I got my break! My first book sold well in the UK, then went big in the USA! My American agent called me, and at very short notice I found myself flying over to the States, and doing all kinds of publicity work, interviews, book-signings and so on, for several weeks – mainly in New York, but also over in California, so I had to dash back and forward from sea to shining sea until I was dizzy!
I was therefore very glad to find myself eventually at a loose end, and with plenty of accrued income from sales.
What to do with both of these? My old friends Gerry and Maureen had a house on the North Carolina Banks, and offered me a period lazing by the Atlantic while my income racked up interest. It was tempting, I must admit. But there was a little, devilish voice in my head which kept up a line of temptation which gradually defeated the notion of sleep, sun, sea… rip-tides, sharks, boredom, day-trips to towns with names like Duck…
The voice went something like this: “You’re only thirty-something once! Have a road-trip!”
I had once sat, enthralled for weeks, listening to a twelve-cassette set of readings from William Least-Heat-Moon’s “Blue Highways”, in which the author tells of tracing a motor-trail across the USA and back, using only the roads which used to appear in blue on old maps – local county roads, ex-turnpikes downgraded when someone built an Interstate, routes that wiggle through the mountains and go in plumbline-straight lines across the prairies. I put an idea to Gerry and Maureen, and I have to say the awkward bloody-mindedness, which that little devilish voice had instilled in me, made me more and more determined as my friends’ expressions grew more and more worried! My idea was to arm myself with a Rand-McNally Road Atlas and a hire car, and head off into the American interior. I wasn’t planning to go even half as far as William Least-Heat-Moon – just start in a kind of a north-western loop through North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Kentucky, and so on, and come back in a southerly loop when my money and time started to run out. I would “do” a bit of Dixie – maybe not deepest, darkest Dixie, but sufficiently deep and dark, from the point of view of a British woman, to be a touch exotic. I had it in mind to see what some of those dots on the Rand-McNally actually were, to head for a spot and find a motel, to eat at diners on the way, to have myself a “road movie” of my own, to be Thelma or Louise without a camera crew and with myself as either Thelma or Louise on her own! I know – silly!
I could tell Gerry and Maureen thought so too. But, ever generous, they refused to let me hire a car. Instead they offered to lend me theirs.
“The Chevy?” I said, excitedly. “Yeah! I should say so! Thanks!”
That was extremely naughty of me. I knew that they meant the Honda Civic, but I also knew that they had a beautifully restored ’57 Chevy in the garage too. Gerry’s generosity is such that he could not bear to see my disappointment if he told me he had meant the boring Honda, so basically he told me to knock myself out!
There are a handful of items which have been designed in America, which define beauty and defy improvement. The Zippo lighter – I don’t smoke, but I could sit flicking one of those on and off all day – the USAF pilot’s leather jacket, Chinos, the Fender Stratocaster electric guitar. And, perhaps most beautiful to the eye, the 1957 Chevrolet Bel Air! Gerry’s was two-tone coffee-and-cream. So I felt like a million gold-plated dollars on the day I drove away from their house on the Banks. I tried not to look in the mirror in case I caught sight of their worried faces again, turned back with a twinge of conscience, and declared myself unequal to the enterprise. No – I was going to have a road-trip. “Sod the expense,” I thought. “Give the cat another goldfish!”
The expense, I have to say, refused to be sodded! Those old classics from the 50s burn petrol – guzzle gas – like there’s a hole in the tank. Still, I could afford it, and I would never see thirty-something again, unless it was looking back!
Up through Virginia I went, crossing the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah Valley, on into the Appalachians and West Virginia. I kept on straight through the mountains, looping westwards, until they became little more than wooded ripples. I marvelled at everything – power lines strung out wherever there was the slightest sign on habitation, adverts for “Mail Pouch” tobacco on the side of barns, gas stations selling BP [“Hey, that’s British Petroleum!” – that made me feel a little more at home, but the Chevy made me pull in much more often than I had hoped I would need to], buzzards soaring above the trees…
I drove with my elbow jauntily posed through the open window. Occasionally I would hear a siren behind me, and would pull over to be approached by a policeman. Always they would ask to “see some ID”, and always a British passport would perplex them for a while. Always they would call me “Ma’am”, and I would use my most clearly-honed British accent to explain that I was “a guest in your beautiful country” and hadn’t quite got the measure of the rules of the road yet. And I would smile. It worked.
“Well Ma’am, you violated a such-and-such a mile back, but as you’re a stranger here I’m going to let you off, on this occasion. You drive safely now, y’hear?”
I love America!
I drove with the radio on, tuning into one of those local radio stations where they play nothing but country music. “Let’s have the full experience,” I thought. So I cruised at a steady fifty, while the lead guitar went “wangle-dangle-dang” and the steel guitar went “whoop whoo-oo”, as a male or female voice tear-jerked a song of wry sadness. All the radio stations began with “W”. Dubya-this, Dubya-that!
I don’t know whether I was in West Virginia, Kentucky, or the planet Zarg, but at last I got bored with the wangles and whoops. It had all begun to sound the same. So I fiddled with the radio until I found a station playing “oldies”. Now here was something I could sing along to – the Beach Boys! I joined in with gusto.
