Driving Lessons

Cora liked to listen to the French radio station while she drove.  She was in Waterloo where her parents lived, practicing her parallel parking and three point turns for her final driving test.

The first time Cora had failed her driving test, she had gone into her bedroom and cried for half an hour, but the second time she had failed, she had had a party.  On the greyhound back to Toronto, she’d texted everyone in her phone and a third of them had been available to get drunk with her on a Tuesday evening.
French music blaring, Cora picked up her friend Natalie, and they drove through town toward the highway.
“I’ve tried every pizza topping at Pizza Pizza,” said Natalie.  “Tuna on pizza is surprisingly delicious.”
That summer, Cora had gone on a walk in Toronto, and Natalie had gone on a walk in Kitchener, and they’d talked on the phone the whole walk.
“I see the moon,” Cora had said.  “I’m looking at it across the lake.  It’s almost a full moon.”
“I see it, too,” Natalie had said.  “It’s over this farmer’s field, and oh my goodness, it’s really beautiful.”
Now they drove with the French music between them through the town Cora had grown up in.  It was winter, and Natalie kept saying things like, “That turn was a little wide,” or “You should probably start slowing a little sooner at the lights.”  When they got to the beer store, Cora backed into a parking space, and Natalie said it was perfect.
Later, they went back to Natalie’s house, and their friend Daniel was already there.  Cora drank water while Daniel and Natalie drank beer, and all three of them played cards.  Natalie put on music, and Cora kept saying, “Write down the name of this song for me.  What’s the name of this song?”
The next day, Cora found a note in her pocket which read:
Dear Cora,
I am pleased to present to you the name of the song we are currently listening to at 12:48am, Sunday, December 8th, 2013: ‘Songs: Ohia, Farewell Transmission.’
Love always,
Natalie
When it was time for Cora to go home, she pulled out of Natalie’s driveway and practiced a parallel park behind Daniel’s car.  Daniel and Natalie stood outside watching.  Cora was about to drive away, but Natalie ran up to the car and climbed into the passenger’s seat.
“Try that again,” she said.  This time, Daniel stood behind the car and directed while Cora spun the wheel.  It was minus eighteen outside, and Cora could see the white clouds of cigarettes and warm breath floating up in front of Daniel’s face.
“That was good,” Daniel said climbing into the back seat.  “Now drive around and see if we can find another car.”
“I think I’m ok,” Cora told him.  “I still have all of tomorrow to practice.”
“Just drive,” said Daniel.  It was getting close to Christmas, and they found a house with a row of cars parked out front.  Daniel got out of the car again and made sure Cora didn’t hit the curb.
“Good,” Natalie kept saying.  “You’re doing a really good job.”
When Daniel got back into the car, three parallel parks later, his hands were purple from the cold.  Cora wanted to take him back to Natalie’s house, but he refused.
“I want you to be able to do this and not worry about it,” he told Cora.  He blew into his hands, and his fingers went from purple to white.  “Do three more, and then we’ll go back.”
It was after 2am now, and Natalie directed Cora through neighbourhood side streets past snow banks and unlit Christmas lights.
“Keep driving,” Daniel shouted from the back seat.  “You’re going to pass your test this time.  I promise.”
They still had the French music playing, and the heat blasting from the dashboard smelled like the coat closet at Cora’s parent’s house.  Cora remembered being small and sitting in the back seat of the car beside her two brothers.  It was late and they were driving home from her grandparent’s house.  Cora was warm in her winter coat and she fell asleep with her head on her older brother’s shoulder.
Now, both of her grandparents were dead, but Daniel was there and Natalie was there and they were driving through snow in the middle of the night.
“You can do this,” Daniel shouted from the back seat.
“You’re doing a great job,” said Natalie from the front seat.

Cora backed up the car, slowly turning the wheel as she went.  She wasn’t thinking about driving anymore or about her test, or even about her grandparents.  It was just the French music and the night and the voices of her two friends saying, we believe in you, we believe in you. You’re going to be great.

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