A hood flew back, revealing black hair that had been spiked to the side, and a short ponytail streamed behind her. Her breathing came easy and even, and inwardly, she smiled at herself, pleased with how far she had come in such a short time.
For the first time in months, the temperature in the small New England town had risen above freezing, and she could run again. The melting ice left puddles that splashed beneath her brown boots, made for walking in snow, and despite her careful concentration on running, a fierce grin showed through her control. Finally, she slid to a stop, breathing in air that, while chilling, didn't burn in her lungs. She tried to resist the urge to shout in victory, and failed, letting loose a cry worthy of an ancient Roman gladiator, winning a match. All around her, soft, white, undisturbed snow glistened in the noon sun, the densely packed flakes resisting the warming rays.
Not too warm - the temperature couldn't have been more than forty-five degrees, but to the longtime resident of the region, it seemed only barely cold enough to need the heavy winter coat she had worn, despite the fact that the chill seeped through its fabric to give her arms the refreshingly cool sensation of wind on wet skin.
Still, she thought sadly as she looked up at the sky, still, she missed that other place, that other home so far away with its constant, sometimes intolerable heat, and the friendly faces of people she knew and cared about. She missed the constant companion of the soft, soothing sound of the waves, and the smell of salt in the air.
Perhaps, in a way, it was because it reminded her, if only a little, of her own birthplace, a sunny city on the West Coast where temperatures like this would be disbelieved and warmth came not only from the sun in the sky but the ground beneath your feet. Still, somehow, she knew she'd never be able to envy the people there - people who would never see the sun dazzling off ground covered by the purity of a first snowfall, never feel the sensation of the flakes tickling their skin, or see the sky turn the shade of a blank page, grey-white and empty, and feel the tension of a storm on its way.
She knew, deep down, that the people of the other place would never experience those things either... but there was something special, something magical, about it, a place untouched by fear or worry, where crime was minimal and pollution was unheard of. A tiny place. A quiet place. A place where she never had to worry about being laughed at for who she was and wanted to be.
A place that had only been a glimmer of imagination made reality.
Still, she knew she couldn't just leave. She had too many ties to this place, too many people counting on her to be there. Maybe, when the summer came... when the heat of the sun and the long days passed and for another half a year the world left her alone... maybe then she'd leave. She looked up at the sky again, blue with puffy white clouds, and she wished with all she had that she would find a way back. Back to the outside, where she had learned and become so much, back to the place that had somehow stolen her heart when she wasn't looking.
She closed her eyes and looked inward, becoming just another figure standing in the snow, and, as she found the place in her heart where she could feel the true power of what she had become, she whispered the name of the person who had done the same.
Then, after that silent moment of peace, she moved, slowly at first, then faster, never opening her eyes, just going on instinct...
And, once more, she ran.