Disclaimer : Characters and situations are all from my imagination.
Warnings : Sex and love between women
Note : This story features characters introduced in "The World Without Her." In the midst of writing that story, the muse gave me this snippet of their ongoing story. It didn't fit anywhere in the first story, so I decided why not just tell it in a different one? You don't have to have read TWWH to understand this. It's wholly self-contained. But if you did read the first story, this takes place not long afterward.
Feedback : Constructive criticism and feedback, both welcomed at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2013 Geonn Cannon
Running always got in the way. She would meet someone in a bar or at a club, or she'd meet them through the radio station where she did a call-in show, and they would be excited about the possibility. "Oh, that's awesome! I've been wanting to start jogging. Maybe you could inspire me!" Robin always gave it a shot, even though she warned them all that jogging was an entirely different beast than running marathons. She didn't run just to stay in shape; when she ran, it was training. When she ran, it was serious . She wasn't going to stop and feed the ducks. She wasn't going to skip a day because she was too tired. Eventually the woman would decide it wasn't worth waking up at five in the morning, or that she wanted a partner who didn't run everywhere, and she'd pack up her things and vanish.
Robin didn't mind. She got a week or a month of fun sex without adjusting her life plan. The women were never around long enough for her to change anything, so she just went on as if the interruption hadn't happened.
Then she met Michelle. They were on Mile 13 of a marathon and they both reached for the same cup of water being held out by a volunteer. Robin got the cup and passed it to Michelle, which was the first and last concession she made during the race. They didn't give each other any inches, no favors. They goaded each other on, mocked each other mercilessly, swapped the lead back and forth... Robin was behind when they neared the finish line, but then miraculously Michelle seemed to hit a wall and fell back. Robin crossed the line victorious and circled around to greet her opponent.
"Now I owe you dinner," Michelle said.
Robin had forgotten all about the wager they'd put in place at Mile 23. They cooled off together, their trash talking transforming instantly into praise and accolades. They exchanged numbers and three days later they met for their date. Robin invited Michelle back to her place, and that time she made sure Michelle finished first.
Four years, eight months, one week and two days later, Robin laced up her running sneakers and tugged the top of her socks up over her ankles. She was already dressed in her shorts and tank top, her glasses and cap sitting by the door. Michelle was already prepared and waiting for her to catch up. Robin had never once stopped to think about dating another marathoner, someone who would wake her up when it was time to go, someone who would be adamant that they have to be up at 4:45 to be at the starting line on time.
They had their differences and their arguments, but running was one thing they both understood. They never fought about running. And in between races, they supported each other's training and acted as coach. They discovered, gratefully, that they actually had a lot in common that didn't involve running. Michelle had an affinity for assigning people nicknames (Robin was Birdie), and they both shared a love of reading so powerful that one bedroom of their apartment was devoted entirely to book storage. By the third year of their relationship, most people who knew them just assumed they were already married. Sometimes Robin wondered if there was any real difference between the bond they had and a marriage.
"You ready?" Michelle asked as she came out of the bathroom.
"Born ready. What's the wager this time?"
"I want you to wear that French maid outfit again."
Robin said, "Ooh. I think I can abide by that. And if I win... hm. If I win, I want you to call me at work and talk dirty to me."
They took their things and left the apartment, moving quietly through the hall so they didn't disturb the non-runners who were still fast asleep. Robin drove to the race prep zone and they joined the rest of the pre-dawn racers. Michelle took her hand as they walked to check in. Robin squeezed and brushed her thumb over Michelle's knuckles, looking at her as the sun started to turn the sky golden. It made her hair look like it was glowing, and she smiled when Michelle caught her staring.
"You're not going to be too distracted to race, are you?" Michelle teased.
"Nope. Just getting my fill so I won't be too emotional to crush you. You're not my girlfriend for the next two hours."
Michelle laughed. "Two hours even? Wow. I think you're a little cocky."
" Oui, madam . You know what that is? That's the only French you're getting out of me. Do you need my work number? You have to dial the extension..."
"Won't need it. Oh, I got you a new feather duster."
Robin sighed. "Sorry you wasted your money."
"God, you trash-talk as bad as you run."
Robin let go of Michelle's hand and shoved her. Michelle laughed and swung her arm out, almost brushing Robin's arm. They took their position and took off when the starters pistol sounded. Robin took the immediate lead, but then she dropped back and Michelle surged forward. Michelle looked over her shoulder as she passed, her face filled with mock-sympathy.
"They do have a five-k walk for, you know, kids and old people. We could try that if you're feeling a little wimpy."
"Just wanted to get one last look at your ass before I kicked it."
Michelle stuck out her tongue, flicked her fingers off the brim of her cap, and turned away. Robin chuckled and paced herself, staying no more than five feet behind Michelle at all times. She tried to make sure she was close enough to touch her every time Michelle looked back to check her progress, winking as if to say she could overtake at any second.
