Chapter 7 – Spin Cycle
I led the way through the Bike Shop nervously, happy to have my bag of laundry in my hands to keep them from jangling nervously at my side as I walked. I could hear Auden's small steps behind me, echoing the path that I was leading towards the truck. They reminded me of all the times Belissa and I walked together, but not due to the similarity. It was a different sort of walk than what Auden had.
Bell was the kind of girl who charged ahead, took control. After Abe, that's what I needed. But not for long. Whenever I only wanted to shut down and sleep, she was there. But Auden's steps were like mine, silent and waiting. For what, I couldn't know.
We got to the truck and I tossed the bag in the back. Auden walked around to the passenger side and hesitated at the door. I opened my side and got in, hoping she was just waiting for me. She was. When I had closed my door, she cautiously opened the door and hopped up inside. I drove to the Laundromat in silence.
I couldn't imagine her reaction.
I pulled up outside and shut off the truck. The sudden silence increased the beat of my heart, but my face remained still. I could see Auden eyeing the building, confused. Couldn't really blame her.
Getting out of the truck, I took a deep breath before the usual blank face took over. I grabbed the canvas laundry bag that my mother had given me years ago, though you could only guess it's age after looking closely at various faded mystery stains.
We entered and I stepped to the side so Auden could take in the whole place quickly.
"This is not a restaurant," she deadpanned, glancing around.
"I didn't say it was a restaurant," I replied, clearly remembering the little conversation we've had to get to this point. I was doing my best to act normal, as if it were everyday that I brought people with me to my haven. So, I walked to a machine and put my bag on the top. The material seemed rougher than normal as I undid the top.
"You didn't say it was a Laundromat," She argued.
"True," I conceded as I took the Tide out of the bag. Then, I dumped the bag into the machine and watched my clothes tumble into the hollow and even out. I quickly finished feeding the machine and started it's cycle so I could reveal the real surprise.
"Follow me," I said quickly and I began to walk towards the back. I noticed Auden hesitate and imagined what she must be thinking. Teenager found dead, buried behind the Laundromat.
But, I didn't stop. When you were a follower, you wanted a leader who was willing to continue ahead without you, fearless. And follow me she did.
I reached the door and, as was custom, knocked twice before pulling it open. Clyde always insisted I just enter, without knocking. He said it was unnecessary. But, I had my habits. Stepping back, I motioned for Auden to enter first; I wanted to see her reaction. Again, she hesitated.
The first time, I didn't blame her. But now, I felt something in my chest that I wasn't used to, I couldn't even name it. My face remained still after years of avoiding my feelings.
I tried to imagine what she must be thinking so I looked over the room with a fresh pair of eyes. The room was dark and small and would've given off a shady feel if not for the open back door which allowed the warm air to waft through, giving the place a more pleasant atmosphere. And, finally, by the back door, was Clyde behind a small counter, reading a magazine. He looked up and noticed Auden first.
He didn't say anything because he looked at me next and smiled, "Yo, I thought you might turn up tonight." As if I didn't nearly every night. But, I could also see something behind his smile. And then I knew, he recognized Auden as the one from my stories.
"I was running out of shirts," I replied, hoping he wouldn't say anything.
But, I shouldn't have worried. Clyde wasn't the sort to run his mouth. Sometimes, I thought that was why we got along so well, neither of us felt the need to fill the silence. "Well, then, what can I get for you?" He asked after standing and rubbing his hands together happily. He must have something new today, he was always happy to share a new recipe.
"That depends," I said, not wanting to miss the newest addition because Clyde sometimes liked to pull out a special pie last, after I've already had my fell of an earlier one, just to see if he could tempt me. I pulled out a stool and stepped back, gesturing for Auden to take it. I remember every single lesson my mother's ever given me on manners. "What's on the menu?"
"Well," He said, drawing out his big moment so I knew it would be good, "Let's see… there's some rhubarb, apple… And some razzleberry." And there it was, the big unveiling successful.
Clyde nodded; he was loving this, "Raspberry and blueberry. Sort of tart, sort of mellow. It's a little intense. But worth trying." A simple prognosis, but intriguing.
"Sounds good." Then, I glanced at Auden. She hadn't said a word since we entered the room. She seemed a little shell shocked, taken aback. As was I in this moment, I was not normally the talkative one of a group. I wanted to make her feel more at home and she hadn't yet spoken up about her choice of pie. "What do you want?" Sometimes, a little nudge was all someone needed.
"Coffee?" Her voice was quiet and small, she was nervous.
Clyde seemed taken aback, "Just coffee?" How could anyone possibly deny a slice of pie?
