Chapter 73 & 74
The sun was close to the horizon when the island came into view; its shadow reaching out towards them as if in welcome.
Rickie pushed the wallowing boat as best he could, and prayed they would be able to reach it before the engine quit. Already, it was struggling as water pooled around the inboard. Meaghan’s attempt to keep the water out of the engine compartment was only delaying the inevitable, but he wanted every possible second.
Meaghan’s arms and wrists ached with the effort to keep the manual pump working. She paused for a second when, with a gurgling cough, the engine finally died. She wiped her forehead and squinted through the cabin door at Rickie, who grimly measured the distance still to go.
Rickie felt a moment of panic overcome the throbbing in his belly, and tasted fear when he thought about what they must do. He took in a breath, ignoring both the pain and the terror.
“Well, Meggie, we’re within the surf line, but it will still be a bit of a swim. Are you ready?”
He turned and looked at her; even disheveled and battered, she snapped a saucy salute and said, “Aye aye, Captain.” Rickie smiled and felt his panic recede, proud of her attitude.
“That’s my girl.” He reached into the hold and pulled her out. They both stood by the wheel and looked at the green and grey outcropping rising up from the water. They were close enough to see individual features, but they were still many meters away from the shoreline.
Rickie placed a bright orange life vest on Meaghan, making sure all the straps fit snugly, before he strapped on his own.
By then the forward motion of the boat ceased; it now wallowed between the waves, directionless and still sinking. Rickie grabbed up the remaining life vests and what useful equipment he could find, and roped it together. He reached out his hand and linked the two of them together. He pulled her into his arms and kissed her gently on the lips as she molded herself against him.
“Are we ready?” He asked as he leaned his forehead against hers. Meaghan cupped his cheek by way of a reply, and then squared her shoulders.
“Let’s do this.”
Rickie nodded, and using a piece of the rope, tied it around Meaghan’s waist, playing out approximately ten feet before securing the other end around to himself.
By now the vessel was low in the water, and rapidly filling up influx of seawater through the cracks in the hull. It was only a matter of minutes before it was gone, and Rickie wanted to be away from it by then. He lifted Meaghan into the water, handed her the precious package of belongings, and slipped into the water. They both began paddling towards the shore, and neither noticed when the Bayliner and its grim cargo finally disappeared under the waves behind them.
What seemed like hours later, they finally found footing in the white coral sand and all but crawled until they reached the warm dry sand above the tide line. Taking a moment, Rickie untied them and put the rope with the packet of possessions.
“Let’s go see if we can find some shelter for the night. It’s already close to sunset.”
Somehow they managed to stagger to a small cave in the rocky cliff a short distance from the water. It offered little comfort, but was better than spending the night exposed on the beach. Rickie sat down and leaned against the cave wall, and motioned Meaghan to join him.
As she approached him, Meaghan glanced down at Rickie and her eyes widened in alarm. The spreading stain on Rickie’s shirt appeared like a black abscess on his abdomen in the fading light. She dropped down to the cave floor and focused on the injury.
“What did you do?” She demanded, and Rickie stood still as his Meaghan reached out and touched the stain; she pulled her hand away and saw the smear of fresh blood. “Sit here, and don’t move,” Meaghan ordered Rickie before going back outside and looking around the area for useful items.
Rickie leaned up against the side of the cave, holding his hand over his wound. The flow of blood had appeared to stop, but he was afraid it would start again with the slightest provocation. Instead he was forced to watch Meaghan as she prepared for their stay tonight.
Meaghan first brought back several armfuls of palm leaves, which she arranged on the cave floor before folding over a part of the tarp that had come with them from the boat to form a pallet. Next, she gathered together several stones into a circle and filled it with dried leaves and small branches, with another fuel pile placed against the cave wall. The supplies from the Bayliner included waterproof matches and several bottles of water, but no rations.
As time passed, it became totally dark, and Rickie carefully stood up, intending to go look for her. Once past the artificial light of the fire, his eyes adjusted, and he was able to see with the help from the starlight. Meaghan was just returning, her face flushed and triumphant.
She carried an armload of bright pink globes, and Rickie winced when he realised what they were.
“I found some ripe engkala, so we won’t starve tonight!”
Meaghan’s bright face shone in the faint light, and Rickie decided to grin and bear it. “Did you manage to find a rice cooking tree as well? Or at least a durian or two?”
She playfully bumped his hip as she carried her cargo back to the cave and laid them on a palm leaf. She began to prepare the fruits, popping off their caps and stems. Rickie ate his share with good grace, even though he normally didn’t like the avocado-like taste. They shared a bottle of water, sitting across the fire in perfect camaraderie.
Rickie loved watching the colors from the fire play across her face, as she finished the meal and turned her eyes to his wound.
Meaghan carefully unbuttoned and pulled back the shirt. The sight of his hard abs momentarily distracted her before she zeroed in on the wound. The bandage was completely soaked through, but she didn’t want to remove it in case it was slowing the blood loss. Using the arms of the bloodied shirt around his torso, she fashioned a sling around his waist.
Rickie lifted his arms over his head as Meaghan came in close under his arm to wrap the shirt around his torso. He couldn’t resist dropping his arm across her shoulders and kissing the top of her head.
“Rickie!” she admonished, smiling a moment before applying herself to her task. Once done, she pulled back and looked at her handiwork. The majority of the shirt was folded into a crude bandage; the sleeves tied around him to put pressure on the bandage. She hoped it would be enough. She assisted him down until he was supine on this pallet.
The light from the mouth of cave had gradually faded as the sun went down, and the temperature began dropping. Rickie began shivering, and Meaghan curled up next to him and pulled the edge of the tarp over both of them, in an attempt to give him her body heat. He turned into her and wrapping his arms around her, effectively trapping them together.
She looked with marvel at his face, tracing the lines of fatigue with her eyes. Her poor prince. She traced the arched wings of his eyebrows with her finger, and then lightly kissed his lips. He stirred slightly and tightened his arms around her, but never woke up.
She laid her head upon his arm and also fell into a deep sleep, done in by their ordeal.