‘Every Kind of Way’ – H.E.R
‘Baby, the sound of you
Better than a harmony
I want you off my mind
And on me
Holding me closer than we've ever been before
This ain't a dream
You're here with me’
When Delia sees her, she’s flabbergasted that such a refined, well dressed woman is walking into such an establishment. Her red hair acting like a siren’s call to anyone with eyes, as soon as she enters.
Surely, people like her look online and go to Halfords or Cycle Republic or any other chain, not here. This place is for those that are serious, that want to get their hands dirty and discuss their options to maximise comfort, speed, technique.
Delia walks over, wiping her hands on her black jeans and hoping no grease managed to get on her face as it was wont to do.
The next thing Delia notices is her eyes, so startling, she nearly trips over nothing. Clumsiness being another unfortunate skill.
“Can I help you at all?”
“Yes, I’m afraid I don’t quite know what I am looking for. Your assistance would be greatly appreciated,” she says after sighing, tucking her hands into the pockets of her green trousers and shrugging. “I’m feel a bit like a fish out of water, if I’m being honest.”
Delia’s catches herself before letting her brow furrow and shrugs, too.
“What do you need it for?”
“To get to work, primarily. It also will benefit the environment, my sanity and my figure. These streets are such a bother to drive down and don’t get me started on how unhygienic the tube is,” she says, all the while glancing around the room, taking in the rows of bicycles, the walls displaying tyres, seats, helmets, clothing, lights…everything you could need.
Delia manages to snap her gaze back to the woman’s face after taking in her figure. Her figure that decidedly did not need anymore benefits lest Delia become a slave to such a stunning body.
“Well, I’m sure that between us, we’ll find you the perfect bike. Follow me.”
An hour later, after the woman has mounted many a bike, they’re standing between two options.
“So, this one, this is a hybrid which would be better for you if you want to go off-road, too. But this one, this would be a better ride if all you were doing was cycling on roads. Lighter, faster, just all round a very different ride but both are very good bikes. It just depends on your preference.”
“Right,” the woman says, frowning. “And what if I don’t have a preference.”
“Well, everyone has a preference,” Delia says, tongue poking out a little as she winks.
A red flush begins to decide upon the woman and Delia chuckles.
“Why don’t you think on it? Maybe come back later or tomorrow?”
“Perhaps you’re right. What would you go for?”
“It’s entirely up to you but wouldn’t it be nice to get out into nature, feel the breeze on your skin aside from the usual slog to work? Don’t you have someone to ride with you?”
The woman shakes her head.
“No. I’m afraid I’m a bit of a lone wolf.”
“All wolves have a pack.”
The woman smiles, dimples not quite as deep as Delia’s on display.
“I suppose you are right.”
“I’m always right,” Delia says, winking again.
“Maybe I could purchase both?” she says, brow furrowed. “Yes, perhaps I’ll do that.”
Delia looks at the woman, skin crawling as her inadequacy becomes even more apparent. Not only is this woman beautiful with her received pronunciation but she clearly has money to waste, something Delia decidedly does not have.
“I guess that’s one solution,” Delia says, hand rubbing the back of her neck.
The woman beams and squints as she looks at the black name badge proudly on display again a yellow polo neck t-shirt.
“Thank you so much for your help, Delia. You’ve made this endeavour a success.”
“You’re most welcome.”
It’s two days later when Delia next hears that clipped RP accent as she’s coming down the stairs into the store with a customer from performing a custom bike fit, hand wrapped around the frame of the bike as she sets it down, tense muscles relaxing, and places it in the bike racks near the door for the rather minute lady who she’s been assisting.
“Oh, Delia,” the beautiful stranger says. “How nice to see you again.”
“Hello, there,” Delia says, smiling before turning to her previous customer and proceeding to the tills.
After a payment is taken and another happy customer has left the store, Delia walks over to the woman, the woman whose hands are behind her back in a plaid shirt, jean bottoms folded and rocking back and forth as she looks at the gear on the walls.
“To what do we owe the pleasure, Miss…?” Delia says standing next to her, interrupting the conversation between the beautiful woman and her colleague, James.
“Oh, I do apologise, I suppose I never did introduce myself to you. How terribly rude of me. I’m Patience-Patsy,” she says, turning with a smile firmly in place and extending her hand.
