Corey carried Kyla back to the shelter, her tall frame seemingly small and child-like in his arms. He lay her down gently on one of the leaf beds, taking care not to aggravate the injured leg. Then he looked back at Mia, his expression weary.
"Do you think you could go find something for the splint? We can use it with my jacket."
Mia nodded shortly. Within several minutes, she had returned with two similar sized sticks. Corey arranged them, then picked up the jacket, poking one finger through a tear that had begun to form at the sleeve. He ripped it from shoulder to hem, then repeated the action twice more.
"She'll wake up soon. It's actually better she doesn't feel this," he said. "Can you hold the leg for me?"
Mia moved forward, trying to set the twisted limb as straight as she could so the bindings would be effective. Then she got up and filled one of the cooking pots with water, carefully cleaning Kyla's bloodied cheek and arms. Then she retrieved the dented first aid kit, found what seemed like ages ago now in the shack, and did her best to put the withered bandages to use.
As she worked, she watched Corey roll up the hem of Kyla's jeans, wincing as he saw the mottled purple bruises and swelling that had blossomed over the knee. When he had finished tying the strips of cloth, he leaned back on his heels and released a tired breath.
"I'll have to take her. I was hoping for more than a few hours of practice with the plane, but we don't have time for that now. I'll do a few test runs, make sure I feel confident with it, and then go. I don't know the severity of her injury…I don't want to take any chances…" He stopped speaking for a moment, as he struggled to contain something.
"Mia, you've got to know….I would never…I can't stand the idea of leaving you behind."
But she knew he had no choice. There was no way they could leave Kyla alone in her condition.
"How long do you think you'll be?" Mia asked, forcing herself not to think of being entirely alone on the island.
"I don't know," Corey said helplessly. "It could be a few hours. It could be a day. We might be seen before I have to land somewhere and go for help. I hope we are."
Kyla began to stir, her lids weakly fluttering open.
"Kyla? How are you doing?" Corey questioned her worriedly.
"Horrible," Kyla moaned. "The side…the one side…" She stopped speaking, her lips pressed sharply together.
"I wish I knew more about identifying this. I can't tell how badly it's broken, or even where. It seems like right underneath the kneecap though," Corey said anxiously, his hands lightly probing the splint.
"Mia, do you remember anything from your dad?" Corey asked suddenly, a note of hope in his voice. "He's a doctor isn't he?"
"Yes, but I don't know any more then you do," Mia said, feeling embarrassed. "He…he never talks about work."
Corey nodded. "Don't worry about it." He turned to Kyla. "Can you tell us what happened? You tripped?"
"I don't know," Kyla whimpered. "Mia was going so fast, I couldn't keep up…I just panicked, I thought you two would leave…my foot just…it went into air, and then..."
Mia shifted uncomfortably. "I told you there was no rush."
"We weren't going to leave you," Corey said reassuringly.
"I know…but it felt like…" Kyla swallowed audibly. "After everything I did…"
"It's fine." Corey said.
There was a beat of silence. "I'm so hungry," Kyla lamented.
We all are
"And my head," she continued. "It hurts so much."
"Did the food packets work at all?" Corey asked suddenly.
"No," Kyla said miserably, "it was all just dust, and the one package had leather inside. Maybe it was a wallet, I don't know. Totally useless."
"Leather?" Mia asked.
"Yes," Kyla said tiredly.
"Where did you put it?" Mia asked.
"Its by the fire. Beside the logs."
Mia jumped up and rifled through the discarded packages. Her hand closed over something rough and brittle. She examined it. It was vacuum packed beef jerkey, not a wallet. It did looked terrible and leathery, and completely inedible. But with some water to soften it, it was better then nothing. A bit of sustenance at least.
She dipped it into the water, thoroughly soaking it, then walked back over to where the others were.
"Here," she said, handing it to Kyla.
"Ugh, what is that?"
"It's jerkey. Dried meat. Just try chewing on it a little. It will help your light headedness."
Kyla groaned again, turning her head to the side. Mia sighed.
"Kyla, just take it," Corey instructed, though Mia saw his eyes linger on it longingly.
"Later," Kyla said, her voice faint. She seemed to fading out of consciousness again.
"She needs to eat," Corey said tiredly. "We need to keep any strength she has."
"Let her rest a bit," Mia said. "We'll give it to her again as soon as she wakes up."
He nodded, and they lapsed into silence. They sat there for some time, watching the sun sink lower in the distance. Corey seemed tranquil, his eyes resting on the horizon. Mia, however, could not shake the anxiety once again creeping through her mind. Finally, she could take it no longer.
"Corey, I know this is crazy, but…I…I saw a hand in the bushes after I left you this morning. I know I imagined it…I was so upset and worried but…it seemed so real. And I was thinking…the possibility of Steve...of…of him still being—"
"Alive?" Corey finished. "He can't be. We both saw him Mia. His pulse was gone."
I imagined it.
But in her head, Mia continued to see the shaking hand, the way the fingers had curled toward her, and how sharply her heart had pounded in response. Nothing imagined could have such an effect.
"Corey, it was him," Mia gasped. "I know it." She shuddered. "What if he's out there planning something right now? What if he's—"
"Mia, calm down," Corey said softly. He placed an arm around her shoulders, pulling her close. "You're tired and you haven't eaten in hours. Your mind is playing games with you."
Mia nodded, feeling soothed by the comfort of his embrace. "It was just so—"
"It's the guilt," Corey said quietly. "I've felt it too. Even thought I saw him a few times myself. It's not real Mia. We did nothing wrong. He fell on the knife remember? We didn't kill him."
