Ah ha! Part two of the challenge from yesterday: Write a story about the characters all grown up.
I could have waited until morning, however, coffee was invented for a reason…
Chris leaned against the tree as she stared out across the river. She knew Ashley was watching her from where he sat on the ground.
She yanked an apple from the branch, turning it over in her hand a few times, tempted… “You do something stupid like that again and I’ll…”
“You’ll what? Kill me? I expected that from Evan that day.”
She laughed. That’s when it hit her – this place, this time of day bringing her back to another lifetime. “’I’d throw you in the pool and teach you to swim the hard way.’ That’s what he told me after he pulled me to shore.”
“I might have preferred that. He threatened to anchor me in place.”
Chris turned and looked at him. “Why not? You’re always running, and where has that gotten you?”
Ashley stood up, looked her in the eye. “Better than trying to pick a fight with everyone, friend and enemy alike!”
This time, she did throw the apple at him; he caught it.
He narrowed his eyes. “That first day… when I tried to outrun them, but I fell instead… You were the one who hit me in the head all those years ago! You and that damn apple!”
Chris shrugged. “Saved you, then. I’d have helped, but Evan was already there. I already knew what he was going to say to me, so, the absence was the better choice then.”
“No! I couldn’t get away with that excuse then and I’m not letting you get away with it now. Do you want to know why I run? Because I tried to return to what I lost, what I knew – a family that loved me! I couldn’t find my way, nor could I get out from under them!” He pointed in the general direction of his family’s house. “Absence, the best choice? Evan called me on it then; I’m calling you on it now.”
She laughed again. “I was so sick and tired of detention for every fight I got into. For the record, I only threw the first punch half of the time. I got so sick and tired of Boris and Bonehead bullying the others. I still hate bullies. But I can’t hit them all. I’d love to – I’d really love to. I can’t. I can’t hit them all. I can’t accept what she’s… I can’t risk you being gone, leaving me when I could have done something.”
“She didn’t go through with it! What-. No. You think you get to know the full story; you’ll have to ask her directly. It isn’t my place to tell it. For the first time, however – I have another reason to run. It’s more than just a scholarship that got me out of here. There are so many causes I can run for. The racing heart from fear? It’s exhilaration and joy in raising funds that help make a difference. There’s a finish line that means a new beginning for someone, somewhere, somehow.”
Chris crossed her arms. “In other words, you’re still running.”
“It’s… You want to fight me, fine. I can take it. I’ve taken worse.”
She only recently learned some of the darker details from Ashley’s past, in an unorthodox manner. She hated herself for not being able to see it then, to do more then … “I can’t hit them all.”
“Maybe you’ve chosen the wrong weapon for the fight.” He gave her a quiet smile she had enjoyed since they were in middle school.
To hear that repeated from different people this quarter alone… she hated to admit that they might be right. “Guess I should do something about that, then.”
“Permission to cook you dinner while you talk it out?” He held a hand out to her.
“So long as it doesn’t end in some sappy rom-com setup, sure.” She took his hand, remembering the few times they had danced in school. “I’m glad you’re back.”