A one-legged man tries to sabotage his time with the elusive Willa. [short] [750 words]
Gripping the sweat-slick walker I hopped along behind as Willa led me deeper into the night and the woods. Never allowing myself to question, I tried to drink in the moment, to admire the way the leaves rolling ahead of us reflected the fire in her hair and the earth tones of her overskirt.
An athlete ran between us as if to sweep her off her feet, followed by several more, all athletes and captains of industry, magnificent and whole. She eluded them by the breadth of a hem but her hair swished to the right as her heart followed with them.
Naturally. Of course they would catch her eye, just by passing through. I told myself it meant only that she saw them, yet I had already seen her heart running off with them. "You can go with them, if you like."
Her open laugh almost disarmed me as she teased, "I didn't bring my track shoes."
I struggled to mask the pain that pinched my face.
She reached back to caress my shoulder with fingernails of Jack-o-lantern orange, and leaned in to confide, "I doubt they even fit anymore."
Willa, like a firefly in the breeze, could vanish into the shadows and leave not a wisp of evidence. The bug out bag on her back seat, "wisp" on her license plate, the swish of her hair as she dreamt of running with the real men, all drowned out my hopes. Though she owned my joy, she could not touch my dignity; I would stand tall even on my own. "This is serious."
Her hair swished as she looked back to wink at me. "Why, thank you." She waited a moment, then bolted forward.
Abandoned? As I watched her run ahead with the leaves, the knot in my throat held back the wailing sob.
Then she stopped and turned, hands on her hips, to smile at me before flopping herself over the park bench.
Hot faced with exhaustion and embarrassment, I hobbled up to pause in front of her and look down into her eyes.
"Only way to soothe a Gibran fan."
I hadn't meant it as a test. Not like that. And, she hadn't quite come back to me, had she? Uncertainty held me in stasis.
"Unless you are afraid you'll never be seen again." She reached up behind me to tug at my gait belt, to gently guide me into her space.
What did I have to lose? I had already followed her into the dark. I accepted her lead, down into her arms.
As she draped her overskirt around me, her gentle arms assured me they had everything well in hand.
From her warm arms the message soaked into the chill of my being. Capable arms, arms that knew where I belonged. Arms that knew how to hold on. In sweet surrender, I smiled and sagged against her body, finally understanding who had been hunting and who had been caught.