His hands were clumsy as they mopped my bloody nose with his sleeve but I just gave him a small smile and gritted my teeth as he carried on.
“You know what, Jet? I think I’m okay now!”
He smiled at me, nodding his appreciation at the use of his name. I was trying hard, I couldn’t afford Ray to hate me now that Mikey was refusing to even look at me. He just sat, looking out into the desert. Maybe he was hoping to find Frank. We really did need him now.
“I’m gonna go and set up some-“
Ray paused and slumped back down beside me. I frowned at him but he just shook his head.
“Some traps? For food? That’s a good idea,” I encouraged, wondering what was the problem.
He shook his head at me again.
“I used up the last of the rope. A few weeks back.” He confessed, looking downcast like somehow this was his fault. I squeezed his shoulder, trying to be comforting then an idea came to my head. I quickly moved my hands to my waist and Ray watched as I unbuckled and slid my belt out of the belt loops.
“Here,” I presented him with the belt and watched him try to figure out what to say. I could already feel my trousers start to slide but was still pleased I had come up with something so clever on my own. This was usually something Frank would think of!
“You sure?” Ray didn’t have a lot of other choices but still looked uncertain.
I gave him a hopefully reassuring nod and he grinned at me, turning off in a random direction to find an open space for the traps. Me and Mikey were left in stony silence, him still facing away from me, leaving my eyes to settle on his back, watching him breathe steadily in and out. Except now I could see that his breathing wasn’t steady at all, it was rapid and uneven. Almost like he was … I shuffled towards him but with my leg and my arm still hurting, I couldn’t do it quietly. He heard me coming and quickly moved his hand up to wipe his face, which I was now sure was drenched in tears.
He stiffened at my voice but still refused to look at me, turning his head away as I settled next to him.
“I don’t blame you, you know that right?” I watched for a reaction but got none.
“I don’t hate you for wanting me dead. I’m a burden, I know that.” Mikey shook his head hard and looked down at his feet instead of at me but looked a little more relaxed than he had done.
“I could never want you dead, Gee.” He sighed at me and I watched him, now noticing a slight wet spot on his cheek which he had missed when drying his eyes.
I used the sleeve of Frank’s jacket to dry it and then ended up stroking his cheek gently. He turned to look into my eyes and he looked like he had forgiven me.
“Is it Frank?” I asked, careful not to make him want to hate me again.
“You’re not the only one that misses him.”
I nodded at this and pulled Mikey in for a clumsy hug. I lay down in the sand and closed my eyes, needing the darkness behind my eyelids to think. Mikey lay down beside me and held my hand in the dark, rubbing the palm of it and soothing me. It was difficult to think properly with him doing this and his grip was locked so there was no point trying to pull away. I opened my eyes to see Mikey staring at me, lovingly and gave him a love filled look back. I moved forwards and kissed the top of his head. He sighed happily and moved closer towards me, until his head was on my chest. I tried not to compare this to when Frank had done it but Mikey’s head felt wrong where Frank’s had been. In the end I relaxed and Mikey did to and I held him until I could feel his breathing was steady. I was left in my thoughts alone, wishing for Frank.
“Guys! Guys! Wake up!”
My eyes snapped open and I blinked in the sudden light of day. Had I fallen asleep? Mikey lay, blinking and confused beside me but watching something a little way away. I followed his eyes and saw Ray jumping around madly as he ran towards us full throttle, out of breath and red faced. A smile was stretched out wide on his face as he ran and I struggled onto my feet, ignoring the pain, causing Mikey to roll over uncomfortably onto his stomach, his comfortable pillow of my chest now gone.
“What?” Mikey spoke confused as he looked up at me, squinting in the bright light.
I looked down at him then back at Ray who was now nearing us, slowing down as he breathed heavily from sprinting. I suppose after so long of not running, we had all gotten a little out of shape.
“Dude, it must be like noon already,” Mikey muttered as Ray ran up to us, Mikey looking up at the sun which was now high in the sky.
“Ray, why didn’t you wake us u-“Mikey began but Ray silenced him with a shh, looking more excited by the second.
“Have you been out all ni-“I attempted to speak but once again was silenced by Ray, who was looking annoyed at us for not letting him speak.
“It must be like a present from God or some shit like that!” He exclaimed, making my heart leap in my chest and my brain whizz with questions. Mikey still looked confused but Ray’s excitement could only mean one thing in my mind.
“Where?” I asked and Ray pointed off in the direction he had just come from, smiling broadly.
