Finally, the flash fiction I’ve been looking forward to. Obviously, it’s no secret that this month’s song choice is mine. It’s also no secret that the band is Nickelback. I unapologetically love these guys. Regardless of the trashing I’m sure some will have preceding their story. As I’ve said before—I’ve been a fan from the start, and always will be. There’s just something about Chad’s voice, the lyrics, the music—and this song is one of my absolute favourites. If you haven’t listened to FAR AWAY, here’s the official music video below. It’s also quite fitting with the ongoing battle against wild fires up in Alberta. And here is the resulting story. This is actually something I intend to write…I’m just deciding if I need to actually run one of these huge amounts first (I’m in training, folks. Doing my best 🙂 And it’s not exactly fitting of the story but it’s what came to mind, so…
Ten more miles.
Maddison Grier followed the worn trail, her steps hushed by the loose dirt. Nothing but a soft scuff marked each step, the whisper of noise quickly swallowed by the surrounding forest. The branches of the tall evergreens swayed in the evening breeze, the deep green of the needles fading into the darkening sky. The sun sank toward the horizon, staining the tops of the distant mountains a burnished gold.
She focused on placing each footfall, ignoring the way her muscles protested the steady motion. But there was no pretending that her legs didn’t feel as if she was wading through water, growing heavier with each passing minute.
Maddy clicked the button on her headphones, smiling as the music seemed to fill the air around her. She didn’t care that the other racers had scoffed at her when she’d shown up at the starting line, earbuds firmly in place. She needed the distraction. A way to help pass the time when the endless miles started to gnaw at her sanity. Threatening to squash her determination from the inside. A way to stop thinking about him.
Her foot caught on a root, and she took a few stumbling steps before gaining her balance. Cramps clenched her thighs, making the next few strides blur her vision as pain scratched at her resolve. It’d be so easy to stop. To give up.
She blinked away tears, searching her mind for a single reason to keep moving, when the song changed, the soothing melody of the guitar bleeding through the uncertainty. She took a few deep breaths as the gravelly voice wrapped around her, flashing images of another time—another place. A similar sunset, that same song echoing across the mountains as they swayed across the makeshift dance floor, friends and family watching from the edges. But she hadn’t even noticed them, her entire world wrapped in his arms as he’d hummed along to the tune, the light scruff on his chin caressing her cheek. She’d closed her eyes, trusting him to lead, believing anything was possible. That they’d be the ones to beat the odds as the music surrounded them.
Her chin quivered. She’d meant to remove that one piece from her playlist. Erase every vestige of his existence from her memory. Do like the damn song suggested and get as far away from that part of her life as she could. Hell, it was the reason she was out here, counting down the last of fifty miles. Completing a race she hadn’t planned on running. But after she’d left… It’d been the only form of sanctuary she’d found. Losing herself in the steady cadence of her stride, in the scent of pine and cottonwood, had been the only way she’d been able to keep going without falling to her knees and screaming.
Maddy forced herself to swallow, picking up her feet as the trail twisted through another stand of trees. She refused to feel guilty. To second guess her decision. She’d laid it all out at Rhett’s feet. Had given him—them—one last chance to salvage their marriage. To make a conscious decision to choose them over work. Over everything else. She’d waited for him. Had sat on the bed in their favorite getaway, willing him to walk through the door. Telling herself he’d merely gotten caught in traffic. It wasn’t until she watched the sun rise the next morning that she’d admitted the truth.
He’d texted. Had apologized. Had promised to meet up with her that night. He’d given more than a few excuses as to why he hadn’t been able to leave, why he couldn’t call. But it’d all equated to the same, simple fact. Their relationship wasn’t worth the effort. She wasn’t worth his effort. While she’d never doubted that he still loved her, in that one moment—as she’d stared out at the mountains, listening to the distance cry of a hawk as it soared overhead—she’d realized it wasn’t enough. That she needed to be more than a safe place to fall. A token thought. Someone he could brush off because he knew she loved him. She didn’t expect to always be at the top of his list, but damn it, she expected to be on the list. And sometimes, she needed to come first.
She’d placed her ring on the bed with a note and left—taken a few weeks of personal time and vanished. That’s when she’d made the rash decision to run a damn ultra race. To focus all her energy on training. On committing to something that was pure. Untainted by him. He’d never really loved running, not the way she did. And she’d taken solace in that fact. Savored the knowledge that it’d always belong to her. That even his memories couldn’t steal it away, like they had her sanity. Her heart. Her damn soul.
Her chest constricted around her next breath, but she had a feeling it had nothing to do with the eleven hours of running. Of the forty something miles she’d logged or the thousands of feet of elevation she’d gained and lost. It was him. And she realized that no matter how far she ran, how many mountains she climbed, she’d never truly escape her love for him. That she’d always be chasing it—an invisible quarry she’d never quite catch. Like racing a version of herself that would always be that step ahead. That even crossing the finish line wouldn’t quite feel the way she’d hoped. That the loss would still be there, clawing at the euphoria. Taunting her with her one true failure. That despite her best efforts, she’d still love him.
Maddy listened to the last few phrases play in her mind, more tears blurring her vision, before she pushed away the thoughts. This was her time. Her place. And she’d be damned if she’d let Rhett take her one salvation from her. The small amount of pride she’d feel in just a few short miles.
She clenched her jaw, picking up her feet. She’d finish the race. Join in the celebration after. Then on Monday, she’d be back at the bureau, making her way though a mountain of cases. Using the only other means she had to push Rhett out of her head. And once her legs didn’t feel like bars of steel, she’d be out on the trails, trying, yet again, to run away from the one man she’d ever love.
And that’s it for me. Now hop on over to the other ladies, if you haven’t already.