It was a silly notion, but Grady thought Josephine looked more worried than he remembered. Could his current predicament be weighing on her heart, even from so far away?
He tried to wipe the desert grit from his vision, blink away the blear, but his eyes were as dry as his fire-hot forehead. He had to find water soon.
He squinted at the locket again, sun shining off the tiny tintype of his beloved. She was as beautiful as ever, face unmarked by lines.
“Ha!” Grady scoffed at himself. Who ever heard of a picture changing expressions, anyway? He snapped the clasp closed but had a flashing sensation of Josephine’s eyes darting to her right — his left — just before the gold casing blotted her out.
“What the?” Grady stood in the searing sun and debated whether or not to open the pendant again. Instead, he turned his head to the south, in the direction he though Josephine had motioned with her eyes.
He gasped and took a few halting steps … was that a tower on the horizon? He shielded his eyes with his hand and squinted. It was a tower!
Grady streaked across the desert as fast as his weary legs would carry him. There was no logic he could muster that would put a stone tower in the middle of that God-forsaken space, but the structure rose like a beacon before him.
Could it be a trap? Something dangerous?
Probably, but it couldn’t be any worse than the slow, burning death that lay ahead of him if he didn’t try something.
When he drew within a hundred feet of the tower, Grady could make out a wooden railing that wrapped around the room perched at the top of the edifice. A beautiful woman stood there in a flowing white gown.
“Josephine!” he called, and tried to run faster.
But the young lady held up her hands, imploring him to stop. She pointed frantically to her right.
All Grady wanted to do was get to his girl, but he stopped running and gazed in the direction she pointed.
There, over a desert knoll, the tops of half a dozen trees glistened in the afternoon sun..
Grady looked back to Josephine, and her eyes begged him to hurry. So he did, but not before blowing her a kiss.
He barely felt the hike of a quarter mile or so to get to the oasis, and he could smell the stream even before he saw it. When he arrived, he splashed into the waist-deep water, drinking in its coolness and basking in the chills that racked his body.
When his mind cleared a bit from the heat-induced delirium, Grady remembered his locket and clutched at it in his shirt pocket. He prayed he hadn’t ruined it.
He scrambled to the edge of the stream and popped open the casing.
There inside, untouched by the cool water, was Josephine, smiling up at him like an angel.
Grady looked back across the desert, the tower that had saved his life, where his Josephine awaited.
There was nothing but dry, cracked, desolate earth.