Redheaded Scott Bolter is allowed to ride his bike farther than we are. Raised by his grandmother, he is an almost forgotten and yet especially lucky child, for he is allowed to do almost everything we neighborhood kids are forbidden by our parents to do. 

Scott Bolter wants to become a stunt man. He vaults the 4′ fence in my yard with a swiftness we envy. He even front flips over it. He’s got us all throwing ourselves at fences. We come home with bruises not having mastered stunting like he has. He runs, face first, into walls, or so it seems. In fact, he stops just centimeters short of the wall and smacks it, waist-level, in order to seal the illusion that the smack had resounded when his face hit concrete. He is really very gifted.

Scott Bolter is in love with me, though sometimes he’s in love with my next-door neighbor Sarah, who is also my best friend.

My father tells me not to requite the love of any boy who doesn’t bring me flowers every day. I tell Scott as much. He brings me flowers. He leaves them on my doorstep. When he can’t find flowers, he leaves a pink and red, heart-shaped pillow on my doorstep, with a note that says, “I love you Natalia. — S.B.”

Today Mom is laughing and filming the scene out our split-level’s second-floor window. Scott has been riding his bicycle in circles on our little street, Grundy Avenue. He has been riding for hours. His method is to tilt the handlebars severely left, never to straighten. His circles are impressively tight. Occasionally he lets go of the handlebars. He wobbles and steadies, but he does not break the circle. He does not put his feet down.

The camera is shaking. I begin to feel bad for Scott. He does not know that his image will soon be mocked, will issue hearty laughter from my father and my brothers after dinner as we watch him on our 22” screen. I yell to him: “Scott. What are you doing out there?”

He looks up from his freckled point of view, but he does not stop his bicycle. “I’m riding in circles for your love!”

I wonder what my father thinks of riding in circles for love. The camera shakes more furiously. Mom does not contain herself, but I know that she too empathizes with Scott. This latest demonstration is gallant, bold, and perhaps most of all, it proves his commitment.

“Aren’t you due back for dinner, honey?” Mom yells to him.

“Don’t need dinner. Not hungry.” He guides his ten-speed sharply left. He rides within inches of the curb but steers clear just in time. “I’m riding in circles for love.”

Scott has his priorities.

I think about running out there to accept this bid for my love, though I did not know what it will take to consummate our passion. Then I reconsider. I think I might like to see just how much my love is worth. Was he counting these circles? Should I be? Would he continue riding into the night?

One thing is certain. I won’t be telling Sarah about the circles for my love. The circles are mine.

Sadly, I will never know just how many circles my love was worth.

Scott’s coat is unseasonably thick, with a denim body, a cotton-carpeted lining, and cream leather sleeves. He has been riding for quite some time, and he is over-warm. Steering with his right hand, Scott shakes his shoulder wildly to rid himself of the left sleeve. Just when the maneuver looks like it will succeed, the spokes swallow the dangling sleeve and the stunt man is sent over his handlebars.

Now the camera captures Scott kneeling on the curb to untangle his coat. There is no use helping him. Scott has a knack for troubleshooting ten-speed issues of all varieties, and we know he will not accept our assistance. Scott is capable. Scott is committed.

Still, it grows dark.

Late in the evening, after Mom has grown tired of filming, we hear drizzling. We peer between the vertical blinds. Scott has finally given up his efforts. He is dragging the bicycle along with the coat it has swallowed. Mom grabs her keys, goes outside and throws Scott’s bike into the trunk of the Jeep and brings him home.

The next afternoon I walk home from the bus stop with my best friend Sarah. When we get close to her doorstep, we see evidence that Scott’s commitment is not unwavering after all. There is a heart-shaped pillow on her doorstep. But the circles… The circles will always be mine.

Leigha Butler writes in New York State.

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Every Day Fiction