For complete disclaimers see part 1.
If you'd like to tell me what a wonderful writer I am or that I royally suck, feel free at: XenaNut@hotmail.com
Come visit me at: www.coloradobardsplace.com or my publisher at: www.pdpublishing.com
Mia grunted lightly as she stretched her body out as much as possible, trying, trying, trying... "Gotcha!" She reeled her prize in, nearly losing her balance and falling ass over appetite off the rock ledge she was perched so precariously on. Dragging herself and the heavy suitcase back to safe ground, Mia panted at the exertion. She set the large, heavy Samsonite with another bag that had drifted to shore, making sure there were no more.
Licking her lips, the teen plopped down on her butt and crossed her legs under herself. Grabbing the first bag, which looked to be most likely a carry-on, was the type with a roller board, though three of the four wheels were missing, the fourth plastic wheel cracked and chunks missing. The handle was broken off and jagged. The girl lugged it toward her, grunting, as it was water logged and heavy. Looking it over, she looked for any sort of identification, not that it mattered, but she wanted to be able to send up a thanks in her prayers that night.
The zipper was present, but its teeth were jammed. Mia tugged at it, the slippery metal slipping out from between her fingers more often than not, but she managed to get it open a small space, but no further. Leaning down, dark eyes peered into the shadowy depths of the bag, seeing nothing. She looked around her, spotting a low twig on a nearby tree. Hurrying over to it, she plucked it off and sat back down in front of the bag, jamming the stick into the small opening and using it for leverage.
It took nearly ten minutes for Mia to get the bag unzipped, but finally the zipper teeth gave, and the she flipped the top open, curious as to what she'd find. Inside she found layers off soggy clothing. It had been two weeks, and all of them were shedding clothing day by day, or cutting up what they had. The heat made pants impractical, and shirts and undergarments were getting unbearable, even after soaking and rinsing them. The clothing in this suitcase, that of a stranger, would mean the world to those on the island.
Mia removed the first layer, unwadding it and stretching it out before curious eyes. A tee shirt. A very large tee shirt. Setting it aside, the girl brought out the next treasure- a pair of large men's briefs, followed by what would have been socks, but were now soaked, stretched blobs of material. At the bottom of the bag was lined with wet magazines, no longer recognizable, the pages sticking together, images and writing one big black smudge. She set those aside, unsure if they could be used for anything for not. Perhaps kindling once they dried. She moved aside a few more articles of clothing, and some items that were no longer discernable, and then her eyes went wide. Tucked in an inside pocket was a cache of chocolate, still wrapped, and for some reason, had been put into Ziploc baggies, so had been kept safe and dry.
"Eureka," she whispered, holding the chocolate up for her eyes to inspect. They'd been eating what they could, cocoanuts and the tiny bananas, and fish when Michael could catch one. Mia had already begun to drop weight, and could see it in her companions' faces, too. The girl realized she held food in her hands, and frantically tore into the baggie, ripping it in her haste. The smell of chocolate immediately met her nose, and dark eyes closed as a soft moan escaped her lips.
Mia found it ironic, since she'd never been one for chocolate or sweets, but never in her life had anything tasted so good. She stuffed a square into her mouth, eyes squeezing shut as it melted against her tongue, taste exploding in her mouth. She eyed the rest of the big bar, but knew she couldn't eat it all. A place with no toilet paper wasn't one where she wanted to get sick.
Reluctantly setting the chocolate aside, Mia turned back to the bag. Checking the other zippered pockets, she was astonished to find a razor and... Dark brown eyes turned into saucers as Mia realized she was looking at another Ziploc baggie, and inside was the greatest treasure of all:
"Soap!" Mia tore down the beach, waving something in her hands. Dean and Denny looked over at the girl from where they worked on their giant S.O.S. bonfire stack.
"What the hell is she yelling about?" Dean asked, seeing the brunette shake her head as she stood from where she'd been kneeling, rearranging the wood.
"Look!" Mia was waving something enthusiastically over her head, and nearly fell over Dean in her excitement. He steadied her, now curious as all get out. "Look!" she said again, showing them the baggie.
