It had been a long time since she'd been on a motorcycle. Two decades at the very least. And for the first time in perhaps just as long, she suddenly realized that she missed her long hair. Mourning the loss of the wind whipping through it, framing her face in a wreath of color, until it was caressing the dirty golden strands like some long forgotten lover.
She'd loved her long hair, probably been a bit prideful of it to be honest. It had been a perfectly melded mix of gorgeous corn silk yellow and light auburn brown. She'd coveted it. Brushed and twirled in around her fingers every night until it had gleamed. It had made her feel beautiful…special.
Sometimes she wondered if meeting Ed had been a punishment for that sin, for priding herself in such a shallow, immaterial thing as personal vanity. On the bad days she'd been sure of it, seeing it as nothing less than her due after a long adolescence of carrying all that pride and fickle-headed silliness within her.
But on the good days, sometimes she would remember that wide, handsome smile that used to light up Ed's face. The way goodness and warmth used to smooth over his cross, hard edged features whenever he retold the story of how they'd first met.
And despite the fact that she'd heard it a thousand times, she found she could never quite tire of it. Always trying and failing to hold back an amused smile as he'd mime his way through describing how he'd nearly crashed his car into a light post as he driven through town, struck dumb by the mere sight of her as she'd walked down the street with a friend in her senior year. Wind tossing her thick blond curls out behind her like a banner, curling around the vulnerable dip of her throat before trickling down to fan across the breast of her siren red blouse. Face frozen in a happy smile as she and her friend laughed together over some long forgotten joke.
Ed had always told her how she'd stood out, like a beacon within a storm. And that he'd known right then and there that she was the one he was meant to have.
She shook her head, shivering a little as strong gust of wind raked across her scalp, coursing through her closely cropped hair like a chill. She wondered if it was ironic, or simply fitting that in the end he'd been the one to extinguish her. Snuffing her out little by little, until she'd been afraid to shine at all, until she'd become no more than a single flickering candle up against the brunt of a hurricane. And worst of all she'd let him. She hadn't had it in her to leave. Not back then.
When she cut off her long blond hair, she didn't know who she was punishing more, herself or Ed. Perhaps even the both of them. All she knew was that when she'd finally come out of that bathroom. Kitchen scissors firmly in hand as exhausted tears had streamed freely down her reddened cheeks, the tile at her feet awash with the dirty blond strands; she'd looked Ed right in the eye for the first time in months. - As if daring him to do something about it.
It'd taken him a few days to recover after that, but he'd gotten even in the end...
The resulting beating had put her in the hospital for three days. She'd told the doctor that she fallen down the stairs. But she wasn't sure who was more surprised, her or Ed when the doctor bought it without question, simply exchanging a look with Ed over the hospital bed, the entire exchange making her feel useless and small as the doctor had ignored her. Even today the mere memory was enough to give her goose pimples.
Birds of a feather flock together…
The harsh wind and grating churn of the dirt road sent grit and gravel scoring across her cheeks. Stinging her eyes until reluctant tears welled up behind her half closed lids. She blinked as the world blurred, hazing over for a long moment as she sought to clear them. Eventually choosing to simply duck her head behind the broad span of Daryl's back, and seeking shelter from the brunt of the wind.
Her body thrummed, inexplicably soothed as the vibrations from the engine coursed up her legs like electricity sparking out of a damaged transformer. Body moving of its own accord as she anticipated the next turn and leaned into it, steadying herself with a single, feather-light touch to his waist as she fought against gravity and won.
And it was with surprisingly little guilt, that she used that moment to breathe in the scent of him. Welcoming the scent of that unique, edgy perfume he carried around like a second skin. A smell underscored with that of wildness and burnt leather, old engine grease and the acrid tang of an honest sweat. - All in all it was an acquired taste, something that stayed true to the nature of the man himself if she really thought about it.
Either way she liked it all the same.
When her cheek brushed across the naked stretch of skin just below his hairline, he didn't say a word. He just let her. Even though they both knew that the action couldn't have been anything other than deliberate. It was a gift he gave to extraordinarily few. And in spite of herself, that knowledge never failed to warm her, sending waves of heat pulsing through her, smouldering in her belly like arousal until her skin rippled in pleasure.
The sensation was confusing and strange, but undeniably good all at the same time. She supposed, in a way, that it actually fit. After all, nothing about Daryl was particularly easy to pin down or describe, so why would such a feeling as this be any different?
…And for some unknown reason, that thought alone made her smile.