Kansas

Mary on romulus (winter)Emily wrapped her scarf twice around her neck and stuffed it snugly in her jacket before starting down 12th Street again. The snow had come suddenly – it had been sunny and pleasant on the way to school. By the time she turned north into her neighbourhood, the white stuff was beginning to stick, in that dangerous phase where the road is most slippery. Fortunately, she did not have any turns or hills ahead, and her Schwalbe Marathoner tires were reliable going straight.

Swinter tires workinghe blinked the snow off her eyelashes as she unlocked the garage door and stowed her bicycle against the far wall. Shedding her jacket and shoes, she went into the house to drop her book-bag panniers in her room. Then she went into the kitchen to see how long it would take to heat up the casserole her mother had left. She had two hours to finish her homework and still have dinner ready when her parents got home.

The casserole was half done, and Emily was setting the table when she recognized the sound of her mother’s car easing into the garage.

“Hi, Mom. Dinner in about twenty minutes.”

“Thank goodness,” Katharine Dempsey came in from the mudroom off the garage, minus her heels and her overcoat. “What weather. It’s not even Thanksgiving yet!” She stopped, remembering that Emily had come home on her bicycle.

“How was it getting from school?”

“No problem. The snow didn’t start until I was almost home. Cold, though.”

“Good. Mark will be home soon. We have big news, but first, let me change.”

Katharine gave her daughter a hug, then went to her bedroom. She came out in jeans and a sweatshirt just as the garage door opened again. Mark Dempsey’s Tesla did not make any noise at all. He came in, with his shoes in one hand and his briefcase in the other.

“Hello, Emily. That smells good.”

“Disclaimer: Mom made it.”

Mark kissed his wife. “Then it smells even better I guess, but the fact that it’s hot and ready on a miserable day like this is all your credit, Em. Thanks.” He tossed his briefcase on the desk in the home office, swung by the bedroom for a pair of slippers, and joined them in the dining room.

“Mom says that you have big news,” Emily said, holding out her dish to Katharine, who dumped a quarter of the pan onto it, with a grin.

“We both do, Em. You want to go first, Katharine?” He held out his dish, then made a mocking show of comparing his meager (normal) portion to Emily’s. Katharine shook her head, and grinned.

“No, dear,” she said. “You start the show.”

Mark poured hot cider for everyone as he spoke. “I got a call from my old friend Tim this morning.”

“Who’s Tim?” Emily asked.

“My college roommate, and possibly my best friend after your mother.”

“Wasn’t he the best man?”

“Yes, that’s Tim.” He took a bite and relished it, chewing slowly while the others watched and waited. Food was not hurried in the Dempsey household, even when reheated. “Anyway, Tim has asked me to take over his company as CEO. He wants to move to California, where he has several start-up ventures.”

“Is it like what you do for the Air Force?”

“It’s another defense contractor, and the Air Force is one of his big clients. It’s a good fit. I would like the work, because it’s what I did before I came to Wichita.”

“We would have to move,“ guessed Emily.

“Well, yes. Which is why I am bringing this home to you and your mother before I call Tim back.”

“Where?”

“The company is in Richmond, Virginia. Although I would be going to Washington and military bases in Hampton Roads a lot. We could live almost anywhere in the state.”

Emily looked at her mother, who had just taken a bite of salad.

“Is your news the same?”

Katharine finished chewing, and took a sip of cider. “Similar, but no, not the same. I got a call from a friend on the Faculty at the University of Virginia. There’s an opening coming up for a tenure-track position. It will be advertised tomorrow. They’re hoping to fill it between semesters.”

“They want you?”

“Well, they can’t say so officially, but it’s a very small field. I know all the others who could fill in, and none of them could take it right now.”

“Couldn’t they hire a temp of some sort? What do you call them? Adjunct something.”

“Yes, they could hire an adjunct instructor for the undergraduate classes, but they have graduate students in their PhD pipeline, and there aren’t many people who could move to Charlottesville to teach at that level for just a semester.”

“Do you want to move?” Emily looked back and forth at the two of them.

“Well,” said Mark, “the question is do we want to move. I can do just fine staying here or moving, and I think that you’re in a good position at Wichita State, aren’t you, Katharine?”

“Yes.” She looked at her daughter. “But what do you think, Emily?”

“Richmond, where they held the World Cycling Championships?” Emily spread her hands in amazement. “What do you think I think?”

“But what about your friends here?” Katharine remembered how tough the transition to Chisholm Middle School had been on her daughter. Except for a few Air Force kids, everyone had never been anywhere else, and Emily had been mercilessly bullied in seventh grade.

Emily thought about that for a while. “All my friends ride bikes. But jocks don’t hang with us, and neither do the nerds. I think Joanna and Mary and girls on the K-Bikes team would be happy for me. They have hills in the east. Real ones. I think my friends would want me to take them along.”

Mark and Katharine looked at each other, then laughed.

“Maybe we better find a place with a guest house and an extra garage for the sag wagon,” said Mark.

“Speaking of that, where would we live?”

“Your mother and I have been talking about that. We both like Charlottesville, because it has great schools. It’s really pretty, and I think that you will be able to fit in better. Charlottesville is not only very diverse; it has a sizable transient population, so there are always new kids coming in.” He looked at Katharine.

“You could train on the TransAmerica Trail. The climbs up and over the Blue Ridge are not just scenic. They’re steep and curving. We wouldn’t have to drive you to the next state to train for a high-level race.”

“It sounds like a done deal. When do we go?”

“Not before the end of the semester here,” said her mother. “I need to apply right away, and serve notice to Wichita State.”

“They won’t be happy.”

“They have others who will be.”

Mark took another helping of casserole. “I’ll write to Tim tonight. Then we can start working on the details.”

The rest of the meal was an excited mix of dreams and possibilities.

It took less than a week for the University of Virginia to make a formal offer to Katharine. By then, Tim’s company had announced the change in CEO’s to the press, and Mark flew out to Richmond to meet with the management team. He already knew almost everyone on the Board, and most of the senior management. It would be an easy transition. Emily did not tell anyone at school until the weekend when the team gathered at K-Bikes for coffee and socializing. The snow had not cleared enough for a good training ride.

“Can’t say that I’m happy for the team, Em,” Matt said. “We’re taking a big hit. But I am seriously happy for you. We love you here, and I hope we will see you on the road and on TV.”

“K-Bikes has the best . coach . ever. I’m sure we’ll see a lot of each other, if I can get on the circuit back East.”

Joanna started to cry. “Oh, Em. I’m sorry I was cruel to you.”

“Huh?”

“When I made you crash, because I went on that date with Steve.”

“Oh, that.” Emily hugged her. “I forgot already, see? Besides, I slipped on the leaves all by myself. It made me take Jake’s class, so now I can always get a job as a wrench if I need to.” She winked at Jake, who beamed.

“In another year, Jo and Mary will be as fast as you were,” he said. The two youngest women on the team blushed and smiled.

Emily rode home feeling good, but also wistful. She wished she could take her friends with her, but she also had the feeling of passing a big milestone. Somewhere in the East, another team was waiting, a new school was waiting, and new friends were waiting. It was scary and fun all at the same time.

=======

Until next time,

Smooth roads and tailwinds,

Jonathan

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