A Short Story on the Website of
the Red Dirt Writers Society

The Ten Year Wait
by Beth Stephenson (Jan 2010)

         At last it had arrived. Tomorrow would be Charity’s tenth birthday and her patience would finally be rewarded. Every other child over age six in their row house neighborhood had a bicycle. When Charity’s brother Dameon turned ten, two years ago, only she understood the tears of relief when he saw his first bike. No longer did he have to run beside his friends when they went to the park or sit quietly as the other boys exaggerated their back-alley feats. He quickly became the champion liar.

        The girls didn’t care about tricks. They often spent their afternoons decorating their spokes, and trading stickers for their frames. Jenny triumphed when she added tassels to her seat and handlebars. Charity listened and watched, waiting for the time when her grand ideas would outstrip even tassels.

        She lay sweating in the June night. The cicadas were quiet now, and she opened her window. The kitchen window was also open.

        “I don’t know about this, Sheba,” she heard her father say.

        “You don’t know girls, do you!” her mother scolded. “It’s like the one I got at her age, an she’ll be the envy of the neighborhood.”

        Charity dozed fitfully, hoping that banana seats had been fashionable 20 years ago.

        The sunrise had faded when the scent of coffee cake assured Charity that it wouldn’t be much longer. She must go downstairs last, so that the family could receive her with their birthday wishes.

        Dameon’s grin matched hers as she descended. The coffee cake was her favorite, but she had barely tasted it when Dameon presented her with huge, metallic handlebar tassels. Her father frowned.

        “I think it’s time!” her mother’s eyes sparkled. She went to the parlor and returned with a box that was too small for a bike. The ten-year-old tore it open, hoping it was a decoy. A red velvet and lace Sunday dress lay within. “I sewed it myself,” Sheba said.

        Charity’s father frowned. Sheba’s smile faded. Dameon slammed the alley door behind himself.

        “Thank you.” Charity’s voice seemed to echo in a long, dark tunnel.


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