There she was again. Running, as if to escape the life they’d set for her. She’d push through the bickering winds, outshine the staggering sun and although fast and determined, she was elegant as if a tiny push could shatter her into pieces.
Her breaths hardened, coming quicker as her pace heightened and face more determined than usual. Her hair flew in the wind like a blossom blown before a breeze.
Quick words circulating around her head.
Her pace quickened.
“You can do it. I know you can”
She zoomed past yet again, the leaves crumbling as her stride overruled them. Then a falter in her leg, a slip of the hand and she was slowing, until she came to a halt beside Summer’s bench. She bent over, hands on knees and breathed.
Suck in. Blow out.
She sat upon Summer’s bench, bending over to tie her shoelaces as the old man beside her fed the ducks his own crumbs. She looked on, eyes compelled to the swing of his arm and to the ducks battling for such a small crumb. Sitting up, she took numerous glances at the man. There wasn’t anything spectacular about him or the way he looked, but there was something buried behind the white golf hat that she ached to see.
“Would you like some crumbs?” The old man offered, his voice groggy his age finally catching up to him, “I have plenty.”
She politely declined, as he rolled up the paper bag and stared at the ducks. He didn’t have a book, nor a pen and paper. He just sat and looked at the ducks.
So she turned, returning to the bickering ducks and studying each one. Looking at what made them different, the red beak and the white feathers compared to the grey. Some were big and some were small.
But they were just ducks.
He folded the bag, now empty and stood, using his stained brown cane to balance himself. With a tilt of his hat and a knowing glance at the ducks, he disappeared into the fog of the trees.
So she sat. And watched the ducks. But couldn’t help thinking.
“They’re just ducks.”
The man returned every morning, every day at the same time. He would feed the ducks as she ran around the path, strengthening her intensity and pushing herself even further each time. After her run, she’d sit on Summer’s bench where the old man and her would exchange silent glances before returning to study the ducks.
Then with a rustle of a paper bag, a jolt of his cane, he was off into the fog, disappearing for yet another day.
On a darkened morning of a winter’s day, the man sat on Summer’s bench with his familiar grey cardigan and a trench coat draped across his figure. She didn’t recognize him at first, and he neither her, as her over-sized hoodie exaggerated her figure and face was hidden beneath the shadowed hood.
After her run, she sat upon Summer’s bench where the remaining morning stars lay on the lapis-lazuli sky like white petals on deep water. He looked at her. It wasn’t subtle, but full of questions. An invitation.
“Why do you come every morning?” She asked, the words flowing from her red lips,
“The same reason you run” He answers, a smile flashing over his face like sunlight over a flower, “to avoid reality.”
So she sat back into the bench, studying the birds in the darkened light and slightly giggled as she closed her eyes and let the moment sweep her away.
As the blossoms started to grow again and the grass started to bake in the morning dew, she ran. She ran once, twice, three times.
“Harder. Faster. You can do it. I know you can”
She said it again, determined. Willing to beat all expectations. The want, the need. It’s written all over her face as her legs continue to extend in front of her before crunching the gravel and moving once again. Then with another quiver in her leg and tilt of the head, her body slowed and came to a halt before Summer’s bench.
Which today, was vacant.
She looked around for the man, but the white golf hat couldn’t be seen. The ducks were crowding the bench, circling and waiting. But the man didn’t show.
And as she sat upon the bench, she’d felt a piece of her soul fly away. The vacancy beside her was intoxicating, unbearable, ripping her into bits.
So she stood and with an amble movement, ran into the fog, disappearing once again.
He didn’t come the next day, or the next. A week went by and nothing. She continued to run but emptiness pulsed throughout her veins reminding her of his in-existence.
And as she ran once again, the persistence, determination, elegance within her toes and halter of her leg forcing her to stop, she noticed white hair sitting atop the bench, driven like the snow melting around them.
She quickly ran to the bench, before stopping and realizing that it wasn’t him. It wasn’t his hair peeking out from the white cap, nor his wooden cane resting on the arm of the bench. But the most dominating fact was that she was sitting in her spot not his.
Hesitantly she pressed the shriveled arm of the elder, as she jumped in fright before slowly sulking back into the bench and peering out at the lake.
“I’m sorry dear, I thought you were out to get me” Her voice was also grim, yet condensed in feelings of grief and misery, “They’re always out to get me.”
“Who is” She asked, as she held the wrinkly hands, the bony fingers struggling to blend with her outset.
“They are” A whimpering in her voice “they took my husband, now they’re going to take me.”
A tear drops from her eye before the girl realized the reality of the situation. He had died. She couldn’t feel his presence anymore because he had vanished. A hand struck over her mouth she squeezed the old ladies hand.
Then like a dream, she vanished into the fog.
Her runs had become futile, filled with grief and desperation for the dead man to return. She couldn’t hold herself anymore and her legs had started crumbling beneath the summer’s heat. As she stretched her thighs, ambling over to the bench, she examined the remaining ducks, just like her waiting for him to return. Sitting down, she tied her undone lace before looking up at the pale sky and returning to the ducks.
“He’s not coming back” She whispered. But the ducks didn’t listen as it was almost a statement to reassure herself.
The bench had felt empty. It was just another bench drifting in another park. It wasn’t Summer’s bench, it was any bench and she couldn’t help feeling like she was lost.
Then for a single moment she stood before walking to his side of the bench and sitting down.
And in a simple moment, everything fell upon her.
Now she understood why he’d sit here every day, why he’d skip out on his wife to feed the ducks. From this angle you could see everything, feel the wind gently pressing against your skin and the sun warming up the coldest hairs. You could see every star reflecting from the lake, every petal dancing in the wind.
Then she smiled. It wasn’t big, but it was enough to convince her that the man was still here. His presence wrapping around her body and completing the mystery she’d been trying to solve for almost seventeen years. And as she flipped her hoodie over her face and stood from the bench, she felt satisfied.
The next day, as she stood getting ready for her run, she tied her laces and secured the hoodie firmly around her waist. Her hair was pulled back in a straight ponytail and lips outlined with the brightest shade of red.
And as she took off, she felt every bone in her body join, a click in her existence. She ran without fault, she could feel the determination building in her cheeks and the need fastening in her belly. Her blurred vision become clear as she continued to run.
“Faster. Harder. You can do it. I know you can.”
Her quickened pace beat her previous by a mile as she continued to point her legs out in front of her and run with such elegant that all the blossomed floated with her. The leaves didn’t crumble, because she didn’t want them to.
And as she passed Summer’s bench, once again remaining empty she noticed the absence of the ducks and smiled discreetly to herself before pushing even harder.
She quivers, her knee closing but she didn’t halt, no she pushed through. She didn’t stop because she didn’t want to. And as her eyes started to close upon her she reached her hands up, grabbing for the blue sky and shouting in frustration, anger and excitement. She pushed, harder, faster, stronger because she could do it. And even though she couldn’t see,
It was in this moment that she felt alive.
Author Notes: plz feedback!!!!!!!