Short Story

Cupid’s Arrow Don’t Get Old

 

Esmeralda kicked the side of her rusty old bike, watching as the chain slipped some more out of the grooved spikes.

“Hey, hey, hey! What you doin’ Mezi?” Pops asked, taking the bike from his grand-daughter’s clutches, like it was the most precious thing.

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Esmeralda was always ‘Mezi’, she had been apparently such a ‘messy’ eater as a child, coincidence led to ‘Esmeralda…Esmer … Mezi’… OK not the best continuity logic but the name kinda stuck as a term of endearment. Pops loved Mezi, his current bundle of blossoming ‘teenie’ chaos, a girl he’d been sole guardian for since what felt like forever. Not true. Since the day he would never forget, when ‘the cancer’ came knocking and bit too large a bite in his only beautiful daughter, Rhonda, the apple of his eye. With no father to speak of, Mezi became Leon Humphrey’s sole responsibility at the tender age of eight. She had been the easiest to love as a child, until puberty sprang-up and she became, let’s say … difficult… but still warmhearted, still his special girl.

“This bike is a has-been,” she scoffed, scrunching up her mouth in a spoiled pout. “All the other girls riding something cool and slick, and I got to do battle every day with this ‘has-been’.”

“As a ‘has-been’ myself, let me stick up for this one then,” Pops chuckled, bending low and lifting the back wheel up, his sinewy muscles flexing as he turned the tire releasing the catch in the chain and shifting it effortlessly back into position. “See, easy as pie.” He announced, drawing his frame back up to standing and straightening his back with a slight grimace, as if he was re-positioning dodgy connections of his own.

Mezi harrumphed, swinging one leg over the middle bar, adjusting the rucksack at her back. “Thanks pops,” she said, with a slight frown, which drew a chuckle from Leon, as her ‘Pops’ still came out with this cute pout, reminding him of years gone by.

“Any time, sweetheart,” he said, drawing her in for a side-hug, just as Miss Rosie’s familiar battered yellow Subaru swung into the yard, pulling-up spluttering next to several rusted vehicles Pop was forever fixing-up.

“Rosie, my girl,” Leon called, a broad smile making his face look as if it was stretching sideways to the maximum, his eyes taking on that annoying sparkle, a sparkle that Mezi deemed him ‘too old’ to have.

“Good morning, Leon, Esmeralda,” Rosie replied politely, hiding a blush, in her sweet silky-soft voice, her eyes flitting shyly from Mezi back to Pops in equal covert appreciation.

Mezi struggled to not roll her eyes back at her, something she found hard ‘not’ to do when Miss Sweetness-and-light made a stop.

Esmeralda hated to seem spiteful, and she didn’t have a problem with Rosie per say, it was more what she stood for. Symbolically.

Ever since Rosie had come on the scene, Pops had changed.
He’d grown younger, even more full of fun than normal, less attentive to her needs and more wrapped up in Rosie’s. Be it in Mezi’s opinion.

Mezi’s sidekick Roy,her well-rounded best-friend who was fond of telling people they’d known each other so long, they’d even shared the same baby bath water. Mezi hated how he could go on like that, but loved him all the same. Roy could be perceptive as all hell get out. In this instance, he’d told her to chill. That didn’t she know her ‘Pops finally getting some’?

Too much information.

Mezi couldn’t sleep for a week, and nights when Rosie came for dinner, she stayed up extra long, on purpose. There was a battle of wills going on. Pops noticed, and he knew something had to give.

“You had your morning coffee yet?” Pops asked, his eyes scanning the caramel smooth of Rosie’s legs as she climbed out of her car, with a kind of edible expression on his face.

“No, not yet,” she said coyly, shutting and locking her door, before sliding her purse onto one shoulder.

Mezi exhaled a deep breath. Every word these two ‘old’ people spoke to each other seemed laced in double meaning. Ever since Roy had said ‘Pops finally getting some’. Mezi hadn’t recovered. She started spazzing out.

Surely it wasn’t normal? Surely it wasn’t normal that she was going to school, leaving these two retired people to … I don’t know… Old people should just be… I don’t know… old people?

‘But why? ‘Cause ‘you’ say so? What’s the problem? If everything still functioning right, I is happy for pops’, Roy loved correcting her, embellishing every line with facts he got from God-knows where. Being open-minded was kind of Roy’s thing. Mezi often found it annoying.

“Alright, laters Pops.”

“Have a wonderful day, sweetheart. You got enough money?”

“Yup,” Mezi murmured, sucking in an urgent breath. “Good-day Miss Rosie.” Mezi knew when to mind her manners.

“Oh, thank you…Good-day Esmeralda. Nice seeing you.”

“And you,” Mezi cracked a smile. Being friendly wasn’t so hard after all, Mezi thought, putting her foot on the peddle to push off.

Pops grabbed her and pulled her to him, “love you more than life.” He whispered against the shell of her ear. Routine passing words, which that morning brought more than just familiar comfort. They warmed Esmeralda’s heart.

Drawing back on the peddle with her foot, she pushed gently forward, taking it easy, appreciating how much she loved her old bike after all, how much it formed a perfect extension of her body, its every quirk and creak, how much she would miss it if it was gone… how much her ‘has been’ made her life sweet after all.”
© L.S. Bergman 2017

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