Thirty-One and a Half Regrets Page 86

“Let me see.” His two legs were stretched out in front of him and I gently tugged on the hem of his jeans.

Mason groaned.

“I’m sorry,” I said through my tears. He didn’t answer, so I kept pulling, lifting the jeans high enough to see that his lower calf was already swollen and purple with bruising. I struggled to keep my tears in check. How would we get out of here?

Mason grabbed my hand. “Rose, listen to me. You need to keep going without me.”

I stared at him in disbelief. “No.”

“We’re so close,” he said. “If you just keep going in this direction, I think you’ll end up on Moore County Road HH. You can flag down someone who can help us both.”

“No.” I shook my head, getting angry. “I’m not leaving you, Mason.”

He paused. “I don’t think I can walk.”

“Then I’ll help you.”

His grip on my hand tightened and he winced at the movement. “Rose, you have to go. If you stay with me, there’s a good chance your vision will come true. I won’t be able to walk fast enough to keep us away from Crocker and his men. But if you go, you can get help.”

I started to cry harder, panic swamping my head. “I can’t, Mason. What if I get lost? What if I forget where you are? What if Crocker finds you first?” There was no way I could walk away and leave him here. I sat down next to him and crossed my legs.

“What are you doing?”

“Waiting for you to try to get up.”

“I told you that I can’t walk.”

“You haven’t even tried, Mason. We agreed we were in this together. I’m not going anywhere.”

“Rose.”

I just stared at him in silence. We stayed that way for several moments before he groaned. “Where’s my rifle and the bag?” he asked, looking back at the hill.

I leaned away from the tree and scanned the area. The bag must have fallen off during his tumble and continued on its own path. It lay at the bottom of the hill about twenty feet away. The gun was halfway up the hill. “There.”

“Bring them over here.”

I climbed partway up the hill to retrieve the gun and then made my way over to the bag. When I reached down to pick it up, it required more effort than I’d expected. My body tilted sideways from the weight and when I reached Mason, I dropped it next to him. “How on earth have you been carrying that thing this whole time?”

“It’s not that heavy.”

“Braggart.”

He laughed but then cringed from pain.

When I saw him fumbling with the bag’s zipper, I brushed his fingers out of the way. “What do you want?”

“Pull out the ammo and let’s see what I have the most of.”

“Why?”

His face was taut from pain. “To figure out which guns to bring.”

I smiled as tears filled my eyes. “Thank you.”

“You can’t carry this thing and I sure can’t. We’ll bring the handguns and a shotgun with some ammo and some water. We’ll leave the rest behind.”

“But…Crocker and his men could find it.”

He continued to watch me. “That’s why you need to go on without me.”

“So then they’d find you and the bag.”

“Rose, either way, I’m not going to move very far or fast.”

“Then we’ve wasted too much time. Figure out which guns we’re taking and let’s go.”

He exhaled and gave a slight shake to his head.

After I stacked the ammo boxes in piles next to him, he decided I’d carry the rifle and a much lighter version of the bag. He took out the blankets and put in several boxes of ammunition, leaving the rest on the ground.

“We might need to lighten it more,” Mason said, grabbing the stouter shotgun. He cocked it open and removed all the bullets, handing them to me. “Put those in the bag too.”

When I was ready, he reached a hand out to me, resting the butt of his gun on the ground. “Let’s try this.”

I squatted on his right side and slung his arm around my shoulder. Balancing his weight on his left leg, Mason used the barrel of the gun to help hoist himself up. He cried out in pain and nearly fell back down, but I bent my knees to absorb his weight and lift him upright.

He stood on his left leg, panting and cursing under his breath.

“Are you okay?”

“Give me a minute,” he said through gritted teeth.

I stood next to him, at least half of his weight pressing into my shoulders. I wasn’t sure how we were going to walk out of here, let alone how I would support him, the rifle, and the bag, but we’d find a way. We didn’t have a choice.

We traveled for at least an hour without covering much distance. Mason kept getting weaker, his face paler. I was beginning to wonder if our only option was for me to leave him to get help when I spotted a building through the trees.

“Mason, look.” I pointed.

He exhaled in relief. “Leave me here, but take the rifle with you to the door.”

“I’m not gonna look very friendly toting a rifle to their front door.”

He shook his head, already lowering himself to the ground. I struggled to keep him from landing too quickly. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. But I’m worried about how they’ll react to a complete stranger showing up on their doorstep in the middle of nowhere. Some of these people live in the middle of nowhere for a reason.”

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