Was that really how he’d been or had she just been too smitten to notice any undertones? If he’d come across initially as he had been at the end, how come she hadn’t noticed? She couldn’t believe that she’d been that stupid, that blind.
The other possibility was the one she decided to believe now – the one that Stacy had spoken of – that Craig’s nature had always been controlling. He’d just made sure that he’d hidden it – kept it under control initially. Bit by bit his true character had revealed itself in so many ways – always correcting her; always demanding her full attention; always wanting the last word; never admitting he was wrong. She now remembered how irritated she’d been at how he’d tried to undermine her self-belief and his attempts to gaslight her. She was so glad that she’d got out of the relationship while she still had some self- confidence, some dignity. She owed Stacy a drink – or several.
In the meantime, she was looking forward to her first driving lesson that evening. She was worried that she was beginning the lessons much later in life than many of her friends had done. She hoped that she wouldn’t make a fool of herself.
A driving lesson
The instructor arrived a couple of minutes early. The car that she’d be learning in was a red Ford Fiesta bearing the previous year’s registration plates. Mel was disappointed to see that the weather had changed and it was raining. She was worried about how much more difficult the rain would make it to learn.
Her instructor – he introduced himself as Geoff Burrell – was, by her estimate, in his early forties, five-foot five or six, rotund and quite bald. His hair was plastered down at the sides and longest over his ears. He wore a blazer with a badge, white open-necked shirt, mid-grey trousers and black shoes. He was quite tidy in his appearance though and created the sort of image that she’d expected.
She asked Geoff about driving in the rain and he told her not to worry – a lot of her first lesson would be familiarising herself with the vehicle and its controls. He checked Mel’s details with those she’d provided when she booked and checked her provisional licence.
Once the preliminaries were over, he began by showing her how to get herself into a comfortable driving position. He talked her through the mirrors, basic controls and dials before talking her through how to move off safely into traffic – although there was none about in that road at that moment. Soon, she was getting the hang of the pedals, brakes, clutch and gears as they drove at a leisurely pace around the town. Before she left the car at the end of the lesson, he asked if she’d bought herself a copy of the Highway Code and suggested that she should also buy a copy of the theory test questions. She felt that she’d made a good start and looked forward to her next lesson.
The two friends met as usual in the Farmers’ Arms pub. After the usual greetings, Mel launched into her account of her first experience of driving. Stacy asked who her instructor was, and curled her lips when she was told. Mel asked why Stacy was pulling a face,
‘What did you think about him, Mel?’ Stacy asked, ‘How did he come across to you as a person?’
‘He seemed okay to me. Why?’
‘Perhaps nothing,’ Stacy said, ‘It’s just that he has a bit of a reputation – too touchy-feely from what I’ve heard. But you say that he was okay with you?’
Mell assured her that she’d noticed nothing amiss.
Stacy then asked how Mel was coping without Craig. Mel told her about the conversation with Craig’s mum, and how it had evoked lots of self-recriminations about how she’d failed to notice or accept his behaviour for what it was.
Stacy assured her that she had nothing to blame herself for.
‘It happens so often,’ she said, ‘and most women victims – it’s usually women victims – fail to see the warning signs. It’s almost as if blokes attend classes in how to manipulate women. There are still some good men out there – but most of them don’t call out other men, even when it’s happening in front of them.’
‘I know that it’s a kind of ‘herd’ thing – group dynamics,’ Stacy said, ‘the weakest are afraid to be seen as wimps, so they cheer-on the ones who are doing things like calling women names as they pass. The ones who should know better don’t like being the odd one out – so they say nothing.’
‘But they’re as bad then, aren’t they?’ Mel asked.
‘That kind of social conditioning doesn’t get educated out of the system overnight, Mel love,’ Stacy said, ‘We just have to keep making a fuss, keep it in the headlines. It’s just like systemic racism – and just as evil.’
‘Change of subject,’ Stacy said, ‘What do you think of those two over there – the bloke with the polo shirt? He’s got a nice arse, hasn’t he? I don’t fancy yours much though.’
They laughed conspiratorially.
A change of scene today. While we’re still in bluebells season, I thought that I’d include a few shots that I took in my local park on 28 April. Today’s photo shows some more bluebells.
I used my Pentax KP 24 MM cropped sensor camera with a Pentax 28-105 mm f/3.5 to 5.6 lens. The EXIF data were shutter speed was 1/15 seconds at f/7.1 and 68 mm. The shot was handheld. I post-processed the shot in Lightroom.