It was Jan who heard it first.
We were sitting outside my father's store, the three of us, just sitting and nursing our sodas. Jan had a cola, and Sally a root beer, and I was rolling the taste of orange over my tongue. The liquid was fizzy and cold, which was good because this was summer and the air was hot.
And there we were, the three of us, eighteen and watching the day go by, talking and gossiping and giggling. There was a little breeze to break the heat, not much but some, and it felt nice the way it sometimes flowed under the skirt of my dress and over my bare shoulders. Sally was talking about Rob and their date last night when he had taken her to the cinema and tried to put his hand on her breast. She wanted him to and we wanted to hear about how he had -- we were eighteen, after all -- but she also wanted him to wait, being only eighteen, you know.
So there we were.
It was the noise, first, low and rumbling around the corner of First and Main. Jan grabbed my arm, indicated as the motorbike rounded the turn. It was a big one, wide handlebars, meant to cruise the highway, not like the little buzzing bikes Morty and his friends drove.
A man's bike.
And a man on it.
He pulled in to the gas station across the street, shut the motor down. We were all watching now, the story of Sally and her boob and Rob's hand put aside as the rider pulled off his helmet and ran his hand through his hair. It was dark and wild, that hair, just a bit wet from his sweat, and he ran his fingers through it again before climbing off the bike.
"Wow," said Jan.
We looked at men, we three. Back in school they were boys, mostly, young and gawky, but there were some who were handsome, too, in that way budding masculinity can be. They liked to strut, too, these ones, because they knew we looked at them the same way we knew they looked at us.
Yeah, it's nice to be looked at.
I asked myself if this man, this rider, could tell we were staring.
It was hard not to. He wasn't big, but even under his leather jacket and the t-shirt he wore you could tell there was muscle there, real strength. This went down, too, to his jeans, the way he filled them out, those slender hips, that rounded butt honed from riding. No fat there.
"Wow," said Sally.
"Yeah," Jan answered.
So we stood there -- I don't know how long it was, as he crouched down beside the big bike and fiddled with something -- but we stood, three girls in our summer dresses, our bottles of pop hanging neglected in our hands.
"That's just fine," I said.
He stood then, and he glanced our way. Jan and Sally looked away, trying to look innocent the way you do when your mom catches you with your hand in the cookie jar, but I didn't. I don't know why I kept looking; I'm usually the shyest one of the three of us, but there was something about him, about this rider, that kept my gaze glued.
He saw this too.
And he nodded.
If he hadn't, none of the rest of it would have ever happened. He would have just gone on his way, and I would have gone on mine, and everything would have been the way I was always told it was supposed to be. You married your high school sweetheart, dropped three or four kids, kept the house and managed the money and then in fifty years or so the both of you retired and you held your grandbabies in your arms and spoiled them as they got older.
All here, in this same little town a hundred miles from nowhere.
But he nodded, and that was that.
Now, it was my father's shop, the little five-and-dime, and it had been his father's, and when my brother Todd was old enough it would be his too. He was a big man, my father, with a healthy belly that told of my mother's cooking, and he had a real eye for numbers, for balancing the books. I was one of those books, too, because I worked there, part time, and that in fact was why Jan and Sally had come over, because part of the deal was that we each got a free soda every day as part of my "salary".
Only one, though. Once I had gotten a second for us and he had caught me and docked my allowance. He said what he always did then:
"What are we, a charity?"
But there I stood, and after he nodded the stranger turned his attention back to his motorcycle, filling the tank and then paying. As he did this we stared, Jan and Sally's gazes moving back to the seat of his tight jeans as he did.
"There is a God," Jan commented.
I nodded. I don't know why. And I don't know why I stepped into the store and pulled a cold bottle of pop from the cooler, then stepped back outside.
"Ellie?" Jan asked.
I said nothing, only stepped across the street to the filling station, stopped in front of his bike.
He turned to me.
"Hello," he said.
He had a deep voice that just hinted at thirst, and I smiled and extended the bottle of pop to him.
"Hi. You thirsty?"
He grinned -- a grin to die for -- and looked me over. "Yeah," he said. "I am -- thanks."
I extended the bottle, lemon-lime, beads of moisture beginning to gather around the cold glass, and he took it. His finger just touched mine, warm and a little rough, and I smiled sweetly as he twisted off the cap and took a deep swallow. Wiping his brow with the cold bottle, he looked at me again and grinned again.
"That's good. Appreciate it."
I smiled my best smile, spoke to fill the quiet.
"Good to meet you," he said.
Now, any girl with a set of eyes and a brain knows when she's being watched, especially from this close. Guys think they are clever, how they hide it, but we know. And when they look away, trying to pretend they're not looking, we know it too.
