tagRomanceQuiet Desperation

Quiet Desperation

bytrigudis©

Note: There's no graphic sex here, folks, so if that's priority read no further. However, if you find compelling two would-be lovers, both married to other people, caught up in moral conflict, read on, because that's what this romance story is about.

*****

Tim

No, I wasn't surprised to learn that Addison Weil, a late wave baby-boomer, was married with grown children. Extraordinarily attractive, athletic women like her, who look ten years younger aren't usually single, and if they are, they don't stay single for long.

Addison, like I said, was married, so that's one thing we had in common. The other thing was a serious commitment to exercise, running for her, cycling for me. Addison belonged to the Delray Road Runners, a club for competitive runners. She also rode bikes, which is how we met on a group ride I organized as a member of The Daring Derailleurs (we're not as bad as the name suggests, although we can get competitive at times, even though we're not an official racing club). Addison checked out the ride schedule on our web site, then showed up on a hot Sunday morning, with her sleek, lightweight carbon machine in tow.

In fact, she was the first to put her name on the sign-in sheet, about twenty minutes before the ride start. I greeted her, then discreetly perused her long, smooth tan legs and firm looking derriere (not to be confused with derailleur) as she bent over to sign her name on the clipboard that sat inside the cab of my orange Toyota Matrix hatch. We stood by my car and chatted as other riders showed up, a few that lived nearby on bikes, the rest in their cars. It was in those brief few minutes that I learned she had run the Boston Marathon, and that she was married. She dropped references to her husband a few times—innocently or by design to discourage a potential advance, I didn't know for sure. Women can tell when men look at them a certain way, and I suspected that she suspected, for in addition to said tan legs, Addison was damn cute: high cheek bones, green eyes, lips that practically begged to be kissed. Yes, she had wrinkles, but they were easy to overlook given the total physical package, which included a voice, soft and seductive, that could arouse my attention no matter what she said. Even before we took off, I was on the edge of smitten.

Initially, given her fitness resume, I thought she might drop me, a fear that ten minutes into this fifty mile ride proved unfounded. She was a reasonably strong rider, pacing, like me, in the mid to upper teens, far from super fast but respectable. Our group of twelve broke up into three main sub-groups, fast, faster and fastest. Given my decent climbing ability, I could have hung with the fastest, except that would have kept me away from Addison, who fell off the pace every time we hit a hill, of which there were many. After cresting a hill, I'd slow down, waiting for her to catch up. Being the ride leader, I felt somewhat obligated. By her own admission, Addison was less than familiar with the roads, even though she had a cue sheet. I confess, it was partly selfish, because waiting up afforded me the opportunity to ogle her legs, beautiful and athletic, glowing from her deep tan and crisscrossed by healthy blue veins. I didn't see the usual middle-age sag anywhere, including her butt; even that looked cute and firm under her spandex.

"Thanks for waiting up, Tim," she told me at the mile twenty-five rest stop, a Sheetz convenience store in a small town in southern Pennsylvania. "I don't think I could ever climb the way you do." Just as she slid off her helmet, a refreshing breeze blew wisps of her brown, shoulder-length locks across her forehead.

"Well, I could never run a marathon, least of all Boston," I responded. "So I guess we're even."

We were standing in front of the building in our black spandex shorts and colorful jerseys, chomping on our energy bars and sipping our Gatorade. Our bikes, like the others, leaned against the brick façade. Had we both been single, Addison Weil was someone I'd have pursued—and not just on the bike. I doubted the feeling was mutual. Except in rare instances, it seldom is. She did throw out one compliment after she asked my age. "You're sixty? No way!"

Not to brag, but I had received like kudos from others, both men and women. Over forty years of sweat equity deposited via all forms of exercise—weights, cycling, running, wrestling, et al—had rewarded me with a physique that men half my age admired. Far from Mr. Olympia huge, I stood a ripped five-ten and weighed around one-eighty on weeks I didn't splurge. At Myrtle Beach one summer, a woman came up to me and said, "Mind if I wash my clothes on your washboard?" She was referring to my six-pack, of course, still washboard tight into my sixth decade. If my balding head and the flecks of gray in what remained of my once thick, dark brown mane made me look older, Addison didn't notice or she was just being nice.

