“I bet I can beat you to the field,” I yell to my cousin. “Make sure you go all out!” I yell over my shoulder as I take off.
“What the-” he stammers, surprised by my sudden challenge, then takes off after me.
I run as fast as I can as my feet pound against the gravel. I take ragged breaths, and my side has a horrible stitch. It feels like someone is squeezing my insides. My chest feels like it’s going to explode, and I can hardly breathe since it hurts so much. I run through it though, running fast and then faster. My legs feel like jelly, and I stumble around the corner, and lose my footing. My legs give out under me, and I slip.
Fricking shoes! They weren’t made for this!
I hear my cousin Alex yell after me, “What’s wrong, too tired? Why don’t you just walk, it’s okay if you can’t beat me. We both already know who is going to win!”
He’s teasing me! The nerve of him! I will beat him!
I jump back up and make my legs continue.
Don’t look back. Concentrate!
I’m in the grass now, and I go around another turn. I run faster still. It’s a straight shot now.
I can do it! I’m almost there, just a little farther.
I can’t help it anymore, I risk taking a peek behind me.
He is gaining on me, I have to go faster. I may have gotten a head start, but he is a lot faster than I am.
I can barely breathe, but I press myself to run faster. I get there seconds before he does.
“Wow, you’ve gotten faster. Good job,” Alex says grinning.
I’m doubled over trying to breath, but he’s just standing there and doesn’t look even a bit winded. I struggle to stay standing. I try to fake that I’m not that tired, but my muscles ache and my tired legs scream for me to sit down and let them relax. Finally, my muscles win me over and I sit on the ground and stretch them out.
I look up and glare at him, “You didn’t go all out did you. You let me win,” I say it more as a statement rather than a question.
He laughs, “Uh oh,” he teases, “you caught me,” he sticks his tongue out at me.
“Hey! I told you to go all out!” I say, frustrated.
“I couldn’t go all out, I knew you would’ve been mad if you won or lost, so I chose to let you win. I went easy only because I’m in track, and I’m older. You only had the advantage of a head start, but that was only because you caught me by surprise, but you’re also not used to running. So it was hardly fair,” he chuckles, “Plus, look at you, you can barely stand and we didn’t even run that far! That was maybe 150 meters.”
“I still won, even if you did let me win,” I tease.
He laughs, “Sure, let’s just get going before Wyett, Zane, or whoever tries to follow,” he says, helping me off the ground and then starting down the path.
“They won’t follow, they are busy playing football.”
“Let’s still hurry,” he walks a little faster down the path.
“Okay, okay, but wait up, I’m still trying to catch my breath.”
We walk for a while, then find a place to rest. I’ve almost forgotten how beautiful Mema and Papa’s farm is. We haven’t come out to the farm in quite a while, and I kind of feel out of place. I’m a city girl in the country, even if I did grow up here. I don’t really remember it, we moved away when I was young, so all I remember is living in the city. I sit on a log and look around me at the trees. The sun shines through the canopy. It smells damp and the air feels a little heavy.
It might rain. We better not stay out long or it’ll be hard to get back up the hill.
I stare into the creek. It’s clear and clean, but it’s fall now so the water is too cold to get in. I look around me at the trees. Their leaves are starting to turn orange and brown, not many of them have fallen off the trees though.
It’s so beautiful. We need to come out here more often.
I look around to find Alex. I find him over by the creek.
What is he doing?
I walk closer to him. He is collecting rocks from the water’s edge, “Why are you collecting rocks?” I ask.
“I’m going to make a marker, so we can find this place again.”
I laugh quietly, “So like a cousins’ place. Only for us? Or do you want to show everyone else?”
“Only us. They would ruin it.” He makes a face, “Where should we put it?”
“Hm,” I look around, “how about at the base of that tree?” I point to the tree that is right next to the log I sat on. It is small and looks like an umbrella over the log. I walk over to the tree and look for a spot where we could put the marker. “Here,” I point to a spot that is next to the log but is still by the tree.
“Looks good to me,” Alex shrugs and he walks over with the two biggest rocks in each hand and sets them down.
I walk over to where the other rocks are next to the creek and bring them over. We arrange the rocks how we want, we decide a small pile with the bigger rocks on the bottom and smaller ones on top, then we stand back to admire our work.
“Want to continue walking? It feels like it might rain,” I say and look up. Not that I could see the sky very much through the thick canopy.
“Yeah, let's go.”
As we follow the creek farther down it starts to sprinkle, but we decide to walk through it since it wasn’t that bad. Then all the sudden, out of nowhere, it starts to pour, but it’s not like when it’s just a bunch of small drops and you just go inside and you dry off quick. Nope. Not even close.
It is full on pouring, like so hard we can barely see.
So much for not getting too wet. I sigh.
We run through the woods trying to find a place to go up the hill.
In these moments of being totally soaking wet, I realize, this is how it should be. I want to be running in the rain through the woods with the people I care about. I want to be covered in dirt and mud. It’s who I am. Who I love being. This is how home feels, then in that moment I was home, in those woods. I was free. I wanted to feel like that all the time. Even if it did mean an extra long shower. With a lot of soap.