I was cruising along a relatively flat stretch of road without too much headwind, when, in the rear-view mirror mounted on the end of my handlebar, I spotted someone coming up behind me. I'm no racer, and I figured whoever it was would eventually catch me, but I thought I'd see how long I could hold them off. I shifted the rear derailleur to a larger cog to get my rpms up a little before switching back to my original gear.
The speed on my computer climbed steadily and I shifted to keep the revs in the nineties - about my limit. When I hit twenty five MPH, I was pretty much maxed out unless I wanted to the race to end in the next hundred yards or so, with me gasping my lungs out while my pursuer breezed past.
I thought I was holding my own for the next couple of miles, but eventually my 'occasional' rider status began to weigh in, and the other rider began to gain on me. It took another three miles, but ultimately, she pulled up alongside.
"Show-off!" I grinned.
She smiled back and slowed to my pace as we pumped up a little roller.
"Where you headed?" she asked. I felt a little better that she was breathing almost as hard as I was.
I jerked my head forward, "Corners."
(Readers who don't cycle should understand that, in order to get enough oxygen to the body and carry on a conversation, cyclists, especially those of us who aren't in Tour de France condition, often drop unnecessary words from their conversation to save lung power.)
"Mind if I ride along?" she asked.
"'f you don't mind snailin' along with an old man!" I grinned.
"Old man my ass!" she snorted, "I thought I was never going to catch up with you!"
"Yeah," I acknowledged, "took a lot out of me. Not going to be able to keep that pace for the next thirty five miles."
I glanced over and noticed that one side of her jersey was filled out and the other wasn't.
"I'm Ted." I said.
"Charlotte!" she replied, "Nice to have someone to ride with for a ways!"
I nodded at her chest and asked, "Breast cancer?"
She seemed a little surprised that I'd be so direct, but answered:
"Yeah," she made a face, "Radical mastectomy. Lymph nodes and all."
"That bad?" I asked, "Or did you just have a male doctor who didn't want to take chances?"
She looked startled and said, looking at me oddly, "Male doctor, but I agreed with him."
"Well, if you're okay with the result," I replied, "then it was the right decision. How long has it been?"
"Going on five years. So far the tests are still coming back clean."
"That's great!" I meant it. My wife hadn't been so lucky.
"You sound like you're familiar with breast cancer." Charlotte said, "Do you know someone who's been through it?"
"Yeah," I replied, reluctantly. I was getting better, but the memories were still painful. "My wife. They caught it too late and she didn't make it."
"I'm sorry..." Charlotte began, but I waved it away.
"Don't be." I interrupted, "It was several years back, and I've begun to come to terms with it. Funny thing, I always thought I'd prefer to remember her the way she was before the cancer, and those are fond memories, to be sure. My fondest memories, though, are of the months before she died. When none of the treatments showed any improvement, she told them to stop the chemo and the painkillers. For weeks, almost every moment we had together she was smiling, telling jokes, and trying to cheer me up."
I looked over at Charlotte, "She was dying, and spent her time trying to cheer me up! I knew she was in great pain most of the time, but she refused any painkillers until just before the end, because she wanted to be with us, mentally as well as physically, for the time that she had left. Those have become my most treasured memories of her. That wan, skeletal face that used to be so beautiful, in those last weeks seemed to glow with an inner light, and I was humbled in the face of her courage."
Charlotte nodded, "Yeah, I met a lot of people like that at the hospital. They helped me through the radiation and chemo, and the depression and fear, even after my husband caved and bailed on me. Bastard couldn't stand looking at me after they took my breast!"
I had no comment to make on that, and didn't really want to dwell on this particular subject any longer, so I shook my head to show my disapproval of her husband's weakness, then changed the subject.
"So, how long have you been riding?"
Charlotte looked a relieved and said, "About three years. Used to jog a lot but it was getting hard on my joints, so I took some of the money from my divorce settlement and bought this bike. Took me a while to get used to the clipless pedals. Seemed like I was falling down at almost every intersection! Used to wear kneepads and skater's wrist braces when I rode."
