“Go on,” they shouted, almost as one, “Come on, you can do it.” Eight best friends, all at the races for the first time together and having an absolute blast. The idea had been Lisa’s but it hadn’t taken much convincing at all, each one of them leaping at the chance to don their new summer dress of sunshine yellow or baby blue. Matching shawls had been selected and a couple of them had even gone for a hat or fascinator to finish off their ensemble.
They’d travelled down in a minibus together, Sarah being the designated driver much to her chagrin. But then again, as she had ended up hideously drunk on their previous day out this was decided as a fair and just penance.
The drinking had started before they even got on the bus, Jodie having brought along the bottle of tequila and accompanying lemons and salt. This kept them going in between the gossip, jokes and laughter for the first half of their journey, swiftly followed by the white wine, fortunately chased down by a distinctly unhealthy pork pie and pringles combo that kept any sickness at bay during the bus ride. Grand plans had been floated about prawn sandwiches and ham crostini but none of them had actually organised themselves enough to make or even buy them, the clinking bottles in the bag for life evidence of what was to lie ahead. It was going to be a long afternoon…
The eight of them had been friends from university and had been practically inseparable since. Holidays in Ibiza, nights out in Bath terrorising even the toughest rugby players and weekends in remote country cottages chilling out, playing games and, of course, drinking. They weren’t sure if they sent out the wrong vibes or were simply victims of a chauvinistic male driven society that denigrated strong and empowered females, but they all struggled to hold on to boyfriends. That’s probably why they spent so much time together, helping each other in tough periods and partying… a lot!
“Whoop, come on babe, you can do it,” Amy yelled, a delirious look on her face and a croak to her screams.
“We’re with you, hun,” Hannah supported, clapping her hands enthusiastically.
Sarah was a little more circumspect, surveying the scene with a concerned look in her eyes, brushing the blond hair from her forehead. The penultimate race of the day had just started, and Beth was back to her old tricks. Messing about. As she always tended to after a few drinks. She was the one true exhibitionist in the group and would profit from any occasion to make a show of herself, a little encouragement from her friends being all she needed to take the plunge.
It hadn’t taken much cajoling from the group to motivate her. Her black bolero was strewn on the floor twenty feet in front of her group of friends, her dark belt another ten feet in front of that. The rest of her outfit would swiftly follow, and she would streak her way to glory. Her plastic beaker of pinot grigio had been discarded next to her clothes and she was teasing her friends, and no doubt a few sharp-eyed men, with the promise of naked flesh.
The girls were beside themselves with delight, the shrieks and cackles of laughter lost in the surrounding noise of the baying crowd, all concentrated on the unfolding race. No-one else appeared to notice her, not that her friends were doing anything to hide what was happening. The drunken slurs and backing could be faintly heard amongst the cheering throng.
“I can’t believe she’s doing this. Go girl!”
“What is she doing? What a nutter.”
“Oh my God, we’re going to get kicked out. Should we stop her?”
Sarah was quieter than the others, eyes fixed on her friend while simultaneously flicking to the race and the vaulting horses. Her attention was broken by Suzie screaming with delight.
“No way. She’s stripping off. She’s gonna’ do it.”
A murmur could be heard amongst some of the crowd near them, fingers pointed and comments hidden behind shielding hands. A group of stewards were starting to head towards Beth as she removed her robe, leaving just a mis-matched set of underwear on show. The whispers turned to cheers, their friend buoyed on by the support she was receiving from the strangers. She turned back to the fans, theatrically shaking her body to even greater adoration.
The friends were roaring with delight at their friend’s antics; all the friends but Sarah. Seeing her friend duck under the barrier and head behind one of the jumps, bile rose in her throat, and she felt petrified, unable to move or speak.
Her friends’ glee turned to horror as they too saw what was happening, a realisation that their day out was going to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
The sickening crunch of one thousand pounds of thoroughbred racehorse connecting with one hundred and twenty pounds of drunk Elizabeth was heard throughout the whole racecourse, a deafening silence immediately falling on the watching hordes. Sobs and shrieks were heard from the seven friends gathered around the green bench, their delight transforming to despair in the blink of an eye.
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