They were going to go to the movies and, afterwards, most likely to Big Boy. He was the friend of her friend’s brother from a neighboring high school. He had a dark mop of long loose curls and a friendly grin that showed a small chip in his top tooth. It was from a Little League accident. A misplaced baseball. He didn’t play sports now. He preferred machines. Engines, specifically.
She didn’t really know him, but they met watching a basketball game at her school. For the next few weeks they quietly asked about each other, until her friend gave her number to the brother who passed it on to his friend. That was a few weeks later, after basketball and baseball seasons. It was the end of the school year, with long days that closed in cool nights, by the time he was coming by to pick her up.
She looked at the clock. She needed to be ready to answer the door when he arrived. The idea of her father opening the door to meet him was too awkward. She had to get there first. But there was time.
Getting ready wasn’t a big production. She grabbed the hot pink tube and unscrewed the lime green brush. Great Lash. It was waterproof. She wasn’t very skilled with the wand. She wished it was more like a magic wand and she could conjure the eyes of the models in Glamour. Her lashes always ended up with clumps. Her sister used a safety pin to separate clumps. But she didn’t trust her clumsy self with a needle pointed at her eyeball.
Today there was only one clump. And it wasn’t that bad. She fumbled around on the dresser and pushed past the brush for her lip gloss. It had a little bit of color, lots of sticky shine and tasted like Dr. Pepper–her favorite soda.
That was it. She looked at the clock. Scheduled pickup in 10 minutes. She went into her sister’s room and sprayed some cologne. Maybe too much. It’d dissipate some anyway. There usually wasn’t any left by the time she got home but she definitely smelled of the juice of sweet, nameless flowers.
Ugh. Her dad was puttering around in the garage. He had the lawn mower out and a brown stubby bottle in his hand. This wasn’t her plan but it would make for some additional drama. She perched herself on the arm of the couch in the front room, closest to the door. She heard him coming.
His was a full-sized bike, but it wasn’t the biggest bike. It was Japanese, so it had that higher pitched whirr. He tuned it to be loud. It didn’t growl and pop like a Harley, but kids didn’t own Harleys. He swung it into the short wide driveway. She came out of the house before he turned off the engine and looked at her dad.
Hmmmm. No reaction. She was sure that he’d say something.
The boy removed his helmet as he swung his leg off of the bike. He had a worn but clean white t-shirt with the fading name of a band. He jeans were crinkled by his knees and at the top of his leg where he bent to sit. The helmet in his hand was white, and he rested it on the seat. Her dad looked up and nodded.
“What time you going to be back?” he asked him. She got there first and told him that they were going to see some ensemble racing comedy and then grab pizza or a burger. “Okay,” was his reply.
She looked at him sideways. He didn’t mention the chariot.
The boy shook the man’s hand and walked her to the blue motorcycle. He asked her if she knew how to lean in a turn. She lied and said she did, as if she always rode on the back of bike. He handed her a helmet. It was blue with a full face. She put it on and felt like she was wearing a goldfish bowl. She could barely hear and what she did hear was the echoes of her breathing inside. The weight of the helmet made her feel like a bobble head. She had to concentrate to hold her head steady.
He got on the bike and she sat behind him on the flat seat. He started the engine and she saw her mother come out of the house, into the garage. Her dad was back tinkering with the lawnmower and her mother smiled and waved as they tooled off.
Her confusion over the lack of parental reaction was overtaken by the lurch of the bike and the wind cycloning her hair. She felt a little weird with her hands around this stranger’s waist, but the gawkiness was sidelined by the rush of the ride. The boy didn’t show off. He didn’t take chances. He didn’t weave or speed. He knew that the bike itself was enough show.
She automatically leaned into the first turn. He looked back at her and nodded. She was happy that he couldn’t see her ear-to-ear ingenue grin. It wouldn’t be cool and she couldn’t help herself. She was sorry when they got to the theatre. The movie was funny enough, but ran long and he had to work in the morning. He rode her back home.
It was different riding in the dark. Not only was it much cooler, but the direct exposure to the lights of oncoming vehicles and the amplified sound of the engines–the one underneath them and the ones all around them–added a sense of danger. Not fright, but excitement.
He dropped her off. She didn’t want him to walk her to the door. She liked the motorcycle much more than the boy. And she was disappointed that she didn’t shock her parents. That was to be part of the fun.
She was done with that dalliance, and decided to concentrate on her regular beau. The one that her parents liked. His car was fast enough and it seemed there was no tweaking her parents. No danger. No excitement.
In her head, she heard the high whine of the engine just before the shift and remembered her head jerking back as she rocketed behind a stranger down a dark road.