Authors: Nessa Connor
Copyright 2016 by Nessa Connor
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced, redistributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in any database, without prior permission from the author.
The characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. All characters are 18+ and all situations are consensual.
Melanie Wilford stood in her classroom, looking out at her students. It was a study period, although several were reading books that weren’t textbooks, or drawing. She wandered through the room, answering an occasional question and glancing at what they read or drew.
When she looked over Carly Jones’ shoulder she saw a carefully drawn picture of a motorcycle. It was a big bike, with high handlebars and fat tires. She thought it was amazingly well rendered and showed details that Melanie would never have imagined. The world was a changing place, but in her experience a girl drawing a motorcycle or car was still unusual. Charmingly so. But then, Carly was unusual—certainly she was self assured for a twelve-year-old. She was a good student too. Not gifted, but smart, and willing to study. For Melanie’s money that was better than being gifted.
“That’s quite a drawing,” she said. “You certainly know how to draw a motorcycle.”
“My uncle is a biker,” Carly said.
“Just like my dad used to be before he got hurt.” She looked up. “He had an accident. Uncle Greg knows everything about motorcycles.”
“Everything?” Melanie teased.
“Everything worth knowing,” the girl said confidently.
Melanie looked closely at this skinny girl. She had a blonde braid, pale blue eyes and a small, pointed face. She wondered about her home life. She’d never known any bikers before. “Was your father in a club?”
“The Chosen Few,” she said proudly.
The year had just started and Melanie was just getting to know her class, but Carly Jones had already impressed her. She was a bit of a loner. Although she got along well with the other kids, she didn’t seem to initiate conversations. She watched her classmates with her eyes darting over them as if she were studying them. When the kids were on their own, she seemed able to either stand and watch or take charge. The force of her personality gave her the potential for being a natural leader.
Now, hearing that this little girl spent her time around bikers sent up a red flag. It was hard to imagine that bikers would provide the ideal environment for a preteen. As always, the real question, her main concern, was if she was safe and properly taken care of. She was thin, but certainly seemed well fed and healthy, so that part was fine. She usually dressed like a tomboy, but her clothes were clean.
Melanie tried to reconcile this happy kid with her preconceptions of bikers. She wondered if this club was nothing more than a social club. She’d read about the growing trend for weekend biker clubs. A lot of the people in those were lawyers and doctors. That wouldn’t be a reason for concern.
“What does your father do?” She tried to make the question innocuous.
“Right now he’s recovering. He doesn’t always go to rehab like he should.”
“What did he do before his accident?”
Carly shrugged. “I think he sold old cars.”
So much for her thread of hope.
“Uncle Greg is picking me up today,” Carly announced.
“Is he? I thought your mom was the one that does that.”
“Yeah, but Uncle Greg thinks she has enough to do taking care of Dad. She works too. She’s a waitress. Since I’ve been hanging out with Uncle Greg in the afternoons, he decided he might as well pick me up himself and save Mom the trip.”
Carly gave her a huge grin. “At the garage.”
“Uncle Greg is a mechanic. Everyone brings him their bikes to fix because he’s the best. My dad is supposed to go to physical therapy in the afternoons and he can’t drive, so my mom takes him and I help out in the garage.”
A picture of Carly, surrounded by bikers, an image right out of the movies, made Melanie shudder. “You help out?”
She smiled proudly. “Working on bikes. He’s teaching me stuff. He promised that today I can rebuild a carburetor all by myself.”
“What about your homework? We do have a math test on Friday.”
She groaned. “I have to sit in the office and do it all before I can work with him. Uncle Greg knows about the test and already said he won’t let me start working on the carb until I show him I’ve done my homework. Then he’ll quiz me.”
“So your Uncle will check your homework? Doesn’t your mother do that?”
She giggled. “Mom couldn’t pass the test herself. She dropped out of school. She’s really nice, but doesn’t read or anything. Same with my dad, so Uncle Greg has been coming over to the house to help me with my homework for a long time, even before Dad got hurt.” She made a face. “He’s harder to please than you are. A lot harder. I have to answer every question right and it has to be neat—he won’t let me turn in sloppy work.”
No wonder the girl’s homework was always on time and neat. She was motivated. “What if your work is sloppy. What does he do?”
Carly scowled, looking serious. “He makes me do it all over.”
“Or what? Does he get mad?”
“Yup. And if I don’t re-do it right, I don’t get to help him fix the bikes.” She hesitated, looking embarrassed. “Sometimes he teases me in front of the other guys, and tells them I have to understand how important it is to be neat or I’ll accidentally put an engine back together with dirt in it and blow it up.”
Melanie was having a problem reconciling Carly’s picture of her home life with the pictures in her head. She was the most well adjusted kid she’d ever met. The bell rang for recess and Carly closed her notebook and got up. She obviously wanted to leave, but Melanie held her. It was important to learn about the kids, find out about their home lives.
“When you say your uncle is a biker, do you mean he has a motorcycle and rides with his friends?”
Carly laughed. “Sure. What else?”
Melanie reconsidered her initial fears. The girl never came to school bruised or depressed. She clearly loved her life, although now it was clear why there was usually grease under her fingernails. Melanie desperately returned to her idea that her family was more than a bunch of renegades. Just because this man rode a motorcycle and worked on them, it didn’t mean that he wasn’t a lawyer or something. He sounded too much like a solid citizen.
“What does your uncle do for a living?”
