“What are you doing?” she says.
“I’m sorry, Mai …” I don’t really know what to say. “I’m trying to heal it more quickly.”
“But you just washed it!” she whispers.
“I know. But this is pure salt, not salt water. It will help, honestly.” She grimaces as I dab it into another cut, but does not cry out.
Soon I have finished washing the wound, and it glows bright red. It actually glows.
“Is that magic?” I say, in an awed whisper.
“No.” Mai laughs softly. “It’s my body showing you my pain.” I gulp.
“I’m sorry, I really am.”
“Jenny – forget it. I’m grateful, I really am. I know it hurts but it will heal quicker, right?” She sighs. “I wish we had a Healer here. One of my people.”
“I wish I could take you Home,” I tell her. She smiles, and tries to stand up.
“You’ve done enough, Jenny. More than enough. You don’t even know me!” She collapses with a small whimper. I put my arm under Mai’s shoulders and lift her across the cave.
“Sleep, Mai,” I say, and she does. I wish I could fall asleep like her, just like that. Ah, well.
The next morning is heralded by weak sunshine through the mouth of the cave. Despite my determination to stay awake and guard Mai, I have been sleeping. I look out of the cave, at the orange sky overhead, and pull out my phone. When I have finished, I return to Mai.
“Wake up, Mai,” I say, shaking her gently.
“What is it?” she says, as soon as her bleary eyes have adjusted.
“We need to get moving,” I say. I have already packed up my stuff, not that there was much of it.
“No breakfast?” she whispers.
“Are you hungry?” I reply. She nods. “Okay, we’ll have breakfast first.” I sit down beside her and open my bag, handing her a couple of energy bars and ripping one open myself.
“Jenny, I can’t open it.” I look down. Her fingers are so weak that she cannot tear the packet. Tears fill my eyes. Olivia told me how strong Mai was before, how indestructible.
“I’ll do it,” I say, a lump in my throat. It take only a moment, but I don’t return it to her immediately. Instead, I break off a mouthful and hand it to her.
“I can feed myself, you know,” Mai says, her soft voice reproachful.
“Not in this state, you can’t,” I say, and continue to break off portions for her. After only two mouthfuls, she is full.
“That’s enough,” she says. I can see some colour in her cheeks. She reaches up and touches the cut on her arm, and I see a tiny trickle of silver sparks from her fingers.