Isa ran toward Nate, and dropped to her knees beside him. Dried blood smeared his perfect face, a gash above his right eye, the source of all the blood.
Isa gasped. She took his hand and squeezed it. “Nate,” she whispered.
His eyes fluttered open and his lips curved into smile. “Thought you’d never get here.”
“What happened? Are you okay?” Stupid question. Of course, he wasn’t okay.
Nate sat up and winced. “It’s my leg. Pretty sure it’s broken.”
She looked at Nate’s twisted leg and she felt all the blood drain from her head. “Stay here! I’ll go get help.”
“I wasn’t planning on going anywhere.” He smirked.
She started to run, but stopped. “And don’t go back to sleep, you might have a concussion.”
He saluted. “Yes ma’am.”
Isa charged back through the field, into the woods, and reached the edge of the church property before she had a cell signal to call her aunt. Aunt Hazel promised to call for help. Isa dashed back through the woods and field again—only managing to trip twice—and finally reached Nate again. She dropped in front of him, breathless.
She squeezed Nate’s hand as she tried to control her breathing. “Help is coming.”
He smiled. “Good to hear.”
He tried to sit up, but winced and fell back to the ground. Isa scooted so he could rest his head in her lap. “Much better.” He sighed. “I fell out of the tree.”
“You fell out of the tree! Why on earth were you climbing it in the first place?”
Nate’s eyes zeroed in on Isa’s. “I found the initials.”
She opened her mouth in shock. “Really?”
“This morning I figured out that we hadn’t looked far up enough. The tree had to have grown since the two love-birds wrote their initials. So I came out here to see if I was right. I didn’t tell you, because I didn’t want to get your hope up if I was wrong. And it turns out I was right.”
She craned her neck to look up the tree trunk. “What did it say?”
He sighed. “That’s just it. It wasn’t your aunt. Unless your aunt’s name isn’t really Hazel?”
“No it’s Hazel Marie. Why? What’s carved in the tree?”
“AB & CP”
Isa’s heart plunged. “Nope. Definitely not Aunt Hazel.”
After what felt to be a lifetime, a rustle in the field drew their attention. Aunt Hazel and Nate’s grandma lead an emergency crew of paramedics carrying a stretcher. The paramedics wore blue short sleeved shirts, matching blue pants, and baseball caps with ‘EMT’ embroidered across the front. They broke out in a jog when they spotted Isa and Nate.
The walk back to civilization was less than a mile, but it seemed like ten miles when your best friend groaned with every jostle.
And just as they were loading Nate on the ambulance, a realization of who AB & CP were broke through Isa’s addled mind.
Before the door shut Isa called out to Nate, “I know who AB & CP are!”
Nate lifted his head from his stretcher. “Who?!”
Isa grinned and winked. “Tell ya later.”
Nate opened his mouth to say something just as the paramedic shut the door.
First things first, Nate had to get checked out.
Seeing Nate’s face covered in blood and contorted leg, contorted Isa’s heart.
She knew that he meant more to her than any normal friendship.
But how much more, she wasn’t ready to figure out.
Not yet, at least.