“Make a wish!”

A semi-circle of Lena’s friends closed in, phones at the ready, waiting for her to blow out the flaming inferno of forty tiny candles. 

She was briefly distracted by a flash of movement on the living room TV, a woman running in the Boston Marathon earlier that day. Lena lowered her eyes, closed them, tried to erase the image of the marathon runner from her mind, and blew out the inferno in one long breath.

It seemed like only minutes after the smoke cleared, Lena was in her car headed home from the party thrown for her by her friends. 

“Forty,” she whispered in disbelief as she accelerated into the blackness, eager to get home and in bed as quickly as possible to forget this day.

She vowed never to tell a single soul what she’d just wished for. 

Damn her! 

Lena silently cursed the marathon runner. She wanted to be her. But now she was forty. A whole new decade and she still hadn’t done a damn thing about her dream. 

Growing Up

Sure, she ran track in high school – even won a couple state titles. But as the youngest in a working class family of six, there simply weren’t enough resources to pursue anything further. So she was a good girl, kept quiet about her passion, studied and worked hard, and saved enough money to go to college.

Lena gripped the steering wheel tightly to fight back the tears that threatened to break through. All those mornings before classes, her sneakers slapping musically against the moist, cool, pre-dawn pavement. She was tempted to try out for the university track team, but with her work and class schedule, there simply wasn’t enough time. So she pushed back her passion – again. 

When she graduated and started her career, there was even less “free time.” The possibility of ever pursuing her passion, slowly slipped away. The morning runs eventually became a source of heartbreak rather than joy – so she quit.

Make a wish!

Lena navigated through the darkness, the interior of the car occasionally illuminated from overhead by a passing streetlight.

It had been about two decades since she’d last laced up her running shoes. She tried to shake these sticky thoughts off her brain using logic and reason. Dreams are just that and she’d never had the luxury of pursuing hers, and probably never would. She mentally ticked off all the good things she had in her life as reassurance.

The things she was grateful for circled the gaping hole of the one thing she had denied herself, like side show spectators.

What If…

But as much as she tried to push them away, her thoughts of “what if” returned, worn on the back of the marathon runner. 

Why HER and not ME?

She pounded the steering wheel in frustration, while full well knowing the truth: The woman on TV, unlike Lena, had refused to let anything get in the way of her dreams.   

She slowed to a stop at a four way, and contemplated her options. She felt an invisible weight pressing down on her shoulders that made it hard to breathe. 

Make a wish…

That was the last thing Lena remembered from that night.

Come back next week for the story’s conclusion with a “moral of the story” you won’t want to miss!

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