This was started back in March and I just finished it last week.

Many thanks to my beta, prehistoric-girl, for listening to my paranoia and editing this so fast. If it weren't for her, this would probably still be sitting on my desktop wondering "why isn't she writing me anymore?" Enjoy!


Everything blends together as she runs through the forest, the setting sun casting shadows along the forest floor. Her heart pounds; she has to get away. Everything is happening too fast, none of this can be real. Shaking her head in an attempt to throw away the memories of her day, she runs faster, ignoring the broken twigs and stones beneath her bare feet.

Biting back tears that are slowly creeping past her defenses, she glances back behind her to see if she is being followed. Thankfully, she is not. A small feeling of relief passes through her as she realizes that she is alone, truly alone, with nothing but the wonders of the forest to keep her company. She slows down to a slow jog when she notices that her chest is aching from running so hard and for longer than she is used to. Strangely, she welcomes the feeling of weariness as it seeps into her. It means that she is really gone, that she has actually managed to escape.

Only until you have to return, sneers in her mind. Shutting her eyes tightly, she begins to hum as she walks along a path that is barely visible for all the flowers and vines along it. She knows ignoring the problem will not make it vanish, but she figures it is a good start.

Eventually she happens upon her bridge as she has deemed it; a single log draped across land that has been cut away by the stream flowing underneath it. Over time she has secured the log, making it large enough for one person to sit comfortably on, if needed. She smiles as she steps onto the worn down log, relishing in the feeling of the wood. Gathering her dress in her hands, she sits down and pulls her knees to her chest before dropping the fabric, letting it fall where it may.

A sigh escapes her as her arms wrap around her knees and her head falls forward. She almost can't believe why she is here, but the pole holding the lamp just on the other side of the log reminds her all too well of what she is trying her best to run from.

You can't keep running forever. Reality will catch up eventually.

"No!" she shouts suddenly. Then, realizing what she has done, she whips her head around and searches for signs of other people. She relaxes somewhat when she finds no one. A gentle breeze whistles through the forest, shaking the leaves and causing the water below to trickle ever so slightly. A small dragonfly looms around her lazily, drawing invisible figure eights that she tries to trace with her hands. After a few minutes the small creature flies away and, despite her attempts to forget the past couple of hours, she breaks down into heavy sobs.

"Anastasia," someone calls from the forest. She hears the voice, even knows who it belongs to, and as much as she wants to stop crying, she can't. Instead, her sobs become heavier as her body begins shaking from the weight of the situation. She can't deny her feelings anymore. They come, wave upon wave, as she sits there on the log, helpless and alone.

Someone calls her name again, this time closer. Finding a small amount of will power, she raises her hand and wipes away the tears that now stain her pale cheeks. As her hand drops once more, she hears faint footsteps behind her followed by a sigh. She does not turn around. She knows she does not need to. He has managed to find her when all she wants, all she thinks that she wants, is to be left alone.

"Ana," the voice says quietly, and the pure gentleness in the voice causes her tears to start again. She buries her head in her arms and bites her bottom lip, trying to silence her grief. She has no control over her body when, as soon as she feels a hand on her shoulder, she falls into his arms and weeps uncontrollably. She can feel his arms shifting as he moves to sit beside her and a small part of her is glad that he has found her. As much as she wishes to be alone right now, she knows that he knows exactly what she needs in this moment. He always has.

She cries for several more minutes while he gently glides his fingers through her tangled hair, calming her sobs gradually. When she is reduced to nothing but sniffles her right arm falls into her lap and she brings herself closer to him, seeking warmth against the cool air that has settled in the night.

When he says her name softly, she picks up her head and looks at him for the first time since she ran past him a couple hours earlier.

Her heart beat uncontrollably as she ran as fast as her feet would carry her. This can't be happening, she thought. It can't be. Just run. RUN!

She shoved people out of her way as she sprinted through the large halls, her dark hair flying behind her. Her dress began tangling in her legs and she stopped quickly to bend down and grab the end of it before she began running again, faster this time. RUN!

Several feet ahead of her, she saw him turn the corner and smile at her before his grin was replaced with confusion. "Anastasia?" he asked as she rushed past him. "Anastasia!" She ignored the rest of his cries as she shoved the oak door open and ran to the one place she could seek refuge: the woods. She knew that he would be confused as to why she didn't stop for him, but she also knew that if she talked to him at the moment, her resolve would break. She would not make it past the first lamp post if she told him that-NO! Just run!

"I'm sorry," she whispers faintly, her eyes shimmering with unshed tears.

