Running. That’s what she did best, Ana thought to herself as she laced her tennis.
At least now she was a practiced runner, though that wasn’t always the case.
Not so long ago she didn’t value speed and endurance the way she did now. She had nothing to run from, so why prepare herself for it?
But now she was prepared. Each town she moved to she found a loop. A place she could pound the stress of the day into the pavement. She learned that no matter where she was in this world, she could always find a bit of nature. Something to remind her of her roots, where she came from, and where her heart will always be. Nature just always seemed to be predictable and balanced for her, unlike her current lifestyle.
And it was free. No fitness center dues out here in the sun.
She took the sidewalk from her apartment, down the tree shaded sidewalk for a mile or so, and then she broke off into the park. She was growing to love this particular little loop. She had only been in this town less than a week, so finding this bit of gold so soon was a Godsend. This was such a pretty little park in the summer. She ran up and down gentle hills, through the woods, over a river on a cute old walking bridge, behind the lake, to the duck pond, and back to the sidewalk to return home. Four miles and some change. And she could do it with ease.
It was early June, and the earth was starting to come out of its hibernation. The grass was greening, the underbrush in the woods grew thicker, and the flowers started to blossom. The buds on the trees promised leaves soon, and the animals seemed happy to scamper around freely. A little late for spring fever she laughed to herself.
Her favorite time of the day was always sunset. Watching the world start to glow soothed her anxious spirit. Oranges, reds, sometimes even purples would streak across the sky in a brilliant display each evening, just before the sun slid behind the horizon. Sometimes the sky vibrated orange radiance, other nights it was windier and darker and the intricate blues and purples swirled interchangeably across its broad canvas.
The sunset was one of the few things that stayed stable in her life. No matter where she moved to, if she could get out befsideore sunset, the painting in the sky always showed up. No matter how often she moved, the sun always set in the west.
Slowing down for the last leg of the loop, she tried to slow her heart rate. She took long, slow breaths, shortened her stride, and secretly got excited for the opportunity to catch a glimpse of Mr. Goodlooking. He had the house on the corner, where she returned to the sidewalk and walked the last few blocks home. He was always outside, always waiting for her with that easy smile across his delicious looking lips. And despite her body screaming otherwise, she always declined his advances.
As she excitedly expected, he watched her come down the last few feet, smiled an insanely gorgeous smile, and waved. He was standing over a grill, a beer in one hand, a metal spatula in the other. His jeans hung loosely over his hips, and his t-shirt clung to every God given sexy muscle in his upper body. His smile highlighted his steel cut jaw, contradictory to the friendliness of the wave. Even his wave was sexy, his hands were large and his arms were supremely well defined, each wave accenting a group of muscles she didn’t know even existed prior to this man.
She ignored him completely, but he never gave up. Tonight was no exception. As she started her walk, he strolled up to the short white fence marking the front of his yard. “Nice evening for a run” he said, and gestured at the sky. “Sure is” she replied, and walked right on past, her heart beat unintentionally returning to a fast staccato.
She followed the sidewalk down to where it broke off to her apartment building. This apartment wasn’t so bad. Not as bad as some, that’s for sure. It had a nice little courtyard that she was lucky to cross to enter her building, and the view out her window wasn’t so bad, either. A little green grass was much better than a window pointing to another building, or a dump, or a parking lot. A little green grass was good.
She had always liked to travel, so that part of this new lifestyle was fun. Seeing new areas of the country, how genuine humans can be, and the wildlife always inspired her. Even on the hardest days. The hard part was being so far from a family that had enough love to fill NYC, and never being able to tell them the whole truth. The truth would hurt and scare them; she could protect them at least from that.
This town was definitely nothing like NYC. Warrensburg, Missouri was small, maybe about 20,000 people. It was out in the middle of nowhere, an hours’ drive or better for any real shopping or fine dining, and most businesses closed by 8pm. That could make it lonely and really stretch some of the long nights even longer, but it had a great balance between people and nature. Gotta think of the positive.
After climbing the stairs to the second level, she entered the door to her apartment. As she crossed the threshold, she was reminded of just how often she moved. Her living room was basically empty. No tv. No wall decorations. Just a small comfy chair she hauled up the stairs herself earlier in the week. A second hand store treasure. Tossed on top of her new second hand store treasure were a favorite blanket and pillow, the comfort of each calling her name.
She passed the empty kitchen. She had a few pots and pans, a couple of boxes of food in the cupboard, and paper plates and plastic silverware. Just the necessities. Nothing too extravagant or expensive. She set a bag of popcorn in the microwave and hit go. Popcorn would be just right she thought idly as she made her way to the back of her small apartment.
The bathroom was just as sparse. Just a couple towels, a toiletries case with toothbrush and toothpaste, and a case of fun stuff. She enjoyed dressing up, donning the makeup, curling her hair and feeling like a rock star before going out on the town. That didn’t happen too often these days, and she was getting used to seeing her face naked.
She turned the hot water on in the shower, willing it to warm quickly, and undressed. She caught herself in the gaudy large bathroom mirror. Yeah, she was getting used to seeing herself this way. Much thinner now than before she started to run. She was slightly disheartened to see that her ribs were making a reappearance, and she was losing her fabulous ass which made it harder to hold up her sweats.
No makeup allowed the spray of freckles to show over the bridge of her nose. Her naturally blonde hair was pulled back now, and it showed how thin her facial features were getting. Her cheek bones protruded a bit more, her chin and jaw clearly defined, but her dimples never disappeared.
She pulled the tie from her hair, and it splayed across her shoulders. The freckles trailed their way across her shoulders, though not quite as thickly as her nose, and her collarbone was a bit more visible than she would like.
She turned to head in the shower, and then she saw them. The scars. Damn those scars.
After her shower, she wrapped in a towel and headed for the bedroom. Her clothes were still in a suitcase. Everything was always ready to go at a moment’s notice. She found something that would work as PJs for the night. As she dressed, she thought, optimistically, that it was much easier to make a bed that really is just a mattress on the floor, than making up the king size bed she used to have, perched feet above the floor. That gorgeous bed took an effort to stretch the satin sheets across the wide mattress. Worth it though, worth the beauty when it was done, but a twin mattress on the floor was a lot easier to make up.
After picking up her popcorn, she headed out to the living room, she climbed into her comfy chair, and stared out at the stars in the night. That would be her entertainment for the evening. And that was all right. Seeing the stars at night was always going to be a good thing.