Page 46 of Unseen Messages

Galloway winced but didn’t complain as I continued down his leg, fastening the makeshift cast.

When it came time to straighten his oddly shaped ankle, I feared we’d both throw up.

Luckily, neither did.

Only once I’d finished did I sit back and stretch out my back. All things considered, it wasn’t too bad. From his knee to his ankle, I’d imprisoned his leg well enough to hopefully heal straight. I hadn’t tried to reposition anything. I couldn’t do anything about the swelling and obvious breaks in his foot. But I didn’t have the expertise to yank or try to realign.

My heart pounded. “How does it feel?”

Galloway frowned. “Not sure...”

It won’t work. I’ll have to try something else—

He cracked a rare smile. “It feels better. Thanks.” His eyes warmed, looking more blue-galaxy than tempest sea. “I appreciate it.”

Thank God.

For once, I was able to relax under his scrutiny. “You’re welcome.”

.............................

Night-time.

Our first night in the wild.

Well, second if you count our crash and stormy welcome.

The sun had bowed to the moon and the sweltering heat of the day turned to a nippy chill.

In our meagre luggage, we’d found our respective toothbrushes and two tubes of travel-size toothpaste. Cleaning our teeth and swilling our mouths with seawater wasn’t ideal, but we all needed a slice of normalcy. We didn’t have soap, but for now, we would settle for minty fresh breath.

Galloway and Conner had spent the afternoon fiddling with sticks and the polyethylene plastic, trying to come up with something sturdy to sleep beneath. But exhaustion and pain had finally taken its toll and we accepted that tonight...the Milky Way would be our ceiling and the stars our curtains.

I shivered, huddling in the spare t-shirt Conner had given me. I didn’t think my silky nightgown was appropriate, nor would it grant much warmth. My cotton shorts didn’t stop sand from slipping into every inch. I craved a shower to rid the sticky salt, a gallon of fresh water to temper my raging thirst, and a comfy bed with feather pillows and the softest blankets imaginable.

The entire day we’d been feeding off each other’s energy. But now, daylight had gone, signalling twenty-four hours with nothing to show for it. Our enthusiasm to converse had dwindled to non-existent. Even the piece of beef jerky for dinner hadn’t put us in a better mood.

All I wanted to do was curl up and shut off. The introvert part of my personality demanded I recharge away from the others, but the fear of being alone on a deserted island kept me appreciative of the company.

Pippa crawled toward me, her face pinched from crying. “Can I sleep next to you?”

I held out my arms. “Of course, you can. We can keep each other warm.” Her tiny form slotted against mine, sharing body heat, and surprisingly, offering comfort. However, she didn’t come alone. She clutched her stuffed, slightly damp kitten, wedging him between us.

The cold sand wasn’t exactly comfortable, but we’d all scooped four bed-like troughs to fit our individual shapes.

I hugged her hard, kissing her head. “Go to sleep. I’ve got you.” My heart stirred, already falling for the parentless waif.

In the dark, my eyes met Galloway’s. We slept facing the same way but a few metres apart. I hadn’t consciously placed myself so far from him, but even with the distance, his gaze still managed to splatter my skin with goosebumps.

He didn’t say a word, just stared with intense eyes almost opalescent in the night.

He’d done his best to help (offering to go with Conner and me to explore the island again—just in case we’d bypassed civilisation (we hadn’t unfortunately)), but his pain meant he was no use to anyone.

He didn’t see it that way, though. He saw it as weak. He looked at me as if I’d stolen something by doing my hardest to stay strong. He didn’t need to know that when I’d gone for a bathroom break, I’d used the rest of my singlet to wrap around my ribs. He didn’t need to know my discomfort or the fear I kept screwed tight like an over shaken bottle of lemonade.

He couldn’t erase my injuries, just like I couldn’t erase his.

We were in this together, whether we liked it or not.

Sighing heavily, I broke eye contact and settled in my sandy bed. I hated the way grains rubbed on my skin, sticking to my cheeks.

Pippa scooted closer, her tiny body drunk with sleep.

I couldn’t move with her draped on me, nor did I want to. Staring at the starlit sky, I did my best to find solace in song writing. Ghostly lyrics and phantom music filled my head, composing a melody, turning to symphonies for salvation.

Tomorrow will be better.

A new day always is.

Mistakes vanish. Tears dry.

Tomorrow will be better.

A new day makes sure of it.

.............................

DAY TWO

Tomorrow turned out to be worse than yesterday.

At daybreak, Conner and I returned to the helicopter, grabbing another plastic tarp from a dusty storage compartment and slicing through the seat belts with the Swiss Army knife. The nylon straps I cinched around Galloway’s splint, fortifying my flimsy shirt with rigidity.

We’d enjoyed a meagre breakfast of half a muesli bar each, another piece of beef jerky, and the rest of the bottle of water from Duncan’s backpack. We had two more bottles from the pilot’s supplies and three more muesli bars.

After that...we were screwed.

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