I run, the cold January air nipping my face, the snow crunching beneath my feet, yearning to reach the end of the sidewalk.
My throat burns, but that doesn't matter, not now. Allison's footsteps hit the icy ground right behind me. I have to keep my pace up, now more than ever, have to keep going as ever, never going to let myself fail…
I'm certain that I'll cross the line first. Just one step ahead of my shadow. But in the last few yards, she catches me by surprise, sprinting out of nowhere and leaping off the curb with her constant youthful spirit.
"Congratulations," I manage to cough out, panting as I sit on the curb to rest, exhausted. "You beat me. How'd you get ahead like that, so fast?"
"I save the best for last," she says, grinning from ear to ear. "You, of all people, should know that."
James comes around the corner and takes Allison's place on the curb next to me.
"Hey, James," I say, absentmindedly staring into the street. "How are you doing?"
When I hear no response, I turn to look at his face.
"What is wrong with you?!" he cried.
I jump, taken aback. "What are you—" I start, but he continues, words spilling out of his mouth.
"It was all your fault! Do you think your job just ends at 3 p.m. on a Friday, that you can just go home and forget all about me? That you could just leave me behind in the dust, desert me when I needed it most? Couldn't you have answered my call for help? No, no, of course not! You selfish bitch!"
He stops for breath, his face flustered, his eyes blazing with the fury of a man never given a second chance.
"I'm sorry," I say, trying to suppress my shock. "I'm not sure where we are right now. What's wrong?"
"Oh, you know exactly what's wrong! Turning off your phone because you were annoyed at me. Because you wanted a good time alone. Well, guess who's annoyed now? Guess who's alone now?"
"I'm gone," he finishes, "and it's all your fault."
And then the shock hits me.
The intense burn of a failure.
The fall of a letdown.
The pain of a life lost.
But he's gone.
Never again would I see his bright face adorn the halls of the school.
I've felt it before.
Three years ago.
Allison comes by again, shaking her head disapprovingly.
"You've got the worst track record ever, you know. First your daughter, then your student."
And with that, I'm pushed over the edge.
"Stop!" I scream, losing control, tears rushing down my face, as I collapse into the street. "I can't take it!"
A smirk spreads across Allison's face.
"That's okay," she says. "You already know I'm gone. You have for three years. So I suppose I'll be on my way."
She turns and walks off, even as I call desperately after her.
Always bristling sarcastic—
—but I would've given anything to have her back in my life.
My lost shadow.