“Come on you lazy thing!” Sarah extended a hand, and pulled Aaron the last few steps up the sloping granite rock face above the peppermint scrub. He dropped his pack beside hers, and the two of them turned towards the panorama spread out below. A small breeze flicked the hair escaping from under Sarah’s hat, and she lifted it, allowing the breeze to trickle through her sweat dampened hair. She turned questioning eyes on Aaron, “So, was it worth the climb?”
“It was,” he replied, as a slow grin appeared on his face, breaking briefly through the sadness that had settled there, since that day when everything had begun to change. “The view is everything you said it would be.”
“I thought that getting away might help.”
“You’re right,” he replied, “We really needed some perspective.” They stood together in silence for some minutes, allowing the wind to flush the fatigue from their bodies. Aaron stretched out his hand to Sarah, and she stepped forward, leaning into his embrace, and they stood there, arms entwined, linked together, and allowed themselves a few moments of comfort.
“We can’t avoid the issues, I suppose.” Sarah’s voice was gentle.
“No, we can’t.” Aaron shook his head.
“Shall we sit?” Sarah pulled her pack towards herself, and fished two bags of scroggin from the front pocket. She handed one to Aaron, and they sat together, looking outwards yet again. Silence fell, broken only by the gentle susurration of the wind.
Sarah looked down, and realised she’d been absently shredding a dried pear. She brushed the fragments from her lap, and then, sudden tears pricking her eyes, decided that it was up to her.
“What are we going to do?” She blinked furiously to clear her suddenly blurred vision.
“I don’t know,” replied Aaron. “I mean, what does anyone do in this situation? It’s not like it’s ever happened before. Until this moment in time, no one has ever needed to make these choices.”
“Why does it have to be us?” Sarah’s voice was thickened with anguish. “And why now? Why now?” She was almost shouting. “Just as everything was about to become so perfect?” Tears fell thick and fast, and she dragged her sleeve across her face.
Aaron sighed heavily and moved closer again, pulling her into his warm side, his arm comfortingly around her shoulders, and she gave in, sobbing heart brokenly in an excess of emotion. He let her cry herself out.
When she’d finally cried herself dry, Sarah pulled a hanky from her pocket and blew her nose. She looked up at Aaron. She could see tears like gems, balanced on his lower lashes, and the arm tucked around her was trembling.
“I’m so sorry, love. I thought that I’d be better out here.” She put her own arm around his waist, and with the other hand, touched his cheek, feeling the dampness there. “But in the end, there’s really no getting away from it anywhere, is there?”
“I’m glad we came, though,” replied Aaron, “At least we can spend this time together. We can see the beauty of this place, and we can tuck away some final memories for when there’s nothing else left.” She nodded sadly at his words and looked out across the landscape again. The wind brought the familiar smells of the peppermint scrub below to them, and further in the distance, the distinctive colours of the karri forest were visible. In the other direction, the Southern Ocean sent spray showers up onto the rocky coastline, mirroring the conflict in Sarah’s soul with its violent surges.
“You’re right of course, there’s really nothing to be done. All we can do is to try to cope when the time comes.” Sarah pulled her water bottle from the pack’s side pocket, and sipped slowly, feeling the tightness in her throat ease, and then offered it to Aaron. He nodded his thanks, and drank several small gulps before turning his head back to the ocean view.
“I’ll be OK here.” He said. “I’ll have my career, and we know how important that is now. But I worry about you, how you’ll cope, and where you’ll end up. And what they want from you.”
Sarah shook her head slowly.
“I wish I could tell you why, but I don’t know myself. I wish I knew what was going to happen, and I wish I could tell you why it has to be me. Why it’s any of us…” she broke off, and they sat in silence again. Sarah took deep breaths of the air, savouring its familiar smells, savouring Aaron’s closeness, and the feeling of being home tucked so firmly in his arms.
The moment was broken as the alarm sounded. The locked blue bracelet on Sarah’s arm flashed vividly, and the warning tones began as the two regained their feet, one set of hands still linked as Sarah gathered her pack strap.
“This is it, then.” Aaron’s voice was determinedly even.
“You’ll get home safely?”
“I will,” he replied, “I know the way back, and I promise that I won’t stop waiting, watching, and hoping.”
“I’ll try and come back. Maybe they’ll let me. Promise that you’ll never stop working towards our freedom?” Sarah’s voice was desperate.
“I promise!” The warning tones’ tempo accelerated, and Aaron took one step back, his hands reluctantly relinquishing hers.
“And I love you!” The large craft appeared abruptly from nowhere, and Sarah was jerked from the granite rock, vanishing into the open iris in its belly. Her last view of Aaron, his hands reaching skywards towards her, was cut off by the metal spiralling shut, as her feet struck the floor and she lurched unsteadily. She stood, pack clutched in one hand, her last tears still damp on her lashes. A claxon sounded.
“Processing begins. You stand as a hostage for your world’s survival.” She raised her eyes, and the huge alien above her indicated the direction she should take. She joined the line.