"Oh," Dean sighed, falling to his knees. It was almost as if someone had just shown him the most beautiful of pieces of art, his hands flying to his mouth, eyes unable to leave the precious object the girl held in her palm. He leaned in, closing his eyes as he inhaled the scent of Irish Spring, a soap which he didn't even like, but at that moment it was the greatest thing in the world.
Denny, for her part, had visions of clean hair dancing in her head. She shook the thoughts out to get a clear head. "Where did you find this?" she asked Mia, stepping closer to the girl, eyes never leaving the bar of soap.
"Some luggage drifted to shore, over there," she pointed toward the smallest, and rockiest, of the three beaches.
"You're shitting me!" Mia shook her head at the brunette's exclamation. "Show me."
"While you're gone," Dean snatched the soap from Mia's hand, greed written all over his handsome face.
"I'll hold onto that," Denny growled, snatching the soap back. She knew full well they'd never see the soap again if Dean got hold of it. He followed grudgingly behind as Mia led the small parade up the rock face and to her spot, where the two pieces of luggage still sat, awaiting discovery.
Denny fell to her knees, looking through the pile of clothing Mia had already removed from the smaller bag. She was mentally tallying what could be done with the material, no longer seeing it as clothing. Where they were, clothing wasn't much of a necessity, other than the proverbial fig leaf. In the past week the rest of the crew had started to follow her lead, losing various articles of clothing, walking around only the bare essentials, the men bare chested, and the women in their bras or undershirts. Only Rachel kept her pants. Denny hated wearing only her underwear, so figured the large shirt would make a great sarong.
"Hey, look!" Dean exclaimed from his place at the larger of the two bags. He held up a very realistic cyberskin dildo, waving it proudly over his head.
Denny nearly fell over backwards at her surprise, then was overtaken by belly laughter, which did make her fall over when she saw the look on Mia's face. The girl's innocent and naïve nature made itself known as she first looked confused, then perplexed, then curious, then turned an amazing shade of red as realization dawned on her. Dean joined in the laughter as the girl hurried down the rocks, deeply embarrassed. After all, she was raised a good Catholic girl.
Rachel's eyes were narrowed in concentration, a slight wrinkle forming between her brows. Cursing softly, she glanced over at Pam, watching her fingers for a moment before turning back to her own project.
"How are you getting the weave so tight?" she finally asked, tired of redoing it. The veterinarian reached over, taking the author's piece from her.
Rachel paid close attention, again, as Pam used nimble fingers to weave the long, strong blades of wild grass together, the hold tight in neat little green squares. Okay, I can do this. She took the bit back from the doctor, studying the intricate weave, and giving it another try.
"No. Rachel, it won't keep anything out if it's not tight enough." Pam Sloan was nearly getting exasperated with the blonde. Why wasn't she getting it? It wasn't that hard.
"Damn. I can't get this!" Rachel's own patience were running beyond thin. "I'm not stupid," she muttered, "I got an A in home economics."
Pam chuckled, feeling some of her own tension flow out with Rachel's rising frustration. She looked up to see Denny heading their way, a finger held to her lips. The coffee shop owner snuck up behind Rachel, a piece of chocolate held between her fingers. She leaned down, over the sitting blonde, bringing the treat close to the blonde's nose, but out of her sight.
Rachel's brows furrowed further at the smell, and she looked over at Pam, seeing a snicker on the older woman's face. Looking back over her own shoulder, Rachel saw Denny standing behind her with a grin on her face, the chocolate square extended toward the blonde. Rachel flew to her knees, facing the brunette and snatching the chocolate away.
"Where did this come from?" she asked, popping it into her mouth, eyes closing in pleasure.
"Mia found luggage. Come on, ladies. We've got a nice little treasure trove."
Rachel was on her feet in an instant- anything to get away from weaving the roof together! She followed Denny to the beach, where Dean and Mia were waiting, looking over what looked to be a garage sale.
"Does anyone know where Michael is?"
"Who cares," Dean muttered, fingering a pair of shorts he had his eye on.
"I'll find him," Pam offered, heading out into the wild.
