I never realised until today how much everyone lies. Not until I started getting this bitter taste in my mouth every time someone did. The acrid taste of 'I'm fine' still coats my tongue after breakfast with my family.
I'm amazed I haven't thrown up yet.
As Tara pulls into my driveway, all I want to do is go back to my room and hide. I should have cancelled.
But she waves and opens the door for me, and I can't resist that grin. I concentrate on the warm sun and the fresh morning air as I take a deep breath and steel myself.
There's no way she could think my smile isn't fake as I get into her car.
"You okay?" She asked as she puts her car in reverse.
Rather than lie, I just nod. Even that makes bile rise in my throat. I swallow it down and try not to grimace. She looks over at me with her pale brown eyes squinting in concern.
"So where are we going?" I say quickly.
"Somewhere out of town. I doubt you’ve heard of it."
We leave the houses behind and soon we're racing along a deserted country road. Our speed drops as the engine splutters, then dies.
"What the hell?" Tara exclaims as she coasts to a stop on the side of the road.
She groans and gets out of the car, slamming the door shut. I watch as she pops the hood, then after a minute she pulls out her phone and calls someone.
I roll down my window. "What's going on?" I ask.
"I'm not sure what's wrong. Someone's coming to check it out."
I nod, then lean back in the seat. The sunlight is shining in, bright and hot against my skin.
I should have cancelled.
"Come on, let's go for a walk," Tara says.
"Don't we need to stay with the car?" I mumble.
"It'll be fine,” she shrugs.
I wouldn’t usually believe her, but the words taste true. Or maybe I've grown so used to the bitter taste of lies that I can't tell the difference anymore. I get out of the car with a sigh and shove my hands into the pockets of my shorts. Maybe a walk will clear my head.
Tara's phone rings, and she rolls her eyes when she sees the caller. "What part didn’t you understand?" She snaps. "Yes, I need someone to come out here. Maybe a pick-up too." Truth. "Yes, it's Tara." Lie.
No, that can’t be right. How could her own name be a lie? Yet the acrid bile rising in my throat says that it is.
We walk out into the field in silence. The long, dry grass brushes against my legs, the yellow strands coming up past my knees.
How could she be lying about her name?
I can't seriously believe I'm suspecting my best friend of not being who she says she is.
No, she can't be lying. I must have heard her wrong, or maybe this bad taste isn't because of lying after all. Maybe I just ate some bad fish. Some bad fish with very selective timing.
I want to say something to stop this tense silence, but I'm too scared to bring up what I really want to talk about. Because what if I'm wrong, and then she thinks I'm crazy?
Or what if I'm right?
"You alright?" Tara asks
"Mhm," I nod.
"Is it something I said?" She asks, not convinced.
"Nah, I'm fine," I repeat. The lie is so bad that I bring my hand to my mouth, afraid I'm going to vomit.
Tara sighs, her long hair flicking out towards me as she looks back at the car. I didn't realise we'd been walking for so long, but we're over a hundred metres away from the road now. Nothing but dry, yellow fields and the cloudless blue sky stretching out in every direction.
"You know, I was really hoping I was wrong. This has been such a nice vacation." She reaches around to her back and pulls something out of her waistband. Something small and silver and black. It fits in her hand perfectly, and with the comfortable way she wraps her finger around the trigger, I know it's not her first time holding in.
"What the hell it that, Tara?" I shout.
It's a gun, an actual holy-to-hell gun.
"No sudden movements. This doesn’t have to be hard, truthseeker." She has the gun aimed right at my head.
I stumble backwards, almost falling over the grass. I look at Tara, but all I can see is the muzzle of the gun.
"What is this, Tara?" I can barely say the words, my entire body shaking.
"For what it's worth," she replies, deadly calm. "I'm sorry to do this. You seem nice. But the money for your head is nicer."
She steps forwards, until I can feel the cool metal pressing against my forehead.
I'm frozen in place, my body trembling. Cold sweat drenches my body, blocking out any warmth from the sun.
"You won't kill me," I say, my voice shaking. Bile fills my mouth. "You can't. I'm your best friend."
Lie, lie, lie. I don't see any trace of my friend in her eyes now, no hint of her grin on her lips.
"You won't kill me," I repeat.