“Who’s collecting you in Cork?” she asks, swerving onto the A120 behind a lorry but I do not answer; even if I wasn’t wholly preoccupied with trying to maintain normal lung function I would not be tempted to divert her concentration away from the lorry wheels in front.
“Or have you left your car in your secret spot?” she says.
“The roof of your car is the same height as those lorry-wheels in front,” I say, gripping my luggage so hard that my knuckles go white.
“Your point being?”
“Sports cars are for the childless,” I say, “I want to see my children again. I want to see the lights of home.”
She swings into the outside lane and accelerates. The lorry wheels disappear from view but so do the lights of home. She swings back into the middle lane.
I do my breathing exercises but they’re no defence against mortal fear. And mortal fear will vanquish every other kind, including incurring my sister’s wrath.
“I’m not sure I feel that safe with your driving,” I shout.
“Says the woman who drives with bald tyres, broken tail lights, and no NCT,” she says. “Your driving is subversive and chaotic.”
“My driving is a safe kind of chaotic,” I pant, my knuckles now completely see-through, “it is scatty but slow.”
“As opposed to fast but focused,” she says, swinging back into the outside lane and putting her foot down.
In Cork, I pick up my car from its secret spot, and drive to my eldest son’s house, where my family has gathered for a meal. At the table, I have much to say about my sister’s driving but my family appears incapable of finding a response which doesn’t involve having much to say about mine.
“I mean she said my driving was subversive and chaotic,” I finish feebly, “when she was doing a hundred in the outside lane. I mean subversive — what a choice of word.”
“I agree,” my daughter says, “it’s too deliberate.”
“Unintentionally subversive is better,” my husband says.
On leaving, I suggest my husband offers to drive my Nissan home.
“Then I can drive yours,” I say.
“Your Nissan has no heating,” he says.
“Which would make the offer a most chivalrous gesture,” I say.
“I’ll go with dad then,” my son says.
“There’s no point both of you freezing to death,” I say.
“Dad’ll need the company,” he says, “the radio doesn’t work either.”
“You come with me then,” I say to my daughter.
“It’s only round the corner,” she says.
“I know where you live,” I say.
“Oh sorry,” she mumbles, “I didn’t mean to say that out loud.”
“Through town or on the ring road?” I say, walking towards the car.
“Through town,” she says, “the traffic will be fine this late.”
As I start the engine and pull out, my daughter flicks on the indicator.
“There’s no-one behind us,” I say, flicking it off petulantly, for I am feeling much misunderstood.
I approach a turn.
“Right,” she says.
I turn right.
“Right or left?” I say, approaching another.
“Not sure,” she says as I take a sharp left, “I think left might be a one-way.”
“I didn’t see any one-way sign,” I say, moving with great assurance into ‘cruise.’
“Mum,” she shouts, “someone’s driving right up behind us. Their lights are...oh shit.”
“Oh shit what?” I say, glancing at my daughter crossly, “what now? What lights?”
But I need no answer: her face is flashing blue.
“I knew I should have gone with Dad.”