Previous: Part 1
The sun was shining, but he saw only the shadows. A cool breeze was passing through, but he heard only it's howl. All around were the laughs and sounds of a happy families, and he heard only the dull thump of his heartbeat. He gripped the bikes handles and took a ragged breath. Home. The thought thundered through his mind. Home. Safety. Alone and quiet. He had to get there. Just get back on the bike, and start peddling. Why had he come here? Dumb. He was so dumb. Just keep moving. Don't stop. Why had he ever thought this was a good idea?
That's when it had happened. A shaking, nervous man riding a bike through a busy park without paying attention to where he was going. It was inevitable. The collision had sent them both tumbling through the grass. The bike toppled on it's side, with one wheel slowly spinning. The others in the park had looked on in shock or amusement depending on their personalities. No one rushed to help. They were both still moving after all, and the absence of blood and screams made them all apathetic really. Some people had tentatively started heading towards the prone people, but drew back when the man and woman both got to their feet under their own power.
What had he done? What! He saw her then. She was brushing grass off her jogging shorts. NO! Not that. Not this. Why was he cursed, he stepped back and watched her warily. She was going to yell. Or cry. That might be worse. Then she looked at him. He saw her eyes. He instinctively flinched and looked away. "I'm so sorry," he blurted in a coarse whisper. "It was all my fault." He lapsed back into silence. He wanted to tell her about the bike, and his trip to the park, and how things had been going so well, only to end in ruins yet again. The words pounded through his brain while he fidgeted. He needed to get them right before he said them. He could sense her moving. although he hadn't looked at her directly again. She wouldn't want to hear about him he thought. She probably hated him. Why hadn't she said anything?
He risked a glance at her. She had her hands on her hips. Was that a smile he saw? What was going on? A trick he decided. He backed up another step. He could look at her more easily now that he was a safer distance. "My bike," he spoke in her direction. "It's my first ride in awhile," came the confession. With it came a calmness. He swallowed for the first time in what felt like forever. He turned his head and looked at her face. At her eyes. "I..," he started. She was looking back at him. At his eyes. He found the strength to continue. He spoke to her, "Are you alright? Were you hurt?"
She beamed at him, "I'm fine. Name's Kate. That was a nasty spill you took there." Kate held up a hand to silence any replies, "Now I know jogging on the bike path was dumb, but I was trying to take a shortcut. Luckily we both ended up in this grass, and none the worse for wear, I'm sure. How's your bike?"
He hadn't even thought about his bike. It was brand new. His mouth opened to reply, but the words died on his lips as he turned to look at it. Quickly he picked it up and squatted down to began looking at it. His knee let him know he hadn't emerged completely unharmed, but he ignored it's sharp reminder of later suffering.
Behind him, Kate approached, and spoke over his shoulder, "Like, I said. I'm such a goof. You'll have to let me pay for any repairs. I couldn't be more sorry about this." Slowly he eyed the frame, the tires, and the rest while dragging his hand over it to feel for things his eyes might miss. Scratches in the paint, a bit of a scuff mark on the grip that had hit the ground. It seemed there was no major damage. It was okay. No harm done...
Was that a hand on his shoulder? He tensed. Still as a tree. Quiet as a mouse.
Kate leaned around, "Are you sure you're okay? You're being awfully quiet. Is something the matter?" She paused briefly and looked at him.
He realized he was clenching his jaw, and relaxed slightly. He stood and turned to face her. She was close. He was trapped between her and the bike. She took her hand off him as he stood and he breathed a sigh of relief.
She smiled at him again before rambling on, "You're not upset are? I'm such a klutz, please don't be mad," she continued without pause. "Let's walk a bit and we'll make sure it's all working again, okay? You'll see. Everything is going to be fine."
He looked away unsure of how to respond. She'd said so many things. He managed a weak, "Uhh.."
Kate seemed unfazed, "Say, what's your name anyway?"
Next: Part 3