Eva took the car keys from her dad with a shaking hand, causing them to jingle a little. Anxiety felt like a stone in her stomach at the same time as her chest fluttered with excitement.
“Are you ready?” Dad asked.
She almost said she wasn’t sure, but she’d been looking forward to this for a long time. No sense in putting it off. So she nodded.
They took their seats in Dad’s car, Eva behind the steering wheel and Dad riding shotgun. Eva slipped the key into the ignition and turned it. The engine awoke, and Eva gripped the wheel hard. The car seemed much bigger when she was the one sitting in the driver’s seat.
This was for real.
“We’re going to go in a loop and end up back here,” Dad said. Eva listened carefully to the instructions Dad gave her about where to leave the neighborhood, the signs to look for, and which direction to go. He mentioned that she would know she had reached the halfway point of their little trip when they passed Stampede Steakhouse with its big wooden bull out front. Then he talked her through backing out of the driveway, and they were off.
The instructions became a bit muddled in Eva’s mind as she worried about handling the car safely, and Dad gave her some gentle reminders. Soon they came to one of the roads leading out of the neighborhood, and Eva was pretty sure this was the one. She looked questioningly at Dad, and he glanced back, then pointed at the street sign. She remembered his mentioning this road’s name in his instructions, so she signaled, stepped on the brake a bit, turned the wheel, and moved her foot to the accelerator.
“One thing to remember,” Dad said. “Glance around you, including in your mirrors, but for the most part, keep looking ahead at the road. Don’t let anything off to the side catch your attention, no matter how interesting. You will be guaranteed to drift off course and end up in the gutter.” Eva nodded.
The drive seemed to go well for a while after that. Occasionally, Eva looked at Dad again, and he smiled but said nothing about the quality of her driving or the direction they were going. She stopped when she came to red lights and tried not to brake too hard or speed up too fast. Dad talked about some other things, like what was going on in local news that she hadn’t heard or about some of the cars he had owned. Eva didn’t catch some of it. At other times, Dad didn’t say much at all.
Eva became a little uncomfortable though and said, “Dad?”
“Am I doing okay?”
“Yes, honey, you’re doing great. Keep it up.”
A few minutes after that, Dad suddenly leaned forward, gazed ahead for a moment, and pointed left. “Turn there,” he said.
Eva hesitated for half a moment, but that was all it took for her to notice some flashing red and blue lights ahead, and then brake lights brightening. So Eva obeyed, signaling and moving over into the median, and then turned onto a side road. Dad directed her through a couple more turns, and then they were back onto the main road with the police lights behind them.
They reached the steakhouse without further incident, but that meant it was time to head home—but not exactly the way they came. Dad gave Eva additional instructions. She turned onto a two-lane highway that circled the northwest outskirts and connected to the four-lane highway that led into town.
Over the next several minutes, traffic became heavier, and they found themselves moving slowly. More than once, they had to stop altogether and wait. “What’s going on?” Eva asked, getting nervous. “We’re going to be late for dinner.” Dad didn’t say anything; he just sat there, placidly looking out the window. “Doesn’t this bother you?” Eva added, trying to verbally poke at him a bit to get a response.
He just smiled and shook his head.
Eva’s eyes narrowed. “You knew this was going to happen, didn’t you? That we were going to run into this?”
Dad looked at her and said, “Yep.”
“We could have gone back the way we came, though! It would have been faster! Not to mention easier.”
“That’s not part of this lesson,” Dad replied.
Eva just gritted her teeth. There was no arguing with him when he was like this.
Eventually, when Eva’s patience was about at its limit and she was ready to get out of the car and start walking, the traffic eased up. She accelerated, and as she neared the house and thought about the home-cooked meal waiting, she allowed herself a small smile.
Dad noticed. “See? It wasn’t so bad. And just remember that I spent just as much time in this car plodding through it as you did. It’s worse if you have to sit through that alone. But that’s usually when I turn on the radio.” He chuckled.
Soon enough, Eva pulled into the driveway, shifted into park, set the brake, and turned off the ignition—everything she had been taught to do at the end of the drive. As she opened the door, she thrust the keys at Dad. “I never thought I’d be so glad to be home. And walking,” she said.
He took the keys, and they got out. “I know it wasn’t easy, and I didn’t make it easier on you sometimes. But the things you learned will carry you through the rest of your life.”
“It definitely wasn’t easy,” Eva replied. “And I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Of course,” he said with another chuckle. “I am the one with the driver’s license, after all.”
Photo by Jackson David on Pexels.com
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