Ally stared out her bedroom window. It was kinda cool to be the only one awake in the house. Everything was quiet except the steady clip-clop of the horse pulling the milk truck down the street. It reminded her of the Olden Times that grandpa talked about when most things were delivered to the house, the phone was usually only used for emergencies and children respected their elders.
The horse and buggy passed out of her view and her gaze dropped to the side of the house. Her bicycle was propped against the front porch right where she'd left it yesterday after school. Ally didn't waste any time changing clothes, her pjs were warm enough.
She raced down the stairs as quietly as possible, made sure to skip the third step from the bottom because it squeaked. Once outside, she mounted her bike and pedaled down the street. There wasn't very much traffic but the sun was up. She could smell fresh bread from the bakery. It was on the other side of the railroad tracks though so she didn't pedal that way. Instead, she turned the corner on the right side of the tracks and followed along beside them.
A car's muffler backfired and startled her. She weaved and fell from her bicycle and landed in a pile of clover. A small buzzing sound made her look down at a honeybee gathering pollen. She lowered her face as close as she dared to watch it extract energy from the flower. Last week, they studied bees in school. Bees made honey. Ally loved honey. Ally loved bees.
She grinned as it flew from one clover to another further away from her. Ally hopped on her bike and followed the bee as it danced from flower to flower then away from the clover patch all together. It flew faster and further away. Ally had to really pedal to keep it in sight. It was such a tiny speck. It was a good thing there wasn't much traffic to distract her. Maybe the bee was flying back to its nest.
Ally crossed the train tracks then pedaled down to the canal bank. There were lots of apple trees along the water's edge. Maybe one of them was home to the bee. She couldn't see it any more.
She coasted to a stop. The sun was hot on her bare head and her breathing was labored. Even her legs felt tingly.
Ally took a good look around. Zoiks. She was a long way from home. Too close to the water, on the wrong side of the railroad tracks. She'd be grounded for life if Mom found out.
She turned her bicycle around and headed for home as fast as she'd left it. Mr. Dumas waved at her front the back of the bakery as she flew past. Mrs. D'Amico yelled at her as she passed the old lady hanging up her morning wash. Yuck, was that a brassiere?
She raced up the street to her own house. Daddy's car was still in the driveway so maybe Ally hadn't been gone too long. She dumped her bike on the front lawn and snuck up onto the front porch. If everyone was awake, they'd be in the kitchen by the back porch eating breakfast.
Ally's stomach growled. The front door opened with a screech and Mommy stood there. "Exactly, where have you been, young lady?"
"I went for a ride around the block." Ally hated lying but she hated being grounded even more.
"Really? Did you want to reconsider your answer?" Mommy held the door open for Ally to walk through.
"I went around a couple of times. It is a really nice day out."
Mommy squatted in front of her and plucked a clover leaf from her hair. "Were you near the train tracks?"
"Yes. I watched a bee gather pollen. We learned all about pollen last week. And how important bees are. It went from one flower to another. Mr. Donnelly says pollination is the most important role a bee carries in life."
"Did you follow the bee?" Mommy skimmed her hands down Ally's pjs.
"Oh, yes, it was very inter-" Ally slowed down. Oh boy. She was in big trouble. She could tell from the look on Mommy's face.
Mommy plucked a leaf from the top of Ally's sneaker and held it up. "Did you go down to the canal?"
"How can you tell from a leaf where I went?" Ally slumped onto the bottom step of the staircase.
"Mr. Dumas, Mrs. D'Amico and Mrs. Sullivan all called to tell me they'd seen you race past on your bicycle. They all said you weren't paying any attention to traffic. And Mrs. Sullivan wondered what kind of a parent would let her child out to play in her pajamas at six o'clock in the morning."
"Mrs. Sullivan saw me?"
"Well, Ally, she does live in the largest house in town - overlooking the canal." Mommy pulled Ally in for a quick hug. "Go to your room. You're grounded. Twice."
"Yes, twice. Once for lying to me. And once for crossing the train tracks. Just be grateful I don't ground you three times for going down to the canal. You know you're not allowed anywhere near the water without Daddy or me."
"It's the first day of summer vacation. What am I supposed to do?"
"Sit in your room and be grateful the neighbours called me and not Daddy." Her mom slapped her lightly on the butt and sent her upstairs.
Ally slammed her door shut and flung herself onto her bed. She grabbed her pillow into her arms then rolled towards the wall. Fine. She would just stare at nothing all day. It's not like she'd gone swimming or stolen bread or gotten hurt.
It wasn't fair. She was eight years old. Not a baby. It was her first day of summer vacation. She should be out there exploring the world!
She sighed. Nancy Drew wouldn't get grounded for following clues. Maybe if Ally had come home with some honey...her eyes drifted shut.
It was going to be a long summer.