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The incoming clouds—dark, heavy, and foreboding—loom overhead as you pick up your pace along the sidewalk flanked by tidy, sprawling lawns and flowering shrubs. Not what you expected after the blue skies you saw as you slid open the guestroom window only two hours earlier. 

Naturally, your pink umbrella remains stashed near the front door of your sister Dana and her family’s townhouse—your home-away-from-your-desert-Southwest home, where umbrellas fall under the not-a-necessity column. And where weather forecasts don’t include sudden freak storms proving customary on the Gulf.

Note to self: housesitting for my big sister in the Southeast requires 24/7 protection. 

Halfway to your destination, you hear a Hawaiian tune belting from the pocket of your lightweight jacket. 

“Hey, Dana.” A fat raindrop splatters smack dab in the center of your glasses’ lens. Ugh.

Your sister reminds you of your promise to drop off a donation check at the school fundraiser. 

You answer, “On my way, but I still don’t understand why you can’t do it when you guys get back.”

“I’m hoping you’ll meet Drew. That’s why,” she says.

Oh, of course. Drew, the new music teacher. Quite the “looker” per Dana. You picture the air quotes while rolling your eyes, catching a second drip with your other lens.

“Dana,” you say, blinking in double time as if that will clear your glasses. “I’m no longer a believer when it comes to men.” As you begin to tally the less-than-stellar virtues of your ex-boyfriend, the sky springs a full-fledged leak that threatens to douse your thin jacket. 

Ducking your head, you hustle beneath the awning of the nearby post office, shrugging your shoulders; damp material clinging to your back. Overlooking your sister’s dramatic sigh, you mentally thank your good fortune for the make-shift shelter. “But I’m happy to drop off the fundraiser check. Maybe pick up a teaching application, too.” Since her ex unceremoniously left her at the altar, she possesses zero excuses to remain in the Grand Canyon State.

“Oh, yes!” Dana’s squeal pierces your ear, and you pull the phone away from your face for a split second. 

The deep rumble of an engine vibrates under the soles of your soggy and once-white—but now a dingy gray—sandal-wrapped feet. “If I can get there without drowning first. Gotta run, have fun!”

A Harley rolls into the parking lot, the motor’s growl humming through your veins. Dropping your cell phone into your pocket, you run your palms the length of your arms against the chill, to no avail. The rider, decked out from head to toe in black, including leather chaps, stops the bike a few feet away, engine idling.

If you hadn’t sworn off men, you might wonder if your knight in shining armor rides a hog. 

Your focus centers on the stranger as he lifts a tinted visor, revealing warm, hazel eyes brimming with amusement behind dark-rimmed glasses. 

“Need a lift?” His voice sounds like dark chocolate would if chocolate talked. Rich. Creamy. The perfect amount of sweetness.

Just then, with less than a mile to go, a gust of wind slices through your jacket. An involuntary shiver runs up your spine. You wonder, briefly, if it has more to do with the stranger or the temperature.

“I don’t have a helmet.”  

A cheeky smile spreads across his rugged jaw, full lips framed by a neatly trimmed goatee. “Really, not in that big bag of yours?”

A handsome and funny knight.

Shifting from foot to foot, bare toes beginning to lose circulation, you point up the road toward a white, single-story building surrounded by crepe myrtle yet to bloom. “I’m heading to the elementary school.”

“Yeah? Me too. The fundraiser. I promised I’d show up.” Harley guy grins again, dark eyes glinting. 

And then, as if in synchrony, a faint streak of lighting zigzags across the sky, settling the silent debate in your mind. 

From a built-in compartment, he extracts a helmet and holds it out as you dart from underneath your temporary shelter and splash through a puddle. With deft fingers, he secures the strap and tugs, eliciting another zing as he brushes your skin. 

Swiping his gloved hand across the damp leather seat, he spreads his arm wide with a flourish. “Your chariot awaits, madam.”

You play along. “Thank you, kind sir.” Snickering, you lift the hem of your doused cotton skirt with one hand, your other using Harley guy’s hard shoulder to brace yourself as you climb behind him, pressing yourself against his well-worn jacket.

Rain pelts your back, your eyelids fluttering closed of their own accord. You feel a wistful smile play across your face as a tingling, a déjà vu-type sensation sweeps over you—memories of straddling the back of your dad’s motorcycle as a young girl. Only now, holding onto Harley guy stirs up a different kind of longing, as heat and promise radiate from his broad back to warm your insides. You think, ‘Didn’t I just remind Dana I’d sworn off the male species?’

Much too soon—the rain even cooperated to allow a reprieve, albeit short—you arrive at the school entrance, your cue to slide off the bike. Unfastening the helmet and returning it to Harley guy, you smooth your ponytail slick from Mother Nature’s shower. “Thank you!”

With a salute, and eyes concealed by the dark face shield casting him in a light of intrigue, he disappears around the corner of the clapboard building—leaving you to dodge the now sporadic drizzle. Stepping inside the school, you peel off your jacket. For several minutes, you search multiple classrooms for the fundraiser drop-off. 

Turning the final corner, you stop short in your sodden tracks. 

Harley guy.

Only now, garbed in crisp white shirt—sleeves rolled up to expose muscular forearms, a tattoo peeking from the underside of one powerful bicep—and denim jeans hugging trim hips, he perches on a make-shift stage at the front of a large multi-purpose room, guitar in hand. With his other hand, he swipes a shock of thick black hair, sprinkled with flecks of silver, from his forehead. 

Realization strikes like a thunderbolt. It’s Drew. The music teacher Dana talked up and down. And now I know why.

Sparkling eyes dance with awareness—a magical combination somewhere between a slow ballad and full-on disco—settle upon you as you hover toward the back of the room. Overcome with shyness, you avert your gaze to his lithe fingers as they stroke the strings. He begins to tap one of his black biker boot-clad feet as he strums an old favorite about love and fairytales, and wanting sunshine but getting rain. 

Startled, your eyes find him again. His full lips tease into an invitation, completely diffusing your resolve against the opposite sex. You barely hear the principal share the school’s vision, something about fresh starts and paving the way for the future leaders of America. 

After the speech, while families return to mingling and browsing displays piled high with every variety of sweet and salty homemade snacks and impressive creative arts, Harley guy plucks a few more tunes.

As you prepare to revive your search for the fundraiser drop-off, the music ends. Harley guy approaches.

“We haven’t officially met.” He offers his hand. “I’m Drew… need a lift?” 

At that moment, bright rays of sun burst through the clouds, shining through the floor-to-ceiling lobby windows. 

You could easily walk. 

But suddenly, you’re a new believer. 

In the prospect of happy endings. And especially in weather forecasts gone wrong.

As you place your hand against his warm palm, his fingers curl around yours. “Only if it’s on the backside of a low-riding chariot.”

June 27, 2020 00:28

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