“After six hours of school I’ve had enough for the day. I hit the radio dial and turn it up all the way. I gotta dance! Right there on the spot! The beat’s really hot! Dance – Dance – Dance – Yeah!”
And after that came another rocker-from-the-locker, an old piece of R&B, which had me bouncing on my seat.
“I’m going to Kansas City – Kansas City here I come. I’m going to Kansas City – Kansas City here I come. They got some crazy little women there And I’m gonna get me one!
I’ll be standing on the corner – Twelfth Street and Vine. I’ll be standing on the corner – Twelfth Street and Vine. With my Kansas City baby And my bottle of Kansas City…
That undeleted expletive came immediately after there was a bang, followed by a grinding noise, from somewhere inside the works of the car. Hot on the heels of that, the engine began to race, because my foot was still holding down the accelerator, while the gears were not engaged. Some gremlin had gotten its teeth into the transmission.
Luckily I was going downhill, and saw no reason not to coast on for a while. As the road flattened out, and I began to slow I saw that I was approaching a providentially-placed motel. The Chevy had just about enough momentum to roll into a convenient parking place. I got out, and went to see about renting a room for the night.
The clerk asked for ID, of course, and was perplexed by the British passport. I was now not amused by this, it was no longer a charming local quirk, it was simply irritating. But I gritted my teeth, signed the register, and accepted a key. The clerk stepped outside to point the way to my room.
“Nice car,” he said.
“It is when it bloody well goes!” I said. “Is there somewhere around here I can eat?”
“Well, we got a vending machine for a muffin or a Danish. I guess there’s the diner, though, if you want a meal. That’s about a mile up the road.”
Hunger overcame irritation and everything else. I transferred my luggage from the trunk of the Chevy to my room, tidied myself up a little, stuffed a few essential into a small rucksack, put on my comfortable trainers, and put my best foot forward. I soon found that a mile in that part of the country is about like a mile in Egypt – a flexible concept. The diner was, I guess, about two-and-a-half miles away.
Now, diners are strange things. The door to a diner is the portal to an alternative universe. Step through it expecting to find yourself on a film set, and you just might. I entered this one. Just as one would expect, most of the conversation stopped. Heads turned, mostly in baseball caps, a few in Stetsons. It was quiet enough to hear the music in the background – yeah, it was “wangle-dangle-dang, whoop whoo-oo”! As I made my way to the counter, some of the men who had turned to stare at this outlandish newcomer had the residual politeness to tip a hat and say, “Ma’am”! I guess I replied with a wan, British smile! An innocent abroad, give or take a letter.
I approached the counter.
“Yes, Ma’am. What can I get you?” said the waitress. I took a moment to study her face. Her smile was open and unaffected, and I smiled back.
“What do you have?”
She handed me a menu. “Take your time. Coffee while you’re waiting?”
“Oh, yes please!” I was in the mood for a good cup of coffee.
“Have a seat at a table. I’ll bring it over.”
I chose one by the window, where I could look out at the handful of cars and pick-ups outside. And there was a motorcycle out there too; I wondered whose that was, and made a quick scan of the clientele – no clue, no one seemed to be dressed for a bike. The waitress brought my coffee. I ordered ham and eggs.
“How do you like your eggs?”
Now, I’ve never been able to figure out what is meant by the term “eggs over easy”, so I asked for them in the only way they come in Britain – sunny side up. As I sipped my coffee, which was black, strong, and very good indeed, I took a proper look round the diner. When I had first come in, I had the impression that I had simply entered a film set – The Diner. Now I saw that the place had some touches I hadn’t expected. In one corner, for instance, there were a couple of tables with computer terminals, which indicated that the place doubled as the local internet café. And there was a rack with today’s newspapers, including the NYT, the WSJ, and some good magazines, so people were not only literate but well-informed around here. So they liked their wangle-dangle-dang too, so what!
The waitress brought my meal. Wow – they must have killed a whole pig for that stack of bacon! There was a generous helping of toast too, and a refill of coffee. I thanked the waitress, and began to tuck in. For a moment or two she stayed by my table.
“You’re British, aren’t you?” she said.
“Uh-huh,” I replied, with my mouth full. She smiled again, and went back behind the counter. I must say she was ready with those smiles, and they were very nice smiles too.
Some of the other customers got up to leave, thinning the number to about half. Another surprise – two of the remaining customers were absorbed in a chess game. The waitress walked over to the rack, selected a magazine, and took it back to her station behind the counter. I continued wolfing down the ham and eggs, and by the time I was sitting back chewing the last piece of toast, I noticed that the waitress was looking at me intently. I looked back, and began to see her in a little more detail; up to now she had simply been the person who had brought my much needed food, but now I could see that she was a tall, handsome blonde, about the same thirty-something as myself. I felt that she rather liked her looking at me, and I liked looking back at her, but after a while I felt a little embarrassed, and my eyes wandered over some of the confectionery and desserts on display. I wasn’t actually hungry any more, but I wanted an excuse for having been looking over in that direction.
“Could I have some of that pie, please?”
“The cherry? Sure!” She cut a piece, and brought it over on a plate. I noticed that she had the magazine in her other hand.
