After a few minutes I laid down. What should I say to Muriel? It took me a long while to work out how to explain, and when I was just about ready to go down to talk to her, she called me. "Izzy? Time for tea."
I sat down at the kitchen table, tea laid out, but Muriel wasn't there. Were we really going to talk over tea? This was quite different from Father's lectures; instead of standing at attention in his study, we'd be sharing a cuppa?
I sat, pouring the tea.
When Muriel came in I looked at her face, but it told me nothing. At least she waited until she was seated to begin. "Izzy." She waited until I looked at her. "Whatever possessed you to take out my motorcar?"
"Felix didn't believe that I could drive it."
"I did not teach you to drive so you could take the care out without my permission. And with only having learned to drive this morning, the idea is preposterous."
How could she call it ridiculous? I shot back saucily, "apparently not, because I did it."
I thought Muriel would get upset with my impertinence, but she remained calm.
"Did you think it a good idea?"
I couldn't lie to her. I stirred some sugar into my tea, which none of us had touched yet, trying to delay my answer. "I was a little worried about what you would think. But I didn't think you'd know—I thought you were at the store!"
"And is that a good reason to do it—because I wouldn't find out?"
I sighed. "No."
"Tell me, how would your father handle this situation?"
As deeply as I was looking into my cup, I was sure Muriel would ask me to read my tea leaves. But I had to answer. "He wouldn't be very happy about it."
"And neither am I."
I bit the inside of my lip to keep from crying; Muriel's tone was dead serious, and it didn't make me feel good—the fact she wasn't happy. I'd already been worrying about that for the past hour.
"That was my property you took without asking, Izzy."
"I'm sorry, Muriel. I know it was a stupid thing to do. I was stupid."
"You may not always make the best decisions, but you're a very intelligent young lady, Izzy Pettibone."
She hadn't even punished me and was complimenting me already. I didn't know what to say to that. "Are we actually having anything for tea?"
"Oh, I completely forgot that cauliflower cheese in the oven."
"I'll get it." I jumped up, eager to recompense my earlier misdeed in whatever small way I could and brought it to the table.
The cauliflower cheese was extra-cheesy, just the way I liked it, but I couldn't focus on my tea. "What's my punishment to be?"
Muriel raised her eyebrow. "You're nearly sixteen, Izzy. I don't intend to punish you."
"You asked what father would do."
"And he would punish you? I'm afraid I'm not very good with punishments…"
"But you were a schoolteacher!"
Muriel's answer was thoughtful. "I think, most often, the lessons we learn are punishment enough. Tell me, wasn't your heart racing when you saw me on the road?"
"I felt like I couldn't breathe."
Was she going to make me say it? "I—I didn't know what you would say, if you'd be upset. I didn't want you to scold. But I have learned my lesson, honest."
"I believe you have. A friend of mine once told me that tomorrow is a new day, with no mistakes in it." She took my hand. "So we'll forget what happened yesterday and move on, yes?"
I smiled. "I think we're going to get along well, Muriel. As long as I don't try to steal your motorcar again, that is."
Muriel laughed and stood. "Come here." She gave me a hug.
If this was what having a mother was like, I wouldn't mind at all.