"No, we didn't," she repeated. But she was not convinced. She felt nervous, on edge, the way she'd felt just before Steve's identity had been revealed.
Something isn't right.
A low rumble sounded in the distance, and they both jumped.
"Thunder," Corey clarified, heaving a sigh of relief. "Not the plane."
Mia laughed weakly.
"We'll do the test runs tomorrow morning," Corey said. "We should be able to leave by late noon."
Mia nodded, not meeting his eye.
"We'll send help as soon as possible," Corey said firmly. "It won't be long." He placed a hand under her chin, forcing her to meet his gaze. "I promise."
She nodded again, trying not to focus on the warmth of his palm. Thunder rumbled louder in the distance, and she felt a drop splash onto her cheek. Corey drew away, moving quickly toward Kyla. When he had placed her to rest under the awning of the shelter, he sat down beneath it and motioned for Mia to join him.
Mia watched the rain fall harder, the sands around them darkening as rivulets began to collect and grow into pools that ran down toward the waters edge. Thick, humid air swirled through the downpour, encasing them like a glove. On the coastline, the palm trees swayed sharply, their long leaves flapping in the wind.
The sky is too dark, Mia thought uneasily.
She looked at Corey, and saw her worry echoed in his face. "It will be over by morning," he said, though there was uncertainty in his voice. "It has to be."
"You think you'll have the steering learned that fast? By noon I mean?" Mia asked.
"I don't know. I…" He closed his eyes, running a hand exhaustedly over his face. "I really hope so."
Great job Mia. Make the guy doubt his abilities
"Sorry," Mia said quickly.
"Haven't we been over this? You apologize too much," he said grinning.
"Sorry. I mean…argh."
He laughed, and Mia's cheeks warmed. His hand reached out, brushing a curl behind her ear. She felt his fingers slip to her neck, then move up, gently cupping her chin. She stared at him, unable to move.
His head dipped lower, and her eyes closed. Without thinking, her arms curled around him, drawing him closer. The broke apart as another roar of thunder echoed through the cove. Mia quickly disentangled her arms, red-faced.
"Sor-" She began.
"Stop that," Corey laughed. "Or I'll have to do it again."
Mia blushed. Corey smiled in response.
"I like you," he announced quietly, unashamed. "It's unfortunate the last time ended so badly." He glanced briefly at Kyla's sleeping form.
"I never meant to upset her, or you. I never meant to lead her on either…" He sighed. "I don't know what I did to make her think that. I tried hard not too. She just...doesn't give up." He groaned lightly.
Mia was still struggling to absorb his previous words, and felt his voice come to her as though through a fog.
I like you
"I…" She tried, her voice catching. Her whole body felt warm, and a soft happiness was slowly engulfing her.
"Like me back?" Corey demanded, a shadow of his old smirk resurfacing.
"Be quiet," Mia told him sternly. "And maybe."
"I can handle maybe," Corey laughed. He sobered suddenly as another gust of wind blew past them.
"I won't be long Mia," he said, and she realized he was referring to the plane flight again. "I won't be gone for more then a few hours. I won't leave you here longer then that. As soon as I get Kyla her help, I'll be back on the plane coming to get you. I promise. Okay?"
"I know," she said. She saw the guilt in his eyes, and knew it was weighing on him.
"It's okay," she said, trying to be reassuring. He nodded, and tightened his grip around her shoulders.
"We're almost there," he said softly. "It's going to be over. All of it."
Mia awoke to a full moon. The rains had stopped, and the air was cool and damp. Beside her, Corey was fast asleep. She wondered when the storm had blown over, and how bad it had actually been. She'd been so exhausted, and so hungry, she'd simply faded out after Corey's declaration and promise.
He likes you!
Mia felt her heart skip a beat, and glanced shyly at his sleeping face.
Calm down, he was caught up in the moment, and just felt like—
Oh come on Mia, denial ain't just a river in Egypt
She grinned in spite of herself. A sudden rustling caught her attention, and she turned to see Kyla stirring.
"How are you fee-?"
"Not bad," Kyla interrupted, and there was an odd tone to her voice. "What time do you think it is?"
"Right now?" Mia asked. "I'm not sure. Maybe one or two?"
"That leaves us what….nine hours or so till freedom?" Kyla said smugly.
"I guess," Mia answered. "But how is your leg?"
"Bearable," Kyla said briskly. "Worth it."
Even in the faint light of the moon, Mia was aware of a snide smile steal over Kyla's face. Her eyes glittered unnervingly.
You've got to be joking
Did she actually…?
A sickened sensation rushed through Mia at the very thought of it.
"Where's that meat?" Kyla demanded. "I want it now."
"It's…" Mia stopped. "Kyla, are you honestly telling me you—"
"Where's the food Mia," Kyla asked sweetly. "I'd like to have it now please. Or did you eat it yourself?"
Mia sensed a fury she had never felt before begin to build. Kyla's smile only goaded her on.
"No, I didn't," she said tightly. "We saved it. For you."
"Then get it," Kyla snapped.
Mia rose, her legs leaden. As she turned to reach for the supply box, she felt a sharp prickle at the back of her neck. A deep dread swept through her, and she shuddered. Her hands reached blindly out, but met only sand.
What is wrong with you?
She moved toward the side of the shelter, certain she'd placed the supply box containing the meat there the day before. Her neck prickled again, and she shivered. She could feel eyes on her, boring into her skull, and a terror was growing in her chest.
But she had too. She jumped up and spun around, her eyes frantically scanning the darkness. Her gaze locked instantly onto the figure a short distance away. A man, crouching in the sand, staring directly toward her.
She screamed, staggering backwards in horror.