The school door opened and the teacher, a middle-aged, plump, cheerful woman stood there holding it open. Children began filing in, greeted by their teacher. He looked down at his five-year-old daughter, Chloe, who held her arms up. He picked her up and she kissed his cheek.
"Be good," he said.
"Yes, Daddy." Then she was gone, blending into the stream of her classmates.
His six-year-old son, Robert, (Robbie, never Bobby) stood next to him, waiting for his teacher to appear. She, a younger woman, smiled at the man as the little boy (too aware of his dignity for a hug and kiss) solemnly shook his father's hand and took his turn to file inside. The man met her eyes and nodded, but his face remained grave. He watched the children disappear, turned and made his way out of the school grounds.
His children had stopped asking for Mummy, but her death in a coach crash a year earlier still weighed heavily on him. Her insurance, and the damages paid out by the coach company (who admitted liability) and Linda's employers (who hadn't) meant he had no need to work. In fact, he'd begun working from home as a webmaster, which enabled him to give full attention to the kids, while giving him something to occupy his mind. However, he'd rather have to work twelve hours a day and still have his beloved next to him.
He was almost home when a half-familiar noise captured his attention. The regular, slow, thump of a big single-cylinder motor, the bark of exhaust; he saw the motorcycle and watched it pass him, half noticing the registration number which indicated a new machine, rather than a restored classic.
Several days later he saw the bike again, parked by the kerb so he could have a good look. It was obvious on close examination that it was not a direct replica of a 1950 machine. The disc brake, of course, what looked like an electric starter, (though a kick-start lever was still present on the right side of the bike) and ... fuel injection? Electronic ignition? Looked like it.
He looked round. "Yes. Very."
"Made under licence in India."
"Really? What's the performance like?"
"Well, you don't want to be in a hurry. It'll do fifty all day. I've seen seventy on the clock, but I wouldn't want to ride at that speed for long. Of course, it's economical; I get over eighty to the gallon, usually."
"I like it." The other man paused, "A friend of mine wants to sell one like this, if you're interested."
"Could be. Got a phone number?"
When he got home, he spent a couple of hours at his computer – not working, but researching Indian Enfields – ate a sandwich, and went back to the machine to do some actual work. Then it was time to collect Chloe and Robbie from school. Chloe was out first and ran around with her friends until Robbie appeared. Robbie's teacher saw his father and smiled again, sadly, but wasn't noticed in the focus the man had for his son.
He hadn't really had time to prepare an evening meal for the kids. That didn't matter – they were over the moon to have pizza delivered – and once fed, teeth cleaned, a story read, they settled down to sleep with less than the usual fuss. He went to the phone.
"Hello? I understand you have a motorbike for sale?"
The voice which answered was clearly a woman, and sounded young. "Yes – a Royal Enfield Bullet. My big brother bought it to pass his test, but now he's touring Europe on a big BMW. I've got his Power of Attorney, though, so I can act on his behalf. It's eighteen months old, dealer serviced, two thousand miles on the clock. He wants three thousand pounds."
The man thought about it. It seemed a fair price. "Can I take a look?"
"Of course." She gave her address, several miles away. "When?"
"Tomorrow morning? Ten ish?"
"A little later would be better for me. Eleven?"
"Fine. See you then."
The following morning, he set off in his car to look at a motorcycle. For the first time in a year, he was feeling a tingle of anticipation, though he didn't register the significance.
Ringing the door-bell, he was greeted by a young, fresh-faced woman with short auburn hair, dressed in a black t-shirt bearing the head of a wolf, and faded jeans.
"Good morning. I'm David Evans, about the motorbike?"
"Oh, hi, Mister Evans. I'm Sheila Walsh. It's my brother's bike, as I said. This way," she indicated with a wave at the garage door. He stepped aside and followed her as she fumbled for a key. Eventually, after some muttering, she found what she was looking for and the door swung up out of the way. She indicated a motorbike with a wave. "Oscar," she said.
