The flashlight had by then gone dead, even though they’d tried to ration the batteries. It was just so unbearably dark. And cold. And dark.
“Charlie?” Her whisper echoed. “Is there any water?”
“You’ve had the last of it,” he answered, which was a lie. He’d had the last of it. When he’d decided.
“Charlie? Where are you?”
He heard the scuffling of her hand as she felt for him. He crept forward on his stomach until her hand caught his shirt. She cried softly.
“I’m so scared.”
“Is your leg…?”
“I don’t feel it anymore. I don’t feel anything.”
He felt for her, down her left leg, as cold and hard as the rocks that pinned it. He’d tried to move the rocks at first. Tried to pull her free. That was days ago. Since then all he’d done was wait.
And, in the end, decide.
“Charlie? What will our families think? It will be so terrible for them, not knowing.”
Her hand was clammy against his skin, her breath shivery. He pushed himself away and slithered backward.
He felt the frantic swing of her arm, a rush of air in the still cave.
“Charlie, where are you going?”
“I’ve found a way out,” he called back, still crawling. “There’s an opening round a bend in the rear.”
“Oh Charlie, thank God! You’ll get help?”
He stopped then, steeling himself.
“Of course. Of course I’ll get help.”
She’d forgotten their seclusion, the weeks spent on the trail. Help was beyond her, he knew. Maybe beyond him too. He’d lost much of his strength, had scraped together what remained for this most difficult obstacle.
“Charlie?” Faint, now. Fading away.
“I love you,” he said. “I’ll come back.”
Another lie. But it was better than not knowing.