“Tea?” Bowie offered as he leaned his tall body back against the kitchen counter. He had to bow his head a bit as to not bump against the over-head cupboards. Across from him sat Jamie and Rosie, side-by-side on the loveseat by the window. Between them, a cheap kitchen table and three wooden chairs. “Yes, please!” Rosie replied. Bowie turned himself round to get started on the hot drinks. The large windows on Jamie and Rosie’s side of the room opened up the kitchen space, letting in lots of light from the bright September afternoon. Although they had known each other for months, Rosie hadn’t come to visit Bowie’s place often. Now that Jamie had moved in, the apartment had a different feel to it. “This is a nice place you’ve got here,” Rosie commented for the first time. Bowie peeked over his right shoulder, still focused on the drinks, and gave a quick “thanks”. He turned around with two steaming cups for his friends. “I got lucky, my parents’ friends own the place,” he explained. The apartment was luxurious and beautiful, completely unaffordable for any other common student. It had two floors, with a cosy lounge, kitchen and bathroom on the first, and three small bedrooms on the second. He had been able to vacate it for a very decent price, and with Jamie and him now splitting the costs, it was a complete steal. Bowie sat down at the table with his own cup of tea. “How’s Henry?” Jamie shifted to the right to face Rosie. “Good! He’s found himself a comfy spot in the corner,” she chirped, delighted. Rosie lived in a city apartment owned by her parents; Henry was her only personal addition to the place. He made it feel a bit like her own. She sipped her tea softly and noticed the tuneful tweeting of birds outside. This apartment lay in a much quieter part of town, just outside the city centre in a vibrant neighbourhood called Lombok. “How’ve you been finding the place?” she asked Jamie in return. He had moved in only a couple of weeks ago. “It’s good, really good,” he nodded with content. “Perfect size, close to all the good bars and restaurants,” he commented. “I’m lucky to have such a good friend,” he joked, winking at Bowie. Bowie returned a grin. He then got up to look for some biscuits. As Bowie busied himself at the counter, Rosie turned her focus to Jamie. “You have to get yourself a bike now that you’re here, a good old student bike,” she said. She slurped her tea for a moment, then added in all seriousness; “it’s a vital part of Dutch culture.” Jamie laughed at the solemn look on her face. “I will, I will,” he answered her, “I’m looking at second-hand bikes tomorrow.” He rubbed the back of his hair with his left hand, balancing his elbow onto the backrest of the couch. He could see why Bowie enjoyed Rosie’s company. She had something quirky about her. “Good, because Bowie only uses public transport and it’s a waste of time,” she replied. Jamie perked up in surprise and smiled at her. Then he leaned in closer to let her in on a secret. “Oh, don’t you know? Bowie doesn’t know how to ride a bike,” he spoke in a soft, low voice. A devious smile painted his face. “He WHAT?!” Rosie squealed, just as Bowie had sat back down at the table and shoved forward an open tin of biscuits. He immediately looked alarmed and flashed Jamie two impolite fingers. “You don’t know how to ride a bike? That explains so much!” Rosie’s body curled up in laughter. Bowie crossed his arms, mimicking a grumpy old man and an angered child at the same time. “No, I never learned to ride a bike, so what?! I didn’t need it in Manchester,” he murmured. Rather abruptly, he stood up from his seat and pointed at Jamie, mouthing “this is your fault”. Then he started busying himself by looking for something to do at the kitchen counter. “So this is why you’ve been taking the bus the entire time? How does that even work? What if you’re hooking up with a girl?” Rosie asked. After a quick swipe of an already very clean counter, Bowie turned to face his friends again. “I just stay at her place for the night,” he answered. “Look, it’s fine, it’s never really been an issue. This works for me.” Rosie scuffed. “That’s bullocks. We’re going to teach you,” she insisted. Bowie looked both offended and appalled at the idea. “I’m not going to learn how to ride now, I am a grown man! A grown man learning how to ride a bike is the least sexy thing I’ve heard of,” he protested in a loud voice. “Oh, come one! You’re being stubborn. Think of how much easier this is going to make things,” she shouted back, “think of how much money you’re going to save!” Bowie was still shaking his head at the idea. Jamie, in the meantime, was shaking from laughter at the entertaining picture painted in front of him. He had really stirred things up now. “Think of how easily you could hop onto your bike on your way to a girl, right?” Rosie tried again with a naughty look on her face. She had found the right angle. Bowie hesitated a moment, fumbling his fingers on the table corner. “Well, I don’t have a bike anyway,” he mumbled shyly, looking away from his friends. “Oh, that’s easy, we’ll just get you an ov-fiets,” Rosie answered. Bowie eyed her quizzically. “What’s an ov-fiets?” he tried to speak the word in his best Dutch. “You know those yellow-blue bikes you see everywhere? You can rent them,” she explained. Bowie’s shoulders relaxed a little as he considered the offer. Then, a spark returned to his eyes. “I could get one of those Giant bikes,” he said hopefully.
“Come on come on! You can do it! Make a straight line!” Rosie was squatting with open arms reaching out in front of her. She opened and closed her hands with spread-out fingers as if she could grab hold of Bowie any moment. Twenty metres away stood Jamie, shouting and cheering Bowie on from the back. The man himself ploughed on between them on the sturdy yellow-blue bike. Every time after a couple of seconds, he would lose control of the handlebars, shaking them violently from left to right and losing his balance. Fortunately, he always caught himself on his feet. The three friends huddled back together in a group. “You can already do it, man, you just need to stay on your seat,” Rosie commented. Bowie blew warm air into his hands. A cold wind had stirred up. “Nah, I’m tired. Let’s go,” he tried, his body tense and worn. “No! Come on! You’re almost there! You just keep putting your feet on the ground, there’s no need,” Jamie pushed on. Rosie put her arm around Bowie and gave him a little squeeze. “If you keep going, I’ll buy you a coffee at the café,” she promised. Jamie put his right hand on Bowie’s shoulder and patted him twice. “Come on, mate, you can do it,” he spoke encouragingly. Bowie grunted and twisted round to get back to his bike.
After another five tries, he finally made the straight line all the way from Jamie to Rosie, without putting his feet down once. He stayed put on the bike seat, exhausted from the afternoon training. “Yes! YES!” Jamie screamed from a distance, pumping his fists into the air. Rosie got on her toes to give Bowie a celebratory hug. Jamie came running and gave him two proud slaps on the shoulders. Bowie grinned. “Coffee?” he asked Rosie. She nodded and smiled. They both looked at Jamie inquiringly. “Sorry, got to run, I’ve got a date,” he tapped his watch, smiled at his friends, and skipped away.
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