Motorcycles for Wednesdays.
Copyright 2012 Jessi Ford.
‘Control freak’ is such an ugly statement; Emma preferred the title ‘quirky and obsessive’. It kept her artistic yet overzealous mind at ease knowing that she was in control. Her planner contained a new insight to the innermost workings of her mind. She knew it wasn’t entirely accepted by society. She kept it with her; secure at all times.
For Emma, Thursdays through to Tuesdays were functioning days. She would work. And study. Overall, pretend to be normal. These days would change with University semester, Emma was prepared for the disorder in her life and could adequately adjust. Wednesdays were the exception; her controlled variable. She could not function on a Wednesday. Wednesdays were for grocery shopping. Period.
Emma was an art student who had a position at the local gallery where she’d worked for years. It allowed her to work and study simultaneously. There, her obsessions did not affect the way she worked. She was fired due to funding reductions. Elsewhere, her quirks made it almost impossible for her to hold down a job. She tried waitressing. Really, she tried. She also, however, tried to rearrange the kitchen. They were polite when they asked her not to return. She forgot about a shift at the local supermarket due to her intense focus on a tedious assignment. She got a phone call from an angry manager and a pay slip mailed to her. Her third, and most promising, job left her in tears when she stormed form the receptionist position with a firm ‘stick your job up your arse’ after the advances of a lecherous, insulting boss.
And without a job, she had nothing better to do than clean the rubble that her small world had crumbled into. While watching her measly bank accounts dwindle.
Flicking through the local paper one day, she saw an interesting concept. Share housing. She could easily get 140-150 dollars for the other upstairs bedroom. Plus a split in food and electricity and water. The ad went in the next day.
House-mate wanted. Clean, responsible 18-35yr old for share house with one other person. Non-smoker, no pets. Call if interested.
And then her phone number.
The first day: the calls were promising. The second day: the appointments definitely were not.
If she had to listen to another 18 year olds whingey voice complaining about how far it was located from the clubs, or be hit on by some sleazebag who thought living with a female housemate meant instant booty calls, she’d pull the ad and live under a rock. No one got the offer to move in.
One phone call upped the urgency.
‘Sweetheart, are you doing drugs?’
Emma tore her focus away from her assignment and directed it straight down the phone.
‘What?’ Her mouth gapped at the suggestion.
‘Honey, if you are, Dad and I just want you to know that we’re here for you, but you can’t live your life…’
‘Mum, Mum, no! I’m not… Why on earth would you think that?’
Her mother was quiet. ‘Your father checked your savings account… and, well, there’s not much there…’
Emma rubbed her temples. Crap.
‘I lost my job, Mum. I’ve been living off my savings, that’s why there’s not much there.’
‘Oh.’ There was a lengthy pause. ‘How long?’
Her mother gasped and gagged and finally, ‘Three months? How could you not tell me?’
The rest of the phone call followed the conventions of the “mother” method: sympathy, lecture, suggestions, resolution, concluding with a well-rounded ‘Well, sweetheart, if you need anything, just give us a call, okay?’
Emma looked at her watch. An hour and a half – her mother had outdone herself. ‘Okay.’
Tomorrow, she decided, the first person that calls tomorrow gets the room.
That call came early the next morning. Emma was jolted from a deep slumber, looked at the bright digital numbers, 6.13, and angrily grabbed her mobile.
‘Hello?’ she growled into the offending noise maker.
‘Yeah, hi, I’m calling in response to the share house advert?’ A male’s voice confidently came through.
‘I was hoping to come and look at the house. Would I be able to get the address?’
Emma rattled off her home address.
‘Fantastic! Great area. Does ten sound good to you?’
‘Awesome. I’ll see you soon, then.’
And he hung up.
No name, no goodbye, just ‘see you soon’.
Emma’s eyes blinked towards the ceiling. She’d been scheduling appointments for the next day, but didn’t get the words in on time. See you soon. Why did she have a feeling that meant ten am today?
Panic fuelled Emma’s cleaning finesse. She scrubbed and swept and vacuumed every room in the house, paying close attention to the spare room and adjoining bathroom. With the deadline looming, she decided enough was enough and went to her own bathroom to shower and scrub the horrid smell of cleaner from her pores.
She’d pulled her wet hair high in a neat but sloppy bun when she answered the door. She took in the man who stood in front of her. Tall. No dangerous looking facial or body piercings. No tattoos that screamed out look at me the wrong way and I’ll kill you. He was almost good looking. Almost.
