Entering the sliding doors of the motor registry, I sigh inwardly as I take in the miserable faces before me. I am there to renew my license, a simple task, but looking at the queue before me, I can see this is going to chew well into my lunch hour. Serves me right for leaving this menial task for a Friday afternoon.
Taking my number from the machine, I take the only vacant seat available, and smile at the elderly lady next to me. I am instantly taken by how well dressed she is. A white blouse buttoned up to her neck, a lemon pencil skirt, matching lemon clutch and shiny kitten heels. Her grey hair is wrapped behind her head in an immaculate bun. Her face free from make up, except for red lipstick that makes her porcelain skin glow. She is glowing. Whatever her secret is, she should bottle it and sell it. She’d make a fortune. I notice her left leg is shaking and her hands squeeze the handle of her clutch repeatedly, the colour changing from red to white like a strobe light as she squeezes and releases her grip. She looks over at me and beams, “It’s a big day for me, today is.” I’m instantly smitten. As a kid, did you ever imagine your perfect grandma, like the ones in the movies? She’d bake pies, make you clothes and mend your scrapes? Well, this is what she’d sound like. She sounded like home.
“Why is today a big day..sorry, I didn’t catch your name?” I reply.
“Well, that’s because I never said it,” she chuckles, “Beatrice, my name is Beatrice and hopefully, today is the day I finally get my drivers license. I am eighty years old. I’ve never had one before.” She looks over to the ticket number display, and seeing it’s not her turn yet, continues, “Growing up, it was a different world for women, not like today. For as long as I could remember, all I wanted to do was drive a car. I can’t really explain it, just that it looked so freeing, and that’s all I ever wanted to be. But no, my mother was adamant that a women’s place was in the home, and not behind a wheel. My father agreed, so I never asked again. When I married, my husband was of the same opinion — ‘What? A woman driver? How absurd! Women can’t drive!’ — he’d scoff whenever I’d bring it up, so I just stopped asking. I had to rely on him to drive me wherever I needed to go. He was in control of where I went and when I went there. And that was just the way he liked it. I never had any input into the family cars we owned either — it was always his decision. Never mind we had a young family to transport around, as long as the car looked good and sounded even better, it didn’t matter how impractical it was. Once the children left home, I started studying driving manuals down the local library. Then, I started putting away a little of my allowance each week to save up for a car of my own, not a lot, but just enough to start building on. I figured it may never happen, but at least I could try. By the time my husband died, I had more than enough for what I wanted,” She leans in and whispers, “I put a deposit on a mini earlier this week, and if I pass today, I’ll buy her outright.”
“ A mini?” I raise my eyebrows in surprise.
“It’s lemon, with all the extras,” she motions to her outfit, winking, “I’ve even given her a name — Lola.”
Before I can respond, Beatrice’s number flashes up and she grabs my hand in a silent prayer, before heading to the counter. I strain over the sea of heads, watching, trying to see if her face gives anything away, but it does not. Glancing at the clock on the wall, I can see my lunch hour is well and truly over, and I’m going to have to call the office and tell them I’m going to be late. A few minutes later, I hang up the phone, and look back to the counter to see Beatrice gone. Scanning the room, I can’t find her anywhere. My heart sinks. I only looked away for a few minutes. Where did she go? Did she pass? Did she fail? Has she left already? I needed to know how her story ends. I’m about to go to the counter to enquire after her, when she suddenly appears out of nowhere, walking toward me. Coming to a stop before me, I look up at her hopeful, “Well?”
Saying nothing, she pulls a piece of paper out from behind her back. Her learners permit. I scream in excitement, all eyes of the waiting room suddenly on us, and jump up, pulling her in for an outfit creasing hug. She squeezes me back, whispering a thank you, before pulling away, straightening herself out. She turns to the waiting room, who is still watching us curiously, and announces proudly, “If you’ll excuse me, I have a young lass called Lola, who complements my outfit beautifully, waiting for me to pick her up and take her home.”
All rights reserved — Belinda B