In any event, our conversation barely deviated from the casual and superficial. We both mentioned our grown children and jobs, more as adjuncts to what else we discussed. Surprise, surprise, cycling was our main topic, same as it was with most of the riders that stood around us, supplying themselves with nourishment to complete the second half of the ride.

Soon, we were back on the road, and by mile thirty-five, Addison was drafting behind me. Thirty-five miles was the most she had done in awhile, she then told me, and her quads were beginning to burn. "Geez, I hope I can make it," she said, struggling with each hill.

Running marathons, I knew, didn't prepare one for the rigors of long, hilly bike rides. You employed different muscles, as Addison was now painfully aware. "Don't drop me now," she said in a tone between joking and serious.

Of course, I stayed with her, shouting encouragement with each passing mile. But the hills, some long and steep, were relentless, and by mile forty her burning quads were beginning to cramp. Cramping wasn't a foreign condition to me either—I had done lots of it on hilly rides in sub-par conditioning. Spinning the pedals in a high cadence helps, but you need flat terrain for that, and there wasn't more than a couple miles at a stretch here.

Just before mile forty-five, her cramping forced her to stop. In a rural area once again, we wheeled our bikes to the edge of a cornfield. Addison limped over to the strip of grass between the road and cornrows and plopped herself down. "I'll ride to our cars, then drive back here to pick you up," I said.

"No, I'm going to complete this," she insisted. "Believe me, Tim, I've suffered worse during marathons. If you don't mind messaging these burning legs of mine, I should be good to go."

"Sure, no problem," I said, trying not to appear too anxious. Upon stooping, I slipped off my helmet and fingerless riding gloves and then began to work my sweaty hands over her tan, velvet-soft skin. "How am I doing?"

"You're doing great, keep going."

Periodically, in the midst of my amateur handiwork, I'd look up and catch her gazing into my brown eyes with loving affection. Naturally, I returned the "look." As noted, I was on the edge of smitten, not daring to assume she felt likewise, not anything beyond relief and gratitude. Had we been something other than strangers on a bike ride, I'd have supplemented my message with soft kisses on her delicious mouth. Not that it wasn't tempting...

Imagine my surprise when, after she stood up, feeling better, she hugged me and then planted a quick kiss on the side of my face. "Thanks, that was wonderful," she said. "I should be okay for these last five miles."

Rolling to flat terrain defined those last five miles, so she did fine. The fast group was pulling out of the park&ride lot by the time we returned. I suspected they had been back awhile, trading their usual macho bragging before packing up.

"Next time I'll be in better condition," Addison assured me after racking her bike on the roof rack of her white Hyundai Sonata. "Thanks for leading and especially thanks for getting me through it. Couldn't have done it without you."

We embraced, and once again she kissed me, this time on the mouth, short but sweet. "I'll look for more of your rides on the Daring Derailleur web site," she said before departing.

I drove home full of anticipation and fantasy, chiding myself for thinking taboo thoughts. I'd never been unfaithful to Diane, my good wife of thirty years, and didn't intend to start. Projecting such thoughts onto Addition gave me further cause for self-recrimination. We'd be cycling buddies at best, nothing more. Yes, I wished that flabby, sedentary Diane looked more like Addison. But nobody had it all, and I wasn't totally blind to the idea that Diane probably possessed qualities that Addison lacked.

And yet...

I couldn't help but get excited when Addison showed up the following weekend for another ride, this time a forty-miler over easier terrain. We had a bigger group this time, about fifteen riders, perhaps because there were no killer hills. The weather, partly sunny and mild, helped also.

She seemed glad to see me as well, insisting I call her Addie when I greeted her as she was signing in. "I don't expect to cramp on this one," she said. "Even so, I'd love it if you could keep me company."

So I did among a group of others doing our pace. Addie rode strong, turning a swift, even cadence over rural and suburban roads. I knew there would be no damsel in distress this time, and therefore no need for leg messages followed by warm kisses from this pretty lady. But that was okay, I enjoyed riding with her, hearing what she had to say, enjoying the sound of a voice that I'd listen to even if she were reciting names in a phone book.