“Excuse me,” she said. “Is this you?” She put the magazine down on the table, and suddenly I was face to face with myself! A small photo in a page of print – an interview I had done a couple of weeks previously. I nodded.
“Well! A British writer! That’s got to be a first for this diner.” She said. A couple of the other customers showed a little interest too. One of them called over.
“Written anything I might have read?” And he didn’t neglect to add, “Ma’am?”
I shook my head. “Only one book so far. And it’s what they call ‘Chick-Lit’, I suppose.”
“Well, we got to check it out now,” said the waitress. “Now we’ve had the author in here.” She took the magazine, and gave it to the man. He raised his eyebrows, and read the article while he finished his drink. The waitress looked out of the window.
“I don’t see a car out there that I don’t recognise,” she said. “How did you get here?”
“My car’s at the motel. I walked here.”
“That’s got to be two-and-a-half miles.”
“That’s what I thought!”
“How’re you getting back?”
“Well,” I said. “Now I’ve got my strength back with all this lovely food – not to mention being full of caffeine – I was intending to walk.”
“It’s getting dark,” observed the man with the magazine. I looked outside. He was right.
“We have dark in Britain too,” I replied. Steady girl – I thought – this is America, an irony-free zone. Be polite!
“We couldn’t let a celebrity visitor walk home,” said the waitress. I searched her face for any sign that she was indulging in un-American irony – there was none, and there had been none in her voice. One or two of the customers stood and tipped their hats again, as if they were going to offer me a lift, and I reflected that this was not in fact a film set, and I had no reason to suppose any motive on their part but a politeness far in excess of what I was used to at home. But the waitress spoke up.
“Hold on, boys. I’ll take the lady home.” She stressed the “I’ll”, and the two men sat down, as if they had just been admonished by a schoolteacher. Then to me she said, “I finish in ten minutes. I’ll meet you outside, if that’s OK with you?”
“Yes, that’s fine. Very kind indeed. Thank you very much!”
So ten minutes later I was standing in the car park, wondering which of the cars was hers, and watching fireflies in the gloaming, when she walked round the side of the diner. She was wearing jeans and a leather jacket, and to my surprise she had a helmet in her hand.
“I’m sorry, I don’t have a spare helmet,” she said, as she straddled the motorcycle and started the engine. Well, well!
“That’s OK,” I said, summoning some bravado – I hadn’t been on the back of a bike for years. I stood back for a moment. Harley Davidson 883 – slim, rowdy, noisy, and stylish. The rider was slim and stylish too. It is amazing how good a leather jacket and jeans can look on the right woman, even with blonde strands escaping from a helmet. She indicated the pillion seat, and I climbed on behind her.
“Hold on tight!”
I put my arms round her waist, as she slipped the clutch and pulled out into the road. If I had forgotten at all how to ride pillion, I quickly re-mastered it. I could feel her stomach with my hands – still taught and flat – in good shape for a woman of her age. I leant in towards her back, my hair streaming out behind me, tears starting at my eyes as the wind rushed into them. The warmth of her body seemed to spread into mine, and I caught a whiff of her scent, mingled with a suggestion of not-unpleasant perspiration. Very quickly, I had the knack of sensing where her body was leaning for a bend. We wangle-dangled to the left, and whoo-oo’d to the right, and my armpits got prickly with the thrill. Too soon we pulled in to the motel car park, and I saw the clerk crane his neck. I pointed to the Chevy, and she drove us over to it. I got off the bike a little inelegantly, shaking slightly, excited. She killed the engine, dismounted, took off her helmet, and shook her blonde hair.
“Nice car,” she said, nodding towards the Chevy.
“I do wish people would stop saying that!” I said. “It’s a heap of junk at the moment. It won’t move. And when it does, it drinks fuel like – I don’t know – like a wino sucking at a bottle of Wild Turkey!”
I don’t know where that metaphor came from, but the waitress threw her head back and howled with laughter.
“Now I know you’re a writer,” she chuckled.
We stood for a minute, so one saying anything.
“Well…” she began, as if it was a prelude to her departure. I interrupted in a panic, as if to make her stay. I really didn’t want to be without her company at that moment.
“Do you want to come in, for…” My voice died. For what?
“Coffee?” she said, with an eyebrow raised. “I make the best coffee for fifty miles myself. There’s nothing you can put in a motel-room cup that’ll taste anything like it. You just had some of my coffee back at the diner!”
“Oh. Yes. Of course.” I felt rather foolish. She was grinning at me, and I was relieved to see that it was not an unkind grin. It seemed to me that she was incapable of any such thing. Eventually, she made the excuse to stay herself.
“I could use a shower, though.”
Relieved, I let us into my room. She put her helmet down, and took off her jacket, looking around the room as she did so.
“I work a couple of miles down the road, and I’ve never been in one of these rooms. Never had any reason to.”
Somehow I was glad to hear this. I didn’t like to think that she made a habit of coming back here with strange women. It made me feel – well – a little special. I was nervous, but in a way I was more scared that she would simply go, leaving me here on my own.
She walked over to the bathroom, looked in, and then came back.
“Yeah, that’s fine,” she said. Then she took hold of my wrist, and pulled me towards the bathroom. I resisted a little, and she looked back.
