Cherringham - Trail of Lies
Cherringham - Trail of Lies
1. Homeward Bound
"You can do it, Holly! Just don't look down - look straight at me, I'll grab your hand."
Holly Wilson stared ahead, eyes locked onto her friend Amy - already at the other end of the flimsy rope bridge - the girl looking so small against the towering trees.
Amy - smiling, so confident, so reassuring.
Just a few short steps away. Like crossing a room, really. What could be easier?
But then she looked down, through the knotted grid of swaying rope - in truth, not a massive drop, twenty feet or so - into a shallow stream.
But enough to hurt if you landed badly. Twisted ankle, knee banged up.
And then this hike would suddenly change.
And twenty feet might just as well be a hundred if you were as scared of heights as she was.
Holly could already feel her heart rate climbing - and her breathing coming faster.
Last thing she needed now was one of her panic attacks.
Bad enough when one hit as she walked the corridors of their school.
But here ... now?
She shut her eyes, reaching into herself for all her strategies that she had been taught, that - sometimes - could keep the beast at bay.
Breathe deep and slow. Focus. Take control of the fear. Own it. Don't even try to push it away.
"Oh, do come on, Holly! God! It's not exactly the effing Amazon rainforest, now is it?"
Jasmine's voice, from right behind her. "And you're hardly likely to slip through the gaps, are you?"
Just what she didn't need. That voice in her ear.
Holly turned, just in time to see Jasmine, hands on hips, rolling her eyes. Then - a taunting grin.
"Oh - sorry - I mean, with your backpack and everything, there's no way you can fall through. Right?"
Holly saw another eye-roll. Jasmine's nasty smile broadened.
Nice attempt at a recovery, thought Holly. But I know what you meant, Jasmine.
You meant "Holly you're so fricking fat you couldn't fall through that bridge if you tried."
Then, another voice, pulling her back from Jasmine's cruel words.
"Come on, Holly," said Amy. "You can do this."
Holly turned back to look at Amy. Good, reassuring Amy - on the other side of the stream.
"Think of all the other scary stuff we've got through on this trip. Stuff you've aced. And this is the last bit - okay? Here on in, it's just woodland trails, couple of hills ..."
"And one more night in the sodding tent," said Jasmine.
"One more night of your cooking too," Amy shouted back.
"Ooh, nasty, Amy - no chocolate or biscuits for you tonight," said Jasmine.
"Keep your chocolate," said Amy. "Do I care?"
"Got other treats hidden away, hmm?" said Jasmine.
"Me to know, you to cry over," said Amy.
Holly looked from one girl to the other, trying to keep up with this little exchange, feeling that there was stuff between the two that she didn't know about.
But also, with the distraction, now feeling her panic subsiding, as the focus switched away from her onto Amy.
It was always so hard to have people looking at her.
Imagining what they thought; what they whispered.
And knowing most of it, all in her head.
She took a deep breath, checked the straps on her backpack - though they certainly didn't need a re-check.
And then, excuses for any hesitation gone, she stepped forward onto the wobbly bridge.
That first brave step.
"Hey! Way to go!" said Amy. "Go Holly! Go Holly!"
One step. Then another. Eyes locked on Amy.
Hands gripping the guide ropes tight.
The bridge now really swaying with every step, below her water rushing over rocks.
The panic back ... full-on ... rising again.
Oh God, I'm going to fall,