I just don’t think there is anything better than Chicago in the summer.
Sighing happily, I reach out my toes and gently push off the grassy ground to set my hammock softly rocking. It is a perfect summer weekend, 70 degrees, sunny, little humidity. I managed to sneak in a yoga class in the park this morning and now I’m just lounging in my tiny backyard, sipping some white wine, reading a book, and taking full advantage of my most recent purchase – this hammock.
I love a good hammock.
It’s a shockingly recent discovery – this love. I did not realize what I’ve been missing all these years.
Although, I have also been ignoring my weekends in favor of work the last few years.
So today has been lovely.
Chicago winters are long and brutal. I love living in a city that experiences all four seasons – I tried LA for a while but it wasn’t for me – but I do wish winter would relinquish it’s hold a little earlier than it does each year. Spring hardly exists – March and April sometimes show us glimpses of what we’re missing. Teasing us with reminders of how great the summer will be. But then two days later winter dumps another 8 inches of snow and gray on the city. When summer finally arrives the whole city blooms, everyone is just a little calmer, a little nicer, a tiny bit giddy finally feeling the sun and warm breeze on their bare skin after months smothered in layers.
This is that weekend. The weekend when we can finally be confident winter is officially gone.
And I am loving every minute of it.
I hear the roar of pipes coming from the main intersection and idly try to identify the make of motorcycle. But quickly I realize there are too many, these bikes traveling in a pack. It took me years to be able to hear a motorcycle without dread squeezing my throat. Years of deliberate slow breathing and reminding myself that part of my life was over. Years of telling myself I was safe, ties severed. Years before I could hear those familiar growls and have it mean nothing, to let it just be background noise.
The pack grows closer, the engines rumbling the air around them, pushing it through the neighborhood.
Some shimmer of intuition or self preservation tells me to pay attention this time. This time, I suspect those bikes are for me.
I swing, not quite gracefully, out of my hammock and back to my feet. I pull a t-shirt on over my bikini top and hurry into my back door. Once, inside I quickly grab a pair of linen beach pants to cover up as well. If I’m right, I don’t want to be caught less than fully dressed.
Then I walk straight through my little house to my front porch. I keep my wine. A little extra courage.
Six gleaming bikes turn onto my side street and roll up to the sidewalk right in front of me.
Two of the men back in until their rear wheels rest against the curb, lowering their kickstands and dismounting. I grip my wine a little tighter, wishing I had brought the entire bottle.
The first man is older, he takes off his helmet and hands it to one of the others still straddling a bike and runs his fingers through his short gray hair. He glances at me, the sun reflecting off his mirrored sunglasses. I see a smirk underneath his bushy beard and a shudder of distaste rushes through me.
I only recognize two of the others. One of them stays on his bike, relaxed and leaning against his handle bars. I refuse to look at him directly. I’m just relieved he seems to be keeping his distance. The other also dismounts, tossing his helmet to his friend, his brother, then laughing when he fumbles it a bit before gaining control. He’s younger than the other, only three years older than me. And he’s handsome, my heart wrenches a bit seeing him after all these years. They all wear matching cuts. I can’t see it right now but I know the backs are all emblazoned with a fierce logo and the words Guards of Hell, meant to intimidate and declaring they are a unit and not to be messed with.
I am well aware of that fact.
And I am definitely intimidated just trying desperately not to show it.
They approach me, the two who dismounted and stand at the bottom of the four steps that lead to my porch. This gives me a few inches over them but it’s still not enough to put me at ease.
I didn’t think I’d see either of them ever again. And though that was a painful decision ultimately I was fine with that. It’s been years now and I only have one regret.
My eyes slide to the younger one. Seeing him is rubbing that regret raw, wounding me.
I turn back to the older man. He’s the one I have to be worried about. Turning up here he must want something from me and I know how… dangerous… denying him can be.
Now seems like a good time to drink some wine. So I do. I’m not going to be the first one to speak.
He’s older, obviously, but still just as hard and I hate that I can’t see his expression under those reflective sunglasses. I suspect he’s eying me up and taking stock of the changes.
I won’t fidget.
“Piper,” he says gruffly.
I won’t respond.
Finally he turns to the side and silently nods at the other man who is watching him expectantly.
The younger man grins at me, relieving my tension and I respond a wide grin splitting my face. He hoots loudly with laughter and rushes up the steps at the same time I throw myself into his outstretched arms.
“Missed you, baby sister.”
We first met Piper last year – you can read that here.