Riley forced his feet to keep moving uphill though he was bone-tired. But his gut said he was closing in on the woman. She’d been out in the weather too long and the exposure could kill her. He had to find her. Not only was it his job, but his gut churned at the thought of her loss.
I gotta find her.
But it was like following ghosts in the mist. The snow fell so hard and thick it looked like cloud, and it beat against his body stinging relentlessness. Glory, he was so tired.
He wiped the snow from his goggles and pressed on, sure he’d find the missing woman if he just kept going. Periodically, the wind would let up and he could hear her crying. It tore at his heart and urged him on, ever upward into the storm.
At last he broke through the clouds and into clear air. Everything was still and cold, the world a patchwork quilt of white and gray with an overlay of red from the setting sun. He shivered, his gaze resting on the pink snow, trying to find the woman for whom he’d been searching.
He cast his gaze back the way he’d come and found the storm below his perch, pounding the lower slopes with wild abandon. But up here where he stood, the air remained relatively still.
He spun and found the woman standing behind him, haloed by the setting sun. She wore diaphanous robes fluttering in the breeze at the top of the mountain, and she reached out to him as of to welcome him. Her outfit should’ve been strange given the snowstorm he’d fought his way through, but for some reason it made sense.
At first, he thought she had dark hair pulled up into a ponytail at the back of her head. “Isabelle? What are you doing up here?”
“I came to warn you. You’ll never be good enough.” The corners of her mouth dropped as she scowled. “You aren’t educated enough and spend too much time outdoors.”
He blinked. They were outdoors right now. How could that be a bad thing?
“Why are you here? Why are you telling me this?”
“Because you should find a way to fit in.” She tilted her head, jutted one hip out, and smiled coyly. “I would’ve loved you more if you just fit in.”
That had been the problem in the past, before he moved to Cloudburst. She might have wanted him if he could just be educated enough, smart enough, fit in well enough. And he’d wanted to be everything she required. But now, looking at her in the snow where she didn’t fit in, he realized she wasn’t what he wanted.
He’d been chasing a ghost, the mirage of temptation and desire with all the substance of mist. And she was a beautiful ghost, for sure. But he didn’t want the mirage anymore. He shook his head and backed away from her.
“No. No, you wouldn't have loved me at all.” He stepped closer to the storm. “You were too attached to your books and your rich boys. You couldn’t see me unless I followed your program. I don’t want you anymore, Isabelle.”
She frowned and stepped closer, but he backed away.
“If you go that way, Riley, you’ll go back into the storm. Why not stay here where it’s still and quiet?” She beckoned to him with a coy smile.
He shook his head and returned his feet to the clouds. “I’d rather fight for what I want than sit around and wait for it to notice me. Goodbye, Isabelle.”
He spun and plunged down into the raging storm, and his gut told him it was safer there than with the ghost at the top of the mountain. The wind stole his breath and wet snow pelted his face until he jerked awake in his shower, the water turning cold where he knelt under the spray.
What the fuck?
Falling asleep in the shower was never a good thing. He could’ve drowned. He turned off the water, and sat back against the cold tile, resting his forehead against his knees. Despite the chill that had come over him, he felt lighter than he had in months. It was as if the water had washed away the memories of the ghost, and the costs of holding her in his mind.
What the hell did I ever see in her?
He couldn’t find an answer and he forced himself to get up before he froze in the fetal position. Grabbing his towel, he pulled it to his nose and inhaled the scent of Irish Spring soap. A laugh worked its way up from his chest as he remembered when Moriah had accidentally dropped twice as much fabric softener into the wash with his towels. Now they all smelled like a soap commercial and the white blonde woman with arctic blue eyes.
Warmth filled his chest and the last vestiges of the dream faded away. He didn’t have to fit in with Isabelle. He fit in with Moriah, and that’s for whom he wanted to be the best.
That's it for me this month. Check out my fellow authors' Once Upon A Tune Flash