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The Chase

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Wind blew through her burgundy hair as she weaved in and out of the crooked trees. The burnt orange leaves were beginning to fall and they scattered the tangle of brush surrounding her. The morning dew dampened the grass and she slipped once or twice in her escape. Rain was sprinkling down and left small puddles in all directions, which reflected her dirt covered face. The moisture made it difficult to breathe as she sprinted away, but the glistening drops of rain felt refreshing on her bare arms. Inhaling the natural aroma of the forest, she wished she could stop and enjoy the singing birds in the drooping tree tops and the clicking insects spread around the twisted path.

Goose bumps were easily forming on her arms and her senses were heightened beyond her normal instincts. Hunger swept through her body as she realized she had not eaten in many hours.

Movement, out of the corner of her eye, caused her to jump and forget about her hunger pains. Through the branches, she could almost make out a face watching her move through the dense foliage. Stunning, emerald green eyes cut through her like a knife and it took her breath away. Her heart was beating a mile a minute. She picked up her pace, pushing herself deeper into the woods.

“You can run sweetheart, but I am still going to catch you,” he taunted.
Left and right she maneuvered around the trees. The pounding of her torn, muddy boots were tearing apart the crisp leaves with every step. No matter how fast she ran, he continued to follow her. Fallen tree trunks littered the ground and she had to leap and crawl over and under her barriers. Panic and curiosity cloaked her as she thought about the distant figure. Pain stirring in her stomach added to her emotional and physical problems. With every step she took, her strides became shorter until eventually she was crawling.
With her mind fixed on other thoughts, she hadn’t noticed the decaying tree lying in her path. Stumbling, she knew she needed to move. She got to her feet and saw the striking eyes whistling left and right. She scanned her surroundings. Her eyes fell on every rock and crevice until she eventually spotted a hidden cave, disguised with leaves and branches covering its entrance.
“The walls are wet,” she muttered to herself.
As she continued her way into the cave, she ran her fingers lightly against the damp walls. Around a bend, her hands shot up to cover her eyes. A bright, white light was shining at the end of the tunnel. The sound of pounding water poured into her ears.
Walking out into the radiating sunlight, she felt her tension slip away. She couldn’t believe what she was seeing. The view in front of her seemed vaguely familiar, although she couldn’t put her finger on it.
The berry bushes were in full bloom and she couldn’t help but grab the first berries she could reach, only an arm’s length away. Crashing down to the depths below her was a stunning waterfall that folded over the edges of rocks and sprayed a cool sprinkle of water drops that cleansed the grime off her cracking skin. As she made her way towards the bank, her feet left imprints in the damp floor. Falling to her knees, she cupped her cut hands and dipped them into the fresh, cerulean lake. As she brought her hands to her mouth, her insides melted. She continued her way deeper into the water that brushed her grime away. If only for a moment, her stress was washed away.
She swam around for what only seemed like minutes, but through the clouds, she could tell the sun had begun to fall. Making her way out and back onto the rocky shore, her stomach began growling once again. It had only been a short period of time and already she was starving. There were so many berries to choose from but instead of wasting her time contemplating, she chose to grab a handful of each.
Magenta, sapphire, coral, the sweet juices flowed out of the ripe berries and they melted on her tingling tongue. She stuffed herself, berry after berry, only stopping for gasps of breath between mouthfuls. Once her stomach had settled and she was satisfied, she placed the remaining berries in her bag for a future snack.
As she tied up her bag, she heard a twig snap to her right. Looking towards the source of the noise, a couple of the berry bushes began to tremble. Berries fell uselessly to the ground against the strong force and she braced herself for his demeaning glare. Amazement surged through her body as the mysterious source revealed itself. A little, wobbling rabbit was trying to wiggle its way out of the bushes but its leg was caught in a tangle of branches.
Approaching the little creature, she assessed the situation. She reached for its caught limb and tried to release the innocent rabbit. The branches poked and stabbed at her fingers as she tried to remove the rabbit from its iron fist. A dab of blood pooled on her finger and bubbled on the surface. Quickly, she smeared the blood on her filthy jeans.
“How sweet, you stopped to aid a rabbit,” he teased. “I’m beginning to think that you want me to catch you. Is that what you want sweetheart? We can go back to my place and forget this ever happened.” The trees swayed back and forth against the pushing breeze. A chill ran through her body and goose bumps were showing on her shaking arms.
“I’m not that easy to catch,” I declared.
“But you’re thinking about me aren’t you?” He took a questioning step forward across the newly grown blades of grass and blooming fluorescent flowers.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” I retorted.
“You’re the one who came to our special spot.” He stood there with his piercing stare and chiseled cheek bones. The look in his eyes brought her back to their last visit in this beautiful place and a memory rose to the surface.
Staring him up and down she wanted to burn his face into the back of her eye lids. He gave off an aroma of dignity that came from his work and he was always on the job. Occasionally, time would allow him some free time where he would play his games and all the females around him would bask in his glory. Jaws down to the floor drooling, he never paid much attention to them. Only when he found his special target, would he give his full attention with a fierce look in his emerald eyes that could make your heart stop. That was how their eyes met for the first time. From their first glance, both of their hearts melted and they knew right away they had to meet each other.
Standing up from his table, the girls began murmuring and questioning who his next victim was. When he finally reached my table, he gently grasped my hand and gave it a quick kiss before setting it back down on the table. Ready for the anticipated challenge, she agreed to meet him in a remote location beside a waterfall. Just the idea of meeting up with a random stranger alone caused her heart to flutter and for butterflies to stir in her stomach.
“Dreaming about me?” He laughed with his deep voice and the muscles on his arms tensed with every chuckle.
Ashamed of his question, her cheeks turned a bright, rosy pink shade as she blushed. Furious with herself for blushing in front of him, her face turned an even deeper shade of red that he construed as being spot on in his analysis.
“No need to blush sweetheart, it’s perfectly understandable to be thinking about me.”
“I was not blushing and you are not going to catch me!” She screamed and hurled herself over the waterfall and into the cold, gushing water.
Shooting pain surged through every limb of her body. Fire burned through her veins and for a moment she couldn’t move. Regaining control, she pushed towards the clear surface. Through the water, she could see a blurry outline of the cliff. The boy no longer stood there but a small basket had taken his place.
Breaking through the surface, air expanded in her lungs. She inhaled the fresh, rosy scent and laid on the bank until her heart settled to a steady beat. The basket flashed back into her mind and curiosity overwhelmed her. Making her way up the luscious rock, confusion took over as another thought crossed her mind. Why would he leave her a basket? There is only one way to find out, she decided.
Nearing the basket, she took the time to closely examine the package. It was diminutive and constructed from small shards of wood. The short handle was wrapped in a lilac ribbon so neatly, that she had to assume it had taken him longer than anticipated to create. Below the handle was the base, tidily covered in a deep burgundy scrap of cloth.
Cautiously, she reached forward and removed the fabric. Underneath, she was surprised to see a loaf of bread and a glass jar of freshly squeezed lemonade. Beside the jar was a note with neatly written handwriting.
Don’t hurt yourself sweetheart.
Enjoy the snack.