I ran as fast as I could, followed by Ray and Mikey but neither of them could catch me. I had one thing in my mind, one name whizzing round my head. Frank. But why hadn’t Ray brought him to us? Why wasn’t Frank running towards me like I was him? Where was he? A sudden thought struck me, could he be dead? But then why Ray’s excitement? I didn’t know but nothing was going to keep me from Frank. Nothing.
I stopped running, looking desperately around but seeing nothing. Just sand, desert stretching out for miles. There was a large sand dune to my left, quite uncommon in the desert but other than that, there was only Ray’s traps in the middle of everything. It held four large rabbits within it and for one moment, I wondered if that’s what Ray had been excited about. The prospect of having food for another few weeks. But no he was excited, he didn’t look like he had slept, there had to be something else. But from what I could see there was nothing. Ray and Mikey caught up, both red faced and out of breath from trying to catch up with me. Ray looked a little confused by how enthusiastic I was but stood in front of both of us, wide eyed and grinning with delight.
“Where is he?”
Ray looked at me puzzled as I let the words escape my mouth. Mikey looked at me, biting his lip, knowing exactly what I had thought. I had just been stupid, I had let myself get too carried but I needed Ray to say it.
“Where’s who?” Ray still looked confused and a little put off that I was distracting him from his big surprise.
“He’s not here, Gee,” Mikey patted my back gently but I shrugged him off, feeling ashamed. Ray stood still, finally getting it.
“Oh, I’m so sorry Poison,” he looked awkwardly at the ground as I tried to stop the tears from falling.
“It’s okay. I was just being stupid!” I kicked at the annoyingly flat ground and created a small sand storm with my foot.
We stood for a second, no one knowing what to say.
“What was it, Ray? What you wanted to show us?” Mikey asked, making Ray give a small smile again, though nothing like he had done.
“Look at that,” he gestured at the sand dune, causing both me and Mikey to frown.
“What?” I asked, defensively but Ray just rolled his eyes, pushing us forwards to look closer.
I stared at the sand dune, it really was quite odd to see one that size in the desert. It was large and oddly shaped but was also clearly a sand dune. The golden yellowy colour was the same all the way over … Except. Except for a gleam of silver near the bottom. It shined back at me and made me frown. I had been frustrated we couldn’t cover that spot up, it was such a big give away though the average passing rebel or even the enemy themselves would most likely overlook it. The car. I remembered how long it had taken us to cover it completely and how unhappy we had been to leave it so half done. Frank had had to drag me away after a while as I circled the car scrutinising it for hours, still not happy with it. I glanced at it now, open mouthed about how I hadn’t noticed the sand dune to be what it really was. We had had to leave it after it had broken down and we couldn’t leave it as it was so covering it had been the best solution. We had taken the supplies then …
The supplies. Ray smiled at me as I turned to him, wide eyed, remembering. I ran to the car, not knowing how to get to the glove compartment. Ray came up behind me and after deliberating for a second, pressed a button that had been carefully concealed to make the glove compartment pop open. The sudden black of the inner compartment stood out oddly in the yellow of the sand and it took me a minute to take in the sight I saw. It was empty. I turned to Ray, worried but he spotted my face straight away and went to pat my shoulder.
“Hey, don’t worry! They’re already packed!” Ray grinned at me, proud of his efforts.
Mikey walked up to us, still looking confused.
“What’s already packed?”
Ray looked from me to Mikey, dazed for a second before I spoke.
“I left some supplies behind because I had a feeling we would come back this way. You lot overruled me and Frank thought it was a bad idea but I did it anyway. Ray caught me at it!”
I felt slightly ashamed but was glad my idea had paid off. Mikey grinned at me and gave a ‘good job’ look. I blushed a little, it hadn’t really been all my idea. But Ray had agreed to it, I just hadn’t told him that Mikey didn’t know. Ray looked happy too and we embraced this feeling, as none of us knew when it would come again. Mikey seemed to remember something and walked behind Ray to reach into the glove compartments secret pocket.
“What about these?” He presented Ray with a handful of batteries; in this day and age, they were almost sacred.
I immediately thought of the transmitter, which greatly needed new batteries and prayed that Frank really had left it alone when I had asked him too. Ray seemed to think the same as he turned to run back to the supplies bag at our camp. He went faster this time, sensing the urgency. Things seemed to be turning out okay.
“Where did you-“ I began, pointing at the batteries Mikey held but he just silenced me with a wink.
“Aren’t I allowed to have secrets too?”
I ruffled his hair, causing him to flinch in annoyance but he waited with me, by the car for Ray.