That same Monday after lunch, Emily rode out Avon Street to Community Bikes on the south side of Charlottesville. She took her Bianchi Volpe and wore her touring bicycle kit.
“Hey, Tani, what’s up?” she said to the wrench helping a ten-year old boy change a tire.
“Emily!” Taniqua crushed Emily in a bear hug. They stood back and sized each other up. Taniqua had continued to grow, and now the rising sophomore was as tall as Emily, with strong legs and a slim figure. She still wore her hair short, and her face had matured. “You look different – and so tan. Girl, you could hang with us if you stay out any more!” Emily laughed. “You’ve grown, too. How’s the work here?”
“It’s OK” said Taniqua. The boy finished sliding the tire back on the rim and looked up.
“It’s more than OK,” he said. “She’s awesome. She knows everything about bikes!”
Taniqua pointed to the floor pump, and he went to fill his tire.
“When do you get off?” Emily asked.
“I finished already, but I missed lunch. Let me grab it and we can chat somewhere while I eat.” She said a few words to the manager and pulled a brown paper bag out of the refrigerator. She zipped it into the rack trunk on her Bianchi Volpe and the two friends rode to the Downtown Mall.
Sitting on a bench, they caught up on their summer adventures while the tourists walked past them. The two green Bianchi’s caught a little attention, and the teenage boys ogled them and tried to look cool. Emily enjoyed being able to sit with her friend and not be recognized.
“I see you got shoes with cleats and clips on your pedals, Tani,” said Emily. “You really move out now.”
“I still wish I could race,” said Taniqua as she crumpled the wax paper from her sandwich into her bag and took out a banana. She offered it to Emily, who shook her head.
“Why don’t you? There are at least two teams in Charlottesville with junior development programs. That’s how I got started in Kansas.”
“Yeah, but they cost too much: license dues, clothes, those fancy plastic shoes. I don’t even have the right bike.” She waved at the two bikes. “I love my bike, but I could never ride like you on it.”
“If you could ride like me on it, you’d be incredible on a Colnago, Tani. I’ve seen you ride. You have a natural form.”
“But I can’t go to someone like CRC and ask to ride, then have to drop it when I can’t afford things. And what about travel money? Even if I got good, my mom couldn’t take me to Richmond and Williamsburg to compete like your folks did. That was so great last year.”
Emily and Taniqua sat silently for a while. Taniqua slowly eating her banana, and Emily thinking deeply.
“Tani, you can race if you want to. You just need to train, then approach one of the teams. If you’re good – and I know you will be – money won’t be the problem. The teams have scholarships. They want winning riders, and they will find a way to make it happen.”
“Training means a coach, doesn’t it?”
“Sure. How about me?”
“You? But Em, you’re my friend, and a champion. I’ll hold you back.”
“No, you won’t. Let’s ride my training routes on my recovery days. I train on Tuesday and Thursday, so you and I can ride on Wednesdays and Fridays. I wouldn’t want to ride faster than you on those days, but I could give you pointers. You’ll have to work up your endurance and speed. By the time it’s no longer a recovery ride for me, you can switch up to the fast group rides on Tuesdays and approach one of the teams. What do you say?”
“School starts in three weeks.”
“UVA starts in two weeks. No problem. We can ride after school, like we did last year when you were showing me around.”
“Want to go ride now? I don’t have to be home until five.”
They rode out US-250 west, past Crozet and took the Transamerica Bike Trail back, looping North to Rio Road and the bike lanes that cut the town in half from north to south. They rode as fast as Emily normally did during the summer touring, which was a challenge for Taniqua.
Mrs. Jackson was walking from the bus stop when they pulled up in front of Taniqua’s house.
“Goodness, girl, you’re soakin’ wet,” she said, as her daughter dismounted and gave her a hug. “Emily! Have you two been swimmin’?”
“No, Mrs. Jackson. I was showing her one of my training routes.”
“I want to race, Mom, and Emily’s gonna be my coach!”
Louisa Jackson’s expression darkened, and she looked at Emily with a stern expression.
“I just offered to give her some pointers, to help develop her form. She’s a natural athlete, Mrs. Jackson. I think she could develop into a fine racer.”
