Three Tears

Chapter 18

by David Heulfryn

It was mid afternoon when Martin glanced at the time and thought it best he get home. They had spent most of the day in Phil's bedroom just being with each other, after a while he turned on the small portable television Phil had on his chest of drawers and they watched some dire television programmes, both enjoying criticising the presenters or the public which were so desperate to be on television they would take part in any rubbish.

Pulling the shopping list from his pocket, Martin explained that he had some things to so and he should go. Phil looked doe eyed and disappointed but didn't try to keep him, even though all he wanted was for him to stay around.

Martin went to kiss him good bye.

"No don't kiss me." Phil pulled away. "I don't want you to get this."

"I've been here all day; if I'm going to get it then I've got it. I've touched you, cleaned your dirty mug, picked up your infested clothes..." Martin reasoned.

"All the same, just in case. You can kiss me when I'm better. In fact I'll make a note that you owe me one."

"Two actually, there was when I arrived. So that means you also owe me one too." Martin kissed his own hand and then pressed it against Phil's forehead. "There, that'll have to do for now."

Phil told Martin that he would ring him when he was feeling better. He felt guilty in keeping him around all day and stopping him doing what he wanted, so he explained that he would rest again tomorrow and would ring him to let him know how he was. Martin wanted to come round again, said he would help, make him tea and cheer him up. Phil weakened his resolve and said he would ring in the morning and let him know.

What with Phil being too poorly, no thought of lunch ever passed their minds and Martin never felt any hunger until he left. As he walked along the street his stomach started to growl at him. He also felt his throat tickle and he forced out a cough. His face became stern as he told himself to stop being a silly hypochondriac, he was healthy enough.

At home, Martin unpacked the two bags of shopping he bought from the local supermarket and threw away an empty chocolate wrapper which he bought to line his stomach and to satiate his hunger.

He didn't mind cooking; in fact he quite enjoyed it. The lessons he'd had at school were basic and he never really learnt anything useful. But at home he would help out his mother in kitchen and learnt from watching her. He started cooking while Tony kicked a ball around the garden. By the time everyone sat down to eat, he felt drained and breathed a sigh when Tony was told that he would have to wash up.

After dinner, Martin went back into his bedroom. He was tired from skipping lunch and then having to walk Tony home from his friend's house. Lying on his bed, Martin held his mobile phone. He toyed with the idea of ringing Phil, just to see how he was but thought better of it in case he was asleep. He considered sending a text message remembered that Phil said he would ring him in the morning. He decided to leave him be, to rest and hopefully recover sooner.

James felt a fine spray against his face as they approached the waterhole. A strong breeze was channelled along the cliff face, swept up the mist from the waterfall and spread it over the surrounding vegetation.

Sophie dropped herself by the water's edge, teasing it with her fingers before cupping some up to wet her mouth. After quenching their thirst, they sat and watched the white water as it hit the grey lake beneath. For a moment the island lived up to their expectations; this is how they thought they'd be spending their time, relaxing.

"Where the hell have you lot been?" A voice shouted and they saw Craig emerge from the trees. "Ree sent out a search party when he saw the bogs built but you lot had disappeared."

"Sorry." Katie went on to explain that they needed water after the hard work.

"Well, you'd better get back." Craig stood over the four teenagers waiting for them to move.

Tom leisurely took another fist full of water to his lips. "Come on then guys. We'd better see what he's been up to. But if the four of us have managed to do what we've done, then sixteen of them must have built us a palace to live in."

"And the food, think of all the food they've managed to find." James said.

Craig turned away sheepishly and started to head back to the beach.

"So, Craig. What's been going on while we were busy?" Sophie asked.

"That's for Ree to tell you. Not really my place." Craig's voice was low.

As they trudged through the forest, James and Tom held back from the others. Sophie and Katie kept talking to Craig, trying to get to know him and just relax, but he stayed very terse, giving away as little information as he could.

Lying on the beach in just his boxer shorts was Henry, with others around him. They were lined up on their fronts catching some sun. Baking in the sun next to him was a small pile of fruit, picked from the nearby trees. As James stepped onto the sand the smell of the ripe fruit hit his nostrils.

"Bloody hell! That smells rank." James called over to Henry.

"It's food aint it?" Henry lifted his head slightly and squinted through the sun at James.

"Out in this heat it not going to be worth eating. It'll be ruined in no time, and by the smell of it, it all ready is."

"Crap, James. Fruit's fruit. It grew here, it won't go off."

"We're the rest of it?" Tom came over to stand next to James.

"I think there's some more over there. I told 'em to just pile it up when they picked it."

"And where's the shelters?" James asked.

"There's one over there." Henry pointed to a small hut about the size of the latrine James had built with the others.

