Colin continues to try and find the mysterious blonde woman, and he is joined in his quest by his best friend, Eric. Eric is a rather reluctant partner in all this, but anything for a friend...
Chapter 3 - The Coming Fall
Another month passed for Colin. Another month of hell. School was no fun for him. He might have said his grades were suffering from his distraction, but that would imply that his grades were good to begin with.
The one upside he could find was that school kept him more or less distracted from his larger issues preying upon his mind. It weight upon his thoughts less and less as September dragged on, but she was still in his thoughts.
However, Colin did find the occasion when he went a day or two without thinking about her at all.
Which was a relief to Colin's lone friend, Eric Corwin. The first week back to school, and the one after, had been the worst. If Colin had not seen her again for the brief moment she passed by him, that second week may have bene bearable as life returned to normal, but instead, it just added fuel to the fire within Colin's heart. And it made Eric want to bash his head against the lockers.
In the beginning, Eric had asked how his friend was doing, and what was wrong. He listened on that first day about the mysterious woman that had driven into his friend's life only to disappear to parts unknown.
He had even continued to ask as the week went on, even as the answer became ever more clear with each passing day.
By that second week, and following her second, even more brief, appearance, Eric had stopped asking outright. When he would arrive at school and find Colin sitting on the concrete slabs that made up the stairs to the main entrance, his legs drawn up to his chest, and his head resting upon his knees... Well, Eric knew his friend was not okay. He knew why. He knew who was to blame.
Eric hated himself for his growing disinterest, and the increasing lack of fucks he was giving. Colin had been his sole friend since fourth grade, when he moved to Kraftsbury from Massachusetts. But this routine of depression that Colin was trapped in, this unending cycle was grinding even Eric's ever-stalwart spirit into the ground.
So when he got off the bus on the last Friday for September and saw Colin in the same place he had been every day so far, all Eric could do was give a sigh.
"Dude!" he called out across the schoolyard. Colin gave the barest of movements as his head shifted, a lone eye peeking out from the arms crossed atop his knees. Eric outstretched both arms to the sides, raised just a bit at the shoulder. He gave a look as if to inquire, "Well? Aren't you happy to see me?"
A hint of a smile flickered within the shadows covering Colin's face when he saw his friend. He knew what he was doing to Eric, and wanted it to stop, but the stranger was too intriguing of a mystery to just give up on. At least, not yet.
Eric jumped up the three steps to the top, wide slab where other kids would soon be gathering. He slung his bookbag off his shoulder and into the corner right next to Colin, a move he had practiced every school day for three years.
"She's still on your mind, huh?" It had been a few days since he had asked. Who knew, maybe today would be the day that Colin was just tired.
No such luck waited for the young boy, however. Not that he was surprised, but let down by his faith in the changeability of the universe.
"Dude, you are going to have to let her go at some point. This is not healthy." Eric leaned against one of the fake molded columns standing astride the doorway to the school, and slid down to the step beside his friend.
Colin sighed and lifted his head, hitting it back against the same column. To Eric, that was a form of progress. "I know, I know. But she's out there, somewhere."
"So is every single other person on the planet. A whole seven billion of 'em. And you have nothing to go on besides 'blonde girl on a motorcycle'. Now, that certainly narrows the possible Venn diagram choices down a bit, it still leaves a pretty wide open field. She may as well be on the moon."
Colin rapped his head back against the column again, and this time it made him wince. Eric winced in sympathy, feeling it himself.
"Look at yourself, man! What are your plans tonight?"
His friend shrugged, and shifted, reaching back to rub the new sore spot on the back of his skull. Colin let out a gasp as he touched it. "I think right now, my plans are going to include nothing more than an icepack and moping."
Eric felt one of his hands raise in the air, and it shook, ready to smack Colin for daring to plan to mope. If Colin wasn't already doing damage to himself, Eric may well have gone through with the smack to the back of his friend's head, but he held off. For now. The day was young.
"Screw that," he spoke, lowering his hand and place it on his bookbag, resting between the pair. "We are going to the movies tonight. I will borrow the car, we will drive to Rutland, and we shall watch shit blow up in glorious, gigantic theatricality. You will not say no."
Colin began to part his lips, but Eric held up a long finger, and stared deep into his friend's eyes. "You. Will not. Say no."
"Or but. No nos. No buts." Eric's own eyes did not blink. His brow furrowed, and the kids' four brown eyes remained locked in a game of chicken to see which one would quite literally blink first. If Colin didn't know better, he would have thought Eric had just made him swear an oath of silence over a dead body, his look was so serious.
