Aleathia Drehmer

The Runner

Bridget ran through the park as if her life depended on it. She never bothered to look back, just ran until her face mottled purple in the heat of her working body; until there was a wide band of sweat encircling her brow. At the edge of the tree line, she stood hunched over with her hands on her knees, chest heaving for air. Her mind went completely numb after finding Jackson with blood on his hands, standing at the sink frantically scrubbing it away. She noticed a look of insanity on his face and how he smelled of panic.

Jackson didn’t notice her or hear her enter the apartment. He only knew Bridget was there when her elbow bobbled the vase of sunflowers from the table by the door. He watched them fall in slow motion. Each petal golden and beautiful, perfect. He saw them smash to the floor and smiled at the green smelling water pooling on the Berber carpet like magic. Jackson could hear each drip as it launched itself from the lip of the cherry finished table. He could hear her breath as it increased and the covered gasp when the vase landed, but did not shatter. He could hear the guttural tones lifting up into her throat though not escaping her mouth.

“Bridget….close the door” Jackson said.

She stood there unable to move. Her mind racing What has he done? What has he done? over and over like a chant. Bridget felt stuck with fear as he began to move from behind the counter towards her. She felt her skin rile up and the acid in her stomach began to boil and burn her esophagus. Ten years, she thought, and I don’t even know him.

He advanced on her and she began to back up instinctively, her hands flying up in front of her as if they would stop the bulk of his fury. There was a storm on his face she had never seen before, though it was so distinct, she wondered how she never noticed it resting there latent all these years. Bridget felt her back ram into the edge of the door and she cried out in pain, stumbling. Jackson’s blood-stained hands reached out to take her arm, still wet and smelling of darkness. He wrapped his fingers around her left bicep with a fierce grip, squeezing the tips into Bridget’s flesh until it blanched beneath them. She wrenched her arm backwards and surprisingly it came free, leaving someone else’s blood transferred onto her pale skin.

Bridget looked at it a split second before she turned and started running. Her feet flew down the stairs-floated like she did when she was a child. Jackson lumbered after her, shouting things she could not understand or process. The only sounds that registered were the thumping of her heart, the blood rushing in her ears, and the quickening of breath that pinched her ribs.

She stood there now, alone; nothing more than an accordion of flesh letting the body regulate itself and waiting for the sounds of life again that would ease her back into reality. Bridget felt a wind sweep up and dry the salt to her forehead. She felt the chilling deep inside her bones as her breath suddenly lightened and her limbs relaxed into themselves. She crouched on the ground with the smell of the grass under her nose. This somehow settled her as the first drops of rain began to fall. She felt like a pebble in the river, something far beneath the surface that could not be seen or touched. And in the juxtaposition of light, Bridget watched the bloody fingerprints begin to dissolve and run down her arm.

“Some things,” she said aloud to no one, “are best learned in storm.”

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