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PART THREE

Crestwood Loop was a mile-long rectangle situated at the back of a gated subdivision. All the streets in the neighborhood were lined with sidewalks on at least one side and most of the residents, regardless of age, tended to ride on the sidewalks rather than in the street. As Sara and Marti reached a sharp right curve in the road a group of four unchaperoned boys darted from the sidewalk into the street without looking for oncoming traffic. “Blaze Bijiski!” Marti screeched, “Watch where you are going! You almost crashed right into me!”

Blaze turned his head, grinned, shouted, “Sorry!” and without slowing or checking for traffic continued to move from the right-hand sidewalk across the road to the left side, blazing the way for his three sidekicks.

“That is exactly what I’m talking about, young lady!” Marti declared, venting her frustration with the neighbor boy on her stepdaughter. “These children don’t look, they don’t think, and they don’t care. And they don’t even wear helmets.”

“I wear my helmet, Marti,” Sara squeaked from behind.

“And you’d better! The last thing you want is a cracked skull, or a concussion or a brain injury. I don’t care what the other kids do, you wear yours! I don’t understand how Interlachen lets kids ride to school without a helmet when it’s against the law. And the parents are no better. Don’t they know they’re role models?”

Crestwood Loop’s single stop sign loomed ahead and a man on a recumbent bicycle approached from the right. “Oh, here comes that weird-oh,” Marti said as they converged on the intersection simultaneously. The middle-aged man on the recumbent stuck out his left arm to indicate that he would be turning, and Sara began to pull around Marti and into the intersection. “Stop!” Marti screamed, “What are you doing?”

The man’s face scrunched into a scowl as he slammed his brakes on, skidding his rear tire. “Well,” he declared, sarcastic vitriol somehow manifesting itself with that single syllable, “I thought I was turning left and that you’d be stopping, seeing how you have a stop sign and I don’t. My mistake,” he added.

“No, no. Not you stop. My daughter. We were going to wait for you, but she must not have seen you. I’m sorry. Please go.”

The man’s nostrils flared as he looked at the two females from beneath his helmet. “If you’re sure,” he said. And as he rode away Marti could hear him say, “Got’s to be more careful. Just got’s to be more careful,” as he circled the block in a counter-clockwise direction.

“What the hell was that?” Marti demanded of Sara. “I don’t know when I’ve been more embarrassed. Why didn’t you stop for him?”

“I didn’t see him,” Sara responded. Greatly chastised she added, “I’m sorry.”

“We stop at stop signs whether anyone is coming or not, young lady.”

“No, we don’t,” Sara said defensively. “We hardly ever stop at that stop sign.”

Marti opened her mouth to reprimand Sara but stopped herself. Maybe they didn’t usually stop if nobody was coming. “Well, we need to stop at stop signs, Sara. Especially if I’m stopping. That’s why I have you behind me, so you can watch what I do, and I can see you in my mirror. Understood?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“Good. Now, if there’s no cars, er, no one’s coming, we can go.”

The two turned left onto Regency Key Drive and remained on the street for another quarter mile until they reached Robert Trent Jones Parkway, the main thoroughfare that connected their community with others tucked farther in to the left and to the outside world toward the right. Though Robert Jones was still a residential street and the speed limit remained 20 mph Marti and Sara popped up onto the sidewalk here and, along with clumps of other Interlachen headed riders, continued to the security gate at the edge of their neighborhood.

Street traffic was backed up the final quarter mile to school with parents queued up to drop off their children. Marti and Sara rolled around the queued cars on the sidewalk until they reached the school where Marti watched while Sara locked her bike to the rack. “Okay, pumpkin, we made it,” she declared when Sara was through. “I’ll see you and Skylar this afternoon. I’ve got to get to class. Have a good day at school,” she added before crossing the street and heading back the way they had come, departing from Sara without a friendly squeeze, hug or motherly kiss.

“Goodbye, Marti,” Sara whispered to her stepmother’s retreating form. “I love you.”