AN: Hey-lo. I'm not precisely new here but it's been a very long time since I've written or updated anything - so some of you may not remember or recognize me. My computer kicked the bucket absolutely in April (like - wouldn't turn on) and I only recently bought a new one with the money from my summer job. Which is, ironically, working at a police museum. But now that I has internetz again and Flashpoint is back on the air I'm hoping to be a little more ... regular shall we say. Is there metamucil for writing? Anyway - full steam ahead!
Disclaimer: Ain't none of this mine. Whatsoever.
It was the kind of afternoon where the heat swelled and the winds died. The sun beat down in thick, humid waves and animals lumbered sleepily in search of shade and drink. It was a day for dripping ice cream and cold sprinklers; when pavement burned bare soles and steamy air rose in a thick haze above the blackened asphalt. It was the kind of dog-days of summer that childhood is legendary for. The kind adults remember longingly, wistfully recalling those blissful August afternoons.
Natalie sat crosslegged on the lawn, legs splayed on the hard sun-baked earth. The yellow grass, long dead from the dry summer and from the neglect of the previous tenants, tickled against her calves. She crossed her arms across her chest, a grim pout spreading across her impish face as she watched her two older siblings pedal lazily down the asphalt driveway.
Stupid Sarah. Stupid Sam. Stupid grass.
Sam was only a sliver older than Sar, his eight to her seven, yet their mother called them her Irish Twins. Natalie didn't know what that meant but figured it was some kind of weird adult thing because no matter where they went people always seemed to think they'd been born they way they were now - inseperable. No one ever thought to include her. No no no. Natalie, at three whole years younger than Sarah, was nothing more than an inconvenient tag-along. They were always off having grand adventures together; they had found in each other a permanent friend and playmate – the kind you got to take from base to base, city to city. She had no-one. She was all alone.
Stupid Sarah. Stupid Sam.
Their heads, capped with the same shade of sunny-blonde hair, bent low over the handle-bars of their identical red bikes as they bobbed and weaved on the empty street. Her bike was dumb. It was a silly baby bike with bright pink handlebars and colourful streamers – it even had a set of training wheels tagging along. She could never pedal as fast or as far as her brother or sister. They always left her behind. She could hear, even at a distance, their shouts of joy as Sam managed to pop his bike up into a short jump. It made her insides curdle with jealousy.
Stupid Sarah. Stupid Sam. Stupid Bikes.
It was too hot, the sun beating down was unbearable. A line of sweat trickled down her neck. And the wading pool, with its fun yellow and purple dinosaurs etched all across the sides, hadn't even been unpacked yet. So she couldn't even go swimming and that was her favourite thing of all.
Stupid sun. Stupid Saskatchewan. Stupid Summer.
She reached up with one fist to smear away the angry tear that slid down her reddened cheek.
"Aw, come on Nat. Don't cry." Called Sam, his feet slowing on the pedals. He looped casually closer.
Natalie pressed her eyes shut even harder. "'M not crying." She sniffed huffily.
"Are too!" Sarah called from the end of the driveway. She spun in another quick and furious circle.
"Am not!" Natalie shot back, clambering to her feet, angry fists clenched at her sides. "I hate you! I hate this dumbie place. There's nothing to do!"
Sam sighed. He rolled to a stop, the bike crunching over the hard earth as the wheels skidded off the driveway. He carefully propped up the bike-stand. The shiny red bike was his current pride and joy. His father had brought home a matching set only six weeks before. And the moment he'd wheeled the pair down the ramp of his truck Sam had knew their stay in the Ottawa valley was coming to an end. That's the way it always ran. They've move into some shady base house where the rooms smelt like other people. His mother would fuss, scrubbing and scraping away until she was satisfied. She hauled around the same pair of lace white curtains she hung in the kitchen of every home. Something to feel like home. They'd settle into a school, a new classroom and friends. Their father would enroll him in hockey and soccer, Sarah in baseball and ballet. And then, months along the line when they'd finally come to accept this place as home, had stopped expecting it entirely, he'd come home with a gift. And six weeks later they'd be packing across the country to another new home with Mom's curtains and Sarah's ballet slippers tucked somewhere in the trunk.