"I still can't believe you're sixty," she said at the rest stop, a High's store that sat along a strip mall facing a busy secondary road. "My husband Jim, who's a few years younger, should be in half the shape you're in. He's not totally sedentary, but he needs to do more than just play golf a couple times a week and power walk. Believe it or not, we once biked together. Nothing fast, just leisurely rides in the country and on the boardwalk in Ocean City. But then I got more serious, took up competitive running, in addition to fast recreational cycling, none of which he has much interest in doing."

Her issues with Jim mirrored my own with Diane. After years of badgering her to get off her butt, I wised up. Trying to get someone to exercise regularly is counterproductive. Either they'll do it on their own for their own benefit or they won't do it. Diane refused, despite her weight gain because she wasn't active enough.

I didn't plan to mention all that until Addie asked. Then she said, "Jim's gained quite a bit of weight also, maybe thirty to forty pounds since our marriage, and that was about the time that Clinton was first elected." She held her arms out from her waist to describe his added girth.

"Otherwise, you seem happy," I said, in a subtle attempt to gain insight.

"Let's put it this way. I'm reasonably content. It's unrealistic for people who've been married for as long as us to expect more. Don't you think?"

"To expect more, yes. To want more, no." I honed in on her lovely body, her deeply tanned, athletic legs, flat stomach and beautiful green eyes.

"Well, we don't always get what we want, do we?" she said, returning my admiring look with one of her own. "My parents drove home that lesson when I was knee high to a bike pedal." She pointed to her bike that leaned against the High's building. "What about you, Tim? You've been married longer than me."

Reasonably content rang true, and I told her so. "But don't you," I added, "have periods of what Thoreau called quiet desperation? Granted, we're both mature enough to accept that one can't have everything. Yet that doesn't stop us from being frustrated at times from wanting something that for whatever reason we can't have, and not because it's necessarily better but because it's different."

She smiled devilishly, then took a sip of her sports drink. "Good point. We do indeed lead lives of quiet desperation at times, particularly when it comes to forbidden fruit." She paused and shook her head in amusement. "Listen to us. I mean, this subject isn't what cyclists normally discuss on bike rides, is it?" She pointed to others in our group standing in front of the store, chatting about all things cycling from what little we could hear.

"You're not uncomfortable, I hope."

She laughed. "No, just saying. Talking like this with someone else I barely know might give me pause, but not with you. Not after what you did for me last week."

"I enjoyed it too, I must say. Not your suffering with cramping, but, well, messaging your legs and then receiving a kiss for my efforts." I braced myself, unsure how she'd respond.

After looking around to check if anyone was looking, she stepped forward, gripped my arms and kissed me on the mouth. "There, I did it again."

"Wow, you sure did, and I didn't even do anything to deserve it, no leg message, nothing. To what do I owe the pleasure?"

"Just because you're you. Good enough?"

All I could do was nod and grin.

Soon, we were back on our bikes for the second half of the ride, flat to rolling with a few easy hills thrown in, a hammerhead's delight. A mile or so from the High's, our then group of eight formed a pace line. We took turns pulling from the front, including Addie. Things were going great until my rear tire hit something, then went flat. Being the rider leader, I didn't expect anyone to stop. Nobody did—except Addie.

"You could have gone on," I said after pulling into the driveway of a small rancher.

She shot me an admonishing look. "Don't be ridiculous. Look, I'm sure you can change a flat all by yourself. But there's no way I'd leave you here alone. What are cycling buddies for?"

I went about the tedious task of changing the tube. Running my finger around the inside of the tire, I found a shard of glass imbedded in the rubber. After Addie dug it out with her fingernail, I slapped a fresh tube inside the tire, secured it on the rim and then inflated it with my mini pump. After clamping the wheel back on, I thanked her for waiting up.

Cycling buddies normally don't kiss unless they're an item. This time, I initiated it, and this time it lasted awhile, a full twenty seconds or so was my guess. That's a relatively long time for cycling buddies who just happen to be married to other people. With our bikes on their sides, we smooched right there in somebody's asphalt driveway, right in front of their green mailbox, the kind with one of those metal arms that swing up or down. Details matter during special moments, however mundane.

"You're lips are as soft and warm as I expected them to be," I said.

"And your bod is as firm and sexy as I expected it to be." She squeezed my behind. "Your butt rocks."

After we pulled apart and resumed our ride, I barely felt the vibrations from the road (road buzz, we call it). In fact, I didn't feel much of anything except a warm excitement that enveloped me all the way back to the ride start.

