This is approximately the 10th version from the time I decided to keep track. There could easily be 3-4 versions before this decision. Enjoy.
Thump, thump, thump, Kate's running shoes rhythmically slap the pavement. Long, black hair swats her shoulders and brushes over her pink jogging suit. Her nose and throat ache from the cool air. Breathless she slows and turns the corner. A gentle breeze rustles through the red, yellow and orange leaves. She stops and checks her heart monitor. 130, too close to the top end of the range her physician recommended. She takes a deep breath and relishes the organic smell of damp earth and rotting leaves.
Autumn, she sighs, the season of color and cool morning jogs. She walks to slow her heart rate and marvels at the wonderful song of nature’s winter preparations. Thoughts of snow, icicles, turkey and Christmas trees remind her of her favorite time of the year. Who could ask for more?
“Kate,” a male voice calls.
His voice sounds familiar. Her stomach twists and tightens. She turns to look behind. The path is clear. Wary, she continues her jog.
“Kate. Stop. Wait for me.”
Realization spreads fear from her stomach to her chest. No! He can't be here. Not now.
“Stay away,” she shouts, “You hear me?” Her throat tightens. Where is he? She looks around without seeing. “I'll scream,” she breaks into a run. She gasps for air and sees visions of her dead sister.
Why is she here now? She died more than 25 years ago.
Sudden, severe pain forces her to the ground.
What's happening? Is that tormented screaming from me? Is this the end? Dave, I love you. Don't let him take me. Stop this pain.
Strong and immovable, she sees the three most important people in her life. Dave looks into her eyes and says 'I do' then kisses her with such passion. It's their wedding day. Next Dave hands her their son wrapped tight in the blue and white hospital blanket. Three years later he's handing her their daughter.
“Kate, come with me. Let me help,” he interrupts her thoughts.
Another scream prevents her reply. She shuts out the voice, focuses on her family and relaxes as the pain subsides.
Alarmed by his touch, her heart, stomach and airways tighten. Arms weak, she pushes herself onto her knees, then stands. Her eyes, white with fear and pupils dark with pain, meet his, “Don't touch me. Go away! I don't want your help,” she shoves him and stumbles toward the nearest bench. Unable to stand, she tumbles onto the wooden seat.
"But, I can end your suffering.”
She concentrates on her loved ones. Her pale lips smile as the pain continues to recede. She whispers, “Guess the Grim Reaper isn’t needed today.”
“Kate,” he’s close to her right ear, “let me help.”
“No,” she shakes her head, “you lose. I'm fine. Leave me. I-I'm not go-going anywhere wi-with you.”
His gold-flecked, blue eyes pierce her soul. Unable to turn away, she senses he's an ancient being.
“No!” She severs contact and rolls against the back of the bench. Eyes wide, she struggles to breathe. The sound of a pulled drain plug breaks the silence. Grateful for the air, her lungs fill to capacity.
“You shouldn't have pulled away. Your sister almost welcomed you home.”
"Home? No! Get away!" She forces herself to get up and sits against the arm of the bench. The vision of her dying sister returns. She compares this man with the angel that came for her sister. She starts at his black loafers and Italian wool pants and rests a moment on his white dress shirt open to his chest. Fear darkens her face when she gets to his eyes. Petrified they will pull her in again, she jumps to his sable hair.
It's him. She takes a deep breath and let's it out slow. “Is it my turn now? Have you come for me like you came for my sister?” she asks her voice trembling.
“Yes.” he moves closer, "The pain will end soon. You won't suffer."
"Did she suffer?"
Kate avoids his eyes.
"She's happy and can't wait to see you. It's time."
She pulls away when he reaches for her and anger conquers her fear, “Do you know what it's like to be left behind? I begged you to take me with you when my twin sister died. I wanted to tell her I was sorry. I wanted to tell her I loved her. Instead, you left me with parents who couldn't cope and no confidant. From conception until her death, we were inseparable. My parents couldn’t look at me without seeing her. Dad drank himself to death and Mom turned inside herself and withered away.”
She looks off in the distance and regroups her thoughts, “I wanted to take my life, but hell and the lake of brimstone scared me. So, I prayed to heaven, to my sister, to you, to anyone who would take me to her. I craved the love you took from me. No longer to be seen or heard, many whispered the name Left Behind Kate. No one knew what to say. No one knew what to do. Dave answered my prayers. He cared,” she turns to meet his eyes, “he still cares. You came into my life and I lost everything. Dave came into my life and I found love again.”
She stands with a grimace as her overworked muscles complain, “I'm not going anywhere with you. So tell God, or whomever you answer to, I never want to see your face again. When I'm in my 90's and have lots of grandchildren and great grandchildren, I expect to see an angel that will listen and take me,” she points to her chest with her thumb, “when I am ready.”Infuriated, she turns disappears around the bend.