Finish Line

It was a jog in the woods that will always stick to my mind. Through this otherwise normal routine, I met the person that liked me for who I really am. Looking back, I always thought that fate was the supernatural force behind all that. Not coincidence. Not luck. But fate. . .

My rubber-soled feet currently pounds on the pebble-lined cement that cuts through the woods behind my dormitory. I could feel the rush of wind as I jog with the sun trying to break through the thick foliage surrounding me. The thunderstorm that made life a little bit troublesome in Boston these past few days just concluded last night, leaving the scent of wet earth and mud for us to deal. Still, the muddy soil staining my tennis shoes and the eerie silence do not hinder me from running.

I used to think when I was a child that I was born to run, because I can hardly remember when I started to love it. Whenever I run, I feel like a certain part of my being separates from me and becomes part of the wind. At times even, I feel like I am the wind itself, flowing through the trees and the sky. Everything else would always disappear from my head, except the thought of moving forward, of reaching toward that “finish line”, which I’m not quite sure I’ve accomplished yet.

It was Aerosmith blasting through my earphones when I am suddenly sent flying forward to the ground. Being caught off-guard like that, I could only hope that I could at least emerge from the scene with only a broken ankle, or two, in tow. And even though I’m still sprawled on the ground, looking like a squished bug, I could already tell it was going to hurt. A lot.

I turn to look at the cause of my misery and only find a guy peering down at me with a shocked look on his face, like he couldn’t believe what just happened. I am ready for him to offer his assistance, but am disappointed when he just continued to stare at me with those deer-in-the-light eyes.

“I’m so sorry! I wasn’t paying any attention to where I was heading.” He apologizes after several moments, then leans down and gently pulls me up by the arm. Fortunately, I realize that my injuries are a lot less severe than what I imagined, only a few cuts here and there.

“It’s fine. I’m not badly hurt anyway.” I say.

“Are you sure? I could take you to the doctor if you want.” He offers.

“No, no. You don’t have to. I really am fine. Thank you for the offer though.” I smile, and then slowly start to walk away before he can talk me into going to Urgent Care.

“Wait!”

“Yeah?” I turn around to find him jogging towards me.

“Would you let me at least look over your injuries before you go? Just to make sure?” he asks. For a brief second, I thought I saw the look of hurt crossed over his green eyes, but it was gone before I could dwell too much on it. Now it’s just the genuine look of concern one might have for a friend who’s in pain.

“Alright, if you really think it’s necessary.” We walk over to a nearby bench just off to the side of the gravel path. He kneels down to examine my cuts, one on my right leg and four on my left. They’re bleeding, but not enough to fear the loss of blood. After a few moments, he declares that “they’re not fatal, lethal, or life-threatening”. With that, I burst out laughing.

“Did you really think these cuts would kill me?” I ask. The very thought that he even considers that possibility is enough to make me smile. It’s exaggerated, but it’s sweet.

“There could’ve been infections. Those are things you should never underestimate. Trust me, I learned from it the hard way.” he says, trying to sound serious but fails miserably.

“Alright, enough of my non-infectious cuts. I don’t think we’ve introduced ourselves yet. I’m Cassie by the way.” I extend my hand towards him.

“Daniel.” He replies, shaking my hand back.

“So Daniel, a minute ago, I thought you were just gonna leave me stranded out here.” I say accusingly.

“Wouldn’t be right for a guy to do that. Abandon a damsel in distress, I mean.” He smiles. For the first time, I notice how perfect his teeth are. Straight and bright like the sun. In contrast to his spiky, black hair, it was literally black-and-white difference.

“I see. So how many damsels have you rescued so far, my prince?” I ask, narrowing my eyes.

“Just you, my lady.” He answers. The way he said it, somehow I get the feeling that there’s a whole other meaning behind those vague words. My first instinct, however, was not to question it, so I dismissed the thought altogether from my head.

“Well, I’m honored. “ I smile.

He smiles back, and for a moment, we just sit there on the bench gazing at each other. I figure this is the time to say goodbye to Daniel, but I was surprised when he beat me to it.

“I should probably get going. I still have a lot of things to do.” He says.

“Me too. It was nice meeting you, Daniel.” I say.

“You too Cassie. I really am sorry for causing you so much trouble.” He apologizes.

“Don’t worry, I forgave you already. It was an accident anyway.” I reply with a smile.

“Thank you.” With that, he stands up and slowly walks away.
I wait until I couldn’t see his retreating back anymore before I start moving. I check the cuts on my legs to see if they’ve gotten any worse. Upon doing so, I notice something black and rectangle a few inches from my right foot. I pick it up, realizing it’s a wallet. Daniel must’ve dropped it while he was kneeling down inspecting my cuts. I decide to open it, hoping to find some identification that will inform me of his address so I can return his wallet to him. Opening the wallet, a card that is just on the inside falls to the ground. I can’t help but read what is on the card when I pick it up.
‘Dr. Donald B. Larrabee, Licensed Optometrist’ is printed across the top. ‘Next appointment: August 3’ is written underneath. . . . . .
“Can you describe it to me?” Daniel asks. We are sitting on the smooth sand waiting for the sun to make its slow descent below the horizon. My head is leaning against his shoulder while his arm wraps around me. I pull the handmade quilt more tightly around us as the temperature drops considerably.
“It’s beautiful. Wait, I take that back. It’s perfect. Something that makes you want to question about life.” I describe, almost to myself.
“What do you mean?” Daniel asks.
“Like, you know, everyday in our lives we do a lot of complicated things, but then the truth is all we need to survive is to eat, drink, and breathe. With the sun, it’s content with rising and falling because it knows that’s all that matters.” I explain, looking out to the vibrant mix of red, yellow, and orange hues.
“Feeling sentimental again, are you?” he teases.
“How could I not? We’re getting married tomorrow.” I say, playfully shoving him away from me.

“Do you regret it?” he asks, turning serious all of a sudden. I understand why he brings up a question like that. Though this is the first time he speaks of it, I know it’s the question that’s been bothering him since we started planning for the wedding. Since people started talking. People that are close to us or barely even know us. Talk about loyalty and family.

“Not in the slightest.” I reply. Then to further reassure him, I add, “I’m already in love with you way before any of this happened. You of all people should know that.”

“And I love you too, Cassie.” is all he says.

With those words, I realize why I haven’t gotten to the “finish line” yet. It’s not about being able to run fast and joining many races that’s going to solve my problem. Tomorrow, I’ll reach my goal by walking down the aisle, with my “finish line” waiting at the end of the altar, only seeing the real beauty that is on the inside of me.





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