Right now, I’m nothing more than a sixteen-year-old in a physical rehabilitation room with ancient relics who could probably beat me at arm wrestling. Hell, they could probably beat me in a competition of mall walking.
A layer of sweat creeps across my upper lip. Damn mask. I tug it under my chin and take a deep breath of real air. Relief floods me, though my heart continues to pump faster and faster. My pulse rushes in my ears.
I close my eyes, but nothing can dull the competing scents of stale body odor, cleaning fluid, and overused equipment.
This place sucks.
I keep pumping my legs. What would it be like to ride a real bicycle in a park on a summer day? How serene it would be to glide past pastures of green grass, to skim under shade trees, and a pause at a pond to catch the sunset. I almost feel the wind dragging through my hair. All of a sudden I feel lighter, freer. I’m normal. Healthy.
“I’ve never seen someone so happy to be excercising.” A girl’s voice tears through my fantasy.
My eyes fly open. I’m face to face with a petite girl wearing a plastic collar around her neck. Her baggy black t-shirt and gray sweatpants are covered in paint stains. Her crystal blue eyes study me with curiosity, a striking compliment to the cobalt streaks in her black hair.
I stop pedaling, struck by the clarity of those inquisitive eyes. I open my mouth, but have no idea what to say so I close it again. Lamest of the lame.
The right side of her mouth ticks up. “The silent type. I like it.”
She slides her fingers along the machine’s center console then rubs them together, testing for dust.
“Okay, Mister Tall, Dark, and Quiet. You got a real name?”
“I, um…” I clear my throat.
“Um is not a name.”
We’re face to face with me sitting and her standing, yet it’s like she’s peering down at me from a tower. “A-Adam. My name is Adam.”
“Adam. Like Adam and Eve?”
“No, I mean, I guess.”
“Is that a yes or no?” She laughs. It’s one of those wow-this-bloke-has-no-idea-how-to-talk-to-girls laughs.
Heat builds in my cheeks. A bead of sweat slides from my temple down my cheek. My hold slips on the bike’s handles. “What’s your name?”
She shifts her weight. “I’m Darby.”
Laura Diamond is a board certified psychiatrist currently specializing in emergency psychiatry. She is also an author of all things young adult—both contemporary and paranormal. An avid fan of sci-fi, fantasy, and anything magical, she thrives on quirk, her lucid dreams, and coffee. When she’s not working or writing, she can be found sniffing books and drinking a latte at the bookstore or at home pondering renovations on her 225 year old fixer upper, all while obeying her feline overlords, of course.