The companion piece, Back to You, is now live!
An undiscovered back road stretches out in front of me. Dead leaves and melting piles of snow outline my twisting route leading me deeper into the woods. The Scout’s tires eat up the cracked and neglected asphalt. My helmet’s sitting on the back of the bike. I should be wearing it. I know I should, but I want to feel the wind’s fingers in my hair, want to smell the gasoline off the bike.
The first warm day in weeks woke me up to all the possibilities of spring. My leather jacket isn’t zipped up, and the wind whooshes in and around my body. In its holster, my gun tap tap taps against my ribcage, as I shift into second gear. The bike flies past the aspen and pine trees. I want more than a taste of spring. I need this weather to last all week.
The bike shudders when I shift into third. I ignore it, give it more gas, and curse under my breath as the bike coasts to a stop. The forest goes quiet around me, as if the creatures living in it hold a collective breath. I get off the bike, thinking twice before kicking it hard. The whole thing topples over into the dirt.
“Sure, Rosa, make it worse.”
For an hour, I vacillate between walking up and down the road trying to get a signal on my phone and tinkering with the bike’s metal parts. Rust and grime cover my hands, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got streaks of the stuff across my forehead. Elías will kill me for taking the bike out before we finished restoring it, but living through another of Papi’s benders wasn’t gonna happen.
An engine farther up or behind me echoes through the budding tree trunks. Sounds like a crotch rocket. Maybe a Beamer. I hate Beamers, and their riders are always douchebags. Before the motorcycle reaches me, I wrench the bike off the roadside and brush the leaves off the handle. Great, I bent the fucking brake!
A yellow crotch rocket, too garish for the soft spring sunshine, rounds the bend. The rider isn’t wearing a helmet, or leathers, or even a real shirt. His wife-beater clings to a lean form. Perched on his head sit a pair of black sunglasses reflecting light in all directions. He passes by in a yellow haze, but I notice right away he’s wearing jean shorts and sandals. Sandals! The motorcycle isn’t a Beamer though, it’s a Triumph TT600. Elías would birth kittens to ride it.
The bike stops about twenty feet away, the guy twists around on his seat, and yells, “Everything okay?”
I rub my palm along the silver knife tied against my thigh, making sure he sees it. The surprises a girl runs into on backcountry roads could fill a book. Especially in these woods.
“I’m fine, but I’m not sure about my bike.”
The guy backpedals his bike until he’s close enough that I can see the fading tattoo under the strap of his left shoulder. It looks like a tribal orca or something. Without seeing the whole piece, it’s hard to say. He leans the bike back on its kickstand and hops off in one graceful movement. When he rounds the front of his bike, I’ve already put my Scout up on her kickstand.
He whistles. “What is this beauty?”
I blush, too late realizing he’s talking about the bike and not me. “It’s a 1930 Indian Scout. It’s been in my family for ages.” I hope the windburn on my cheeks hides the extra color.
He doesn’t take his eyes off my bike, but extends his hand. “I’m Kit Carson.”
I take his hand and give it one quick shake. “Rosa,” I answer, not offering my last name so easily.
“Mind if I give her a look, Rosa?” He rolls the ‘r’ when he says my name, and I don’t know if he’s teasing me or not. Then Kit crouches down and palms the front fender. Familiar yet reverent. My shoulders relax in increments.
I join him on the asphalt; the warmth collected there is nothing like it will be in the summer months when the soles of my boots might melt. The smaller pebbles crunch and slide underfoot. He scoots closer to the engine, moving parts and wires around with his fingers. Kit’s head leans so close that the longer pieces of his hair brush the metal.
“I don’t have any tools.”
He pulls back his hands, black and smudged with grease, and licks one of his thumbs. “No worries. I think you’ve got a leak in your gas line. The cheap fix is a piece of tape. Should get you home, at least.”
I shrug my shoulders and glance his way. Kit looks at me and smiles, as if he’s done me a great service. His eyes match the oak trees surrounding us, orbs of bark brown shot through with twilight. The wispy hairs around his lip and chin form the shadow of a goatee. He can’t be much older than me. Seventeen at most. But he might be older because his arms and wrists bear more tattoos. Crosses, stars, and hash marks dot his skin like a map of his past written in code.
“Don’t have no tape neither.”
He gets up and heads to his bike, opening the seat to dig through the stuff inside. “I’m not sure what’s in here. We might get lucky.” His voice is deep but quiet, as if he hasn’t quite got a handle on the power it holds.
“Why don’t you know what you’re carrying around?”
“Um, probably because I jacked it about an hour ago.”
My mouth hangs open, but I can’t find the words. He laughs, flipping down his sunglasses, and continues rummaging through the space under the seat.
“The guy that owns it is kind of a dickwad,” he says, as if that excuses grand theft, and takes out a small role of electrical tape. “Jackpot.”
“I probably should mention that the brake handle bent when the bike toppled over.”
He laughs and my stomach flip flops like a traitorous leach. “I’ll see what I can do.”
He makes short work of the patch job, and I try to ignore the way his shoulder muscles work under his skin. How the tattoo on his back almost comes alive. When he finishes straightening out the brake grip, he steps away and digs into his pocket. Pulling out a pack of cigarettes and a bright green plastic lighter, he offers me both. Elías and I sneak cigarettes out of Papi’s stash all the time. This feels no less dangerous.
I slide out a thin brown cigarette and light it, inhaling deeply. Burnt cloves swirl above my head as I exhale. He watches me with his oaky eyes. They roam over me, and I’m thankful for the distraction smoking brings. A cigarette hangs off his bottom lip. Jealousy fills my stomach, so I take another long drag.
“Thanks,” I say, flicking ash into the breeze. “For both the smoke and fixing my bike.”
He blows lazy smoke rings, in no hurry to answer me. “You might want to see if it starts up first.” That savior grin returns.
I put the cigarette back in my mouth and climb onto the bike. It takes several tries to start, but once the motor catches, she rumbles like freedom. My eyes close and the vibrations from the bike race all the way out to my fingertips, to the roots of my hair.
Without opening my eyes, I turn off the engine and hop off. “What do I owe you?”
Kit grinds out his cigarette under his sandal. He flips his sunglasses back onto his head. “I don’t need no payment. It was a pleasure to meet you, Rosa.”
“C’mon,” I insist, hating to be in debt to anyone for anything, “let me give you something.”
A small smile plays in the corners of his mouth. “Something, huh? How about a kiss?”
It’s my turn to laugh. “Small price to pay,” I say. “On your cheek or … ?”
“Closed or open mouthed?”
“Let’s see where it goes.”
Now that we’re standing close enough to touch, I find he’s not much taller than me. I lean in and press my lips against his. They’re surprisingly soft and pliant. Before I know it, he’s opened his mouth and we’re a tangle of tongues and lips. I wrap my arm around his broad shoulder feeling his muscles through his shirt, and he tangles a fist in my ponytail.
We kiss and kiss until I forget where I am. I want the feel of him against me almost as much as I want spring to last forever, but too soon we break apart. Kit tugs me close for a hug that’s tinged with motor oil, citrus, and cloves. My other hand reaches around to run along his lower back, and I freeze up. Under my fingertips are the telltale ropey scars left by a werewolf.
These woods are dangerous even during the day. Maybe especially during the day when the sun beats down on us all, illuminating the ugly truths we try to hide.
Kit doesn’t say a word. I drop my arms to my sides and step away, searching his face. His lips are swollen, eyes half-closed. He’s unaware that I’m a hunter, and he’s my prey. And all I want right now are his lips on mine again and again.
Stay tuned for Julie’s No Rules Friday in two weeks.