“I could do with some help in that shower,” she said, more softly than she had spoken before, as if she too was a little scared. “Come in with me.”
Still I hung back. I have to say that I am so bad when it comes to relationships. If it came to putting my sexuality down on a form or a questionnaire, I would have to write “inept”! It had been a few years since I had done the lezzie thing. I loved women very much – it was just that I always spoilt things somehow. And right now – yes – I wanted sex very much. I wanted to go into the shower with her.
She looked into my eyes. Hers were very kind, just like her smile. So it surprised me when she twisted my arm rather forcefully. If she had done it only slightly harder, it might have been cruel and painful, but the force she did give it made it… decisive. She twisted it upwards, and that brought us closer together, facing each other. She slipped her other hand round my waist, and gently drew me to her. She touched her lips lightly to mine. I thought for a moment the engine of the Harley was still running, but it was my heart hammering.
“OK,” she said. “We’ll take this slow.” She let me go, and sat down on the bed, smoothing the cover next to her, as if inviting me to sit too. I did, but a little awkwardly, half-opposite, as if at right-angles to her. She took my hand, and I didn’t resist, but accepted this intimate little pressure.
“It’s been a long time,” I said, by way of unnecessary explanation. She nodded. Then she put me totally at my ease, by changing the subject, and getting me to talk.
“What brings you this way? Vacation?”
“Well, sort of,” I replied, and then told her all about my plans for doing a minor version of William Least-Heat-Moon’s personal Odyssey.
“I read that book too!” she said, excitedly. “It’s great. Especially when he picks up that Seventh-Day Adventist, who keeps quoting the Bible at him, but he ends up really liking the guy! That’s the bit I always remember. And the bit where he comes across a concrete version of that old monument in England – what’s it called? – Stonehenge. Only this is up in Montana or somewhere!”
We were on the same wavelength at last!
“Yes – I really loved his experiences. So I borrowed the Chevy and set off, with absolutely zero planning. I wanted to be sort of one half of Thelma and Louise. I wanted to be Thelma without… by the way, I realise I don’t even know your name.”
“Well actually,” she said, smiling, “It is Louise!”
We both laughed, and then we hugged each other like old friends.
“Now,” she said. “Let’s get that shower.”
I felt totally easy with that now, and we both simply got undressed and went into the bathroom. She started the shower running, and we both got in, shrieking like a couple of schoolgirls while it ran cold, and then again when we got it too hot. When we got the temperature just right, at around body heat, we set about the intimate business of washing each other. Just that. We didn’t go into one of those “sex-in-the-shower” routines, but nevertheless what we did was so intimate. When I had cleared my eyes of water, and has a chance to run my lathered hands down Louise’s body, I began to appreciate just how beautiful she was. Her hair, which had been full of body, bouncy and blonde, now hung dark and straight; but this showed off the perfect shape of her head, and accentuated her facial features, her high cheekbones, full, wide lips, and pointed chin. Her ears lay flat to her head. Her neck was long, balancing on fairly broad shoulders and two perfectly machined clavicles. Her arms were rounded but slim, with perfect muscle tone – she obviously worked out, but not to the extent that she had lost any feminine softness. Oh those breasts! Were they large or small? I couldn’t tell, except they were exactly the right size, in proportion to the rest of her figure, firm, and sitting high up on her rib-cage. Firm was the right word for her stomach too, unfairly flat for someone in her thirties. Her hips and buttocks were rounded like peaches, her legs straight and long, a neat capital V of curls crowned her thighs. She had a slight over-all tan, which I thought might have been due to a Mediterranean ancestor – or a Creole? Or a Cherokee? Who could tell – the possibilities were endless. Or it may have been that she had found some place of utmost privacy, where she could walk around naked in the morning sunlight! She was about half-an-inch taller than me, maybe a little more.
I washed her all over, lingering over her breasts and her sex, and she grinned as she realised I was enjoying her body. Then she returned the compliment, and washed me all over. Her hands made my whole body tingle, but especially so when her massaging and washing became intimate. Just before we got out of the shower, she flicked the control to cold, and we both shrieked again at the tingle of chilly water. What with that and the vigorous rub-down we gave ourselves with towels, by the time we were dry our nipples were standing hard and erect. Mine felt like they were on fire!
Louise took me by both hands and led me to the centre of the room. Then she stepped back and looked me up and down. I felt embarrassed.
“My!” she said. “You are beautiful!”
I could feel myself blushing. Beautiful? Oh, not compared to her!
She stepped towards me again, put her face to mine, and kissed me tenderly. I guess I closed my eyes – I certainly gave in to the kiss, let my lips be forced a little apart, accepted a warm, teasing tongue into my mouth. Then I became aware of another lovely sensation; Louise must have cupped her own breasts in her hands, and must have started rubbing her nipples round and round on mine, because the fire there turned into lightning flashes of pleasure. So I grabbed hold of my breasts and copied her. We stood like that for several minutes, until suddenly she sat on the bed, put her hands round behind me, and pulled my body towards her. She fastened her mouth on one of my nipples, and sucked it. Then she went to the other one, then back again. My hands were behind her head, pressing it against me, as she sucked, them gently, and flicked them with her tongue. I could not remember when a woman had ever given my breasts such attention with her mouth – it was so great it almost hurt!
