Shelly had just started to ride her bike when she had an episode and fell over onto the street, skinning her elbow.
She didn’t register the pain or even notice the thin red scrape on her elbow. Instead she looked around frantically, worried of seeing that “I told you so” look on her parent’s faces. She breathed a sigh of relief when she heard Nathan calling out to them so that they could watch him perform some trick or another. While they were busy watching him, she collected herself and got back on the bike.
She forgot how many of these episodes she had had over the past couple of months. They came and went randomly and without warning. Though she knew it wasn’t normal, she was afraid of saying anything to her parents. They started, she remembered, around the time they all had gone to the supermarket. This was where the bicycle had first caught her eye.
For months she had begged her parents to get her “the pink one, with the pink things on the handles.”
“They’re called tassels, sweetheart,” her mother said.
“Yeah, those!” Shelly said, smiling.
For months she begged and for months they denied her, afraid she was too young to start riding a bicycle at age of four. She didn’t agree. Especially since Nathan was almost five years old and was already riding around the neighborhood. Crying didn’t help, she knew that. So instead she opted to take Nathan’s bike from the garage one day and show them that she was old enough.
She waited for them to be at work and for Nathan to fall asleep watching tv before slipping outside with the neon green Mongoose that belonged to her brother.
Remembering how he had ridden it, she mounted the seat and pushed off with her leg. Her feet on the spokes, she instinctively began to pedal. She rode on the sidewalk without wavering once and completed a circuit around the block in under five minutes. This was surprisingly easy.
She got that from me.
After riding around the neighborhood half a dozen times, Shelly came back to the house. She placed the bike back inside the garage and waited for her parents to get home from work.
Nathan was awake and looked upset. She knew what was coming next.
“Where were you?” he asked.
“Outside,” she said.
“Yeah, with my bike.” It wasn’t a question.
Shelly shrugged and plopped down on the couch, watching whatever was on the tube.
“I’m telling dad when he gets home,” he warned.
Shelly simply smiled and said nothing.
Dad got home first, his truck being something you could feel through the walls anywhere in the house from the driveway. He called out to them as he usually did after a long day, hanging up his keys and putting his hardhat on the dinner table as he entered.
“She took my bike, dad,” Nathan said right away. Tattletale.
“That’s it?” he asked. “That’s what I get when I come home? No ‘hey dad, how’s it going?’ No ‘hi, daddy?’”
After they collectively hugged his big and smelly arms, he went into the bathroom to shower and lie down for an afternoon nap.
“Don’t get full on junk food,” he warned. “Your mother’s cookin’ tonight.”
She waited until mommy came home a little later, just before it got dark, before going into the garage to take Nathan’s bike back out again.
“Hey monkeys,” mommy said as she walked in the door. “Where are my kisses?”
Shelly and Nathan slid off the couch to hug and kiss their mother.
“Mom, Shelly took–” Nathan started to say.
“Look what I can do, mommy!” Shelly interrupted as she grabbed her mother’s wrist and led her to the garage.
“What can you do, shuggie?” her mother asked encouragingly.
Curious, mommy stood there and watched as Shelly mounted Nathan’s bike again and rode out to the edge of the driveway.
Her mother had a knowing look and smile on her face. Part of her admired her daughter’s persistence while simultaneously making a mental note about how crafty and resourceful she had become in such a short time. Just like daddy.
“Ok Shelly, you win,” mommy said. “We’ll get you a bike.”
Shelly closed her eyes momentarily and took a deep breath before she pumped the pedals on her bike and returned back to the house. The tassels on the handlebars flapped and twisted in the wind, bringing a smile to her face. The joy and freedom of riding her own bicycle helped her to forget the things she had seen and heard during her episodes.
Images like the world being wreathed in flames or the voices that argued in her head.