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Rated: E · Fiction · Emotional · #2020619
An avid runner must make a choice between his love and his passion.
WORD COUNT: 1006

         Sam Thompson was oblivious to the stranger stealthily approaching but saw his mottled shadow cast on the stubby grass near his park bench. Sam's reflexes were fast but not fast enough. He heard the crack as an object bashed his head, momentarily felt pain and then blackness fell.

         "Hey! Hey! What the …!?" Sam hollered out. His head pulsated; he tried to raise his hands and felt weight. Looking down, he saw his wrists handcuffed to the wrought iron arm of a park bench. The short silver chain scraped across the metal, its clang intensifying the pain in his head.

         This park bench is my favorite; he thought, but, how did I get here? He remembered sprinting through the entrance of San Francisco's Japanese Tea Garden, passing a slightly built man in a dark sweater which he felt looked oddly out of place.

         Sam enjoyed the serenity of this park, hearing water cascading down rocks, bees buzzing by as they visited colorful flowers, even the occasional barking dog never intruded.

The prediction of a hot, humid day proved right and the 37-year-old Sam, no longer the young runner with unlimited energy, tired.

         I must have stopped here to rest, he concluded.

         Had it been five years since his first date with Christy at this very spot? The day her lithe body ran toward him, red hair in a ponytail that bobbed in the air with each step, tied with a pink ribbon that matched her running shoes. Her infectious laugh that made her hazel eyes twinkle like stars and her whole face light up infatuated him.

         Sam clenched his eyes shut, trying to focus on earlier events of his day. There was an argument with Christy. Was that this morning? he asked himself. Snatches of conversation came through the haze. Running is my life … choose between her parents and running the New York Marathon … I'm running, end of discussion! Blam! The sound of a slamming door brought Sam back to reality, he was chained to a park bench. For how long he wondered.

         "Call 9-1-1!" he called in the direction of a runner retreating into the park’s interior. As he swung his legs off the bench putting his athletic body in a twisted seated position, something rolled off his hip and with a soft thud, landed at his side. His brown eyes narrowed as he suspiciously stared down at a navy blue canvas backpack parked next to him.

         Tick, tick, tick

         "No, no! Help!" He scanned the park for movement. Silence overcame him like a blanket, threatening to smother his life.

         Tick, tick, tick

         Sam fought waves of nausea. He gasped for air. Pulling against the cuffs made his wrists red and chaffed.

         Tick, tick, tick

         The headband no longer held back the sweat running down his face. “Wait, is that blood?” he asked with rising panic.

         His vision blurred. Willing himself, he pushed his hips toward the backpack, swinging both legs on the bench behind the bag, pushing it until it toppled to the ground. Light reflected off the silver house key tied to his shoe.

         If I can hook my key's notches to the backpack's key ring, maybe I can sling the bag away from me, he thought. Strong calf muscles maneuvered the bag until the key ring was visible. He lowered his face to his shoulder to brush away the sandy hair kept long because Christy loved to run her fingers through it. Twice the key slipped. Finally, he pushed it through, feeling the tug as the key's grooves feebly held the ring.

         Tick, tick, tick

Sam retracted his leg, muscles screamed to be released. Mustering all his strength, he thrust it out. The ticking bag moved but fell just out of his reach. It's not far enough God. His body convulsed as he sobbed.

         Tick, tick, tick

He heard a footfall and his tear-stained face looked up. "Christy? Why are you here? Get away, for the love of God, Go!" She walked toward him, a small key in her hand. Unlocking the cuffs, she whispered, "You never should have chosen running over me." She walked over to the backpack and unzipped it, removing a clock.

*

"Sam! Sam!"

From afar, he heard Christy calling his name.

He opened his eyes. Disorientated, he didn't recognize his surroundings. Scanning an all white room, he saw men and women in white hovering around him. Nobody moved. Slowly his eyes focused on Christy’s moist eyes. Sam gave her a weak smile.

"How are you feeling, young man?" asked a man whose name tag identified him as Dr. Abbott.

"Someone’s hammering inside my head."

"Not surprised, you received a concussion. We want to keep you a few more days for observation." Somehow Sam found Dr. Abbott's graying hair and raspy voice comforting.

When the doctor left the room the nurses, like a gaggle of plump geese, followed.

Christy pulled up a chair next to the bed, "A passerby saw you get mugged and they called the cops, the hospital called me. Doctor Abbott says you will be fine, but you got whacked pretty hard."

Sam gingerly felt his throbbing head, "Stitches?"

"Yeah, about 10. You've been out several hours. You were crying and mumbling something about a key and a bag. We didn't know what to think." Her voice quivered. “I didn’t know if you were coming back.”

Sam's pulse increased as he remembered the fear of losing her. He pulled her up toward him and, after wiping a single tear from his eye, he gave her a long loving kiss.

"Christy, I never want to leave you again. Marry me?"

Christine nodded her head. "Why now after all these years, Sam? Running is your li.."

Sam put his finger to her lips. He tried to hold his emotions but several times his voice broke. "I needed to come back to you, Christy. I had to tell you -- I realized … I love you more than anything in the world."
###
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