Carly looked at Melanie with a withering stare that made her feel like she was the student and obviously had missed the point of the lesson. She stood squarely in front of Melanie, put her hand on her hips and scowled. When she spoke again she sounded impatient. “Uncle Greg is a biker and the club mechanic. I already told you that, Miss Wilford.”
“I was paying attention, Carly. I just wondered what he else he does—when he isn’t riding his motorcycle.”
Carly laughed, relieved to find her teacher wasn’t a complete dolt. “When he isn’t riding, he is repairing bikes. He can fix anything, even cars, but he loves working on bikes. Sometimes he even works on them when they aren’t even broken. He says they can always be made to run a little bit better. He’s teaching me how to do that too. That’s why I’m learning about carburetors-they’re very important for performance. You have to make sure the engine gets the right mixture of air and gasoline at exactly the right rate.”
That was more than Melanie even wanted to know about mechanics.
Carly fidgeted, wanting permission to leave.
“C’mon, Carly!” Melanie turned to see Brian Innes standing in the classroom door, waiting for Carly impatiently. “It’s recess.”
“Go on,” she told the girl, and then smiled as she dashed out to play with her friend.
Brian was Carly’s best friend. He was a shy, gentle, nervous beanpole of a twelve-year-old boy, and big. In fact he was so big, most people assumed he was a year older, probably been kept back. But he was just big for his age—a lot taller than Melanie.
Brian had initiated the friendship—he seemed to cling to Carly. Her personal confidence and strength buoyed him up. Away from her charismatic influence, he was shy, almost totally withdrawn. Carly brought a smile to his face. The change that came over the boy when he was around Carly was lovely to see. She let them sit together in the classroom, knowing that if she was near, he would sometimes even take part in class discussions, if she managed to ignore Carly’s, “you know the answer, Brian,” whispers of encouragement.
During the day, with Carly there, Brian came alive. But each morning, he arrived at school withdrawn.
Brian’s track record with homework was spotty. A check of his records revealed that he lived with his father and that his mother was dead. His father hadn’t come to the parent-teacher conference she’d scheduled with him at the beginning of the year, so she knew nothing about him and had no idea if he was supportive of the schoolwork. Often that made a difference, which was why the imagine of Carly’s biker uncle patiently insisting she do her homework before playing with a motorcycle was so intriguing, and unsettling in some way.
Brian might not have someone encouraging him, and that bore watching. She never saw any indication that he was mistreated. He never came in with marks or bruises, and he always had the right school supplies and clean clothes. All the physical indications suggested he came from a good family that cared for him.
But that withdrawal came from somewhere. And unlike the effervescent Carly, he never mentioned his father, or anything about home.
Thinking about him, paying attention and watching for signs was all she could do, ethically, legally, or morally. That didn’t seem to be enough to know for certain whether to leave things alone or take action. She sighed. Being a kid was hard under the best of circumstances and Melanie wanted all the students to do well, to be happy.
* * *
When school let out that afternoon, Melanie followed the kids as they poured out of the classroom and into the schoolyard. As the ones who rode the bus queued for their rides home, the ones waiting to be picked up were required to stay within the fenced yard until a parent or guardian came for them. A few more, who lived nearby, put on their backpacks and walked home, usually in groups of two or three. Once they left the school grounds they were on their own.
Watching them leave school and go off into the world, Melanie felt an ache. Some of them had happy homes, loving families. But some didn’t; some of them went to homes where they weren’t treated properly. Some, even abused.
The idea that anyone would treat a child badly horrified her.
You are overly sensitive.
She was. Other teachers were glad to see the backs of the children when they left. Once the last child had left, they were shed of their responsibilities for them and could return to their own lives. Melanie had trouble letting go. She needed to find a balance, a way to let them live their lives. After all, the children weren’t even hers.
From the beginning of her teaching career, Melanie had suffered for her kids. And she’d made a conscious decision, that it was better to hurt a bit for them, for their possibly-imagined wrongs, than be indifferent to any pain that she might be able to do something about. Her attachment to other people’s children had wrecked more than one personal relationship, but she would accept that. She was a teacher and had never wanted to be anything else. Because of the children.
Now, standing in the schoolyard, she watched them talking excitedly, as if there were no problems in the world.
The loud, snapping roar of a motorcycle decelerating, coming up to the front gate, shattered her peace of mind, her moment of tranquility. As Melanie watched, a man rode up on a bike that looked to be the one from Carly’s drawing. The man wore jeans, a work shirt, and heavy black leather boots. He was muscular and wore his blonde hair cut short. He shut the engine off and got off his bike to face the school. Melanie was struck by his muscular appearance and the confident stance that declared to the world he had the right to be exactly where he was.
“Uncle Greg!” Carly shouted, then ran headlong straight for the man, trailing her backpack behind her in one hand. Melanie saw the man break into a huge grin. He spread his arms wide and captured the flying girl in them and swung her around. She laughed hysterically and her feet made a wide circle.
When he put Carly down, he seemed to notice Melanie watching them. He bent down and spoke to Carly, pointing in Melanie’s direction. Carly looked at her, nodded and said something to him.
Then the man stood. “Okay, Grease Princess, get your helmet and I’ll be right back.”
Carly bounced to the back of the bike where she unhooked a crash helmet and put it on with her braid hanging out. The man came towards Melanie in long strides. She braced herself, having no idea what to expect. “Greg Jones,” he said cheerfully, holding out a hand.