I stopped and faced the ocean bent over at the waist with my hands braced against my knees, feeling like a ton of bricks were pushing on my lungs. I decided to just walk back and take it easy. I took a few steps toward home and then heard him. He was barely speaking above a whisper, but I could hear him like he was yelling in my ear.
“Tell me your name.”
I inhaled and wasn’t sure exhaling was in my future. We had a good thing going, and now he had to go and ruin it by wanting to know my name. Everything would change from this point on. He was a man of honour. He couldn’t know who I was and not tell someone. It was the someones who could hurt me and I needed to do everything I could to avoid them finding me. My name wasn’t exactly a household name, but in certain circles, it was known and more so, the man I was avoiding was pretty much known everywhere.
“I can’t tell you that, Hardy.”
He stared at me with emotions running wild across his face. Like a slot machine they spun on until they landed on the winner. Pain. He slowly walked toward where I was rooted. I couldn’t move if another hurricane force wind came upon us there and then. I felt like if I broke our stare down, I would feel the pain of it for a really long time.
“Why?” he whispered. I could hear him clearly now that he was standing just a foot in front of me. “I need to hear it. I need to know your name.”
“Why?” I echoed his words back to him. “Why does it matter? What are we doing here, Hardy? We’re just running. That’s it. We don’t need to know anything about each other, we just need to run.”
“How long are you just going to run, Red? How long until you let me know you? I’ve been here. Every day for the past two weeks, running behind you, but I’m done with running behind you.” He began to close the space between us until he was breathing my air. “I’m done waiting for you to give me a piece of you. I want it now.” He lowered his voice and began to lean in. “Give. Me. Your. Name.”
I had huge personal space issues. He was pushing every limit I had and it terrified me. I felt a tear start to trickle down my face. We were frozen, at a standstill. One of us had to move first and I realized I was actually afraid his move would be to walk away. Something woke up inside of me at that realization. Being alone was beginning to be pretty damn lonely.
“Frances, but my friends call me Frankie.” I whispered the words he was looking for and then I promptly turned and ran like the track star I once was, all the way back to the safety of my house. Away from Hardy.