But he didn't look away, not this stranger. No, his eyes went over me the same way mine had gone over him. I'm pretty; maybe not June Gorgeous, maybe not Miss America, but enough. And my dress was light, thin, like a good summer dress should be, and so I guess he could see enough, because he smiled and took another drink.
A funny tingle came in my belly then. Nerves, maybe. I looked away from him to his motorcycle.
"That's a nice bike," I said.
He followed my gaze.
"Yeah. She gets me around."
He nodded. "There's only three women that matter in life," he said. "Your mama, your girl, and your bike."
I nibbled lightly at my lower lip. Despite the dust it was a good looking bike, the Harley logo on the side of the tank, the engine big, powerful. Yeah, I thought. A man's bike.
I nodded. He was standing close to the motorcycle now and I didn't have to move my eyes to take in the both of them. I reached out, touched at the handlebars. His hand met mine there.
You don't know why, when it happens. It just does. A hand, touching yours, strong. His was like that, and I felt myself respond, felt my body, felt my nipples tingle suddenly underneath my bra. I looked from his bike to his body to his eyes. They were deep, and they were still watching me.
"You want to have a seat?" he asked.
I tried to find a word to answer, couldn't, finally settled for another nod. He took my hand, guided me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw Jan and Sally, just standing there watching, like they couldn't believe I'd done what I'd done.
I reached out; the leather was smooth, polished from long use. I felt myself shiver as I ran my fingers over it. He had sat here, all those hours on the road, the engine vibrating beneath him.
"Go on," he said.
I reached one leg over, settled. My skirt rose up, just past the knee, and his gaze went to the bit of exposed thigh. I reached out to support myself by gripping the handlebars.
The Harley was big beneath me, quiet now, but I could imagine the thunder of the engine, the strength, the power of it. And suddenly I was aware, not for any reason really, of my closeness to the thing, of the way the crotch of my panties was pressed against the smooth leather he had ridden. And there was the breadth of it, too, of the bike and the leather seat, pushing my thighs apart.
My mouth was suddenly dry and I gasped softly.
He pretended not to hear.
"Purrs like a kitten," he said. "A loud kitten. You have to hang on when you open the throttle or it'll knock you right off. A lot of horses in there, and they don't like slowing down."
He patted the tank, his fingers inches from my groin. I shifted a bit, suddenly moist. My thighs clenched around the firm leather and hard metal. I wanted to stay there, wanted him to kick the engine to life, wanted to feel it roar between my legs, to press hard against it, rub it and caress it and squirm...
I almost came right there, swallowing and shuddering and hoping he wouldn't notice. I could feel that the crotch of my panties was wet now, and beneath them the smooth leather of his seat. Would he notice when I got up?
"You like that, don't you?" he said, and I looked into his eyes.
They betrayed nothing.
He chuckled. Then, without a word, he took my waist in his hands and guided me back a bit, the motion against my moist crotch making me gasp. Before I knew it he had climbed on in front of me.
"Hold on to my waist," he said.
I did. I think I moaned when he kicked the engine to life.
You want to know how it felt? You have to try it. You have to press yourself intimately up against the power and feel it rumble against that most secret part of yourself. You have to feel the unyielding metal holding you open, exposing you. You aren't you anymore, not when this happens.
Something more and something less, maybe. I don't know.
But I held tight to him, to the stranger, pressing my face against the leather of his jacket as he pulled out of the station. The jacket had a rich, deep smell, alive, and without thinking I pressed my hips forward against his butt and groaned.
Because I was coming. My thin panties were soaked now, pressing myself hard against the leather seat and his hips. I was coming in that inexorable, certain way that you know you can't stop and that you never want to stop.
Thank God for the noise of the engine, or he would have heard me cry out.
Maybe he did anyway.
But it didn't stop. The bike wasn't alive but it was. And he was there, turning a corner, accelerating, the engine a low rumble and then a song. I live! it cried. You live!
Feel me, Ellie. Feel what I am. Feel what I make you.
I cried out again, shivering, squirming, wet. I wanted it to never end as I climaxed again, clenching the machine and its rider tight.
Take me. Don't stop. Don't ever stop.
In time we did, pulling up to the five-and-dime, the motor still running beneath me. The stranger dismounted, turned to me. His hand caressed the tank as he spoke.
"She's a beauty, isn't she?"
I nodded, unable to speak. Another voice, then.
This broke my reverie. I turned, saw my father standing there. Jan and Sally had shrunk back.
"Ellie! What are you doing? You're supposed to be working!"
I pulled myself off the seat, felt the wet leather graze against the inside of my thigh. The stranger was standing there, wearing that cocky, hypnotic grin, between me and the store.
I don't know why I did it, but I did it.
I stood on tiptoes and kissed him.
He didn't seem surprised.
I got through the day somehow, but it wasn't easy. My father noticed this.
"Did he pay?" he asked as we were cleaning up after closing.
"The man on the motorcycle. Your friends told me you took him a soda."