"Okay, fine!" Colin relented at last. "If it will get you to stop looking at me like that! Fuck! Do you know how creepy that is, man?!"
"Actually, yes." Eric smirked in triumph. "I made a police dog back down and whimper from my gaze once."
Colin snorted in derision. "Bull and shit. Pull the other one."
"Eric, when would you have ever even had the opportunity to stare down a police dog? You are like...the cleanest cut guy I know here. You wouldn't even tear the tag off a mattress."
"Oh no, I do that all the time. I am such a rebel."
For the first time in a month, Eric saw his friend smile. Not just smile, Colin even let a laugh escape from its prison of depression.
"Ah, signs of life! The patient may yet make a full recovery."
Colin rolled his eyes so far back, his head even moved, until it touched the column again, making him let out a yelp of surprise when the bump he had created met it. "Okay, enough, I get it, I've been in a bit of a funk lately."
"Dude, you have not just been in a bit of a funk. You have been sealed in a brick of funk carbonite. Be careful, because you are gonna still suffer a bit of lovesickness until you adjust to being free."
"I said enough! So, what? I should expect you around six? Catch an early show?"
Eric nodded and scrambled to his feet as the bell rang to start the school day. "Sounds good. It's a date, then!"
"Just don't expect a good night kiss when this is over, pal."
Eric sighed with great, mock sorrow as they entered the school, students starting to pack in behind them and force their way up and down the available stairwells.. "Yes, I know your heart belongs to another, and it shall never be mine! Oh, if only twere I that was your mysterious blonde biker chick! Then our love could be real!"
"I am not above pushing you down these stairs if you don't shut up, you know..."
The movie was just what Colin needed. He knew it the second the theatre's lights went down as the previews began to play. It was just the distraction his mind was crying out for.
When he was at school, the sole distraction he had was schoolwork, and that was no distraction at all. At home, all he had was the television, and more schoolwork. It was all too easy to let his mind drift back towards the blonde.
Even sleep was no respite, as she had invaded his dreams. Not many times, but more than once. But sitting in the theatre, packed with other people, his attention was focused on the screen and nowhere else.
Still, as distracting as it was from his current troubles, he could not help but feel his eyes wander during the movie's quieter times to the empty seat to one side of him, thinking how it might have been if his mystery woman was sitting there beside him. He hoped Eric didn't catch any of those glances, out of fear of being smacked.
It was fortunate that such moments were few, but he could not deny they were there. However, it did feel like progress. Colin felt more like himself, and that the way he was dealing with his obsession was reaching some level of normality.
When they came out of the theatre, the sun may have gone down, but the sky had yet to fully become dark. Shades of reds and orange painted the horizon, like the clouds had been set ablaze.
Colin finished the soda he had bought with a slurp through the straw, as he sucked at empty air and ice fragments at the bottom of his cup.
"Now, don't you feel a lot better?" Eric quizzed as they entered the brisk, autumn air outside.
Colin zipped up his jean jacket and shivered a little at the sudden change in temperature from the warmth of the theatre.
"A bit, yeah," he sighed. "Thanks. I did need that."
They walked across the parking lot which was still quite full, despite a few of the stores nearby being closed. Colin looked around as they walked, not really seeing any of the vehicles there, but his eyes wandering nonetheless.
Much to his surprise, one of the vehicles did catch his eye. He almost missed it. It looked quite different in the glow of the sick, orange, flickering light high above his head. But there was no mistaking it, not once he took a good look.
"Oh, you have got to be shitting me," he whispered. Colin wasn't even aware the words had escaped his lips until Eric spoke beside him.
"There it is," he replied, pointing at the bike sans rider. Eric didn't seem to understand quite yet. "That's the bike. THE bike. Her bike."
Eric's eyes widened in realisation as the pair stood in the middle of the parking lot, in quite a bit of danger of being run over.
"You have got to be shitting me," Eric repeated his friend's words.
"I know, right?"
Eric shook his head and stared. He ran his fingers back through his hair, just staring. "I gotta say, part of me thought you were making it all up, or you'd gone crazy. I'm still not convinced, but it is a hell of a coincidence that we stumbled upon a bike very close to the one haunting your every waking moment."
Something clicked inside Colin's mind, and Eric could see the change in his friend's eyes. "She's here."
"She's here!" he shouted. "Somewhere, in one of these stores, she's here! Fuck, man! She might have even been in the same theatre as us watching the same movie!"
Eric shook his head, "If she was, your blonde sense would've been tingling, I'm sure."