One of her hands was gently stroking my bottom. Then I felt her slide it round to my front, and down between my legs. Somehow I managed to part my legs and remain standing – it was an awkward and uncomfortable pose, but it enabled Louise to rub and stroke me right where a woman is most a woman! Oh this was unbelievable! I was so turned on! I was like a woman dying of thirst, who is allowed suddenly, when all hope is gone, to jump into a deep, blue, cool river! I could hear liquid noises, and I did not know whether they were made by Louise’s suckling, or her working at my wet sex with her fingers.
I couldn’t take much more of it, without bursting, exploding. I gave a moan, and half-collapsed, half-pushed her back onto the bed. Rather than giving in to my attempt to assert myself, she took over and pulled me down, so that we were lying side-by-side. Leaving my now-bruised nipples, tingling from her attention to them, she applied her mouth to mine, passionately, as though she would die if she did not kiss me deeply. We both opened our legs as wide as we comfortably could, and allowed the other to feel and stroke between them. I felt her push a finger deep in me, and nearly fainted with the sensation. I wondered how much more of this I would be able to take.
But Louise was now hungry, dynamic, ever-moving, not content to stay in one position for long. I was clumsy in my movements – I knew this, because it had been so long since I had had sex with a woman – but she moved around with such grace. Even as I was being driven wild by her fingers, and trying to do it to her too, she flipped over, and began to kiss me between my legs.
“Oh wow!” she said, between kisses. “Pretty pussy! Pretty pussy!”
I couldn’t remember ever having heard my sex called by that name before. It sounded so… well… American! Louise’s voice was so nice, such a lovely contralto, that the words sounded like music to me! And the rhythm of that music was the darting of her tongue – so recently in my mouth – against my clitoris and inside my vagina! She straddled me, bringing herself down to my mouth. Oh, the musk of woman – how long had it been since I had smelled and tasted this? Too long! I stretched up with my tongue to meet her, and felt the electric, citric tang as it touched her clitoris. For a while we just did this, quietly and urgently – licky, licky, licky, licky, licky! Gentle fingering and gentle tonguing. Waves of pleasure washing over me.
And then, suddenly, she was on the move again! Instead of head-to-tail we were tail-to tail. She held my legs apart, nestled hers either side of my belly, and worked herself down until my sex and hers were pressed together. Then she began to rub herself against me. Our clits were together, pressing, grinding, rubbing, with rude, liquid sounds. I was stretched back on the bed, practically unable to move because of the overwhelming pleasure; Louise, on the other hand, was half-kneeling, dominant, doing the most of the moving and rubbing, dictating the pressure and the rapidity. This was something I had never done with a woman before, and it was driving me wild. From her dominant position, Louise was able to reach over and massage my breasts, which she did, flicking mercilessly at my nipples.
I must have been crying out. I felt as though I was balancing precariously on a tight-rope, and that the tight-rope was twanging and vibrating but wouldn’t buck me off. I was right at the height of things, but my orgasm seemed to be holding off, of its own cussedly awkward volition! I seemed to have lost control, but something was nevertheless controlling me. Was it Louise, in her dominant position? Maybe, but maybe not, because now her head was thrown back, and she seemed to be shuddering involuntarily, tremors coming in groups of three each time she rubbed against me. And she too cried out.
“Yeah!” – three tremors.
“Yeah!” – three more tremors.
“Oh yeah!” – three final tremors as she came, and a scream from me as, at last, my tightrope snapped and I had the most explosive orgasm I had ever experienced!
A few minutes later, as we lay in each other’s arms, sweat cooling on us and raising goose pimples, the thought went through my mind that I hoped the motel clerk hadn’t been snooping around. Or anyone else for that matter! The door was locked, but anyone passing would surely have been able to hear all the row we were making.
“You’re beautiful!” said Louise.
“Don’t say that,” I said.
“Why not? You are beautiful.”
“No I’m not. I have regular features and a good head of hair, and I guess my figure is OK, but I don’t rate ‘beautiful’ as a description,” I said. “It just doesn’t feel right. It feels like flattery. It feels insincere. It feels like you’re doing me a favour…”
My voice trailed off. Louise propped herself up on one elbow.
“Now listen here, Miss Famous Writer,” she said. “I think you’re beautiful. Very, very beautiful. And as far as I am concerned, mine is the only opinion I care about. You turned me on the moment you walked into the diner! As for doing someone a favour, I’m the one who feels privileged at this moment, because I have just made love with THE most beautiful woman I have met in a long time! Hey, I’ll tell you this – you have THE most beautiful pussy I have ever gotten close to!”
That word again – that oh-so-American word for that oh-so private bit of British me! I fell silent, and snuggled close to Louise. After a while she spoke again.
“So, what part of England are you from?”
“I’m Scottish, actually.”
“Really? You don’t sound Scottish.”
“Och weel – Jings, crivvens, help ma boab!” I said, and Louise laughed her broad laugh again.
“What did you just say? I didn’t understand word one!”
I joined in her laughter, but then suddenly I had a sobering thought. I sat up, and wrapped myself in some of the bedding which we had disturbed.
