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I'm a compulsive runner. I run when I'm stressed, when I'm nervous, even when I'm tired. I run to keep my mind clear of the real world. I always run the same trail that's just down the street from my house. Thick Evergreens shield my eyes from the terrible reality of cars, pollution and loud noises.
I always have my iPod with me, so much so that at one point everyone called me "The IPod Girl" instead of Rolett. "I HAVE A NAME, YOU KNOW!" I want to scream at them, but I can't. I don't know why, but I just can't. Maybe it's because I don't want them to know that I care what they think of me.
And I don't, I don't have to care just as long as I'm running.
But, one day I did care. It was a Tuesday afternoon, so of course right after school I went for running. I had to cut it short, though-- I had a Chemistry project to finish on top of my daily stack of homework. As I neared my house, I slowed to an easy jog and turned my music down in an effort to bring my heart rate down.
It was then that I saw him. Or, heard him rather. He was screaming, shouting at me, trying to get my attention. I could barely hear his voice over one of Arcade Fire's electric guitar solos. I took my earplugs out and ran up my drive to where he stood.
"Drew?" Drew McKennith.
His hazel eyes seemed to sparkle when I said his name, but maybe that was just my imagination...
"Yeah, hey," he said. He smiled, flashing pearly whites. He seemed a bit out of place standing on my front step among a pile of broken pots and a rusty lawn chair. His dark hair was just long enough to conceal his ears, and framed his eyes that held a mischievous quality to them which I couldn't quite comprehend.
"What are you doing here?" I tried my best not to sound rude, but my heart was pounding double-time because of my run. My face was red, no doubt, and I could feel sweat seeping into my AC/DC T-shirt.
"Are you on the track team?" he asked.
The answer was quite obvious, seeing as he himself was on the track team and would know if I was as well.
"Nope." I shifted my weight to my left foot, one hand on my waist the other clutching my iPod.
"But you run, right?"
He nodded, somehow thoughtful. "Would you be interested in joining?"
"Not really," I said slowly, then added a lie for good measure: "I'm in other clubs that take up a lot of my time."
He cocked his head to one side, a little too interested. "What kind of clubs?"
I shrugged, trying to be casual. "Tennis... Calculus... I'm really into Math." Only the last part was true-- Math had always been my best subject.
The wind started to pick up, and as I looked up at the September sky I saw no sun shown through the dense cloud cover. It smelled like rain.
I looked back at Drew, wishing he would just leave. I had never really talked to him before, but now I was glad. He was kind of annoying. Gorgeous, yes, and he had that tough-but-charming jock look to him, but still a pest.
"Anything else?" I inquired.
"Well, no." He hesitated. "I was wondering... if you're not going to join the track team, maybe you and I could run some time."
"Umm, maybe," I started, working hard not to bite my lip in awed frustration.
"Four o'clock tomorrow? I assume you go everyday at four, right after school."
"How did you-?"
"Everyone makes a predictable pattern with their runs," he told me. "Myself, I like to run late at night when the stars are out. It's beautiful."
"Maybe not tonight," I said, teasing him a bit.
He glanced up at the swollen sky. "Yeah, too bad, isn't it? I may have to pick a different time..." He looked back at me. "You're smart to run in the afternoon where there's still light."
"Well, it kind of hard to run in the forest at night, all those roots and branches..." Crap. Why did I just tell him where I run?
"The trail?" he asked.
I sighed, irritation seeping into my voice. "Yeah."
"Cool," he decided. He shoved his hands into his jeans pocket, looking uncomfortable all of a sudden.
"Hey, so um, we still on for tomorrow?" He looked up at me through his dark lashes with the sorriest expression that I'd ever seen. The any ice that had frozen my gaze before had melted.
"Sure," I told him, my voice honest and blameless.
His face lightened up at once. "Great."
I couldn't help but smile a little. A gust of wind blew threw the space between us. It lifted a few strands of red hair that had escaped from my tight ponytail. I tucked the strands behind my ears, suddenly nervous. Now I didn't want him to go.
"See yeah," I forced out, knowing it was the right thing to say.
His face fell the smallest bit. He, too, was reluctant to leave. How was that suppose to make me feel? I wasn't suppose to care, but I did. I swallowed, waiting for him to do something. Anything.
"Okay," he said after a moment. A very long moment.
He turned, started to walk down my drive, then stopped. He turned his head halfway, so I couldn't see his eyes. "See you around, Rolett."
I grinned at his retreating figure. At least someone knew I had a name.