Leaning my bike against an old wooden seat, I removed my helmet and gauntlets and stared up at the inn sign.
The Rest Awhile
I would, but not for long. The tank was almost empty, and I still had ten miles to go. I must not be late. My attendance was essential. I had been trying for months to find a replacement and this day was to be my last chance.
Tucking my helmet under my arm I pushed against the ancient door. It groaned but reluctantly gave way. I bent my head and entered.
“Hello,” I called to the gloomy bar.
The barmaid glanced up.
“Hello,” she said, then tossing back her hair returned to her reading.
Not a very promising start I thought but needs must. I strode across the worn carpet towards her.
“Is there fuel to be obtained here?”
She lifted her head and raised her eyebrows.
“Not here, sir. This is an inn.” She grinned and pointed towards the beer pumps.
“Well I’ll have a half of that then perhaps you can direct me to where I may find fuel for my steed.” I gave my helmet a quick tap.
As my eyes adjusted to the dim interior, her alluring presence seemed out of place. She smiled in a most disconcerting way. I found myself quite inexplicably discomforted.
Her full red lips parted to display the tip of a pink tongue that slipped along her even white teeth. Pulling at the beer pump she bent her head to watch the creamy foam frothing into the glass. She stole a quick look up through long dark lashes and my breathing took a break. Placing the overflowing glass onto the bar she withdrew her hand from the cold vessel leaving a film of mist on her fingers. Licking them dry she met my eyes with a sultry look.
I took a quick glance at her reading material.
The Taming of The Shrew. A play script and not just any script!
I took a welcome draught of the cool beer.
“Is there a garage in this village, preferably one that sells petrol?”
“Oh yes, sir,” she said, pursing her full lips in an exaggerated pout. “And it does sell petrol. Sometimes.”
“Sometimes? Well, can you direct me to this garage where I may purchase some petrol?”
“Indeed I can, sir.” She inclined her head. A dark twirling curl threatened to escape from the comb holding the unruly mass at her crown.
“Good,” I said, draining my glass. “Direct me then, dear lady.”
“Around the corner, sir,” she said. “Not a hundred yards.” Her laughter now was barely contained.
I nodded my thanks and prepared to leave. My leathers creaked in furious reluctance.
“But it’s closed,” she murmured.
I turned back slowly. The leathers seemed pleased.
“When will it be open?”
Wearing an infuriating playful smile, she leaned an elbow on the bar and tucked a hand under her chin.
“Depends,” she gurgled.
“On what, may I ask?”
Despite my hurry, I was truly beginning to enjoy this.
“On my Dad.”
I took a deep breath. Calm yourself I advised my lurching heart. This girl is toying with you. She is captivating, clever, and oh so confident. I was thrilled to think that I may at last have discovered the one!
“I’m tired, hungry and I need to be somewhere else, apart from this enchanting place, very soon. Much as I am enjoying your company, I fear I must postpone this little game, madam.”
“Dad’s gone to get a spare part for a car he’s repairing. No-one else to man the pumps I’m afraid. He’ll be back soon. Won’t you have something to eat while you wait?”
She pointed to the menu beside her.
I sighed. Placing my helmet on the bar I threw up my hands. “Ok, I suppose you’re the chef as well?”
“Course not. That’s my mum.” She chuckled and pointed to the Ploughman’s Lunch on the menu. I nodded. She drew a deep breath, turned her head and gave a piercing shout.
“ONE PLOUGHMANS PLEASE MUM.” The glasses above the bar trembled.
A cheery face appeared around the kitchen door.
“You annoying our customers again Kate?”
“Kate?” I mimed; eyebrows raised. She inclined her head.
“What do you do when you’re not annoying customers, Kate?” I asked.
“I’m an actor. Learning my lines for an audition this afternoon,” she raised the play scrip and waved it at me. I almost choked.
“At The Grand Theatre, four o’ clock?” I roared.
“Aye, sir.” Her dark smouldering eyes narrowed. She glared at me now, hands on hips and tossed her head. “How…”
Gathering up my helmet I drew it back in a flourish, not quite as elegant as a plumed hat but it would have to do. I gave a deep bow, quite difficult in riding leathers, but I think I accomplished a suitably elegant pose.
“Director and Petrucio at your service madam.”
She turned a deep shade of pink and gasped.
“Worry not, dear Kate, attend the audition.” I cried.” I cannot wait to see your performance. It is sure to be quite, quite scorching!”
Her ringing, sizzling laughter had me gasping for breath.
Following lunch, I was directed to the garage. We parted having arranged to meet at the theatre for a read through of The Taming of The Shrew. I was relishing working with this electrifying lady.
We had only four weeks of rehearsals before we began our tour of Italy.
Could she do it? Of course she could; with my able assistance.
I admit I was rather looking forward to telling my present leading lady, my wretched, dreary wife, that I had at last found a permanent replacement for her.
Jubilant, replenished and refuelled I continued on my merry way.
(c) Donna Hughes