“Oh no,” I said. “What about that wretched, wretched car? Gerry will kill me!”
“The friend who lent it to me. It’s his pride and joy, and I broke it – way out here in Whereverville, West Whatsit!”
Louise sat up too, and grabbed a share of the bed-covers. Then she leant over and kissed my neck.
“Don’t worry, Hon,” she said. I had never in my life been called “Hon” by anyone. “I know a guy who fixes old cars – he’ll be in seventh heaven to get his hands on a ’57 Chevy. I’ll come round for it tomorrow with my pick-up. Hey, I know what – I have some time due to me. I’ll take a week off. You check out of here tomorrow morning, and come and stay at my house. We can do some of your road trip on the Harley!”
At first I had my doubts about all this – OK we had just had sex, but my British reserve [yes, there really is such a thing!] held back from imposing on her. Imposing! She had just brought us both to an amazing orgasm, she obviously liked me very much, and here I was worrying about imposing on her! She could see that I was hesitating, and for a brief moment I thought I saw disappointment in her eyes. I realised then that this meant something to her – it wasn’t just kindness, she was actually longing to be with me, to spend time with me. It almost made me cry.
“Louise, it would be wonderful!” I said. “I can’t think of a better way to go. If I can’t have a Chevy, I’ll have a Harley. Yes – let’s do it! Let’s do it!”
The wonderful smile returned to her face. She became almost businesslike, picking up her clothes and getting into them, straightening her hair in the mirror, finding her helmet, checking for her keys. I followed suit, sort of, and by the time she was ready to go, I had my jeans and my bra on. She took me in her arms, and kissed me.
“Mmmmmmm,” she said, as she held me. “How are you going to get through the rest of your life without anyone saying ‘I love you’ to you?”
Then she was through the door. I heard the Harley’s engine start up and roar away. I just stood there in the middle of my room, still only wearing my bra and jeans, wondering whether I had just dreamed it all – the best sex I had ever had, with the most beautiful woman I had ever met! There seemed nothing to do except to sort out all my luggage and belongings. I did this frantically, as if it were already the morning and she was outside honking the horn of her pick-up. I packed, unpacked, repacked. I carefully left a change of clothes for myself, and a few toiletries on a shelf. Then I arranged the luggage in a different pile, closer to the door, and moved the toiletries back to the bathroom. I was high with nerves. Eventually I sat on the edge of the bed, and zapped through the channels on the TV until it grew late.
I switched off everything, and lay on the bed, in the dark. I couldn’t sleep, and kept looking at the clock. Eventually I dropped into a fitful doze. Incongruously, I dreamed about the first boy I ever kissed – cute, younger than me – a poignant dream of loss with a subject matter that had been buried deep in my subconscious for years. I awoke in the middle of the night, cold, alert, but not knowing where I was – an unfamiliar, curtained window showing faint, grey light – until the events of the previous evening flowed back into my mind. My real-life love-making with a beautiful woman jarred with my fleeting dream, and disoriented me again. I did not go back to sleep, but seemed to switch the light on every ten minutes or so, until I felt that I could get up, get washed and tidied, get dressed… unpack, repack, re-stack.
Eventually I opened to door, and stepped outside to look at the dawn. I listened to the Mourning Doves – an alien and plaintive sound. Then, leaving the door ajar, I went and sat on the edge of the bed again, fully awake, but tired and yawning.
Possibly I had dozed off again where I sat, because the first sound I was conscious of, other than the doves, was the honking of a horn. Louise had arrived in her pick-up, and I had obviously not heard its motor. I went outside, and she jumped down from the cab, dressed in overalls.
“Hi Hon,” she said, and, after checking that no one was watching, grabbed me by the hand, pulled me behind the cab, and kissed me quickly but warmly. The clerk had been watching, but we were out of sight of him, and there was no twitching at the curtains of any other occupied room. We woman-handled the Chevy round, so that it nosed up to the pick-up, and Louise hitched it to the tow-bar. I paid the clerk, and we were off.
Breakfast at the diner – I had freshly-griddled buckwheat pancakes, smothered in maple syrup, and each delicious, waistline-ruining, immoral bite went warmly down my gullet, like a friendly hand going down my knickers! No more yawning – I loved life!
After breakfast, and after dropping the Chevy off at a run-down house in the back of nowhere – Louise assured me it would be OK – we drove the ten or so miles to Louise’s house. It was remote, in the country, and yet it seemed friendly and unthreatening; but perhaps I was projecting the personality of the owner upon it. Louise dumped my luggage in her hallway, and ran upstairs, shouting as she went.
“Give me five minutes – maybe ten – then we can hit the road!”
Boy! She didn’t waste time!
I decided to explore her house, downstairs at least. I don’t know what I expected to find. Maybe the traces of a long-gone husband, or another woman? A secret stash of booze? Un-emptied trash? Why did I want to find something bad about my new-found woman? I crept around rather guiltily, finding nothing but wooden floors, comfortable but old furniture, superficial tidiness overlaying a dynamic house, lots of books and a few stacks of magazines, a sewing machine. It was the house of someone used to frugality, but appreciative of a few precious things, like her Harley. In a back room – a place of private comfort and activity, where she kept her computer, some art materials, and an easy chair – I found another treasure. A thing which, like I said, defined beauty and defied improvement.
