Memories of Aiyana Part 7: The Bikes (3)
After the incident at the café, we didn’t have any issues in town with the shops. Looking back, it might have made us a little bit overconfident.
Key West was, is, a real nothing town. It didn’t take long for us to get bored with the shops and downtown and what little there was to see, but we didn’t have a problem. The batteries in Aiyana’s bodged-together transport were good for about fifty kilometers on their own, if she was driving. If I was driving, we’d get about twenty, but I always did drive faster than her.
With the pedals we had effectively unlimited range, and it wasn’t long before we started going farther and farther afield. We went to Bygland, and yes, that’s a real place. We went to Fisher, and Euclid, and Wylie and Agnus and Tabor and Warren, but they were all pretty similar to our hometown: wide spots in the road.
We didn’t want to go to Grand Rapids. Well, no, we did, but we knew we wouldn’t be allowed. After all, that was The Big City in the area, the place we all went for special things and occasions, shopping we couldn’t do anywhere locally. It was big and noisy and covered with permacrete and steel, and we just didn’t want to in any case.
We were still bored with the little towns, though, so one day we asked if we could go to Crookston, which was only about thirty kilometers away. It was the county seat, a real city to us girls, and we were shocked when our parents all agreed! Before they could change their minds, we were off.
Cass had the usual twenty her dad gave her, plus what she’d saved up from our earlier adventures. She was always more frugal than me, thinking about rainy days.
“It rains all the time!” I had said; I didn’t get the expression.
“Not that kind, I think,” she said, but she didn’t explain any more. Just that saving a few daleys was a good idea.
I filched a fifty daley bill from my mom’s ‘secret’ hiding place. Why she thought it was secret, I don’t know; Dad and I both knew about it. Anyhow, there was more money in there than I’d seen in one place before, so I figured she wouldn’t miss the fifty.
I was right, actually, but that was the least of our issues before the day was done.
Crookston was nice. Old-fashioned, like, pre-20th Century old-fashioned. We parked the bike, took the wheel – didn’t I mention that?
There wasn’t an ignition, right, so no key, no electronics; if you could fit, you could get it to go. Aiyana’s dad pointed that little flaw out to us when we started going into town, and since we didn’t want to walk home we listened to what he said. He rigged it so the steering wheel came off by pulling a single pin, and made us promise to take it with us whenever we parked. We always did.
There we were, though, walking around with a wheel in my backpack, and having a blast! Oh, it was fun! We got some funny looks, but there were enough people like us, kids, I mean, that we didn’t stand out too much.
After we had lunch, which she paid for, we went shopping. I found a flower I knew my mom would love, so I got that. Aiyana found a pile of books which cost less than my flower did, but I still had enough out of that fifty to get them and ice creams. We put everything in the bike then went out wandering some more.
At about three we decided it was time to go home. We still had six hours of daylight, but there were always more chores for us when we got home. Thinking about it, I don’t get how that worked.
See, we had to do our chores before we could go play. Didn’t finish, didn’t get to go. Simple. But there were always more chores later.
Wonder why I never noticed this before.
Right. Going home to do chores.
Well, we took the wrong road. We were supposed to take Imperial Highway 2, and we took Province Road 9.
Okay, okay. I was driving, so I took the wrong road. Hey, it’s an easy mistake to make, they converge in the center of downtown, they both head west, it’s just IH2 bends north and brings us towards 350 and home. We knew the turn, it was in Fisher and we knew we’d be home soon when we made it.
Well, I’m driving along, going almost as fast as the occasional car, when Cass says, “Kendra?”
“I think we’re lost.”
“No, we’re not lost!” Truth be told, I hadn’t looked at the nav unit even once, because this was old hat. I mean, doesn’t every five-year-old know how to drive around their county?
“I think we are,” she insisted, and she tapped at the nav. “See?”
“No, I can’t, I’m not supposed to take my eyes off the road!” Which was true, if unfair to bring up. After all, I spent enough time looking at scenery, I could have looked.
About then we zip over a big bridge which crossed a river and suddenly I know she’s right. We went over all sorts of bridges and creeks, but there weren’t any big rivers, and this one was.
“Maybe you’re right,” I agree, and I start slowing down. “Can you get us home?”
She starts fiddling with the nav, and that’s when I notice flashing lights.
No problem. Most of the cops knew us by now, but there were always occasional new ones. I knew the drill, and pulled off the road.
“Hello,” I said when I could see legs.
“Do you know where you are?” says a voice.
“Not really, but we’re working on it!” I say.
“You’re in Big Sky.”
“Please step out of the, uh, vehicle.”
I get out and I see the uniform is different from the ones I’m used to seeing. And isn’t it telling that I knew what the police uniforms should have looked like? A little disconcerting, in retrospect.
“Where do you live?”
“Key West.” I knew this part.
“Do you have ID?” he says. Gently, I have to admit. I don’t think he was expecting a little blonde girl to be driving on a highway.
“No,” I say. “But you can call our parents.”
“We’ll get to that. Why did you cross the border?”
He points behind us. “The bridge back there is the border between the Imperium and Big Sky. You’re not supposed to cross without permission.”
“Nobody stopped us!” I protested. Which was true, but what I didn’t know is all the cars and hovercars and aircars and all the vehicles that, you know, normal people had were equipped with transponders. The signals were picked up automatically and registered.
We didn’t have a transponder.
“Why are you in Big Sky?” he asks again.
“We got lost. I got lost,” I correct.
He was remarkably calm about a child driving.
“Do you need help getting home?”
Cass speaks up and says, “No, I have it figured out now.” I think he forgot she was in there because he jumps, then leans down and looks in to see her smiling. That smile works on anyone, and it worked on him.
“Okay, I think I can let, wait.”
He leans back down and looks behind the seat.
“What’s that?” He points to the plant.
“It’s a present for my mom,” I say.
“Do you know what kind of plant it is?”
“No, just that it’s pretty.”
This was the wrong answer, because he gets all stern. “Those are illegal in Big Sky. I’m sorry, miss, but you’re in big trouble.”
Now, I don’t know quite what’s going on, but if I’m in trouble I’m going down swinging. “I have my receipt!” I say, and dig for it.
“Here!” I shove it in his hands.
“Miss, you can’t bring those into Big Sky.”
“I didn’t know I was in your stupid country!”
Wrong answer. Now he’s not happy at all, and he makes us get out and sit in the back of his smelly car while he runs scans on us, checks it out, and calls our parents. Forty of the longest minutes of my life later, my dad pulls up and he and Cass’s mom get out of his old truck. They talk to the border officer and calm him down.
The officer opens the door and my dad pokes his head in.
“Not one word, Kendra Marissa. Not one.”
For once, I listen.
They load the bike into the back of the truck, thank the officer, and put us in the back.
I think I cried the whole way home. Didn’t do me any good, I was still grounded for the rest of the week. Cass got off easy, since she wasn’t driving, and was allowed to come over and hang out with me. I suppose it wasn’t all bad, then.
And my mom got her plant.
It was an Amazon Lily. Still illegal in Big Sky. No clue why.