“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
— Albert Einstein
“You can’t ride a bike?”
Mallory’s friend, Ben, stared at her with wide eyes. “How old are you?” he asked.
“Seven . . . ” Mallory said, biting her lip and staring at her scuffed shoes.
“So, younger than me,” Ben said, sounding a little satisfied. “But I learned to ride a bike when I was four years old! It’s easy!”
“For me, it isn’t,” Mallory mumbled, still not looking at him. “I always fall off.”
Ben waved this away with a mud covered hand. “Yeah, but it doesn’t hurt or nothing, you just hafta get back on and try again. I fell like, a bazillion times.”
Mallory glanced at Ben’s scratched-up knees and shins and didn’t feel any better.
“Mallory! C’mon, your dad is waiting!” came a call from the house behind the two children.
“I have to go . . . ” Mallory said, giving no inclination that she was going to move anywhere.
Ben nodded. “I know. Well, break a leg!”
Mallory stared at Ben, who shrugged. “That’s what my gramma says to my sister whenever she goes to her play. I think it’s a old person way to say good luck or something.”
Her friend then hopped onto his own bicycle, and after a few wobbly circles, made his way down the sidewalk toward his house. “Break a leg!” he called back.
Mallory gave a tiny wave, then slowly walked to her front door, taking very small steps. Her dad was waiting in the hall when she finally opened the door.
“Ready?” he asked, holding up his car keys and jingling them.
They’d been going to the nearby park, which had a big basketball court where Mallory had the space to practice riding without fear of veering off into the street. Today was Sunday, late morning, so when they arrived, there were only a few people milling around.
Her dad yanked Mallory’s bicycle out of the trunk with a loud SPRING! from her bike bell.
“Sounds like one of you is ready,” he joked, smiling. Mallory didn’t say anything. Her stomach felt all twisty.
“Don’t worry, you’ll get it,” he said, shutting the trunk and locking the car. “Today is a new day, a new start!”
They went over to the empty court, with the bicycle being walked between them. Once at the edge, near the basketball hoop, her dad helped Mallory put on her new helmet (her hands were very shaky) and then helped her sit on the bike (her legs also felt shaky). She kept her feet on the concrete and looked straight ahead.
From this angle, the basketball court looked like a big, flat, grey desert. There was no end in sight, and Mallory knew she would have to at least try to get across it before her dad would agree to go home.
“The longer you wait, the harder it will be . . . ” her dad said in a sing-song voice. Mallory looked up at him, trying not to cry.
He must’ve recognized her expression, however, and knelt down to look her in the eyes. “Hey,” he said softly, rubbing her shoulder. “It’s okay. I know it seems hard for you. But I just want you to keep trying, okay? You’ll get it, everybody does. Then you and your friend Ben can ride bikes together. Won’t that be fun?”
Mallory nodded because of course it would. She really did want to learn to ride. She wanted to bike everywhere and be a big girl. She just wished there wasn’t so much falling off and crashing to get to that point.
Taking a deep breath, she put one foot on a pedal.
“Don’t let go,” she warned her dad, who was now standing behind her, holding onto the bike.
“Hm,” was all he said, grinning.
She frowned but put her other foot on the other pedal.
“I’m ready,” she said. She wished she sounded braver.
“Easy as falling off a log,” her dad recited, as usual. “Now pedal!”
Mallory pushed with one leg, then the other, then again and again, and slowly, she and her bike began moving down the court. She wobbled dangerously but managed to right herself.
“Don’t let go!” she said loudly, not daring to turn around to look at her dad. She began to pedal faster.
“Go, Mallory, go!” her dad cried.
Mallory knew he had let go and wanted to be mad, but she couldn’t. She was pumping her legs furiously, her hands were sweating, her heart was pounding, and . . .
She was riding.
She reached the edge of that long, grey desert and instead of stopping, she turned – she almost lost her balance but tried not to think about it and just kept going – and started back toward her dad, who was standing at the other end of the court, jumping up and down and cheering, “Yay, Mallory!”
Mallory Jones, seven years old, was riding her very own bicycle.
This was big girl stuff. This was freedom. This was fun.
And best of all, now she was going to get a big ice cream cone on the way home.
Simple little cute story (IMHO, of course). This idea came from Yeah Write, which is doing a year-long short story challenge for 2016! I’m a bit late to the party, so this is Week 1’s prompt. You can read all about the challenge HERE!