“Going for a jog?” the man asks with a charming smile.
Helannah has just hopped down a set of stairs and onto the sidewalk wearing running shoes, shorts, and a tank top, her hair tied behind her head. She gives the guy a careful smile, recognizing him as a neighbor.
“You could call it that. But it would hardly be fitting,” she says.
The man smiles and tosses his bangs to the side. “Well, I normally go for a jog at this time of day. Mind if I…” But Helannah has already started her run with a sideways glance, daring him to follow. He watches her for a startled moment before getting the nerve to give chase. He would certainly prefer to jog at her side, but that could be a rare opportunity as he is about to discover.
She is light on her feet, every step a simple connection with the sidewalk, propelling her forward with no bounce or impact. The man is taken aback, but now that he has given chase, he isn’t about to give up. And there is something about the effortless way in which she runs that hints to him that if she had wanted to leave him behind, she would have already done so.
They round a corner almost neck and neck, but Helannah darts across the street and jumps a park fence with little trouble. The man almost stammers to a stop, but his disbelief is soon replaced by a stronger desire to catch her, and he clambers over the fence with haste. And besides, her graceful flight is making him look like a fool. And he is not a fool; he is a trained athlete.
He puts on a strong burst of speed until his legs burn, and he isn’t far behind when she plants a few quick steps and takes off from the ground. By way of a garbage can, a parked vehicle, and a shed roof, she soars over a ten foot hedge and vanishes. This time, he does stammer to a stop, and it is only when he spots a gap in the hedge that he manages to leave his astonishment behind in a few gasping breaths.
On the other side, he is stunned to see her carrying on at a leisurely pace some distance down the road with no indication of having just landed on cement from a ten foot height. He shouts after her, losing strength partly from exhaustion and partly from exasperation. She turns, jogging backwards to give him a puzzled look.
“Why’d you leave the jogging path? This isn’t what you signed up for.”
But the man does not want to be dismissed in this way, and he runs to catch up, hoping a dialog has been started.
Helannah notices his quickened pace and gives him a look, turning back to her run with added creativity. She leaves the pavement from time to time to vault over railings and other obstacles, giving a talented show of agility and lending him some time to catch up. But she seems annoyed when he does.
“So you just do all this for fun?” he asks. “You some kind of gymnast?”
She responds, barely out of breath. “Do you jog for fun? Because I find it can get rather boring.”
“Well, I jog to stay fit and strong.” He allows himself a sense of accomplishment for earning this moment.
“Well,” she says. “I’m just interacting with my environment through movement.”
He gives a quick laugh in between breaths and says, “Is that what this is? You training for something in particular?”
“Training for life,” she responds. “I find it freeing, fulfilling, and exceedingly useful to be able to navigate any environment without injury or restriction.”
“Restriction?” he asks.
“I don’t like to stay on the jogging path,” she says. She gives him a fleeting grin and quickens her pace. And as if to prove her point, she soon spins over a railing, plants her feet on the other side, and drops into the parkade below.
He watches where she goes, certain that there will be further reward for continuing the chase. He soon meets up with her as she jumps from railing to railing down the switchbacks of a wheelchair ramp. He runs back and forth at first, but begins to feel rather ridiculous as she carries a swift straight line some levels below him. And so he begins to jump the railings, and is concentrating hard when he suddenly realizes that she has vanished.
He stops with a heavy frown. And then he hears one last sound from her, catches one last glimpse, and is left staring in amazement as she slips over the railing of a second floor rooftop.
Helannah lets out a sigh and gives a heavy nod, relieved to have left the man behind. She is annoyed that he had persisted, but further annoyed with herself for leading him onwards for such a time. She falls into a heavy silence as she climbs a few more stories from rooftop to rooftop, and at last she pauses to further reflect.
“I am glad to be leaving soon. He probably knows my apartment number.” And then she laughs, giving herself a break from judgment, and looking ahead to her destination. It isn’t long before she hops a final railing onto a balcony covered in overgrown plants. She slides the door open and takes a step into the apartment.
The room within is dark, but a faint glow is cast from the living room.
“Helannah,” says a voice. “Come check this out.”
