Mum handed me an envelope. Inside was a folded piece of newspaper. The paper was fibrous and brittle, yellowing at the edges. I took care in unfolding it. Mum sipped at her wine, nodding for me to go ahead and read.
It was a photo from 1992. ‘Town fundraiser hits the road,’ was the headline. Dad was on his racing bike poised to sprint off down the A34. A group of his mates, in shiny suits, surrounded him in a horseshoe, punching the air. He’d raised thousands. Everyone knew Biking Bob. Mum smiled.
‘I’ve something else to show you,’ she said.
She took this week’s News and handed it to me.
‘You’re still getting out?’
She meant cycling. I nodded. I did when I could.
‘Have a look at page 4,’ she said.
It was 20 years since that first epic ride. Dad’s fundraising had helped set up a kiddie’s unit at the cottage hospital. Twenty years on his mates had rallied round to remember Biking Bob. They were repeating his Capital Cities ride for the 20th anniversary.
‘They’d like you to go,’ Mum said.
‘What in the support car?’
‘You can do it. You’re fit enough. Whoever this young lady is she’s not much of a cook.’
I downed the rest of the merlot.
‘Pour me another and I’ll think about it.’
Mum smiled. She knew I’d made up my mind.
‘They’ll want you to train with them.’
‘When I can,’ I said.
‘Your Dad’s bike’s still in the garage.’
I sipped at the wine.
‘I knew you’d be keen,’ she said.
The fire hissed. Mum brought Christmas pudding in thick, steaming custard. Afterwards she washed up with carols on the radio. I drifted into sleep.
Mum woke me with more tea. It was dark. The trees over the back were silhouettes against the moon.
‘You’ve got time for a cup?’
I shook my head. Mum nodded. She wasn’t expecting me to stay.
‘You’d better check your Dad’s bike now then.’
‘I mean I’m not going anywhere. I’ve had four glasses of merlot.’
‘Your bed’s made up.’
‘What about my Action Force posters?’
‘What about them?’
I sipped the tea.
‘I’ll expect a fry-up. And I don’t want to hear that bloody vacuum at half six in the morning.’
‘You should be out training.’
‘Don’t start,’ I said.
I had another helping of pudding. I figured I’d need it.