‘Um, hi. I’m Emma.’ She thrust out her hand.
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t introduce myself this morning. I’m Ryle.’ He half smiled as he shook her hand.
Emma rolled his name around in her head. Rhyel? Riel? Ryle.
‘No problem, come on in.’ She opened the door wider and stepped back.
She took him though the house sensibly, methodically, room by room, showing the downstairs kitchen, lounge, dining and laundry, and upstairs bedrooms.
She let him have free roam of her house as she sat and made herself some tea. She watched his inspection with a confused look on her face. It was so sporadic and impulsive. It was frustrating for her to watch.
‘Nice place,’ he remarked, coming back to the lounge where she sat, hands curled around her mug. ‘When can I move in?’ he joked, stretching, with his hands behind his head, like he was already at home.
Emma looked up at him. ‘Well, if you like it, it’s yours. Just got to sign the contract.’ She motioned to the papers impeccably laid on the table.
He looked at them briefly, definitely not long enough to read. ‘How much per week?’
‘Even split. Food can be bought on our own for now, but perhaps, pool that too, later.’
‘Any nasty surprises?’ He fingered the papers again.
‘Not going to kick me out in the cold, are you?’
Emma snickered. ‘No, probably not, but if you wake me up before eight again, I may reconsider.’
He laughed as he signed his name at the bottom of the contract with the date.
‘So, when can I move in?’
‘Whenever.’ Emma sighed. ‘It’s your home now, too.’
His elated smile scared her. Surely he wasn’t one of those freakily happy people.
‘Tomorrow. I’ll be back tomorrow to move in; after eight of course.’ He grinned cheekily at her.
Emma rolled her eyes.
Unspoken, she started to guide him to the front door.
‘My brothers will help me so I don’t expect you to lift a finger.’
‘Wouldn’t have anyway,’ Emma muttered into her mug.
The shiny black motorbike stood proudly, taunting her, while suddenly her girly bits awakened and jumped for joy.
Ryle threw his leg over the bike, clearly comfortable with the machine.
‘See you tomorrow, Em!’
Emma unconsciously wiped her mouth for any drool that may have escaped.
‘Yeah…’ Her voice jumped up and down like a pre-pubescent boy’s. ‘Bye Ryle.’
As he left, when she was sure he was not going to see, she groaned, embarrassed, into her hands and dragged her sorry behind back inside.
The first week or so, both were awkwardly over polite to one another. Ryle even respected her quirky control issues. But it wore off. Emma wished for that politeness one morning, before six, when she was woken by Ryle blaring music.
No! Emma thought, crying the word in her head. She clawed her way out of the bed.
‘Ryle,’ she yelled croakily. She leant heavily on her door frame, eyes closed, trying not to wake up completely.
Emma opened one eye and groaned. Workout gear. ‘This is going to be a daily thing, isn’t it?’ She pointed to his clothing.
He grinned. ‘Of course. Why?’ He was stretching, all energetic and shit. ‘Want to come with?’
Emma flipped him the bird. ‘Contract. Eight!’
‘Best part of the day.’ He stated factly.
‘Turn your music off!’ she demanded, grabbing at her door handle. ‘Have fun.’ She heard laughter as she forcefully shut her door behind her. The music ceased.
Emma slithered back into her warm cocoon of blankets. The front door opened and closed. Her eyes closed, then opened. She groaned. She was officially awake for the day.
Somewhere between Ryle being a pain in her arse, and her trying to resurrect her life, he became a pretty awesome friend. He was a free spirit. He liked walking around the house in a towel and instigating one-sided, innuendo conversations which always caught her tongue-tied and blushing.
He definitely did not respect her quirky obsession with control. She realised quickly that he enjoyed messing with her, by messing with her head. He was purposefully untidy. He moved her stuff without remorse. The TV remote had a specific spot where it was meant to live, yet he frequently lost it. Dishes were left on the sink without being rinsed. He never took out the rubbish, even when Emma whinged at him. But worst of all, he would wake up in the morning with “itchy feet” and making Emma come ride with him. She did enjoyed riding behind Ryle. It thrilled her to know the powerful machine was in their control. It was also liberating. On stretches of country road, she’d hold her arms out and make the zooming sounds of an aeroplane and giggle like a child.
But then Ryle overstepped and took her away on a Wednesday. Emma was a mess, crying and screaming at Ryle by the time the sun went down. He wouldn’t apologise for breaking her routine and shopped for them both on Thursday. Slowly, the sourness of the experience passed. Ryle took her forgiveness as permission to fix her.
