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Double Six

Chapter One

    "What, on all of earth, is that?" Nic stepped back, her nose wrinkled in wonder and part-disgust as she took in the vision of rusty horror before her, not that this stopped her from snapping away with her camera.
    "It's my new car," Izzy said in a matter-of-fact tone, watching as Nic circled it, crouching down beside the back wheel, then leaning over the bonnet, then a snap of the car's reflection in its own wing mirror.
    "New?" Nic's eyebrows raised around her camera. "New? I've seen newer dinosaurs."
    "You've never even seen a dinosaur!"
    "I saw that t-rex skeleton at the museum, didn't I? I tell you what though. I've never seen a rust bucket like that. What is it?"
    Izzy sighed in exasperation. "I told you. It's my new car."
    "Yeah, I got that bit. But what kind of car is it? And where did it come from?"
    "It's a Fiat something or other, and the internet, I think."
    Nic nodded very slowly, then wrinkled her nose again. "It's not a blinged-up 500 exactly, is it?"
    "Well spotted." Izzy was getting a little bit annoyed now. OK, so she hadn't expected her friend to be ecstatic at the sight of her 'new' Fiat whatever it was called – she checked the registration document in her hand to remind herself that it was, in fact, a Fiat 126 650E – but she had hoped for a tiny bit more enthusiasm than this, because taking a hundred photos of it didn't count; Nic took photos of everything – weird shaped clouds, people walking hand in hand, chewing gum on the pavement – if it was in the remotest bit 'arty' it got snapped. And she was seriously overlooking a very important fact: they now had their own transport. Well, Izzy had her own transport, but she'd learnt long, long ago (or as long as 'long' can be when you're only eighteen) that what was hers was Nic's. The same, alas, did not work in reverse.
    "What did it cost you? About a tenner?" Nic asked. She'd put her camera away now and was advancing on the tiny car, still with a look of unimpressed repulsion on her face.
    "I didn't buy it, did I?"
    "OK." That partly explained things. "Who did? Your dad?"
    "Yeah, right!"
    "Your mum then."
    "Obviously."
    To anyone else, it may well look like an act of kindness: eighteen year old daughter passes driving test; mother buys first car. It was nothing of the sort, for there was the small matter of Shea, or not quite so small these days. Shea was Izzy's eight year old sister, who didn't quite comprehend that she wasn't allowed to do the same things as her big sister, and how could Izzy say no, when the pair of them were mostly left to their own devices? And this, of course, was what this 'gift' was really about. Now their mum would never have to leave the house again!
    "How did she afford this?" Nic asked. Izzy shrugged.
    "Probably got a loan from the Provident bloke. That's how she usually buys stuff she can't afford."
    "Right. And does it go?"
    "Of course it goes!"
    "I mean, does it go? You know? Vroooooom!"
    "Erm, well…" Izzy frowned.
    "Nought to sixty in a week," Nic joked knowingly. She walked over and took the registration document from her friend's hand. "650 cc. 24 brake horse power. Mrs. Coltrane's electric bike's got better specs than this." Izzy snatched the document back and stuck out her tongue.
    "Well, you know when you're wanting a lift anywhere? You can go and ask Mrs. Coltrane for a seatie, can't you?" She stormed over to the car and flung open the driver's door. It dropped an inch and made a dangerous creaking noise. Nic closed her eyes and winced. When she opened them again, Izzy was sitting behind the wheel with her hands over her face. Nic walked around to the passenger door and tugged at the handle. It was locked. She knocked on the window. Without looking, Izzy reached across and unlocked the door. Nic climbed in beside her and pushed the seat back as far as it would go so she could swing her legs in.
    "Sorry," she said quietly. "I didn't mean to be horrible."
    Izzy sniffed.