I shook my head. I could lie, but my father would catch me. Not a penny went in and out of that store without him knowing about it.
He put his hands on his hips, stared at me.
"What are we, a charity?"
Well, he had me, of course, just like the time I'd given extra sodas to my friends. Nothing I could do about it but fess up.
Though I knew I'd do it again in an instant.
"I'm sorry, Daddy. I'll pay for it."
That should have been it. But my father's face changed, looking at me. Almost sad, almost afraid. And he shook his head.
"No. That's all right. Ellie..."
I regarded him.
"Ellie... Men like that, they're trouble. I know that you --"
His voice cut off abruptly, then resumed.
"Did he touch you?"
I shook my head. This was true and not true, of course. A man doesn't have to lay a finger on you if he's the right man; I understood this then.
But I had touched him, the stranger. I had kissed him and I had made love to his bike. And this was enough, was all that it took. My father saw my face, my expression.
"Ellie, maybe it seems innocent, just to take a ride from a stranger. But men like that, they're trouble. They've got no responsibility, no future. They won't take care of you like a good man should. Maybe it's fun and you don't see the harm. But he wants a lot more than just to give you a little ride on his motorcycle."
I said nothing. He went on.
"Now Darren. He's a nice boy. He's studying to be a CPA. He'll be a good provider, a good husband someday. That's the kind of boy you should be interested in. A solid, moral boy."
Again I was silent. What my father didn't know, or maybe just didn't want to believe, was that Darren and his friends had liked to catch you in the hall back in school and grab your ass or your breast. Darren and his friends were the reason girls tended to go in groups.
"Ellie?" my father said now. "Are you listening?"
"Yes," I said.
He smiled. He loved me, my father did. He didn't understand and he never would, but he did love me.
And I did what I had to do.
Was I only dreaming, wishing? Was that why I kept looking out the window of the five-and-dime that summer? Was that why I sat with Jan and Sally and just watched the street as we drank our sodas?
They understood, I think. They'd seen him, seen me with him. Rod convinced Sally to let him hold her boob and they were happy, going to the cinema and necking. Jan hooked up with Morty, not because of his little bike but because she learned that he could do this really incredible thing with his tongue.
And I waited. Darren came to call a few times; I think my father had phoned him and suggested it. We had a few dates, me dolling up in a nice dress and he insisting that he get to touch my ass from time to time, but it didn't last. There was no thunder in him, just that lust he didn't even understand himself. He was only a boy.
Not a man.
July went to August, and August passed slowly. The wind kicked up and I spent a lot of time sweeping it out of the store. People came and went, rich people in their Caddies, sweating and complaining about how expensive things were or how I took too long to serve them, and poor people in old Chevrolets who smiled as I let their kids run around in the store. These ones always thanked me and sometimes I would give their kids candy and pay for it out of my purse. One day the till was off by three dollars and my father spent the night finding the error, which turned out to be his own.
And so it was that Jan and Sally and I were sitting outside the store that day. Jan had a cola and Sally had a root beer, and I was nursing a lemon-lime. It was hot, the dog days of summer, and I longed for a cool breeze to wash up under the skirt of my dress to cool me.
It was Jan who heard it first.
There, rumbling and low, rounding the corner of First and Main. Dust behind it, settling as it pulled up before the five-and-dime. My heart, quivering, my body suddenly alive as I saw, the insides of my thighs suddenly warm.
And him, pulling off his helmet and looking over at me, running his fingers through his dark, wild hair. Reaching back to pat the second helmet fastened behind him.
Jan giggled. I felt her hand on the small of my back, pushing gently.
"Go!" she urged.
He smiled as I stepped forward, unfastened the second helmet and extended it to me. The engine of his bike was still running, a welcoming rumble, inviting. I leaned to him, and we kissed. His lips were hot, electric. My hand touched the leather seat to support myself and I gasped as the vibrations of the motor went through me, moaned against his tongue as my body cried out in desire.
What was it he had said? Three women are important to a man: your mama, your girl, and your bike. He had a mama, somewhere, and he had a bike, a beauty of chrome and steel and power. No words were needed as he drew back, because I understood.
The helmet came on easily. Only then, as I climbed on behind him, did I hear another voice.
The engine was roaring now, between my legs, and I was gripping tight, moist and urgent as I climaxed suddenly, as I gasped with the pleasure of it, as I held to the stranger who soon would take me, would fill me, would sustain me. The leather, smooth and warm, the power beneath and the ecstasy it brought, these were mine now as I pressed my hips down hard, groaning in joy as I held tight to him and we began to accelerate away, my father disappearing behind us in the street, still shouting.
My father, you see, had never felt the thunder of a Harley between his legs. He never understood why I had gone and kissed the stranger, shivering with moist joy as the engine ran, then rising to a roar as we rode away forever.
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