Iron Horse

image from Harvey Edwards
image from Harvey Edwards

Sarah had been headed for her favorite Alterra coffee shop down by the lake, but knew she would never make it now. She was still standing on the corner where she had first seen him a few minutes ago. It was the red shirt that caught her attention. Perfectly pressed and startlingly vibrant, even mostly covered as it was by his black leather vest. He looked every part the biker, but with an undercurrent of sophistication, perhaps from his short-cropped graying hair, that elevated his image to something she had never encountered before. He had pulled into the motorcycle bay by the door to the Iron Horse and strode in as if he belonged there, which he no doubt did.

Giving up on her plan of finishing her term paper over a cup of coffee, she decided to take a chance and followed him in. After all, she had made a goal of becoming more spontaneous, and this seemed a good a place as any to make a start.

Almost immediately she regretted her decision. She felt incredibly out of place. She had heard that the place had advertised itself as “biker chic,” appealing both to motorcyclists and businessmen. She remembered being rather confused by that description as she read the review but as she looked around the lobby she realized it certainly fit. The restaurant was on the ground floor of what she assumed to be an old warehouse building. The industrial nature of the structure was still prominent, but was offset by the modern decor. In her Marquette sweatshirt and jeans, she felt remarkably under-dressed. Not that the other patrons looked particularly fancy, but they certainly didn’t look like college students. She striped off the sweatshirt, thanking whatever gods may be that she had chosen to wear a rather dressier blouse than she usually sported. Although her lack of other clean laundry had assisted with that choice, she preferred to think of it as divine intervention.

The hostess seated her in the back corner, removed from the rest of the crowd but with a clear view of the bar. Which, of course, was where he sat. He was clearly alone, but he struck up casual conversation with his fellow patrons as they ordered their drinks and turned his attention to his phone when they left. She got the distinct impression that he was not just playing angry birds.

She blew the week’s budget on an appetizer, then pulled out her laptop. Maybe this could be the best of both worlds, she thought. She could observe her subject quietly while appearing to be working on her paper, and maybe actually get a bit of writing done.

And so she passed a pleasant evening. She may not have been as productive as originally intended, but she appreciated the chance to observe part of city life that she had not yet encountered. Not that her classmates would understand. They were huddled in the dorm lounge, no doubt. It usually took some sort of emergency to get them off campus.

Before she knew it, the crowds had dissipated. Her subject drained his drink, tipped the bartender, and headed out. Feeling somewhat empty, as if she had missed something, she shut down her laptop. Seeing no reason to linger longer, she packed her things and headed out as well, only to draw to an abrupt halt when she emerged into the lobby. He was still there, staring at her pointedly from across the room. At first she thought she was imagining things, but his steely, unblinking stare clearly indicated that this encounter was no accident. Embarrassed, she tried to brush past him to get to the exit, but he caught her upper arm. His grip was not painful, but it left no room for escape.

“What do you want?” he asked, managing to be harsh without seeming overly aggressive despite the way he had effectively trapped her. “You’ve been watching me all night. Why?”

She blushed and stammered, not sure how to answer such a direct question. “I saw you pulling in. I was intrigued,” she finally managed.

Placated, he released her arm. “Did it never occur to you to come over and say hello?” he asked.

Feeling rather silly, she shrugged. “Introduce myself to an older man in a bar? It’s just not . . .things don’t work that way.”

“And you think I care?” he asked with a glimmer in his eye.

Taken aback by his apparent interest in her, she was speechless.

“I believe in second chances,” he continued, “and lucky for you, I’m in town for a few more days. How about we try this again tomorrow night? Are you free for dinner at seven?” he asked then added, looking her up and down, “my treat.”

The whole thing seemed a little surreal, but she showed up the next night as requested, this time dressed more appropriately for the venue. She dug out the black pencil skirt and white blouse she’d obtained in anticipation of job interviews later in the year. She then not only found but managed to successfully use her iron without setting off the fire alarm. She styled her hair in a carefree tousle that took hours to achieve (also managed without setting off the fire alarm, though there were a few close calls), and felt rather proud of herself as she examined her professional-looking reflection before heading out to meet him, walking quickly so as not to allow herself time to second-guess her decision

He looked much the same as he had the previous night, though in a deep blue this time which both beautifully complemented his tanned skin tone and subliminally put her at ease. He offered his hand as they walked into the restaurant, seated this time closer to the center of the room. Feeling a bit more prepared for the atmosphere, Sarah began to relax.

