She wakes up early. She gets her hair up, she gets her things together, and she’s out the door. If she can do that, she can do anything.
She keeps her boots in the car. She carries extra socks, band-aids, saline for her eyes. She comes prepared. Life is unpredictable.
She puts on her boots in the parking lot and pulls the laces until it hurts. They are good, solid shoes. A good buy. They’ll take her to the mountains one day.
Getting out of bed stems from commitment. When it rains, when it’s cold, when her pride takes a beating, the urge to give up is tempting. The need to lie down, to take it, to die.
But she’s determined to try.
Each trek is different. She follows the way that wants her. She rises to herself, by herself. She is at peace.
She thinks, as she moves. Sometimes. Sometimes she is just breathing, just life, just alone.
There are no numbers to monitor, no reps to count, no clocks, no music, no steppers, no treaders, no peddlers going nowhere.
Out here, she can’t guilt herself for ten more laps, ten more pounds, ten more minutes. The trail ends when it ends. It will stay or it will leave her. She might have to read the sky to get her bearings, sketch a map in her head to find the roads. She listens to her instincts. This way. Go this way.
She’ll come out when she’s ready.
She seeks out the biggest hills to climb. The footing comes naturally. Indoors she tends to bump into things, lean on things, never knows what to do with her hands. But now she has balance. She is striding, climbing, really feeling the muscles that make up her body. Her limbs are doing what they’re supposed to.
Life is simple.
She is learning that quiet is deafening. She is learning that distance is not far at all.
She is learning that crows have a language. One… two… three means be wary. One, two, all is well.
She finds herself grateful for the life she’s been given. She’ll remember she feels this way.
Out of doors, out of schedules, she has no illusions. No mirrors, no spandex, no idle conversation. No cellular service. No intrusions.
She is disconnected.
She is unhindered, unguarded, unarmed.
She is not alone.
One, two, three is a warning, but birds take flight when threats come along. She can hear footsteps behind her, boots on the path. A twig snaps, a rustle. A man with a smile. He is drawing nearer.
In public, she is numb to the cacophony of strangers, but out here his silence screams an alarm.
She moves, but not fast. Her body’s not made for running. She’ll get there when she gets there. She can’t do any better. The trail goes where it goes, she can’t make it open just because now she needs it to, and the distance between them is closing. She can’t help it, can’t stop it, can’t scream because he’s holding her, and even if she could, no one would hear.
She is down. She is fighting. She is tasting the soil. There’s a knife at her face, and she’s bleeding.
Life is precious.
She tries not to think. Tries not to feel what he’s…
She lies still. Shuts her mouth. She is doing what she’s supposed to.
She still believes in God. If she can do that, she can do anything.
He is rising.
Her body is trying to take root in the earth, in leaves and other things dropped and dying. She has lost the trail, her pack, her breath. She is ready to let go, give in, let him have it.
But she won’t.
She is learning that strength can come quietly. She has a view of the trees grabbing handfuls of sky.
This way. Go this way.
She goes the way that wants her. It’ll all be okay.
She’ll come out when she’s ready.
Shannon Connor Winward is a poet and author of fiction for children and adults. Her current projects involve converting young minds to magical realism through childrens’ literature and pimping her novel about a female stalker haunted by her dead — and disapproving — father.
Shannon’s a sucker for ghost stories (obviously), fairy tale-tinged fiction, and pagan gods. She is also a devotee of open mic poetry, but insists on reading from the page; she’s afraid that if she looks you in the eye from the mic she will fall in love with you, and really. Who has time for that?
Shannon lives in Delaware with two kings and a cat named Wolf. Watch for more of her work in Isabelle Rose’s Twisted Fairy Tales: Volume Two and Greek Myths Revisited, or visit her at ladytairngire.livejournal.com.
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© 2015 Shannon Connor Winward