The Runner - Part 2
The next morning I logged onto my laptop and searched some of her moves on Google. I had walked Rudy home in a daze, my mind filled with the girl. I hadn’t got a good glimpse of her face - only the edges of her eyes and her mouth - but there was something vaguely familiar about her. The evening with Jason had jumpstarted my brain back to normal, and I had spent most of the night trying hard to ignore the incessant ramblings that penetrated my brain, sharp knives of pointless words. I had fallen asleep with the girl on my mind, and had awoken on a quest to find her, or at least what she did.
A couple of frantic searches later and I discovered she was a free-runner - someone who ran around the city for, well, no reason whatsoever. It sounded amazing. The ability to just run and jump and glide, to trust your body to know what to do. It was the definition of freedom. It was fast, it was beautiful, it was edgy, heck, it was everything I wanted. But then again, it wasn’t normal, was it? No. I got enough sneers and looks and laughs as it was. Free-running probably wouldn’t help my cause. And besides, you had to be fit and confident. Me, I was neither.
I logged off of my computer and walked down stairs, giving Rudy a pat on the rump as I passed him lying in the hall. He wagged his tail happily and snuffled at the ground. He was a weird dog. He had spent the whole of the walk home last night, silent and plodding, whimpering. I had never seen him so depressed. But he was back to normal now, so that was alright.
I went into the kitchen, only to find Mum bobbing her head to the radio, buttering some toast. I groaned.
Mum looked round and grinned. The movement went from her head to her hips, and I could feel my face reddening. It wasn’t even a good song. “What’s up sweetie?”
Mum raised her eyebrows. “Don’t be cheeky, Jamie.”
“Sorry Mum. My brain doesn’t function very well when my gag reflex is so stimulated.”
Mum sighed and turned off the radio. She swiped the knife over the toast one more time, and then threw it in the sink. “Did you have a good time with Jason last night?”
“We spent the whole night talking about peanut butter and its uses as both a food stuff and adhesive. No, Mum, I did not have a good time. How was your time with Samantha?”
“Great.” She took a bite of the toast and chewed it noisily. “What’s wrong, darling? You seem a bit...” she waved her arm in the air, “distant. What’s wrong?”
I paused. “Are there any free-runners in the town?”
“Free-runners? People that jump over buildings and stuff?”
I nodded and Mum creased her brow. “I don’t think so. It’s a bit of a weird way to spend your time, if you want my opinion. Very dangerous - what if you fall?”
The urge to say something witty and rude rose in me, but it pushed it down. “I guess so.”
“Why were you asking?”
I shrugged. “No reason. Hey, do you think I could take the dog out again? I really liked the walk yesterday.”
Mum nodded, a smile blossoming on her face. “Of course! Rudy’ll love it! And it gets you some exercise as well, instead of sitting at that blasted computer all day...I wish you’d go out and make some friends...”
I took the lead from the hook and shook my head as I walked out the door. “Not the time, Mum. We can talk about my non-existent social life later.”
“Fine, honey. But we will talk about it...I worry about you.”
“Yeah, me too,” I muttered. I ran to the edge of the stairs and called for Rudy. His ears perked up as soon as he saw me and he yelped with excitement when he saw the lead. “There’s a good boy.” I slipped the collar round his head and darted out the door.
I had no idea why I decided to go out. It was eight hours form the time I had seen the girl yesterday, and there was no reason why she would be there. There was just something inside me, something small and tiny, telling me to go and look. The chance that she would be there was small, but it was hope, a tiny sparking glimmer of hope, the same colour of the sand last night - golden. I might as well take the chance.
I jogged with Rudy to the beach. It was busier today, but it was far from crowded. The sky was a dull grey and the sea was calm, barely a ripple breaking the surface. The shops lining the road were open and a few people wandered in and out of them at irregular intervals, sometimes holding ice-creams on their way out. Why someone would want an ice-cream in this weather was a mystery. The poor people were probably trying to get the most out of their trip to the beach, even if it was miserable and dull and cold. The crow was still circling overhead, its wings flapping desperately in an attempt to stay airborne. I pulled my jumped closer towards my chest and slowed down to a walk. Rudy rubbed his snout up against my thigh and I gave him a pat on the head.
The beach was empty. No sign of the girl there, or on the roofs. My heart sank in my chest. I knew it was pointless to think she would be here, but hope and curiosity does crazy things to one’s head. I had wanted to talk to her, to ask her name, and how she did it - got rid of the fear of falling, and the fear of being judged and just went for it. All I was thinking about was the way she landed on the roof, catlike and majestic, and how that was so far away from everything I knew. I could feel the pressure to be good, to be behaved, to be safe and normal crushing down on me, flattening my windpipe and forcing my lungs against the back of my chest. I could never be like her. Ever.
I blinked and my heart started moving again. I gave Rudy a tap and started walking again. I tried to calm my breathing down. It was fine. So what if the girl wasn’t there? She was just a girl. It wasn’t as though she meant anything, other than a symbol of rebellion against the harsh regiment that people call life. I didn’t know her. She didn’t know me. Then why did I feel so heartbroken, so defeated? She was just a girl. An ordinary, extraordinary girl.
Rudy suddenly strained at his leash, barking and yelping. His tail thumped the side of my leg, and his back legs were pushing against the ground. He was staring at the beach his eyes alight. I yanked him backwards and placed a hand on his snout - our signal for him to shut the hell up - and I turned to see what he was staring at. On the beach, her feet skipping over the waves, was the girl. She looked exactly as she did yesterday, but her wild hair was straighter. It wasn’t by any means perfect, but it looked less...rugged. I touched my own hair. I had forgotten to brush it this morning, so it was a bit crazier than it should have been.
The girl sprinted through the waves, water droplets, like sparkling diamonds, showering her feet. Her hair bounced on her shoulder and she was grinning from ear to ear. I still couldn’t see her full face, but I knew her from somewhere. Drama? No. School? Double no. Who was she?
As the girl ran past, I felt myself do something I never thought I would do. I ran after her. I gave Rudy’s lead a sharp tug and ran to the wall separating the beach and the pavement. The drop onto the beach was a few metres, and I had always been terrified to jump it. But in that moment, I trusted my feet. I let go of Rudy’s lead and jumped.