We all woke up early that morning from the sound of gun shooting, not very far away.
Remembering the words of the 'desperate mother', as she called herself, I presumed it were the rebels, having a fight with who-knows-who.
I urged everybody to grab their stuff and to walk away from there as fast as possible.
Where would we be safe? We couldn't follow the river anymore, because down there, we would be in danger for sure.
So we walked away from the river, deeper into the forest.
Scarlett carried the little child in her self-made baby sling on her chest and had trouble making her way through the plants and bushes, without hurting Rose.
She wrapped her arms around the baby protectively and I saw she was getting multiple injuries herself, but she didn't seem to care.
At least she was wearing her leggings again; that protected her legs.
That morning we heard gun shooting one more time, after that; silence took over again.
We were all nervous and even with the smallest sound of cracking twigs or crunching leaves, we immediately stopped, listening carefully.
It was kind of ridiculous. It was a jungle! Of course everything cracked and crunched.
We walked all day, trying to get away as far as possible.
That night, none of us trusted the dark enough to close their eyes. We listened to every suspicious sound, afraid it would be an intruder.
It wasn't very surprising everyone was nearly falling asleep while eating breakfast the morning after. Even walking was difficult; some of us nearly tripped over stones and branches.
But in the afternoon, we suddenly heard voices. It was a language we didn't understand, but it sounded like a calm conversation.
We sneaked through the forest, trying to see the people, all kind of excited to finally hear voices different from our own.
I heard Scarlett gasp beside me, grabbing my arm. And then I saw it; they were all around us.
We found a tribe of natives.
Relief washed over me. Unless they were cannibals, we were finally safe.
If they wouldn't capture us, that is.
It took a few minutes and then two men made some room for another man to come closer. It was obvious the man was respected. His white beard made an interesting contrast with his rather dark skin.
He looked like a wise man.
When he came up to us, he ordered two of his men to frisk all of us. Luckily they left Scarlett alone when I subtly stepped in front of her. The men also rummaged through our backpacks, discovering the small pocketknife and the fruit.
One of his men handed him the pocketknife, but the leading man pointed at the backpack and he put it back.
Minutes later, we were following the old man into his camp, leading us to his hut, which was the biggest one in the camp.
He pointed at the cushions on the ground and we sat down. The leader said something to another man and that man ran away, for an unknown reason.
We waited and waited and suddenly a woman entered the hut, bowing her head to the leader, before focusing on us.
I had to admit, she was very beautiful - definitely not a pure native woman. I sensed a certain tension next to me and turned my head to look at Scarlett. I smiled at her and placed my hand on her thigh, reminding her of my feelings.
She smiled back at me, happy with the gesture.
I hadn't noticed it before, but she was actually kind of insecure. I softly squeezed her thigh and looked back at the woman.
She was listening to the leading man, nodding once in a while. Apparently nodding and head-shaking was an universal language.
But then she turned around. 'Me, Alkira. I... change words in English for you.' She spoke.
'Balun is our... eh...'
'Leader?' Scarlett finished. Alkira smiled gratefully at her.
'Balun welcomes you in his village and... wants understand why you are... here.' She continued.
It suddenly occurred to me she didn't look any of the guys in the eyes. Men were probably more important here and women had to respect them. I felt a little disgusted about it.
But what could you do about it? These women were used to it. It was their culture.
And I wasn't even sure. Maybe she was just shy.
'Our plane has crashed. An accident.' Scarlett explained, when seeing the confused expression of Alkira. 'We've walked for many days and we are searching a way to... a town.' She said, speaking slowly.
Alkira nodded and turned around to tell Balun the answer on his question.
Balun immediately said something again and Alkira listened silently before turning around again.
'Balun is sorry for your acci.. accident. He asks you, stay in our guest hut. Later, he will help you, finding town.' Alkira explained.
We happily took his offer and thanked him, all smiling at the generous man.
While the others were taking a nap, I walked through the village with Rose on my arm. I searched for Alkira, since she was the only one who talked English.
After a long time of searching, I finally saw her, sitting together with a bunch of women, laughing and cooking, meanwhile keeping an eye on the kids.
I shyly walked up to them, smiling politely when I asked Alkira for a favor.
'I need milk for the baby. She is not mine and I can not feed her.' I explained, pointing at the child. Alkira thought for a moment and then her eyes lit up. 'You mean, milk, breast?' She asked.
I nodded, smiling. She smiled back and asked me to come with her.
We entered a hut and I saw a young woman with a sad look in her eyes, sitting on her bed.