    "It's a very cute little car. I mean…" She glanced around her, looking for some grounds on which to compliment the tiny tatty vehicle. "It's got really sporty seats, and the dashboard's pretty, erm, functional. And it's got seatbelts and a gear stick and a mirror." She touched one side of the rear view mirror and it fell off. "Oops." She picked it up and examined it; it had a crack running right through the centre, and had only been attached via a double-sided sticky tab. She pushed it back against the glass.
    "Mmm-bmm-pmf-mm."
    "Huh?"
    Izzy lifted her head from her hands and wiped her eyes on her cuffs, leaving black mascara smudges all down her cheeks.
    "It's the wrong mirror, my dad said," she mumbled again.
    "Ah. OK."
    "He's giving me the money to get the spare parts it needs for the MOT."
    "Like what?"
    "Two new tyres, seatbelts, handbrake cable, rear view mirror, gearbox…" Izzy started crying again.
    "Hey. Come on," Nic said. "You've got your very own car!"
    "Yeah. Great!" Izzy said sarcastically through her sobs. "I've spent all of my birthday money on the insurance deposit and the direct debit's gonna take most of my wages from the shop. The only petrol I'm gonna have in the thing will get used up taking Shea to school. What's the point? I wanted a Fiat 500 and I end up with a crappy old death trap I can't even afford to keep on the road!"
    "Oh, Izzy," Nic said, much more sympathetically now. She put her arm around her friend. "We'll get it fixed up. Don't you worry."
    "How? Even if I get the parts…"
    "I'll ask Joe if he'll do it."
    "Joe?"
    "Yeah. You know. Big old Joe who lives next door to us. He's a mechanic."
    "He's about eighty and he's only got one eye."
    "So? Does that mean he can't be a mechanic?"
    "I s'pose not."
    "Look on the bright side. You've got a classic."
    "1990? Oh yeah. Classic!"
    "Hey! I saw one of these on the telly the other week. They are classic. And it's way better than a Fiat 500. Everyone's got one of them, but you've got a…" Nic glanced over at the registration document.
    "126," Izzy told her.
    "Yeah. A 126! Plus," she reached down into the footwell. "You've got these!" Nic held up the grotty old, sun-faded nylon fuzz-coated dice and grinned. All of a sudden, a big black leg poked out of the threadbare seam of one of the not so fluffy cubes, followed by another, and another, and another. Nic screamed, flung the dice over her shoulder and leapt from the car, running full pelt and getting halfway across the car park before she came to a breathless halt. Izzy watched from the driver's seat, her tears now transformed into laughter. Nic put her hand on her chest and took a deep, steadying breath, then slowly made her way back over. Izzy collected the dice from the back seat and shook the spider onto the floor outside. Nic got back in again.
    "I'll help you get it on the road," she said. "Just you wait. It'll be amazing!"
    "Why? What you gonna do? Trade it in for a lawnmower?"
    "Nah," Nic said, slinging her arm around Izzy's shoulders once more. "I reckon we get the lads on the estate to give it a paint job."
    "I thought they only did railway arches."
    "Nope. What d'you think of bright pink?"
    "That'd be so cool. But I can't…"
    "Afford it? Don't you worry about that, Izzy Barlow. I'll sort it out. And in return you can forget about all the mean things I said about your awesome little car and maybe pick me up from college sometimes. What d'you say?"
    Izzy thought for a moment, then nodded. "Yeah. OK." She gave Nic a hug. "Thanks."
    "No problem."
    "I'll tell you what, though." Nic shuddered at the mere thought of that spider. "Those dice have got to go."
    "They're not so bad really," Izzy said, dangling them from a finger by their frayed and over-stretched elastic. "Dip them in some pink dye and they'll be perfect."
    "They're so kitsch."
    "They're retro!"
    "Kitsch!"
    "They go with the classic car then."
    "You can buy new ones if you're really that attached to them."
    "Except I don't have any money."
    "Izzy! They've got spiders living in them!"
    "Not spiders, Nic. A spider. One."
    "Says you! It might have laid eggs in there, for all you know. And they're disgustingly dirty. What's that on them? Mildew?"
    "Just a bit of surface dirt," Izzy said. She rubbed the two furry cubes against each other. The nylon fuzz crackled with static. There was a fizz of current and a loud bang.

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