Riding At Midnight

She watched Jake slip the bolt cutters from his backpack and place the parrot-like beak on the chain. He squeezed the handles gently. The metal made a soft schink and he threw the cutters to the side, already busy pulling the chain off the bike. She wanted him to throw the chain on the grass and then her down on top of it, so he could fuck her as the grass tickled her ears and the cold links of metal left marks down her back. Then she could get up and leave him, take the bike and ride down the hill naked, hair streaming behind her. There was something desperate and wrong with what they were doing, and she wanted him, there in the dark, by the side of the road.

Instead he pooled the chain on the ground and stood the bike up, testing the brakes and tyres. He threw a leg over the seat and looked at her, his face split in a grin. He stood over the rusty bike in a singlet and jeans, hair in his face and eyes glinting. She shoved the bolt cutters into the backpack and threw it to him, then grabbed the chain, draping it around her neck, and perched herself on the handlebars.

This faded pink bike had been chained to the light pole for months. It was old and had limp streamers hanging from both handles. The bell was broken and the pedals were a yellowed plastic. The foam in the seat was deflated and lumpy, held together with cracked leather. There was a water damaged photo of a girl in a school uniform taped to the basket at the front, and fabric flowers zip-tied to the spokes. It was somehow worse than a small, white cross standing vigil on the side of the road.

She tucked one of her feet into the basket and rested the other on the wheel guard, then motioned for Jake to go. They were at the top of a hill, just as the road curved and dipped. From here, it was straight down. He leaned forward and kissed her neck, one hand sliding up her shirt to grab her tit. For a moment she thought maybe he would still throw her to the ground, but then he put both hands on the handlebars and whooped, pushing them out onto the road. The bike wobbled at first and in her mind she saw a school girl sprawled on the road next to a crumpled pink bike, and wondered if the bike would make it to the bottom of the hill.

Not that it would matter much. She would leave it where it fell, just happy to have ridden it away from its lookout on top of the hill. Once they gathered some speed, the bike stayed straight, whisking them down the slope. The fake flowers flapped against the spokes. Jake laughed and took his feet off the pedals and steered them down the middle of the road. They sped through a set of traffic lights and she threw her hands in the air, back arched. She shook her head hard until the pins fell out and her hair was loose. The wind whipped past her face and made her eyes water, but with her head back she could still see the stars.

It was a pretty night. She thought it was a good night to ride a stolen bike, and maybe a good night to tell Jake that she was dying, slowly dying, but dying faster than he was. Maybe make him promise that he wouldn’t chain some ugly thing to a light pole or cover a gravestone in fake roses and daisies. That instead he should sit down on the new mound of dirt that would cover her grave and chain smoke, and tell her all about what she’d been missing. Maybe he would leave her grave covered in cigarette butts and empty beer cans, and write his name in Sharpie on the small, engraved headstone her parents would choose.

But instead of telling Jake she was dying, she told him to go faster. As always, he did as she asked and pedalled until the fabric petals whirred. Too quickly the end of the street came into view and she squealed as Jake applied the brakes. The bike slowed, but not quickly enough. Jake swore and she closed her eyes as the bike hit the kerb and spilled them both out on the wet grass. The bike’s front wheel was twisted and the basket was still on her foot. The remaining flowers drooped sadly around the broken spokes and the back wheel spun slowly. She looked over to Jake, who was sitting up on the grass and rubbing his shins. With a grin, she unlooped the chain from around her neck and threw it in a pile on the grass, then kicked the white basket off her foot. The photo of the girl was still taped to the front, so she turned the whole thing around to face the road.

Still sitting on the grass, Jake lit a cigarette and tried to blow smoke rings in the air. She laughed and he handed it to her, eyes mocking. She breathed deeply and blew three perfect rings, watching them fade as they floated higher. She wanted thoughts of happy looking school girls and headstones pushed from her mind. When Jake reached for the cigarette, she shoved him backwards, knowing that here on this wet patch of lawn she would fuck him desperately, with the memory of the wind on her face, and the grass tickling his ears.

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