Seeing the chaos around him, Tom just blew. He was furious that Henry had allowed this happen. There was little or no food and all they had managed was to build one small hut, only big enough for about four people.

Getting to his feet, Henry dusted the sand from his chest. Despite the anger in Tom's voice, Henry remained very calm. "Well. If you can do better, then build us another and go find some food. Mine's a hot dog with chips if you find anywhere."

Picking up a banana which lay in the sand, Tom peeled the skin and allowed the soft hot flesh fall away and drip onto the sand. "Bon appetite, Henry."

"It's alright, mate. I aint hungry." Henry went back to lie on the sand, this time on his back.

Tom walked to the edge of the ocean, crouched down and washed the rotten fruit from his hands.

"Come on you lot, let's find some decent food." Tom spoke to James, Sophie and Katie.

Away from the beach, and Henry's earshot, Tom and the others were approached by a few who were in the food party. They told them were they had looked and what they'd found but were disappointed. They'd expected far more. They had not expected to starve on their first night.

The four teenagers made a pact to split into two groups so that they could cover more ground, whatever they found they would share. If there was any left then they would give to the rest of the group. Sophie and Katie headed inland while James and Tom headed along the coast, checking out the forest along the shoreline.

They headed into the trees to shade themselves from the sun. As they walked, the sound of the others hammering away, chattering and arguing ebbed until the only noise was the rustle of leaves and the lapping of the ocean on the shore.

"This is bullshit, James." Tom blurted out. "This stinks big time. It should not be like this, us doing all the fucking work while the likes of that public school tosser just lazes around in the sun."

"We'll be alright, Tom." James put his arm around Tom's shoulder.

They both stopped walking and Tom turned to look at James, he looked tired and mentally exhausted. James hugged him and let his head rest on shoulder. He thought he sensed a small sniff from Tom, but as they broke apart, noticed he was smiling.

"Just us two, eh? As long as we stay together then we can get through anything." James spoke softly.

"Like the three musketeers, eh?"

"With Sophie and Katie, yeah. We can't exactly keep them out, there one of us, the anti-Henry brigade." James held out his arm in a mock duel with an invisible opponent. "And together we can crush that little blighter! One for all!"

"And all for one!" Tom yelled and held out his hands for James to hold them. Facing each other, Tom spoke. "Thanks, James." He pulled James closer to him and momentarily placed a gentle kiss on his lips.

Apart, both boys glanced around them just to be sure they were not seen. They had long since lost the cameraman, he had decided to follow Sophie and Katie in their search for food. Above their heads, the leaves moved and the branches swayed. Small cameras swivelled on their pivots as they followed the two boys on their own search. This was a well trodden trail anticipated by the crew and followed their journey, knowing where it would lead, but enjoying the anticipation of James and Tom.

Sophie could have sworn the island was getting smaller. In no time, she and Katie reached the waterhole. They drank before moving off in another direction. Twice more they ended back at the waterhole. The third time Katie broke out into hysterical laughter.

"Typical girls." She said. "No sense of direction."

In the distance they noticed one of Henry's cronies making to the water and decided to head off again. This time their search was more successful. They found an area covered in fruit trees. The tall green tress gave way to a perimeter littered with banana plants and leading into pineapple trees. At the centre were a few coconut palms. Near the coconut palms, other bushes dangled their exotic fruits, none of which Sophie or Katie had seen before. Although Katie did think she saw one of them on the shelves in her supermarket but couldn't remember the name.

"If it aint an apple or an orange," she shrugged, "I've no idea what it is."

It was quite a find; Sophie commented that if they were careful the fruit would probably last the whole month they were here. Katie commented how convenient it was.

"But what about meat?" She asked. "Fruit will be alright for a few days but I'm gonna want a beefburger or sausage before the week is out."

"I've not seen any animals at all, have you?" Sophie asked.

"None at all."

"But, if there are any, I bet Henry the first one to try and capture it. He's just the type."

"No, he hasn't got the balls." Katie laughed. "He'd leave it to one of us so that he wouldn't get blood on his pretty little hands."

Sophie picked a ripe fruit from one of the bushes. She sat among the shade of a coconut tree and nibbles at the skin. As the skin broke she tasted the juicy flesh, some drops dribbling down her chin. Using her other hand she caught the stray drops and wiped her chin clean. It was no good. The excessive juice kept pouring down her chin so she gave up, leant forward and let it drip onto the dry soil.

"It's quite nice." She said to Katie. "Why don't you try?"

Tentatively, Katie picked a fruit from a branch and began to bit into the skin. She didn't dislike the unusual sweet taste, but as soon she tasted the first bite, she realised just how hungry she was.

