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A Thousand Reasons to Smile
I was five years old when I made the best mistake of my life. The sinking Kansan sun cast a golden haze over our entire town and the cicadas had just begun their hypnotic melody that would continue for the rest of September.
It was my birthday. I didn’t receive a dollhouse or even a doll for that matter. To tell you the truth, I didn’t even ask for one. I only asked for one thing, a bike. It wasn’t just any bike though, it was my first “Big girl bike.” That’s right, I had my first big girl bike. It was training wheel free and I was ready to roll with the best of them.
I didn’t even let my dad make sure the tires were aired up before I jumped on it and sped out of the yard. I took pride in the fact that I was able to ride it without instruction, I had taught myself. I remember practicing for weeks on my big brother’s bike with numerous bumps and bruises before I was finally able to ride like the big kids.
There I was, beaming with joy, just peddling along down the sidewalk. The sidewalk was broken and uneven and I was riding on nearly flat tires. My brother called for me and I turned to look at him, it turns out I had left before I opened the rest of my presents. I whirled my head back around just before I collided with him.
I squeezed both brakes as hard as I could as my flat tire plowed into an upraised section of sidewalk. I was thrown over my handlebars and hurtled into a small boy, as it turns out we were the same age. I met him head on as I flew through the air and we crashed into the concrete sidewalk in a tangled heap.
I let out a cry as I caught myself with my left arm, as I would later find out, I had broken it. I rolled onto my side clutching my arm. I was determined not to cry, my big brother never cried when he got hurt. Looking to my side I saw that the boy was just lying there, unmoving. My eyes widened as the most logical explanation came to mind, I killed him.
I gasped for air as I realized what I had done. My arm was throbbing now and I could do nothing to hold back tears. Through my blurred vision I saw a woman run to the boy, I cradled my arm as I rocked myself back and forth with tears streaming steadily down my face. I watched as she lifted his eyelids. What is she doing? She let his eye go back closed and then crawled the few remaining feet to me.
“Oh, honey,” she wiped the tears from my face, “he’s okay, you didn’t kill him.” Her words did nothing to stop my blubbering, my arm still hurt really bad. “David,” she called back towards the house she had come out of. As soon as the name escaped her lips a handsome man came through the doorway and bounded down the steps. He was by her side in an instant.
“What have we got here?” he chuckled. He had a nice smile, like the kind you would see on a commercial for toothpaste. It helped to slow down my tears. The woman told him something, but I wasn’t able to catch what she said, I was too busy looking into the handsome man’s eyes. They were really blue and pretty, like the color of cotton candy at the county fair. Then the woman pulled the boy into her arms and carried him back through the door.
He must have seen fear in my eyes because he said, “He’ll be alright, just a bump on the head. But you, that’s a nasty lookin’ scrape you got there on your elbow.” Gingerly, he took arm. I whimpered. His eyes widened in surprise.
“Sarah,” he called back towards the house. The same woman came out the door; she was pulling her hair back into a ponytail. “Her arm is broken.”
She hurried down the steps to take a look for herself, “Where do you live, baby?” I pointed down the street to my house and she held her arms out and wrapped them around me. She hoisted me up and I wrapped my legs around her waist. I nestled my head into her neck as she carried me to my house. She smelled good, like the oranges grandma bought for me whenever I stayed with her.
That was nearly 13 years ago, it still brings a smile to my face when I think about it. Although it wasn’t funny then I still look back on it and I can’t help but laugh. The same goes for Ray, my best friend and the boy who ran out in front of my new bike.
We didn’t become friends instantly, he’s kind of bad about holding grudges. Eventually he got over it, he had to. Our moms forced us together after that, his family was new in town and didn’t know anyone. We, I guess, were the perfect place to start with the friendly neighbor act.
Our first “play date” didn’t go over so well. I hated him because he made me wreck my new bike, he thought I was insane because I ran him over with my bike (it was clearly his fault, not mine). We still argue about whose fault it was.
“You knocked me out!” he exclaimed.
“I broke my arm and bent my handlebars,” I countered matter-of-factly.
“I had a concussion.”
“It’s was your fault, you ran out in front of me,” I replied in a sing-songy voice.
As he shook his head a golden flicker of light danced through his hair. “Whatever, you were obviously the guilty party,” he said as he jumped off my bed to avoid a playful blow from my fist.
“Let’s race for it.”
“Race? Are we five again?” he asked, looking at me incredulously.
“Yes, race. It’s the only way I see that this dispute can be resolved.”
Five minutes later we were standing on my front steps waiting for the signal to go.
“Alright, down to the pond and then to the apple tree.” Determination was evident in my voice as I said, “Prepare to be dominated.” And then we were off. We ran around the side of my house and through the backyard. We went through the rose garden and out the back gate. Neck and neck we sped down the hill in the direction of the pond. I was just pulling ahead when my foot caught on a rock. As I stumbled I reached for anything to stop my fall. Ray’s arm was the only thing that I was able to grab onto, but it did nothing to stop my fall. I pulled him to the ground with me and we rolled to the bottom of the steep hill. We landed in a laughing, tangled heap of limbs.
“Interference,” he shouted, “I win! And you, Adrianna Jayde Kennedy, have lost.” I watched him perform his happy dance as I propped myself up on my elbows in the soft grass. He reached his hand out and pulled me to my feet. He looked so much like his dad right then, it hurt my heart to think about it. “It’s Anna.”
He rolled his eyes and started back up the hill, “Whatever.”
I jogged the gap between us, “So you comin’ to my game on Thursday?”
“Sorry, man, can’t. Crys-“
“Gag,” I smirked, “’I promised Crystal that I would hang out with her’ blah, blah, blah, blah.”
“Shut up,” he shoved me through the gate, “you know, you really should get yourself a boyfriend.”
“Nah, I plan on being spinster and growing old with Ronald,” I laughed. “Speak of the devil.” I dropped to my knees as my puppy, a tan and white basset hound, waddled around the side of the house. His ears flopped as he shuffled through the tall grass towards me. “Isn’t that right, Ronald?” I ruffled his ears. “We’re going to have a big Victorian house to ourselves, with a yellow kitchen and…a purple bathroom and a big backyard for you and your floppy ears to run around in.”
“Don’t forget the jelly beans,” Ray put in.
“Oh, right,” I ruffled his ears some more, “and we’re going to eat jelly beans all day, just you and me.” I laughed as he jumped and licked my nose. “Can dogs eat jelly beans?” I asked Ray.
“I have no idea.”
“Well, Mr. Veterinarian Guy, you better find out. Don’t want Ronald here to keel over because he overdosed on easter candy.”
“Okay, I’ll be sure to do that,” he chuckled, “anyway, I gotta go.”
I walked him around to the front of the house, “I’ll see you tomorrow, I guess.”
“Bye,” he ruffled Ronald’s ears as he went, “and goodbye to you Mr. Weasley.”
I watched as he sauntered down the sidewalk and opened the door to his house. Just before he entered he looked back and waved at me.
The past few months things had been getting awkward between us, we just couldn’t think of things to talk about like we used to. (No, I’m not falling in love with him and he isn’t falling in love with me. He’s like my brother if anything and you don’t fall in love with your brother, that’s weird.) There is also the concept of college looming in the near future. I have big plans for my future and he does to, but for him his family is first. With him now the man of the house and having to support his mother and sisters his happiness is dwindling. I don’t blame him, my parents divorce was hard enough on me and my brothers, but at least we can still see both of our parents. If only heaven weren’t so far away, David would make things so much easier.