When I was five years old, I fell off my bike.
It was this new model my parents had saved up for over many months. My dad, David, had worked odd jobs, from painting garage doors to building flat-pack furniture, to earn the extra cash. They had this old jam jar they collected the money in. It was kept on a high shelf next to the wine glasses, which would disrupt layers of dust whenever moved. My brother, Everett, told me it was money they were hiding from the taxman, something he’d learned about from kids at school.
When a new family moved into our street and one of their kids proudly proclaimed their dad was a taxman, I tried to move the jar to a better spot. But I ended up knocking down the entire shelf as I balanced on a kitchen chair. My parents were more worried than angry, and I even got to keep the scar on my foot from stepping on broken glass. I remember that night—drifting off to sleep in my mum’s arms as my dad swept up the mess I’d made.
“‘Sup, buttercup?” my dad whispered to my mum. “Fine day for a great escape.”
“Hey, May. Shame this winter will never end,” she whispered back.
A few days later, I came home to the bike. It was coated in mint green, with cream wheels—perhaps in hindsight a poor wheel colour choice—a pleather seat and handlebars, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles bell and this woven basket on the front that was just big enough to fit my Postman Pat toy. My dad attached stabiliser training wheels to the back, and off Everett and I went around our town, Fairwater.
He was so excited to show me around this town he’d already started to discover. We went to all the places he’d been to with his friends, and he even spent all his pocket money on sweets for us. And as we cycled up and down the streets, he’d always be turning around to check I was okay, holding himself back so he never strayed too far. He was always looking after me.
But I was too brave. At five years old, I thought I could conquer anything. As we neared the top of the big hill overlooking our town, I pulled out a hidden screwdriver from my basket and convinced Everett to remove my stabilisers. I’d dreamed of the rush I’d feel as gravity and wind teamed up to carry me home. But dreams aren’t real, because instead of carrying me home, they knocked me flying.
After checking I wasn’t badly hurt, Everett cycled home as fast as he could to get our parents. I cried all alone at the top of the hill for what felt like forever, until this woman appeared. I can’t picture her face or anything about her. She’s just this taller blob in my memories now. But she saved me.
She said, “I have a daughter your age, and this is exactly something she’d do, because she’s just as brave as you.” She picked me up and rocked me. “But I do worry about her, to be that brave and hopeful. What happens when she fails for the first time?”
My tears started to fade as the sobs softened.
“If I could wish anything for her, it’d be that one day she’ll be able to pick herself up when she falls, to not need saving.”
The woman was long gone by the time Everett returned with my parents to rescue me. My mother frantically cried about her baby while my dad carried me the whole way home. Everett promised to fix my bike as he dragged it behind us.
But there’s one part of this memory I can’t rationalise, so instead I brush it off as my childhood imagination. Because Everett’s never mentioned it and if it had happened, he would’ve definitely seen it. You don’t miss something like that. But I swear, just before I fell, my veins had been glowing black.
Maybe it didn’t happen; maybe I’m making it up. But this memory will always stick out in my mind, because that was the first night I dreamt of Biack.