Rachel plopped down into the sand, leaning back on her hands, legs crossed at the ankles. She studied those around her, noting their varied reactions to Mia's tremendous find. The blonde had wondered if anything would wash up, and was surprised it had taken so long. She glanced over at Denny, the brunette pulling her long hair back away from her neck and back. She looked hot, her cheeks flushed.
As green eyes scanned back over the items laid out before them, something caught her eye. Rachel slowly sat up, then got to her knees, crawling over to one of the bags. The burst of laughter was so quick, it startled Denny, who had been lost in her own world.
Using a sock, Rachel grabbed the dildo, holding it up to study it further. She eyed the attorney, and her green eyes began to twinkle.
"Dean, you really should put your toy away. After all, we do have minors here."
The red flushed on Dean's face was priceless, as well as Denny's bark of laughter. The attorney bounced back.
"I don't know, blondie, it looks more your size than mine."
Denny was astounded, a perma-grin on her face as her eyes went from one to the other.
"Hmm, I dunno," Rachel flicked the end of the dong, amused as it bounced back, setting off a new round of laughter. Mia had never had such a red face in all her life.
"What's going on?" Pam asked, stepping out of the jungle with Michael in tow. Rachel, feeling rather feisty for some reason, held up the toy.
"Dean has been enthralling us with tales of the sword."
Dean gasped, flying across the pile of stuff between he and Rachel, snatching the dildo out of the blonde's hands. "I have not!"
"Fuckin' queers," Michael muttered, walking over to stand between Mia and Rachel. He turned when someone cleared their throat, and he found himself toe to toe with Denny.
He looked into her angry gaze, surprised and confused. His mouth opened then closed, then opened again. The brunette cut him off before he could say anything.
"I don't appreciate that, Michael."
"What? I was talking about Dean-"
"Yeah, well I'm a queer, too, so keep your mouth shut. Okay?" She stared up at him, unflinching, waiting for his response. His eyes widened, surprise and shame filling them. "We all have to live here together, so what say you we quit with the name calling?"
The Texan's head fell, dully chastised. No, he didn't like fairies, but he did like Denny, and respected her. He wasn't going to apologize for his views, so instead he gave the brunette submissive nod and turned and walked away, sitting off by himself.
Rachel had watched the entire thing, since it was less than three feet from her. She had been shocked at Michael's behavior, as well as Denny's revelation. Everyone was quiet, the air tense as no one was entirely sure what to do. The mirth from earlier was certainly gone. Dean merely sat silent, watching, waiting, almost holding his breath. He met Denny's gaze, a small smile of camaraderie curving his lips. She didn't return it, but nodded in acknowledgement.
"Okay," Pam said, clapping her hands together to try and clear the air. "What have we here?" She began to pick through the items found in the suitcase.
Denny sat back, watching as everyone talked over what to do with the most important items- soap, razor, brush found in the larger suitcase, as well as three toothbrushes and a single tube of Crest. The way everyone's eyes lit up at these items, the brunette knew it could be bad. Desperate situations were cause for desperate acts, and though everyone seemed to get along for the most part, those items were gold on the island, and would disappear.
Pam seemed to be reading Denny's mind. "Who gets to be in charge of all this stuff?" She looked from one person to the next, everyone else meeting her gaze then that of their neighbor.
"I suggest a vote," Rachel said softly, once again leaning casually back on her hands.
"Agreed," Pam nodded. "Rachel, who's your vote?"
The blonde chewed on her bottom lip for a moment, thinking about her choice. She had a name echoing in the back of her head, but looked at each individual person first, to make sure she didn't want to change her mind. Finally her gaze settled on the coffee shop owner. "I vote for Denny. She's proven trustworthy and she gets along with everyone here."
"I second that," Mia quietly chimed in.
"I think it should be me," Dean said. "I think the women would use it up, since they have longer hair. They have the motive to hold onto it."
"Thanks, Dean," Rachel tossed the dildo at the attorney, nearly hitting him in the head with it.
"Michael?" Pam asked, turning to the Texan, who was playing with the sand at his feet. He glanced up, meeting her gaze. "I'm fine with it being Denny. I don't want ya'll barkin' at my door for soap."
