It doesn’t take me that long to get to the home, now that I have a new bicycle. New to me, anyway – you can’t get a truly new bicycle unless you’re, like, a millionaire or something. We aren’t allowed to use cars in the middle of the day, so everyone wants the best bikes. This bike actually has gears, so that’s something. A lot of my friends are stuck with single-speeds, which aren’t that much better than your feet. In fact, it’s often easier to walk into the winds so common around here than to ride a single-speed bike uphill. I’ve passed a few friends as they pedal, when I used to be on foot more.
My parents got this bike because someone died. I know that, and it makes me sad when I think about it. So I don’t think about it much.
After all, thinking about it won’t change it. And reusing something is better than wasting it.
I push the buttons on the outer door, and it gets buzzed open. In the airlock, I sanitize my hands, change to my inside mask, sanitize again. A line of blue light scans my body: temperature, respiration, etc. It must all check out because the inner door pops open, too.
“Nellie P.?” The greeter doesn’t look up. Why should he? I’m masked, and he has my vitals. I’m not even sure why they do this step.
“Yes, sir,” I answer politely.
“You get Franny today. Room 222.”
Another stroke of luck. Franny’s one of the grumpy ones, sometimes, but she loves to talk. And she’s a really good storyteller, so I don’t have to work that hard to make her stuff interesting. I just add an emphasis here or leave out a long tangent there.
I pull my tablet out of my backpack as I walk down the hall, turn left twice, and hit the doorbell for room 222. I leave the backpack in the cubby outside the door, and sanitize again.
My hands are so dry and cracked from all the sanitizing. But so are everyone’s. I make a mental note to use some of the new lotion my mom got when I get home. She swears by it, justifies the high price. My dad rolls his eyes, but with a twinkle, like he’s just doing what’s expected of him when he shows disapproval.
The door opens, and there’s Franny, blue eyes twinkling kind of like my dad’s above her mask.
It strikes me that I’ve never seen her whole face, I don’t think. Have I? I’m pretty sure she’s never seen mine.
“Nellie,” she says. “How are you? How are your parents? Everyone healthy?”
“Yes, thank you. Grandpa says hello, by the way.” This is a white lie. Franny and my grandpa are old friends, and he’d want me to say hello, if he knew I was seeing her.