A Taste of Freedom

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The girl stood at the top of the trailhead; it was high summer and the mild breeze felt like heaven brushing through her thick ebony hair, over her porcelain white skin, and around her legs, trembling in anticipation. Her tank top shifted in the breeze and her shorts fluttered around her powerful legs. She lifted her nose and inhaled deeply, breathing in the forest's night scents. She listened a few more moments and tossed her head mirthfully before lunging onto the trail proper, bare feet drumming against the hard-packed earth as she raced the wind in the silver moonlight.
She pounded along the ridge, chest expanding and contracting drastically as she gulped huge lungfuls of air. Leaping a fallen log, her breath caught in her throat and gushed out as her feet crashed back down to earth again on the other side.
Rounding a bend in the trail, she paused, gasping her breath as quietly as she could, and listened carefully once more. There. In the valley back behind her. The hounds were running, braying up a beautifully enchanting storm as they tore after their quarry between the moonlit pines. Her eyes shifted among the shadowy trees. The moon was half-full, the clouds had moved off, and her vision was nearly perfect.
A twig snapped on the trail behind her and she whirled on her heel, heartbeat kicking up, breath catching in her throat, bare heel leaving a crescent shape scrawled in the thin layer of dust. There, on the tight-packed earth, stood a red fox, no more than a pup, born just last season. His radar-dish ears swiveled back toward the ever-braying hounds, but he kept his pointed nose trained on the girl, watching her with his huge marbeled eyes. His pelt glowed in the moonlight and his tail was a banister, lit aflame by the night's great shadows. His ears flicked toward he and his small ribcage shuddered in a contented sigh. As she watched, he seemed to nod at her, content with her presence, before twisting his had and leaping once more into the bushes at the side of the trail.
She smiled at his departing tail, and the bushes trembling in his wake, before turning and sitting on her heels, sliding down into the ravine, feet skidding on loose rock and scree. She stood at the bottom and leaped the creek before galloping up the steep incline on the opposite side. Cresting the hill, she turned back. The forest lay in shadow as the moon began to sink, collecting its pooled light to take with it as it left, and she smiled, thinking of the secret meeting she'd had in the heart of her beloved forest.





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