Taniqua’s mother looked at her daughter. “We talked about this before, and we looked into it. I can’t afford it.”
“Mrs. Jackson,” said Emily. “It doesn’t have to cost anything beyond what you’ve put out to get her to this point. She needs to train first, and that does not require special gear. I can ride with her after school on Wednesdays and Fridays. When she’s good enough, she can apply to one of the teams in town. They have scholarships for promising riders, and I’m sure Taniqua would qualify. She’d be earning her own way.”
Louisa Jackson motioned the two of them into the house. They locked their bikes together outside and went in. Mrs. Jackson put her purse and her shopping on the kitchen counter and took a half-gallon of orange juice from the refrigerator. Both girls nodded to her inquiring look.
“But she needs a fancy bike, doesn’t she?”
“Not at first. Her Bianchi is just fine. If the team takes her on, they’ll provide the bike, and maintain it, too. Riders are not expected to be wrenches, even though Tani already is one.”
“Please, Mom. It’s just Emily and me riding at first, just like before.”
Louisa Jackson looked at the two of them, then smiled at her daughter. “I guess it’s OK. Just don’t be going off having adventures like this one did this summer!” She cocked her head at Emily. Taniqua nodded vigorously.
“Promise, Mrs. Jackson,” said Emily. “I don’t want any more adventures either!”
Emily took her leave and rode home in time to beat her mother back from the PhD seminar she was meeting with. Mark returned just before supper.
The next two weeks were filled with activity. Training three times a week, alone and with the UVA team, riding with Taniqua, shopping for school, and orientation meetings on Grounds. She had asked for and been assigned a traditional dorm room on McCormick Road. She approached Move-in Day like another tour, packing her panniers, and a messenger bag for her computer.
The weekend after Jack visited NGIC, Hilda and he rode out to the Dempsey’s for a backyard barbecue. Jack had decided to accept Col. Richardson’s offer, so with Hilda starting work the Monday after Move-in day, this was the last gathering of the summer for the five friends. They enjoyed each other’s company until almost midnight, when Jack and Hilda rode back to her flat. They enjoyed the night air, cool and fresh after the heat of the day, and clean with almost no traffic.
Monday morning, Jack took the Northeast Regional to Aberdeen to gather his uniforms and other possessions. Not that there was much. Monday afternoon he called on Nate Harper and Ted Turner, because orders transferring him to NGIC had been issued on Friday. It only took an hour for the checkout procedure. He spent the night with Joe and Linda.
“Are you going to get your own place, Jack?” Joe Rathburn asked his brother as he drove him to the train station on Tuesday. “That new PO Box in Charlottesville will be a little tight, don’t you think?”
“Hilda asked me to stay with her. The job at NGIC is temporary, so neither of us knows where we’ll be next year.”
“If Kathleen Richardson likes you, the job won’t stay temporary, bro.” Joe winked.
“If they want me permanently, they have to let me retire again so they can hire me as a civilian. That, or promote me to lieutenant-colonel to keep me on active duty.”
“She is perfectly capable of that.”
“But on paper, I don’t fit the job description.”
“They can rewrite that any time they want.” Joe punched him and smiled. “I hope you enjoy the work. NGIC is at the cutting edge.”
Joe pulled his truck into the parking lot of the train station. Jack pulled his duffel bag out of the truck bed and walked to the platform with his brother. Side-by-side, the resemblance was striking. Both men were aging well, so that the difference in their ages grew less each year. The train arrived on time. With a hug and a promise to keep in touch, Jack was on his way to the next chapter in his life.
UVA Move-in Day the following weekend was an adventure in its own right. SUV’s and cars with trailers were lining up for their time slots as Katherine and Emily rode down McCormick Road and locked their bikes outside Lefevre House on Hancock Drive. A hot summer sun had been beating on the asphalt and the humans for hours, and it was almost at its zenith.
All around them, students were running with their arms full. Parents were crying and shouting, and tempers were flaring as parents tried to move their children’s belongings to the sidewalk and then up to the rooms. Emily unsnapped her panniers and hugged her mother.
