All the growling woke the other orphans with a start, thinking they were under attack from another pack of wild dogs.
“Where’s Billy and Amber?” Cocky said, club in hand and ready to fight.
The mystery quickly built into a tragedy of epic proportions.
Splash raced for the waterhole.
“They’re not here,” he called.
Many of the kids ran to the edge to see for themselves and then joined Cocky checking between all the exposed roots of the fig trees.
“Their stuff is still here,” he said, putting Billy’s hat on his head and holding his knife high for the others to see. “Look! They slept here.” He lifted Amber’s backpack for them to see that too.
“Where have they gone?” Buttons asked.
“They’ve abandoned us,” Courtney scorned.
“They have not!” everyone retaliated angrily.
Molly and Lucy began to cry.
“Everyone abandons us,” Courtney scoffed.
“SHUT UP, Courtney! It’s only you no one wants.” Cocky was furious.
Courtney was horrified and stormed off in tears.
“They wouldn’t leave without their stuff,” Cocky reasoned. “Billy wouldn’t leave me.”
Walter whistled. A long, loud, calling whistle. Everyone had heard Billy whistle so they knew he’d return Walter’s call if he heard it. They all listened intently for what seemed like an eternity, but nothing came back. Walter whistled again. Three times this time with an urgent, hurried twist to the same call. Again they listened. Molly and Lucy were cuddling each other pitifully, tears streaming down their cheeks, desperately trying to keep quiet and listen.
Cocky was standing on the edge of the drop–off scanning the trees on the far side of the paddock. When he eventually turned back to face the others, he was met with a hopeless sea of sorrow. He couldn’t take it, his face twisted in anguish which was made even worse as he desperately tried to hold back his own tears. It set everyone off. Even Walter. Abandoned again. Just like their mums and dads had abandoned them all to the orphanage. Billy and Amber were no different, they’d abandoned them too. Even Buttons’ mum who’d gone and died on them. No one cared. No one wanted them.
After a while Walter sniffled and said,
“Can you still cook?”
Hope filtered into her teary eyes.
“Yes. Yes I can cook.”
“Let’s cook another dog then.”
“Alright.” She didn’t plan on eating it, a disgusting dog, but she’d cook it just to prove she didn’t need to be looked after. She didn’t need anyone.
“I’m gonna make a big fire,” Walter said.
“I can get another one of them dead dogs from the bottom of the waterhole!” Splash offered. He and Crash crouched down beside their best mate who had his face buried in his hands, “Wanna help us get one of them mongrel dogs, Cocky?”
“NO! THEY HAVEN’T GONE ANYWHERE! They’re just exploring or something.”
“Well we should cook a dog so they got something to eat when they come back then.”
“THEY’RE STILL HERE!” Cocky stormed off, disappearing into the scrub without a backwards glance to anyone.
“I’ll help you, Splash,” Walter said. “Grace, can you get some wood and grass and stuff like Billy showed us?”
“Should I go after Cocky?”
“Nah. Let him look around.”
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