I’ve debated this, then figured I’d do it anyway. I’m going to post the first chapter of my current WIP! Then, when it’s done… I’ll post the last chapter! Muwhahaha! (First draft and all that nonsense)
Caleb glanced down at his watch. The digital readout told him that it was 7am, he hadn’t lost track of time. What was she doing there at this time of the morning? There was never anyone here. He specifically came to the park to jog at seven, knowing that he would always have the place to himself.
The cold air frosted in front of him and burned his throat. He stood just on the edge of the path that led out of the woods and onto the dirt track. It was only a half mile long, but it was the closest thing the small town of Arcadia had to a running trail.
Should he go back home and just come back tomorrow? The bike helmet held in his hands grew heavier.
As he watched, she vanished around the first curve that led deeper into the woods. In a few hundred yards she would come out on the other side near where people parked their cars. Maybe she was just finishing late and was heading for her car. That’s possible.
He decided to wait. His mountain bike was parked a few feet away leaning against a tree, so he mimicked it. He hoped to god she didn’t see him if she came around the corner. Leaning against a tree like he was, with the shadows of pre-dawn making him almost invisible, no doubt he looked like a stalker.
He was on the verge of stepping onto the track and stretching when she rounded the corner. He immediately averted his gaze, but not before noticing her red pony tail bouncing with each step, the pink band wrapped around her right wrist, and the pink wires running from somewhere in her jacket up and into the band she wore around her head.
She ran past him without a glance, the whisk whisk and crunch of her footsteps on the dirt and gravel the only sound breaking the morning’s silence.
Okay, well, she’s not leaving, Caleb thought to himself. As soon as she rounded the corner he began to stretch. He would wait until she made one more pass, then fall into pace well behind her. She’d never even know he was there.
He was just straightening up from a lunge when he heard her approaching. He fell once again into the shadows and stood statue-still. A quick glance at her face told him she was young, probably his age or a little older. That meant she was either skipping school to run, or was a senior and didn’t start until later. He would have been a junior, if he hadn’t dropped out this year.
The helmet. Crap. He still held it in his hand, fingers gripping the chin straps. He was supposed to wear it when biking, or when running, and normally he did. But, normally he was alone. Without giving himself time to give the thing more thought, he tossed it toward wear his bike sat. He’d be fine.
She vanished around the corner again and Caleb stepped out onto the path and did a slow count to twenty. She should be close to the next corner. He didn’t stretch as much as he’d like to have, but it would do. He remembered the pattern of her footfalls on the ground and matched them as close as he could, not wanting to gain on her.
As he ran his mind began to lose focus, stopped worrying about the fact that there was a girl not too far away, and they were practically alone in the woods together. She didn’t know him, and if he planned his pace correctly, he wouldn’t bump into her and have to explain himself. Not that he should, he was only jogging, the same as she. Still, now he would have to come tomorrow at six in the morning, in case she came again at this time. He would hate to rearrange his schedule, but he would do it to avoid the girl.
And now he was worrying again. He had to force himself to steady his breath. His heart was beating way too fast for the short amount of time he’d been running. He regretted throwing his helmet back near his bike.
“Oh, no” Caleb whispered. He’d just rounded the corner and was running along the path that would take him close to the parking lot. He never used the parking lot, always the trail that cut through the woods. His head was beginning to feel fuzzy, and he could barely feel his feet touching the ground.
He knew what was about to happen. It was only a second from the thought of what was coming until it happened, but that second seemed to stretch on out into forever. He saw that the dirt ground, with rocks here and there, had a thin layer of frost on it as well.
And then the seizure had him, and he knew nothing else.
The first thing Caleb registered when he woke up was pain. It started in his head and radiated all down along his right side and into his hands, his knees. He groaned and forced his body to roll over onto his back He couldn’t see out of his right eye and began to panic, thinking maybe he was blind, but after a flew blinks he realized it was blood.
He hadn’t had a seizure in months, and of course the first time he does, it’s without any protective gear on.
He knew that only a few minutes, at the most, had passed since he’d fallen. Even so, he needed to get up and get out of there, now. The last thing he needed was someone coming along and finding him sprawled in the middle of the trail. Especially the girl, his unknown jogging companion.
He planted his hands on the ground to either side of his body and started to heave, but a stab of pain shot up his right hand and into his arm. He brought his hand up and sighed. Several strips of skin had ripped open on his palm, with pieces of stone and chunks of dirt embedded in them.
“Awesome,” he muttered. He balled his fist, ignored the pain, and pushed himself up. His legs were unsteady and he could barely see out of his right eye, but he managed to orient himself. He felt something hot and wet slide down his cheek and he swatted it away angrily. He didn’t need to look to know it wasn’t blood.
After a few steps he began to jog again, to embarassed and angry to even care if another siezure hit him. He just needed to get to his bike, and get the hell home before his brother saw him. If Andrew knew that he’d been jogging without protection, he’d probably forbib Caleb from going out alone again. Screw that.
He was rounding the last corner before the trail straightened out again when something off to the side of the trail stopped him. It was pink and square, with lines coming out of it. He stopped and bent to retrieve it, and recognized it for an ipod. An image flashed through his mind as if he was seeing it only inches from his face, crisp and clear. The pink lines emerging from that girl’s jacket and disappearing into her black headband.
Perfect, Caleb thought. He glanced backwards toward the way he’d just come. Though he’d been in a hurry to leave, he’d barely been moving faster than a brisk walk. At the pace the girl had, she should have overtaken him by now. Unless of course she finished her run already and left.
Caleb was torn. Should he leave the iPod and hope she came back looking for it? But what if someone else came along and stole it before she made it back? Of course, it wasn’t his problem if she couldn’t keep track of her various running apparatuses. And then if he did just leave it and someone else took it, he’d feel like shit.
What would a normal, good person do? They would probably hold on to it and come back the next day to return the thing. The park didn’t have any staff, so there was no lost and found to drop it off at. He was on the verge of turning around to backtrack and either find the girl, or catch her before she left, but at that moment he heard the faint slam of a car door. So much for that.
Mind made up, Caleb wrapped the headphones around the iPod and shoved it into the pocket of his jacket. He winced when he realized he’d shoved it into his right pocket, with his right hand. The hand was numb now, but he’d probably gotten blood all over the device.
He shrugged and continued toward his bike, walking now, already wishing he’d never stopped to pick up the iPod.