Thursday, February 23rd
I was in Greenville, Arizona. Population somewhere around 30.000 the last time I checked and less than a thirty minute drive southeast of Phoenix. With a ‘thank you’ and a smile to the truck driver who’d been my latest ride I jumped out and looked towards the garage that was the final destination.
I was beat, I’d been up for two days straight and I preferred to not think about the last time I had a proper shower. I’d washed up as well as possible in bathrooms all over Mexico. I reeked, about to fall asleep still standing up and I was nervous, it was weird being back.
As a kid I spent countless hours looking though travel catalogues. I stared at the pictures with fascination, read all about the place and did a list of things I wanted to see. It was my way of escaping. I didn’t know where that list was now and I had no recollection of what was on it, but I was sure I’d seen most of it. I had been traveling for just over six years.
The first year I did those things that everyone dream of. Went to the Eiffel tower, touched the Berlin wall and walked the Great Wall Of China. Then I got fed up with the tourist traps and did the other things, sought out the real people of the places I went to. It takes a while, but soon they see the difference between you and ‘normal’ tourist and they stop trying to rip you off and instead show you the real deal. I believed that I had accomplished what I had set out to do when I left, at least some of it. The rest I doubted was something that I’d be able to find or fix by myself.
Despite all the traveling I had never been to a place like the one I was now walking into. It was a clubhouse and a garage belonging to the local charter of Marauder Riders MC. Their logo was painted on the wall of one of the buildings. A man in leather pants, black coat and a top hat, seated on a bike that was half a bike and half a horse. He looked like death and it reminded me of the book of revelation and the four horsemen of the apocalypse. I just couldn’t remember which one of them that was the black horse, if it was war or famine.
I looked around as I walked inside the lot, towards the garage and the office that was supposedly there somewhere. There were bikes in a row along the wall and the bikers they belonged to was spread out on picnic benches. There were quite a few women as well, lightly dressed, resting in the sun. All of them looked at me, but no one tried to stop me despite the fact that I hardly looked like a customer.
I walked towards the door that looked like it lead to the office and carefully knocked on the door before stepping inside. And there she was, Melanie, or Lanie as I most often called her. It was her and three guys, obviously bikers. Two sitting on a couch and one standing next to the desk Lanie was sitting by. I’d seen pictures of all of them and the guy standing next to her was Wade ‘Brick’ Baxter, the president of Marauder Riders MC and also Lanie’s husband. The three men were looking at me, but Lanie wasn’t. She was on the phone. Knowing that someone just walked through the door, she held up a finger to indicate that she wanted me to give her a second.
“One moment, Please.” Then she looked up at me with a smile that froze the second she realized who I was. “I’m gonna have to call you back,” she mumbled and hung up the phone without waiting for a response.
Brick was glaring at me, I knew he was, but I wasn’t looking at him. I was staring at Lanie. So beautiful with the long blond hair, heart shaped face, full mouth and straight nose. She was taller than me, a lot more curves in general and I’d always been jealous of how beautiful she was.
The lump in my throat got bigger and I could feel my own heart beating, I was so nervous. To try to regain some focus a looked away from Lanie and turned my attention to the two bikers on the couch. Just like Brick they were dressed in faded jeans, t-shirt and biker boots. And just like him, they were staring at me. They looked hungover and I knew why. I had missed Lanie’s 40th birthday. I had planned to come home the day before, but I’d gotten stuck on the way so I missed it. I turned my eyes from them and back at Lanie, my big sister. Desperately trying to figure out what to say to her.
Brick wondered what the fuck was going on. Mel looked like she was seeing a ghost, she seemed barely able to breathe and her eyes didn’t leave the woman standing at the door. A woman that looked extremely fucking uncomfortable with the situation. And Mel had hung up on Ella. Just like that. In the middle of planning the fucking Spring Hog Roast they were having the weekend after. She’d been planning it for weeks, along with the birthday she’d had the day before and Ella had been her lifeline in all that the past weeks, and now she just hung up on her. But she seemed to have forgotten everything the second she noticed the woman at the door.
He took a good look at the woman in question and decided she was almost a girl. She was kinda hot, not his type at all though. She had long brown dreads, pierced nose, faded jeans, steel toed work boots and a leather jacket. There was a big backpack next to her and she did look like someone who’d been backpacking for quite some time. She was in a desperate need for some sleep and a shower. He noticed her briefly looking at Bull and Sisco sitting on the couch before completely ignoring the men in the room, her blue eyes turned to Mel and then they stayed there. He recognized those blue eyes, he saw the same ones every fucking day on his wife and his daughter.
A backpacker who looked like she’s been on the road for a long time with the same blue eyes as his wife’s. It was probably the hangover that stopped him from doing the connection sooner, but now he was sure. This was Edie. His wife’s sister. And to confirm his suspicions, Mel came to her feet and spoke up with a shaky voice.
Bull couldn’t figure out what the fuck was going on. The kinda hot, but messy looking chick was just standing at the door, staring at Mel. Didn’t even fucking say anything and the bitch completely ignored them. Didn’t even look at them twice, which kinda got to him. Kinda hot chicks who came into the compound usually did look at bikers twice. This one didn’t. Didn’t matter though. The bitch needed at least two showers and three days of sleep before he’d bother.
That’s when Mel stood up, and it sounded like she was about to cry.
“Edie,” she mumbled and the chick at the door looked like she was about to cry too.
“I’m sorry,” she said and dropped her worn, dirty bag next to the big, equally dirty, backpack on the floor.
Bull sighed. He had no fucking idea what was going on, but he could smell chick drama when it hit a room and he was not interested in getting involved in that. Ever. Especially not when he was hungover as fuck.
