Girl looked back behind her.
“Quick! Pick it up!”
Girl felt miles ahead of me, but in reality it couldn’t have been more than an arm’s length or so from where I was. Every time I sped up, she’d slip through my fingers again.
“Quick! Keep up.”
She’d look back over her shoulder. She was laughing as I struggled so hard. Running up hills. Wading through streams. Down the pavement. Up flights of staircases. She knew where to lead me and I just held on. Tried to keep her generally in my field of view.
Still her laughing, brightly. So gentle. No judgement. Just cheer.
And somehow, always, whenever she laughed, I laughed too. She could be far off, it always echoed back and reverberated off of whatever or whoever was around. You’d think it was a chorus of girls laughing. Giggling. I imagined her laughing so hard she had tears in her eyes, but I’d never get close enough to see. Maybe she was just wiping off sweat.
Was she wiping off sweat? Did she sweat? Was this hard for her? I hoped it was because it was hard for me and she made it look so easy. Like a game. Like she was playing.
Huff and puff my way. Think I’m gonna pass out.
There it was again. Always the voice. Always the encouragement when I was having a moment of self doubt. When I felt done for sure. There was the voice ringing out.
“Come on! You can do it!”
I sighed and took one more step. I wanted to say, “no, I can’t”. I wanted to fall down and give up and sleep for a million years. Still, the voice.
“I know you can!”
Ugh, if only the voice would stop, I could stop. I could rest. I could be still.
Voice started to fade and then it hit me… Was she gone? I was alone now. Instantly, the stillness of the leaves told me how wrong I was. Every step into the ground, damp, sinking under foot — told me that I needed her. I kept listening, waiting and watching for her to return. For her to step out from behind a tree and say, “boo! gotchya!”
I realized it could be that she was gone forever. And that I had only thought about stopping.
I never loved that voice in the moment. Only afterwards when I looked back. When I looked around and realized where I was and that there was no describing this sea of beauty overwhelming my heart and my soul and as something caught in my chest, my throat — I wanted to shout.
I looked through the trees and could see a figure standing solid in the light, effortless grace in the midst of the wind, swirling around her as if to greet her.
Her face turned to me and smiled, “see?” she seemed to say. She took my hand and then I knew. She’d always been trying to bring me here. Get me here. Where we could be together. No running. No chasing. None of what was before.
I felt her hand in mine, soft and warm. And then I walked with her to the edge of the cliffs. Looking out into a great expanse of rocks and sky and sea and change. As if to say, I’m waiting for you. I’m ready when you are.