Chapter 16

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I woke up the next morning at about 4 o'clock. Though it was too dark to see the time on my watch I knew the sun would be coming up soon. My head was pounding for not having a comfortable place to rest and my neck was stiff. I looked around the clearing where we had spent the night the same place as the night before. Jake was still fast asleep in a very uncomfortable position near a tree, just a few metres away from where the fire had been last night. Some of the burnt wood in the fire was still glowing with heat.

It was freezing cold. I decided to get up and collect some firewood and try to get the fire going again when it struck me. Where is Hayley? I thought that maybe she went to relieve bodily fluids so I didn't get too worried. I walked into the bush to look for kindling to start the base of the fire.

I got back with a few twigs and dry leaves that I could find and attempted lighting a fire. Hayley still wasn't back. She's usually the one that lights the fire because she just had that natural ability for lighting fires. Trying not to get too carried away with my thoughts about where she might be, I decided to get some bigger bits of wood; maybe when she gets backs she can light the fire.

I walked back in the direction of where I found the kindling and my over reacted thoughts got the better of me again. What if something happened to her? What if... the kidnappers got her too?

I immediately shook the thought out of my head. No, she's fine. She's fine. I reassured myself. I tried to focus on finding the wood. It was still very dark and hard to see very far in front of me, though my eyes have adjusted to the dark a little.

To my right I could make out a shadow that looked like a dead tree that had fallen over. I reached out to it and my hand folded over the dry bark. I pulled at it and a branch of the tree fell onto me. Pain shot through my face as a pointy bit of wood scraped my cheek. Its weight pushed me down and I fell to the ground. "Ow!" I yelled out. Within a matter of seconds Jake was busy pulling the tree off of me. He helped me up. I was shocked about how he got to me so quickly. He smiled that arrogant smile of his and in the moonlight I could see the fatigue in his eyes.

"Third time I've saved your life." He smiled and carried me back to the clearing, without even asking for my permission.

When he set me down I frowned and him and folded my arms. "You didn't need to help me, I could have gotten the tree off of me by myself. It wasn't that heavy."

"Hmm. What did you do out there anyway? It's not safe for little girls to play out in the bush." He said laughing.

"I was just--" I was interrupted by a familiar figure.

Hayley suddenly appeared on the opposite side of the clearing. The sun was coming up, and I could now see further away. When she saw me she looked like a little kid who had just been caught stealing a cookie from the cookie jar that her mum told her not to. She quickly put a smile on her face and walked up to me and Jake.

"Hayley! Where were you?" I yelled out to her as she was approaching us.

"I was looking for firewood. I woke up and it was really cold, so I decided to light a fire." She said with a perfect smile.

She saw my confusion as I looked down to her empty hands. "I couldn't find any." She said quickly. "What happened to your cheek?"

I lightly touched the wound where the tree branch had scraped my cheek and shook my head. "Nothing, don't worry about it."

"Wow, you're not very good at the whole outdoors thing, are you? First the ditch you fell and and now somehow a wound appeared on your cheek. You should have done outdoor education with me!" She said laughing to herself.

I smiled. "I found some kindling. You can start a fire from that if you still want to light one. Ill go find some bigger wood pieces." I said turning away from them.

"Try not to get any more trees to fall on you." Jake yelled out to me as I walked away.

"Very funny." I mumbled.

I searched everywhere for what felt like hours but everything was drenched of the morning dew. I found some partly wet wood and figured they are going to have to do. I decided to head back to the clearing. I knew that by the time I get back the sun would be out and things would start to heat up a little.

When I got back I was shocked to see Hayley in Jake's arms, enjoying a long embrace. "Didn't see that one coming." I mumbled as I approached them. They quickly let go of each other.

I chucked the wood on the ground next to the fire and walked towards the lake.

I didn't know why I came here, but somehow sitting next to the lake made me think clearly. I thought about the image of Hayley in Jake's arms. Why did it bother me so much? I could not tell. All I knew was that Hayley can do better. She could date Mark LeCras, I thought. She is so pretty and she gets along with everyone. Any guy would love to be with her, she's just had some bad luck with heart breakers thus far. But I knew that one day she'll meet the right guy, Jake's not him.

I walked back towards the camp and decided to deal with what ever I had to face when I got there.

"You ready to go?" Jake said as soon as he saw me.

I figured we had to go back and try and find Pete's lakehouse. I just wasn't sure if I wanted to see what's going on there when we got there.

We set out to find Pete's house and my head was spinning. I felt dizzy for so many different reasons. But I tried to keep my mind clear and walked behind Hayley and Jake who were holding hands.

We walked for what felt like a lifetime, when I started to see familiar territory again.

I needed to sit down for a while, to get my head to stop spinning, but I also wanted to get to Pete's house before sunset.

After a while Jake asked, "Do you girls need to rest for a while?" Hayley and I said yes at the same time.

I sat down on a rock and put my head between my knees. It felt so good to sit down for a little while again. Every muscle in my body was aching from lack of food and water and excess walking.

When I felt better I looked at my skin. Everywhere there were cuts and bruises. I knew my mum would have given me a speech about how I should look after myself better, but right now I didn't care. It was nothing compared to the pain of not knowing where my friends are; or what's going on.

My mum.

I miss her. I miss my dad. I miss home. I wonder if they're looking for me? Have they called the police and reported me missing?

I felt tears burning in my eyes again and I quickly redirected my thoughts to something else. I looked up and saw Hayley and Jake staring at my in concern. I got up, "I'm fine." I said and started walking in the direction which we were going before.

I could not help but smiling when we reached the tree house again. Good memories of it when I was a kid with Pete came back to me. Such little things gave me hope right now. I thought about when me and Pete had decided to colour in the lake house with crayons while his parents were sitting outside. We coloured in the furniture and everything that looked amusing to colour in. His parents got so mad at us that we had to scrub everything off.

Bad decisions make good memories, I thought.

I wondered that if maybe some time in the very far future I would laugh at what is fearful to me right now. Though I could not see it.

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