Denny looked around, shocked, and not sure if she wanted the responsibility, either.
"Okay. Denny it is."
Too late. All eyes on her, the brunette nodded reluctantly. "Okay."
Later, Denny sat up on one of the many rock ledges, looking over the ocean as she dried. She'd taken a bath with soap for the first time in two weeks, and had brushed teeth. She was a happy camper. For the most part. She knew it was silly to let Michael's comments get to her, but couldn't help it. She'd heard about his and Dean's near fight the week before, but just let it go. This time she'd heard Michael say it, and had seen the disdain in his eyes as he did so. She liked the Texan, even respected him, yet he obviously didn't feel the same.
"Tube of toothpaste for your thoughts," Rachel said softly, moving to sit beside the brunette. Denny glanced over at her, smiling before looking back out to sea.
"My thoughts aren't worth an entire tube. Maybe a squeeze."
"Are you okay?" the author asked, deciding to get to the core of the issue. She could tell Denny was bothered by something, and wondered if she might know what it was.
"It's pretty stupid, really. Not sure it's worth talking about."
"If it's worth making you upset over, then it's worth talking about." Rachel studied the taller woman's profile, noting the way the falling sun painted her features with the golden hues of sunset.
"What Michael said."
"Bothered you?" Denny nodded. "I'm sorry. I had no idea you were gay. I think everyone knew about Dean, but..."
"What, didn't realize I was a big, bad butch?" Denny smiled at Rachel's shy grin. The blonde shook her head and turned away. "Yeah, I don't exactly telegraph it, do I. Not now, anyway. You should have seen me when I was younger- spiked hair, torn clothes, the whole thing. Boots." She chuckled at the girl she used to be, the true rebel without a clue.
"Do you hear that kind of stuff a lot? Disparaging remarks and names?"
"Not to me personally anymore. But I hear them, and it hurts when I do." Denny was silent for a moment, deciding if she wanted to go any further. Rachel's quiet acceptance won her over, and she decided to talk it out fully. "When I was in my late teens, I was dating a guy I went to school with, and as I was going out with him, kissing him, whatever, I had my best friend in mind. I'd see her face, pretend it was her I was kissing, all that. Hell, sometimes I think it was the only thing that got me through the make-out sessions. I used to keep a diary, and wrote about her all the time." Denny's voice fell to almost a whisper. "I was so in love with her."
Rachel listened, glancing at the brunette from time to time, taking it all in.
"Then one day my brother was snooping, and read what I'd written in my diary. And I quote, 'I really, really, REALLY want to have sex with Casey'. He told my parents, and my dad beat me with the belt and kicked me out."
"Oh, Denny," Rachel breathed.
"I was in my room trying to recover from the beating when he walked in, a roll of trash bags in his hand. He slammed them down on my dresser top and simply said, get out." Denny could feel her eyes fill at the memory, even though it had been so long ago. Her heart had never healed from it. She blinked several times, trying to make the physical manifestation of her hurt go away. Rachel said nothing, but placed her warm palm against the warmer skin of Denny's back, rubbing soft circles. "He used to call me queer all the time."
"What about your mother?"
"She let him do it. All of it. After he said that to me, I marched into the kitchen where they were, him at the breakfast bar, her at the counter, starting to make coffee. Her back was to me, and I just ignored him. I told her that if she let him do this, she'd never hear from or see me again. She said nothing." Denny reached up, wiping gently at a tear that had fallen. "Not a damn word. I turned around, headed right back to my room and started packing."
"Where did you go?"
"I escaped to a friend's house for the weekend, then moved in with my grandmother until graduation. After that, I got my own place, and moved on." The smile Denny graced Rachel with was big and bright, and full of shit. The blonde could see right through it, and felt an overwhelming need to comfort her, and let her know that she was accepted.
Denny allowed herself to be taken in a warm hug, the feel of Rachel's skin against her own a balm against her sad, lonely soul. The situation was getting to her. At first it had almost been like an adventure, a vacation from reality. Now, as time was going by, it was dawning on her that it was no vacation that she could just check out of, and fly home. She was truly stuck, stranded. She couldn't return to her life, return to Hannah, her shop, nothing.
