Hello everyone! It’s been a HOT sec since I’ve posted anything on here, but now that my book is out (!!!) I have a bit more time to actually write/work on something else lol. I want to think of more blog posts to do, as well!
For now, enjoy this chapter of Sparked!
Chapter 5: Hang in There
Eileen was at a bit of a loss.
The trails next to the track looked relatively empty, so she had jogged over to maybe sit under a tree until she had to warm up, so she could get out of the oppressive heat. It was hard for her to really hang out with anyone at meets, because all of the girls she was friendly with ran sprints, so their events were at totally different times than the ones she ran, which was the 3200. She would feel less lonely and much more comfortable sitting under a nice tree than on the bleachers, which was currently so hot that she thought she might have gotten a sunburn just from its reflection. It was only April! How was this physically possible??
So, she went onto the trails expecting a nice relaxing time, and was now looking at the unconscious body of the boy she’d been in love with for three years. To her, it felt like one of those life-defining moments people made outdated inspirational cat posters about. Everyone has those days when they find the one they love getting attacked by shadow wolves. Hang in there.
Eileen had to have imagined it. She shook her head, blinking, carefully making her way over to Vincent.
“Vincent?” she raised her hand, crouching down next to him. She hesitated a moment before actually touching him, but then shook his arm. His bare skin was sweaty under her palm. Or was it her palm that was sweaty?
She glanced at the branch lying next to Vincent on the ground—more like a tree than a branch, really. She knew there was no way she’d be able to lift it, at least—not in the way Vincent had lifted it. He’d been swinging it around like it was a chopstick.
Currently, nothing was making sense and she was starting to panic.
Eileen kept shaking Vincent, moving her hands to his shoulders, practically rattling him, but he didn’t move. She heard the crack of a twig and running feet, and knew that another runner was coming down the trail. She glanced at the giant branch again.
They’re going to think I murdered him.
“VINCENT,” Eileen hissed, more forcefully. Vincent was rather short—barely taller than her, and lean, but she still didn’t think she’d be able to carry him. Anyway, that would look even worse—
Vincent jerked underneath her, then yelled, shooting to his feet. He wobbled, then used her head as balance. She wacked his arm in irritation, and he let go. He looked lost, and was rather disheveled—his short black hair was frizzy around the edges, and he had circles under his eyes. He leaned back against a tree, and that was when a couple runners from another team came around the corner to where they stood. They gave them an odd look, but didn’t say anything as they continued running past them.
Vincent slapped at his face. “Oh, God,” he said miserably.
Eileen stood, checking her watch. “Okay, we have 30 minutes until we have to start getting ready for our event, and you better spend those 30 minutes explaining what the hell was happening when I got here.”
“You run the 3200?” Vincent said, voice muffled from where he’d laid his hands against his cheeks.
“Do you even know who I am?” she snapped.
“Shh,” Vincent said, dropping his hands and looking to the side.
“Shh?” Eileen repeated. She’d never felt such rage.
“No! Not you! I mean, you’re—yes, I know your name. Eileen!”
“Tell me what’s going on!”
“I-I—” Vincent pulled at his hair. “I’m not really sure myself, okay?”
She glanced at her watch again, then gestured to Vincent. “Come on. Coach will literally rip our arms off if we’re late.”
They started walking back in the direction of the track, but because the trail was narrow, Vincent had to walk behind Eileen, which, she discovered quite quickly, wasn’t the best way to interrogate him.
“The wolves—tell me—”
“I can’t hear you.”
Eileen jerked her head around to look over her shoulder, fury blazing within her. “Tell me what’s going on or I’ll rip off your arms.”
Vincent’s voice rose until he was practically yelling. “I don’t KNOW! There were these WOLVES that attacked me—”
“There aren’t wolves here! Especially ones that-that disappear like that!”
“What?” Vincent was walking so close behind her he stepped on the heel of her sneakers and jerked her foot out.
“WOLVES! SHADOW WOLVES!” She stepped forward once, accidentally leaving the shoe behind. When she turned to go back for it, Vincent slammed into her and they fell to the ground, sprawled out in the pine needles.
“Ugh,” Vincent said, getting to his feet before her. Then he said, “SHUT UP! NOT NOW!”
