She could do it. Sure if she had got through being on the ward during the blitz, this was child’s play. They didn’t know that she had only been driving for two weeks, and hadn’t learnt how to put the car into reverse.
She had never been to this house before. The lanes got increasingly narrow as she drove, the hedges closing in on both sides. She leant forward, gripped the steering wheel and kept driving. As she climbed the steep hill she hoped it would level out before she reached the house. She looked out for the three fir trees that they’d given her as the marker. Was that them, or were there only two? She kept on, slowing as much as she could without stalling, hoping that nothing came the other way on a road where it was difficult enough for one car to pass.
She heard the putt-putt before she saw it. A tractor was coming towards her and it didn’t look like it was stopping. So she did, crunching the hand-brake as high as she could manage. When the farmer was so close she could see his angry face, he stopped and gestured for her to move back. She shrugged and held up her palms. He jumped out and walked towards her, shaking his head. She wound her window down and put on her best smile.
“What are you doing?! Sure there’s a gate back there you could pull into.”
She took a breath and laughed,
“The funny thing is, I don’t know how to do that yet. I’m qualified as a doctor and this is my first locum post that required knowing how to drive so I’ve taught myself the basics.”
The farmer whistled,
“So you’re telling me you, a girl clever enough to do a man’s job, don’t know how to put your car into reverse?”
He opened the car door, gestured for her to get out and then moved the car where he wanted it, leaving her standing at the side of the road. She watched the thick muck squelching over her good shoes and swallowed a gallon of pride as the farmer approached her again. She shook her curled hair back and raised her chin,
“Could you point me in the direction of the three firs please?”
The farmer pointed his grimy finger further up the hill,
“You’re nearly there.”
She thanked him and walked down to get her doctor’s bag out of the car. She would walk the rest of the way. How she would get the car to face the right way to get home was something she could worry about afterwards. She reached into her sleeve and pulled out a lace-edged hankie. With a whimper, she used it to clean her shoes and then put it into the bag. No-one would respect a doctor who was not only a woman, but also walked dirt into their house.
She glanced over her shoulder to check her car was all right and then knocked on the door. No answer. She lifted the brass knocker to bang again and it came off in her hand. When a middle-aged man opened the door he saw her standing there, smeared muck on her shoes, a doctor’s bag in one hand and their door knocker in the other. After a short, surprised silence he opened the door wider to let her in. He took the knocker from her without a word and led her on to the bedroom.
This was when she could regain her composure. This was where she knew more than the other people in the house. She was the doctor, dirty shoes or not. They didn’t know her car was back down the road with little hope of being driven away. All they knew was she was the doctor. Here to help.
She put her shoulders back, glanced at the person in the bed and used her most reassuring voice,
“So. How long has your father been ill?”
The man’s eyes widened. An old clock chimed four. A rooster crowed. She moved her bag from one hand to the other, puzzled.
“That’s not my father.”
She looked at the bed again and back at the man.
He shook his head and looked almost sorry for her as he said,
“That is my mother.”