You never forget your first bike do you? It's like your first kiss. Dan thought of Linda Cawthorn and brought his mind hurriedly back to bikes. He had leaned his Raleigh Winner against a seat and sat on the grass surveying the scene. He heard a noise behind him and quickly turned round. There was nothing there. It was chilly in the early morning and he wrapped his fleece closely round him. He looked down. The choppy sea, the cliffs, the docks, the boats. Dover. All that activity seemed almost calming. But calm he was not. Cyclists are never lonely, Dan had heard once. Well this one was, he thought.
He should get his ideas in order. Begin at the beginning. That might help. It all began years ago in fact, but perhaps he should start with the attempted break-in. It was a while until the next ferry and he should use the time wisely. He needed to make a plan. This would probably turn out to be the most well organized wild goose chase ever.
He'd put Cambridge Polytechnic down as his first choice because the town was flat. He knew if he went somewhere where the cycling was interesting he'd never get a degree. But there were to be many times during the next few days when he wished he'd chosen somewhere else - anywhere else!
Dan felt pathetic as he thought how jumpy the tiny incident had made him. Turning round at the blowing of a leaf! Maybe it was paranoia. That idea didn't help. He drank too much. Everybody his age drank too much didn't they? But for whatever reason he hadn't slept well lately.
It was a common enough story he was sure. He'd got back from his local pub to find a man examining a downstairs window obviously with intent to break in. Dan's automatic reaction was to push him out of the way. He'd run off and Dan, who had not been exactly sober at the time, had let himself in with his key. And that was that - or so he thought. How was he to know he'd end up in the Gazette as a have-a-go hero with his photo and name on the front page? And that, of course, was how she'd found him.
Two days later Dan was sitting in his flat when he heard a knock at the door. He opened it warily, but there on the doorstep stood a very familiar figure. 'Magda!' he almost shouted. He felt confused for a moment, but managed to ask her in. He hadn't seen her for six years, but she looked much the same, Her blond hair was cut short now. She looked a little older but she was still beautiful. There was no mistaking her. He'd know his friend's mother anywhere. 'Please come to the house on Saturday', she was saying. 'It's only a small party. It's not black tie'. Dan looked puzzled. He'd never thought it would be. Just then he saw that she was trembling. 'We're not quite sure where Ollie is at the moment, but he'll be there for the party. He won't let me down'. The Ollie Dan knew did let people down, he thought, but he knew he'd end up at the party anyway, even if only out of curiosity.
Dan found the place all right. It was a red brick detached house on its own grounds on the outskirts of the town. The lawn was well kept and there was a gravel driveway. The white door was newly painted. Perfect. Well it would be wouldn't it? Dan noticed a pink Raleigh Stowaway chained to the neat picket fence. Dan wondered who it belonged to. He parked his own bike next to it.
Once inside he found himself sitting in the most enormous sitting room he had ever seen. There were about forty people there, but there was no-one who could possibly have been Ollie. Surprise, surprise, thought Dan. There were two girls pouring drinks. Dan hoped he wouldn't spill anything on the white sofa. An oil painting hung on the wall above the fireplace. It was a seascape and he remembered it from the Devon house. He chatted to a few other people including the owner of the Raleigh Stowaway whose name was Penny. She worked as an aromatherapist and had a cloud of dark hair. She was talking to a donnish looking character who invited Dan to his inaugural lecture.He was very well spoken but had a slight South African accent. He wore an unusual looking striped green jacket, and when Dan said that he had come to Cambridge to train as a primary school teacher he looked as if, in his view, people like that should use the tradesman's entrance. Dan didn't care, but decided to give the lecture a miss anyway.
After a while Magda came over. 'Sorry. Must borrow Dan for a moment. I'm having trouble with one of my plants. Dan's a wizard with house plants'. Dan who had never owned a house plant, followed her obediently into the next room. It was a smaller space,containing very little furniture. There was a set of keys and a map on the desk, next to a pile of bank notes. Dan noticed a miserable looking Yucca plant in the corner.
'Ollie's disappeared. He went off on his bike.' Magda's face suddenly went white as she spoke. 'We think he feels under pressure to succeed, you know, because his father's done so well'. Dan nodded politely and was almost convinced. But then he remembered three things about his childhood friend. He never felt under pressure to succeed, he was reckless and he didn't tell his mother everything.
Chapter 2 will be published 14/09/2018.
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