23

742K 29.1K 13.8K
                                    

A day later, we were back to where we started.

"Once we get to the other end, we'll be done for the day. Sound good?"

I nod at Axel's instructions, having already ran down the length of this beach five times. The sheer distance wasn't what wore me out, nor did having to stop every five minutes to complete a different set of dynamic exercises.

It was the silence.

There was no playful banter, lively debate, or motivating dialogue between us the entire ninety minutes of this workout. Axel was lost in his world and I my own, but if we had the chance to peer into each other's heads, I bet they wouldn't have been so different.

In one way, Axel was simply respecting my unease about whatever it is that's between us—what he claimed yesterday was simply a figment of my own imagination. He and I both know our actions in each other's presence are beyond those of a normal trainer-trainee relationship, but then again, why do I care so much, if time will solve my simple predicament?

I'm going home at the end of the month, and that will be that. Maybe instead of worrying so much, I should embrace the thrill of this experience, no matter how many more curveballs life throws my way.

I pull the bottle of water from my lips and stare at Axel, breathless, trying to read his flat expression. When I don't say anything, he pulls out his phone and sends a quick text back to someone, his eyebrows furrowing together.

"Axel," I say, "you're not mad at me, are you?"

He slips his phone into his shorts pocket and blinks. "Why would I be?"

I fiddle with the wrapper on my bottle, growing more on edge. "I don't know. Maybe I made things awkward yesterday."

He gazes at my face in the same way he did that time in the gym, with a certain prying interest. His mouth opens to verbalize a reply, but only a small puff of air comes out. I look away for a few moments. When I lift my head again, I find him in front of me.

"No, you didn't," he says, running a hand through his hair. He glances at the roaring sea-green waves, tempering our silence this whole time. "You just made me think."

"About what?" I ask, brushing away the strands of hair the wind tousles. I ignore that I liked it better when he did it for me.

"That you're right. Maybe I should have done this the right way all along."

I part my lips in dismay. His words only follow from what I told him yesterday, yet they hurt more than I thought to hear from his mouth. "Oh," I say and swallow the ball in the back of my throat, "if that's what you think, then alright."

He leans forward a few inches. "Why do you suddenly look disappointed?"

"Because maybe I..." I trail off and stare down at the sand. I squint, and I swear I can make out a cracked heart drawn in the distance. I look up. "Maybe I changed my mind."

His hands lie still by his sides as he eyes my woeful expression. Then he takes a step forward, and they come to life, reaching out.

He beckons to me. "Come here."

I hesitate, realizing we're both still somewhat sticky, but decide to follow his commands, as always. He wraps his arms around my back, touch gentle and featherlike. I rest my head on his chest warily, hands floating in the air behind his back. A few seconds pass by in this stiff hug, until I realize how stupid it is to act like this is the first time we've gotten this close. I finally let my arms wrap around his body and realize I'm the sweaty one, not him.

Axel responds warmly and rests one hand on the back of my head, lowering his face to my ear. "You've grown on me, Whitney," he says and then rests his chin on the top of my head, "but some part of feels...regretful."

Boot CampWhere stories live. Discover now