Rachel rested her head against Denny's shoulder, surprised she'd taken such initiative. Even so, she had to admit that though the hug was intended to comfort the brunette, she, herself found it comforting as well. Rachel felt lost in so many ways. Her life back home was in a state of upheaval; even if she returned to Oregon tomorrow, what would she return to? She couldn't return to her marriage and pretend that everything was okay. But then Rachel had the feeling that no matter what she went back to, no matter what state her personal life was in, after this experience, she'd never be the same. She was a changed woman on so many levels.
They sat like that for a long time, watching the sun go down and absorbing the simple pleasure of human comfort, affection, and mutual understanding.
Will glanced down at the directions again, looking for the exit that would take him to Warwick, Massachusetts. He found it, flicking the turn signal on the rented car, and making his way through the sleepy, coastal town. He checked out the small, quaint houses and easy life of a Saturday afternoon.
Davies' Hangar should be just up ahead, and as Will took a left on Carlton Place, he saw a sign for it, as well as saw a low-flying airplane buzz by over head. He followed it as it crossed the general area, then took a sharp right into the hangar land. Pulling up beside an old pick up truck, Will breaked, then turned off the engine.
"Good morning," A redheaded woman with stylish glasses said cheerfully as Will stepped into the cool, air conditioned front office of the hangar. "Can I help you?"
"Will Ash. I have an appointment with Garrison Davies this morning."
"Ash, Ash," the woman muttered, clicking a few times on her computer mouse, absently pushing her glasses further up onto her nose.
"Hey, Penny, is my ten o'clock here, yet?" a woman's voice asked, heading over to the coffee machine near the redhead's desk. The blonde woman, dressed casually in old, worn jeans and a tee shirt, poured herself a cup, nearly burning her mouth on it when she noticed the good looking man talking to the secretary.
"Yeah, that's him," said the feisty redhead, smirking at the rolled green eyes of her employer and long-time friend. She decided to keep her usual flirting to a minimum with the suit standing in front of her.
"Will Ash," he said, taking the few steps to the pilot, hand held out.
"Garrison Davies. Care for some coffee, Mr. Ash?"
"Uh, no, thank you."
"Okey doke. Follow me."
Will followed the petit woman down a long, narrow hall, solid wall to the right, large windows looking out into an all-cement hangar to the right. A couple small planes were in the large space, as well as a few men hurrying around and barking orders and laughter at each other.
"After you." Garrison smiled sweetly at her guest, waiting for him to enter the small office she had shared with her father, Frank, before he died ten years earlier. Will straightened his tie and jacket before sitting stiffly in the metal and vinyl chair, avocado green, crossing one ankle over his other knee. "So," Garrison said, flopping down in the squeaky chair behind the desk, her focus on the man across from her. "What can I do for you?"
"Well, as I explained on the phone, my partner, Dean, was on flight 1049, that went down a month ago. Officials won't give me much to work with, other than it went down somewhere in the Caribbean, woefully off course from its route to western Europe."
Garrison nodded, sitting back in her chair and rocking slightly. She had remembered hearing the story about the plane that had taken off from BUF. She had used the airport several times over the years in her cargo business, and knew it well.
"The coast guard and every other agency has done their part, but I want more."
"What kind of 'more'?"
"There were three survivors, Miss Davies-"
"- and I believe there were others."
"Why do you believe that?" The pilot sipped from her coffee, brushing a few strands of golden hair out of her eyes.
Both looked at the door and the cute teenaged girl that stood in the doorway. Her blonde, curly hair fell into her eyes, big, blue eyes looking from one to the other.
"Oh, I'm sorry!"
"It's okay. What's up, Parker?"
"Can I go? Did you talk to Keller?"
"We did talk about it, and you can, but you will be home by ten!" Garrison held up a single finger to emphasize her statement. The girl, no older than fifteen, squealed, launching herself at the seated pilot for a tight squeeze, then with an apologetic smile to Will, bounded back out of the room. "Sorry. My daughter." Will raised a brow, as Garrison didn't look old enough to have a daughter that age. "Long story." The pilot grinned, waving it off. "Continue."
