I was right to wait. Just before sunrise, he returned. I heard the snapping of twigs as he walked on the ground at the foot of our tree. He moved toward the body. I moved in the tree to better see what he was doing. He lifted it up and carried it over to the lake. I stared as he laid it down on a rock and began piling dried leaves and twigs around it. A few minutes later, there was the spark of a fire. I climbed down to the ground and walked toward him. I stopped twenty feet away, giving him space as the fire climbed higher and higher.
He knelt on the ground, staring into the flames as they licked the crisp morning air.
Dawn was beginning to break in the distance. Today would have to be the day we left. I’d felt nervous about staying the night here. But Caleb had needed the space.
I waited for an hour or so, watching as he remained motionless in front of the fire, watching as the flames consumed the body. He remained in the same position, still watching the corpse even as it faded into a pile of ashes.
Finally he stood up and walked over to me, his eyes red, his face ashen.
I thought he was going to say something as he walked toward me, but he brushed right past me.
“Wait,” I called, hurrying to keep up with him. “Where are you going?”
“Leaving,” he said, his voice hoarse.
I breathed out in relief.
“Have you finished the boat?”
He ignored me.
I caught his hand and tugged on it, trying to force him to stop and look at me.
He yanked his hand away from me. “Don’t touch me.”
The way he was glaring at me cut me to the core. I’d hoped that he would be less likely to blame me after all the pains I’d taken in setting up Rose’s kidnapping. I supposed it was foolish to expect that after I’d already admitted trying to kill Rose on the submarine.
“Caleb, please.” My voice broke as I knelt at his feet. “Don’t leave me alone on this island. I swear to God I didn’t push Rose off that tree.” He paused, turning around to stare at me. I hoped that I was getting through to him. “I know you don’t love me any more. I-I can’t expect you to. But please don’t leave me here. Drop me off at the nearest shore, and you’ll never have to see my face again.”
I tried to read his expression. A myriad of emotions seemed to break through the mask he’d been assuming at once. Grief. Anger. Confusion. Conflict. I thought he was about to turn away again, but instead, gripping my shoulder, he pulled me to my feet and pulled me onto his back. And then he hurtled forward through the jungle.
It split my heart in two to think that the thought of abandoning me on a nearby shore was probably the only reason he’d agreed to my proposal. Of course, I had no intention of allowing him to do any such thing… but right now, the important thing was to just get off this island by any means necessary. I could deal with the consequences of my words later.
It wasn’t long before we reached the beach and he dropped me onto the sand. I got to my feet, staring at a small, half-completed boat.
He seemed to not even feel the sun beginning to rise in the sky as he began working furiously to finish it. He certainly hadn’t lost his skill.
Tears welled in my eyes as I watched him. It brought back memories of the time when my father would moor our ship in his father’s yard. I’d always find an excuse to be in the part of the ship Caleb was carrying out repairs in. And I’d often catch him glancing at me when he thought I wasn’t looking.
What I wouldn’t give to turn back time…
I tried to offer to hold a broad leaf over him while he worked, since the sun was beginning to sizzle his skin, but he brushed me aside.
I was stunned that within what felt like less than two hours, the boat was completed. It was a small boat constructed of a mixture of pieces from the old submarine and wood he’d felled in the jungle. He’d built a small covering over it to protect him from the sun. We didn’t know if it would float yet. But there was only one way to find out.
I followed after him as he pushed the boat into the waves and leapt inside. I gripped the edges and hauled myself up after him. I moved to the end of the boat while he raised the sails he’d constructed of tarpaulin he’d found in the wrecked submarine.
We had no engine, of course. This was an old-fashioned boat. The type Caleb had been used to sailing all those years ago. The type Caleb and I had been planning to travel the world in after we got married…
I suspected that Caleb’s hope was that we would come across a larger, faster vessel we could jump aboard, which could take us to land. Because this boat would only get us so far.
I didn’t know where I’d go with Caleb once I managed to get him to stick with me. But it didn’t matter. As long as I was with him, I didn’t care. We’d figure something out.
But I was getting ahead of myself. First things first.
After Caleb set our course and we began gliding through deeper waters, he sank down on the floor beneath the covering. He turned his back on me and buried his head in his hands.
I shifted in my spot, trying to rack my brain as to how I would even start convincing him to not take me to shore and abandon me.
I found myself just staring at him. I still wasn’t used to the feelings that erupted in me whenever I laid eyes on him. Even though he seemed lost to me right now, my yearning for him was just as intense as ever. It pained me to see how sore and blistering his skin was from the sun’s rays. And it was showing no signs of healing. I wondered how long it had been since he’d last drunk blood…