The others warmed themselves with some slightly illegal and some highly illegal substances. The food supply ran out and the liquor was nonstop.
Sick of the lot of them, I took advantage of the first sunny day. I peeled out of my wet jeans and sweat shirt and switched into tee shirt, shorts, sandals, tucked my pony tail through the back strap of my baseball cap, and shouldered my pack, which contained very little but I didn't trust any of them to stay out of it if I left it. I was down to my last clean tee shirt.
While Roman and the others stretched out on the ground and on the picnic table, snoring themselves into oblivion and sunburns, I decided to find the road and see if I could possibly hitch a ride to somewhere, anywhere. My credit card was good for a motel room, a hot shower and food and oh yes, please, black coffee before I died from caffeine withdrawal.
The one small flaw in my plan was my lack of any sense of direction. I was absolutely sure that if I took a shortcut it would get me to the road in twenty minutes, forty tops.
After three hours of pushing my way through thickening undergrowth, all I'd found were a few prickly berry bushes. I dug out my Swiss army knife, one of those great red things that someone once gave me and I never expected to use, and managed to cut off a small spray. The berries looked ripe but were hard and sour. My arms and legs were crisscrossed with scratches. I tucked the knife through the belt on my shorts and then stumbled into a shallow stream to cool my burning feet.
A stream had to go somewhere, right, and I was beginning to suspect I'd been walking in circles. So I stayed in the stream and waded through the knee-deep cool water until weariness slowed my pace to a full stop.
Every inch of me, from my knees up, itched with sweat. I took off my hat, stuffed it into my pack, and ducked down into the stream until its coolness soaked through my clothes to my skin, then stood and bent over and managed to get my long hair and sticky scalp thoroughly wet.
Let me say here than I don't know which of us was most surprised.
“Do not touch your knife. Turn slowly,” a voice behind me said.
I stiffened, my arms raised. The voice that spoke was soft, the words barely audible, his accent nothing I recognized.
Park ranger? What, had they already arrested Roman and crew and had come looking for me? I did a quick think and started readying a sobbing explanation about how I barely knew them and was shocked, absolutely shocked, to discover they had brought along booze and drugs on what I had thought was to be a commune with nature. That sounded right. I turned slowly as commanded, my arms above my head.
And then I looked up at my captor.
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