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Behind the Letter
Running. Running. Keep on running'.
Megan woke up in a cold sweat. Flashbacks attacked her memory, resulting in her fragile body curled up under her thin white sheet. Clammy fingers grasped each other in the dark, clinging to whatever reality she could find. Dry heaves hunched her shoulders again and again, never relenting in their torment, only accentuating her emptiness. The small black box with the tell-tale time scrawled across it in scarlet letters pierced the darkness.
Pushing back the sheet to face the harsh coldness alone, she tentatively crept one tiny foot out onto the bare wood floor. Her eyes focused on the only embellishment in the room; a little poster she had made in Sunday School thirteen years ago. Life seemed so simple, so cheerful back then. In uneven florescent letters it spelled out 'If you look up straight ahead you'll see the finish line, so look on up and give it all you got'. It had been her favorite song. Even then, she was running.
She stepped into the shower, determined to scrub off those painful memories. When the water was as hot as she could stand it, she turned it even hotter. Mind over matter she muttered to herself. Once, she thought, I woke up to the smell of bacon. Bacon and pancakes. But she had always stubbornly turned up her nose at such fattening foods, shoving on her running shoes, muttering that same phrase. Mind over matter.
Megan grasped the dark pencil and began to circle her eyes, artfully applying concealer to hide the baggy areas around them. Blush rubbed artificial sun onto her face, and her lipstick hid the paleness of sleepless nights. She tried on a smile, and almost laughed as she thought of what she would have done two years ago. She had been such a sports jock, the idea of using such makeup to put on a false face- well, she had had no respect for that. But that was two years ago. That was before; this was after.
She arrived at her bus stop five minutes early as she always did. Her crisp linen shirt and perfectly creased pants clad her tiny body. Four inch staccato heels peeped out from the bottom of her pants in an attempt to make herself appear taller. At 4'11', she was always attempting such things. The morning regulars straggled in as the bus appeared, all nodding their heads in acknowledgement of her, but they all remained silent as monks. They clutched their cups of coffee in an attempt to spark some life into the dull Monday morning.
The bus made its rounds. An all too familiar face appeared in the doorway. Megan took a ragged breath and tried to sink lower into her seat, willing herself to stay calm. She quickly glanced around the bus, and found that the only empty seat left was the vacant seat on her side. She shoved her collar closer around her face and turned her head towards the window. The streams of water running down from the sky and the side of the bus seemed to echo her heart. Crying, aching'
He looked around until he found an empty seat. Grumpily, he hoisted his bag higher on his back and began to trudge to the back of the bus. Rainy mornings always made his old bones ache. Ungracefully plopping himself down, he began to open his briefcase. 'Lovely morning, huh' he sarcastically commented to the passenger next to him. Hearing no reply, he looked at her. A tiny beautiful women sat hunched as far to the window as she could. Her raven hair was swept back into a sophisticated twist, piled high upon her head. She quickly glanced at him, and for a moment their eyes met. Her piercing blue eyes cut through his amnesia, and a sudden flood of memories overtook him.
'Megan?' he whispered, barely intelligible. 'Is that really you?' Tears threatened to appear in his already moist eyes.
Just as quietly, and a little shakily she breathed back, 'Yeah, its me' been a while Rob.'
Her musical voice was filled with sorrow, the weight of the world seemed to have been thrust upon her shoulders. So old for just nineteen. So unlike the Megan he had always known. 'You been running lately? You were always the fastest girl on my team. When you left, the team really suffered a blow.'
She bitterly laughed as she thought 'Yeah, well, they weren't the only ones.' Instead, she refrained from that comment and politely cocked her head to one side as if she were listening to him. 'No, I haven't ran for a while. Two years I guess this makes it now. I got a job after I dropped out. Live by myself now.'
Rob thought for a moment. 'Alone? But when you dropped out, well, weren't you '?' His sentence trailed off into a question, and the silence spoke the lost word for him.
She looked off to the side. 'Yeah, I was. The disgrace to the school. The black spot for our team''
Her pointed words were sharper than a daggar, and guilt pierced Rob once again. He had been too afraid to stand up for her. She had come to him that first night, black mascara running in murky streams down the sides of her face. Hair, always pulled back in keeping with her sporty style, was down, tangled beyond the repair that any brush could do. She had held her swollen abdomen, the one thing she couldn't run from, and came to him. She had come to him, her coach. And he had turned her away, choosing to ignore the obvious, and sent her out to face the world alone. He had ran away.
The sight of her hunched figure enveloped in her boyfriend's letterman jacket replayed in his memory as he stepped off the bus. Alone. And she sat on her seat once more. Alone.