Lucy had never been much of a cyclist. As a child she had lived on a busy road, and her parents had been over-protective of their only offspring. She remembered the thrill of mastering the bicycle on a quiet lane with some of her friends when she was about ten or eleven. After a few wobbly false starts she was off, with the wind in her hair and full of the invincible confidence of youth. But her parents still said no, she couldn’t have a bike.
A couple of years later, on holiday in a country town with a school friend, they had spent the whole two weeks cycling around the area. Lucy loved the freedom of being able to get from A to B quickly. She supposed she’d asked again for a bicycle when she got home, but of course nothing came of it.
Back to the present, Ian, the new man in her life, had asked her to join him and his friends on a Saturday afternoon cycle ride in the country. “It’ll be great fun,” he said. Despite protesting that she hadn’t cycled since her teens, he arranged the loan of a bike and helmet.
“The roads are very quiet where we’re going. Hardly any traffic. And hardly any hills,” he added.
They picked her up in the van on Saturday morning. The bikes were all stowed in the back.
Ian introduced Lucy to his friends. “This is Esther, our driver.”
Esther looked very sporty, competent and confident. The two lads, Alan and Wilf, looked like they belonged on an Olympic cycling team with their lycra shorts and close-fitting tops. They sat in the back with the bikes. Lucy felt a bit out of place in her pink velour tracksuit, but it was all she had that was remotely suitable.
Before long they came to a halt behind a village pub and wheeled their bicycles out of the van. Lucy took a tentative turn around the car park on her new mode of transport. Ian explained how to use the gears. Luckily it was quite a small bike and she soon got the hang of it. She felt quite competent by the time they headed off.
For the next hour or so they made their way at a gentle pace along country lanes lined with hedgerows in bloom. The honeyed scent of blossom on the gentle breeze, the warm sunshine, and the air full of birdsong instilled in Lucy a sense of well-being. Cycling was indeed a piece of cake.
Then came the hard part: a steep hill. The others powered up the slope ahead of her. Lucy watched their bottoms bobbing up and down, and their legs furiously pumping the pedals. She tried to do the same but her muscles screamed in protest. Soon she could feel sweat pouring down her face and stinging her eyes.
They were all waiting for her at the top of the hill. She could hear them chatting as she came round the last bend, shamefully on foot, pushing her bicycle. That was hard work in itself. She was a sweaty, panting mess.
“It will be easier going downhill,” said Ian by way of commiseration.
On the contrary, Lucy was too frightened to pick up too much speed. She was on an unfamiliar road which twisted this way and that. Here and there sheep grazed on the grass verge, and if one of them became spooked and trotted out in front of her she would be flat out on the road and covered in gravel rash. So she crept downhill at a snail’s pace.
Lucy was almost enjoying herself again. She had the bike pretty much under control in a low gear with constant use of the brake. Her sweaty face was drying and the birds were singing once again. Then suddenly, something came from behind and knocked her flying. The next thing she knew, she and the bike were falling separately through empty space. Then, nothing.
Lucy regained consciousness to the harsh stuttering of a helicopter approaching. She hurt all over. She squinted against the sunlight. Thankfully Ian was by her side.
“What happened?” she whispered. Even her lips hurt.
“It was a freak accident. Some kids were playing with some hay bales at the top of the hill. Big rolls of hay done up in plastic. They managed to roll one down the hill. That was what hit you, and you fell all the way down here. You’re a lucky girl, Lucy. You could have been killed outright.”
The remains of a drystone wall had stopped Lucy falling further. By now the helicopter had landed in a field at the bottom of the slope, and two paramedics with a stretcher were clambering uphill to them.
“Where are the others?” whispered Lucy.
“They’re with the kids at the top of the hill, waiting for the police. They went back and caught them red-handed. Stupid thing to do, rolling hay bales downhill. They’re in for a stern telling off. Just look what they’ve done to you, and your bike is a write-off.”
It could only happen to me, thought Lucy as the first paramedic reached them.
By Karenne Griffin
Last Modified on: 05-11-2015