Ch. 9 - Decisions

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It was evening, and Rhianna was still deciding how to explain to Pippa that she left the tricycle in Murderkill when a blue ford truck pulled up the driveway. Pippa glanced at Rhianna from the porch swing and Rhianna gave an innocent shrug from the wicker chair, where she was curled up with a book she'd found in a box in a closet Pippa had asked her to re-organize.

Rhianna hadn't done anything in town she would be in trouble for. She knew better than to draw unnecessary attention to herself. But as the truck pulled up under the light pole where impossibly large and alien-looking insects smacked head first into the glowing plastic over and over, Rhianna saw light glinting off the handlebars. Ok so there was one thing.

The Soda Shoppe owner stepped out of the truck's cab and opened the tailgate.

Rhianna buried her nose into the book; the bizarre story about being a woman surgeon in the 1950's held no clever ideas for getting out of this. She peeked up over the pages as the man hefted the tricycle out.

Pippa's eyes darted to Rhianna, but then back to the man. For a moment Rhianna wasn't sure whose face held more panic, hers or her grandmother's. Rhianna put the book down and gave a little mock yawn and stretch to signal she was going to bed.

"You aren't going anywhere," Pippa breathed.

Rhianna sat on her hands, trying to come up with an excuse why she left the bike in town, and an explanation for how she'd gotten back. She could tell the truth. A scary man from her mother's past had shown up and Rhianna had jumped on the back of a strangers motorcycle to get away, who turned out to be a really cute older boy. But every word of that explanation seemed to be ripe with excuses to say she couldn't be trusted to be outside on her own, or to give her more chores to keep her busy.

"Evening, ladies," he said as he approached, carrying the tricycle over his shoulder, unnecessarily. He was huffing and puffing by the time her put it down at the foot of the stairs.

"Evening, Barton," Pippa said, putting on an air of nonchalance.

"Found this bike outside my shop after closing, and I only know one person in town with one of these." He squeezed the horn on the handle bars and Jessie the Collie barked from his bed.

Silence followed. Or as silent as the night could be on the farm. The cacophony of insects marinated everything in constant sound.

"Oh," said Rhianna. "I'm not used to having a bike, I guess I forgot about it."

Neither Pippa, nor Barton looked at her.

After a moment, Barton ran a hand through us snowy white hair, and said, "I see you got the popcorn balls."

"I did." She hovered a hand over the bag on the seat next to her, as if it was a dog she was afraid to pet.

"Taste like you remember? Sometimes I find things just don't live up to the magic I remember them being back in the day. Know what I mean?"

"Haven't tried 'em yet."

"Oh." He shifted his feet and then rolled the tricycle closer to the porch, opting not to put on another macho display. "Well, young lady, you know you don't have anything to be embarrassed about riding this here bike. Three wheels is better than two."

He sounded like he was quoting something, though Rhianna had no clue what it might be. By the way he looked at Pippa, she thought it might be some sort of inside joke.

"Umm, sorry," she said, and ran down the steps to push it around to the shed where it belonged.

When she came back, Barton was sitting in her wicker chair, which was the furthest seat on the porch from the swing where Pippa sat.

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