Every muscle ached after running through the empty park. Normally packed on the weekends, the town park could be a lonely place early in the morning on a weekday. The crisp air had dried out her lungs. Olivia Johnstone was trying to breath through her nose and keep the air inside. Keeping her head up, her naturally curled amber hair flopped about in the breeze. Her best friend, Jessica, often called her “Amber” for fun in reference to her lovely hair. Jessica was a dirty blonde, and often complained that she could do nothing with her own hair.
Perhaps she’s jealous of mine, Olivia wondered in the back of her mind. One more lap around, she thought.
Coming around the corner, she was startled, not by a sight, but by the sound of footsteps. They were heavy, yet strong. There was a man following along behind her. She felt nervous, then scared. What kind of man was he?
Forgetting her exhaustion, she felt lighter, though her heart felt heavy in her chest as it pounded harder. The man’s strides grew longer. She wanted to look back but couldn’t. Fear gripped her like Death’s cold hands grasping her shoulders. Olivia was ready to cry in frustration, losing steam and hearing the other runner come up on her fast.
“Olivia!” It was Roger, her friend from Colonial Literature. “Wait up! Let me run with you,” he added, gasping as he came up on her. All she could do was lean forward on her knees nodding in agreement.
“H-E-double hockey sticks!” was all that she could say. “Next time a little warning, eh.”
“Sorry, Babs,” Roger replied breathing heavily. “I assumed you knew.”
She smiled, almost ready to laugh. “I had a great runner’s high going, and then it was like, Ohmygosh I’m gonna die.”
“K, sure. Hey, you wanna come and hang out with us at Alpha Sigma later? We’re meeting the new pledges.”
“Oh, is that what you call it? Meeting?”
Scratching his head, embarrassed, Roger was cute that way. She noticed that he was good looking in a funny sort of way. His fair, smooth skin and broad lips were highlighted by his stark brown eyebrows, never angry. Changing the subject, he asked, “Runner’s high?”
She stood up and smiled largely, closing her eyes and nodding, taking in the moment. “Yeah,” she let out with a long sigh. Olivia suddenly felt the morning sun on her face. It was piercing through the trees and making her skin feel warm and glowy. Several species of local birds were chirping, welcoming the arrival of an early Spring. “Your body surges with endorphins from running so hard for so long. Then you just get hit with a wave of it. I dunno,” she pondered philosophically. “I always thought that… it was just like some expression until I got it,” she trailed off.
Gradually, she began to wander away from him, content, but hoping for him to follow. As she made her way farther from the asphalt track and into the woods, overlooking countless homes and businesses down in the valley, Roger stood back wondering if following her might kill the moment. Perhaps she would be frightened off by his assertiveness. He didn’t know, but he had to try.
Years from now, we’ll regret more the things that we did not do than those that we did.