A Short Story: The Drive

Whenever they took a trip out of town, Joan always insisted on driving. Once, she got lost with a group of friends as they backpacked in Australia. Joan, single handily with a map, led the way. She could not remember the last time she had lost her way. For this reason, her friends relied on her as their human map. This did not bother Joan, for she liked to feel useful and it was nice to know that she had a purpose in her friendship group. Her husband, whom she loved dearly, was the only one that demanded on driving and finding directions whenever they went out. Chris would offer to find the way, if they were going somewhere new. But it always ended the same way: Chris sweating nervously and his hands slightly shaking as they gripped wheel, for he had gotten them lost again. Joan would take over and they would arrive at their destination instantly. Planted at the front of her mind was the undeniable fact the he was not good at directions; in fact, all of his issues, which seemed small when they were not married, had magnified during their one year of marriage.

When the young couple had agreed to go on a weekend away with a group of close friends a few weeks ago, Chris jumped at the opportunity to lead the way. The drive was from North London to Nottingham. Before they had gotten into their Valkswagen at eight in the morning Joan asked Chris for the hundredth time if he was certain. With a slight tut and an exasperated smile Chris had said that he was sure. Joan’s husband couldn’t help but wish that his wife had more faith in him.

The weather forecast had promised beautiful sunshine, with a little possibility of rain. Yet, Joan looked doubtful outside the window of their car. British weather was as useless as Chris. Perhaps that was too harsh. Chris is…useful in his kind of way. Nonetheless, there was no way Chris could get the car there without some kind of mishap. He would probably get loss because of his terrible sense of direction. But, this was marriage, wasn’t it?  If, Joan thought, he could just let me drive I could be okay. At least, she pondered while watching Chris as he put his seat belt on, she had packed some snacks for the trip. Yes, she had control over one thing. All the doors in the house were certainly locked, or they might be, because Chris was in charge of that. Joan itched her forehead and winced slightly because had the headache that she could feel coming on. Too much thinking. Her mind would explode if she did not remember that marriage was an equal partnership. She took a deep breath and sat patiently.

‘I can’t wait for this weekend’, Chris said as they drove down the motor way. He smiled at Joan and bopped his head to the song playing on the radio.

Joan shuffled a little in her seat. ‘Same here. I wish you would concentrate. How can you with that music?’ She reached out her hand and turned it down.

‘Ah come on, Jo. It’s only a little music’. But Chris didn’t turn it up. He didn’t want to upset or irritate Joan, who wanted things a specific way.  She needed to relax, for after all it was going to be a brilliant day. He was in charge and they would get to their destination safe and sound.

‘I’ll leave it in the middle. Anyway, did you remember to switch the bedroom lights off’, Joan said, glancing at her husband. Jo knew that she was being picky, but she couldn’t help it. It was in her blood, the need to have everything in perfect order.

Chris sighed, but still laughed playfully as he said, ‘Of course Sergeant Joan. Everything is fine command.’

How did he do it today? Usually, she would be like a grumpy cloud. But, toady was different.  Chris had somehow managed to make the situation funny. Yes, that’s one of reason why he was worth marrying. Humour could heal any wound.

She tried to stop a giggle escaping from her lips by pretending that she had a cough, but Chris could see right through it. ‘What about the bathroom windows?’ she asked?

‘Absolutely closed. See, I told you I could handle everything.’

‘Yes, yes’, she said, nodding and then smiling brightly. Chris had done many silly things in past, and it occurred to Joan that she had held them against him. One time, he forgot to close the garden door and since Joan was away that weekend there was no one there to close it. A stray cat made itself comfortable in their home. But, then, he had so many wonderful qualities that really did surpass all of his flaws. There was that one time Joan locked herself out of the house. Chris drove all the way home from work to help her. Then, there was other time he chased after her ten pound note, which was blown away by the wind. Maybe they wouldn’t get lost today.

‘Thanks for sorting everything out in the house’, she said, completely relaxed as she tried to be grateful, something which she hadn’t done for a while. ‘You’re pretty confident today. I can’t believe we’re not lost for once’. Joan had an awakening sense of pride in her husband and a heavy feeling that came from knowing that she was wrong for judging him too quickly.

‘Um…?’ He was about to let her down again. His hands, which held the steering wheel tightly, began to shake.

Joan raised an eyebrow. ‘Yes?’ She knew what he was about to say.

‘We are only, just a tiny bit, lost.’

‘But, you’re using a stat-nav. How are we lost?’

‘I don’t know. I should have just let you drive.’

On any other day, Joan would have complained about his shocking sense of direction. But, today she found it amusing. To Chris’s surprise, she laughed loudly.

He looked at her with wide eyes and grinned with relief. ‘You’re not angry?’

‘Actually, I’m not. We can find our way. I’ll help you.’

Maybe Joan had finally reached that stage in her life where trivial things didn’t matter. Maybe she truly understood that her husband didn’t have to do everything in a perfect way. Or, perhaps she was just tired having a lack of perspective.

‘We’ll just call the others to tell them that we’ll be late. But, I’m driving next time.’

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