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Fate Will Not Be Denied

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Fate Will Not Be Denied


What a week: but thank God it was Friday! John Crichton opened the throttle on his bike and gunned down the open road, into the early evening haze. Ahead of him lay the promise of two whole days exploring the Australian outback: Two whole days without having to think about the petty woes of his grad students; Two whole days away from emails and the phone and the inevitable guilt-trips and emotional mind games from his sisters back in the States should they call him. 

A tight, tree-lined bend in the road was coming up fast. Although he was confident in both his own skill as a rider and the abilities of his machine, the thick vegetation meant that visibility was limited through the curve.  He dropped down a gear and touched his brakes to feather his speed down below forty as he approached. As the engine roared briefly in response to being released momentarily from the strain of propelling the bike, John’s last phone call from his older sister, Susan, played in his head:

“Any plans to come home soon?” Always the same gambit.

“No.” Didn’t she realise that he had a job out here? Didn’t she realise that he wanted to put the past behind him? 

“We miss you. You ought to be with people who care about you…  unless you’ve got someone special keeping you out there?” Another familiar and unwelcome question. His exile wasn’t about finding anyone: It was about losing himself.

“No.” His answer was flat, intentionally so in the hope that it would close down both subjects of conversation. It failed.

“Mum and dad wouldn’t want you to be so alone.” And there it was: her ace in the hole. Guilt trip supreme. But what about what he might want? He’d always been close to mom, but they had grown really close after dad had died on the Challenger. When cancer had claimed her a couple of years ago John had felt he had to get way, other side of the world away, to deal with his grief.

“Just…  don’t, OK?” 

The bike reached the apex of the turn, big tyres scratching for grip slightly on the loose, gravelly surface. But John’s attention was still elsewhere, still focussed on slamming the phone down on Susan. The image of a big old, greenish-white pick-up truck emerged through the red mist clouding his mind. It was parked up, blocking his best exit line from the corner. John was just distracted enough to touch the brakes.

Time seemed to slow. Stupid, stupid. Never brake on a bend a little voice scolded in the back of his mind, even as the bike stood up from its heavy lean in response to the brakes. He could feel the tyres scrabbling as they lost grip on the road, the whole machine becoming unstable, straightening and yet wavering at the same time. 

Two seconds ticked by, each dragging on for an eternity. It seemed like all the time in the World. It was certainly all the time that John needed to weigh up what he had done, to realise that it was inevitably going to end with him lying on the verge and the bike in the hedge. 

His body rolled over and over on the grass, his ears registering every detail as the engine roared then died as the bike slid and tumbled into the shrub-line which ran just beyond the verge.

A familiar wave of pain shot through his shoulder, the one he had dislocated years before in another motorbike accident, and then he must have blacked out.

*~*

Claire Bonacci pulled her pickup over to the side of the road to check on the angry buzzing coming from her phone. One hand pushed a wave of dark hair away from her face as she peered at the screen. Danny Sabatini. What did he want? They’d broken up months ago! As far as she was concerned, they had nothing more to say to one another.

She touched the red button with her thumb, blanking the call and, with a frustrated frown, put the phone down on the seat beside her. She stared at it for a long while, as though willing it to give answers, or maybe change reality, change her life, for the better. Fate always seemed to be kicking her in the fine print.

The sound of a motorbike approaching from behind shook her out of her gloomy thoughts. Her eyes were drawn to the rear-view mirror and she watched, horrified as events unfolded: The bike seemed OK, but then it suddenly wavered, the rider losing control while he was still on the bend. Hell! He was going to crash!

Rider and machine tumbled past her, accompanied by a horrifying cacophony of sounds and sparks as metal met tarmac. It was all over in a couple of frozen heartbeats. The rider came to a halt 20 yards past where she sat, lying worryingly still on the opposite verge, with the bike stopping a further ten yards on, half embedded in the hedge,  its engine running down to a stop.

Claire was out of her pickup and beside the biker in a flash.

He was lying on his back and wasn’t moving. Airways first. She knelt beside him and gently pushed open the visor of his helmet. He gasped and coughed – he was alive, thank God - his eyes opening, blinking up at her, obviously as relieved as she was. Claire’s heart skipped – his eyes were so blue, so gorgeous. She tried her hardest not to be distracted by them as she fussed over him.

“Where does it hurt?” She demanded leaning across him so that her hands and eyes could check him out.

“Uh, just my shoulder,” his voice was a charming American drawl – it sent a shiver up her spine. “Think I mighta dislocated it,” His incongruously smiling eyes seemed to have locked on to her face. She knew her cheeks would be flushing, she could feel the heat spreading across them. How dare he? Didn’t he know what was good for him?

Trying to stay focussed on him as a patient, rather than a handsome man, she ran expert hands across his shoulder and arms. Everything seemed in order, exactly where it should be. Perfect, even. She pushed the unprofessional thought away. It sprung back up, into her mind, unwilling to be sidelined. He really was gorgeous. He tried to sit up, giving weight to her assessment that he wasn’t too badly hurt. Everything about him seemed to be reviving. Comfortable now that he didn’t have a neck injury, she helped him unfasten and ease off his helmet.

“Do you think we can get your jacket off so I can get a good look at you?” She asked trying but not entirely succeeding in keeping her thoughts professional. He grinned at her. Damn! Had she really used those words? Pressing on regardless, she began to ease down the zip on his leathers, revealing a tight, well-filled black T-shirt. 

“Hey lady, not that I’m complaining, but we haven’t even been introduced…” if he could flirt like that then he really couldn’t be that badly hurt. His shoulder certainly wasn’t dislocated. His shoulder looked great, actually.

“So, what should I call you?” She tried to hide a smirk. “Evel Knieval?”

“John, John Crichton. I work at the Uni. Up in the big smoke. And what about you, Ms Nightingale? He seemed amused by the way her eyes and fingers were checking out his shoulder, pecs and upper arm. “Are you a Guardian Angel or a Stalker?” He wiggled an eyebrow.

“Sister Claire Bonacci,” she grunted with an amused, lopsided smile. “Your number one fan.” He snorted a laugh at her reference to Misery, obviously instantly getting what she meant.

“A nurse?” He asked. She nodded curtly, once. He laughed openly and then, somewhat inevitably, winced as she probed around the top of his shoulder joint.

“What’s so funny?” She asked, fixing him with a serious stare and stopped prodding, although she didn’t remove her hands from him.

“With my luck, gorgeous woman like you, you’re more likely to have been a nun,” he rolled his eyes. She smiled back at him, delighted by the not-so-hidden undertone of his remark. Their eyes locked and everything else in the universe seemed to fall away. Suddenly it was just them. No pick-up, no motorbike, no accident. Just eyes that couldn’t tear themselves away from each other and a hand resting on an upper arm. “And then there’d be no point in asking if you might be free for dinner this evening, would there?”

“No,” she watched the flicker of disappointment furrow his brow at her single word. “There wouldn’t have been much point.” She smiled radiantly at him, arching a teasing eyebrow as his face creased into a grin. “Shame when I know this place down the road that does a great barbecue. Do you like barbecue?”

“Love it,” he grinned back.


The end. Or maybe not?