“Bye, Mom. I’ll call you this afternoon.”
“Home for supper?”
“Let me call you after the President’s Address this afternoon. I want to meet my roommate first.”
“OK. Let me know.”
Emily headed into the open door but stopped and slipped back out to watch her mother ride up Hancock Drive towards McCormick Road. Katherine’s hand was wiping her eyes as she pedalled to her office.
Up on the second floor, Emily found her room halfway down the hall. She pushed the door open and found that she was the first to arrive. She went to the window and opened it. The window faced west and looked over the Cemetery, a park-like foreground to Lewis Mountain. The fresh air from the trees quickly displaced the hot stuffiness in the room. She picked the bed and desk on the south wall, which stayed in shade all day. Putting her messenger bag on the desk, she unloaded her panniers into the closet and made her bed. She was standing at the mirror next to the desk wondering if she wanted to rent a micro-fridge when the door flew open with a crash.
“Which bed is Cindy’s?” shouted a walking mountain of suitcases topped by a purple backpack. Emily whirled around and leapt backwards on to her bed while the pile teetered toward the window. She pointed across the room.
“Thanks.” The large man in a red shirt and jeans turned right just in time to drop his load on the bed. His voice matched his burly appearance, bass and loud.
Emily eased off the bed as he stood up and turned around.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hi. Be right back!” He ran to the door, yanked it open and almost knocked over a slender woman about his shoulder height, carrying three totes and another backpack. He mumbled an apology and ran down the hall. The woman stepped inside. Behind her came a shy-looking girl with wide, blue eyes, and blond hair in a ponytail. She looked around the room with a mix of fear and dismay. When her gaze settled on Emily, she smiled weakly, and put down the two totes she was carrying.
“Hello,” said the older woman. Emily smiled and tried to breathe shallowly to avoid taking in the sharp smell of sandalwood perfume mixed with tobacco. “I’m Sandra Matthews and this is Cindy.”
“Hi. Emily Hampstead.” Emily held her hand out. Cindy shook it while her mother dumped her load on the bed. Cindy’s grip was firm, which surprised Emily. Cindy was about Emily’s height, but thinner. Her expression shifted from awe to pleasure, and her smile widened and went up to her eyes. Sandra turned around and shook hands, too. She had dyed blond hair cut shoulder length, and tanned, leathery skin. Emily recognized the wrinkles around her mouth as something smokers get, so Sandra could have been any age old enough to have Cindy.
“Need some help?” asked Emily.
“I think we only have one more run. My husband is getting the micro-fridge and the last suitcase.” She waved at Cindy, who hurried to open suitcases and empty them on the bed. She had a massive pile of clothing and other belongings on the bed by the time her father pushed his back through the door with a micro-fridge and another suitcase on a dolly.
“I was just wondering whether to rent one of those,” Emily offered, as he swung it into place. Cindy took the suitcase and emptied it on the pile on the bed.
“No need. It served her brother just fine.” He extended his hand. “I’m Alden.” His hands were rough with callouses, and his grip stopped just short of crushing her hand. He turned to the others. “Gotta move the truck. Let’s get those suitcases out of here.” The family vanished as suddenly as they had appeared, leaving behind a single medium suitcase teetering atop the pile. Emily went to the window and leaned out in time to see them come out the front door. Alden had four empty suitcases on the dolly, and the women had one in each hand. They walked across the street to a four-door, king-cab pickup truck and heaved their loads into the bed. Cindy hugged her parents, then waved from the sidewalk as they got in the truck and drove away.
Emily looked around the room. The micro-fridge was covered with decals from Virginia Tech and organizations that she did not recognize. The pile on the bed included wear for every occasion, including two long evening gowns, suits, a fan, a large, professional hair dryer, jeans and tee-shirts in every colour possible. Emily wondered if Cindy would have to do laundry before Thanksgiving if she changed every day.
She took her plastic water glass from the shelf in her closet and filled it from the sink. She had just finished drinking and putting glass on the left side of the sink, when Cindy pushed through the door. She had her cell phone to her ear.
