Hunters of the Night
by Miles H. Rost
Feet pounding the pavement.
Quick pacing, left-right-left-right.
Fabric of short jean shorts riding up.
Two miles to liberation.
Melinda Charles swiveled her head around as she ran, keeping an eye out for anyone who may be trying to report or record her moves. She knew that her dad would be keeping tabs on her, and really didn’t want to see herself kept locked up in her house.
Locked up for love, she mused, Sounds like a great song title.
The 17-year old knew that her legs could take her far, in distance and in life. She was a medal winning medium-distance runner in track and field, having endurance to carry her for miles. Yet her legs were also toned, exuding feminine strength and allowing her to receive offers to do leg modeling ads after graduation. Legs that could take her far also drove the guys at school wild.
Half a mile gone. Not too long now.
She paced herself as she ran, reaching back every so often to remove the wedge of her shorts from her bum. Beads of sweat were starting to form on her neck, soaking into her shirt with every pounding of her feet. Fenceposts marked out a 1-2 beat, a visual reminder of how rhythmic she was moving.
The afternoon sun shone upon her face, the glistening sweat making her face glow, and softening the shape of her nose and chin. To her, nature was working its magic to put its own makeup on her as she ran. She had some time to see if the effects would work, but hope was welling in her heart.
One mile down. One to go.
She thought back to the day, over a year ago, when she met this young man. She started thinking about how wrong she was at first sight of him. He looked like the stereotypical nerd, head buried in his comic books, a 17-year-old with unruly brown hair and coke-bottle glasses. She didn’t realize that under that exterior lay a man with a heart of gold, and a passion for music.
She didn’t realize it until one blustery day in October.
She remembered that she forgot her hoodie at home, and couldn’t go back and get it without being late for school. With the temperatures plummeting by the minute, she shivered while walking on her way.
She turned around and saw him. She immediately started to groan, not wanting to interact with Mr. Coke-Bottle Glasses.
“What are you doing without a coat?” he asked her.
She turned to the side, cheeks flushed.”I forgot it at home. Didn’t think it was going to be this cold this quick.”
He reached into his backpack and pulled out a green hoodie.
“Here. You can use mine for today. It’s Jupiter Green.”
She looked at him, in disbelief.
“Why should I?”
“Because if you don’t, you’ll get sick. You get sick, we won’t have you ready for the upcoming basketball season.”
“I don’t want you getting sick. It’d make me sad.”
She stared at him in disbelief, but grabbed the hoodie. Wrapping herself in it, she realized that she was quite cold.
“When you’re finished with it, you can give it back.”
She started to jog away from him and head towards school, her schoolbag striping her hands red from pressure.
He started to walk down the street, and for only a second, as he looked up from his shoes, he noticed Melissa looking back at him, before disappearing around a corner.
Half-mile left. Time to do a little diversionary work.
Melissa took a sharp left across the street, running into the woods and down a path that seemed to have little foot traffic. Hearing a short screech behind her, she smirked as she picked up the speed. The diversion was going to make it a little longer to make it to her destination, but it would keep her father’s guard off her back until she arrived there.
The woods opened up into a grassy field, where she followed a lesser worn trail that followed the wood line. She remembered the April day when things changed for her.
Early April, and the first of three track meets at her school had come around. When track athletes heard the name Melissa Charles, they knew that there was trouble coming. Getting ready for the 4-by-800 relay, she started to prep herself. The day was still cool, and she wore the dark green hoodie that she had received many months back.
She looked around, the voice familiar in her mind. She looked and saw him again, this time waving. She smiled, as she walked over to the fence separating the fans in the stands from the athletes.
“Well, hey there, stranger. What’s with the Makoto thing?”
He smiled, his eyes crinkling at the sides.
“You’re tall, you’re wearing green, you got long legs and you have a fighter’s attitude. You’re basically Makoto Kino, Sailor Jupiter.”
“That’s a first. Do you always charm your friends with comparisons to anime characters?”
“Only people I have respect for. Besides, the word’s out. You’ll likely hear it a lot more.”
“I didn’t. Brian Parker did. And I don’t even like him.”
She laughed out loud, a hearty laugh that got the attention of one of her teammates.
“I guess that means I should probably start looking the part, right?”
She pulled back her hoodie. Her average brown hair now had auburn tints to it, and was put up in a high ponytail with a greenish-ball hair band.
He had taken a sip of soda, when it suddenly spat out to the side. His eyes bugged out.
“You….whoa. What prompted this?”
“You, silly!” she giggled, as she started to jog in place.
As he was about to open his mouth, the call for 4 x 800 relay runners came over the loudspeakers. He smiled at her, as he walked over to a small group of classmates.
The first runners took their mark at the line, and with a shot, they took off. Melissa, as the anchor runner, stood off to the side as her classmates watched. Two runners from another high school tied for the lead after the first two exchanges. As the third runners took off from their lines, Melissa put herself into her lane. Her sweet spot was lane #3, and today was her day. She waited, as her teammate pulled past the second place runner, though she was lengths behind the first place runner. As the first place runner got the baton, Melissa’s teammate gave her the sign to start moving.
The baton hit her hands, and Melissa was off with a shot.
The mantra in her head suddenly switched, and she listened closely. The sound of her new nickname resounded through the stands when she took the first corner. A faint smile peaked on her face, as she increased her strides.
