Next Day — Five Years Later

I started this blog as an attempt to write every day–but I realized something five years ago that is still true today:  I’m more of a reader than a writer.  After several attempts at NaNo and maybe even a few more attempts to write short stories for this blog, I just never really fell back into it.  I’ve been thinking up my own prompts, though, and occasionally writing them down when I get ideas. I’ve even got a set I’d call “MetroTales” if I ever put together an anthology, as they’re all related to things that happen here in DC.  But for now, I’ve got a story that I want to put to paper.  Roughly.  So very roughly.

*.*.*

Untitled, As of Yet.

It started on a Thursday.

She knew it was a Thursday, because she’d only been doing this twice a week so far, and she’d been too exhausted for it to have been a Tuesday.

A nod, and a touch of a smile.  That’s all it was.  But for some reason, it was what she really considered the change in their relationship.

She had left her doctor’s office several weeks ago, and along with her new prescription, her other task was to be active.  No gym for this gal–why pay for what she could do in her own neighborhood?  She prepared herself: she made a new mix on her phone, made sure to get some good bouncy soled sneakers, and pulled the active-leggings out of the bottom of her drawer full of lounge pants. She even downloaded one of those apps to measure her run.

Well, “run.”

More like a jaunty walk, maybe with some bouncing, arm choreography and hip wiggles, depending on the music.

Her third time around, she’d seen him at the top of the route.  She couldn’t tell if he’d started from there, or like her, was halfway through.  As she ambled her way down the hill towards the end of her circuit, triumphant, she saw him again, pacing his way up.  They were in similar stages of shape, but he was successfully maintaining a steady jog, which she’d noticed he’d done before as well. 

They passed each other nine times before that nod and touch of smile.

And it wasn’t until the next time that she nodded and smiled back. 

Seven times after that, it became a “hey,” then a “how’s it going,” with a “great thanks” spoken over the shoulder as they passed again.

She had begun to wear thermals and a couple layers, as the weather was starting to get colder.  She’d been wearing a hoodie on her walks since early September, to have something with pockets and to maybe produce more sweat.  But now, she was wearing as much as she could to keep going outside.  The bit of a smile had begun to grow into a full grin of recognition, and she was starting to become addicted to seeing it four times a week.  She’d been glad that she hadn’t been sick yet this season, as she couldn’t imagine not going out.  Even times when she’d get home from work, dead tired, and want to just sit on the couch and Netflix something, she couldn’t say no when she thought of that smile, that voice.

That voice.

She didn’t know his name, but she could find that honeyed voice anywhere.  If he was two aisles over in the grocery store, she would recognize him speak.  She knew that from experience.  She’d been too clueless in regards to what to say, so she’d just stayed where she was and moved through the store as slowly as possible so they wouldn’t run into each other in line for self check-out.

So she went. 

Five months into her routine, she began to jog, trying to balance her pace so she ran into him in the same places at the top and bottom of her route.  The walking was good for her heart, and her weight, but it was too uneven.  She didn’t want to miss him on either end, and his pace had started to pick up as well.

And then one day, she just went for it. 

Here he comes.  Say hi.  Say hi.

“Hi.”

“Hey.”

And they both kept running.

Why didn’t you do it?!  She beat herself up for twelve minutes, forty two seconds.

Here he comes.  What do you usually say the second time around?  She drew a blank.  A total blank.

She shouldn’t have worried.  Her body knew what she was supposed to do. 

“How’s it going,” she breathed, turning her body around midstride, matching her pace to his.  It wasn’t as hard as she’d thought it would be, as her legs were closer in length to his than she’d originally thought.  He tripped a bit, looking at her in shock, but regained his footing, taking her lead and continuing the jog. 

“Better now.”

She had been facing forward, making sure she didn’t fall into any holes or trip on a crack, but her head snapped to take in his profile, questioning his statement.

“You had the balls to do what I’ve been talking myself out of twice a week for almost a month.”

She smiled at him, and he turned a dazzling smile she’d never seen onto her.

She’d thought she knew what his best smile was.  She had been so very wrong.

She wasn’t sure what to say, so she kept running. 

She could feel her muscles straining to keep up, but there was no way she was going to back down now.  It was the only thing she could do, since she now found herself tongue tied.  Just keep running.

Okay, there, Dorie.  She had absolutely no idea what she was doing.  Should she say something?  Was he being weirded out by the fact that she’d turned around to run with him and now was just being quiet?  By the time she’d managed to bring herself to do anything, even just make a weird sound in the back of her throat that was probably supposed to be a word, they were approaching her building.

And slowing down.

Why were they slowing down?

“So,” she heard coming from her right.

“So?” She managed to squeak out.

His pace gradually slowed to a stop, and she eventually did the same, leaning against the low wall surrounding the small yard in front of her apartment building.

“I think twice is enough for your regular circuit, don’t you think?  Unless you want to go another few blocks to where I plan to drop ass first on my couch?”  He was smirking this time. 

Add one more to the catalog.

“I…”  She could formulate a sentence.  She knew she could.  She had a whole college degree in just that ability.

“I…how did you know this was my building?”

Really?!  That was what she came out of the gate with?

His smirk got even more defined.  It was really hot out for November.  Where did that warm breeze come from?

“The last time you ran down the hill swinging your arms and singing Let it Go, I might have stopped and watched you until you went inside…maybe.”

Why was the ground moving? 

“…Oh.”

He began to stretch his legs on the wall.  Sinews flexed under his sweats as he put weight on his thighs.  Wow.  He must be running a lot more that she had been, if he’d built that much more muscle in his legs in the same amount of time she’d been “active.”

He leaned against the wall, appearing to be waiting for something.

Her brain still hadn’t retracked, so she just stared at him like an idiot.  A mute idiot.

He shifted back onto his feet.  He moved, and she started, not knowing what to expect.

By the time she’d gotten her heart back out of her throat, there was a hand in front of her.

“I won’t bite, I promise.  Take it.”

That voice.

Slowly, so slowly she wasn’t sure she was actually moving, she reached out to shake his hand. 

“I’m Steven,” he said quietly, looking a little awed.

They shook for a few seconds before she could formulate words.  “Persephone.”

Okay, one word.

“It’s great to meet you, Persephone.  I’ll see you here, tomorrow?  About five thirty?”

She nodded, still vaguely dazed.

“See you then,” he winked. 

Fucking winked.  And then ran off.

Where were those steps?

She really needed to sit down.

Tomorrow, she would send her doctor a thank-you note.  And then get sweaty with Steven.

–Draft One, April 8 2014

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