You would often see her riding her one-pedal, two-wheeler bike, going around and around the cul-de-sac, with no shoes or other means of protection. With every push of the pedal, rust and dirt flew off the lopsided, nearly broken down bike. And if you paid close attention, you could still see the twigs and vines wrapped around its frame from when she first discovered the gem in the jungle of honey suckles and dead leaves between her neighbour’s and her parent’s house. Sometimes, when she wasn’t in the reverie that she fell into when riding around in circles, she’d pedal up her neighbour’s driveway, smile at the old balding man smoking his seventh cigarette, and propel herself down the incline, gaining speed until the bike lost control and she fell. And even when her bike turned against her like it did at high speeds, she’d walk it around, like a show horse, looking towards her neighbours, expecting they’d look back in awe of her bike, not realizing that to them it resembled something closer to a junkyard scrap sitting on two flimsy wheels. As she would walk it back to her driveway, even with two her grazed knees, her mood would be unaffected, still holding herself in a way that made every adult envious.
She didn’t have any friends. Other parents didn’t like the influence she had on their children. Such judgment was borne of the time she got Stacey Lucas stuck in a tree for several hours when she had dared her in a game of ‘Chicken’. Parents talked, and word got out. She was the forbidden playmate. Other than her bike, she didn’t have many other ways to entertain herself, and so a strong attachment was formed. She did own a small collection of Barbie dolls that her aunties and uncles had given her for Christmas and birthdays, but she never saw the fun in creating lives for those dolls that she couldn’t ever really be part of. She liked to use her imagination, but not if it meant she was living vicariously through it. So time was consumed riding around in circles, and she preferred it that way.
Time was often squandered; she never paid any particular attention to its passing, or its value. When her first year of primary school started, these habits followed. She was bright, her parents had always assured her of that, and it was evident in her ability to read and write a year before she had started school. But being a kid was what she was, what she loved to be, and all she knew. Intuitively understanding what it meant to be young, she saw that there was plenty more time in the future for times tables and spelling lessons.
When the school bells rang to signal classes were to commence, she would dawdle along, choosing when she wanted to start math, or German, or any other class she dreaded. She didn’t care to prove herself to anyone, or the need to abide by the rules. This wasn’t because she was rebellious by nature, but perhaps a little careless. Speaking back in class wasn’t unusual for her, and it wasn’t that she was trying to be rude, but she didn’t like to take things for fact until certain. One time when her parents had told her that they had sent their dog away to a farm for a ‘better life’, she had bombarded them with questions until they admitted defeat. From that day on they knew she was stubborn but this also meant she was strong-minded, which was a valuable trait. They had gained the understanding that she wouldn’t always need protecting. Or perhaps this was an influence of her mum who had read her ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ each morning over the summer. It was the character of ‘Scout’ whom had been the only person, fictional or otherwise, to have made such an impression on her. But education systems have a this way of tearing a child down, telling them what to think, the ‘correct way’, and through discipline, make them conform. To control her behaviour, teachers would try to entice her with orange jellybeans (her favourite), detain her, and send her to the principal’s office, but work was still to be handed in when she wanted, and recess would take as long as it took for her to eat her sundried apricots and drink her apple juice pop-top. She did things her own way, but she still did what was required, even above and beyond; it would always just be a little too late.
Teachers are always determined to do things their way, and to do so they seek the help of parents. Following a long walk home from school, a pass in the park, and a stop by the local milk bar, she arrived home at 4:27, rather than the expected 3:30. With neither care nor worry she walked into the house, looked into the fridge, saw nothing worthwhile to eat and so – naturally - ran to her bike. She would have ridden her bike to school everyday, but her parents knew that if she were given the freedom to do so, she’d never get there on time. So riding was left for after homework and the weekends. But that afternoon she wasn’t to ride her bike.
As she ran to the spot by the tree out the back, where she usually kept it, she saw it there where it lived, pedal-less. She attempted to ride the rusty pile of steel - she was motivated that way - but every attempt ended with a grazed knee, and an increasing dose of despair. Without either of the pedals it was impossible. She knew exactly who had done it and the feeling of betrayal, of disgust and of hate flooded.
Standing there, struck with emotion, with grief, with an incredible sense of loss… with a scream that makes stomachs sink, her mum and dad carried the realisation of betrayal, as it hit their hearts. Her dad struggled to explain, his eyes had glazed over and mouth trembled slightly; you could see he was hurting for his daughter. He coughed before he began to speak, and sympathy coated his words. Remorse was evident in his tone, but she received none of it. Whilst the school could not control a six year old, it seemed they could control the parents of one. No efforts to punish her ‘unruly behaviour’ had fazed her and so something new needed to be enforced. So that afternoon, an essential part of being a child was instead robbed from her, a form of innocence stolen; replaced by the knowledge, if her parents could betray her anyone could.
The following morning her teacher was pleased to see her on time, sitting quietly in the front row of class, and doing her work. He smirked slightly as he walked past and uttered, Now aren’t you a good girl. A nod of her head moved him on to the next student. She spent recess and lunch on her own, kicking the rocks in the dirt, and drawing pictures of no significance in the ground. Simultaneously, when the clock struck three, she grabbed her backpack and began her journey home, passing the milk bar and avoiding the park, she arrived home at exactly 3:30. Her homework was done before dinner had even begun being cooked, and unsure what to do she sent herself to her room. Sitting on her bed, her eyes wandered to the chest beside her wardrobe. Opening its heavy lid, she dipped her hand inside and pulled out her dolls and their belongings. Finding the Barbie with fair brown hair, and rosy cheeks (the doll that resembled her most), she picked it up, placing it on the pastel pink bike that had accompanied it in the ‘Sporty Barbie’ edition.
Then placing the bike on the wooden floor of her room, she began wheeling it around, wheeling it around and around in circles.