"Yeah. My brother's a softy, really. He named the bike right away."
He noticed another machine tucked away at the back of the garage. She saw the direction of his gaze. "That one's mine. Kawasaki Ninja. A bit faster than Oscar. Uses a lot more petrol, though."
He looked at her speculatively, but didn't comment. "Can I take a test ride? I'll leave my car keys."
She shrugged and handed over keys. "You'll need to take the disc lock off."
He nodded, and knelt to remove the simple device from the front brake disc before going round the machine testing bearings for play, chain tension, lights and so on. He didn't find anything wrong, not that he expected to. The motor, when he got to it, started third kick and there were no untoward noises. He switched off and fetched his helmet from the car.
"I'll need to replace this, I suppose," he commented, as he put it on.
That time, he used the electric start and the motor started immediately. He sat for a few moments, getting the feel of things and letting the motor warm up, then pulled the clutch and kicked Oscar into first gear.
It'd been over six years since he'd sold his last bike and he was a little awkward, so he didn't rush. In fact, it was several minutes before he even reached fourth gear (of five). In the city he wasn't going to need top gear anyway. Satisfied, he returned to his starting point.
He rode the machine into the garage, switched off, and levered it onto its stand before removing his helmet. "Three thousand, I think you said?"
"I'm not going to haggle – that's a fair price for the age and condition. A cheque okay?"
"You can give me a call when it's cleared. I need to buy a new helmet – other stuff too."
"I could deliver him, if you like?"
"That'd be great! Thanks. Just give me a call to make sure I'm at home. I do work from home, but obviously I have to go out occasionally."
The cheque cleared quickly, and Oscar, with Sheila Walsh aboard, arrived mid-morning two days after the first meeting.
"Hi! Thanks for this. Got time for coffee? Home-made flapjack?
"Um ... why not? Thanks!"
He rolled the bike into the garage next to his car, and showed her into the house. "Let's sit in the kitchen, if you don't mind?"
"How do you like your coffee?" He was busy with the coffee maker as he spoke.
As the black stuff was dripping through, he heated milk and used a little device to make it froth. It probably took five minutes before he placed a cup in front of her, but neither noticed the time as they were too busy chatting.
They sipped, in a comfortable silence.
"Um..." Sheila paused and swallowed the last of the coffee.
"Oh ... um ... yes, please. Um..." she watched as he heated and frothed more milk, poured coffee and added the milk. "David..."
"That's my name," he smiled, but not meanly.
She coloured, but went on, "Um, might you like some company sometimes, when you're riding, I mean?"
He nodded thoughtfully. "That might be fun."
"Good. I'm a student, so I have free time sometimes." She took a bite of flapjack. "This is good. Moreish."
"I like to make it."
They finished the snack and David was tempted – very tempted – to offer her some lunch, but chickened out and offered her a ride home. Not having licensed the bike in his own name (recent changes in the rules prevented a direct transfer) he had to use his car.
When he left her, he didn't go straight home, but drove out into Derbyshire and parked up in the Longshaw car park. In the visitors centre, a motherly woman recognised him.
"Hello! It's been a long time since you visited us. How's Linda?" She saw his expression change, saw the pain there. "Oh, I'm so sorry..."
"She was in that coach crash last year."
He shrugged. "It's getting easier, a little. Could I have quiche, salad, Darjeeling tea?"
"Surely." She busied herself with a tea pot, hot water... "you don't want milk, do you?"
"Of course. If you'd like to sit with your tea, Denise'll bring your quiche over in a few minutes."
Arriving home, he formally contacted DVLA to inform them of the transfer of ownership and to arrange the road-fund tax from the beginning of the next month, May, there being no point in paying a month's tax for three days' use. Then it was time to collect the kids from school. Robbie was much more impressed than his sister with the bike, though she liked the idea it had a name.
.... There is more of this story ...