The bicycle was old and rusted, a deep crack running the length of the second seat while foam spewed forth from under the first of the two. Trish smiled as she set aside the old blanket that had been covering the thing. She had known there were treasures hiding in the attic, but had hardly expected to find something like this. She ran her hand over the dusty front handlebars, thinking back to the last time she had touched them.
Trish had thought the tandem cycle was an excellent idea when Nick had first bought it. She and Nick had each enjoyed cycling ever since childhood, and had several pleasant memories of early picnic dates and sunny afternoons spent riding together down country lanes.
She couldn’t remember how it had changed, but it did. Not even a year into their marriage, the outings started to provoke only resentment. Nick was adventurous and Trish was slow. Perhaps this had always been the case, but while chatting on a casual cycle around the local pond it was difficult to notice. Huffing and puffing mid-way up a mountain, the issue was all too clear.
Returning home from a particularly hot, sticky, and frustrating trip, Trish had boldly declared their cycling days over, leaving a mystified Nick in her wake as she slammed the bathroom door to take a cool shower.
Once Trish had cooled down, both literally and figuratively, Nick had wrapped her in a hug and asked her what was wrong. She tried to shrug him off with a quick smile and an insistence that it was nothing, but he didn’t let go, something about the look in his eyes making it clear that he wasn’t about to let her off easily.
He was calm and patient as she struggled to explain her frustration. She was calm as well at first, at least until her annoyances built up momentum and came tumbling forth in a torrent of emotion and tears. She hated the cycling trips. She hated the hills. She hated the heat. She hated the silence. She hated feeling like she was holding him back.
Nick held her softly as she continued to explain, encouraging her with a gentle comment until no more words came, He soothed her as she alternately raged and sobbed, holding her tightly and whispering promises that they would figure something out as she drifted off to sleep in his arms.
Three days later, Trish had opened the lunch Nick packed for her each day to find a picture resting on the top of her plastic-wrapped sandwich. “Perhaps this might help keep us connected,” Nick had written on the back of the photo of a tandem bicycle.
That weekend, Trish excitedly hopped onto the front seat for their first outing on the new machine. She had always led when they cycled separately; it was Nick’s way of allowing her to set a comfortable place and ensuring that he didn’t accidentally get too far ahead. Even now that such things were no longer a concern, Trish was used to leading. It felt natural to her, even in more mundane areas of life. It made perfect sense to her. While Nick was self-employed, she worked as a mid-level manager and had therefore cultivated leadership skills that she was only too eager to apply everywhere she could.
The journey had started off very well. With the extra power from Nick, Trish enjoyed the rushing of the wind through her hair as the cycle was propelled faster than she had ever managed on her own. Craving an intensification of the sensation, she made to turn the cycle down a particularly steep hill despite Nick’s quiet suggestion from behind that it might not be a good idea to try something like that so soon. Trish ignored him as she pedaled faster, building up as much speed as she could before gravity took over for the rest of the descent. She let out a whoop of joy as they careened down the hill, feeling as though she could fly. Caught up in the elation, she wasn’t prepared for the sharp turn at the bottom.
Nick did his best to try to steady the bicycle. Trish closed her eyes and screamed. The two toppled head over heels into a mercifully soft grassy field as the bicycle slid out from under them.
The fall broke Trish’s scream. She sat up in the grass, confused, muddy, but quiet. Nick sat beside, her, his expression concerned. As he ascertained that she was unhurt, his expression shifted subtly. He dusted himself off- if one can call removing chunks of mud “dusting,” set the bicycle upright, and climbed into the front seat, fixing Trish with a pointed look.
Abashed but unable to argue with his silent logic, she settled in behind him in disgrace. Although she sat meekly behind him, she resented the implication. It was one mistake, she thought to herself. A big one, yes, but hardly worth this sort of response. She missed the front seat. She missed being in charge. She missed the view it offered of the open road stretched out in front of her, so full of possibilities. From her vantage point now, the only view was of Nick’s back, a mere few inches from her nose. She had to admit, it was a very nice back, muscular and strong, topped with shoulders set in a determined pose and a head that occasionally swept from side to side in awareness of their surroundings.
Still, she thought as the resentment returned, it’s not much of a view. She allowed the ugly thoughts to flow through her, strengthening her resolve to vent her frustrations at Nick the next time they stopped.
She hated sitting back here, perhaps even more than their old way of cycling. Her arms strained against the fixed handlebars. Who decided that the back seat should have handlebars, she wondered. It was like a cruel joke, an illusion of control. She gave a mighty jerk to the left, and Nick turned back with a quick, dark scowl of warning as they pedaled along.
Trish allowed herself a brief smile of satisfaction and considered repeating the expression of annoyance. The memory of Nick’s scowl flashed through her mind. What was she doing? She loved this man, didn’t she? She watched as the muscles of his back shifted slightly as he pumped the pedals, carrying them up a hill. He was focused and intent, and she had to admit that he was doing most of the work. All of the work at the moment, she realised as she brought herself out of her reverie. Here he was, pedalling for the two of them, while she was lost in thoughts of hatred and angst.
Ashamed, she attacked her own pair of pedals with new vigour, determined to do her part to get them to the top of the hill. Nick felt the change and turned back to glance at her again, this time with a broad grin on his face, before returning his concentration to their joint effort to conquer the hill. It was a brief moment, Nick could not afford to take his eyes off the road for long, but that quick grin made the hours of staring at Nick’s back worthwhile.
