(Continued from here.)

Zainab had mentioned the possibility of a breakdown earlier and we had unknowingly Christened her ear prickling words by warning her against such hindersome prophecies. Hypo-gladtastic Sabera had been sedated with her requested dose of Stugeron, so any softly named disappointment was heavily subdued beneath the weight of the tablets on her tongue.

Your driver has managed, somehow/magically/as expectedly, to put the wrong fuel into the van. Luckily/miraculously/as a consolation, he hasn’t started the van, which would have made the problem much more difficult to deal with. We’ve called the van company and they say they’re coming out to deal with it. Remember, though, we ARE in the middle of nowhere. It could take some time.

We might have jeered, booed, hissed, thrown bits of rotten salad and rain-soggy clothes and straws at the front of the van. We might have- but I forget.

Imran did not make the unmeasured wait much easier by constantly propounding the worst case scenario and pointing at the hotel he teased we’d all have to stay in. Prepared for the worst and treated with laughter, we were relieved when the orange lights of the tow truck lit up the left side of the van.

We had two hours to wait. 16 muhajababes trekked with jellied legs from the petrol pump to the nearest shelter. Oh, but it is warm in here! Do let us join yew! The swishy restaurant turned our booted selves away: fully booked. We trudged off to the next only sanctuary on offer, ‘The Fox and Hen’. A public house. A pub.

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I left my bulky preconceptions at the door, expecting the pub to be full, as was the restaurant, leaving little space for extra thought to squash in, too. However, it was almost empty, it was odourless and the air was calm. Head Sister slipped into Queen Vic Data Recovery mode and ordered a ’round’ of hot chocolates and teas, which we sipped at, relishing the swirling warmth, and whiling away the next hour or so with sweetened educational chit-chat. There did occasion, during our stay, a few groups of curious lingering people who so justifiably observed us and our conversation.

A while and a round later, the golden call was received and we left. As we stepped outside into the cool night air, we saw, beneath the trees, bundles of people enjoying their drinks on the benches. One lad sat alone, shaking with droplets of laughter as Moslem nuns emerged, nattering away, from a pub.

We waited under the murky light of the petrol pump.

[21:30] A beer bellied man stood fuelling up his car and glancing over inquisitively at us. ALHAMDULILLAH! We screamed in unison, causing him to jump clean out of his senses, as we ran passed him towards our beloved van as it rolled up.

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We travelled for a while in the black abyss beneath the canopy of Welsh trees. The surreal silhouette of where I was and what was going on lapsed in and out of view and consciousness as I slipped in and out of sleep. An enchanting recitation played over the speakers as we sped through the night. The journey consisted of more of the earlier slapstick and banter, a recitation of Ayat ul-Kursi, and efforts to keep one another awake in order to keep the driver awake.

[00:00] We stopped off in Birmingham for a confused and drowsy order of food and ice cream. It was this chicken burger and those hot chocolates that had determined our course that night. Toobaa climbed out and, after checking for cars, employed a few star jumps. Sabera huddled up inside as her breath steamed from all the icy cold she was surrounded by. Afifa, patient as ever, was patient, despite the knowledge that she had to pack for a flight the next morning. Zainab relished the Cookies’n’Cream Haagen Daz with the end of a flexing plastic fork.

As promised, each girl was dropped off at her own home in the wee hours of the morning. [05:30] Toobaa was one of the last to be dropped home. She arrived home to Abu, who opened the door as she ran up the driveway. Only 1…2…3… 7.5 hours late. As soon as she had stepped out of the van, though, she had a strange feeling of displacement. She missed Team Fox and Hen. She missed the van. She missed the trek, which had turned out to be a whole lot bonding and travelling more than she had bargained for. As she crawled into her cool, dry bed and tried to ignore the rays of sunshine that were beginning to peer into her window to look at her truly broken in hiking boots, she realised she had fallen in love with the day.

She began to plan the next adventure as the land of nod lapped at her toes and submerged her into the tidiest of sleeps.

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