"Yeah, I know what you mean." I replied, "I started on a mountain bike with toe clips, but my knees weren't liking the angle forced on my feet by the clips, so it was clipless or stop riding. I practiced on the trainer until I got used to twisting my feet out of them, but it was the unusual situations that got me."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, I could remember to unclip yards before I got to any intersection or other predictable stopping point, but one time I was making a slow, tight turn on gravel, and the bike got unstable. I was able to get my outside foot loose, but the bike fell toward the inside of the turn. I think I was picking gravel out of my knee for three days after that!"
Charlotte laughed and we swapped anecdotes of our riding experiences for a few more miles. When we reached the Corners, we took a breather and each ate an energy bar before heading back.
Charlotte, it turned out, lived only a couple of blocks past my house, so when I invited her in for a cold drink, she accepted.
We talked about cycling and other things for a while, then she pulled at the sweat-soaked fabric of her jersey and said, "I'd better get home and take a shower, or these are going to get so crusted I won't be able to get them off!"
On impulse, I said, "Why don't you just shower here? I'm sure I've got a clean robe or something around here that you can wear. I'll put your bike on the rack and drive you home later, if you like."
She looked at me speculatively for a moment, "Are you coming on to me, Ted?"
"Isn't that obvious?" I smiled, "I'm a little rusty at it, but..."
"I like you, Ted," she said seriously, "but I'm not up for a pity fuck, so if it's okay with you, I'll just shower at home."
I was dumbfounded! "Pity fuck! I don't DO pity fucks, Charlotte! I'm coming on to you because I like you!"
She eyed me some more.
"Ted, if you're lying to me..." she said.
"Look, Charlotte," I said, in all sincerity, "I don't want you to do anything you're not comfortable with, but you're an intelligent, witty, attractive woman who happens to have some interests in common with me. In every other instance where I've met women under those circumstances, I tried to make sure we could spend as much time together as possible. Is there some reason why this situation should be different?"
"You know very well there is, Ted." She glanced briefly at her chest to indicate the reason.
"What the hell does that have to do with the price of tea in China?" I asked, "It's not your chest that's kept me laughing and involved in the conversation for the last couple of hours! If things work out the way I'd like them to, I won't be fucking your chest, either! Look, tell you what: Let's shower together and see how it flows. If, at any time, you don't like the way things are going, then tell me so. I'll back off and see that you get safely home, okay?"
Charlotte suddenly looked somehow smaller, "I'm afraid, Ted. I couldn't stand to have you look at me the way my husband did... !"
I took her in my arms and held her until she had calmed some.
"Not to worry, Charlotte." was all I said.
She turned her back to undress, and wouldn't face me in the shower until I took her gently by the shoulders and turned her around. Her face pleaded with me not to look, but when I took her hands in mine and gently pulled them down to her sides, she hung her head and let them drop.
Her left breast was full and beautiful, not too big, not too small. The right side of her chest held a loose flap of skin and a large, ugly scar.
"Haven't decided about an implant yet?" I asked.
"No. It would help when I'm wearing clothes, I suppose, but won't hide the scar," she answered softly, "and I can just stick a breast form in my bra if I want to look symmetrical."
I bent and kissed the tip of her left breast, drawing a gasp from my shower-mate. I suckled it for a few moments and gently slipped a middle finger between her legs, seeking out her little bud, hidden in its fleshy hood.
"Oh, God! It's been so LONG!" she moaned, humping at my finger as it eased between the slippery lips of her pussy.
On impulse, I switched sides and ran my tongue along her scar.
Charlotte gave a startled cry and grabbed my hair, pulling me away from her chest. She was breathing wildly when I looked up at her face.
"Did that hurt?" I asked, concerned.
"NO!" She gasped, "It was just so, so, unexpected! It almost felt like my breast was still there!"
"So," I asked, shaking water from my eyes, "shall I stop, or continue on?"
Hesitantly, Charlotte guided my face back to her chest. Gently, I licked onced more at the scar that marked where a lovely breast had once been, drawing gasps of indrawn breath from the lovely cyclist.
.... There is more of this story ...