As the road dipped down toward home, Trish yet again let out a cry of joy at their accomplishment, this time joined by her husband.
As they dismounted in front of their house, Nick embraced her in a lingering hug. “I think we’ve found something that works,” he said with satisfaction as they broke apart.
“Yes,” Trish agreed with a smile, an expression that faded quickly as she added, “sorry about. . .before.”
Nick grasped her arms firmly and looked into her eyes. “It’s alright. I worry about you sometimes, biting off more than you can chew like that.”
“I’m sorry,” Trish repeated sincerely. “I don’t know what gets into me. We could have been killed.”
“No need to get all dramatic,” Nick replied. “Still, it was reckless, and I’m glad you see that. I had have a mind to. . I don’t know. . take you over my knee and spank sense into you, but you’re far too old for that.”
Trish froze as his words sent chills down her spine. “Am I?” she added, not daring to look Nick in the eyes.
“What do you think?” Nick asked
Trish paused. She wanted to laugh it off, scream, or simply walk away. To lead them somewhere else as she so often had whenever difficulties arose between them. But where had that gotten them? It had worked for a while, but it was nothing compared to what she had felt that afternoon, working in tandem with Nick, allowing him to lead, to guide and direct their course.
“I trust your judgement,” she said finally, looking up to see him regarding her with a carefully guarded expression.
“Alright,” Nick replied after a long silence before adding more firmly, “let’s get inside.”
Once alone with Nick in the house, Trish began to feel anxiety creeping in. It was one thing to let Nick lead their little excursion, but this was something entirely different. All the same, she couldn’t force her feet to run, couldn’t even bring herself to voice a protest as Nick seated himself on the sofa and motioned her over. She allowed herself to be tipped over his knee without complaint, though she was completely unprepared for the intensity of the experience to which she had committed by doing so.
It started easily enough, firm but relatively painless swats to her bottom through her cycling shorts that warmed her pleasantly and reaffirmed her decision to go through with this particular new adventure. She was well into making plans for their next exploration of togetherness when his firm voice jarred her back to the moment.
“Stand up, it’s time we get started,” he told her as he set her on her feet.
“Started. . .?” she began to ask, though as his hands reached to lower her shorts it became clear what he had in mind.
Somewhat shocked, she allowed herself to be lowered over his lap again with only token resistance to the new indignation the partial nudity provided. Such thoughts were quickly stricken from her mind by the renewed intensity of the spanking. She pondered a moment if the shorts really had provided more protection than she imagined or if Nick was beginning to hit harder, but soon all she could think of was the growing discomfort of the spanking. The intensity soon had her bucking and kicking on his lap, and it was with great relief that she rose from his lap at his command.
Her relief was short-lived.
“Go get my belt,” he instructed softly.
Trish gaped at him a moment. Get his what? He repeated the instruction more firmly, and still she remained rooted to the spot.
“Do you trust me?” he asked her gently. Trish thought back over the day and nodded despite the protests that arose in the back of her mind.
“Then get the belt,” Nick repeated once more. “This is new, and this is frightening, but if we’re going to do this- if we’re going to make this change- I mean to make it thoroughly. Get the belt.”
Trish obeyed, trembling as she reappeared with the requested implement, knowing that he wasn’t about to make a fashion statement.
Gently, Nick guided her over the back of the sofa, keeping a hand on her back all the while to reassure her. He laid on three searing stripes. Just three strokes, but the fire from each drew a scream from Trish unlike any she had uttered before.
After the third stroke, Nick folded her in his arms as she cried. “I am proud of you,” he told her. “You were very brave today. Very foolish, but very brave. I think we’re on the right track now. It is different, but I think it might work. Will you come with me?” he asked. Trish merely nodded, a silent and powerful gesture as she fully committed to the change.
“Thank you,” she muttered softly through her tears before falling asleep in the comfort of his arms for the second time in as many days.
From then on, the tandem cycle became a private symbol for the new track of their relationship. Or, at least, a mostly private symbol.
“Where are you two going?” a rather nosey tourist had asked, interrupting a quiet moment of rest in a small park.
“No where in particular, just training,” Nick had responded with a subtle wink in Trish’s direction.
“Really? Some sort of triathlon?” Trish felt her face redden as she turned away, wishing with all her might that the man would move along.
“No,” Nick replied, “more of a lifestyle thing.”
Trish could have died on the spot, but thankfully the tourist didn’t notice her tension, rambling on about how he and his wife had joined a local softball team for similar reasons, completely missing Nick’s private joke.
Nick deftly redirected the conversation, but Trish continued to seethe, offering short and curt responses whenever she could, whether they were called for or not.
Her behaviour that day earned her another round with Nick’s belt once they returned home. Trish protested a bit more than before, now that she knew what the experience entailed, but it still only took a stern look from Nick for her to bend and obey.
Trish looked over the bicycle. It was covered in dust and needed new seats, but otherwise seemed fine. As she lifted it to try to maneuver it down the attic steps, the chain caught on the arm of an old chair and broke, a loose end tangling itself around a pedal that snapped off as the bicycle fell.
Trish looked over the mess she had created with dismay for a moment before a laugh bubbled to the surface. Perhaps it was a sign. The bicycle was no longer needed. Her training was long ago complete and she and Nick were happy in their relationship.
All the same, Trish missed those days of adventure on the bicycle. Perhaps it was time for a new hobby, she mused. Canoeing maybe? Trish grinned at the idea. In a canoe, doesn’t the person in charge of steering sit in the back?