Carbon

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Chapter 5

Heath and I heaved heavy breaths as the urge to breathe overcame any other need our bodies craved. My hands fell to my knees, folding over, and he doubled to the floor, his face pressed against the grass. My eyes fell back to the futbol goal across the pitch, trying to calculate how many miles this fitness drill made us sprint and trying to figure out what made us do this.

He mumbled, “How many more seconds before the next rep?”

I huffed, “Ten.”

He hopped onto his feet suddenly and then mumbled, “Go,” before exploding across the pitch. His long strides eclipsed mine nearly three times. His arms lulled back and forth repetitively with each pounding of his strides.

My stumpy legs struggled to maintain his speed, and my lungs ached from the stress. Our ankles bent as we pivoted on the goal-line and sprinted back to the other side of the field. Our feet crossed the ending point, and then we crumpled to our exhaustion.

Heath placed his palms against the back of his head, expanding his rib cage. I merely leaned over, sweat sliding down my tendrils and nose into the ground like rain droplets. I clenched my eyes shut as I swallowed vomit insistently, begging not to blow chunks during this drill Heath made for me…

I shouldn’t have asked him to help me with my speed. I should have just succumbed to the thought that I would never be fast enough for anyone. I was silly to think that I would easily be able to run for the rest of my life like this.

The white goal posts taunted us from afar, questioning if I really could make another rep. My knuckles whitened as my nails dug into my kneecaps.

“Go.”

Heath pounded after the goal line, and I obediently followed. His gazelle-like trot made me envious regarding my uncoordinated march. My eyes glued to him, trying to imitate his style and his grace, copy him in every aspect because he was perfection.

We quickly pivoted again, and I sprinted across the line, vomit trickling up my body, a pressure residing in the back of my throat. Our feet crossed the line, and I hurled as soon as my feet anchored just behind the line. My back rolled forward as the vomit curtailed out of me again. I moaned in agitation and took in a deep breath.

A hand pressed against my lower back, and Heath knelt down beside me. A concerned expression absorbed my behavior with sympathy polluting his teal eyes. He whimpered, “Dev, stop. I’m going to puke.”

I glared at him through my periphery and admitted, “Funny, I’m already doing that.”

“We should stop and pick it up again tomorrow. You have to show me how to do that sick move tomorrow anyway. Remember? The deal?”

I growled, “Again.”

He cracked a smile and readied for another rep.

“Why?”

I turned to him, putting my bag in his trunk, sweat seeping through my clothes as if I jumped into a swimming pool. My hair was glued against my skin with my perspiration. My ponytail was cockeyed and messily tied to the back of my head loosely. “Why what?”

Heath slammed the door shut with a crooked smile carved into his face. “Why do you do that?”

Irritated, my hands planted on my hips. “Do what?”

“Push yourself so hard.”

I nonchalantly shrugged and offered, “I want to get better.”

“No, if you wanted to get better, you would have stopped after throwing up. You of all people know body limitations, but you sit there and press on. You could really hurt yourself.” He sauntered around the Jeep, and I jumped into the passenger side as he pressed on. “If you wanted to get better, you would have put a stop to that.”

I stared vacantly in front of us, a large wood interrupting our view of anything else. I glared at one particular tree in general, the girth of the tree wider than two men standing shoulder-to-shoulder. “I don’t know.”

He turned to me and grimaced. I could tell he was getting upset as his tears began to water once he saw the faint scars on my wrists. “You told me you’d stop.”

Our eyes locked, and I whispered, “I did.”

“You didn’t stop torturing yourself when we were running.”

I didn’t answer.

He confided, “You’re making me worry.”

I turned away from him, waiting for him to rev up the engine. The engine roared to life, and we road silently together as he pulled down the main stretch and stopped at a red light.

“I guess it’s the only thing I get to control.”

The light flicked to green, but the car remained immobile.

I turned to Heath, and veins bulged underneath his thin skin on his arms as he tautened his clasp against the leather wheel. His brow furrowed as he held back something he buried deep down. He held back the urge to say something, to do something, to scold me, to assuage me, to hate me, to love me, to do anything.

“Heath?”

The car behind us honked his horn angrily, repetitively slamming on the horn as if he was writing a song with the obnoxious noise. He was so adamant about getting Heath’s attention to move.

The light flicked back to red.

“I’m so sorry,” he whispered, staring at nothing in particular, staring at the innards of his imagination.

A tear trickled down my face in response.

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