“You’ve got a Strat!” I yelled, excitedly.
It was light blue. The cutaways, the shape, the white scratch-plate, everything was unmistakeable. A Fender Stratocaster! I checked it out at close quarters, and found the letters “USA” right where they should be! So it wasn’t a Korean or a Mexican model, but the real Hiram McCoy! Now, with a Strat you have to ask before you borrow it, but I just couldn’t resist it. I picked it up, and slung the strap over my shoulder. Once, just once, when I dated someone in a band, I had held one of these, and a few times I had held passable copies, but that was a long time ago. I had forgotten how good it felt. Even though I can hardly play one note, the fit and feel of the instrument was magical – to me it felt almost as good as having Louise in my arms, to hold something so intimately hers close to me, and to run my fingers along its neck. I plugged it into its practice amp, and switched on. There was a hum, a slight twang of open strings as the humbuckers reacted to my inexpert handling of the instrument. I tried a chord. Wow! I tried it again, and this time – beeooww – moved the whammy bar in and out. I felt the vibrations go deep in my belly, and I remembered how the young Suzi Quatro once admitted that she could bring herself off with the vibrations from her bass. I could believe it!
I decided to see if I could string together the accompaniment to a song, and, as I was here in the country, why not make that song a little “wangle-dangle-dang” number? I started to pick out another chord, and to sing the first line of the only country song I could remember. Of course I had picked a key way too high for my voice, and had to shriek to hear myself over the guitar.
“Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman…”
“Oh heck no!” Louise was at the door, looking clean and gorgeous in jeans and a T-shirt, and amazingly she wasn’t annoyed by my violation of her treasure. She was smiling, laughing.
“Give me that thing,” she said, and I yielded it. She hung it round her shoulders, turned the amp a couple of notches down, and began to finger-pick a “dunk-tiggy-dunk” rhythm. Then, looking at me with mischief in her pretty eyes, she began to sing.
“I’m a stand-by-your-woman woman, ‘Coz that’s the kinda gal I am. I’m a stand-by-your-woman woman, ‘Coz I never got nothin’ outa standin’ by a man! There ain’t no one in the world like my own dear gal, She’s a real bosom-buddy and a life-long pal. Yes I’d rather lick the honey from my own Queen Bee, ‘Coz my woman does it right for me!”
Well wangle my dangle and whoop my doo’s! I just had to let out a “Yee-haw!” and we both laughed and embraced, with the guitar in between us, humbuckers still a-humming! What more wonders did Louise have for me?
She switched off the amp, and put the Strat down carefully, lovingly – it was at that moment I realised how presumptuous I had been, how valuable to her it was.
“I got you my spare helmet,” she said. “And I got you a jacket. It might be big for you, but try it and see.”
The next wonder. Out in the hall was the jacket she had picked for me – yep, brown leather, USAF pilot’s blouson. OK it was slightly big, but it smelled of her, and it was comfortable. I took her in my arms again, and hugged her.
Every day for a week we set off in a radial pattern from her house, the two of us on her Harley, exploring as far as we could. We would stop in small towns, look for other diners, and once Louise deliberately pulled up where there was a handful of other, bigger Harleys – I followed her into the place with some trepidation, but the bikers there, even though they looked a little fearsome, were polite and friendly, more interested in the bike than in us. One of them had an 883, and his companions ribbed him.
“We told you it was a lady’s sickle!”
Their laughter was good-natured, though.
On one occasion we stayed away, took a motel room, and made love there. More often we would arrive at the diner, ravenous, in time for an evening meal. We would talk and joke with the regulars there, before going back to Louise’s house in the dark, where we would lie on the bed, gently licking each other’s love-places until we were both satisfied.
One evening, at the diner, the man to whom Louise had shown the magazine article about me, came over to the table where I was tucking into a meal. He had his hat in his hand, and something else in the other.
“Ma’am,” he said [I had tried unsuccessfully to get everyone to call me something else, but although the regulars had taken me to their hearts, this formality of address seemed to stick]. “Ma’am, I’m sorry for interrupting your meal, but I would take it as a real honour if you would sign this for me. I drove all the way up to the book store in Charleston for it, and it would give me a lot of pleasure to have a memento of your stay here!”
It was my book! I asked him if he had read it.
“Yes ma’am,” he said. “Leastways, most of it. I’m not sure I understand all of it, but I know it’s a great book!”
“Who do I make it to?” I asked.
“Well, my name’s Arnold…”
I inscribed the book for him, and I don’t think any signing I had done so far in America – from sea to shining sea – pleased me so much. I even put a few Xs below my name. Arnold was as happy as anything!
Later on, outside, Louise pulled me to her, and growled in mock anger but with twinkling eyes, “I saw those kisses! You wouldn’t be turning queer on me?”
On our last day’s ride – a long day out down swooping roads, through sun and showers, and sometimes through sun and showers together, ending in a beautiful, vermilion sunset – we turned up as usual at the diner. I had especially wanted to be there on that last evening, so that I could take a photo of all the regulars. I got them all lined up, by the counter, but I could tell there was something the matter, because most of them could not hide a conspiratorial grin. As I was getting ready to take the photo, looking at them through the viewfinder, I could hear someone softly count to three, and then…
I went “Eek!” and almost dropped the camera.
