Monday Snippet – It Won’t Happen Again

CHAPTER NINETEEN

LAURA

‘I’m going back to college.’ Laura passed over a college prospectus to Martin. ‘But I wanted to tell you first.’

‘So, what course did you want to do?’

‘Business.’

‘Okay, that wasn’t quite what I expected.’

‘Just something another visitor mentioned.’

‘Brilliant.’

Martin looked at the prospectus and back to Laura, whose chest was puffed out like a parrot.

‘To be honest it terrifies me, but even if I fail, at least I’ll have tried my best.’

‘It would terrify me as well – I have someone to do my accounts, I wouldn’t know the first place to start.’

‘Even with a bit of knowledge behind me, I could help Elizabeth with her finances, the books are confusing to both of us. Elizabeth said looking over her books was like fighting an imaginary monster with endless pockets.’

‘Anything to do with VAT and it breathes fire too.’

Laura couldn’t help but agree with that statement. They had sat together with the tax return, and neither could figure out one number from the other. It was complicated. Martin offered his help, but she needed something to give her focus. Visits to the prison were bitter and sweet.

On her mum’s assertion, it was established that Tabitha wouldn’t join her when they had their weekly visit. Not because she didn’t want to see her, but she didn’t want Tabitha to think badly of her. Laura insisted that wasn’t the case. Her mum wouldn’t change her mind.

She selected a book off the table and handed it to Martin. ‘I’ve also had another idea – I’ve been mulling it over for a while now. There’s a book shop, next to Elizabeth’s bakery. The woman running it is retiring next year. She’s going to see her son in Australia and will be enjoying all that sun, sea, and surfers. She’s willing to sell it to me at a fraction of its worth.  I wouldn’t even have to buy the books, as it comes as a job lot.’

‘Who are you and where is my wife?’ Martin asked, laughed, and nearly choked on his coffee.

‘She’s been in hiding, but no more.’

‘It’s about time, but what gave you the idea?’

‘I love reading, and there isn’t anywhere you can get decent books these days, apart from the library. It’s also a great place just to stand and chat, I spent an hour the other day talking to the elderly owner, Betty. She has had so many experiences in her life. She’s eighty. Still not done living and I concluded, neither should I.’

‘You’ve really thought this through,’ Martin said.

Laura smiled, and handed Martin a letter.

‘Laura Masters, have you been playing me all this time?’

‘Sorry, I didn’t want to tell you, unless it was going to happen.’

‘No need to be sorry, it’s what you want to do.’

‘It is, and this will help me be a better role model for Tabitha.’

‘How are you not now?’

‘I’m not saying I’m a bad mother, but I’ve learnt something in the last couple of years. Mum is busier than she’s ever been, Elizabeth too. I thought it was about time I started thinking a little about myself.’

‘About time too,’ Martin said,

‘I’m looking forward to this, all of it. The course, the book shop, everything!’ A scouring pad couldn’t wipe the grin off her face, as she brought Martin in for a kiss.

‘I’m so bloody proud of you right now.’

‘And you should be, I’ll be a millionaire within a year,’ Laura said.

Tabitha ran into the room. In her hands were Buddy, Tufty, and a selection of Barbie dolls. At the sight of her parents laughing, she stopped mid dance. ‘Mummy, what’s so funny?’

‘We’ll all be millionaires soon; Mummy is opening a book shop,’ Martin said.

Tabitha put her cuddly toys on the table, and a light shone from her eyes. ‘Ooh, Mummy can you buy that dolly I saw in the toy shop the other day?’

‘I’ll buy you whatever dolly you want, and some clothes she can wear too.’

‘I want the Doctor Barbie doll, with blond hair, she has a stethoscope and real patients,’    Tabitha said.

‘Do you want to be a doctor when you grow up?’ Laura asked.

‘I want to be a surgeon,’ Tabitha said.

The stars, that’s what Tabitha always aimed for. It was time she did too. The college course, buying the shop – it was like her life gained new meaning in one throw of the dice.

‘We may even ask Santa if he can get you the dolly for this year,’ Laura said.