He didn't see anything from where he stood, but Eric could feel the glare Colin was shooting into his back.
"What do we do?" queried Colin. Eric could hear the nervousness shaking in his friend's voice.
"What do you want to do?" he returned.
Eric had put the ball in Colin's court. He thought it might not be the best notion. The decision itself could wind up paralyzing Colin for days. He was not the best at making snap choices.
If nothing else, Eric figured his indecision might just solve the problem for Colin, if they waited long enough.
As if on cue, and just as it seemed Colin may have said something and made a choice in the matter, they heard a shout cry out from across the parking lot.
"HEY!" came the cry, making the pair of kids jump. Eric was so startled that he found himself checking to make sure his sneakers were still on his feet. He had expected them to be left behind like a surprised cartoon character's oversized shoes when they get surprised.
The pair turned towards the noise, a nearby grocery store, and saw a figure rendered only in shadows coming towards them. She was lit just by the lights over the walkway by the store behind her, having yet to reach the amber tones of the streetlamps dotting the parking lot itself, leaving only the dark cutout of her form. They could make out a bag of dropped groceries forgotten by the store, but that was the least of their concerns.
Later, Eric would think back upon the moment, and wonder just what had made him so nervous. As Colin had described her, the mystery woman was not tall or imposing, even upon her bike. But that shadowy figure advanced upon them at a pace that seemed to their young minds as inhuman. She was more imposing than he would later find her to be. In that moment, she seemed ten feet tall and ready to eat their heads off as an appetizer.
She called out again, and her voice was deep, almost growling out the words in anger. "You kids get away from my bike!"
It wasn't until that moment when Eric realised he was standing right next to the bike, having crept right up alongside it while he and Colin had been talking about the mystery woman that was now drawing ever closer.
Worse still, he noticed his left hand had fallen upon it at some point. Eric yanked his hand away from the bike like he had just noticed it was as hot as its colour would imply.
He hoped the yelp he heard remained in his thoughts and did not escape past his lips.
Eric clutched his hand against his chest like it had indeed been burned, and took several stumbling steps backwards. He came close to tripping over his own feet.
"I said get -" the yell was stopped mid-sentence, and the girl came to a sudden stop as well. She had noticed Colin standing there, dumbstruck and motionless. Eric wondered if he was still trying to decide whether to wait for her to come out of the store or leave it be.
"You," was all she muttered. She seemed unsurprised by their appearance there. She also did not seem to be any calmer. Her anger may have quieted down, but Eric could tell it had not abated.
Meanwhile, Colin stood and stared, something that was threatening to become his natural state of being around this woman.
"Oh," gasps Eric. It was in that moment that it hit him.
"Oh!" he blurted out even louder. He pointed with excitement at the blonde standing there. She was finding her anger was transforming into confusion rather quick. Not all of it, but enough to not make her want to tear anyone's heads off.
"You're her!" It was the most obvious thing in the world to say, but still it came out of Eric's lips. Even with the bike there, and her standing in front of them, he was reluctant to believe it. But there she was, right in front of them, in the leather.
"Her," was the lone word she uttered, staring with grey eyes at the new kid standing next to Colin. It was half a statement, and half a question, all wrapped up in one syllable. "Her who?"
Eric saw that wasn't helping any, "The girl with no name, the mysterious blonde! Do you know how messed up this kid has been since you drove through town?!"
"No. Why." She gave the barest possible effort to infuse her words with any emotion whatsoever.
Even though she had to look up at Eric, even though the thick soles of her boots still kept her six inches shorter than him, Eric was certain he knew who was in control of this situation.
She clutched her purple helmet at her side. If Eric listened close enough, he could hear her gloves straining and flexing.
"Lady, I will be damned if I know. I've been trying to crack that code all month long." He came close to adding how right then he was still trying to figure out what about her drew Colin in and he found so captivating, but he feared receiving a close look at her helmet as it swung into his face.
Something in what Eric said shook the woman standing there. Her eyes shifted, her eyebrows rose, and her face softened. Just the slightest bit, but enough for Eric to notice.
The girl's gaze twitched from the pair, and Eric thought she was looking up into the sky for a moment. He was tempted to turn and look himself, to see what she saw, but part of him was afraid of what she might do if he took his eyes off her.
Another part of him thought she might disappear, he was still unsure she was real.
Eric thought he heard her mutter the word, "Damned," but it was so soft, and said so fast he was unsure she had spoken at all.
It wasn't until she spoke again that he was sure of it, "You two should go. It's late." Her voice had changed. The anger was gone, replaced with concern. Concern that Eric did not understand.