True to his word about the second chance at a proper introduction, they passed the next hour or so on the typical get-to-know-you questions. He was a businessman who traveled frequently for work, preferring to take his bike rather than fly; the open road being much more liberating than airport security after a stuffy day at the office. Compared to the excitement of his life, she felt rather self-conscious describing her typical days as a third year journalism student. Although she had been raised in Texas, this was only her first experience of life in another state. She was jealous of his seemingly exotic traveling lifestyle, though admitted that she was having a rough time adjusting to city life in the Midwest.

“It’s kind of stressful,” she said. “Every night there’s something going on. Even tonight I was supposed to be at a friend’s choir concert.”

“Thank you for choosing to spend your evening with me. I can imagine it was a difficult decision,” he seemed truly take aback at her generosity with her time, “but tell me, how did your friend respond to your decision?”

Sarah blushed. “Well, I didn’t exactly tell her. We’re not that close, just friends from school. Besides, there will be plenty of other people there, she won’t even notice.”

“Just a friend from school? I’d have thought that as you’re here for school that your school friends would be among your closest.”

“Well, yes,” she stumbled. “They may be the closest friends I have here, but it’s not like we have a strong bond or anything. Most of them grew up here, they have friends from home, they’re just different.” It was a weak excuse, and she knew it. He had unwittingly hit on a rather sensitive subject, something that she never brought up even with herself. How is it that she had managed to connect with this man, someone with whom she had virtually nothing in common, more quickly and more deeply than all the people her own age going through the same life-changing college experience she was? Why did she keep them at bay, isolating herself from this slice of life she had wanted to experience? Not wanting to dwell on these thoughts, she frantically cast her mind about for a new topic to bring up, but knew it was a fruitless effort when she caught his eye.

His gaze was piercing, as if this man from a completely different life she had met only yesterday- only a few hours ago in any real way- could examine her soul with a glance.

“You can go far, but traveling for its own sake is not the point. To truly go somewhere you must commit to being there, to connect with a place, for whatever time you have.”

She couldn’t keep the tears from welling in her eyes. She certainly hadn’t expected their introduction to lead to such an emotionally intense topic. Noticing her reaction, he quickly summoned the waiter for the bill.

“Come,” he said simply as he returned his wallet to his pocked and rose from the table.

Part of her wanted to just leave now. She had thought this all an exciting adventure as she was getting ready, never quite thinking what it would be like to truly get to know this man, or rather, what it would be like for him to truly get to know her.

He lead her out of the restaurant, down the corridor, up the elevator. He was about to unlock his room when she hesitated. “Don’t worry,” he said with a reassuring smile, “I have no plans to take advantage of you. I just thought you’d prefer to continue our discussion somewhere more private.”

She pursed her lips. “I’d rather if we just didn’t continue it at all,” she muttered under her breath as she settled on the sofa just inside the door.

Apparently his hearing was excellent, judging by how he cocked an eyebrow at her response. Rather than reply, he moved over to the minibar to prepare a few drinks as she took in the room. It was expansive, as one would imagine in a building that had started its life as a warehouse. As with the dining room, the decor complemented rather than detracted from the industrial elements that were left clearly visible. It felt more cosy than downstairs. Here the brick walls and blackened steel rafters were lent a warm glow to the room as they reflected the fading sunset.

He turned back to face her and motioned for her to join him on the couch. She perched nervously on the far end as she accepted the glass.

“What did you hope to accomplish here tonight?” It was a direct question, but she was grateful that he seemed to be granting her wish for a change in topic. After a moment’s thought, she realized this was hardly a more comfortable subject.

“I’m not sure,” she said honestly, shifting uncomfortably.

“Would you like to go?” he offered.

“No!” she protested. She wasn’t quite sure why she was there, but knew there was something else she was looking for.

