The thirst did not subside after three days the way the hunger had, but each brutally cold night left a gift in the darkest hours: Frost. Without that, without the shivering, he would be dead by now, and he recognized each fallen leaf around him as another gift from God.
He had lifted hundreds, one by one, judging concavity and placing them to cup the frost melt. Had tried to expand his circle of cups beyond the six foot ovoid he could reach, but the pain stopped him. Broken hip or broken pelvis, maybe both, and the opposite ankle. He had dragged himself to the tree, instinctively, when he was still in shock, but there his injuries had swollen and set to the point where simply leaning to extend his reach caused agony that he could not endure with his eyes open. He’d adopted bracing himself and closing them before he reached. Forced, but not forced suddenly.
From the tree he could see the ledge, and judged that he had fallen about twelve feet, landing on roots with one leg under his ass. Pretty much a free fall, facilitated by his friends the wet leaves, but his own fault. All caught up in the argument, the arguments. The resentments and lies and regrets and ugly memories that functioned as an unkillable organism. In a fog on a dangerous trail. Jesus.
What the hell Lulu might be doing at the moment was something he pondered several times per hour. He tried to assume she had reported him missing. The phone was on the counter for Christ’s sake. His phone. Could she possibly still think they were in a tactical game?
No phone, and there had been no note. He hadn’t even been pissed off, he’d just wanted away. Drove a half hour, then wheeled onto a tractor path and parked tight between a row of maples and a field of eight foot high corn. A hundred yards off the road. Away off the road, he thought to himself, feeling hollow headed from thirst.