Each one of them produced, and held aloft, a copy of my book. I found out that Arnold had insisted, and in fact no one had objected. I was almost in tears, and could hardly take the photo. I had hardly got to know them, but they were people about whom Louise cared, the way a good teacher cares about her class, and that means they were had to be dear to me too.
I got up early next morning, and went to sit on Louise’s porch swing, to listen to the Mourning Doves, and to get fresh air while it everywhere was cool. Later on the Chevy was due back, and I had to start for North Carolina no later than lunchtime. I must have sat there for an hour or more, becoming more and more melancholy. Suddenly I realised that Louise had come and seated herself next to me. I don’t know how long she had been sitting there; when I looked into her face, her eyes were, for the first time, sad. She took my hand, and gently pulled.
“Come inside,” she said. “I want to fuck you!”
That word, dirty and, to me, incongruous when said by a woman to a woman, made me catch my breath. There was something desperate in her use of it, something which actually expressed the depth of her longing and desire, the intensity of her emotion, the build-up of sexual tension in her…
I paused. My heart skipped. I took a breath, and answered her.
“Fuck me, then!”
We went back inside, up the stairs to the bedroom where we had spent a precious handful of nights together. I had hardly got into the room, when Louise began to tug my clothes off me – no seduction, no build-up, just a surfacing need in her, manifesting itself. It sucked me in too. I was gripped by this urgency, this great need to get close to her instantly, and I began to tug at her clothes. Later I would realise that it would have been so much easier if we had each taken off our own clothes, but right then neither of us was concerned with things being done the easy way – only that they should be done with haste. We cared nothing for common sense, nothing for comfort, we cared about nothing except that these clothes were coming off. If something got ripped because it wasn’t properly undone, so what? If someone got scratched as a garment was pulled off, so what? We needed, more than we could say, to get naked and get next to each other, before the tears overwhelmed us.
When we were naked we rolled and rolled and rolled on that bed. We clung and pressed ourselves to each other, as if we were trying to get inside each other’s skin, as if each of us wanted to impress something of the other on our very being. Our mouths and tongues met, then mine explored every square inch of Louise that they could reach, and hers did the same to me. Our hands and fingers did the same, chafing and probing. All this time neither of us made a single vocal sound. Sometimes our breath rasped, other times it came in short, hesitant panting. Only when Louise scissored her legs between mine, and began that grinding rock’n’roll which pushed our two sexes together, did we begin to cry out. She fucked me. She fucked me. Yes, she really, truly fucked me! Maybe not the way you understand it, but that’s what she did.
It was what she needed, and it was what I needed too, at that moment.
When, at last, I drove sedately up to Maureen and Gerry’s house, and they came out to greet me, I could see the relief in Gerry’s eyes. I didn’t tell him about the transmission, because somehow I knew it would last longer than the car itself.
“Did you have a good trip?” they asked.
“Yes, it was fine. It was OK.”
“I expect you have a lot to tell us,” said Gerry, pretending not to be inspecting the Chevy’s bodywork as he got my luggage.
“No, not really. It was rather uneventful.”
“Did you get lots of pictures with that instant camera of yours.”
“Not many. Here’s one, though. It’s a bunch of people I got to know. In a diner. Somewhere.”
“They’ve all got your book!” exclaimed Maureen.
“My! That waitress is a handsome girl!” said Gerry, teasing his wife of thirty years.
Indeed, I told these two good friends of mine very little. Nothing about two women on a Harley 883, and what they shared. Nothing about how, as I drove back to North Carolina, I kept looking in the mirror, hoping to see a motorcycle coming up fast behind. And on the odd occasions when I did, how first my heart leapt, and then sank as I realised it wasn’t Louise. I said nothing about lying, naked, holding that fine, strong woman in my arms, while she cried because I was going away. I said nothing about how, at last, she had looked up into my face, and stifled the flow of tears long enough to say something.
“I do love you. You know that.”
I said nothing about how my own reservoir of tears seemed to be empty at that moment, but nevertheless how I knew that sometime very soon – maybe later that day, maybe the next day, maybe a month down the line – that reservoir of tears would fill, and overflow. I told them nothing about my answer to Louise’s confession of love.
“Yes, I know. I love you too.”
I made no mention of the rush of words, the stream of promises, that Louise and I started to make – our plans for her to come and visit me in Scotland, for a road trip around the highlands, for stops at tea shops, and nights in bed-and-breakfast guest-houses. And the promises to write, to email, never to forget each other, to love each other for ever, even though we were so far apart. All those promises, which began to sound impossible as soon as we made them, so impossible to keep.
Because we were the two women on a Harley 883. We belonged together at a particular time, heading down a particular road, coming back to a particular place. There would be no attempt to cram that love into anywhere else, at any other time, because it simply would not be. And could there be any going back? Who said you can never go back? I think that person must have been very wise.
Our promises were made so that the pain and terror of parting would somehow be softened, blunted. They were not made to keep. Not all of them. Not unless you count – for my part – the ones about never forgetting her, about loving her for ever.