Death came to his eyes that day. The advert had gone into the paper on Thursday and since then three calls, two visits and now a sale. He’d never expected this to happen. Why couldn’t he see this? Since he was three he’d lived on two wheels. Scooters, bikes, mountain bikes, motorbikes and trial bikes. The one selling today he’d only got last year.
For two long summers he’d worked at the hotel saving up; hospital corner after hospital corner on the beds, scraping his knuckles endlessly on the dark wood frame, loo after loo scrubbed, room after room vacuumed. He’d had a laugh with the other cleaners too – sorry, ‘maintenance crew’ or such nonsense. At lunchtimes they’d gathered in an unoccupied room watching sport on Sky, sometimes they’d sneak a few beers with them.
A couple of times he’d sneak Jessie from reception into a room. Together they’d tried out the double bed. Hmm…Jessie. She’d gone off to uni now. Of course, she’d wanted to do all that ‘long distance relationship’ rubbish. No way. Those never worked out. He’d told her so too. Okay, telling her by text might have been a mistake; his Mum had laughed nervously when he told her how he’d broken up with Jessie. His Dad just scowled audibly with disapproval. What the heck! It was his life.
They were here now. A couple with a Range Rover and a trailer bouncing behind. Adam, their son, scuttled out of the car and dashed up to the bike, his enthusiasm leaving a trail of happiness in his wake. So young. Just wait until life hits you, Adam. There he was, Adam, stroking, actually stroking the handlebars of his motorbike, now ducking down to look at the wheels, his head turning in exclamation to his parents, then an adoring glance at the engine. Joy radiated from his eyes.
Better get this over with, he thought, grabbing the keys from the pristine kitchen counter, reaching for the helmet on the stool. In the hall he looked into the mirror and thought ‘smile’. The corners of his mouth turned up into a grimace; that’ll do he reckoned as he headed out.
Hollow darkness filled his eyes as the car pulled away, his trial bike rattling in the trailer. An unfathomable emptiness cascaded over him as he glimpsed it for the last time.
He’d won three championships on that. Local ones but still. He’d been taught by the top rider in the country for a while. Then the falls! Remember the one on the moors, skidding down the muddy hillside, leg trapped beneath his bike, engine still running. Caked in mud, he’d got up and rejoined the race. Finished last but he’d laughed all the way to the line, celebrated all night with his mates, the most inglorious defeat and the photos of the day shared avidly on Twitter and Facebook.
Photos. He’d better take them off. Him and his bike. Just him now. As if he could ever have made it, been a real success. Stupid dreams. Those days of foolishness. Days of waste.
He took his mobile from his back pocket, scrolled through the photos. Here one on holiday with his friends all on their trial bikes. Who was that stranger staring at him, with a smile shining on his face? Who was that guy, laughing with his friends, his arm draped round his bike, chin resting on the seat? Click. Delete. Click. Delete. Whoever he was, he was gone. Click. Delete. The look of death in his eyes.
© Annika Perry