It was an early morning. Car noises, hum of the small factory in the distance and screams of the children who lived nearby had not filled the street. The sun was still gentle and friendly. Its blazing rays did not make everyone look for a shade, but were simply coloring the white walls of the kitchen in soft yellow. My parents were standing in front of me and smiling. My dad was wearing a bright cap and my mom was holding my birthday present. That should have been a perfect birthday for a six-year-old child, but it was not.
Now, after so many years, I understand how painfully I hurt the feelings of my parents whose only goal was to make me happy on that special day. We were not very rich and I know that perhaps they had to save for such an expensive present, but on that very morning, I did not care about all those things. When I saw the bicycle, I burst into tears. My parents were shocked. When they were looking at the present, they saw the best bicycle that was exhibited in the shop window of the nearest sports store. It was black with bright yellow stripes that were glittering in the morning sun. It did not look like a bicycle for a small kid – no cute animals, no butterflies, no cartoons. It was a bicycle that no professional cyclist would refuse as most of the children in my district thought.
However, the thing I saw was completely different. It was Betsy’s sandal, bright yellow with a little shiny black cat pinned to the front. It was lying in the middle of our lawn. And Betsy was lying in the middle of the road.
It happened two or three years before. It is impossible to remember exact dates at such a small age. I was standing on the arm-chair next to the window and looking into the street. I was ill and could not go out. My favourite pastime was watching people in the street. It was even better than watching TV as I knew the characters of this show much better than those strange television hosts and actors. I knew Betsy. She lived next door and sometimes behaved too bossy, but I liked her a lot because she was hilarious and had the funniest puppy in the world. She was laughing all the time and cracking jokes every minute. But not now.
A couple of minutes ago I was watching her driving her bicycle in front of our window and her puppy, Sammy, who was running after her and barking very loudly. Maybe it was because of the noise that Sammy did that and she probably simply did not hear the car. I did not think about it at that moment. I was just a small kid and I was paralyzed by the extremely loud screeches and squeals of the brakes and a piercing scream of Betsy’s mother that could make the hardest stone fall into pieces. I could not see Betsy now as she was surrounded by many people. Only her sandal was lying in the middle of our lawn. Yellow and black, like my new bicycle.
I think that my parents did not know that I had seen that accident. No nightmares disturbed my dreams and I did not wake up at night screaming with horror. I just remembered.
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My mom came into my bedroom and tried to calm me down. She asked what had happened, but I could not find proper words to tell her. She did not insist, she was holding me very tightly and saying that everything would be all right. It was a wonderful remedy for a six-year-old child, probably the best in the world. In half an hour, we returned to the kitchen to have breakfast. My dad was obviously disappointed, but he preferred not to touch this topic in order not to upset me even more. The bicycle was not there and I did not ask where they had put it. The rest of the day was more or less nice. It was Saturday and we went to the amusement park. In the evening, there was a small party for my family and relatives. I got many presents, mostly toys and books. Nobody said anything about the bicycle.
Next morning, I woke up and remembered that there was some more sugar cakes in the fridge. I knew that my mom believed in healthy breakfasts and would not allow me to start my day with cakes, so I tried to walk as quiet as a mouse to get a piece. I went down and when I passed the cupboard under the stairs, I saw that the door was a bit ajar. The bicycle was standing inside. I did not know what made me touch it; it was completely subconscious. I knew that when I touched it, I would see Betsy’s sandal and hear those terrible screams, but something made me do it. And I saw her. She was smiling. She was not lying in the middle of the street, but she was standing near the porch of our house with Sammy next to her. Betsy was smiling and she said that I had behaved like a coward. In her eyes I saw a mixture of mischief and happiness. Sammy barked loudly, probably agreeing with his owner.
I felt an arm on my shoulder. My father was standing behind me. He looked deep into my eyes and smiled a bit shyly. He did not want to hurt me. “Can you teach me how to ride a bike, Dad?”, I said. I was not a coward.
This is one of my strongest childhood memories. It was a very important lesson that taught me that we must not become the slaves of our past. Life is going on and the future should not suffer from the painful experiences we had long time ago. That bicycle and Betsy and my parents made me understand that sometimes you need to gather all your forces and move on. Not to forget, but to go forward.