My mother was already fuming when we reached the roundabout, on account of the fact that I was nine minutes late out of my counselling ...


   My mother was already fuming when we reached the roundabout, on account of the fact that I was nine minutes late out of my counselling session (one of the perils of still living with your mum at age twenty-two is that you have to live with the fact that everything that goes wrong in her life will be taken out on you, even if you don't know what it is). Crime of the century. So when we reached the thick traffic at what is normally a very smooth flowing, easy going roundabout, it just worsened her mood. 

   Through the gaps in the cars, we could see that something was blocking the stream of traffic from all directions. 'Oh for fuck's sake,' she hissed, 'this had better not be an accident.'

   But it was. As we edged closer and the impatient, loudly honking cars in front of us gradually side-stepped around the blockage at the centre of the roundabout one by one, it revealed itself as a nasty knock between two cars in the middle of the road. One, a brownish Ford of some sort, was sitting there with its bald, smart-looking, middle-aged owner standing next to it clearly seething. Behind it, a pink Citroen lay wounded, its nose smashed off into the road, its bonnet curled up into a horrid frown that told a thousand words of damage.

   My mother wound her window down as the van in front of us made its way carefully around the wreckage. 'Oh come the fuck on, you idiots!' she bellowed at the cars that wouldn't get out of her way to let her around the accident. That wasn't why she wound down her window; she was preparing to shout even worse at the lead actors in this little drama.

   But as we made our own way around the collision, she lost her nerve. She caught sight of the girl crying next to her destroyed Citroen, barely even nineteen years old, her heart broken and her limbs shaking. At the same time I did, my mother caught sight of the bald man in the Ford shouting at the girl, calling her all the names under the sun because she had a lapse of concentration that sent her car hurtling into the back of his. That poor girl, she just stood weeping and harshly inhaling, wiping the tears from her cheeks but not being able to keep up with the flow of them, while a bald man with a scratched Ford lectured her and around her dozens of cars blasted their horns and shouted abuse from their windows. My mum, she just wound her window back up and cursed under her breath.

   With my mum's ears still steadily steaming and a flat feeling of fragility humming away inside me from the session I'd just left and the blame I had taken for something that was out of my control, the tension is the car was palpable. But I didn't think about it. All I could think about was that poor girl, distraught and ashamed and afraid, standing in the middle of a roundabout, sobbing her heart out; and all I wanted to do was take her in my arms, and tell her everything was going to be alright.

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