He shakes his head. "It's not your fault."

She wants to say something more, but finds that her chin is once again shaking. He watches as she bites her lip and a tear falls down her face. Knowing that there is little he can do, he simply reaches out and grazes his thumb over her cheek, erasing the tear and its path from her face. At this gesture, she cracks slightly and leans her head on his shoulder. "Why did this have to happen?" she whispers.

"I don't know Ana," he replies, "but you know we can't stay out here. We have to go back."

She shakes her head against his shoulder. "I don't want to go back there."

"You need to," he states, still speaking softly to keep her calm.

"But she's not there anymore."

"All the more reason that we need to go back. Your dad needs you," he whispers.

She nods and reluctantly pulls away from him, then takes his hand when he stands up and offers it to her. She allows him to pull her from the ground and gladly accepts the hug he immediately wraps her in. She pulls back after a few moments and takes a deep breath before she starts to walk back. She does not startle when she feels an arm move around her waist. Instead, she wraps her own arm around him in return and leans against him slightly, her energy beginning to falter from the emotional and physical stress she has been through.

"How did you find me?" she asks as the pillars forming the front of the house come into view in the distance. Though they are still far from the entrance, she can tell that the typical buzz of roaming families is nonexistent. The place she has come to call her home is suddenly silent as a grave.

He squeezes her side gently. "I knew you would go someplace that would clear your head." She smiles and a light laugh sounds through her lips. Of course he would know where to find her at a time like this. "Hey, look at that: a smile."

"I smile," she replies. Josh looks down at her and raises an eyebrow. "Okay," she admits. "I know I haven't smiled today, but can you really blame me?" At her words she slows down, the situation catching up with her once more.

"Ana?" Josh asks when he feels her stop completely. He looks to his side and sees Anastasia there, fighting tears as her breath quickens. "Ana, it's alright," he says quietly as he faces her.

She shakes her head vehemently and raises her watery eyes to look at her best friend. "No, it's not. She's gone and I-"

He wraps his arms around her as another round of sobs roll through her already exhausted body, knowing that before long she will have no choice as her legs give out. "Ana, you can't do this to yourself. It's not your fault." She mumbles something, but the words are muffled as her head is directly on his chest. "Ana?"

Anastasia's breath catches as she tries to stop her tears and she turns her head so her ear is lying right over his heart. "I wasn't there to say goodbye. I left to go swim instead of staying for 5 minutes to tell her goodbye."

"But you couldn't have known what was going to happen," he counters.

"I still wasn't there." Her voice catches at the last word and a single tear trickles down her cheek.

Josh pulls back slightly and wipes the tear away, his heart aching for his best friend's grief. "Ana, look at me." When she refuses, he uses his thumb and index finger to bring her face up. "Ana, it was not your fault. Do you understand? It would have happened whether you told her goodbye or not."

"But—"

"No buts," he interrupts. She can be stubborn at times, but he knows that her resolve is breaking when he notices that her eyes are starting to droop. "These things happen, much as we wish they won't. There's nothing you can do to prevent them." He watches as she sighs and closes her eyes as his hand tucks a stray strand of hair behind her ear. "Are you ready to go back now?" he asks quietly.

She shakes her head slowly and opens her eyes after a few seconds. "I'm tired," she admits.

Josh smiles to himself and nods. Her tough resolve has finally cracked. "What if I carry you the rest of the way?" When she makes no move to accept or reject his offer, he turns around and kneels down on the ground in front of her. "Come on Ana, just like we used to."

He cannot hear any noises, but knows that she has relented when he feels her weight on his back. She wraps her arms around his shoulders and he stands up so she can bring her legs in. Knowing that she is bound to fall asleep before they reach the house, Josh hooks his arms under her legs for support and hunches over slightly. He knows from experience that her arms will stay around his neck if she succumbs to the exhaustion, but likes the extra security of being sure that she will not fall off.

"Hey Josh?" she asks softly after he starts walking at a slow, steady pace.

"Yeah?"

"Thank you." Her voice is already laden with sleep and within a few seconds he feels her body completely relax and her arms slacken ever so slightly. Josh tightens his grip on her legs and keeps walking toward the house in silence.


This story is actually already completed and broken up into chapters, so I plan on updating a new chapter every week. If there is anything you want to see, tell me and I'll see if I can fit it into the story line. Also, the picture that inspired me to write this story is now a link on my profile so go check it out if you're curious. It's a beautiful piece done by an artist on DeviantArt.

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