To The End

Finalist in the 'Top Secret 2016' competition

'Just put one foot in front of the other, I told myself. Just do it, Juliet.'
I couldn't. My feet got tangled up with each other and, the next thing I knew, sharp little rocks were digging into my cheeks. I just lay there, not planning on getting up anytime soon.
I heard footsteps behind me. I couldn't let them see me. I rolled into the undergrowth and lay still, barely breathing. They passed without even looking in my direction. It had been close.
My breath came in ragged gasps, which hurt like nothing else ever had. I reached up absentmindedly to wipe my permanently runny nose. I gasped in pain and shock. A tiny streak of crimson had been painted on my hand by a very unartistic bleeding cheek. I touched my face gingerly, but pulled away as it started to sting once again. I leant back against a tree, utterly defeated.
I heard another set of footsteps, slower than the others I'd heard before. There was something familiar about their rhythm. I peeked through the leaves. Big, clumsy feet, short, stocky legs, hunched shoulders and the oddly crooked nose. He was unmistakable.
"Alfie!" I half whispered half shouted. He stopped abruptly and looked around with an expression of pure fear on his chubby face.
"Wh-who's there?" He glanced around anxiously.
"It's just me," I answered as I parted the leaves.
"Juliet! What're you doin' down here?" He hobbled over to where I lay. There was a disgustingly loud crack as he crouched down next to me in the undergrowth.
"You need to get that checked out," I remarked, not really wanting to tell him what had happened.
"Don't change the subject," he warned me. Deep brown eyes speckled with green looked into my own eyes searchingly. "C'mon, Jules, what's up?"
I felt compelled to look away. Alfie does that to you. His eyes seem to penetrate your very soul. You can't hide a thing from him, no matter how hard you try. It's kind of creepy sometimes.
"Alfie, I'm giving up." I said it in a way that could have sounded proud had I said something completely different. "I refuse to go another step." If he'd been anyone but Alfie, he would not have argued. But, unfortunately for me, he was Alfie. He wasn't going to give up on me.
"OK," He said bluntly, like it was the end of the discussion. From the way he got to his feet unsteadily and made his way back to the path, I started to think it was. I was stunned, but disbelief soon gave way to relief. I wouldn't have to go any further. Then he turned around.
"C'mon, Jules. It's just a little further." He reached for my hand and tugged me to my feet. "We'll go right to the end together." He looked so hopeful that I couldn't help but cave in.
"Fine, you win, but I'm never doing cross country, again!"

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