Becky and Joe were the first to arrive. It was still dark, but the sky, split at the horizon, bled a slow, orange light over the fields and endless country roads. Joe pulled the blue Subaru Outback into the parking lot and stopped the engine.
“They’re late,” he said, opening the door. The overhead light was harsh. “You shouldn’t have invited them.”
“They’ll be here,” Becky said.
Joe ignored her and stepped out.
Becky pulled the visor down and checked her reflection in the mirror; the bruise was still there, faded and yellow, barely a shadow, but still noticeable. She hoped Alice wouldn’t say anything, at least not in front of Joe.
They unloaded their bikes from the roof rack. Joe moved to the front of the car and lubed one chain. Working in the light from the headlights, his shadow stretched across the pavement. “First nice Saturday we’ve had all March,” he said. “The road is going to be full of weekend warriors by seven.”
“They’ll be here,” Becky said. She opened the back door of the Subaru, leaned over, and dug for power bars and gel. “Did you have a banana?” she asked, without looking up.
Joe ignored her. He lifted the back of the bike and rotated the pedal. He watched the wheel spin soundlessly for a few seconds before stopping it with his hand. “I told you this was a bad idea.”
Becky closed the back door and walked toward him. “They’ll be here,” she said, handing him a power bar. “Don’t worry.”
“I’m waiting five more minutes, then we’re gone.” Joe said. “Fuck ’em.”
“Joe, it’s still early. Give them a litt—,”
Becky stared at him. “You know, you’re such a—,”
“Such a what?” Joe came and stood in front of her. From the waist of his spandex shorts, he pulled a pair of padded riding gloves. “Such a what, Beck?”
Becky took a step back, and shook her head. “Nothing,” she said. “Forget it.”
Behind him a car turned up the road, one yellow headlight bouncing as the tires hit ruts. “I think this is them.”
Joe didn’t turn around. “Such a what? What am I?”
The car passed, and Becky bit her lip as she watched it disappear down the road. “Let’s try to get along, okay? It’s been so long since we’ve seen them.”
Joe slowly pulled on his gloves and took another step toward her. He was less than a foot away and she could smell the coffee on his breath. “Let’s get one thing straight,” he said. “Don’t fucking tell me how to act.”
She looked away.
“Joe,” she said. “Please.”
“Joe,” he said, mocking, stepping closer. He grabbed her chin and jerked it up toward him. “Do you understand me?” He spoke slowly.
Becky felt the tears come, but she fought them back. Not today, she thought, oh please, not today. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Tom and Alice’s Land Rover pull into the parking lot. “They’re here, Joe,” she said.
He stared at her, not moving.
Becky reached up and tried to pull his hand away. “Joe, please, not in front of them.”
He smiled and squeezed her chin. The bruise on her cheek ached. “This isn’t over,” he said, letting go and pushing her back against the car. “Believe me.”
Becky walked to the back of the car, running two fingers under her eyes, pushing back the tears. Her hands shook, and she took a deep breath. It’s never over, she thought.
Behind her, she heard the car doors open and close, followed by the laughter of old friends.
They were calling her.
It was time to go.
Pam Mosher's fiction has appeared in Ink Pot, Summerset Review, Pindeldyboz, Wilmington Blues, and other publications. One of her stories placed second in the 2003 Paul Gillette Memorial Writing Contest, and a second story received honorable mention in the 2003 Literary Potpourri writing contest.
Copyright 2004, Pam Mosher. This work is protected under the U.S. copyright laws. It may not be reproduced, reprinted, reused, or altered without the expressed written permission of the author.