**Originally Written for the Chat Book, Truth** An Accidental Kiss (Part 3 of 5) - Short Story
Part 1 - The Discovery - July 2nd
Part 2 - The Connection - July 16th
Part 3 - The Acceptance - July 30th (Today)
Through the trees I saw more moving colors. The girls were finishing their first mile. I heard shouts and cheers, the sounds were moving toward me like a crash of a wave on the shore.
“Come on, Kim!” No matter where you were in a race you could always hear Mrs. Fogaard cheering her daughter on. Kim was in 4th. The pack came around the corner out of the woods to encircle the lake again. You could hear the slapping of their gaits change as they ran from the grass onto the dirt. It’s a more definite sound that rings in your ears. “6:18, 6:19, 6:20, 6:21…” Kim was on pace for a 19:42. She could break her PR. The lead pack circled the lake. The color of the trees mixed with their uniforms until they disappeared.
I walked over to Mr. and Mrs. Fogaard who were managing the bake sale for the meet. It was amazing how much food you could sell at a cross-country meet. Runners tend to crave sugars after a run; especially Rice Krispy treats, and home baked caramel granola bars. After a race all respect for healthy foods disappear. Hey, why not? Exploit runners at their most vulnerable.
“Well, look who it is! How have you been?” Mrs. Fogaard gave me a kiss on the cheek and a tight hug.
“I’ve been pretty good. Studying a lot.” I shook Mr. Fogaard’s hand. I always enjoyed talking to them. Over the years we have had conversations about cycling and triathlons, business techniques, problems with the education system and school board; you name it. They still accepted me as a good person. I had made a mistake that involved their daughter but they had forgiven me.
“Kim actually, applied to Binghamton,” he said. “But she really wants to go to Ithaca. I think it rang a bell with her. She really connected to the campus there.”
“Well if she decides on Binghamton I could set her up with the cross country coach.” Kim wasn’t the best runner, but she was good. She could run D1 X-C and Track at Bing. “What does she want to go into?”
“Physical Therapy” Mrs. Fogaard replied. She was a PT herself so I wasn’t shocked. “I told her she needs to focus on sports medicine.” I agreed with Mrs. Fogaard. Kim needed to focus there. That field fits her personality perfectly.
We could hear shouts form the opposite side of the field. The race had come back to the spectator area. Kim was now in 4th. It was easy to spot her. I have never forgotten the efficient glide in her stride, or the way her elbows stuck out from her sides as her arms pumped back and forth. A runner’s form was like a person’s smell. Each had their own.
The lead pack passed the 2nd mile with less runners but the intensity had grown. The pain of cramps, burning sensation of the muscles, and pressure in the lungs had set in. One wrong move could break a runner’s spirits and cost them the race. Kim looked focused and calm. You were trained not to give away how you felt through facial expressions; it breaks the concentration, creates tension, and wastes energy.
“Come on, Kim!” Mrs. Fogaard’s voice never ceased to amaze me. Its vibrations could cut through a deaf man’s head. “Come on, Kim!” The last of the lead pack disappeared once more into the woods for their last mile. A mile that takes more guts than talent.