Eileen stopped at the end of the sidewalk, bent over and felt the bottom of her bare foot once more. It was liberating to run through the streets with naked feet, but she had gained a new awareness of litter and public drunkenness in the process of dodging the constant remnants of Dunkin’ Donuts packaging and broken liquor bottles.
“Damn,” Eileen said as she cringed. Blood trickled onto her hand as she pulled on the sliver of glass caught on the ball of her foot. She put her foot back onto the ground, and despite the cut, felt little pain. So she stood, rocked back and forth, then ran on in the cool morning, sun just risen in the early Sunday quiet, not a car, not a dog, not a sound but the birds and the wind, and Eileen’s own breath.
The leaves were vivid in the low light of the day, promising deep blue sky. Eileen had discovered this splendor, and the freedom of morning runs, in the summer. The first time without shoes felt strange, as though she had broken into a world no longer allowed to her as an adult. But as her feet and legs became stronger, she began to revel in the glory of air. Her running shorts became shorter; her tops revealed more and more of her skin to the sun.
Now it was fall, though, and the lack of cover was apparent in the breeze; stopping had left her shivering now in her sweat-soaked clothing. She ran on, warming slowly, the ache in her foot now returning. Eileen bent over once more. Her foot was still bleeding, now somewhat worse. She saw a spot behind her, and looked back to a trail of red dots on the sidewalk where she had just run.
“Hello, are you all right?” a fellow runner stood now at Eileen’s feet, his short black hair slick, sweat beading on his forehead, even today. She had not heard him approach, and fell back when he spoke.
“Yes, yes,” she said, standing quickly and brushing sand from the back of her shorts, then standing bashfully with her hands in front of her. In her surprise, she had not initially noticed his powerful legs, the strong shoulders beneath the white t-shirt. “It’s just a small cut,” Eileen explained. “I can walk home.”
“Are you sure?” the stranger asked. “I live very close if you need a bandage.”
Eileen was wary of men out in the early morning–most around these streets were red-eyed, reeking of cologne and smoke and late-night trouble. There were sometimes a few dog walkers and fellow joggers, an occasional professional walking with quick determination, if Eileen was late in returning from her own morning run. This stranger looked familiar, she thought, although she could not place where she had seen him.
“Really,” the man continued, “I live right there.” And he pointed to a brick walk-up a little farther down the street. “Come on, you should cover that cut.” He motioned to her, and she began to walk with him. “I’m Tom,” he said, as he held out his hand to support her for the few steps to his home.
“Why don’t you sit here?” Tom offered, and Eileen sat on a lower stair. “I’ll be right back.”
Tom returned several minutes later with a pan of water, a towel, and a small bag.
“What’s all this?” Eileen looked at Tom as he kneeled below her, and placed her injured foot into the soapy water. “I didn’t expect a full pedicure.”
“Just cleaning your wound,” Tom smiled as he sat cross-legged on the ground below. The water was warm, and smelled faintly of pine. Tom’s wet t-shirt clung to his chest, and Eileen’s heart raced as his hands slipped into the water and onto her foot.
“I don’t think you are bleeding anymore,” Tom smiled, as he pulled her foot out of the water and looked at it. He let her foot fall back into the warm water.
It was warm, so soothing to relax like this in the cool air. Eileen leaned back, and the cold cement of the stair surprised her, as goosebumps popped up along her arm. Her nipples hardened, and she tensed as she realized how strange this was, Tom taut and handsome sitting beside the pan of water on his porch. He smiled again, and Eileen thought to pull her foot out, aware of her legs spread open.
“All better?” Tom asked, dipping his hands into the water and rubbing Eileen’s foot roughly. His hand kneeded her feet, massaging her toes, her arch. Eileen felt that familiar knot in her belly as his fingers pushed into the sensitive spots at the base of her toes. She suppressed a moan, then realized that she was red, that his shorts were bulging, too, as he looked up at her. He let go of her foot, and reached for the towel, then pulled her foot from the water and wrapped it.
“Yes, I think it’s better,” Tom answered himself, and stood, then bent to pick up the pan. He turned and emptied the water into the gutter. Eileen watched him, and pushed her legs together, now aware of her wet panties, her senses on fire now as he brushed beside her to take the pan into the house. “I have to find a band-aid now,” Tom said as he walked quickly up the stairs.
The door slammed shut behind him, and Eileen heard his footsteps on the stairs inside, a stop. Finally, he opened the door again, and came with a box.
“They are all tiny, I am afraid,” Tom apologized as he sat on the stair beside her. “Will this work?”
Eileen took the small band-aid from him, “Do you have anything bigger?” she asked him. “You have already been so kind,” she said quickly, then embarrassed by her comment as she saw his shorts tighten again.
“Do you need a ride?” he asked.
“I am not too far from here,” Eileen stammered, then wishing she had said yes, wishing suddenly to be alone with him. She imagined reaching across the stick shift to his muscular legs, her hands reaching beneath the shorts. She imagined running her hand gently along the length of his thick shaft, his sigh, his rough beard against her face, because he would have to pull over, she knew, his kisses running from her face to her shoulders to
“Or a coffee?” Tom interrupted her thought.
“Okay, sure.” Eileen stood, now feeling cold, and naked. “But maybe in a while? I should get something warm to wear.”
“How about this afternoon?” Tom answered, now grinning. “Meet me here at 3:00?”
Eileen stood straight now, too. “Sure,” she said. “3:00 is perfect.”