Tabitha sat next to her mum. ‘Mummy, I think you should write a letter to Santa as well.’

‘What do you think Mummy should ask Santa for?’ Martin asked.

‘I don’t know, what do you want Mummy?’ Tabitha asked.

Laura thought she had everything she could ever want, but that was the idea with dreams, there was no stopping them.

‘A second-hand car and driving lessons to go with it,’ Laura said.

‘Well, you’re full of surprises today,’ Martin said.

‘I’ve always wanted to learn, but the cost always put me off.’

‘Then there’s no time like the present,’ Martin said, and pushed her mobile across the table.

Laura stared at the letter, accepting her on the business course. Her thoughts travelled to the little book shop, with the dusty books in the window. If she saved enough money, she could buy a van and use it, as a sort of mobile library. She could even go to car boots in search of used books to keep adding to her stock.

 The smell of old books were always better, because they carried with them the aspirations of the reader. Also, there was so much more she could do to the shop. It lacked a children’s corner, and with a couple of tables and chairs outside, it would allow more customers for Elizabeth’s bakery.

Tea, cakes, and books made the world go around.

In some ways there were a lot of balls to juggle in one go. Dropping one was a possibility, but at least a couple would be able to stay up in the air.

Elizabeth opened her bakery. Her mum ready for her appeal. Even Tabitha didn’t stop for breath. She couldn’t let the sisterhood down, but more importantly she didn’t want to let herself down.

‘Okay, I will, Tabitha, Mummy is going to learn to drive.’

‘Yay, we can go to Beale Park again, and I can take my dollies with me.’

Tabitha grabbed her toys from the table.

‘Where are you going?’ Martin asked.

‘To see what I need to pack to go to the mini seaside.’

‘It may be a little while before I learn,’ Laura said.

By the time she finished the sentence, Tabitha had rushed out of the room.

Laura’s pride widened, as she scrolled through Google – There were quite a few local driving instructors. The price made Laura gasp. Thirty pounds per lesson was the normal amount they charged, but there was a discount for ordering ten lessons in one go.

‘You okay?’

‘I didn’t realise it was so expensive.’

‘Things that are worth it normally are,’ Martin said.

Her hand hovered over the keys like a helicopter on standby. She was about to close it down when Tabitha ran back in the room, in a pair of oversized wellington boots and, gripped in her hands was a yellow bucket, with a red spade inside.

‘No, it’s worth it.’

She dialled the number on her mobile. Within seconds it was answered. A thumbs up at Tabitha and she said, ‘hello, I would like to book a group of ten lessons, it’s cheaper than one lesson, my name? My name is Laura Masters.’

‘You in charge of a car, we will have to warn pedestrians to get out of the road while you are taking your lessons,’ Martin said.

‘Cheeky bugger,’ Laura said, and punched him playfully on the arm.

 A few months later and Martin waved her off, for a driving test. He told her not to worry. Just think of the examiner naked and that would stop the nerves. Laura wasn’t sure she could do that, but it brought a smile to her face, nonetheless. Now a middle-aged man, with a slight beer belly, sat there next to her, holding a clipboard. All through the test, she couldn’t look at him, for fear it was going to come true.

‘Mrs Masters, I am pleased to let you know that you’ve passed.’

‘Are you sure?’

The examiner’s lips were pursed.  ‘I could change my mind if you want me too.’

Ten minutes later and she was on her own.

She removed the learner plate from the car, replaced it with another, newly licensed plate. Her mobile retrieved from her handbag; Laura rang Martin.

‘Martin, I’m so sorry to tell you.’

Laura tried to keep her voice serious, but excitement flushed at the back of her throat.

‘That’s alright love, I didn’t pass first time either.’

‘I passed. I passed. I passed my driving test!’

‘That’s brilliant news!’ Martin said, and his screams could be heard in the street. ‘Well done!’

‘I sent my driving instructor home in his car, I thought I would drive to the prison on my own, but I’ve changed my mind. It feels wrong not having someone else in the car.’

