She straddles her pink bike, feet planted firmly on the ground, and gazes at some undetermined point down the road. In her left hand she holds a sucker which she twists slowly round in her mouth, first one way, then the other, then back again. Her right hand rests loosely on the handlebars. The street stretches before her in the hot afternoon sun.
“Sheila”, another child shouts
Sheila’s head snaps around in the direction of the voice. She stops in middle twist, letting go of the sucker, and grips the handlebars firmly with two pudgy hands. Her lips pucker up around the stick of the sucker and her round cheeks are drawn in as she holds the candy in her mouth through sheer suction.
Honey-brown lashes fringe her piercing china blue eyes that dart to and fro searching for the owner of the voice. Curling tendrils of sun-bleached blond hair fly wispily about her plump face, escapees from the rest of her long thick hair which is swept back in a ponytail and held in place with a bright green ribbon.
As she stands there intently checking out the shadows around gateways and porches, some sticky-looking liquid trickles out of the corner of her mouth and starts to dribble down her chin. Sheila’s left hand reaches up to grab the sucker as her right hand tightens its grip on the handlebars and her legs stiffen to balance the bike. Noisily she sucks up the dribble and her pink tongue sneaks out to lick up the mess on her chin. Almost simultaneously, she lifts her left arm up to her face and drags the back of her long sleeve across her mouth and chin.
“Sheila!” The other voice is more insistent now.
Sheila returns the sucker to her mouth, clenching the stick between her teeth. She grips both handlebars firmly. She leans forward, puts her right foot on the pedal and pushes off with her left foot. As she wobbles along for the first few yards I notice a small hole in the right side of her green leggings. A tiny patch of yellow peeks through. Her white sneakers have green flashes on each side.
Although she is pedaling at a slow pace, her cheeks are quite red and she is already puffing from the exertion. Sheila is only ten years old but she stands as tall as any seventh grader. Her body frame is large and she moves awkwardly. After pedaling for just twenty to thirty yards, a sheen of sweat glistens on her forehead and on her upper lip. Her yellow tee-shirt sticks damply to her round upper torso.
“Boo!” A tousle-headed child jumps out laughing from a nearby garden gate then quickly disappears.
Sheila’s bike wobbles precariously as she starts to lose balance. Her eyes are wide open, nostrils flaring as she breathes heavily through her nose, the sucker still firmly gripped in her mouth. Frown lines crease her forehead as she focuses intently to keep the bike under control. Her left foot comes down, heel first, and scrapes noisily on the ground as the bike grinds to a halt.
Twisting around on the seat, Sheila glowers from beneath knitted eyebrows. Her right hand grabs the sucker and yanks it from her mouth. Gritting her teeth she hisses menacingly in the direction of the disappearing child.
“I’ll get you for this Rachel.”