I remove my heels from my feet and welcome the cold pavement, relieving me of the pain from my feet contorting. Eight hours walking around serving drinks to clients seemed like easy work on paper.
I’ve walked down the Kingston suburban streets so many times I don’t need much light to guide me through the evening. Curtains cover windows, some only partially closed, allowing me to see what their evening TV watch. Eastenders is a favourite among the various households. The smell of bolognese warms me and I take clumsier steps trying to walk faster, my feet landing on sharp stones that have lost their way from the stony driveways.
I turn the corner and there is figure near the mouth of the street. He’s under a street-lamp, standing tall and with a black bicycle between his legs.
A high-pitched sneeze escapes him and he slumps forward. He shakes his head as the sneeze leaves him then straightens and stands tall once again.
“I can do this,” he says, “you’ve got this.” Every word uttered escapes with a small white puff that twirl into the cold evening.
With his feet firmly on the pedals, he slowly moves down the street towards me. His jacket parachutes out and the curls on his forehead part to reveal his acne covered forehead. He doesn’t register my presence and starts to speed up. Shadows form across his face, stretching and shrinking his features as moves between the street-lamps.
He breaks unexpectedly, the back wheel lifts from the ground but his feet are already on the floor, grounding him. Pumping his fists into the sky and he jiggles about, his bike sandwiched between his legs.
I tuck myself in between two cars, not wanting to frighten him. I doubt he’d want to know someone is watching him right now. His moves aren’t something I’d ever show off.
He hops off his bike and claps his trainers together like a soldier called for attention before turning his bike round to face where he came from. He almpst trips over his own feet. I can’t help put feel a smile form on my face, his happiness so easy.
Without hesitation he mounts and pushes off again, standing up as he pedals, the bike swinging between his legs. I fan my hands out in the cold, suddenly realising they had become clammy in my pockets, and a vibration goes off in my pocket.
Just a few more moments. Let me look. Let me see.
He grips the handlebars so tightly the whites of his knuckles show, he leans forward as he pedals, his ears have gone pink from the cold. He starts to twist his handles and there is a faint click after each turn. His legs awkwardly pedalling round at different speeds after every gear change. He does a small semi-circle with his bike to face towards me again.
When he stops, he ruffles his hair with his hands with short stubby fingers. His hair hangs over his forehead drawing my attention in to his hazelnut eyes. There was something innocent in them, a hint of rebelliousness, but mostly warmth.
I jump as a firework lights the sky. A flash of red towering above us. I watch it disappear before another shower of colour fills the sky. I turn back to him on the bike, wanting to know if he’s watching them too, but he’s on the ground examining his hands. His bike is lying on the floor. What happened? Is he hurt? I want to run to him. To help him up but it isn’t the right moment yet.
I stubbornly crouch behind the car, allowing him to recover from his injury alone. Is he okay? I could rub the pain away? Maybe he’ll pretend it never happened. Our secret to keep. Just me and him.
I peek round the car. He is standing, his jeans hanging lower than normal but hiding his arse, hidden but easy to imagine. His jacket slid up his back revealing his bony figure, his skin most likely untouched. Small bumps form, he feels the cold on his exposed skin. I wonder if he would like my touch? Would he like being wanted? Teased?
It is a woman. She has the same hay coloured hair as him, the same arched nose. She wears a nightgown and a pair of slippers. She is holding a green helmet.
“You’ve already fallen over,” she says, looking at the bike then at him.
“Don’t give me that.”
“Sorry,” he said, “thanks for the bike.”
She takes Jack into an embrace, “You’re so big now, seven years old. I love you.”
I start to increase the distance between us.
“I love you too,” Jack says.
I need to return home.