“Well Patience-Patsy,” Delia says, shaking her hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Patsy. Please, call me Patsy,” she says, laughing. “I realised that I forgot to purchase the equipment to deal with a punctured tyre so, alas, here I am,” she says, arms spread wide.
“Oh dear. That is rather inconvenient.”
“Do you have the bike here with you?” James asks.
“I’m afraid not.”
“Right. Well, let’s go get you sorted,” Delia says, leading the way to the other side of the store. “Do you know how to fix a puncture or change a tyre?” she enquires, turning and catching Patsy’s wandering eyes that jump back up meet hers.
It’s been a warm couple of days and so Delia is wearing black cotton shorts that stop midthigh. She smirks and thanks the weather for assisting her in catching this stunning woman’s eye, even if it is just for a moment.
Patsy clears her throat.
“I’m afraid not.”
“Well, you seem like a smart woman. I’ll talk you through it but I’m sure you’ll figure it out in no time. It also pays to have hands like yours rather than mine. Long and slim fingers work much better, especially when changing a tyre, unlike these bear claws,” Delia says, clenching and unclenching her hands and taking in the quirked eyebrow of Patsy, the twinkling in her eyes.
“Well, I for one see nothing wrong with these bear claws as you called them.”
Delia rolls her eyes.
“Come on, you. Let’s get you sorted. Oh, how’ve you been finding it?” Delia says, taking everything Patsy might need off the racks, multiple options of pumps and inner tubes and levers.
“Well, it took some adjustment. I haven’t cycled in years and my derriere isn’t quite accustomed to it quite yet but it’s delightful. Especially in weather like this. And the hospital has plenty of places to park up so it’s not an issue like driving in can be. Although, it can be tiring after a long shift, it still feels good.”
“You work at the hospital?”
“Yes, I’m a doctor, actually.”
“Oh, wow. That’s incredible,” Delia says, hands full as she turns to face Patsy.
“Well, I just wanted to help people,” Patsy says, shrugging. “There were times when I was younger that I wish I could have helped and now I do.”
“That’s amazing, Patsy, really. I’m sure you’re very helpful.”
“Yes, except from when it comes to cycling.”
Delia laughs, dimples protruding as she throws her head back. Patsy watches with a smile in place at the joy on display.
“You’ll pick it up in no time. Now c’mon, what do you think of this?” Delia says, holding up a bright pink pump. “I think it’s your colour.”
Patsy crinkles her nose.
“I quite disagree with you there, Delia.”
“I think it’s more Trixie’s colour than mine.”
“Well, perhaps you can buy it for Trixie, was it? Maybe she could join you?”
“I don’t think she’ll be up for a jaunt around the city unless oogling men is on the agenda and I assure you, that is not for me.”
“Yes. Men are not the be all and end all.”
“I quite agree.”
“Yes, let’s just say at the last Olympic games, I much preferred watching Lizzie Armistead over Chris Froome,” Delia says with a wink for good measure.
Delia hums a response.
“Well, let’s get this totalled up so you can get home and go for a spin.”
“What,” Patsy shakes her head and wrings her hands as she looks down. “Are you busy this evening? After work?”
“Oh, I have a standing date with Willow.”
“Oh, really? I was hoping to be persuaded by a better offer to leave my kitty alone for the evening.”
Patsy frowns, looks up and then rolls her eyes at the faux innocent look on Delia’s face and the twinkle in her eyes that gives the game away.
“Well, I wouldn’t want to upset your prearranged plans with a ride and a picnic now, would I?”
“I’m sure you wouldn’t but I would so if the offer still stands,” Delia says, a shrug completing her sentence.
They both stand, smiling at each other for a few moments before Delia tilts her head.
“It’d also give me a chance to teach you how to fix a puncture or change a tyre.”
“Indeed, it would.”
“Mmm, this is delightful,” Patsy says, laying on the grass, head thrown back as she rests on her elbows with her legs now on display in the May sunlight, Delia in a similar predicament.
“That it is. You can’t beat a bit of sun and fresh air, even in London.”
“Thank for coming with me, this evening. You were right, it is nice to be out and cycling without it being for work.”
“Yeah, it’s one of my favourite things to do.”
“What else do you like to do?”