Despite the distrust, she had lost her bag in the scramble, so she took the bread and lemonade and feasted on the meal.

The sun was beginning to set and she needed to find a warm shelter. Walking back towards the rocky cave, she carried the now empty basket and the lemonade jar. She found a corner and set her belongings down. Settling down for the night, she rested her throbbing head on her arm and began to dream.
Covering her ears and closing her eyes, she wanted to block out all sounds and sights or she would lose control. Her mind began to conjure up unrealistic sights that lead to short hallucination. The oddest of them all was a man in a bar with a black cane and reflective sunglasses. It was bizarre, but when he took those glasses off, she once again saw those green eyes taunting her. Weary of opening her eyes, she continued to hallucinate. The man no longer held the wooden cane and the aged face began to melt away; replaced with a younger man’s sharp features. The calmness and beauty in his eyes relaxed her and her tension began to slip away.
The dream had gone out of control and she realized she didn’t want to play this game anymore. She was going to accept her fate and understand that she had lost. She would take whatever fate was dealt to her.
The walls were dripping with moisture and the air was heavy and thick. A musty, foul odor hung in the air, along with the ringing noise in her ears. The cool sensation swept over her with the chilling breeze that came from the exposed cave entrance. The sun peaked through the foliage but the only warmth came from the body standing only paces away.
The alluring boy was leaning confidently against the curved cave wall, watching her intently. His eyes burned with excitement and a smirk slowly spread across his face.
“Hi sweetheart, fancy meeting you here.” Gradually he took a couple steps towards his crouching victim.
“You’re not going to let me win that easily are you?” he teased.
“I’m tired and I am done playing these games. You got me. You win.”
The crisp leaves were drifting to the moist, grassy ground. Every step that led him closer to her presence, left a slight impression in the dirt. Reaching out, he aimed for her tensed shoulders and emotion swept through her- she welcomed his touch. His fingers left a tingling sensation from where he had touched her. Embracing his warm body, she was glad it was all over- at least for now. The chase may have ended, but the game had just begun.
“Tag, you’re it.”

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