“Ah! They’re right behind us!” Eva shouted, a hint of laughter underneath the fear in her voice. Marco, still running, turned his head around: there they were. It seemed like half the town, chasing after them. The most haphazard army the world’s ever seen – women with wicker baskets of flowers, carrying groceries, interrupted doing their evening chores, men in soccer jerseys and worn, pastel polos and cheap, dark suits, some clearly half-drunk, the older ones just standing and watching. Everywhere black hair and olive, Italian skin. A few faces stood out: Giuseppe Antonio, who ran the corner store, and his two young sons – the boys’ little feet kicking up dirt into brown clouds as they ran. Marco’s father, his face determined, his black eyebrows furrowed, lips set, his grey tie flying up in his face and, much further back, Clara, Marco’s little sister, crying as she ran, her arms flapping at her sides.

“Come on!” There was Eva’s voice again. Marco looked over at her, next to him, and shook his head: her mascara smeared under her eyes, her blonde braids unraveling. She looked so out of place, he thought, mud from the dirt road spattered across the bottom half of her navy blue dress, the one with the lace, and soaking through her fancy, red leather shoes. He’d asked her again just the other day why she always dressed up so much, and so weirdly too, she wore the strangest things, he’d said, and she’d blushed and looked away, and his mother had laughed and smiled, looking up at them from the living room table, where she was playing solitaire.

They passed the white stone church, and in front of it, the statue of Saint Michael, blue sky and the mountains, green and brown, in the distance behind it. How strange it felt, breaking the rules, Marco thought – his arms moved awkwardly at his sides, full of adrenaline. At each step, he half expected himself to be unable to move forward, his legs to stop obeying. If they were caught – and he knew they would be caught, they both knew it, of course they’d be caught – his parents would… he didn’t want to even think about it. But he’d told Eva he’d do it. He couldn’t turn back. Though he wouldn’t realize it until many years later, it was one of the things he loved most about her – how she saw everything in absolutes. He knew there wasn’t a doubt in her mind that he would do what he’d said he’d do.

“I’ll get that,” Marco said, getting up from the dinner table to answer the door.

“Hi,” he said, looking at Eva standing on his front steps, her blue school bag on her back. He had hoped she’d look a bit sadder. They’d said their goodbyes at school earlier. She’d said she’d stop by when her family was getting ready to start the drive. When she had told him her family was moving, to Milan, in his room last Saturday, she’d been so matter of fact about it. Yes, she really was moving, she’d said. Her Dad had gotten a better job at a better museum, she’d said. She said she’d write, and he could visit, and she’d definitely come back at some point. They could send postcards. She had been very excited about the postcards.

“Let’s go,” she said.


“We’re leaving! Come on, before my parents finish packing,” Eva said, grabbing Marco’s hand and running out the door, leaving it wide open.

Marco could feel the sweat on his lip, and looked over at Eva, who laughed. They’d been running for five minutes. He could still hear the footsteps and occasional shouts behind them, though he looked back and saw the crowd was thinning out. The fear had gone away. The town was fading away behind them. There, to their right, was the elementary school, a small building of grey brick, two stories high with the yellow slide and monkey bars out front. Up ahead, the blue of the sea was just starting to show over the last hill.

“What’s in the bag?” he asked, panting.

“Everything we need!” she said, grabbing his hand.

They passed the last pastel houses, with their green wooden window shutters and orange stucco roofs, and there – they were here. The port. It was small and full of small sailboats that belonged to the families in town.  A thin wire fence, waist-high, separated the promenade from the bright blue Mediterranean below. Eva rested her elbow on Marco’s shoulder as she kicked off her shoes, and then she was jumping over the fence and into the water, and he was following her. He was falling, it felt like forever, and then a splash and he felt heavy and the cold of the water pulled him down, and then he took a breath of the unbelievably fresh air and swept his wet hair out of his eyes. Eva smiled at him, six feet away, treading water, and then she turned, swimming to the nearest sailboat, an orange one, Maria, it said in white on the side – they’d seen it a million times before. It belonged to Nunzio, the tailor. Marco fought against the water, and in a few moments he was there. Eva held onto the boat with one hand, breathing heavily, and pulled at her blue dress, which clung to her skin.

“Marco!” He heard his father’s shout. Looking up, Marco saw him at the fence, swinging one leg over, and then the other. To Marco’s surprise, he was smiling.

“Ah, I guess it’s over. The race...” Marco said.

“It’s alright,” Eva said, and shrugged. “You came.”

Marco heard several splashes, and looked over towards the shore, and saw his sister and father, and Eva’s mother and father, swimming over to them. There were thirty or so people at the fence, above, talking and laughing and watching.

“Oh, I forgot,” she said, blushing and reaching into her bag, which was still on her back. “Here, it’s for this weekend. If you’re free, I mean.”

It was a train ticket, soaked through.

“I’m sure they’ll still accept it!” Eva said enthusiastically. “If you want to come, I mean. If your parents will let you go,” she finished, busying herself with the ticket in her hand, dabbing it with the corner of her dress.

“Yes, I’ll come. I want to come,” he said. Her hand looked clammy as she continued to dry the ticket off.

She smiled, and opened her bag again and carefully put the ticket back inside it, in a nylon velcro wallet.

“Oh, okay. Well, make sure to get to the station early, so you get a seat! And I’ll meet you at the platform, just call me and tell me where you’ll be. And oh, I’ll bring lunch, and we can go to the park, I’m sure there’s a good park, I know it’s a big city but big cities actually have good parks, I was reading… ”

He didn’t really hear the rest of what she said. He took a dive underwater, swimming back to shore, and everything slowed down -- the repeated motions, his legs kicking behind him, arms pulling at the water ahead, dragging it towards his sides and behind him. His eyes were closed, the image frozen in his mind -- Eva, his family, everyone, exactly where they were supposed to be. The sun shining on the water in the port, bringing out all of the different blues you could only see on such a perfect day. If he could just stay under the water, he thought, time would have to stop. He could only hold his breath for a little while, so it would just have to. But then, however, he felt the tightness in his chest, his throat squeezing against itself. As his shoulders rose up, towards the surface, he grasped at the water below, trying to hold on, to pull himself down, but couldn’t. The cold air hit his face and he took a giant breath, and turned around, and saw the boats in the port, green and red and blue and pink, swaying gently, just where they had been a moment before.