"Late? It's barely 8:30 at night."
The girl had turned her back on the boys, all but forgetting they were there until Eric spoke. "Yeah, but it's the also a full moon tonight. You should be careful. Never know what crazies you'll run into."
Eric almost didn't stop himself before blurting out how right she was, how they could run into a crazy biker chick that was about a half second away from beaning someone with a helmet. He thought better of it, though.
"I thought tomorrow was the full moon!" he shouted to be heard, as the girl started up her bike.
She tossed her hair back as she turned and looked at the boys again. She flashed a smile, and for a brief moment, Eric got it. He got the attraction. This was the girl Colin had seen, not the hulking beast he first thought when he had seen her outlined in shadows.
"The day before, and the day after count just as much, to many people. To many cultures. Close enough for horseshoes and hand grenades, they say."
Before either of them could say another word, the blonde covered up her face with her helmet, and revved the engine of her bike, and took off through the open parking space in front of her.
Eric watched as she took a brief pause by the store to collect her abandoned groceries and deposit them into a storage compartment he would not have expected to find on a bike the size of the one she drove. Small things were just full of surprises that night, it seemed.
It wasn't until the sound of the bike faded into the rest of the traffic that Colin stirred to life once more, awakening from his stupor.
"I think we should wait here for her to come out," he said. He was aware of what had happened, but he was unable to formulate a coherent thought until then, and that was the first thing that rolled off his tongue.
Eric clapped his friend on the shoulder, sympathising with what he was going through, even if he did not wholly understand it. "Yeah, I think we covered that already. Come on, let's get outta here."
Colin nodded and sighed, looking off in the direction she had escaped in. Eric held back a heavy sigh, knowing at least another month of trying to deal with Colin's doldrums was in his future. So much for his plan to cheer him up by getting him to stop thinking about her for awhile.
And it was such a good plan, too.
"So, that was her, then?"
Eric nodded and shrugged. "She's pretty, if that's the kinda girl you're into."
"Yeah." Eric could hear the happy, yet forlorn sigh in Colin's voice.
"Can I have thirty bucks for gas?"
"Ye...HEY!" Colin screwed up his face into a grimace and punched his friend in the shoulder. "Nice try!"
"It was, wasn't it?"
Eric was surprised at how close his car (Well, his parents' car) was to where the crimson cycle had parked. He didn't believe in fate, but it was one hell of a coincidence that she had picked a spot almost opposite from where they themselves had parked.
He didn't give it another thought, though, as it was likely to just be nothing more than what he thought it was; one hell of a coincidence. To find it anything more, and he was in danger of becoming like Colin.
"She's right though, it's probably best if we got outta here," he said as they got into the car. "I have had my fill of crazies for one night."
Even though she was long gone, Eric still felt uncomfortable saying that aloud. He wasn't superstituous, but he still felt like if he spoke of the devil, she may just still be able to hear him, regardless of where she may be.
"She's a bit on the angry side, huh?" Eric inquired as he started his car up.
Colin shrugged, "She wasn't that bad when I met her, but then it was only a few minutes. Still, we were looking suspiciously at her bike."
"Dude, we were standing there, and she was just about ready to claw my eyes out if I looked at it funny. That is not normal behaviour."
"What's you're point?" Colin asked, looking hurt by the accusation he could feel Eric dancing around.
"My point is, that girl is dangerous. You don't want to see it, maybe you just can't see it. But you should just forget all about the girl with no name, and move on. There are plenty of girls in our own school."
Colin made a face, like he had just swallowed a mouthful of cough syrup. "Have you seen the girls at our school?"
"Yes, and they are not that bad, dude. And this is me saying this. More important though? Some of them are actually sane."
A laugh from Colin filled the confines of the car. "That one is up for debate."
"True enough," Eric laughed with his friend. It was the second laugh of the day, and the second one he'd heard all month. Maybe he wouldn't slide back as far as he feared Colin might.
The car rode through the city streets, nearing the edge of town and ever increasing darkness. The lights of the city became fewer and farther between as they entered the long stretch of highway between Rutland and Kraftsbury. The country would envelop them in darkness for miles before they reached home.
As Eric turned left, he came close to crashing the car into a signpost when Colin shouted out, "Son of a bitch!"
Eric regained control of the car before anything happened, but he was not happy. "What?!" he cried out, praying whatever it was had been important to almost kill them. Because if it wasn't, he may yet find a way to finish the job.
"I still don't know what her name is!"
Where's the nearest telephone pole, wondered Eric as they drove the rest of the way in silence.