I hike up to the church to mooch my breakfast as usual. The hunched priest is stumbling through the churchyard with a basket of fruit from his orchard. He hands me a pear with a toothless smile. We don’t speak the same language but we communicate with food.
He doesn’t let me inside while eating, so I lean against the wall, pear juice sliding down my wrist. The church is peeling and the paint ecks my clothes with white. The church overlooks the village, watches it, guards it. It is placed on top with the white, square houses tumbling down the slope towards the sea below. It glows bright from the sun like the star on a Christmas tree.
A man appears at the top of the stairs leading to the church. He is wearing a familiar blue uniform which is straining against his extended gut. He starts talking to the priest. I don’t know what he is saying but it can’t be good, so I toss my core and slip inside. I am instantly taken aback by the silence. The voices outside are muffled by the thick stone walls. There is a strong smell of creaking, drying wood and hints of incense. It draws me in. I notice a woman sitting in the front. She is wearing a black shawl that makes her indistinguishable. I’ve never seen anyone here before. I slowly make my way towards her with curiosity.
“Alexis,” she says.
Without even seeing her face, I know who it is and I flee. I go back through the pews, the man coming for me as I reach the garden. I dodge around him. He is uneasy on his feet. He yells after me and follows me into the labyrinth of stairs, winding down the hill and around the houses. My sneakers slip on the smooth worn steps but he is still miles behind. I know that I am small and swift and no match for the bulk of the policeman. I have been here before. I know how this game works.
I break out of the maze and come to the busy square. It is Saturday, so the market is throbbing with people and ringing with voices. The villagers are bartering and dealing with the venders, swapping something for another. The stalls are piled high with glistening fruit and warm baked bread. I may have lost him, but I can’t get distracted.
When I reach my boat the rest of the crew are lounging on the deck, smoking. I rush along the teetering gangplank and say, “They know I’m here.”
The captain does not hesitate. The crew are ordered into action, untying ropes, pulling in fenders, guiding in the anchor. The captain loves the chase. He has been running all his life, and now, so am I.
Words by Maddie Higginson
Image by Nicole Scriva