I started writing this short story for the One Million Project’s writing group’s Weekend Write-In Challenge. This week’s prompt was “Birthday”. I wanted to do something different with the current chapter I was working on for my current work-in-progress — Never Show Your Hand. The following is the result of my efforts. I hope you like it!
Over a year has passed, and my heart still bleeds without him. Why didn’t I realize he never felt the same love for me as I did for him?
Clare’s skis skimmed over the crusty snow as she pushed her body to its limits. She initially used the intensive training for the Birkebeiner cross-country ski race as a way to burn off all of the anger, frustration, and pain from a broken heart but it became much more than a fitness goal. It became a challenge to keep her promise to fulfill her destiny, to not look back, and to savor the feeling of being complete. Not because a man was by her side, but as a result of loving the flawed, stubborn, fabulous woman that she’d become.
Her birthday was around the corner, and although Clare hadn’t celebrated her birthday for several years, she planned to make this year’s a memorable one by participating in the Birke and moving forward without her husband, Wyatt. She dug into the hillside with her poles as she pointed the tips of her skis out putting her body weight on the inner edges of her skis as she climbed the steep slope, making a herringbone pattern in the snow.
By the time she reached the top, her forehead was beaded with sweat under her stocking cap and her pants formed frosty clouds of mist with each expired breath. The tiny hairs in her nostrils, now frozen, prickled inside her nose, and her lungs ached with the effort of breathing. She pushed on knowing the actual Birke would be punishing in the extreme and she couldn’t quit because it was too hard.
When she reached the top of the hill, the sunshine reflected off the snow-covered countryside blinding her, and she squinted behind her sunglasses. It made her a bit homesick and reminded her of the last time she’d cross-country skied with her twin brother, Noah. That day had been sunny and brisk much like the current one. He would be so proud of her for pursuing this goal. It had been something they’d talked about doing together.
Shit! Clare wished he could participate in the event with her. Instead of wishing for things that could never happen she began her strong skating stride and pictured him skiing next to her — her skiing guardian angel — urging her to move faster and taunting her that he was going to whip her butt. Before she realized it, she’d reached the end of her practice run.
Bundling her gear into the Jeep, she headed for home. Clare let her yellow Lab, Max, outside as soon as she opened the door. She’d finished removing her boots and padded across the floor to warm her hands by the radiator.
Her forehead creased with surprise at the sound of rapping on her door. The hairs on her neck raised when she realized Max hadn’t alerted her to someone’s arrival. Maybe it was Loretta or Dave checking on her. She couldn’t help the sense of trepidation as she walked towards the door. Her body was beginning to tense as her heart rate picked up. Freaking great. It wasn’t the best time to lose it.
Should I ask who it is? Or go for it and be ready to kickbox their ass into yesterday?
Clare went for it swinging the door wide as she positioned her body into a defensive position. Her hands trembled and black spots danced into her vision.
“Clare, babe, are you okay?” Wyatt stood in front of her. He was the last thing she saw before she passed out cold.