“Hey! Someone! I think there is a girl over here.” Char called out. My head snapped up from the plant I was examining, and he made a come here gesture. “Alexa! There is a girl over here.”
I approached him carefully, and sure enough, he was right. In the little valley that the stream was running through, only about half my height below them, there was a girl laying in the shade of a tree. Well, it was hard to say “girl” since she looked about my age, and I would be quite cross if someone referred to her as ‘girl.’
But then I noticed that the leaves under her shoulder were discolored. “I think she’s bleeding,” I threw over my shoulder as I started to scramble down the embankment, Char close behind me.
I knelt down at her side, and put my hand on her chest to see if I could feel her heart beating. I barely had time to register there was a beat before she sat up, swinging wildly at me. I threw up my own hands to protect my face, and sat back on my heels to try to get out of her way. “Whoa, Whoa. Calm down. I think you’re bleeding. I just wanted to make sure you were still breathing. Are you hurt?”
The woman slowed her swinging, eventually letting her hands fall to her side as she focused on me. She brought her hand up to cover the about two-inch gash that ran at an angle from her collar bone up her neck. “I’ve trained in medicine; may I look at that?”
She shook her head quickly, trying to inch her way back from me. “Okay, okay. That’s fine. It’s okay.” I sat back a little more heavily on my heels, looking at her, trying to figure something out. “I’m Alexa. That,” She pointed up the drop off where Char was still picking his way more slowly down, “is my good friend Char.” I tried to smile at her. “What’s your name?”
She watched me, then turned to look at Char and back to me. I was beginning to think either she didn’t talk or couldn’t understand me when she answered me in the softest voice “Bryce. I’m Bryce.”
“Hi, Bryce.” I answered. “We have some jerky with us. Would you like something to eat?” Bryce just watched me, but I held out my hand towards Char, who put a big piece in my hand. I offered it out to her, and Bryce snatched it out of my hand with the hand not covering the injury, chomping into it with a vicious ferocity. She must be starving. I got Char to hand me another piece, so she could have more when she finished the piece in her hand. “Are you lost? Do you need help getting home?”
“No,” she answered in that soft voice, “Not Lost. No Home.”
“You don’t have a home?” I asked. She shook her head no very quickly before taking another bite.
“I’m alone.” She answered around the jerky.
I turned around to look at Char, who nodded at me. It was really good when we were on the same page.
“Bryce. We live in a camp not far from her. We take people in all the time. You don’t have to stay, but if you want, you can come back with us for a little while. Get some food, some clean clothes, and some good sleep. And, if you want, we can look at that cut on your shoulder, make sure it isn’t infected or anything.” I offered her the second piece of jerky as I spoke.
She ate it a bit slower than the first one watching me, as she went. When she finished eating it, she sat up a little straighter. “I can go? I don’t like it, I can go?”
“Yeah. If you don’t like it, you can walk right out. I’ll even make you a bag to take with you.” I answered, offering out a hand. Bryce took it and we stood up together.
“It does hurt,” she added, pulling her hand away from the cut on her neck.
“We will get it take care of.” I smiled. “Don’t worry.”