As he looked at the black Land Rover, which belonged to his murdered father and awaited him in front of the school, he felt a moment of unease. But he quickly remembered that his adoptive father was dead and buried. He himself had stood at the funeral, witnessing the final resting place in the ground. It could have meant only one thing.
"What are you doing here, Mom?" he enquired.
"Zuzana texted me that she'll be late today, so I decided to pick you up instead. Don't worry, we'll pick her up too. I also wanted to finally take his car for a ride. My car," she corrected herself.
Mario examined the massive SUV, next to which Marie looked tiny and oddly funny.
"Is this the first time you're driving it?"
She nodded, half apologetically and half amused. Perhaps she found it hard to believe, just like him. They got into the car and headed towards the city center. His mother, who was already over sixty, looked a bit comical behind the wheel of such a huge vehicle.
"I told Zuzana that we would pick her up at the congress center in Vyšehrad."
"Can you even park there?"
"With this, we can park anywhere!" She pointed to a handicapped parking permit lying under the windshield.
"Did he get it from one of his 'friends'?" Mario asked, raising his eyebrows.
"I don't care. Today, we will enjoy it on our own, just the two of us, for a change."
"You didn't have to come for me. I could've gone myself to meet Zuzana."
"I wanted to have you to myself for a while. To see you, talk to you. You're always either away or holed up in your room. We haven't had proper time to talk about everything." Mario bit his lip, turning his face away to look outside, so Marie wouldn't see his expression. He stiffened when memories of everything that happened resurfaced. "I wanted to talk to both you and Zuzana, to both of you together, actually. I know you're close, and you care about each other. But I don't want you to shut yourself off from me. We need to discuss everything."
"I don't want to talk about it. I don't want to go back to it."
Marie gripped the steering wheel tightly, her knuckles turning white. They drove in silence, feeling the weight of the atmosphere. Mario wanted to say so much to her, but something held him back. He needed time, much more time. He wanted to take a deep breath and think everything through calmly. She was pushing him, and even though he understood why, he just wanted to stop for a moment. He felt like he was teetering on the edge of a precipice, and she couldn't understand that. How to move forward now? In that moment, for the first time in his life, he had a sense of vision for the future, and everything was about to change. They both needed time. Maybe it's a good thing that all three of them would meet.
Suddenly, Marie jerked and crashed onto the empty sidewalk. The car's engine screeched as it revved up, and the entire car swayed. Instinctively, Mario reached out and hit his hand against the dashboard. Marie was breathing heavily, her eyes wide as she stared ahead. The engine stalled, and only the wipers, accidentally activated during the impact, now swiped the dry windshield with a high-pitched squeal.
"Mum, what's going on?"
She turned to him with half-opened mouth, still with her eyes wide.
"I –" she began but fell silent again.
"What, Mum? What happened?"
She looked at him with confusion and then asked cautiously:
"Where are we?"
The car echoed with the sound of her gasp against the glass and the quiet clatter of the cooling engine.