Like Melted Chocolate
This is the best part of her day. Her morning run. She concentrates on the air rushing in and out of her lungs. The rhythmic sound of her feet pounding against the gravel keeps her pace steady. The sun trickling through the canopy of leaves highlights her skin in flashes of light. Long black hair floats on a current of air created by speed. The music flooding through her headphones seems to dictate her heartbeat.
She can't help but grin as her body leans into the next curve in the trail. The feeling of exhilaration drives her forward. Then, without warning, a dog is suddenly under her feet. A small yappy thing, barking as it wraps its leash around her ankles. She stumbles over the blue fabric, catching herself against a tree trunk. Rough bark scrapes against the exposed skin of her upper arm. The rush of air and salty sweat flooding the wound stings instantly.
“Oh my god, I am so sorry.” A voice sounds from behind her. “He got away from me.”
“Jesus. Pay attention.” Gingerly she touches her shoulder, wincing.
“You’re hurt. Is there anything I can do?”
Looking up, she sees a boy in his early twenties, only a few years older than her. Her gaze locks on his deep, dark brown eyes, like melted chocolate. She pauses as her anger begins to wane.
“I’ll be fine.” Moving to the side of the path, she pushes the dog along with her foot, making way for the runners she hears coming. The little brown thing licks at the salty skin of her ankles. She pulls her foot away quickly, rubbing her ankle against her other leg.
“I’m Gilbert.” The stranger reaches out his hand.
“As in Blythe?” she chuckles.
“Actually yes, my mother was a fan.” He smiles back at her “Not many people know the reference.”
“What good Canadian doesn’t? That was my favourite movie as a kid.” She scratches the dog’s curly head, her initial annoyance gone.
“You know it was a book first right?” he eyes sparkling through his long black lashes.
“Really? Huh.” Distractedly, she reaches for the ipod attached to her belt and stops the music still audible through the headphones in her hand. “I wanted to go to Green Gables so badly. I begged and begged my parents until they finally took us to PEI when I was eight. It’s still my favourite family holiday.” She smiles to herself, shaking her head. “And, I have no idea why I’m telling you this.”
His face glows a soft shade of pink as he laughs along with her. “Do you have a name?”
“Old-fashioned. Nice. What do people call you?”
“Penelope.” She smirks. “I like my name.” She glances at her watch; her heart rate has dropped to a normal rhythm. Her breathing is no longer laboured. The rest of her run will be useless. “I have to get going. Nice to meet you, Gilbert.”
“Perhaps we’ll run into each other again some morning.”
“Only if you leave the dog at home. “ She calls as she disappears around another bend in the trees. She doesn’t push herself this time, instead she jogs towards the hill leading out of the park. A set of wooden stairs lead up the steepest section. At the top, Penelope exits onto a quiet side street. She jogs to the white home four houses down. Entering through the patio doors into the lower level, she pushed her sneakers off without breaking stride. In her bedroom, she sheds her running clothes, leaving them in a pile on the floor outside her bathroom, and jumps into the shower.
Twenty minutes later, her skin red from the scalding water, she reaches into her closet and pulls out her uniform. Dressing quickly, she sits in front of her mirror and clicks on her television, pushing the channel button rhythmically until she settles on an old cartoon. The familiar theme song from her childhood causes a grin to spread across his face. Opening her make-up case, she leans forward to apply her mascara when a knock sounds at her door.
“Come in.” She calls, not looking away from the mirror.
“What the hell are you watching?” Her twin brother, Ash asks, walking into the room. “Seriously?”
“Cause you never used to watch this stuff.”
“Yeah, when I was five or something.”
“Mmmm hmmm,” Penelope looks at him out of the corner of her eye “I must have imagined catching you playing with my dolls when you were about twice that age.”