Pamlico Writers’ 1K Challenge

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Running at Sunset
A possible scene for Titanium Blue

The setting sun bathed the land in shades of rose. Jenna loved this time of day. She’d forgotten how peaceful it felt to stretch her legs and push her body, breathing in the cool, crisp autumn air. The holidays would soon be upon them and she might not have another chance to run like this. She missed running.
After working at the café and juggling being a single mom, most nights it was all she could do to stay awake past Toby’s bedtime. She lengthened her stride, pouring out the tension and stress of the past weeks. Tar was back. Her heart stuttered in her chest and she blinked back tears. She wasn’t fooling anyone with her denials, especially not herself. Jenna was still in love with her husband. Why did love have to hurt so much? When did I become a coward? He’d battled his addiction to pain medicine. She could see in his clear topaz eyes that he wasn’t using.
When her husband had returned from Afghanistan minus his lower leg, he’d shut her out. He’d almost pushed her out the door. I should have stayed and fought, she thought, listening to the tap of her feet on the pavement. She focused on landing lightly on her toes, barely letting her heel touch before pushing off again. Pine and cedar mingled with the heavy dew bringing the scent of the river, briny and laden with the threat of rain. The smell of the marshlands a unique essence she couldn’t describe, a combination of mud and brackish water, life and death, the ancient past and the future. She ran down the lane to the marina, filling her lungs with the life-giving force of the Pamlico. Steps, heavy and consistent behind her, alarmed her, turning she sighed in relief and longing as her husband ran towards her.
“You’re running again?” She stared down at his space-age looking leg.
Tar nodded, running in place beside her. “The new leg is designed for running—titanium.”
She smiled and fell into step beside him. “Are you going to run in the Veteran’s Day Five K?”
Tar darted a glance her way. “I didn’t know there was one.”
Jenna nodded, her pony tail brushing against her neck like a lover’s caress, her cheeks pinkened with desire and she was thankful for the glow of the setting sun staining everything with its rosy tint. “The town uses it to raise money for the Veteran’s Memorial in the park and the Veteran’s brunch.”
Tar’s dark brow raised, and a smile hovered on his handsome face. “Another of Dana’s projects?”
Jenna nodded. “She’s roped me into helping but I told her I wanted to run. I swear that girl could talk a grizzly bear into giving piggy back rides.”
Tar snorted. “I’ve managed to stay under her radar.”
Jenna laughed an idea coming to mind. “She’d love to honor some of the local veterans…”
Tar shook his head.
Before he could protest, she said, “It wouldn’t be a big deal. Maybe you and some of your buddies would start the run?”
“Are you talking about wounded vets?” There was a harshness in his voice.
“No, not just. I think it would be great to have each era represented. My dad and some of the older guys are talking about walking. They don’t want to be up in front because they know they’ll be slower. If you have some guys that are runners, it would be great if they could start the run…” her voice trailed off.
Tar visibly relaxed, letting go of the chip on his shoulder. Jenna let out the breath she’d been holding unaware she’d been doing so. Desire and fear, love and anger, all warred inside her. They’d been the perfect couple before he’d lost his leg. At least, she and all their friends had thought so. She blinked back tears aware of the strain of the past few minutes.
“I’ll ask some of the guys I know,” Tar’s deep voice interrupted her thoughts. “It would be an honor to lead the run.”
Jenna stared at him. Her attention off the road, she stumbled. Tar’s big, callused hands kept her from falling on her face.
“Whoa, be careful.”
Resuming her pace, Jenna found her voice. “Thanks, for catching me and thanks…”
“You know I’m putting myself in Dana sights,” he said shaking his head. “A smart Marine knows, you should never volunteer for a dangerous mission.”
Jenna frowned. “Is there such a thing as a smart Marine?”
He growled.
Jenna increased her speed.
Laughing, Tar chased her.
As the sun set deepened from pink to purple, Jenna became aware of her own deepening feelings. Could she risk loving this man again? As they ran in companionable silence, she let the thought seep into her heart like the cool, damp air into her lungs. Maybe they deserved a second chance.

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