Will swallowed, now wishing he had taken the pilot up on her offer of coffee, his throat suddenly dry. He knew what he was about to tell the pilot was crazy, and didn't always understand it himself, but he refused to let his nerves show. Sounding confident and believing every word he said, the architect met the pilot's frank gaze. "My gut tells me Dean is still alive. I can't explain it, but I won't accept the lame answers I've been given."
Garrison Davies studied the man for some time, gauging his sincerity, and making sure this wasn't just the desperate effort of a man who couldn't get over his grief. All she saw in his eyes was an intelligent man who knew what he was doing and asking. She thought about it for a moment, thinking what if it were Keller out there, lost at sea? And with their business, that could happen. Would she ever give up looking for her? For Parker? Not on your life.
"Alright, Will. I'll help you."
For the first time, Will Ash's composure slipped, and his hands came up to rub his face, deep breaths hidden behind them. Finally his hands landed in his lap, and he smiled. "Thank you, Garrison. Thank you."
Reenie took the cup of coffee from Beth, able to smell the touch of bourbon the actress had put in there. The tall woman sat next to the editor, immediately curling her legs up under her. She sipped from her own mug, wincing as the hot liquid burned her tongue. Cursing under her breath, Beth set her mug aside, turning to face the editor.
"How did it go?"
Reenie sighed, blowing over the black surface of her drink. "It went okay. Rachel's lawyer wants to see Matt and I next week. Time Warner is going to continue to publish her work, per the contractual agreement." Reenie sighed again, running a hand through her short hair, leaving it sticking up in random places. Beth snickered, reaching over to pat some of it back into place.
"Is her lawyer here?"
Reenie shook her head, swallowing what she'd just drank. "No. I'll be heading to Oregon." She was silent for a moment, then looked over at her friend, who was studying the toe of her colorful sock. "Beth?"
"I'm sorry I missed your opening night the other day. I read the reviews, and saw Pippa kicked some serious ass on that stage." She smiled at Beth's shy acceptance of Reenie's congratulations.
"It's a fun role, and don't worry about it. I know you've got a lot going on right now." She met the dark gaze of the woman sitting next to her. "Don't sweat it, 'kay?"
Reenie smiled. "Okay." Taking a deep breath, the editor pushed herself up from the couch. "I'm going to head to bed." She leaned over and placed a gentle kiss on Beth's cheek, then brushed her fingers across it with a soft smile. "Night."
"Good night, Reen. Sleep well." Beth's gaze followed her friend until the editor had disappeared behind the closed door of her bedroom.
Setting her coffee mug on the dresser, Reenie stepped out of her clothes, leaving them where they lay on the floor, before grabbing the mug again and climbing into the huge bed. She reached over to shut out the bedside lamp, but thought better of it. She knew that her mind was far too awake still to be able to sleep, even with the bourbon that warmed her belly. Her mind was racing, events and thoughts from the past weeks swirling.
Matt had headed home two days ago, and Reenie couldn't help but want to cry at the memory of his face, the look in his eyes. That first night he'd shown up, they'd talked late into the night, the detective admitting his weakness, as well as his confusion where Rachel was concerned. He didn't understand why she had shut him out so badly, never allowing him truly inside. He shyly admitted that even when they'd made love, the blonde seemed miles away.
"I have no excuse for what I did, Reenie, but I've given it a lot of thought, and as crazy and pathetic as it sounds, I think I really just needed attention."
At first Reenie had wanted to scoff at his words, throw accusations and vocal daggers at him. However, the logical side of her mind knew he was right. Reenie knew Rachel well, and tough she loved the blonde very much, she didn't always understand her. Hell, sometimes the brunette felt Rachel shut her out. Though she would never justify what Matt had done, Reenie and Rachel's husband had come to an understanding that night, something they hadn't been able to do in the four years they'd known each other.
Her thoughts settled back onto Rachel. Tears had dried up over the weeks, but she still felt the loss acutely. The blonde didn't get to New York to see her as often as they both would have liked, and Lord knew Reenie's schedule was beyond ridiculous, so chances of her getting to Oregon were slim to none. Even still, they swapped daily emails and called each other, if even talking for two minutes, every couple days.
