Time Between Us (Extracts)

Anna and Bennett were never supposed to meet. Anna's a sixteen-year-old in 1995, and Bennett's a seventeen-year-old in 2012. But suddenly, Bennett finds himself seventeen years away - in Anna's world, and they can't help falling for one another. Can it last?

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2. Extract Two

March 1995

Evanston, Illinois

I shake out my arms to get the blood flowing, rock my head back and forth until I hear a little pop, and take a deep breath of early morning air that’s so cold it stings on the way down. Still, I muster a silent thanks for the fact that it’s warmer than last week. I tighten the neoprene belt that holds my Discman around my waist and turn up the music so Green Day is loud in my ears. And I’m off.

I take the usual series of turns through my neighbourhood until I reach the running path that hugs the glassy expanse of Lake Michigan. I twist around the last bend, giving myself a clear view of the route all the way to the Northwestern University track, and I spot the man in the green vest. As we run toward each other, our ponytails—his gray, mine unruly—swing back and forth, and we raise our hands and give each other a little wave. “’Morning,” I say as we pass.

The sun is slowly rising over the lake as I turn toward the soccer field, and when my feet connect with the spongy surface of the track, I feel a new burst of energy that makes me pick up the pace. I’m halfway around the loop when the CD shuffles again and the new song transports me back to the coffeehouse the night before. The band was amazing, and when they played those first few notes the whole place exploded, everyone bouncing and head-bobbing in unison as the line that separated us local high schoolers from the transitory college students disappeared completely. I take a quick look around to be sure I’m alone. All I can see is empty row after row of metal bleachers, heavy with a winter’s worth of snow that no one’s bothered to dust off, so I belt out the chorus.

I’m racing around the curves, legs throbbing, heart pounding, arms pumping. Inhaling arctic air. Exhaling steam. Enjoying my thirty minutes of solitude, when it’s just me and my run and my music and my thoughts. When I’m completely alone.

And then I realize I’m not. I see someone in the bleachers, hip-deep in the icy fluff of the third row and impossible to miss. He’s just sitting there with his chin resting on his hands, wearing a black parka and a small smile, watching me.

I steal glances at him but continue to run, pretending not to care about his presence in my sanctuary. He looks like a Northwestern student, maybe a freshman, with dark shaggy hair and soft features. He doesn’t look threatening, and even if he is, I can outrun him.

But what if I can’t?

My mind jumps to the self-defense courses Dad made me take when I started running in the near dark. Knee to the groin. Palm thrust to the nose. But first, you should try to avoid confrontation by simply acknowledging the attacker’s presence. Which sounds much easier.

As I come around the bend, I give him a slight nod and a glare that probably conveys a weird mix of fear and tenacity—like I’m daring him to make a move but terrified that he just might. And as I run by, staring him down, I watch his face change. His smile disappears, and now he looks sad and dejected, like I just used those self-defense skills to punch him in the gut.

But as I follow the curve of the track and start heading toward him again, I look up, right in his direction. He gives me a more hesitant smile, but it’s warm, like he knows me. Genuine, like he might just be someone worth knowing. And I can’t help it. I smile back.

I’m still grinning as I turn the next bend, and without even thinking about it, I flip around midstride to look at him again.

He’s gone.

I spin in place while my eyes search the track for him, and then I sprint to the bleachers. At the bottom of the steps, I hesitate for a second, wondering if he was ever there at all, but I gather my courage and trudge up.

He’s not there, but he had been. He left proof: the snow is packed down where he sat, and on the bench below, two depressions show where his feet rested. And that’s when I notice something else.

My own footprints are clearly visible in the powder around me, but where his should have been—leading to and from the bench—I see nothing but a thick layer of untouched snow.

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