“I’m glad,” he replied with a warm smile, “unless you’re open to the experiences you’ll encounter, it’s little more than being a tourist in your own life. For example, unless you’re willing to be an active participant in this discussion, it would seem that you’re wasting both your time and mine.”

She remained silent, seeing his point and feeling slightly guilty for doing so, but still not sure what to say.

“You have great potential, and I believe I can offer guidance, but if you’re not open to that there’s not much I can do,” he continued gently

“Who said I was looking for guidance? I seem to be doing just fine on my own, thanks,” she said indignantly.

“Of course you’ve never said it. You’d see that as akin to admitting defeat, wouldn’t you? But something made you follow me in last night, something made you come back, and something is keeping you from leaving here now. If you didn’t want something from me, you’d have left long ago. Though I’d advise you to be a little more respectful if you’re asking for any favors.”

She huffed and crossed her arms, not trying to be disrespectful but reacting from an ingrained response for how an independent woman should react to such an offer.

“Alright, we’ve tried talking, and this is clearly not getting through to you,” he said, becoming stern. “About time we try something, else don’t you think?” he reached out and grabbed her arm. “Unless you’d rather leave?” he asked, pausing for the briefest second in which she gave no reply, before tumbling her unresisting across his lap.

The first swat came not quite as a surprise, but she had been unprepared. “You can’t do this to me!” she shrieked, feeling the need to say something but grimacing at the cliche statement.

“Oh, but I am,” he countered with an appropriately canned response as his hand descended again, making her squirm. She threw her hand back to protect her bottom but he caught it in his left and pinned it gently to her back.

“Let go of me!” she cried as she wriggled.

“As I said before, you can go anytime you wish.” he replied as he continued his assault on her behind.

She knew this, at some level. He held her, but not tightly. She squirmed, but not in any real attempt to escape. Acknowledging this was to tear a hole in the veil surrounding the entire situation, to admit that she was letting him do this to her. “Nooooo. . .“ she cried out again, squirming halfheartedly as she had before.

At this he tightened his grip and intensified his his spanks until she was well and truly squirming, a part of the back of her mind delighting in the surrender. She allowed this part to take over when he released her arm just long enough to lift her skirt clear before resuming the spanking. By the time he finished, she was crying freely.

“Now,” he said with a smirk, “how about we try this again?” He lifted her up to sit tenderly beside him. With tears still streaking her face, he resumed their discussion. The dam broken, she responded freely, speaking of her plans, hopes, and dreams as she never had before. This wasn’t some uncle or career counselor with an agenda, but someone who truly, inexplicably cared and offered unbiased advice. Later, she couldn’t recall how long they had talked, but the last thing she remembered was whispering into his shoulder as she felt her head begin to droop with exhaustion.

She awoke to sunlight streaming in the tall eastern windows the next morning, at first confused as to where she was, then with a touch of panic when she remembered the previous night. Bolting up, she was relieved to find the bed otherwise empty, eventually noticing his sleeping form on the couch across the room.

Roused by the slight noise of the bed springs, he stirred and turned to look at her.

“Good morning,” he greeted cheerfully. “I trust you slept well?”

Not quite sure how to reply, she worked her mouth for a few moments then chose to remain silent. What was the protocol for this kind of situation? The last night was a rather intense blur. Just what had happened after that hug?

“Don’t worry, last night was a very intimate experience, just not in that way,” he knowingly assured her.

“Thanks- er- I have to get to class.” she said, fumbling in her purse for some unnecessary object or other to give her something to do other than reply in any meaningful way as she made her way to the door.

“Not so fast,” he said, catching her chin as she passed and forced her attention “You’re running away again. I’ll let you if that’s what you want, but take this with you,” he said as he handed her a sleek black business card.

“You are very welcome to keep in touch,” he said gently, “though it is entirely up to you. I’ll say this much, you are at a stage where you may choose to embark on an incredible journey, and I do hope you are open to the possibility. If you ever want someone to talk things over with, you have my e-mail. And, of course, I’d be happy to get together again when I’m back in town,” he added with a wink and a quick hug as he sent her on her way.

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