Tracey and her son stand by the parked car, assessing the damage. She kneels down, running her hand over the wheel arch.
“He’s not going to like this,” she says. “We’d better go inside.”
They head into the kitchen, and take a seat at the table.
“Charlie,” she says, “what the hell were you thinking?”
“I was just gonna go for a drive.”
“A drive? You don’t even have a licence!”
“I know, but I’m taking lessons.”
“You’ve only had five, son. You’re still learning. Where were you going to drive to?”
“I dunno,” he says, shrugging his shoulders. “Just over the tradey.”
“The trading estate? Who with?”
“No one. Just me.”
“Why the trading estate?”
“The roads are quiet,” he says. “Not much traffic about.”
“You haven’t taken your dad’s car up there before, have you?”
“No, I haven’t,” he says, shaking his head. “I’ve been up there on my lessons.”
“And what happened, exactly?” she asks. “You just hit the fence post when you reversed?”
He nods his head.
“So you didn’t even go anywhere?”
“You didn’t even get off the drive?”
“No. I didn’t.”
“Oh, give me a break, mum. I didn’t mean to crash it, you know.”
“I know that, son. But what happens if you hit something?” she asks. “Or someone.”
He doesn’t answer.
“Charlie. You’re only eighteen. Don’t screw your life up by doing something stupid.”
He sighs and buries his face in his hands.
Tracey leans forward, placing her hand on his knee. “It’s all right, son. Just promise me you’ll never take the car again.”
“OK.” He rubs his eyes. “I promise.”
Tracey leans back in her chair and lets out a sigh. “I don’t want to be too hard on you, son. But it’s a dangerous thing to do. Not to mention illegal.”
“I know. I’m sorry. I won’t do it again.”
“Right, then – what are we going to tell your dad?”
“He’s gonna go mad.”
“I should think he will.”
“I’ll be grounded. And what if he stops my lessons?”
“Well, I don’t know what he’ll do. He’s not going to be happy, that’s for sure.”
“And he said he’d help me buy a car, once I’ve passed my test. But he won’t now, will he?”
“I don’t know, son. But…”
“I might have an idea. Why don’t you make us both a coffee while I have a think about it?”
He returns a few minutes later, and places her cup in front of her.
“Well?” he asks.
“I did it.”
“We’ll tell your dad that I dented the car.”
His face lights up. “Yes! Brilliant!”
“I thought you might like that.”
“But why, mum? Why say you did it?”
“The lesser of two evils.”
“What does that mean?”
“Your dad won’t be happy, and I can’t say I’d blame him,” she explained. “And you don’t want to be grounded, right?”
“And you want him to help you buy a car when you pass your test?”
“Yeah, of course.”
“So, I’ll tell him I did it.”
“But, then he’s gonna be mad at you.”
“Yes, for a little while. And he’ll probably say something stupid about women drivers. But that’ll be it.” She takes a sip of her coffee. “If you tell him you did it, the atmosphere round here will be awful. It’s better my way.”
“Yeah, mum, that’s brilliant!” He gives her a hug.
She laughs. “OK, OK. Take it easy, Evel Knievel.”
“Never mind. Take a seat.”
He sits down again.
“You’re not getting off that easy.”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, you’ll be doing chores for the next month.”
“Whatever I tell you needs doing.”
He shrugs. “OK. When will you tell him?”
“Not tonight, not after he’s had a drink. I’ll tell him in the morning.”
“But he’ll see it when he comes back from the pub.”
She shakes her head. “No, no way. He’ll pass this side of the car when he comes home.”
“Yeah, you’re right. And it’ll be dark.”
“Don’t worry, he won’t see it tonight. And I’ll tell him that I did it in the morning.”
“Right, then - let’s get our story straight.”
At 11.00 p.m. Charlie sits at his computer, chatting to a friend on Facebook. He hears a car pull up outside his house, and rushes to his window.
He sees his father climb out of a taxi and walk by on the near side of the family car, oblivious to the dent on the other side. He hears a key scratching at the front door, then it opens and closes. Five minutes later he hears his dad snoring downstairs in the front room.
He breathes a sigh of relief, and thinks that this might just work out after all. He closes the chat with his friend, turns out the light and climbs into bed.
He thinks about having to do the boring housework. And he thinks about taking more lessons, passing his test and having his own car. Then he drifts off to sleep.
Morning comes and Charlie lies awake in his bed, listening to muffled voices from downstairs. He can make out a few words, and figures that his mother is telling his father about the dent.
He hears the front door open, then the sound of gravel crunching on the driveway. He climbs out of bed, and peers through a gap in the curtains.
His father is crouched down by the rear wheel of the car, running his hand over the dent and slowly shaking his head. His mother then comes outside, standing by the bonnet with her arms folded. Seeing his father start to talk, Charlie opens the window slightly to listen.
“I told you, Steve,” Tracey says, “I was just going to pick up some Chinese for me and Charlie.”
“You don’t even like bloody Chinese!”
“I do sometimes. And Charlie fancied some.”
“How many times have you reversed out of this drive?” Steve asks.
“Hundreds. Thousands. I don’t know.”
“And one day the fence post just jumps out at you?”
“I’ve said sorry. It was an accident. What more do you want?”
He shakes his head and kicks the car tyre. “You’re calling the insurance company. I’m not.” He heads back inside.
Charlie closes the window and sits on his bed. His father looks annoyed, but he seems to have bought the story. He smiles, thinking that he’ll still get his car after all.
He figures he’ll give them some time to finish their conversation, and give his mother chance to call the insurance company.
He brushes his teeth and gets dressed, thinking that things have turned out well so far; but he wonders what torture his mother has in store for him.
Steve sits on the garden bench, taking in the afternoon sun. He smokes a cigarette, and watches his son take a garbage bag out to the wheelie bin.
Charlie then fills up a watering can, and starts to sprinkle the plants around the border of the lawn.
Steve finishes his cigarette and joins his son.
“Bloody hell, that’s a first!” he says.
“Seeing you working!”
“Ha-ha, Dad,” says Charlie. “Very funny.”
“I’m only kidding, son. How come you’re being so productive, anyway?”
“Mum just asked me to do some jobs.”
“Yeah, but why are you actually doing them? You normally find some excuse.”
“I dunno. Maybe she’ll give me some pocket money.”
“Ha-ha! I knew there must be a reason. Have you seen the dent in the car?”
“Yeah, mum showed me last night.”
Charlie uses the last of the water, then takes the empty can into the garage and emerges with the lawnmower.
“Oh, don’t tell me you’re going to cut the grass too!” Steve rubs his eyes theatrically. “I think my vision is getting blurry!”
Charlie shakes his head and plugs in the power lead.
“How come you two were having takeaway?”
“Erm…I don’t think there was anything in for dinner.”
“And why didn’t she just have it delivered?”
“I dunno, Dad.”
“Bloody women. They don’t like to do anything the simple way.” He puts his arm around Charlie’s shoulder and says, “Between you and me, son - women shouldn’t be allowed on the roads!”
“I dunno, Dad. But I have to get on with this. Mum says I have to clean the bathroom after doing the garden.”
“Well, don’t let me get in your way, Mister Working Man!”
Steve watches his son mowing the lawn, and reflects on how quickly he is growing up; he remembers when Charlie used to hate doing household chores.
I am English. I worked in casinos for 20 years, 15 of those years spent working on various cruise ships. I enjoy reading and writing.
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