My feet were still swollen and he wanted me to stuff them into boots and “give the city a try.” I sulked in bed while he packed lunches. The night before I had tried, and all it got me was stranded outside West Edmonton Mall’s Bourbon Street, begging unaccommodating cabbies to drive me home while kids the same age as me but who seemed much, much younger drunkenly sucked on cigarettes.
I didn’t want to be here. I had no expectation this city would ever resemble home’s wide-open spaces. When he’d received a dream job offer the same week I discovered my surprise pregnancy, he was convinced we’d soon acclimatize – us, dirt road darlings of Southshore, MD 124. Months in, he excelled at the quick navigation of emergency vehicles while I was defeated by unknowable transit systems and panicked on streets with more than one lane. He conquered the black smoke of towers; I fantasized high-rises into poplar trees. He joined the department’s hockey team; I swerved the unaccustomed weight of my expanding body on downtown’s too-narrow sidewalks, searching strange faces for the eyes of old friends. More and more, he seemed a stranger himself. When he called, “Ready?” I kicked the Lakeside Leader‘s classifieds under the bed, hiding evidence of last night’s big question. Couldn’t we go home?
A short drive and we pulled into Strathcona Science Park. The pines that lined the trails leading to Rundle muffled the Yellowhead’s traffic. Crossing the North Saskatchewan, skiers nodded and little old ladies walking little old dogs smiled from under wool tuques. Unable to fit into my parka, I covered my shoulders with a red scarf and watched snowflakes fall on my belly as though in blessing, Canadian holy water.
Rounding a corner, laughter shook snow from treetops as children sprinted a tobogganing hill, its borders defined by hay bales. An immigrant child of the early ’90s, I recognized newcomers immediately; they the children clutching garbage bags, Rubbermaid container lids, or baby bathtubs in lieu of sleds; too eager for fun to waste saving up for a single-use item. In the distance, groups huddled around fire pits, mugs in hands and wiener sticks balanced between knees.
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“There are tennis courts,” Freddy pointed, “and a playground we can take her to.” A pond for kayaking, and so much space. He pulled me near and we sheltered our baby, his arms strong around us. “It’ll be just like we’re home,” he said. “I promise.”
I leaned closer and felt his chin rest on my head. Ice framed the river but sunlight still sparkled on the water. “We are home,” I said, and for the first time in months, I knew it to be true.
Katie Bickell lives in Sherwood Park with her husband and young daughters. Her work has earned the 2015 Howard O’Hagan Award, the 2014 Alberta Views Fiction Prize, and the 2011 Voices of Motherhood Essay Prize. She is completing a collection of linked short fiction set in the greater Edmonton area. Read more at katiebickell.com