Margery Taylor swings around to face the descent. Her eyes are bright with defiance, a sheen of sweat glistens on her smooth young skin. She is sick of rules.
Slow down Margery!
Keep off the road Margery!
She has pushed the bike all the way up the steepest hill in town, on what will be remembered as the hottest day of the year. Now she wheels it into the middle of the road and hoists herself into the saddle. One foot is ready on the pedal, the other she stretches out for balance. The saddle is too high for her small frame and only the tip of one tatty white sneaker reaches the tarry stickiness of the road. In the distance she sees the wilting figure of her mother, pushing the big black pram up the hill. With a thrill of anticipation, Margery pushes off.
She starts by pedalling furiously, then freewheels past a group of women sitting on a low stone wall, the smoke from their cigarettes forming thin grey columns in the still hot air. She laughs out loud at their startled faces. She doesn’t hear the shouts of warning, is gaining momentum before they begin to run down the hill towards her mother; who looks up in time to see her eight year old daughter hurtling towards her, her face bright with glee. The gates of the Convent rush by.
Stay still Margery!
Stop fidgeting Margery!
Margery shrieks with joy as she speeds past. Her mother grips the handle of the pram with knuckle whitening intensity, her mouth open in shock and horror. By the time she reaches the traffic lights at the bottom of the hill, Margery is travelling too fast to stop.
The driver of the truck never even sees her coming.