“Now, we do nothing.”
“But I’m thirsty.”
Galloway chuckled. “You and me both, kid.”
“What are you doing?” Pippa appeared, her little arms wrapped around her goosebump-decorated body.
I welcomed her against my side. “Making water.”
“Really?” Her eyes widened. “Good because I want some.”
“Galloway was just explaining how it works.” I looked at him expectantly.
“I’m not sure exactly.” He cleared his throat. “When wrapped in something non-breathable, the leaves perspire and it condenses into fresh water.”
I cocked my head. “How?”
“Not sure how. Photosynthesis or something. The man I worked for used this method when we’d forgotten to take the large canteen. We’d gone logging and there were no streams or lakes to fill up our empty bottles. He had some clear tarp in the back of the truck, and after wrapping it like I have, we returned to work. It took a few hours but by the time we stopped for the day, we had enough to keep us going until we got home.”
“But what if there’s an easier way?” Conner asked. “Do you think there’s a river or something?”
Galloway looked at me. “Estelle? You guys have explored the perimeter twice. You know this place best.”
Crawling around in the storm then foraging for crutches didn’t make me an expert. Yes, I’d walked the coastline, but I hadn’t bushwhacked through the dense interior.
Could there be a waterfall?
I wished there was, but I didn’t think we were that lucky. I’d seen no mangroves, no soggy ground, no trickle.
Three hopeful faces watched me. I had nothing to offer. “I don’t think so.”
We fell silent, consumed with hunger and thirst and the desire to find some way off this damn island.
“Anyway.” I broke the nasty silence. “Soon, we’ll have purified water thanks to Galloway.”
He gave me an awkward smile. He couldn’t take a compliment. He couldn’t allow himself one moment of pleasure for doing something so life changing.
Why is that?
My heart swelled at his self-defacing attitude. “This is huge, Galloway.”
He shook his head.
“You just kept us alive as if it’s no big deal,” I said. “I would never have known how to do that.”
He shrugged uncomfortably. “Don’t mention it.”
“When can I have some?” Pippa reached up and pinched the funnel where a couple of droplets had rolled.
Galloway touched her head. “Not for a while. The tree isn’t fast like a tap. It takes a few hours for the leaves to sweat.”
My blood warmed as Galloway tucked hair behind her ear. He came across so angry and gruff but beneath that lurked a man I’d caught glimpses of, a man I wanted to know.
He was the man I’d kissed.
He was the man I wanted.
Pippa squirmed. “But I’m thirsty.”
“I already said that.” Conner slung an arm over her shoulders, careful not to touch her scabbing wound. “Copycat.”
Pippa stuck out her tongue. “I’m hungry, too. Did you say that already?”
He patted his concave stomach. “That goes without saying. I could kill for a lasagne.”
“Lasagne?” My eyes widened. “That’s your favourite food?”
He nodded. “That and ravioli. I have a thing for pasta.”
“Mine is cherries.” Pippa tugged my hand for attention. “Cherries and raspberries and blueberries and—”
“Every berry, we get it.” Conner rolled his eyes. “Doubt you’ll find them here.”
“What’s your favourite, Estelle?” Galloway’s soft voice wrenched my head up. He didn’t look away, his gaze intense, as if he could strip aside my outer shell and wrench out my secrets one by one.
“Your favourite food? If you could have anything delivered right now, what would it be?”
I bit my lip, flicking through tastes and memories. Once upon a time, my favourite meal was spiced eggplant with grilled halloumi. However, I’d been eating it when the call came about the death of my parents and sister.
I hadn’t been able to touch it since.
“Not sure,” I hedged. “I guess a good soup with crusty bread is nice.”
“Soup?” Galloway pulled a face. “Seriously?”
I bristled. “I think we have more important things to do than discuss our favourite menus, don’t you?”
“Unless you’re suggesting ordering me a massive cheeseburger with all the trimmings, then nope.” Galloway’s smile taunted, almost as if he could read my annoyance and understood how much he affected me.
Well, so what if he could?
We’d liked it.
But now, we had to move on and survive side by side rather than lip-locked.
“I’m afraid I don’t have a cheeseburger, but I do have one last bottle of water and a final muesli bar.” Smiling at the children, I said, “Let’s have breakfast. We can afford to have it now that we have a source of water.”
I didn’t mention we didn’t have a source of food...yet.
My eyes drifted to the twinkling ocean. Beneath the surface lived countless molluscs and crustaceans that could keep us alive. We just had to figure out how to catch them.