She lets her breath out easy and strides into the far room.
The man does not look up from the computer monitor as he continues. “A detective here is posing as a journalist, trying to get more information from me. Mr. Hopkins, calls himself a brown coat on Facebook, owns a vehicle with leopard prints on the seats, real swell guy.”
Helannah laughs and pulls up a chair. “I see you’re being awfully productive Ivan, stalking your detectives.”
Ivan pushes his chair away from the desk. “What can I say? He’s too easy to track. And careful now, or you’ll give me an ego. It’s not plural. There’s only one detective.”
“But what happened to…”
“Oh, Danny-Boy? He got put on a case overseas, lost interest in my multiple identities. Anywho, I’m supposed to be invisible, impossible to track, etcetera, etcetera, and you’ve slipped in my balcony door. What gives?”
Helannah laughs and spins around on the swivel chair. “Thought I’d visit an old friend.”
“Old? Watch your choice of words. No one followed you though did they?”
She smiles and bites her lip. “Maybe…”
“Really now?” he asks. “I would be hard-pressed to believe any tales you’re about to spin. Last time I checked, Spiderman was still in prison for trespassing.”
“A guy did chase me, just a jogger out for a stroll, thought he’d show off his speed and brawn.”
“Oh no,” he says. “Helannah, really? We’ve talked about you crushing the hopes of guys left, right, and center. But this is just cruel. Let me guess, you left him hanging on a drainpipe two stories up?”
“No, he never left the ground. And I don’t understand where he got the nerve to chase me.”
Ivan gives an exaggerated laugh and slaps the desk. Then he says in a serious voice. “You do know it has very little to do with nerves, right? You do know there’s something a little different that propels them?”
Helannah gives him a comical stare. “Oh?” she asks with innocence. “Do tell me Ivan. Why do boys chase girls?”
He shakes his head and types a few sentences. Then he gives her an honest look. “When are you gonna get yourself a guy? Huh?”
“When I fall in love,” she responds.
“And when will that happen? Do the stars have to align? Do you have to see him in a dream first?”
“I know what love is, Ivan. And I’ll know when it hits me. But for now, I am quite happy living life for my passions and interests.”
“And apparently guys are not interesting,” he announces in a slow voice, still distracted with his virtual world glowing from the monitor.
“Well, actually, I am here because of a guy that I find very interesting.”
Ivan stops what he is doing and hits the backspace button three times for emphasis. Then he swings his head around with his best attempt at a flabbergasted expression, one that he has always aspired to master. “Really?” he asks, elongating the vowels. “Can I look him up?” His fingers poise over the keys.
“Actually, that is exactly what I want you to do.”
He gives her a wide eyed look. “Gee. This is getting better every minute. Would you like some nude photos with your free stalking demo?”
She keeps a straight face. “No,” she says calmly, weighing her next words carefully. “I want you to hack his online banking account. To track where he’s going. Because I need to find him.”
“Hmm,” he says, sitting back. “This could prove to be some risky business. Do I still owe you from that apple pie?”
Helannah continues. “He’s a past lover of mine.”
He looks up from fiddling with the buttons on his shirt. “Wow. Is he in trouble or are you feeling nostalgic?”
“Well, he is in rough shape from a tragic event. And now he’s vanished. Completely abandoned a life that he spent years to establish.”
“Hmm,” Ivan repeats. “That can be hard, having ditched several in my life time. Is he the kind to run away internationally, or camp out in his mother’s basement without her knowing?”
Helannah looks down into her lap. “He’ll go somewhere new. He’ll be looking for a new purpose. He’s had more than enough people in his life who have told him stories of enlightenment in faraway lands.”
“You, for instance?”
“Not really. I told him enlightenment was in his heart.”
The dim lit room falls into a silence that welcomes in the sounds of the city below. The computer beeps, but Ivan ignores it. After a moment, he says, “When are you leaving?”
She slowly raises her head. “As soon as possible.”
“You know your first destination?”
“I’ll get you the second one,” he says. “Start me off with a full name.”
“Jonathan Miller,” she says. “Jonathan Martin Miller.”