The Thirty Third Chapter
Tamara and I have hunted much more, and we're well fed. Our hut has evolved into a house. It has one room, and we sleep on the floor, but it's still a shelter. Then, we hear a noise outside.
"What was that?" Tamara asks. The rain has been on and off through the time we've been here. I've lost track of the days. Right now, the rain is once again coming down hard.
"I'll go check. You stay here," I get my gun out and walk into the rain.
A dark figure throws his hands into the air and yells, "Don't shoot! I'm just a kid!" He has a long cut from his knee to his ankle. His shirt looks like it's supposed to be blue. The buttons in the middle are missing, exposing a white undershirt. His jeans are ripped at the knees.
"Get in here! Hurry up!" I yell back. It is a kid. He walks past me and mutters a "thank you." When he gets in the house, Tamara exclaims, "Chad!" I walk in to see what's happening.
"Dad, this is Chad. He showed me around at the school that Jake sent me to." From there, Tamara and the boy talk all through the rain. All day. Nonstop. I try to sleep, but I can't. At least, not until they pass out. I fall asleep to the sound of the rain dripping on the roof.
I wake up with the sun blinding me through the door. Chad is sitting in one corner of the house, picking at his cut. It looks like he's trying to heal himself.
"Let me see," I get up.
"No, sir. Really. I'm fine," Chad fakes a smile.
"You don't look fine."
"Thanks. You don't look too good, either."
I walk towards him and grab his leg. He throws his head back and stifles a scream. I have nothing to clean it with. Not even water. I decide to take away his walking privileges. He doesn't seem too disappointed.
Tamara stays outside all day. She just sits there. Staring. It's like she's hiding something. She sits on the sand, usually out of sight. I've grown used to it. She's closed off again. I mean, this is the fourth mother she's lost. I keep telling her no, but she wants to find water somewhere. She insists. Her plan is to go into the woods again. Until the day I die, she's not leaving my sight again.
"Jame," Chad interrupts my train of thought.
"What?" I keep my gaze on Tamara.
"It doesn't have any service, but I still have my phone." As soon as he says it, I turn and kneel next to him. I put one hand in front of him, demanding him to give the phone to me, and the other hand on his hurt leg.
"Give it." I slightly squeeze his leg. He winces and practically throws the phone into my hand. I make him unlock it, then move my hand from his leg.
It's been weeks. Today is April sixth, and Tamara and I got lost on March eleventh.
I search Chad's gallery for anything that might be helpful. He is so dead. Most of the pictures are of him, Tamara, and some other girl. A few are on top of a building, some are in a dark, broken down house. One of them stands out. Chad is holding the phone, taking a selfie, like in most other pictures. But him and Tamara are looking at each other. That is not a normal stare.
Finally, something useful. He's taken screenshots of medicinal herbs, camping tricks, hunting, and even fight moves.
"Tam!" I call. She comes in the door a few seconds later.
"What?" She sees Chad's phone. Her eyes widen, then she tries to hide it.
"I want to talk to you later. Also, Chad took screenshots of what we need to heal him. Can you walk along the edge of the forest and see if you find any?"
"Sure." She takes the phone and leaves.
I stay in the house as the day passes. Chad comes in and out of sleep. As soon as it starts to get dark, Tamara comes back.
"Here," she puts a bundle of leaves and weeds on the ground in front of me. She walks back outside and sits. I watch her, Chad still asleep. After a while, I join her.
"What are you thinking about?" I ask, sitting next to her.
"Is that even a question?" She's right. Valeria is the only thing that's been on my mind ever since we got separated. Tamara starts crying. It's the first time I've seen her like this. She cuddles up next to me. Just like Valeria. And we sit throughout the rest of the night. Just the two of us. Sitting in silence. Thinking about how much we wish we were still home, in our beds, with Valeria, as a family.