Stacy Lynn did not want to have seen the bicycle. She had tried not to see, to un-see it.
It had been the reflection of moonlight through the window and she could still feel the warmth of his breath and the touch of his hand in her hair and, it just had to have been the moonlight. Her bed was warm and her heart filled with warm sonnets of newfound love.
Her room was filled comfortably with soft piano sounds (she thought it Chopin) and the satin gown brushed her body casually and she was happy. She licked her lips softly, tenderly touching the place he had playfully bitten her. And she could smell the rain, far away
The moonlit phantom was not a bicycle and, even if it had been, it surely wasn’t her’s.
Lightening flashed in the distance, starred skies above and the smell of rain compelled her against reason and without passion to slip from her bed, careful not to wake Richard. She found her robe and slippers and, carrying them in her arms, slipped out the door and listened to it close softly behind her.
It wasn’t that far and the cool grass felt good between her toes.
The storm’s wind played with her hair and she walked slowly through the dark streets. Trixie, the black Siamese cat owned by her neighbor, suddenly appeared from behind a tree, darted between her legs, its tail brushing against the bottom of her gown, and disappeared behind a bush. “Great, she’s going to follow me,” she muttered. Trixie unnerved her. Cats, she knew,were simply were not of this world.
Watching the lightening play with the storm, she decided to put on her shoes – nice comfortably worn out Converse All Stars.
The bicycle had been a gift from her father when she had first gone away to college. Silly and sweet dad had thought, or had wanted her to think he thought, that she’d spend her time riding a bicycle back and forth between here and there when there were so many people wanting to take her wherever for as long as she wanted.
She had sold it sometime in the first few weeks of her second semester to the take-out Chinese place and had seen it often over the years bringing dinner to her. She must have had a reason for selling it, must have needed the money, but she could remember spending none of it.
She did remember its rainbow tassels mocking her as the flowers faded and it was painted over and over at the whims of young boys. Finally, one of them, she couldn’t remember which, had painted it black and pasted a Batman logo to its frame. She watched as the boy cut away the faded multi-colored tassels she had loved. She watched them for a long time after he rode away, scattered in the dirt, and cried when she picked them up and placed them carefully in an envelope.
The first splash of rain wet her ear. She slipped into the robe and cinched the belt snugly against her. The moon was drifting behind the storm. Soon the light for this trip would be gone.
She walked slowly, her absent thoughts picking up the songs of the flowers. The scent of Magnolia filled her and the cat wandered in and out of her path.
Opening the bookstore was something that just happened, without planning and it was now full of books, old and dusty, and the scent of sweet incense and music, soft and low. Every morning she would unlock the door at ten and light some incense and return upstairs for a cup of Earl Grey with brown sugar.
In the cool spring and fall days, she would slip on a sundress and sit in the shade on the porch, careful to avoid the sun, and read. Classics and pulp – diamonds and coal. She talked to the children and gave them books to read.
Eventually, because of the rough handling, the wheel on the bicycle had to be replaced. Eventually, the Chinese place closed and she had seen a bedraggled boy of about seven riding it.
She turned onto Sycamore Lane just as the rain started in earnest. The bicycle was leaning against the side of the unpainted shotgun house. She stood silently under an elm across the street from the house and read the note she had written:
“I’m sorry to take the bike like this. I know it’s wrong and I really shouldn’t. Please buy a new bike for the boy with the money.”
She placed the dampened $100 bill in the envelope and carefully walked across the street, trying to avoid any large puddles. Halfway across, Trixie got tangled up in her feet and she fell, muddying her robe and gown.
She quietly opened the front gate and walked through. The lights were off in the house but the television was casting its cold shadows through the window. She placed the envelope in the mailbox beside the door, leaving it open and slipped around to the side of the house and to the bike.
It had been years since she had ridden but she pulled up her gown and robe and started the motion, the bike creaking against her heavier-than-seven-year-old-boy weight.
Trixie, again in the wrong place, howled when her tail was run over and alerted the man watching television, who stumbled through the door, beer in hand, just in time to see her ride through the gate. He yelled something, but with the wind and the rain, she couldn’t make it out.
She rode quickly through the dark streets, thinking of how pushing the pedals taxed her legs. Soon, she reached the back of the shop; surprised no one had stopped and questioned her. Her conscience nagged her as she placed the bike in the back room.
When she turned off the shower, a towel was handed to her. “You always take midnight rides through the rain after making love?” he asked her, his eyes carefully focused on hers.
She smiled and took the towel, wrapping it tightly around her. “Only on special nights. Needs to be raining and I need to have a bike.”
“What’s that you rode in on?”
“A long story,” she whispered while she brushed out her hair.
“Well, the tea should be ready now and I have all night.”
“You made tea?”
“Yeah. Beat lying around in the bed wondering what was up.” He left the room, returning shortly with the tea service and looked for a place to set it.
“On the foot of the bed, Richard.”
They settled onto the bed, covers pulled up around her and he urged her to begin.
She began by showing him the tassels and talking about faded flowers and the color of gold. And she sipped her tea, with just the right amount of brown sugar and wondered how he knew, and nestled onto his shoulder.
She told him of silly fathers who want too much for their little girls and little girls who take too little until it is too late to take anymore.
“And then tonight, I stole this bicycle.”
“Yeah, well, yes and no. You left far more money than it was worth.”
“The little boy will not think so. His father will spend the money on Jack Daniels and Makers Mark or Bud and not on his son. I really need to give it back.”
“No, Stacey. Keep it here, hidden away in the back if you must, but keep it to remind you to act without reason on occasion. Let it remind you of tonight, because you found something in you to cherish and something to remember your father with.”
“But what about the boy?”
“Find him and talk to him and, if you want, buy him a brand-new bike.”
“Hmmmm. You’re warm.” And she fell asleep in his lap.