He finally convinced her to go out drinking with him on a Monday evening. They returned home on the Tuesday morning. And when Emma’s alarm blared at her only hours later, she was not happy. Ryle was already in the kitchen when she entered desperate for food and coffee to calm the beast awoken in her head.
‘Buttercup.’ Ryle nodded in acknowledgement, shoving his porridge in the microwave.
Of course he’d be fine, Emma thought bitterly.
Her eyes followed him around the small room while she waited for the kettle to boil.
He continued to smirk at her. He counted down the numbers on the microwave under his breath. With three seconds to go, he pressed the button and took out the bowl.
Emma watched in disbelief. He squeezed honey in and mixed it with his spoon.
‘Jesus. Ryle, can you not just leave things like how you found them?’ she burst, arms flailing awkwardly.
He looked up frowning. ‘What are you on about, girl?’
Emma pointed to the microwave. It alternated between reading ‘3’ and ‘PRESS START’ in its little analogue writing. She made a huge point of walking over and pressing the clear button.
After watching her performance, Ryle burst out laughing.
Emma realised how much she’d just embarrassed herself. She groaned and laid her head on the cool counter top of the island bench.
‘What’s up your arse?’
‘My head,’ she moaned out.
He snickered. ‘Yeah, got that loud and clear.’
He could feel Emma’s glare even if he couldn’t see it. ‘Panadol?’ he asked.
She nodded without lifting her head.
Ryle forced the pills into her mouth with some water and set the bottle next to her.
‘Stupid Uni…’ She sulked, watching the clock.
‘Skip.’ He offered.
‘Christ, Em, you look like shit. Go, do something arty with all your pain, and I’ll cook you breakfast.’
The protests that she opened her mouth to say were all contradictory to what he’d told her to do. She was an artist. Why not use what she was feeling to be creative? Plus, he was offering food! She dragged her feet all the way to her studio.
It was time for a change. She worked a blank canvas.
He left scrambled eggs at her studio door.
She didn’t emerge the entire day. He checked on her periodically to make sure she was still breathing.
‘Ta da!’ It was late that night when Emma carried the huge canvas into the living room.
Ryle tore his eyes from the television screen. Emma’s masterpiece was a monochromatic oil piece of a party girl with her hands pulling the roots of her hair.
Ryle just shook his head and sighed. He motioned to the picture. ‘Well, look at that! That’s a bit different.’
Emma nodded excitedly. ‘I’ve never done anything not real! But I like it, Ry, I really like it.’
Ryle stood by her with his arm slung around her shoulders, both their gazes on the artwork.
‘I’m leaving Em,’ he whispered.
Emma almost dropped the canvas. ‘What?’
‘Itchy feet. I’m going to backpack around Africa for a bit, do some volunteer work.’
Emma wanted to yell, tell him he had to stay. That he was her friend and her tenant and that he couldn’t just leave her in the lurch.
But her protests came out as a calm ‘okay’.
He tapped the canvas. ‘I’d say I did a pretty good job with you, huh?’
Emma elbowed him in the ribs and sniffled.
Emma’s mentor liked the new style she was developing. He invited her to showcase it in her own exhibit. She sipped sparkling wine and evaluated her works. She had to admit it: her style was unique and effective. And popular. The small gallery was packed, more than half the paintings already sold.
She stared at her one not for sale piece. A man, on a motorcycle, driving away, entitled Ryle.
‘Nice piece,’ a familiar voice reverberated next to her.
Emma didn’t have to look to know it was Ryle. She smiled, cocked her head to the side and gazed at the piece.
‘You’re back. How was Africa?’
‘Mmm, satisfying, thank you.’ He hummed in agreement. ‘Still got a room for me?’
Emma snuck a peak at Ryle; how she had missed her muse.
Her smile broadened. ‘Will you wake me before eight?’
‘Undoubtedly. When can I move in?’
Jessi Ford is a born and raised, bona-fide country girl right down to her well-worn cowboy boots. She spent her childhood playing in all the things she shouldn’t of and generally tailing her two older siblings chanting ‘me too, me too’.
While she knew from a young age she was artistic and over-actively minded, she only tried her hand at writing well into her high school years and, like a drug, she became an addict for words the page.
It was only after receiving a highly commended in a national writing competition aimed at high school students at the age of seventeen that she would consider writing as something that she wanted to share.
She is currently working at a Bachelor of Writing at Edith Cowan University in Perth, Western Australia
Motorcycles for Wednesdays is her first published work.