At one point, Michelle's ponytail bouncing in her face, she said, "Right now you're putting your all into keeping me behind you. When we hit Mile 20, you're going to feel it. And me? I'm going to have reserves I haven't tapped yet. You're going to fall behind and I'm going to beat you after all. Oh, how could you take that humiliation?"
"Your delusion is making me sad, Birdie."
Robin chuckled and shook her head.
At Mile 21, Michelle dropped back until they were even. "Are you okay?" There was no mocking in her voice this time, just breathless concern.
"I've never led you for an entire marathon."
Robin shrugged. "Maybe I'm throwing it. I feel bad. I've beaten you so many times, Chely. I thought I'd throw you a pity win."
Michelle's face hardened. "I'll show you a pity win..."
Robin picked up her speed, but Michelle outpaced her and stepped back in front of her. At two hours and forty-seven minutes, they saw the finish line up ahead. Michelle put one hand behind her back and folded down her fingers one at a time, counting down from five until her hand was in a fist as she stepped over the finish line. 2:47:43. Robin crossed seconds behind her, the official time listed as 2:48:01. Michelle threw her head back and guffawed.
"That's what's called a full minute behind me!"
"Not even twenty seconds."
"Details! One full minute." She put her hands on her hips and circled around, breasts rising and falling with her deep breaths as she accepted a blanket across her shoulders and a thermos of ice water. She and Robin both drank, and then Michelle strolled over to her and kicked her sneaker.
"You know what you just did?" Michelle asked. "You just chased me for twenty-six miles."
Robin swallowed her water, handed the bottle back to the volunteer, and turned to face her girlfriend. "And I'd chase you for another twenty-six miles. Or a hundred and twenty-six. Or however many miles it took until I finally caught you. I'd run around the world and I'd never get tired because I'd know how sweet it would feel to win the race." She took something out of her shorts pocket and folded her hand over it. "I never want to stop chasing you, Michelle. Will you marry me?"
Michelle had gone totally still, staring at Robin's hand as she unfolded her fingers to reveal the ring. She covered her mouth with both hands and her knees suddenly wavered. Robin and a volunteer grabbed her before she could fall, and they guided her onto the curb. She sat and then cupped Robin's cheek.
"We've been together four years. But I knew after four hours that I would never find anyone I'd be happier with. I spent the rest of the time convincing you that I was that person for you. So hopefully you have a good idea, and you can answer correctly. Please marry me."
Michelle smiled, and her tears rolled free. "Yes."
Robin kissed her and they hugged as the marathon volunteers clapped for them. Robin buried her face against Michelle's neck, smelling her sweat and sunscreen and skin baked by the sun. It was the best smell in the world as far as she was concerned, and she pressed two kisses against it before she pulled back.
"You still owe me the--"
"A bet's a bet," Robin said, her own cheeks wet now. She took Michelle's hand to slip the ring onto it. Michelle sniffled and looked at the diamond, her other hand over her mouth, and then she laughed and kissed Robin again.
"This could be a mistake. It's one thing to beat my girlfriend on a regular basis. I'm not sure I can routinely kick my wife's ass."
"Oh, honey," Robin said. "You never really beat me that often."
Michelle laughed. "You are such a sore loser."
"You suck at running, you suck at trash talk... you better be a damn good wife."
"I will," she said, suddenly sincere. "I swear I will." She pulled back and kissed Robin's lips. "I love you so much."
"I love you, too."
Michelle sniffled and furrowed her brow. "You know what's sick?"
"I'm really, really pissed that you actually did throw the race just so you could pull this shit."
Robin laughed. "I couldn't think of a better way to do it."
"It was perfect. I never really thought about it, but... finish line at a marathon. The person who came up with that is the kind of person I can see myself shackled to." She brushed the tear away from Robin's face. "How long have you been planning this?"
"Consciously or subconsciously? Because consciously, just since we signed up."
"Mile 25, New York, four years ago."
Michelle smiled and pinched Robin's chin. "Come on. Let's go home and take a nice long bath."
"Would madam like me to draw ze bath when we get home?"
" Oui, et merci , Birdie."
Robin stood and grunted as her tired muscles stretched, and she offered her hands to Michelle. She stood and together they walked away from the finish line.
A volunteer who recognized them from past races but wasn't working the finish line that year smiled when their paths crossed.
"Hey, Birdie! Chely! Who won this year?"
Michelle said, "I did," at the same time Robin said, "Both of us." Michelle laughed and rested her head on Robin's shoulder, sagging against her and forcing Robin to half-carry her.
The woman laughed and waved them away. "Will you two ever agree on anything?"
Robin smiled and pulled Michelle close. "Yeah, actually. One thing. We agreed on one very important thing."Michelle smiled and let herself be led back to the parking lot.
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