Petal and Tommy ducked around the corner and stopped, trying to quiet their erratic breathing. The gunmen’s footsteps neared, and their breathing halted completely. They held their stance, willing themselves silent and invisible, until the men finally passed.
Tommy looked toward the back of the alley in which they found themselves, searching for an exit. “Come on — this way.”
He took her hand and pulled her toward a blind spot in the back of the alley, where fire escape steps were almost entirely hidden from view. Petal climbed up the ladder with Tommy close behind. They emerged on the flat roof of an old building. The view was beautiful, but Petal felt exposed. She needed to get to the embassy; it was only hope of refuge, and of seeing her family again.
Tommy gently squeezed her hand; he of all people understood. It had been weeks since he first found her hiding from the men who had kidnapped her. He’d spent the time since then away from his own family, helping to keep her hidden from the men who were after her, while also trying to keep his parents from being targeted for his efforts. They used family nicknames to avoid attention and suspicion, and kept to underground avenues and to get to the safety of embassy undetected.
Now Petal could see the waving flags of her destination, only a few large buildings away. She was on the verge of relief — and also on the verge of tears. Tommy had been a Godsend, a friend in crisis — she wasn’t sure she was ready to leave him behind. One glance at the tears threatening behind his eyes told her that once again, he understood.
The sound of shouting and running boots broke through their solitary moment. They’d been spotted. They raced away from the ladder and the pursuers below them and across the rooftop. The fire escape here was joined to the next building halfway down. At the landing, Tommy pulled to a stop and turned to Petal, anguish filling his face.
“We have to separate.”