It was no use harvesting the fruit, they decided. They knew were it grew so would just come here and pick what was needed. That was it will stay fresh and not rot like the small haul that Henry had got his team to accumulate. They ate until they no longer felt hunger, and then made their way back to the waterhole to wash their sticky hands and chins. They needed to get their bearings, and chose the waterhole as a central marker; from there they could find the fruit grove, the latrines, and the beach. Just to ensure they knew where the fruit grove was, they walked back.

This time they ventured to the far end to see what lay beyond it. They walked among the trees, looking around them.

Hearing voices they stopped.

"That stupid twat!" They heard. "If only he'd been bothered to walk a few more yards!"

"That's Tom, isn't it?" Sophie whispered.

She hurried along in the direction she heard the voice and almost tripped as the spongy soil stopped abruptly and her feet sank into the sand.

"Hey!" She shouted over to James and Tom who seemed to be dancing around some wooden chests.

As they got closer, they realised it wasn't a dance but stamping. Tom was angry and kicked the dry sand around him, James watched with a smile.

"Hiya." James called over to Sophie. "Tom's just having a Henry moment."

"I can tell."

Four wooden chests were partially buried in the sand; each one had metal clasps which were easily opened. Inside, tin cans were lined and stacked neatly along with packets of rice of pasta. The fourth chest, along with tins and dried rice, contained something extra, a few bars of chocolate and some packets of sweets. When they saw the chocolate wrapper, their eyes widened, each one thinking the same but not saying anything. Neither of them made any move to take anything from the chest.

"I suppose it'll be unfair to keep it for ourselves." Katie broke the silence.

They all looked at each other, their glances indicating that they thought about it but would never have done it. If they were to make the month any more bearable they had to get along with everybody. And there first challenge was to try and get along with Henry. James supposed the four chests of food would help.

It was a slow walk back along the beach to join the others. Each of them pulled along a chest, dragging it through the sand, but the weight and effort it took in the searing heat quickly tired them out. They stopped frequently to catch their breath and to rinse their face with sea water. James would wade out until the waves lapped at his knees, his trousers sodden and pulling themselves down with the extra weight of water, and throw water in front of him, the breeze catching and dispersing it so it showers his face and shirt. Occasionally a drop would roll down to his lips and his tongue would come out to meet it to taste the salt, unsure if it was the sea or sweat, or perhaps both.

As they neared the pack, they could hear the noise of people enjoying themselves, the splashing in the water and the yells of excitement. The first scream startled them and, worried, they picked up their pace. But as they realised it was a scream of excitement they slowed again.

They watched their stranded fellows for some time before they were noticed. Some boys had stripped to their underwear and were playing in the ocean; a few girls had rolled up their clothes to modestly fashion bikinis as they didn't feel quite right sunbathing in their bras and knickers. The rest seemed to just be milling about, up to nothing in particular or taking a break. James looked along the tree-line and saw a hut, similar to the one they had built for the toilets, but perhaps a little larger. It looked sturdy enough and, knowing about tropical storms, he hoped it was waterproof. He slowed down to take a closer look, hoping to see others but could not see any.

A few boys in the ocean saw the four teenagers along the sand and they called out to them. They started swimming back to shore and then jogged along the beach to meet them.

"What ya got there?" Charlie asked. He was about sixteen and had previously kept his distance from Henry. With him were a couple of his new friends.

"Great news, lads. We're not goin' to starve." Tom dropped his chest and quickly flipped open the lid.

"Brill. We'll give you a hand lugging them back." Charlie volunteered himself and his friends and they helped carry three of the chests. James was left to drag his chest by himself. He didn't mind, at least they were helping the girls, he thought, and Charlie probably just helped Tom because he was the first to speak.

As they approached the newly built hut, a crowd formed around them, everyone trying to see what they'd found. Henry came striding out of the hut.

"Right you lot. Thanks to James, Sophie, Katie and my good self."

"He's Tom by the way." Sophie butted in.

"We are not going to go hungry tonight, and if we're careful, for several nights."

"So who out of us can cook." Katie asked. "And I don't just expect the girls to do the cooking."

As expected no boys and only a handful of girls said they had cooked before. Katie decided to take the girls to one side and start some sort of rota. The boys groaned when Katie said that those who didn't cook had to fetch and carry and clean up.

James caught Henry's eye as Katie organised the food. He was standing at the back, his face expressionless but he thought he sensed a smile in his eyes. The day was getting late, Katie and Sophie rummaged through the chest Henry had found earlier and had managed to build a makeshift stove. People were sent to fetch firewood and kindling from the forest floor so that Charlie, an ex boy-scout, could start the fire with the matches that were conveniently provided.

No one mentioned the lack of shelters; they concentrated on ensuring they were going to be well fed. Two remaining huts still lay in pieces on the beach but the air was still warm and the sky looked clear so no one bothered too much. They decided to sleep on the beach for the night and make sure the other huts were built tomorrow.

Reproduced with David's permission from Screeve. © David
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