“Yes, Mom… Don’t worry. Yes, Mom. Bye, I love you, too.” She tapped the phone and rolled her eyes as she threw the phone on the desk. She looked at Emily. “They’re still in traffic getting to I-64.” She sat down on the desk chair with a sigh.
“Where are they going? Home?”
Cindy nodded. “Virginia Beach. Stopping at Short Pump for lunch.”
“I rode through Hampton Roads last spring. Nice place.”
“I guess. I’ve never lived anywhere else.” She nodded to Emily’s closet. “Is that all you brought?”
“Uh-uh. It had to fit in the two panniers down there.” She pointed to the floor of the closet. “If I need anything else, I’ll get it later.”
“I wish I thought of that. We went crazy this week, and Mom went ballistic worrying about what I would need. I just got out of the way.”
“Is she always like this?”
“She overloaded my brother Matt when he went to Tech. I’ll be bringing stuff home on every trip until I graduate!” That made Emily laugh.
“Can I hand you stuff – at least the hanging things?”
Cindy got up. “Thanks. That would be nice.”
Together, they had Cindy’s closet crammed full in just a few minutes. It took a while to sort out the things she would use to put in the drawers. What was left, she put in the suitcase. “First run home,” she said, patting the suitcase and leaning it on the wall near her desk. The desk was full of items, but the bed was clear. The medicine cabinet and Cindy’s half of the sink were full.
Cindy’s mother called twice while they were organizing their respective desks. Emily avoided commenting. She guessed that Cindy was the last child to leave the nest. By 12:30, they were more or less moved in.
“We have a half-hour before the President’s Address. Want to grab something to eat on the way?” Emily asked.
“Newcomb Hall is on the way to Old Cabell Hall.”
“Lemme look those up.”
“Don’t bother. I’m local. I’ll give you the tour on the way.”
“Awesome!” Cindy’s eyes widened. “I was worried about getting lost. Orientation was a blur.”
Emily did a noir detective imitation, “stick with me, kid!”
They laughed, grabbed their phones and wallets, and locked the door behind them. In the hall, they joined the flow of students with the same idea, dodging the families still coming upstairs to move in. The noise level reminded Emily of the hallways in high school between classes, except for the deeper voices of the fathers.
They picked up sandwiches at Newcomb Hall, which they finished on the way to Old Cabell Hall. The two roommates briefed each other on their backgrounds. Cindy’s parents settled in Virginia Beach when her father retired from the Navy. Matt was about three. Alden was courted by the defense contractors for his skills, but he liked working with his hands. He became a custom builder and handyman, and his business was booming when Cindy came along.
Cindy’s wide-eyed excitement about Emily’s having lived in different places made Emily a little uncomfortable, if only because she had never felt that way. She was surprised that the Matthews family had never vacationed abroad, but considering that a builder’s busiest and most profitable season is the summer, it made sense that Sandra and Cindy would take small trips rather than extended holidays. As they settled into seats in the auditorium, she noticed a student in the row in front of them with an “I registered” sticker on her shirt. Emily had registered to vote before leaving in the spring.
“How old are you, Cindy?”
“18 last month, why?”
“Did you register to vote before you came?”
“No. I don’t know how.”
“There’s a booth at the Student Activities Center. We can stop by there on the way back and take care of it.”
“I could vote in Charlottesville?”
“Cool! – ” Applause cut off whatever she was saying. The Provost, the President and a half-dozen other officials walked onto the stage. The students settled down to listen to the speeches. Emily had met the new President at a reception for the Faculty and their families shortly after she returned to Charlottesville. There had been speeches there, too. The Provost was also new. Both officials made much of their newness held in common with the First-Year students (not “Freshmen” as in other schools).
Emily looked around. Some of her classmates looked bored, some mildly interested. Many, like Cindy, looked at the stage as if in rapture. Whether the speech or the reproduction of Raphael’s School of Athens behind the stage attracted their interest, she could not tell.
After the speeches, the two walked to the SAC.
“No need to make a commitment now,” said the student volunteer manning the voting registration station. “But you’ll be able to vote if you decide you want to later – and it’s good as long as you are a student and not registered elsewhere.”
Smooth roads and tailwinds,