It Was Life

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It didn’t entirely make sense, of course. Then again, when did these kinds of things ever make sense? She stood, staring at the tree, cocking her head this way and that, as if the angle from which she looked at it would make any kind of difference.

The tree was somewhat naked; it’s branches shuddering against the wind. She understood. After all, it was only a few hours ago that she’d been in a similar, compromising position.

He’d struggled to fasten the buttons of his coat as she stood, bare and freezing, in front of the apartment windows. The curtains had been thrown back to let in the light, but it was too early and too cold for anyone to be out on the streets, so she didn’t reach for a sheet to cover herself. Instead she stood, knees knobbed together, arms tight across her breasts, her teeth chattering, as she watched him prepare to leave one last time.

“It’s just not right,” he’d said as he positioned his bright red stocking cap. She’d purchased it for him. It went against the rules, but she hadn’t really cared. And he’d worn it, clearly not caring much about the rules himself. “What we’re doing,” he added quietly as he strode slowly toward the door. His hand on the knob, he turned to look at her one last time, his eyes lingering on her soft stomach, as if that was the part of her he’d miss most. “It’s just not right.”

She’d known it wasn’t right. Affairs never were right, though, were they? Someone always knew. Someone found out or someone got hurt. She’d been there first, of course. That was how she justified it. She’d had him first. But she’d been young and immature and stupid and they’d broken. She’d never forgotten nor forgiven herself the mistakes that drove him away.

Then one day, as if fate were dealing her a hand, there he was in the coffee shop she’d frequented hundreds of times. She’d dealt with her demons by then. The ring had been in plain view. He didn’t make a show of trying to hide it nor did she made a show of pretending that it didn’t exist. A whisper. An exchange. Second chances always bring with them unparalleled bliss.

But then he was walking out of her life again. She’d let him go once. The second time felt harder, somehow. Before he could open the door she’d thrown her body into his, wrapping her arms tightly around his neck. A kiss. A cry. His? Hers? An exit. It wasn’t dramatic. It was just life.

So she understood this tree, shuddering and naked, but still standing as strong as it was able. What choice did it have?

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Fly

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She ran, her breath hot and thick in the cool afternoon air. The clock tower struck three with strong, rippling gongs. She’d been at it for nearly an hour, now. Her lungs felt cold, but not tired. In fact, it was her legs that were worn out after eight miles, not her respiratory system. It had been a long time coming. Autumn training had gotten off to a rough start when she’d realized she could barely run a mile any more. Then again, that’s what two months in a hospital bed and four months of physical therapy would do to an accident victim. The universe is unforgiving toward the weak.

And so, she’d flown in the face of the universe. Threw up her middle finger at every doctor who told her she’d never run again. Her spine couldn’t take it, they’d said. It would be her undoing. They didn’t know her.

Here she was, four months later, and in the best shape of her life since just before the accident. Her breath became more rapid as she picked up her pace, running straight for the row of ducks quacking loudly at the water’s edge. One of them looked up, hearing her approach. He voiced a warning. They flew.

Something gave out.

She fell.