On the bus to Dad and stepmum’s after work. Fidgeting, as I was about to drive their car alone for the first time, without an instructor’s feet hovering above a second set of pedals beside me.
Yet another stop. I wouldn’t miss these fifty minute stop-start journeys.Finally I arrived at my destination, and the bus hissed off. Crunch on gravel. Knock at door. I always forgot my spare set of keys. Again I wondered if I was up to the task of looking after a car and yet more keys.
Anita opened the door. “Hello love.”
“Is that Karen?” I heard Dad ask from his armchair.
“Hello Dad,” I said.
“Looking forward to driving?”
I shrugged. I wouldn’t say it was the best term for what I felt. I peered through smoke-stained net curtains at the red Ford Fiesta parked outside. I’d been kindly insured me on it. Actually, they’d done that without me asking. I expected I’d be chauffeuring often in the upcoming weeks.
It was getting darker out.
Dad was unusually chatty. He normally saved his breath for arguing with newsreaders or asking Anita for more biscuits. But I was actually being asked about jobs and boyfriends. While honoured to partake in some paternal bonding, I was also keen on returning before nightfall. Driving alone for the first time was nerve-wracking enough, but add darkness to that and you’ve a recipe for a panic attack.
“Have you performed all the checks on the car?”
I sighed. “No, I’ll go and do those now.”
I was poking about under the hood, then realised I was being watched from the front door. Dad leaning on his stick, Anita peering over his shoulder. My brow began to shine. Would the whole street like to come and watch?
“Better get going.” I slung my bag onto the passenger seat. “Getting rather dark now.”
“Have you remembered to check the oil?”
“Have you closed the bonnet properly?”
“YES.” I took my phone out to have a peep at the time.
“Oh, would you come back inside for a minute, there’s been some post for you.”
Quietly fuming, I collected it. Finally, I was off, and with the quickest wave hands that didn’t want to leave the wheel would allow I drove off. In darkness.
I followed the road I knew best, the most brightly lit. I followed the bus route.