OXRO— Part Six


Swim, Swim As Fast As You Can


Ashlyn ran down the creaking stairs as the morning rays poured over her make-up free face. Even without the concealer, mascara, and eyeliner she was still breathtaking with her round hazel eyes, semi-plump oval lips, model long legs. Spandex shorts cleaved to her toned thighs like a second skin as she pranced to the kitchen with a spring in her step thanks to the extra firm mattress in the master bedroom that put her lumpy full-size one to shame. She tugged on the straps of her lime sports bra as the blender’s motor ragged.

“Are you ready to go?” Ashlyn leaned against the garlic powder dusted countertop.

“Yeah!” Asia poured the fuchsia creamy concoction into the highball glass. “You’re not eating first?” She stuck a stray in the smoothie and swallowed a big gulp, then held her temples grimacing.

“See, that’s why I’m not eating.” Ashlyn said. “Plus, I’m not contributing to that mess.” She pointed to the plates, bowls, pots, cups and utensils brimming out the oversize sink. She didn’t know how they accumulated so many dishes in one night. Given, they didn’t go to sleep after dinner but she didn’t remember eating anything after the dance competition Jordan orchestrated. Drinking, on the other hand she did remember everything in her mind went hazy after the seventh shot of tequila; which was initiated by Yasmin.

“You can’t go running on an empty tank. You need fuel.” Asia poured the left over smoothie in a cup handing it to Ashlyn.

“First thing, I’m not a car.” Ashlyn pushed the cup back. “And these abs are fuel enough.” She patted her bare, flat stomach. Asia looked down at her equally flat stomach not getting the point. “Hurry up and slurp that down so we can go before it gets too hot.”

Asia stuck the straw in her mouth drawing in a big helping of raspberries, blackberries, and bananas. She swallowed, “Okay, lets go.” She clapped.

The sun reigned in the big, clear sky beaming heat down as Ashlyn, Asia, and Shaka jogged down the narrow two-lane road. The sound of the quick feet pounding on the scorching pavement was the only music pumping during their run.

“Are your parents coming to your meet next week?” Ashlyn asked pulling in deep quick breathes.

Asia swiped away the sweat beading along her hairline, “I don’t know.”

“What, do you mean you don’t know? It’s the championships! They have to come.”

“We’re not rich like Denver. My parents have to work.”

“The Green’s aren’t the Hilton’s either but they’re coming to my meet next week.”

“My parents are very busy people. They can’t drop everything every time I’m running.”

“Your parents own a flower shop. I’m sure they can stop arranging petunias to see you race.”

“I don’t pester them. I can manage a win without them there. Ya’ll are all the cheering section I need.” Asia smiled.

“I just better see these mythical people at our graduation or—”

“Or what?”

“Or I’m going to start thinking you, Ollie, Eric, Ethan, and Denver are pod people. I mean there’s no picture of Denver’s parents in the cabin. Not a one and I looked.”

“You mean snooped.”

“Potato, Potato. I mean does his father look like the elephant man or something. I need to know these things before I procreate with him.” Ashlyn looked down at a heavy panting Shaka. “Is he okay?”

Asia stroked Shaka’s warm head. “We should head back.”

Ashlyn studied the pedometer on her iPhone. “I gotta get another mile in. I have to stay tight for next week.” Ashlyn bobbed up and down running in place.

“It would probably be better if you finished in the pool.” Asia held up her hand trying to block out the sun.

“No, I’m enjoying my time on land.” Ashlyn beamed a smile that competed with the sun for “Most Brightest”.

“Okay, Ariel.” Asia turned around with a panting Shaka trailing behind her leaving a trail of drool.

Ashlyn stuck the orange earbuds in her ears and turned up her iPhone higher. She picked up her feet faster into a trot picking up speed with each footstep; she took catching her stride. Her mind drifted past the fifty feet tall trees hovering in the clouds missing the re pick-up passing by her. Sweat glided off every inch of her skin, her hair clung to her scalp, her muscles flexed. She looked down at her phone, 3.5 miles! If she headed back now she’d hit her goal of seven miles. Seven miles every day, it wasn’t her idea. It was her coach’s; telling her if she wanted to be the female Michael Phelps she had to put in the work.

Ashlyn wrung out the liquid from her ponytail gleefully exhaling as the first breeze blew by her steaming body. She stopped as her pupils widened locked on the red pick-up parked in the middle of the road. The hinges of the truck door cried louder than the falcon soar overhead. Her heart stopped racing and began to skip beats as the lanky man climbed at the car. He stood tall, six-three tall squaring his shoulders, popping his knuckles locking into her gaze. Sweat trickled down Ashlyn’s cheek as he chest heaved in and out. Her eyes cut to the side and her feet followed. She shot through the woods cutting her arms of the jagged bark of the trees, skinning her knees on the fallen logs no one yelling timber for.

He chased her every move. The athlete she was wasn’t enough to out run him, quitting wasn’t something he did when his eyes locked his prey. The terrain was different then her usual course of the track, treadmill or neighborhood sidewalks. Her hands bleed from the roots that snaked through the ground.

Ashlyn let out a sigh of relieve hearing the sweet sound of water. Something she could do best, swim! She dropped the phone, kicked off her shoes and dived into the cool water splashing the blue in the air. He reached the bank as she had already put a mile between them.

With short, quick strokes limiting the times she came up for air; Ashlyn reached the other side of the bank beating her all time record of 2.7 minutes. She tiredly dragged her body out the water. She gasped for oxygen like a fish out of water. Closing her eyes, she tried to obtain her breath, calm her overworked lungs; stop the pain tightening her chest. Wait. What was that? More pressure bore down on her body. Her eyes opened and there he was. No. She blinked that wasn’t him. That wasn’t the man that sent her fleeing through the woods like a gazelle being chased by a lion. This man was bigger, sturdier. She squirmed grabbing handfuls of earth. She opened her mouth letting out a wail that would wake Paul Revere from his grave. With one swift stroke of a wooden paddle to the head the lanky man silenced Ashlyn ensuring the only noise to be heard was the falcon soaring overhead.


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