Natalie wasn't used to it. She didn't understand yet. It's better not to let yourself get too attached to places or the people that come with them. It's better to maintain that police and distant façade. All they really needed was each other, after all.
"It's not so bad Natsy. It's really not." He grinned winningly.
"Come on Sam!" Sarah called impatiently, waiting for him to rejon her.
"Go on. Get your bike and you can join us." Sam cajoled, his tone the mixed frustration and pleading that only an older brother, threatened with tears, can manage.
"Don't want to. My bike's stupid." She sniveled.
Sam scratched his forehead. "Huh?"
"It's pink." Nat spat venomously, grinding one sandaled toe into the dusty earth. Sam didn't understand anything at all.
Sam figured Natalie didn't just live in the Bizarro Land of Girls – she was their Queen, leader and god. Only in the psycho world of sisters did that make any sense. Pink was his Nat's favourite colour. Everything she damned owned – including the sneakers on her feet at this very moment – was the same eye-searing shade of powder pink. However, he was wise enough to merely nod, feigning agreement. If there was one thing you didn't do with sisters it was disagree with their backwards logic no matter how wrong they truly were.
"Can I ride your bike?" Nat asked suddenly, eyes shining beneath the thick sheen of tears.
He looked down at the shiny, unscratched frame of his perfect red bike. There were a hundred reasons why he should say no. She'd dent and scratch it. Her little feet couldn't reach the pedals. His father would skin him alive when the inevitable happened and she crashed, scraping a solid inch of skin off hands and knees.
But damned if he didn't want to see her smile.
He sighed, glancing over his shoulder to where Sarah had glided the bike to a stop, watching him with owlish eyes. She seemed to look at him expectantly. Now What?
He lifted one shoulder in a half-shrug. He shot a glance at the kitchen windows, edged in his mother's white lace. No trace of her silhouette watching out the window for them. "You can ride the handlebars." He offered slowly.
A toothy, winning grin shot across her face. The tears on her cheeks hadn't even had the chance to dry.
She reached up expectantly, arms spread wide. Sam grunted as he swung her up onto the metal bars. Her feet dangled precariously over the front wheel. She wriggled and the bike swayed dangerously, pitching to the left. A bead of sweat trickled down Sam's back as he shifted to keep them both from upsetting the bike and sending them both tumbling across the dead lawn.
"You gotta keep real still Nat." He said patiently, laboring as his feet lifted off the ground, finding their place on the metal pedals. He pushed hard, shoving down with all his strength. The frame wobbled, inching forward. It was heavier under the weight of two people. For a minute he thought they'd pitch forward, spilling off the bike, but it held firm beneath them, rolling on.
Nat sucked in a deep breath hands clenching the ends of the handlebars until the knuckles whitened on the silver rods.
Sam shifted again, shoving ahead. And slowly the bike wheeled down the flat driveway. It was like pushing through molasses those first few metres. But, at last, the bike pulled easily, shooting forward. And, with Sam at the helm, they shot past Sarah onto the deserted asphalt of the road. The faded yellow lines whizzed beneath the wheels of Sam's bike as they raced down the empty street.
The wind, long dead, picked up, playing through the ends of her hair, whipping them back into her face and nipping at the edges of her dress. Her legs kicked merrily in rhythm with Sam's feet on the pedals.
Slowly her grip eased on the handlebars. Then slowly, into the wind, she raised them. She felt like she was soaring, the earth rushing by beneath her. The asphalt span, dizzyingly quickly beneath her dangling feet and the rows of houses and yellow grass seemed to blur as they picked up speed.
Faster! She wanted to say. Faster! But she couldn't summon the breath to do it. Sam panted as he pushed them further, the spokes of his wheels clicking as he switched gears and the bike gained even more speed.
She laughed – the kind of giddy laughter only children can summon. Sam let out a rumbling whoop at her back. The sun, beastly heat long forgotten, was warm as it spread across her outstretched hands. She tilted her head back and it drifted across her face. The sun's fine bursts of white light dazzled and blinded her. But she never dropped her arms, nor did the smile fade from her face. It felt as if she were flying.
With the wind in her hair and sun on her face, she couldn't imagine a better brother or a more perfect feeling.