Not my image, this one, but a photo prompt for writing from “Creative Writing Ink” website, which requires the use of a blog page for submission.

Photo by William Felker on Unsplash

 They never learn

For the mother, this day hadn’t gone according to plan.  It was supposed to be a milestone in the single parent calendar, a first family outing.  

She blamed the boy.  Once he had been roused from his lie-in, then peeled away from his games machine, and shoehorned into the car, they were late setting off.  At 12, and an immature version of a 12 year old at that, she knew it wasn’t advisable to leave him home alone, but thanks to him, the girl and the baby were almost past their hunger by the time they had arrived at the beach and got the picnic underway.  After moaning about the sandwich fillings, the boy refused his drink, and just lay on a towel, in silence.

Now, on the homeward journey, he snatched the girl’s soft toy, enjoying the reaction, which woke the baby.  The mother tried to ignore the cacophony of crying and squabbling which ensued, The mist was beginning to close in, and she wanted to press on towards the reward of a glass of red and a comfortable sofa.  Eventually, the girl and the baby settled down into a light slumber, but the boy grumbled on and on; she had ruined his plans to stay in for the day; his virtual buddies would be thinking he had given up on the game; he would rather be doing his homework than having to be on the beach with little kids. 

Then he said it, the step too far: “Dad wouldn’t take me on such a boring day out.”

The mother slowed down and stopped, released the child lock, and shouted, “Get out of the car”.  He looked stunned for a moment, then pulled on the handle and sauntered across to the verge.  She drove on up the road, then parked just within the limit of visibility against the mist.  She would keep him in sight with the rear view mirror.  Either he would slowly trudge up to the car, or she would go back in five minutes when they had both calmed down.  

It suddenly struck her that it wasn’t the first time she had said those words.  On the other occasions, when she had brought the car to a standstill, it was the father she had told to get out. He really shouldn’t have criticised her position on the road during the driving lesson.  Then, when she had her licence and got cross at another driver beeping at her for not giving way, he should have been sympathetic. On the first occasion, he hadn’t gone far of course, because she couldn’t drive on without him, so he simply walked round the front and edged her out of the driving seat.  At least it had quietened things down then, to a silence. The next time, she had stopped by the verge and the father had been left to walk down a country lane with no path until he could find somewhere to call a taxi.  Again, from her point of view it had successfully defused her anger, but the next taxi he called after that was to whisk him away from the house, to a future away from her.

To the boy, five minutes, unless spent with a joystick or screen, seemed like an eternity.  He shuffled about on the roadside, still seething, and wishing to go in any direction that didn’t lead to home.  Perhaps the father’s new lady wouldn’t scream at him if he turned up.  Making his decision, he crossed to the opposite side, and stretched out his hand.

The mother watched with horror as a car appeared out of the mist, slowed down as it passed her, and ground to a halt.  She re-started the ignition, and did a panic multi-point turn on the narrow road, the tyres screeching as they encroached onto both verges.  Even as she turned, she knew it was too late.  It takes hardly any time at all to open a door and say “Hop in”.  All she could see now was an empty road.  Even then, she could already forsee in her mind’s eye the newspaper reports, the press conference, the unrelenting eyes of the stranger in the dock as he was led away, and the custody hearing for the girl and the baby.  The boy should have known not to moan at her.  Now he would never learn.

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