sound hollow now.
Also, there was a double barrel to that
blunderbuss, and Finn was afraid of misfiring
it, fatally injuring their friendship. So for both
their sakes, he was anxious to avert the conver-
sation. He settled for kicking a rock instead.
That hurt only his ankle.
For a while, neither of them spoke. Finn
felt the silence weighing down the blue space
that had been light and airy between them.
He looked over, guessing that her thoughts
had returned to Dean. Sam sat hunched
forward, elbows on her knees, cupping her
chin between her palms. Her eyes were closed,
her face impassive except for an almost-smile.
Finn suspected it was just the pressure of her
fingertips lifting her cheeks. Would she never
get over that two-timing wastrel?
His eyes roved over the smooth lines of her
thigh, her toned calf. She was definitely back
training. He compared his memories from
Christmas. She’d been a real mess. Finn sighed.
‘Nothing, it’s just so peaceful,’ he lied,
admiring the lavender blush of her eyelids.
Hardly breathing, he watched for them to
flick up, unsheathing two piercing, electric
irises. Every swallow sounded louder than the
cawing gulls as he waited, fearful and hopeful
of being caught in flagrante, staring. But she
seemed to be concentrating on her breathing,
harvesting health-giving oxygen, pausing, then
expelling the used-up air into the wide blue
Finn drew an unsteady breath himself,
and envisaged reaching across the half-metre
separating them, running his fingertips up
the downy hair on her forearm, over the bony
nodule at her wrist, to hover at the parting of
her lips, and touch the warmth she exhaled.
He imagined pressing his fingers to her mouth,
making her hear what a waste of energy Dean
was, how much better she could do. For a
nanosecond, he believed he could let loose
the words that gave him headaches from their
Brownian motion, bouncing around, shrieking
in his head. I love you, Sam. He concentrated
his gaze, trying to float the words towards her.
He shifted his weight. Would they really be so
hard to say?
‘I used to tell people you were my boyfriend
when I first went to England,’ she remarked,
apropos of absolutely nothing.
‘Oh God,’ moaned Finn. Had he spoken
or had she actually wire-tapped his brain? He
wasn’t sure which would be the worse scenario.
Either way, he could sense it; they were skip-
ping straight to the ‘letting down gently’ part,
‘ There’s no need to look horrified,’ she com-
plained. Finn realised that the electric blue
irises were probing but his muscles refused to
reassemble his face. He hoped the inferno in
his cheeks would consume him.
‘I’m not horrified,’ he choked out.
She pressed on.
‘It was just because everyone assumed it. No
one else kept up such regular correspondence
with a guy. I didn’t really see it as untrue. More
like, well, premature, maybe. Something like
that.’ She trailed off, apparently waiting. But
Finn’s mind wouldn’t throw him a buoyancy
aid. He was floundering in deep waters with
no life-preserving words. He was shocked that
Sam’s cheeks were flaming also. Awkwardness
was his thing. She was the one with poise and
grace, who could conceal her feelings. Wasn’t
that why it was so hard to ask about her hurt?
And so frustrating that she’d never noticed
‘I hadn’t realised,’ he finally offered. Sam
laughed, a strange, strangled sound.
‘ What were we saying about things right
under your nose?’
‘I can’t believe this,’ Finn groaned, shaking
his head. The irony. He was living a personal
Comedy of Errors. She’d liked him and he’d
been oblivious and now he was in love with
her and it was too late. Not see blue? The
‘ You don’t need to act so embarrassed, Finn.
It was ages ago and obviously it’s over.’ The
emphasis cut him.
‘Obviously,’ he repeated. Dragging more
than one word from his incinerated throat was
impossible, like quenching the sun...or rewind-
ing time. Over. Obviously.
‘ Well, that was embarrassing,’ she declared.
‘Relax, I won’t be making any more confes-
sions, that’s for sure.’
‘Ok,’ he stammered.
‘I’m going for a swim,’ she snapped.
‘ What? No,’ he cried, collecting his senses,
‘It’ll be dark soon.’
‘Go on back without me,’ she continued
cooly, ‘I’m training for the triathlon and you’ll
just hold me back.’ Her words stung but they
were true. Nonetheless, Finn argued until she
dived under the water, cutting him off.
Back on the trail it was hard to see much,
impossible to make out a lone swimmer
with his short-sight. While he hesitated, the
earth shuddered on its revolution, swallowed
the sun, and stained Finn’s world a depress-
ing nightshade. He shivered, grimaced, and
lurched back the way he’d come.
An hour later, he was sitting beside Sam
again, holding her hand in an ambulance. And
the blue lights were flashing. Obviously.
Peter arrived panting behind him, hauled
Finn upstanding and back to the present. ‘For
goodness’ sake, do you want to be in a sling for
Finn baulked. This was exactly how he’d
fractured his collarbone five years ago, clat-
tering spectacularly into Sam as she towelled
herself off after her swim. He’d been racing to
find her. To find, embrace and promise to love
‘ You know it’s forbidden to see the bride the
night before the wedding and I’m not falling
down on the job,’ Peter insisted, tugging at
Peter was dead right, Finn realised. Sam
would absolutely murder him when she
climbed out of the water and caught him
traipsing after her over rocks in the dusk.
He grinned. Peter threw an arm around his
‘So, back to the playlist. Who sings that
one? About dreams swinging out of the
Short Story & Poetry Contest