"She's not from here," I was quick to defend. I didn't want Clyde to get the wrong impression. "Trust me," I said, looking her in the eyes, "You want pie." Our eyes locked and I felt a real connection with her at that point; as if the trust I was asking for wasn't just for the sake of pie alone, but something more, something different. Little did she know that this was the most I've trusted anyone I've just met since the accident.
"Oh," she said in the same small voice. She seemed overcome by the unknown. "Um, apple, then."
"Good choice," I said as Clyde turned and grabbed the coffee mugs, filling them with coffee. He pulled out the plates and arranged our pies. He had once grumbled about serving the pie before, but he's grown to love it, the presentation, he said, was just as important as the food itself.
Auden went for the coffee first, an action I can understand. After a healthy sip, she went for the pie. The look on her face after her first bite was enough for me.
"I told you," I said, a little bit smugly, "Beats the Wheelhouse by a mile."
"The Wheelhouse? Who's eating there?" I nodded towards Auden, "Oh, man. I hate to hear that." And just like that, Auden was in.
"Clyde," I explained to her, "is a man who takes pie very seriously."
"Well," Clyde said, blushing but pleased, "I mean, I endeavor to. But I'm only a beginner at this whole baking thing. I got a late start."
I felt perhaps that revealing a little bit of Clyde's background would be best, so Auden could feel more comfortable here, especially if this were to become more of a habit, which I hoped it would, "Clyde owns the bike shop and this Laundromat. And about four other businesses here in Colby. HE's a mogul."
Auden raised her eyebrows, obviously impressed with Clyde's enterprises.
"I prefer the term renaissance man. And just because I'm good at business does not mean I can do a perfect piecrust. Or so I'm learning."
Auden didn't say anything to this though; she just took another bite of her pie. I wasn't used to her being so silent.
"You have to admit," I said, watching Auden as she ate her pie, "This is better than driving or reading."
"Much," She agreed, as she continued eating.
"She doesn't sleep either," I told Clyde, who nodded. He understood, he hasn't been sleeping either, at least not since Alice left. To Auden, "Clyde bought this place just so he'd have something to do at night."
"Yep," Clyde said, nodding, "The coffee shop part, though, that was Eli's idea."
"Nah," I shook my head, it was all Clyde.
"It was," he insisted. "Used to be, we'd just hang out during the spin cycle, share a thermos and whatever pastry I was working on. Then, he convinced me maybe we weren't the only ones looking for a place to go other than a bar late at night." That was all true, actually, but I didn't like the way Auden's eyes gleamed as she slowly chewed her pie.
"Spin Cycle," I said in order to steer the conversation elsewhere, "that's not a bad one, actually."
"Huh," he said, considering it, "You're right. Write it down."
So, I pulled out my wallet and took the piece of yellow folded paper, originating from an argument between Wallace and Adam when they couldn't remember the names they had been considering, Abe's idea was to start the list. I was designated the keeper of the list, I don't know why. Clyde handed me a pen from behind his desk and I wrote Spin Cycle at the bottom.
"We need a new name for the Bike Shop," Clyde explained as I folded the list back up, "We've been trying to come up with one for ages."
"What's it called now?" Auden asked, putting her fork down.
"Te Bike Shop," I replied with a dead pan, remembering hearing all the conversations Adam and Wallace have had on the 'banality of the name.' Auden didn't seem to approve either, she raised her eyebrows. "Nice, right?"
"Actually," Clyde interjected as he always did when this conversation was had, "It's called Clyde's Rides. But, the sign got blown off during Hurricane Beatrice last year, and when I went to replace it, I thought maybe it was time to give it a new name…"
"Which we've been trying to do ever since," I finished, recalling the list and the debates we would have from time to time, "Clyde can't make up his mind." Which was the truth. There were many occasions when I thought we finally had made a decision, but the next day Clyde had gotten cold feet and we were back to square one.
"I'll know it when I hear it," He said in defense of his inability to make up his mind, "Until then, it's fine if everyone calls it the Bike Shop. Because that's what it is. Right?"
The phone behind Clyde rang and he picked it up. I could hear a voice on the other end, I think I recognized it as Alice. In any event, he took the phone outside and continued his conversation. Not wanting to interfere, I turned to Auden, "What did I tell you? Pretty good, huh?"
She smiled, "It is. And you're right; I never would have found this place in a million years." Her smile made it easier to have her here.
Auden picked her fork up and continued eating, so I finished off mine as well. The only sound for a time was the thumping of the machines in the other room. I saw Auden glance at her watch and wondered if she was bored. Or tired. But she surprised me.
"So, what else you got?"