“Ma-ko! Ma-ko! Ma-ko!” said the boy, smiling as Brian Parker and others started chanting.
Taking the third and final corner, she was within touching distance of the first place runner. Taking inspiration from the character whose name she was adopting, she put lightning in gear and increased her speed in the last sprint to the finish. Pounding, pounding, her feet pounded like kettle drums in time with the chants.
One second, she pulled up to the side of her opponent.
The next second, she stretched her legs and chest further.
The last second, the starter pistol went off in the air. The entire Charter Oaks High School spectator section went up in cheers!
Melissa “Makoto” Charles had won the race by a half a foot.
She looked over to the stands as she slowed, and saw the boy, her friend, smiling at her.
500 feet. Just need to hit that last stride.
She weaved her way around trees, making sure that she kept her opposition in her peripheral sight if she could. Looking straight, she could barely make out a flat wooden fence in the distance.
“If you could only see me, honey,” she muttered, as she dodged trees to make it closer. She got closer, knowing she was less than 100 feet from freedom.
80 feet, she swiveled her head around and saw nothing.
60 feet, she saw his shape rushing towards the fence.
30 feet, she was getting herself ready to jump onto and over the fence. She saw him stop suddenly right at the edge of the fence.
She felt a painful prick right below the back of her knee and stumbled to the ground. Within a few seconds, her leg started to go numb. She felt someone jump onto leaves and land near her head. As she looked backwards, she saw three men running towards her. She was sat up, and her head turned towards her beau, who was looking at her without his trademark coke-bottle glasses.
“I’ll help you in. Those guys won’t do anything.”
The men approached, and yelled at the two young people.
“You! Boy! Get your hands off her!”
It was her father, the man who tried to rule her life with an iron fist.
She looked up at her boy, and slowly dragged herself to the fence. She pulled herself up, standing on one leg. She looked at him, eyes focused and steely. .
“Get back over the fence.”
“I can handle him.”
“My fight. Let me do it.”
Melissa’s father growled as he continued to walk towards her. Her beau returned to his property, while she faced her father.
“You’re coming with me young la-”
Before he could finish, she fired a taser at him. As he rode the lightning, she glared down at him.
“I. Am. Not.”
He whined and growled as the electricity stopped. His nerves on fire, he laid there for a time. His men stood near him, but stayed back from the scene.
“Dad, I’ve had enough.”
He took a sharp breath as she spoke.
“You have been restricting everything I’ve been doing. The one time I get something I want, you try to take it away. You got me kicked off the track team because you didn’t want me hanging around with him. You monitored my cell phone, because you wanted to know if I was with him.”
“I only…wanted to keep…you safe…”
“From what, Dad? Someone whose dad you put into a locker during high school? Someone who has very little to do with his life?!”
Her dad grimaced, as he slowly sat up.
“I got the story from him, Dad. I found out why you had him followed. You were afraid that he was going to use me to get to you in revenge. But with everything you did to try to protect me, you forgot one piece of information: He hasn’t talked with his dad for 10 years.”
“NO! When he says dad, he means his stepdad. If you weren’t so shallow minded, Dad, you would have actually known this.”
“Shut it. Just…stop, Dad. When he told me about all of it, he asked me if I was with him because of revenge. I told him the truth, that it was because he was a nice guy, even if I had it ingrained in me that girls like me could never be with a nerd.”
“I told you to shut up, Admiral!” she screamed, pointing at him. “You do not get to talk until I am done!”
She slowly lifted her legs and tried to slowly scale the wooden fence.
“Dad, you showed me how to fight for what’s mine. And that’s what I’m doing right now. He loves me, and showed me that he loved me that first day with the hoodie, the green hoodie that you absolutely hated.”
She lifted herself again, sitting on the top of the fence with her long legs dangling down.
“The hate that you had for him and me became the love that we have. He’s my nerd, I’m his Makoto. If anyone is responsible for that, it’s you. ”
Her father spat on the ground, as he started to stand. The pain was evident and obvious on his face. The man with him and another man walked over and lifted him to his feet. Slinging his arms over their shoulders, they held him up to look at her.
“Daddy, I love you. You need to give me time, but I will be back.”
“And yet, you run…”
“No. I’m 18 tomorrow. I have made a decision to not be with you. I will come back to you, a woman and someone who can give you the respect you deserve, in time. But you have to earn the respect of a father. You don’t have it because of what you’ve been doing.”
Her father just glared at her, as she flipped her legs over the top of the fence. She looked back at him.
“Dad, he and I are hunters. We’ve been searching for each other and found…us. Now let me live, and let us live.”
Her father just stared, as they turned to walk him out of the woods.
Melissa looked at her father, as he walked away, and slowly lowered herself off the fence and into the waiting arms of her man.
“You really are like Jupiter, Melissa.”
“Because I stood up and fought?”
“Because you took charge and won the day.”
The young man looked out at his property, and smiled.
Melissa turned his head and gave him a tender kiss. After a few seconds, their lips parted. He moved to carry her, until he heard the “uhn-uh”.
“Nope. I’m walking off this Novocaine. You’re gonna just have to wait for me.”
“Can I at least help you walk up to the house?”
“You can lean on me,” she smirked
“Lean on you?”
They laughed, as they hobbled their way up to his house.