“Friends & Lovers” Chapter 4

Meg could feel a trace of tension impose itself between herself and Luke over the next couple of days. There was an undercurrent of all that couldn’t be expressed, spoiling the fragile friendship that had sprung up between them, and it made Meg feel disproportionately sad. Of course professionalism, and glib adult conversation made it almost imperceptible, even to herself sometimes. But she felt as if she had lost something special.
“Well, what did you expect!” she thought crossly. “Take control of your feelings…you’re not twenty-one anymore. Learn from your mistakes!”
Common sense and cynicism sat exultantly side by side in Meg’s consciousness. The past few days with Luke had made her believe she had somehow escaped that fate, and regained some of her lost joy for life. Even though she knew nothing could ever come of their attraction, she had allowed herself to enjoy a phantom hope, and now she felt foolish and angry at her own weakness.
With great difficulty, she pulled her concentration back to the essays she was marking, trying to muster some enthusiasm for the sake of her students. But her hard won battle was shattered by Leonard’s gratingly imperious voice, as he thrust his head around the corner of her office partition. All semblance of calm deserted her.
“Meg, you’re still in to help supervise the year nine/ten social aren’t you?” he said, not waiting for an answer. “Good girl. Friday week; the theme is pirates and ladies in distress, or some such thing. So wear something suitably fetching won’t you,” he drawled with a wink, a suggestive smile on his lips as he retreated.
“Oh God!” Meg sighed out loud. Her mind quickly scrambled for suitable excuses, but then she stopped herself. It could be good to really throw her support behind something; get involved and get her mind off ‘other’ things, she decided. “Ladies in distress hey; sounds like me,” she thought with some amusement.
At the end of the day, mentally exhausted from the challenges faced every last term of a school year, and emotionally fraught from her own rampant emotions, Meg was quite looking forward to the bike ride home. It was a mild, sunny afternoon, and she anticipated a lovely light breeze in her face to help clear her mind. She was feeling slightly bouyed at the thought of it, until an extremely flat tyre took the wind out of her sails.
“Oh bother!” she pronounced out loud, as she bent down to make absolutely sure her eyes weren’t playing tricks.
“Go on, I know you really want to swear,” said a voice from behind her.
Just the sound of his voice was like warm liquid down Meg’s spine, momentarily incapacitating her.
“Luke, hi,” she managed, as she turned to face him. “I don’t believe it!” she added, as they both contemplated the very flat tyre.
“Do you have a repair kit, a pump?” Luke asked, putting down his pack, and obviously preparing himself to be her rescuer. Meg shrugged her shoulders apologetically.
“I just wanted to ride my bike.” The shrug of her shoulders told Luke that such practical matters had never entered her head. Luke smiled and shook his head, as if lovingly berating a small child, and Meg lowered her eyes accordingly.
“I’m such an idiot,” she said quietly.
“No biggy’,” said Luke cheerily. “I’ll take you home,” he added, picking up his back pack.
Luke’s offer was a shock, but before Meg could answer, Leonard came up from behind them on the way to his car.
“Well, well, what have we here,” he crooned.
“Meg’s got a flat tyre, and no way to repair it I’m afraid,” said Luke quickly, when he saw the scowl cross Meg’s face.
“Oh dear me, that is a shame,” Leonard replied condescendingly. “But never fear my dear, you can share my carriage,” he added with a flourish of his hand toward his car. The glint in Leonard’s eye made Meg’s stomach turn, and she automatically took a step towards Luke.
“Um, that’s okay Leonard really,” she blurted out. “But Luke has already kindly offered to take me home,” she finished, looking up at Luke with more than a hint of pleading in her eyes. Luke immediately took up her cause.
“Yep, that’s right. Thanks anyway Leonard, I really don’t mind,” Luke assured them both, flashing a brilliant smile that put an end to any more negotiation.
Leonard looked more than a little disgruntled, but quickly recovered, with a sly knowing grin.
“Good luck with that!” he said triumphantly, and stalked off.
Meg was a little puzzled by his response, but more relieved than anything.
“Thanks so much Luke…I hope it’s not too much trouble,” she said with a questioning look. “I just couldn’t have…”
“I know,” Luke answered, with another warm smile. “And it’s more than perfectly alright,” he reassured her, leading the way across the carpark. “As long as you don’t mind making a slight detour. I have to pick up something from a friend’s place,” he said, obviously not expecting a protest.
“No, of course not,” Meg replied, her eyes sweeping the car park for Luke’s car. “Where’s your…?”
“This is me,” he said, putting his pack down on the seat of a very large motor bike.
Meg couldn’t speak for a moment, and when she finally found her voice, it was raised in feeble protest.
“I can’t…,” she began, her eyes wide in disbelief, and just a little apprehension.
“Of course you can!” chimed in Luke cheerfully. “Have you ever been on a motor cycle before?”
“No,” whispered Meg. She noticed her palms had begun to perspire.
“Then all the more reason to have a ride. I promise I’ll take it easy,” Luke continued, taking her bag from her and stowing it with his pack in the space where the helmets had been.
“You’ll love it,” said Luke, holding the helmet above her head. He gently pushed it onto her head, and Meg held her breath as she felt his fingers on her neck as he fastened the strap. He tilted her chin so she was looking into his face, his eyes shining with amusement, and something else that made Meg lower her gaze, and the color warm her cheeks.
“Just hang on tight around my waist, and lean with me,” Luke instructed, giving her a wonderful encouraging smile.
Luke started the engine, and as the low rumble vibrated through her body, Meg began to feel a rising excitement replace her initial fear. She hated the way she always reacted to something new with instant apprehension and negativity. Wasn’t it just as easy to see this as an opportunity to embrace a new experience, to push her all-too-narrow boundaries? She took a deep breath, and wrapped her arms around Luke’s waist, leaning into his back as he turned onto the road.
Meg realized this is what Leonard had meant by wishing her luck. She was determined to make a point of telling him what a good time she had! That he had presumed to know her well enough to assume she was so dull and predictable, annoyed her greatly, and was more than enough impetus to overcome her fear.
Luke was true to his word, and drove very sedately on the winding road leading up along the river, and as she acclimatised, Meg really started to enjoy the ride. The necessary tension in every square inch of her body was exhilerating. And she was so intensely attuned to every movement Luke made, his sides and back against her arms and chest, and the hardness in the length of his thighs, bracing as he gripped the bike. His strength and power were barely harnessed against her, and the almost rhythmic leaning as the road wound its way beneath them, made her wonder with a guilty excitement, what it must be like to feel him moving beneath her, on top of her. The whole experience was so sensual, a tantalizing shadow of their own imagined love-making.
Meg felt her heart racing, and with great difficulty, she pulled her mind back to the passing scenery; the turquoise ripple as they moved past the eucalypts, and the sunlit glimpses of the river between the trees. She felt the most alive she had felt for such a long time. It was a dangerously provocative feeling, that somehow excited her to a myriad of possibilities she couldn’t even name. She involuntarily tightened her grip around Luke’s waist, and he responded by opening the throttle a little wider, making her gasp and laugh at the same time, and she felt the answering rumble of laughter through Luke’s body.

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