twitched, Rosa twisted uncomfortably, a sudden sharp intake but then the movement stopped and nothing happened.
“A bit of a weird night, to be honest.”
“Yeah?” Claire wanted to add something more involved, as she tried to do up her buttons in a casual one-handed way. Throwing K the toasted piece, she rummaged around for something to spread on it.
“I was with this guy,” K started breaking off the edges, nibbling absentmindedly like a rabbit, “the one I was trying to find when I met you, eventually I found him again.”
Finding some runny jam Claire apologetically handed it to K who took it and, not really looking, tore off a jagged soldier from her slice and dipped it into the jar.
“He’s got some crazy ex-girlfriend he’s here with or something, totally messed up situation, you know? Nothing I want any part of.”
“Right,” Claire nodded, she took another slice and started to toast it for something to do with her hands. “And let me guess, bitch flips out when she sees the two of you together?”
“Not even ‘together’, you know? Just walking side by side, laughing, flirting sure, but nothing more than that.”
“She have a go at you?” Claire was aware how protective she sounded.
“No. Not at all,” K made another soldier and crammed it inside the pot. “She just made me feel kind of sad. You know those girls who make you feel really sad from just looking at them? And I think this guy I was with was properly sad too, just kind of killed our vibe, you know?”
“Yeah.” Claire tried to make her eyes a little bigger by opening them wider, even yesterday’s crusty mascara would have been better than wearing them bare.
“So I told this guy he should take something,” K carried on, giving Claire a funny look so she stopped, “just to pick him up a bit, you know? Well turns out he doesn’t really do that kind of thing so actually, well, I might have put a little something in his water,” Claire raised her eyebrows, “just to chill him out and that.”
“And?” Claire prompted.
“Well, instead of making him forget about stuff it just seemed to bring it all out. And then before I know it I’m playing fucking agony aunt to his problems.”
“Jesus,” Claire let out some air, “sounds rough. Some boys are mega sensitive. Especially all these little metrosexual ones.” She looked into the sky, felt the early morning heat drying out her skin. “Sun’s fully up now, you want a beer?”
“Is that the rule?” K laughed, her eyes were piercing, she swallowed the last of her toast. “I know you started already.” She nodded across to Claire’s open can, half hidden in the grass.
“Well, that’s the usual rule,” Claire shrugged, trying not to look embarrassed. “They’re cold,” she offered. “Rosa?”
Without taking her eyes from the Spanish guy’s tent Rosa put up an arm, signalling for a can and Claire threw one that landed expertly in Rosa’s hand with the unmarked precision and measure that comes from only a time old friendship. Claire held one up for K, droplets of cold water running from the bucket that had once been ice.
“Sure, why not?” K took the beer. “I need something to wash down that dry as fuck toast.” She grimaced, stuck out her cute pink tongue.
“So what’s the plan for today?” Claire asked, trying to remain unfazed, leaning back and slurping the rest of her opened can. “You sleeping?” She watched K carefully.
“Maybe at some point.” K bought her gaze up and fixed Claire with a long, intended look.
“Fucker!” exclaimed Rosa suddenly, making both of them jump. A girl in a G-string and nothing else emerged blurry eyed from the fabric opening that Rosa had been staking out. The Spanish guys, the ones who were awake, let their jaws drop at the sight of her and raised their hands to slap each other’s faces. She pulled on a tshirt from the ground, blushed, began slinking away. “Absolute motherfucker!”
“Want to hang out?” Claire asked, rolling her eyes and ignoring Rosa.
K looked shyly down, twisted her hair out from her face and leaned back in the fresh new sun.
“Yeah, alright,” she said. “I’d like that.”