Chapter Twenty Four
Adam’s leg pinched angrily as he moved through the jungle. Stopping to inspect it, he noticed a bony slider was barb sticking out of his thigh.
He bent over and twisting it, pulling it from his flesh. A thin line of blood ran down his leg and made a trail along a stop of sun-bleached rock bed as he limped along.
He threw the barb away and sighed. He was disappointed. It had taken him all morning to hunt that slider and he’d looked forward to killing it himself. His wounded leg hurt twice as much without the satisfaction of a good kill.
As he parted the tangled branches and moved into the jungle, he tried to bury his dissatisfaction along with the nagging pain in his leg by turning his thoughts to his fight with Emma. It was just one of many silly outbursts they’d had recently. Something was changing in her, but he couldn’t put his finger on what.
For one thing, she was always helping. She worried about him all the time and seemed to be just around every corner. She never wanted him to hunt alone anymore, or travel to the shore to fish.
Adam winced as his foot slipped out from under him on a mossy rock. He decided to rest and eased himself onto a thick, tall root that protruded from the ground like a miniature archway. The pressure left his wounded leg immediately and he blew out of relieved breath.
Something called from above and he looked up into the tangled branches. When nothing caught his gaze, he looked back towards the jungle floor and his thoughts returned to Emma once again, no doubt back at the homestead by now and stewing about their argument. He felt badly about tricking her into thinking he was dead. Maybe it wasn’t too late to make amends and get her help after all.
I’ll gather some rock nutson the way back and she’ll forgive me, he thought. Emma loved rock nuts, but they were difficult to harvest because they grew deep in the ground and only under a very specific sort of boulder—one that was silver-streaked and extremely rare. They were also heavier than you’d expect from their size and hard to roll over as they were always stuck oddly deep into the earth. Then, if you could move one and find the nuts underneath, there was the chore of cracking them open, which was time consuming. But once the hard mineral shell was cracked, the flavor of the translucent jelly inside was divine enough to make the work worth it.
A single bite brought bumps to the flesh and a soft buzzing under the skin. Too often they’d eaten more than they should and drifted off to sleep in each other’s arms for hours during the day, only to wake in the evening confused and thirsty.
Adam imagined walking into camp and seeing Emma lying in her favorite sun spot, weaving a basket or blanket. Or maybe she’d be tending to the flappers.
He imagined sneaking up behind her and surprising her with a handful of cracked rock nuts. Oh, she would reject his advances at first; playfully pretending she was still mad. But eventually she’d smile and give in, and they’d enjoy the soft fruit together, growing tingly all over and laying in the shade of the giant gum tree that sat behind their hut and spread its limbs across the homestead.
The inevitability of their reconciliation made Adam smile and he found he had the energy to stand up again. Limping slowly onwards, he searched the ground for dark boulders with silver streaks he knew were somewhere along the jungle floor.