Reenie had to stop herself more than once from picking up the phone and dialing the numbers that were more familiar to her than her own. One time she actually had picked up the phone, dissolving in a puddle of tears when she realized her folly. In that moment she wanted to hate Matt and blame him for Rachel's death, but then she'd taken a deep breath and grudgingly admitted to herself that Rachel had been planning the trip to Milan, anyway. The situation with Matt had just sped up the process.
"Damn you, Rachel."
The hut, if it can be called that, was tiny, barely large enough for the four women to stretch out in. They'd managed to weave together enough fronds to create a sturdy skin wrapped around the trunks of six trees that were placed in a near-perfect octagon, thus creating the walls. Rachel and Pam weaved the thatched ceiling together, both proudly examining their creation every chance they got. The ceiling plus overhead foliage helped to keep things dry, yet it still got cold at night. The boys each had their own tiny hut, both radically different in style and practicality.
Denny was alone, and finally able to unbury her stolen prize. As the keeper of the soap, the brunette had abused her position and horded something, though it was for a good cause. She just hoped she'd done the right thing.
Glancing quickly out the tent-like flap, she saw that she was still alone, and crawled to the corner of the hut, quickly digging like a dog, dirt flying between her spread legs. She caught the stiff edge, and carefully tugged until it was completely free of its grave-like hiding place. The smaller object followed. Denny looked at it, turning it in her fingers then licking the tip and rubbing it across her palm.
"Yes!" she whispered as it made a mark. She gathered her goodies up and crawled out of the flap into the humid evening. She knew where she'd find her.
Rachel lay on the rock ledge, her favorite spot, which overlooked the ocean. It wasn't far from the waterfall, and she liked to dry on the ledge after bathing. Bathing. That was an exercise in patience. The bar of soap from the baggage Mia had found nearly a month ago, was gone. Everyone was trying to not throw tantrums when they had to go back to just rinsing off. The other day she swore she had smelled a rather minty Dean, and wondered if he'd decided to use his allotted toothpaste ration for deodorant instead.
Smiling at the visual that brought, green eyes closed, absorbing the smells and humidity around her. Up on that ledge, by herself, she found peace, which amazingly enough, was difficult to find in paradise. She mostly just felt lost. Everyday was a struggle. Most an emotional one. Everyone felt the weight of time running out. It was a small island, and they were limited in what they had. They had no medical supplies, and even Pam's years as a vet couldn't bring about magical cures. What if one of them were to become seriously ill? Or hurt?
Rachel tried to stave off these thoughts, as they added a heavier weight to her heart and brain, and she had no outlet to vent it. That, for her, was the most difficult thing to face. Back home, she was able to deal with any and everything because she had her writing. She'd vent her frustrations or joys in her work. Now, her creative mind was stunted. She created constantly in her mind, always weaving ideas and visuals together, but now they were just crowding together, causing a huge idea jam. Sometimes she wanted to cry. At one time she saw her incredibly fertile imagination as a blessing and a gift, but now it was becoming a curse. Characters and circumstances-to-be-written woke her up in the middle of the night, each vying for attention and their place in her conscious mind.
The frustration was causing the author to become withdrawn and angry. It was almost like constipation of the imagination- a swarm of ideas, but absolutely no way to get them out. She was even getting desperate enough to turn into a sort of bard, muttering to herself as she walked through the jungle, whacking at the foliage with the hatchet they'd made from the random golf club in a piece of luggage that had washed up to shore. Sometimes she was tempted to tell her tales around the quiet time the six spent together, almost every night: a fire made in their permanent fire ring at the center of the beach, not far from the pyramid of emergency beacon logs. Somehow, the blonde couldn't allow herself to do that, to open that part of herself up to them. Sure, millions of readers had read her thoughts, ideas and imaginings, but they were the nameless, faceless millions.
Rachel Holt may put off an air of cool aloofness to those in her industry, but it was all a façade to hide a very shy, vulnerable woman. She bled easily, and hid behind the closed doors of anonymity when the tongues rolled out.