Melanie could hardly believe her eyes. She hadn’t seen Edie in six years. They’d emailed to each other, mostly her to Edie. Even if Edie didn’t always have internet access, Melanie had kept sending her emails, every week, telling her what was going on. Now and then she got one back, just letting her know that she was alive, where she was and that she was fine. Rarely anything personal, like what she’d been up to. In a way, the emails had more been for Melanie. Almost like a diary and to keep herself sane as she went through some of the craziest times in her life. And the most wonderful, too, so she wanted her sister to know all of what was going on.
She didn’t blame Edie for leaving, she had a lot of things to deal with and she did it in an Edie-kind of way, by herself away from everyone. She had never been much for talking about things, she hid her problems and took care of them herself the best she could. It wasn’t always the smart thing to do, but she hadn’t trusted that many people in her life. They were sisters, but were so very different.
“I’m sorry,” Edie said and dropped her bag on the floor.
“Oh, honey.” She walked over to her and hugged her tight. “I’m so happy to see you.”
“I’m sorry. I tried to get here in time for your birthday….”
“Baby, don’t worry.” Edie was shorter than her and she felt her press her face against her neck. “I’m just so glad you’re home.”
Her baby sister was in her arms, she didn’t give a shit about anything else. It had taken six years but her Edie was finally back.
My brave, big sister was standing in front of me. No accusations, no blame, nothing. Just like she’d done when I was a kid, she just held me as close to her as possible while stroking my hair and mumbling in my ear.
“Everyone, get the fuck out!” Brick yelled and they all did, closing the door behind them.
That’s when I leaned back and took another good look at Lanie. She was her usual smashing self. We were different in a lot of ways, but how we dressed was the most obvious difference. Lanie always liked to look proper, no matter what the situation was, how shitty the circumstances or how bad she felt, she dressed up. As oppose to me, I never cared about what I looked like, I went for comfort. Or the clothes that made sure I wasn’t noticed, I always preferred to not be noticed when I was younger. That had changed a little, but that didn’t mean that l cared about what I was wearing.
“Hell, you look great, really great,” I said because she did.
Nice blouse, pen skirt, high heels, but that wasn’t it. It was a glow about her that I hadn’t seen before. She looked… happy. With raised eyebrows she looked at me with a slight smile.
“Honey, I wish I could say the same, but you look like you need a shower and some serious sleep.”
“I do.” I nodded and dried my cheeks. “I’ve been up for about two days.”
“Okay,” she smiled. “I’ll take you home, get you food, a shower and then you sleep. We’ll talk when you’re done with all that and ready.”
I nodded. I didn’t think I’d ever be ready to talk, but if agreeing gave me shower and a bed I would. Besides, Lanie knew me, she knew it wouldn’t be that easy.
We walked outside and Brick and the other two guys were waiting just outside the door. Lanie pointed at me.
“Baby, I’m taking her home, she needs rest.”
“Sure,” Brick said and looked at me.
I still had a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that my nice, well adjusted, sister had hooked up with the president of a biker club. And that she was so madly in love with him, had gotten married and even had a kid with him. He was older than her and had two boys from a previous marriage. Boys that actually weren’t all that much younger than me and that Lanie seemed to adore. She’d told me all this because she sent me emails, at least once a week often more. Sometimes I had up twenty extremely long emails, with pictures, waiting for me when I could get to a computer and I loved reading them. She seemed happy, looked happy and I was glad she was. The only thing I was sorry about was that I had missed it, that I hadn’t been there for any of it.
If this scary looking guy made my big sister happy, I liked him. If he let me crash at their house, I liked him even more. And when he looked at me with a smile, came up to me and extended his hand to greet me, he actually managed to make me feel welcome.
“I’m Brick,” he said when I took his hand. “It’s good to finally see you, I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“Edie,” I said. “I’ve heard a lot about you too.”
“Are you okay?” he asked, still holding my hand.
“Yeah. I’m good. Tired, but besides that I’m fine.”
“You in any trouble?”
I wasn’t sure what he meant and pulling my hand out of his, I smiled trying to figure out what exactly it was he was asking.
“Ehh… I hope not,” I finally answered.
That made him laugh and I remembered that Lanie had spent about half of a really long email describing his laughter. How it came from somewhere deep in his chest, spread all over his face and sounded amazing. She’d been right, it was a great laugh. An honest one.
“I’ll see you when you wake up.”
I threw my backpack in the trunk of the car and got in next to my sister. She turned her head and gave me another one of those smiles. I’d missed them.
“So,” she said as she started her car. “Done with the walkabout?”
“Think so.” I thought about it for a while.
Six years all over and now I was back. It had just gotten to me a few weeks ago, that I was fed up with it. That I had figured out the things about myself that I had set out to figure out. The basic stuff. But I also knew that traveling around wasn’t gonna do more for me that it already had. I was ready to go home and Melanie was the only home I’d ever had. When I realized that her 40th birthday was coming up I rushed to get to it. I’d missed it by one day, though.
I looked around the lot, the guys and women sitting all over it, all of them with their attention directed at the car I was in. They’d stared when I walked in, but their stares were even more intense now. Guess that’s what happened when you shook hands with the president and took off in a car with his wife. I might not have been at a clubhouse before, but Mel had explained a lot in those emails. Basically while she herself was figuring out how all this worked. It didn’t seem to be that different from most tribes, down to the view of women, which sucked. Just more people wanting to join and then it was those things I’d googled to confirm, the outlaw parts. But that was none of my business. My sister was my family, the only one I had and this was her family so I wasn’t gonna question that. I’d roll with it.
I looked at Lanie again, my calm, beautiful and brave big sister and I nodded once more.
“Yes. I’m done,” I said and her smile grew even bigger at that.
“Good. I missed you.”