Several days and nights they just walked. There was no sign of a river, a lake, a spring, a puddle. Nothing. They had never been this thirsty in their lives, but it didn’t feel like thirst any more. They didn’t crave water. It was as if they’d never known water before and had managed to erase any memories of the sensation caused by drinking it. They didn’t feel thirsty, they felt ill. Luigi felt like someone was maliciously pressing their fist against his forehead.
The last two days they had managed to survive by drinking Chiara’s tears. She would weep and weep, and the only atonement for the annoying sound she made by doing so was the jar of tears she presented to the others in the evening. In spite of the immense temptation they didn’t drink it at once. They burried the jar in the sand, and waited for the air to cool down and chill the odd drink. It was salty. Luigi blamed himself. He was convinced that Chiara’s excessive meat consumption was the reason of this saltiness, and cursed himself for having chosen the trade of a butcher which had lead to feeding his family beef on a daily basis. ‘Would they taste different if I was a vintager?’ he asked himself.
The only things Chiara had managed to take with her in the confusion of escape were the photograph album and a selection of spices. She tried to refresh the harsh beverage with those, but if anything they just made it worse.
They knew it would rain. The sky wasn’t even clear, there were some bleak clouds, and it became chillier with every hour. They only hoped it would rain on time.
As they were having a little rest at a poplar growth, Chiara lay on her back and tried to draw all the clouds together with the power of her imagination. She had heard of people who could do such things. In her mind she ordered the tree fluff that was filling the air to go up and join the clouds too, make them heavy enough to burst and pour down.
Everybody else was asleep. She found the jar among her brother’s belongings, removed the lid and tried her best to cry. She tried to think of the saddest things possible. Deaths of her dearest people, ones that had already taken place and ones that remained yet to be feared. She thought back on being made to leave their house in such a merciless way, having left mother behind. Her heart was painfully clenched and blood was racing through her head but the tears did not come.
She looked at the leafage of the trees above her, located what seemed like the lowest branch, and went towards it. It was still quite high for her short build. She managed to grab it after the fourth jump and held on to it tightly. She bent the branch and started to pick the leaves one by one throwing them at her feet. When she could reach them no longer, Chiara let the branch go. As it swayed back it shed five more leaves, two of which Chiara couldn’t see as they got stuck in her frizzy brown hair. She got all the poplar leaves together and sat down again with the jar between her legs. She popped some stunted leaves in her mouth and began to chew them while attempting to squeeze the juice out of the more promising ones.
When the others started waking up two hours later she had managed to produce exactly six drops of poplar leaf nectar.
It was very quiet. Like calm before the storm.
It started bucketing down.