The brush plants scraped at my legs, mud sloshed beneath my tennis shoe clad feet. The clouds poured the rain down even harder, but still I walked on. Water splashing off of me, I climbed up the hill through the natural obstacles—there was no set path, only my own.
It didn't usually rain, and on any other day I would have opted out of the hike given the weather, but today I had to get away. Whether I was being dramatic or the sake of my sanity really was on the line, I didn't care.
I was nearing the top now, to the edge of the grove of trees that lined all the way down to the other side. At the very top of the hill though, there was a big oak tree. I reached this tree, which had become my sanctuary years before.
I jumped up and took hold of the lowest branch, then hoisted myself up. Taking my seat in the familiar crook of two thick branches growing together, I looked out over the county. I could see everything, and it was all tinted pink from the setting sun on the horizon.
The rain had stopped, and stretching over the entire picture in front of me was a vivid rainbow.
Lyrics to a favorite song of mine came to my head softly; "If you can wait 'till I get home, then I swear we can make this last." Tears came to my eyes as the words repeated themselves, as if they were determined to permanently etch themselves into my brain. These were the words he had said to me before he had left. Even as they now echoed in my head, it was his voice I heard. I knew I could wait. I'd already waited a few days shy of twelve months. Twelve months seeping with a drawn out feeling of angst. The year that laid itself out before me felt impossible to push through. The two year mark seemed so far away.
Going long periods of time without seeing or hearing from the person I truly loved was proving to be unhealthy for me. But the only thing I could do was wait out the last year. Each day with all my might I wished he would still be out there. I had no way of knowing he was alive, a fact that ate viciously at me every minute.
But right there in that moment as I watched the sun set, I knew that somewhere he was watching the exact same thing.
* * *
I ran down the beach, the sand pushing back against my feet. My heart pounded in sync with the crashing waves against the shore.
I ran harder.
Absorbed in my lament, I hadn't noticed that I was no longer alone. Lenny was now running beside me, I hadn't heard him coming at all.
"You know, you could slow down. It took me forever to catch up with you." Len said, breathing heavily but not slowing down.
"You could have yelled or something, you scared me."
Len shook his head, "doubt it. And Shaun, if you keep running this hard, you may end up killing yourself."
"No, only build myself up. I have to make the two year mark. If I get held longer, then all of this will have been a waste." I said with the persistence I forced myself to hold every day.
"You know you'll make it. Everyone knows. You are the most determined out of all of us. She must really be something." He added almost as a question.
"She is," I paused. "Do you think she is still waiting for me?" I asked, craving empty assurance.
"I don't know," Len replied, "I don't know her. But you know what I think?" he asked.
"What?" We were walking now, catching our breath.
"I think that if she knew how much you loved her before you left, and if she loved you back with just a fraction of that, then she is waiting for you. People can search all ends of the earth and not find that." He explained.
The sun was setting beyond the horizon, and as the water turned orange I hoped with every inch of me that she was still waiting for me to come back home.