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PART FORTY

Skylar was very wobbly.

         “You’re getting it!” Sara enthused to her friend as the girls circled counter-clockwise around the western section of Longstone Court. “You’re doing much better.”

          Skylar’s riding skills had been so uncertain that Sara, fearing for her friend, had led them off Crestridge Loop to Imperial Key and from there they’d turned right on Mountain Spring Way, traveled across Robert Trent Jones and arrived at Longstone Court.

          Skylar had wanted to ride on the sidewalk, but Sara had insisted that they ride in the street. “Back when we first took my training-wheels off I remember my mom wanted me to learn to ride on the sidewalk, but Daddy told her it was way harder to learn on the sidewalk than it is in the street because of how narrow it is. He’d take me to my old school parking lot and we practiced there until I got good at it. Daddy says only bird-brains try to teach their kids to ride on the sidewalk.”

          “Chirp!” Skylar said with grin.

          “Chirp, chirp!” Sara returned, laughing. “Hey, birdbrain!”

           “Hey, Dodo!”

            Circling the court, Skylar asked, “How many schools you been to?”

         “Only two; not including pre-school! I went to Ozona for kindergarten, but we moved after the divorce. I miss Ozona. And the beach.”

          “You don’t go to the beach? Mama’ll take me to Fred Howard. We park up the road a piece and walk to the park, that way we don’t have to pay nothing.”

          “Marti doesn’t like Fred Howard. Too much sea grass. We’ll go to Clearwater, but when we lived in Palm Harbor my mom would take me at least once a week. We could ride our bikes to Pop Stansell and we were close to Honeymoon Island or Caladesi. Now, we hardly ever go, especially since we got the pool.”

           “Gotta be nice having a swimming pool, though. I ain’t had a swimming pool since we lived in Gadsden. We had a nice apartment right close to Donehoo and it had a swimming pool. Now we don’t even have hardly no neighbors.”

           “Yeah, it’s nice. And the other kids’ll come play with me. Except when Marti shoos us out so she can lap swim.”

            Catching, and then passing Sara, Skylar declared, “I am doing better, ain’t I? I wish I had a bike,” Skylar declared.

          “Well, you said your mom would buy you one from Goodwill. Maybe if we ride over to your house tomorrow she’ll see how great you’re doing and go buy you one.”

          “Did you get your bikes at the Goodwill?”

          “Hmmm. No. We bought them at a bike store by the Suncoast Trail. Marti says we’re the kind of people who donate to Goodwill, not shop there. I wonder what kind of bikes they have at Goodwill. Maybe when you get a bike we can get my dad to take us to the Suncoast.”

          “Don’t know, but next time we go I’m gonna ask my mama to get me one.”

           “How far is it from your house to school?”

           “Depends on how you go. Somewhere’s around three miles.”

          “And it’s one-point-two-nine miles from our house to school. I know, because Marti keeps track of her exercise, so that would be a little over four miles. We could ride that with Marti!”

         “Yeah. Hey! Why don’t we ride over now? We could surprise my mama!”

          Sara’s face scrunched. “I don’t know. I’m not supposed to go beyond the gate. Even over here is farther than I usually go without telling Marti first.”

          Skylar stopped her bike and looked at her friend. “Oh, come on? What are you afraid of? That Marti’s gonna yell at you? She’s gonna anyway.”