‘If you want me to come over I will, but you’ll be fine. We’re all a little nervous when we drive alone for the first time. You’ve passed and are a good driver.’

Laura smiled, and looked to her watch. She hadn’t told her mum about the driving lessons, or the test, but she was due a visit in half an hours’ time. She would feel more confident with Martin sitting in the passenger seat, but it would mean less time spent with her mum. 

‘Do you want me to come over?’ Martin asked.

‘No, as you say I’ll be fine.’

‘Ring me once you’ve seen your mum and we’ll go out for a meal to celebrate,’ Martin said.

Laura got into the driver’s seat. Her hands wrapped around the steering wheel like a child in their mother’s safe hands. With a deep breath in, she started the car. It didn’t exactly purr, but that didn’t matter, it would get her to where she wanted to go.  

Parked in the prison carpark, Laura allowed the good news to settle. Her first journey alone hadn’t gone too bad. There was a sense of freedom. It was the road, and her in tune with each other. There may have been the occasional wrong note, but she managed to get to the prison in one piece.

 Laura strode over to her mum, her car keys tucked inside her jeans pocket.

‘How’s my little granddaughter?’ Martha asked.

‘Tabitha is fine, she said to say hi, and she would see you very soon.’

‘How are you?’

 Laura couldn’t stop smiling.

‘Is there something you aren’t telling me?’ Her mum asked. ‘You look like you’ve won the lottery.’

No amount of money could surpass this. Laura sensed a pride that nobody could take away. She had even managed to stay off the anti-depressants for a couple of months. It was taken slowly at first, but with the help of a psychiatrist, there was no need to take them anymore. ‘I didn’t tell you before, but I’ve been taking driving lessons and had my test today.’

‘You passed, didn’t you?’

‘I’m now officially allowed on the road in a car. I even drove here on my own to see you.’

   ‘I’m so proud of you, but why didn’t you tell me you were taking lessons.’

‘You would have worried I was taking on too much. You were concerned about the homework on the business course.’

‘Only because you were looking tired. I didn’t doubt you for a minute.’

Her mum leant over, to the elderly lady at the back of the room. ‘My daughter passed her driving test, how brilliant is that?’

The prison officers even offered their congratulations. Laura leant back against the chair, overwhelmed with all the compliments.

‘You still doing art therapy?’

‘I’m really enjoying the art classes. My tutor even asked me to give some lessons of my own. She said I had potential to get a job teaching art when I get out of here.’

‘Look at us, a couple of career women,’ Laura said.

‘Who would’ve thought it?’ Her mum rested her hand on her chin.

‘We should have done it sooner, but that’s old news.’

‘It certainly is, and Laura, is there something else you need to tell me?’

‘Like what?’ Laura said, but she knew exactly what her mum was talking about.

‘Like the extra glow in your cheeks.’

Only two people were aware of the good news. Martin and Tabitha. When they told their daughter she was about to be a big sister, they thought she might be a little put out. All the baby books said there would be jealousy, but as usual it was another thing to be happy about. ‘I wanted to wait until I had my scan, but yes Mum, you’re right, I’m pregnant again.’

‘Congratulations.’

‘I was a little nervous, I must admit. I’ve made plans, but having a baby isn’t going to stop them.’

‘No it shouldn’t, your idea of buying that little bookshop is an amazing one.’

‘You would love the owner Mum, she’s so full of fun.’

‘Hopefully, I will meet her soon if my appeal goes to plan.’

‘Tabitha talks of nothing else – she can’t wait until you see her.’

‘Tell her we’ll go to the river and feed the swans some bread.’

Laura recollected the days spent at Windsor when it was just the two of them. No neighbours or friends. A bag of stale bread in their hands, and if she were lucky an ice-cream. They could all do that together now, and not worry if anyone saw them do it.

Published by writerravenclaw

I am a fifty something mother of two grown up children, and one beautiful grandchild. I have been married for nearly thirty-four years. My first book was published ten years ago. I wrote my book Sticks and Stones because of my experience of being bullied at school.

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