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PART FIFTY

Sara held the sidewalk security gate open for Skylar.

“How we gonna get back in once that gate slams shut?” Skylar asked, pushing her bike through to the other side. “Tuck in quick behind a car?”

Sara allowed the gate to clang shut behind her and answered, “What? No, silly. See that punch box?” she asked, turning around and pointing at the number pad below the door’s handle, “We just have to push the code and that’ll unlock it. Then we just ride through. Isn’t there a security gate in your neighborhood?”

Skylar scowled. “I own’t even live in no neighborhood let alone have some security gate.”

“You don’t live in a neighborhood?” Sara asked, getting back on her bike.

“Heck no. We live all the way down Black Lake Road hind Mrs. McNutt’s house,” Skylar answered, following her friend down the sidewalk toward Interlachen Road.

“Where’s that?”

“You know that road over on the right-hand side when you’re heading to Odessa on Fifty-four? Right after Gunn Highway? That’s where we live.”

Turning right off Community onto Ketzel Drive Sara declared, “But that’s not a neighborhood.”

“That’s what I said!” Skylar answered, crossing the sidewalk where Marti had earlier scolded the man who was turning from Ketzel onto Interlachen. “Only neighborhood I lived in is apartment complexes. Oh! And a RV park I lived in first time we moved. It was down Pelham way.

“We got’s neighbors though,” Skylar conceded. “There’s the Scotts, and the Frischs, and the O’Neils. Cept, I gotta walk over to Geneva Drive to visit any a them darn kids from school.”

Interlachen Elementary loomed on the girls’ right side, the parking lot now nearly devoid of cars. “Where’s Pelham?” Sara asked.

“Don’t you know nothing? It’s south of Birmingham. Prett-near Gadsden but the other side. We never have gone back to Gadsden and even though Pelham’s like a hour from where we used to live we never had no one from Gadsden come our way neither.

“We moved to Pelham, bam!” Skylar declared animatedly. “And then one night we took off outta Pelham like a dog a fire. Wound up in this tiny place called Atmore; down Mobile way? I liked Atmore. Mama’d take us hiking in Blackwater and sometimes we’d go swimming in the bay. It was nice there, but we lit outta there too.”

With the school behind them Sara slowed. “What’s wrong?” Skylar asked. “We just stay on this sidewalk till we cross over Gunn. There ain’t no way we can get lost.”

“I know,” Sara answered. “It’s just weird riding here without my dad or Marti. I’ve never done it alone.”

“Oh. I get it. But, hey! You ain’t alone! We’re together. We’ll be fine, you’ll see.”