By Evangeline Erickson

        Her entire body was on fire. Her muscles screamed with pain and her breathing was shallow. Abby took a drink of water and put her hands on her knees. She was hunched over, staring at the ground in a poor attempt to stop her head from spinning. She often asked herself why she ran at all.
Slowly, she lifted her head and took in her surroundings. The scenery never ceased to amaze her. Abby’s favorite place to run was a nature preserve on the west side of town. Locals referred to the preserve as “The Hill.” The entire trail was three miles long: one and a half miles up, one and a half miles down. Masses of people in athletic clothing could be seen on The Hill for miles on any given evening. It was easy to see why. The path was surrounded by cacti, creosote bushes, rock formations, and various desert animals. The wildlife proved to be an excellent distraction from aching muscles. The one and a half mile trip to the top was steep and arduous, but oddly satisfying. As she scanned the area, Abby smiled to herself. This was why she ran.

        From her view on the crest of The Hill, Abby could see the entire city. The freeway was lined with the glittering lights of cars. Downtown was especially illuminated; the skyscrapers appeared less severe from a distance. Even the airport seemed minuscule from where she stood. As the sun sank lower into the sky, her town parted with the rosy hue of the sunset and welcomed the navy oblivion of night. There was a light breeze and the leaves of the creosote rustled, causing the air to smell like rain. The saguaros–though they were stationary–resembled dancers, their arms twisting beneath the moon. Abby closed her eyes and mentally captured the image. She perched atop a small boulder, ignoring the pain in her calves and gazing at the stars. Andromeda, Pegasus, Sagittarius, and Ursa Minor were visible, among other groups of stars she couldn’t name. The constellations brought back memories of her runs with Gray. Gray Davenport had been Abby’s closest friend for as long as she could remember. He appreciated her love of running and nature and didn’t mind her frequent ramblings. There was an old observatory located at the peak of The Hill, where Abby and Gray would go to wind down after the difficult run up. The observatory, once white, was now a dusty, sun-bleached beige, its ladder rusted. The pair would scramble up the ancient rungs and look at the sky; Gray pointing out the name of each constellation, Abby attentively listening and absorbing the information. She could almost remember how his crooked smile and intelligent blue eyes looked in the moonlight. On special nights, they’d see a single celestial body streak across the sky.

        “Look, Gray! A shooting star!” she’d exclaim.

        “C’mon Abby, you know it’s just the visible path of a meteoroid entering the atmosphere,” he grinned, “but feel free to make a wish.”

        Abby wished for the soreness in her muscles to disappear. She wished she had more water. She wanted to wish away this feeling of nostalgia. But most of all, she wished Gray were with her. He’d moved away a year ago today.