“The usual. Read, watch TV, go out, cycle, climb things. You?” Delia says, turning to face Patsy’s inquisitive gaze. The black of Patsy’s long sleeve polo and sunlight softens her features, brightens her eyes, the khaki shorts she’s wearing, highlighting the paleness of her legs.
“I assure you, Delia, climbing things is not normal.”
“I suppose you’re right.”
“I like to read, occasionally watch something on TV or a move but other than that, work keeps me quite busy. That or Trixie’s dragging me and Barbara to some pub or club so I’m afraid I don’t have much time for hobbies.”
“That doesn’t sound like much fun,” Delia says, reaching for another carrot baton to dip into the tub of hummus she sequestered. “Maybe now you can add cycling to the list?”
“What do you like to read?”
“Medical journals. I like to keep up to date so I can give the best treatment to my patients. I sometimes read novels, but I must admit, I do have a soft spot for poetry.”
“Really? Do you write any?” Delia says, the crunch of her eating filling the silence for a few moments.
“I tried, once but I was rather terrible at it. At boarding school, one of my teachers, Sister Monica Joan was quite fond of reading and reciting poetry.” Patsy shrugs. “I always had a soft spot for her. We used to pick a poem at random together on Monday morning and discuss it on Friday afternoon. I’m afraid the old dear was getting on a bit, she often got confused with things but never at our Monday morning and Friday afternoon meet ups,” Patsy says, soft smile lingering at the memories.
“It sounds crazy and boring, I know.”
“No. It sounds sweet. Do you still see her?”
“She really was getting on. She passed away a few years ago. Thankfully, I was invited to the funeral to say my goodbye’s.”
They sit in silence for a few moments, gazing over the green expanse and feeling the sun warm their skin.
“Thank you for today, Patsy. This is lovely,” Delia says, reaching out and squeezing Patsy’s hand.
“It is, isn’t it? Perhaps, perhaps we could do it again sometime?”
“Perhaps we could,” Delia says, winking and Patsy looks down, smiling, Delia’s hand still on hers. “But for now, I think we should get your milk white legs out of this sun.”
“Oh, I quite agree with you there.”
“Please, do come in. At least for a drink with me before you head off home,” Patsy says as the sun begins to set.
“Are you sure?”
“Yes, unless you’d rather not.”
“Of course, I would like to,” Delia says, gazing up to the door looming behind Patsy and feeling like a fish out of water. “You’re not bad company,” she finishes, shrugging off her insecurities.
If Patsy decides to slum it with her for this evening, who is Delia to deny herself the pleasure of such a beautiful woman with a beautiful mind.
“Come on, then.”
They enter the house and Delia schools her face into a nonchalant expression, despite the urge for her jaw to hit the floor. Everything is so…expensive and beautiful but cold and seemingly unused.
“What can I get you to drink? Tea? Coffee? Juice?”
“Water,” Delia says, clearing her throat. “Water will do just fine, thank you.”
Patsy goes off to fetch their drinks and Delia stays rooted to the spot in the living room, scared to move.
“Sit yourself down, Delia,” Patsy says, laughing. “You’re a guest.”
Delia does as she’s told and Patsy frowns.
“Are you okay?”
“Yeah, yes of course. Why wouldn’t I be?”
The crease in Patsy’s brow deepens and Delia sighs.
“We really are from very different worlds, aren’t we?”
“Whatever do you mean?”
“It’s just-I never-I don’t come from places that look like this. I’m just a woman, alone in London, working at cycling shop because it’s what I love to do and you. You’re a doctor that’s been to boarding school and is wonderful and lovely and sweet but-why are you slumming it with me, Pats?”
Patsy looks bewildered before her gaze hardens, her eyes narrow and jaw clenches.
“Delia. I will say this to you once and once alone. I am not slumming it as you so eloquently put it. Having all the money, all the education in the world does not make me better than you. I wish,” Patsy says, sighing. “I’d give it all back, all of it if it would fix…me.”
Delia frowns and shuffles off her seat, kneeling beside Patsy and grabbing her hand.
Patsy scoffs and a cold, bark of a laugh escapes her.
“We’ve known each other, what? Five minutes? Perhaps you’re right, perhaps we are too different,” Patsy says, pulling her hand away and walking to look out of the window, greeted by darkness as her hands wrap around her ribs, trying to hold herself together.
