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"Promise you'll come to Innsbruck at half term?" Peggy was demanding as she scrambled up past the narrowest point of the little staircase cut into the cliff face.

Rhyll followed, one hand trailing cautiously along the crumbling sun-warmed rock. "Of course I promise. I'll book a ticket as soon as I get to Carnbach, if it pleases you. I haven't been to Austria before - I'm looking forward to you showing me. Quite apart from looking forward to your excellent company, of course."

Peggy glanced over her shoulder to flash her a wistful smile. "I haven't been there in years - not since I was a tiny little thing - I hope you're not expecting an especially informative guided tour!"

Rhyll recalled her own childhood move barely across Devon, what a seismic shift it had seemed to her at the time; how distant one had felt from the other, to someone with legs too short and means too dependent to do anything more than be taken passively from one to the other. How much larger a gap, from England to Austria and then back again. She recalled the thundering of shellfire from France, gently intruding on the southern coast as she lay belly-down on the sand and watched crabs clatter carelessly across the empty beach; tried to picture the school leaving in haste, the spectre of Hitler looming behind them and hurrying them on their way. She realised, not for the first time, that she had heard so much about the escape of a small number on foot and yet almost nothing about the journey made by the rest of the school.

They were reaching the top now, weary legs glad for the expanse of broad uneven earth which required less attention from those who walked on it. Rhyll pulled Peggy to her, spoke her next words directly into dark curls which nestled softly against her lips and smelled of sun and sea. "I shall be so glad to see you by then, I don't know how much I'll even notice what else is around me."

Peggy laid her head on her shoulder, her face towards the calm evening sea. "Do you remember the first time we came up this way, Evvy?"

Her heart raced a little faster, and her arm tightened around Peggy's waist. "I do. You engineered it very nicely, I must say!"

Peggy twisted to look at her, eyes dancing. "I always did! Engineer it, I mean. To see you, to be with you..."

"I know. I knew." Rhyll remembered the thrill and the fear which Peggy's unambiguous attentions had inspired, and pressed a fierce kiss to her forehead.

"Well, someone had to," Peggy teased, resting her head against Rhyll's chest once more, fingers slipping into her hand. "And I'm very glad I did, all things considered."

"So am I," Rhyll murmured. There was nothing more to say, and they stood in contented silence for several minutes, absorbing every detail: the faint red sunburn of Peggy's shoulders, the sound of the crickets in the bushes behind them, and the wide expanse of glittering sea ahead of them, stretching out to eternity.

 




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