“Again!” Aubrey paced back and forth beside me, her bright blond ponytail swinging and her arms crossed.

I clenched the handlebars of the bike, glaring at my daughter.

“I can’t do it Aubrey.”

She glared back. “Yes you can Mom, you’re just not trying hard enough.”

I shook my head, heavy in a thick helmet, even as I lifted my foot to the pedal. I pushed down hard, my left foot snapped to the other pedal and I started to move forward. The sidewalk before me swam before my eyes and my head spun a million rotations. I quivered for a foot, a rolling ache pulsing in my stomach until my feet slammed down onto the cement. Beads of sweat dripped into my eyes and I burrowed my face into the sleeve of my shirt, wiping it away. I knew it was silly for me to be unable to ride a bicycle. I knew the mechanics of “how” but it was the actual action that stopped me every time. The tender balance upon two thin wheels, the sharp metal and chains made with no mercy, and the equally unforgiving concrete ready to catch me at any moment. 

“What was that?” My daughter’s voice cut through my thoughts. “You hardly moved! How is it that I was able to learn at six years old but at forty-three, you can’t get your feet off the ground?”

I ground my teeth, rising off the seat of the bike.

“I didn’t ask for you to teach me!”

“We have a race coming up, and you promised you would go with me!”

“I made that promise for a running race! You didn’t say it was biking, because otherwise I would have said no!”

Aubrey threw her hands up, and she stomped back to the house. Bang! The door slammed against the frame as she vanished inside. I growled and tore the helmet off my head, throwing it to the ground. It skidded across the sidewalk with a satisfying crunch and I watched it until it came to a stop. My thundering heart started to slow, and my previous anger evaporated into the summer air. I looked towards my daughter’s bedroom window on the second floor, and thought I saw the curtain moving slightly. I let out a sigh and ran a hand through my hair, damp with sweat from the pressure of the helmet. I dragged the bike back to the garage and made my way inside. I climbed the stairs, reaching the sticker covered door at the end of the hall. Even though she was 18, my daughter refused to part with her childhood trademark of claiming things by plastering stickers over them. I huffed a single laugh as I thought back to when she had decorated my new car with princess fairy stickers. That was a pain to get off. 

I reached her door and lifted a hand to knock, but stopped as I heard the water in the shower turn on. I went back down to my room, joining her idea and washing off the sweat from the day’s efforts. After I finished, I tried again.

Knock. Knock.

“Come in.”

The door opened with a slight creak and I saw Aubrey curled on her window seat, a towel wrapped around her head. I picked at my fingernails as I moved closer, her eyes staying on the yard outside.

“I’m sorry. For yelling, and fighting with you. I’m sorry for not being able to ride a bike. But, I have a fear of instability. It’s something I’ve never been able to get past.”

Aubrey rocked back and forth, hugging her knees. 

“I know, I have the same thing.”

I laughed, thinking back to every crazy and unbalanced activity she had jumped at the chance to try. 

“I’m pretty sure you don’t.”

She looked over at me, “Maybe not with physical activities, but I am afraid in a different way. Do you remember how I have a scholarship interview in a week.”

I nodded.

“It scares me to death. The uncertainty of knowing whether I’ll get it or I won’t. This is my future, right in front of me. And I have no control.”

I sat down next to her, the rawness of her words bringing tears to my eyes. 

“And I just thought, if I could get you to get over your fear. Then maybe I could get over mine.”

Her voice broke over the last few words and I pulled her into a hug. She sobbed into my shoulder, tears dripping onto the fabric. I rubbed her back, holding her tight.

“I’m sorry Mom.”

“It’s going to be alright.”

I pulled myself away gently, helping her dry her eyes. Then I left the room, speeding towards the garage. My hands gripping the handles, I steered the bike towards the sidewalk and straddled the seat. I gulped down breaths, my heart already picking up speed. I resolved to not let myself take my feet from the pedals. I pushed off, cycling three times before crashing to the ground, my balance a teetering mess. My elbow was sore and scraped, but I picked it up and tried again. And again. And again. Each try increased how far I could go before crashing into the sidewalk. After the sixth time, I was bleeding and bruised everywhere. I started to pick up the bike again when a yell pulled my attention behind me. Aubrey was running down the sidewalk to me, her wet hair now whipping behind her. She reached me, her mouth dropping at the sight of my battle wounds.

“Mom! What are you doing? You’re not even wearing a helmet!”

“I’m showing my daughter that she can do anything she puts her mind to. Now help me up, I think I’m getting close.”

Aubrey smiled, and threw her arms around me.

“Let’s go back home Mom.”

“No, not until I show you-”

Aubrey laughed, “But Mom, you already did.”

I smiled back at her and took her hand. Together we wheeled the bike back to the garage, where we gave it a new look. A covering of little stickers.

August 15, 2020 03:48

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