“Hey, Pats. I have a poem for you,” Delia says, walking over and reaching out to Patsy, forcing her to turn around. “Roses are red, violets are blue, come here you idiot and let me hug you.”
And she does.
“I don’t think calling someone an idiot is very conductive to friendship.”
“If it makes you feel better, I’m an even bigger idiot.”
Patsy chuckles and holds Delia tighter.
Two weeks later, they’re back at Patsy’s after their weekly cycle ride and Patsy sits, legs curled beneath her with medical journal in hand as Delia struggles to watch the opening match of the Women’s world cup, gaze lingering on Patsy as it so often does.
Time had flown by as they exchanged numbers, talked frequently as touches became longer, eyes frequently meeting in the silence that echoed back everything they weren’t saying.
Delia closes her eyes and clenches her jaw, willing herself to swallow down everything she wants to say to Patsy.
Lovely, oblivious, Patsy.
The end of July rolls around quicker than either of them were prepared for. A summer thus far of Delia being rushed off her feet selling, fitting and fixing bicycles as Patsy becomes Delia’s real-life superwoman, saving lives.
The Tour de France is on TV and they’re both enraptured by the skill, the dedication the athletes are displaying, thighs frequently touching as they shift with each nail biting move on display as the cyclist’s race for the final.
“Deels,” Patsy says, breaking the tension filled silence.
“I just realised I never asked why you love cycling so much?”
Delia tears her gaze from the TV and looks to Patsy.
“To escape. To be free.”
“Do you still want to escape? Be free?”
Delia tilts her head and takes in those blue, blue eyes, the sharp jawline.
“I think-I think I’m the closest to being free that I’ve ever been,” Delia says, swallowing, brow creasing. “I don’t think-I don’t think I need to escape, anymore.”
“Good, I’m glad,” Patsy says, grabbing Delia’s hand and squeezing. “I wouldn’t want to have to find you and drag you back.”
They both laugh and turn back to the TV, Delia reaching for Patsy’s hand and kissing it.
“I think I’d drag you with me, anyway. Who else would ride with me and feed me?”
Patsy smiles, eyes locked on the TV.
Not long later, they’re both cheering as the winners cross the finish line.
“I have a poem for you.”
Patsy narrows her eyes.
“Roses are red, violets are blue, come over here and let me kiss you,” Delia says, head moving closer with each word until their lips are centimetres apart.
Until Patsy bridges the gap and they finally, finally kiss.
“Hmm?” Delia says, head in Patsy’s lap as they sit in the park-their park, for once forgoing the cycling for a walk in the autumn breeze.
“You said you love cycling to escape. What were you escaping from?”
Delia freezes and Patsy begins to run her hand through Delia’s hair before reaching down and kissing Delia’s forehead.
“We don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to.”
“No, not it’s okay. To answer your question, a homophobic mother.”
“Oh. Oh, Darling, that’s awful.”
Delia sits up and crosses her legs beneath her.
“It’s okay, Cariad, I’ve accepted things as they are.” She shrugs. “It’s her loss.”
“Yes, it’s her loss, indeed,” Patsy says, reaching out and stroking Delia’s cheek. “How did I get so lucky?”
“How did you get so lucky? I’m such a catch.”
“That you are.”
“But I’m nowhere near you,” Delia says, leaning in and kissing Patsy.
“Only for you.”
In the past few months, they’d come to share a bed, to fall asleep in each other’s arms frequently enough but tonight, tonight is different.
Patsy shivers, goose bumps appearing on her pale flesh in anticipation of what is to come as she stands in front of a half-naked Delia.
Delia stands and watches, swallows down her own fear and observes Patsy’s shaking hands, her shallow breathing, the simultaneously look of want and fear that graces Patsy’s features.
“I have another poem for you.”
“Okay,” Patsy says, frowning.
“Roses are red, violets are blue, let’s both get naked and put me on you.”
Patsy laughs, tension leaving her body as she steps closer and begins to discard her clothes as Delia takes off the rest of hers.
“I have a poem for you.”
“Oh, this should be good. Go on,” Delia says, wrapping her arms around Patsy.
“Roses are red, violets are blue, we’ve got a lot of work to do to make a poet out of you.”