"Are you all right?" asked Caddy. "No, you're not! You're cross! Again!"
"I'm not," said Michael. "Please change places, Cadmium dear."
Caddy jumped out of her seat with relief and back in at the passenger door. Michael turned the car very quickly and headed back the way they had come.
"What do you notice about this street?" he asked conversationally.
"Lovely gardens," said Caddy, getting out her hamster.
"It's one-way! Turn right, I said, and instead you turned left up a one-way street! Then you parked in the fire station exit. And that mirror is for looking behind you, not admiring your lipstick in!"
"I wasn't! I said it was too pink!"
"And I told you not to bring that hamster again!"
"Why are you stopping?"
"So you can drive. Your dad pays me to teach you to drive."
"That reminds me," said Caddy. "Don't laugh. I promised him I'd ask you, but don't laugh. My driving test. He said to ask you when. That's all. You're laughing. I knew you would."
"You could learn if you tried," said Michael when Caddy was back in the driver's seat and he, much against his better judgment, was holding the hamster. "You just need to stop mucking about and concentrate a bit."
"That's what they used to tell me at school," said Caddy. "I remember them saying it before my tests. And it wasn't true. It didn't work. I got awful grades in nearly everything. Biology, chemistry, physics, math, English language, English literature, French, and business studies. Awful. And last summer I failed all three A-level exams. All three. I'm just no good at exams. Is it time to go home?"
"No. Twenty minutes. We'll do some reversing."
"Oh, Michael darling!"
"Don't call me darling, I'm a driving instructor!"
"Sorry. It was because I hate going backward."
"My girlfriend," said Michael suddenly, as Caddy reversed up a curb, "passed her test when she was seventeen!"
"I didn't know you had a girlfriend."
"Yep. Very bright. Passed all her exams, too. Top grades."
"What's she called?"
"What's she called?"
"Oh, right. Er...Diane. Diane."
"I'll try the corner again," said Caddy, gritting her teeth.
"She leaves her hamsters at home, too," said Michael.
The first thing Caddy and Michael saw when they arrived back from the driving lesson was Indigo.
"Just look at that stupid kid!" exclaimed Michael, absolutely horrified. "No, don't jump out, Caddy! Don't startle him!"
Indigo was sitting on his bedroom windowsill. On the outside of his bedroom windowsill, the open window behind him, his legs dangling into space and his eyes looking like two black holes in his white face.
"I'm calling the fire brigade," muttered Michael to Caddy, searching feverishly through his pockets. "Where's my mobile phone? Are you sitting on it?"
"No, and calm down! Michael darling," said Caddy soothingly. "You don't need to call anyone! Indigo often sits up there. He is curing himself of vertigo for when he becomes a polar explorer. It's a big, wide windowsill, and he has the curtains to hold on to. They're very strong. I tested them. He's waiting for me to talk him back. He freezes."
"With fear. So I'd better go. Thank you for the lovely lesson. Bye-bye, Michael."
Michael waited as she disappeared into the house and reappeared at Indigo's window. He watched Indigo slowly defrost and begin to move. One leg swung back inside. Caddy's voice came floating down.
"Now the other leg. You're perfectly safe. Don't look down. Look at me!"
A moment later, and Indigo was back inside and waving cheerfully from the window with Caddy and Rose, who had also appeared. Michael suddenly felt very left out and drove quickly away.
Copyright © 2001 by Hilary McKay
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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