There is a spa bath in the house.
I see this in my tour of the place, the gorgeous excesses of each room, the bookshelves with their familiar paperbacks, books that make me feel accepted and at home.
The writing workshop is all fine. There are a group of us. I perhaps have more in common with the others, all middle aged women like myself, and yet the fact that we are dripping wet from the ride seems to mark us as similar. They talk about the difficulties of parenting, schools, motherhood, childbirth. I sit beside him and he draws me into a conversation about the structuring of documentary films.
I sip my wine and I keep thinking about that spa bath, big enough for two, perhaps even three. I would not even have to remove my bra and knickers. Our clothes are wet already, we could sit their fully dressed and discuss the difference between a short story writer and a novellist, whilst sipping the good wine.
The rain grows heavier. There is talk of sleeping the night. I would sleep the night. I don't want to ride home in this weather. They ask him what he wants to do and he pauses, looks towards me. I shrug. I could stay the night. I think about the spa bath. I try not to but I think about the spa bath.
We could stay.
Of course we will not jump in the spa bath together. This will not happen. I am not even sure that I like you very much. We sit and we drink and we talk and the rain falls heavier and heavier.
"I think I'll ride home after all."
Which is ridiculous given the weather and I see you reaching around frantically for an escape. There are women with cars. You quickly negotiate an alternative to the motorcycle and I am glad, because it will be suicide to ride in this weather, no visibility, dodgy tyres, no wet weather gear, but I am also disappointed because somewhere on our trip back it would become impossible and we would be stranded at the side of the highway and we would have to huddle together for warmth.
I gather my still sodden bike jacket and helmet. I glance at the room with the spa bath, which is right there near the entranceway to the house. We wave goodbye. I do not hug you. I feel like perhaps we should shake hands. Too late as I move out towards the bike and clip the abandoned pillion helmet onto the side. It will be soaked by the time I have found my way home.
The rattle of tyres skidding on wet gravel. I can't see a thing. My right index finger becomes a windscreen wiper for my visor. Even this just makes the world a blur of light and shade. I flip open the visor and the rain pierces my eyeballs. I will look into them and see the bruising on them and in the skin around them when I am safely home.
I am safely home.
An hour and a half of breathless terror and I am safely home. It was never worth the risk. I should have stayed the night. But then there was that spa bath. I dream it. It becomes a recurring theme for the next few nights. How we come to it, fully clothed, drinking, laughing, acting like children in the early hours of the morning. Still. I barely know you and I barely like you. Perhaps I don't like you. I see your little green light pop up on the internet and I could talk to you. I could ask you how your trip home was, but instead I close my computer and reach for my sodden book and ease the pulp of pages one from the other. Tonight I will not chat with you. Tonight I will read, or I will write. Anything but chat.
I close my eyes and there is that spa bath again.