Eileen’s mouth fell open and she glared at Vincent. “Fine. Fine.” She got to her feet, grabbing her shoe and starting to walk on again without it. “I don’t need to know. Whatever I saw wasn’t normal, and it will never be explained, and I will accept that.”
“No, Eileen, wait.”
She was nearing the edge of the forest now, where there were many more kids, stretching and doing high-knees and lunges. She broke through to the clearing beside the side of the track as Vincent shouted, “It’s a GHOST!”
A couple of the teens paused what they were doing and looked at Vincent with raised eyebrows. One girl took a step back as he passed her. Luckily, Eileen didn’t notice anyone from their team around.
Eileen stopped walking, dropping her shoe and bending to put it back on. She heard the microphone crackle to life as the announcer said, “First call for the boys 3200, first call for the boys 3200,” which meant Vincent needed to go.
But Vincent came up to her slowly. She watched his legs as he rocked back and forth on the balls of his feet nervously. “Eileen?”
“What?” she snapped. “It’s a ghost?” She signed, straightening up. She was about at eyelevel with him. She tried to make her voice gentler. “What do you mean?”
Vincent puffed out his cheeks and let them deflate before he answered. He didn’t look at her. “Yes.” His voice was lower now. He shrugged. “Something is going on I don’t understand. I’m seeing this ghost. He can…give me…” Vincent shook his head, closing his eyes. “…energy. Strength. Something.”
Eileen thought of Vincent carrying that branch that he didn’t have the strength to carry. He could run a fast race, but she’d seen him in the weight room. All of the track kids fought over the 8lbs dumbbells.
She didn’t know what to believe. In the sun again, she felt hot and a little bit ill. Maybe it was the nerves for her race. Most likely, it was seeing black, translucent wolves evaporate in front of her eyes, and her crush standing in front of her talking about ghosts. There was a long silence before she finally said, “Okay, you need to go run your race.”
Vincent dragged a sneaker across the grass. He still needed to change into his spikes. Then he nodded at her, and jogged away.
Eileen lived with her aunt and uncle. She had no siblings or cousins, but she did have a rabbit. Her aunt and uncle let him roam the house while she was at school and they were at work, and when she got home from the meet, he was sitting on her bed. She didn’t have a bedframe—only a mattress, so it was low enough that he was able to jump onto it.
“Scooter,” she cooed, putting her backpack and spikes in a neat pile by her desk before sitting on her bed, rubbing her bunny in-between his flittering black ears.
“Sorry we couldn’t catch your meet tonight, Eileen,” her uncle called from his bedroom—he must’ve heard her come in. Her aunt and uncle usually went to bed early and much preferred watching her run at weekend meets.
She thought of the wolves, Vincent, and her horrible 3200 time. She hadn’t gotten a PR since freshman year. She had no delusions about that changing before she graduated.
Vincent had run better than ever. She’d cheered along with her teammates and Coach as he won the race and got them enough points to win the meet.
Every meet they’d ever had, Eileen had wished that he was going to come up to her after the race and she would congratulate him on how well he’d done, and they would hug, or shake hands, or go get something at the concessions together. She never hoped for anything much. Just something small.
She supposed that seeing whatever had happened with him in the woods wasn’t small, and should’ve changed the small little dream she had. The stress and the confusion should have taken over and that was what she should have been thinking about when she watched Vincent run. How what happened wasn’t real somehow, or that she and Vincent had both imagined it, or that it was some kind-of illusion. But she wasn’t thinking about that—at least, that wasn’t all that she was thinking about.
Eileen thought about how that maybe, since they’d had a conversation, no matter how strange, that he would come up to her after his race and talk to her. And it wouldn’t be exactly what she had imagined, but it would be something.
He didn’t, though. On the bus ride home, she’d sat alone, and he’d cast her a sideways glance before heading to back of the dark bus to chat with his friends. She’d slumped against the window and felt foolish.
“It’s okay,” she called back to her uncle. Was she so bereft of common sense that she was truly more upset about a boy not talking to her after his race than the world not being what she’d thought it was?
Maybe so. She pet her bunny’s back before she slowly rose to shower.