Sam and I arrive at the main road, taking turns dragging one another into a sprint as we start to tire. We encounter no obstacle, although alarm bells beat all the other background noise out of the air. I turn to Sam, hysterical with relief: like me, he is ruddy-faced and breathing as though his life depends on it. Together, we laugh breathlessly and bend double with dizzy adrenaline.
I feel a sudden impulse to grab the slender hands now flopping beneath him; so I do. Our arms are held out before us like they are our only prize, though they are one of many. The box of needles has fallen to the ground between us, a child kept at a distance yet in sight.
“We did it.” I force from my lungs with a jaw-cracking grin, half-using his weight to hold myself up.
“Yeah.” Sam agrees, crinkling his eyes so that his face is doubly radiant.
I feel weak and sweaty and feverous all of a sudden; I stumble slightly against him. And stay there. I can see his raspberry pink lips and all their indentations, surprisingly moist in the bitter atmosphere. I move closer. Closer –
“Not now Saff, the others are still missing.” He nudges me softly.
I snap out of my trance; I cringe; I wonder if the tender undertone is genuine or just a show of politeness.
When I turn my head, embarrassed, he touches my forearm. “Sorry.” He says apologetically. “I just don’t want to get too happy just yet.
That makes me happy.