Chapter 29: A Wet Encounter
Thursday, September 4
It was raining. Corrie didn't like rain--at least not in the morning. She had so far never encountered weather that kept her from going out and running, but rain was definitely the second worst weather for doing it in (snow being the worst). It made the ground slippery, and she got soaked, since holding an umbrella was all but impossible while she moved quickly. But since she'd had the habit for three years, she knew skipping it would make her cranky and lazy all day--running for her was like coffee for other people. So despite the grey sky and the water pouring down, she tied on her sneakers, stuck a baseball cap on her head, and went outside.
Thankfully, parts of the path were sheltered by trees, and she tried to stick to them, though it was impossible coming from and going to Gilkey. Still, though her pants and shirt were soaked, most of the covered skin was dry and her face and hair were protected by the cap. She relaxed a bit on the stretch back to Gilkey, and that was her mistake: her foot hit a bit of grass and slipped out from under her, sending her headed face-first for the pavement.
But she was rescued. "Whoa!" came a male voice, and then strong arms were holding her body, barely a foot from the path.
They then moved her back into a standing position, and proved to belong to the only other person she'd ever seen out this early. "Byron!" she cried with delight, momentarily forgetting the panic she'd felt as she fell toward the ground.
He grinned. "That's me. You okay?"
She laughed shakily. "Yes, thanks to you. Just wet."
"Come on, let's get to the shelter there." They walked toward the door of Gilkey, which had a small roof over it. He was still holding onto her, and while she didn't need the physical support, she didn't complain, either. She was a little disappointed when he let go--not only because a gust of wind chilled her wet skin.
"I thought you looked familiar when I told that guy to leave you alone the other day," he said when they were safely under the shelter. "I've seen you running in the mornings a few other times."
Corrie nodded, unable to keep from smiling. "I'm out here every morning--rain or shine," she added unnecessarily, as a streak of lightning struck somewhere within or beyond the woods. "I think I saw you once."
"Yeah? I wonder why we don't see each other every day," he said, raising his eyebrows. 'We must have slightly different routes."
"We have only been here a few days," she pointed out. "I know I'm not out the door at the exact same time every morning."
He laughed. It was deep, sent shivers down her spine, and was almost indistinguishable from the thunder that rumbled in the distance. "Well, you look like you're freezing." It was true; there were goosebumps on the exposed skin of her arms, and she was shivering slightly. That might have just been because of his proximity, though--there wasn't a lot of space under the shelter. "Which dorm are you in? I'll walk you back so you can dry off."
She indicated Gilkey with a wave of her hand. "This is it, actually. I was just on my way back when I fell."
"Gilkey? Really?" He glanced up at the building, then back at her. "You a freshman?"
She nodded. "Probably why we haven't run into each other before."
"Huh." Byron's eyes ran up and down her in a way she hadn't noticed before; she thought if he kept doing that, she wouldn't need the hot shower she had planned to warm up. "You seem awfully... mature for a freshman."
"And you seem pretty immature for a junior," she teased, both pleased and a little irritated by his attention. She did think he could be more of a gentleman than that!
He looked surprised but amused, crossing his arms across his chest. "And how do you know I'm a junior?"
Crap, she'd been found out. Well, best to tell the truth, or at least some of it. "I asked my friends about you," she admitted, grinning to show she wasn't embarrassed (which was a bit of a lie). "You seem like you'd make a much better match for me than Paul did."
"I'd like to think so," he said, uncrossing his arms again and reaching out. For a moment she thought he was going to kiss her, but instead he waved his ID card at the door to unlock it, then opened it for her. "Go get dry and warm, Corrie," he told her. "I'm sure I'll see you later."
"Well, okay," she said. "If you're sure." She went in the door that he had held open for her, then turned and waved at him as he let it close. He grinned, waved back, then started to jog away. Once he was out of sight around the corner of the building, she turned resolutely up the stairs, already imagining how good it would feel to get under the stream of hot water that the shower would allow her.