She looked up and stared at me in surprise and confusion. Alkira spoke with her shortly and nodded at me. 'She would like... to help you.'
I gave the woman a smile and handed her Rose, watching her while she tried to feed the baby. First, it didn't work, but finally, after several minutes passed by, Rose accepted her and drank hungrily.
Of course, I had tried to feed her with smashed fruit and fish, but it hadn't been good enough for her. And mother milk was still the best, even from an other woman than her own.
I sat down on a pillow and, with Alkira as my translator, talked to the woman, whose name was Ekala.
I found out she had lost her baby a few days ago. Her child had been too weak. I left Rose with her, when I went to our hut to take a nap myself.
I was completely confused, because an idea had formed in my head and I wasn't sure if would do it or not.
But I decided to push the idea away for a while; I needed to rest.
When I woke up, hours later, I discovered everyone was out of the hut. Except Harry.
'Good evening, love.' He whispered.
I smiled and sat up, rubbing my eyes. 'I'm hungry.'
'Lucky you. They told us the food would be ready soon. The others just left.' Harry said, getting up from his bed.
'Thank you for waiting.' I said. He smiled and while we walked out of the hut, he took my hand in his. 'You didn't really think I was going to leave you alone in here, right?'
I shrugged. 'Could be.'
'I don't trust all of these men here.' Harry spoke, releasing my hand and wrapping his arm around my shoulder instead, pulling me closer.
'Why not?' I asked.
'Well, Alkira had seen us together and she told me I have to watch you, since women have to obey men here. Nobody has a permanent partner, men just take any woman, whenever they want to.'
I shivered, wrapping my arm around his waist. 'Creepy.'
'But I don't think they'll want you, Scarlett. For their standards, you're not pretty.' Harry said, squeezing my shoulder.
'But you don't have to be pretty in their eyes. Because you are pretty in mine. Gorgeous even.'
I smiled at his sweet words and thanked him softly.
We walked towards the sound of talking and laughter and joined the others. I was surprised the food would be so good. It was delicious. Finally, no fish or fruit. Just... other stuff. I didn't even want to know what they used in their food. It was tasteful; that's all I needed to know.
Ekala brought Rose back to me, who was in a deep sleep, with a full tummy.
I thanked her with a kind smile and a nod. She nodded back, to let me know she understood I had thanked her, before sitting down with the other women again.
I saw the women looking at me from time to time, whispering and even laughing. Harry placed his hand on my thigh. 'Let them laugh.' He said, taking another piece of bread.
I placed my hand on top of his and felt someone nudging my side.
'Are you two... together now?' Louis whispered.
I shrugged. 'We like each other.'
Louis smirked at me. 'Right. So you two went down on each other.'
I rolled my eyes and sighed. 'Well, that's your translation. The only thing I have left to say is that it's not true.'
'I'm sure it isn't.'
'I hate you, Louis.'
'That's too bad. I really hoped we could 'like each other', too.' He whispered with a playful wink.
'Louis!' I slapped his arm and he laughed, leaning away from me.
That evening, we went back to our hut early, to catch some more sleep.
The other days in the camp were pretty much the same. Even though Harry said I wasn't pretty in their eyes, the men followed my every action. I was getting pretty nervous by it and made sure to spend as much time as possible close to Harry. I felt pain in my abdomen every day, which signaled my period was on it's way, but nothing happened. I did ask Alkira for some stuff in case it would happen when we were traveling again. I brought Rose to Ekala every day and she spent more time with her every time. On our last day, just before we left, I made a decision.
Alkira went with me to translate for me and I sat down in Ekala's hut, taking a deep breath.
'Ekala... Rose is not my child, as you know, and you need her presence, just as much as Rose needs yours. You will be a much better mother than I would, so I am asking you to take Rose as your child.'
Alkira translated it for me and Ekala's eyes widened in surprise. She gave me a big smile and she nodded happily.
I gave her a bright smile back, glad with my decision.
Then, I gave little Rose one last kiss on the forehead. 'Thank you, dear child. Thanks to you, I will visit my own child when I come home.' I muttered, even though she wouldn't understand me.
Then, I hurried out of the hut, before emotions could get too strong.
I took a deep breath and walked towards Harry, who turned around and smiled at me.
His brown curls were messy and his green eyes were warm, but also filled with lust, when he eyed me up and down.
I ignored the feelings in my abdomen and joined our little group, waiting for our guides.
They would lead us through the forest, until we reached the beach. From there on, we would be on our own again.
We were all full of energy and excited to be on our way to civilization.
The guides were ready and I sighed. Home was getting closer.