This story was written in answer to Fandango’s One Word Challenge. Word – ‘Excuse’
This story also includes the Your Daily Word Prompt word – ‘Loyalty’
This is what I came up with …
“I’m loving this. How many markers to go?” Amber said breathily while picking her running step over the rocky ground.
“Should be six.” Joe smiled at her. “I love the way running makes you glow and I’m loving this because you do, cheetah.”
“Cheetah?” Amber giggled and glanced down at her shapely purple vest and shorts clad body, she felt great today. Around her, the landscape was growing higher with a valley tumbling away on her left and hills rising on the right. She and Joe were part of a fifteen-mile cross-country charity race.
“Yeah, cheetahs are lithe and beautiful cats, just like you.” Joe grinned at her. His expression faded the second he looked away to can the landscape.
“Aww, you’re adorable, thank you.” Amber noticed his changing mood. “Hey, are you okay?”
“Hmm, just struggling over the terrain is all.” Joe took his water bottle from his waist and had a sip.
“That’s an excuse. You’re fitter than me and I’m doing fine.” Amber skirted around a hefty granite boulder and rejoined him. “You remember when I asked where you went three nights a week?”
“Yeah, I showed you.”
“Exactly, you were loyal in showing me that you play Dungeon Masters. I loved you even more for being honest.” Amber felt the gradient growing steeper and eased her pace a touch. The only sounds were their footfalls on the rocky surface and the breeze cutting over the hills. She could see a rocky wall dropping away between them and the valley as they climbed in altitude.
Joe matched her. “So?”
“So, this is like that. Something’s wrong and you’re not telling me.” Amber glanced across at him and shrieked as stone rolled beneath her foot pitching her off balance.
“Easy, lovely.” Joe put out a hand and steadied her. “You okay?”
“Thanks.” Amber moved back into her stride. The stumble had caused tension in her shins though. She looked about her as she tried to control her breathing and relax again. “Please, tell me what’s wrong.”
Joe huffed beside her and sent a stone skittering off the path.
“We shouldn’t be on this hillside path, should we?” Amber pressed.
Joe looked at the watch upon his strong, tanned arm and gazed around him but said nothing.
Amber knew the watch was recording their mileage and his heart rate and such. Her watch was doing the same thing. “Joe, please,” she gave a concerned and beseeching look.
“Okay, no more excuses.” Joe jogged around an area of loose rock and grasses and came back to Amber. “Nobody else has come this way. We’d see their footfalls here and there on the track. We should have found the next marker by now too.”
“So, what? We went the wrong way?” Amber pulled her water bottle and took a big sip.
“No, we followed the marker just fine.”
“Then maybe we’re in the lead and we’re not quite at the next marker yet,” Amber said as hopeful as she could manage.
“Can’t be. Each marker is a mile apart. We should have passed one four hundred yards ago.” Joe groaned and wiped his head. “I’m sorry I got us lost.”
“Hey, it’s not your fault.” Amber squeezed his arm. “Somebody must have turned the last sign around.”
“Well, that’s one excuse for it.” Joe pointed away to the left into the valley. “There’s a runner. We should be down there.”
“Good eye.” Amber could see an orange vest bobbing along a track maybe a mile away. “We have to find a way to get back on track.”
“Yeah, I’m sorry.” Joe turned away looking miserable.
“For what, sweetie?” Amber had her eyes fixed on the cliff-like walls, searching for a way down now.
“You’re loyal to me in every way and you trusted me to get us through the race safely. I repaid you by getting you lost and possibly in danger.” Joe kicked a rock and barrelled off his feet. He rolled before Amber and bounded to his feet again. “Damn it!” he yelled.
“You hurt yourself.” Amber indicated a small amount of blood oozing from his shin.
“Great!” Joe yelled. “Gah, I’m a sorry excuse for a boyfriend. I apologise, Amber.”
“Please, stop.” Amber took his hand. “This isn’t your fault. The sign was moved and we’ll be fine, okay?”
Amber grinned. “I’m still having fun. We’re having more of an adventure now. That’s all.”
“I’m pleased you’re still having fun.” Joe glanced about again. “This path is going to bend further from the race route.”
“I noticed.” Amber could still see the runner in the valley. Using his position alone she could tell their path was never going to reconnect with his.
“There.” Joe indicated a slope of loose rock. “We can get down that.”
Amber smiled at him. “Scree running, like the survivors on TV do.” She ran to the top of the slope and looked down.
“Exactly. Lean back and move quickly.” Joe leapt onto the slope and lead the way down.
Amber chose a path to his side, not wanting to bury him in lose rock. She set off with a squeal and giggled the whole way down. “No excuse to be made. You loyally promised me fun and…” Amber jumped and bounced through a fall of rock. “— this is great!”
“Yeah! That was fun.” Joe agreed as they burst into flatter grassland in the valley. He came back to Amber and gave her kiss as they set their running stride again. “Thank you, sweetheart.”
“For what?” Amber gave him a loving look.
“For not being upset at me for getting us lost. For loving me and making today fun no matter what.”
“I love you, silly. So, long as I’m with you, I’ll have a good time and be happy.” Amber sipped her drink and pointed. “Let’s catch him.”
Joe beamed. “Let’s get him!”
Setting eyes on the orange vest of the runner they began to reel him in. By doing that they regained the real path and forty minutes later the two crossed the line in sixteenth and seventeenth out of one hundred and twelve runners. Not bad considering their high-altitude detour.
Have a great day!