We racked our bikes and then stood there, gripping each other's shoulders, gazing into each other's eyes, hesitant to leave. Finally, Addie said, "You know, I've never strayed in my marriage, not once."

"Neither have I," I informed her. "Do you call what we did today cheating?"

She flashed me a coy, little girl smile. "Well...sort of. Don't you?"

"I guess. Unlike Clinton, however, I can say in all honesty that I never had sex with that woman."

She grinned. "Would you like to?"

"Now look who's being ridiculous. What do you think?"

She released me and stepped back. "I think I better go before things get out of hand."

When she turned to get into her car, I said, "Will I see you again?"

She stopped, shook her head and sighed. "I'm not sure, Tim. Look, be safe out there on the road. It's been fun."

*****

Addison

Tim Mathias knew I wanted to see him again. He also knew I didn't want to jeopardize my marriage. I still don't, but resisting doing something that might didn't get any easier. The way he kissed me in that driveway...I haven't been kissed like that in years, haven't felt all tingly and giddy inside since I was a young girl dating boys from the local teen center. Jim never made me feel like that. Oh, I love him all right, in a dutiful, enduring sense. I was never "in love" with Jim, never felt the euphoria, the proverbial fireworks, bells and whistles. Jim, on the other hand, was wild about me. Still is. We dated for almost three years before tying the knot. He grew on me, I'm wont to say. I grew to love him, as pedestrian as that sounds.

I was living life on an even keel. Then Tim came along. It started out innocently enough (doesn't it always?). I showed up for one of his bike rides. Yes, I thought he was hot: firm, athletic bod, ruggedly handsome face, pardon the cliché. But I saw lots of hot guys around, then went about my business. Anyway, miles into this hilly bike ride, I cramped and he ended up giving me a leg message and then I kissed him, just a benign little thing, no harm done. Then I showed up the following weekend. We formed a pace line and then he punctured. I'm the only one who stopped and we ended up kissing, really kissing, in someone's driveway. In between all this, at the rest stops, we connected on a certain level, ethereal in nature, one that gave me pause.

It upset my equilibrium, destroyed that even keel. If I had had any sense, I would have let things end there. Maybe sense isn't the right word. Discipline is more like it, discipline to tame my emotions. That said, I did try. Checking the web site rides calendar, I avoided club rides that Tim led. I did more solo rides and rides led by others in the club. Of course, I knew he could show up on rides he didn't lead. Even so, it was a chance I was willing to take for the sake of riding in a group. Group rides are more fun, more motivating than riding solo.

Weeks after that scene in the driveway, I was approaching peak shape. Training for the hills had boosted my confidence to the point where I was ready to tackle the same ride I had cramped on earlier with Tim. Tim wasn't leading it, so I showed up—with mixed emotions. I felt excited about seeing him, yet also hoped he wouldn't be there to tempt me. How many times did I dial his number and then hang up? I lost count. Approach-avoidance is an innervating mindset.

While bent over pumping my tires a few minutes before the ride start, I heard this behind me: "Fancy meeting you here. Now no cramping today, okay?"

My heart raced as Tim reached out to hug me—so much for trying to avoid him. In fact, it was all I could do not to start kissing him, the crowd around us be damned. "I'm in better shape now," I said, "but I'd still like it if we could ride together." I watched in awe as he zippered up his green cycling jersey, catching a peak of his amazing six-pack abs. Sixty years old? I still found that hard to believe.

He ran his hand through his thinning, gray-brown hair and then slipped on his helmet. "Of course we'll ride together. You must know I was hoping to see you just for that reason." He paused, then said, "Where have you been, anyway? I haven't seen you on any of my rides lately."

"Training by myself mostly," I said, lowering my eyes. I wasn't ready to tell him the whole truth, that I'd been avoiding him. His sly look of skepticism told me he already knew.

After the ride leader's obligatory pre-ride kibitz, we were off. Predictably, our initial group of close to a dozen riders began to fracture after the first steep hill. Ten miles and a few hills later, Tim and I were riding in a sub-group of six. Unlike last time, the weather was less than ideal. The forecast called for rain late in the afternoon, hours after our fifty-mile ride would end. It was comfortably warm, close to eighty degrees. Still, I didn't relish the idea of getting drenched.

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