The blonde was shaken from her thoughts when she heard movement in the foliage below, and the crumbling of pebbles sliding down the side of the rock ledge. Pushing up to an elbow, Rachel looked over the side, seeing the top of a dark head as Denny climbed up to meet her.
Rachel smiled, scooting to make room. She liked the friendly coffee shop owner. Denny always had an easy smile for anyone, and made the blonde feel comfortable. Not many people could do that.
"Hi," Danny said, sitting next to the blonde.
"Hey. Beautiful, huh?" Rachel said, nodding out toward the setting sun.
"Yeah. It really is." Getting fully settled, the brunette took out the surprise that she was almost giddy to give the blonde. It was a gut instinct, and something she took from a page of her own life. One of her employees, Amy Tella, was an artist, and always carried a sketchpad around with her, more than once busted in the back room of DiRisio's drawing. The girl once told her boss that if she couldn't create, she couldn't breathe. Denny took a wager that Rachel was the same way.
"What's everyone up to?" the blonde asked, glancing over at her companion.
"Uh, lemme see," Denny sighed. "Dean and Mia were eating seconds of the fish Michael finally caught." They both sniggered at that. "And Pam, not sure. Michael was out swimming last I saw." She glanced at the blonde's profile. "You okay?"
"Yeah. Fine. Just needed some me time."
"Oh, shit. Want me to-"
"No." Rachel met her gaze, then looked away. "No. You're fine."
"Well, good, cause I brought you something." Denny grinned at the surprised look on the author's face. She was almost giddy to give her offerings to Rachel. "Don't tell anyone, but I've been taking advantage of the powers given me." She chuckled at Rachel's look of utter confusion. Without another word, she produced the two pens she'd found in one of the suitcases, and the pages of the ruined magazine, which she'd left to bleach in the sun for a week. Now, pages stiff and a yellowish-white, they were crude, but would work.
Rachel's eyes fell to Denny's hands, seeing what lay within. Green eyes grew huge when she realized what it all was. "Denny!" she breathed, a hand going to her mouth. Her gaze flickered to a very pleased blue one. "You hid this from the others?" she said half in awe, half in suspicion.
"What are they going to do with it? Write letters to stick in bottles? Come on, Rachel. We don't have any bottles." She winked, then was nearly bowled off the rock ledge by an enthusiastic little blonde. She hugged her back, glad that her gift had been taken so well.
Rachel finally pulled away, trying to smile through her tears. She was so completely touched. "I think this is the most wonderful gift anyone has ever given me." She looked down at the pens, one black, one red, and the stiff, parchment-like paper in her other hand.
"I assumed, I mean, I know you're a writer, and haven't been able to write, and..." Denny's voice trailed off, suddenly feeling stupid and shy.
"That wasn't a bad assumption, Denny. Ironically enough, before you climbed up here, I was thinking about just how antsy I was getting. Hell, I was about ready to start writing in the sand."
The brunette chuckled at the image. "Well, forget the S.O.S., you just write us a novel on the beach, and an overhead plane will spot it."
"Yeah, then our luck, they'll get so into trying to figure out what it says, they'd crash, too." They both sobered at the thought, then smiled guiltily. "That was bad." It was only then that she was able to get her emotions a bit more under control. "You know, it's funny- since we've been here, my emotions are all over the map. Either I'm hugely moody and just this side of tears, or I feel numb."
"I know what you mean," Denny nodded, pulling her legs up and wrapping her arms around them. "At first I thought it was because I was so close to my period." She grinned at Rachel's shocked expression. "What? Have you noticed that you can always tell which one of us is on the rag?"
"Because she hides out in the jungle for at least three days, and suddenly the larger leaves disappear in droves?" the blonde grinned, her eyes twinkling.
"That would be why. I will never, ever complain about a tampon again."
"Amen to that."
They were quiet for a moment before the brunette spoke up again. "Rachel?"
"Do you think we'll ever get back?" She looked to the blonde, who met her gaze. Rachel saw the troubled expression in Denny's beautiful blue eyes, and wished to soothe it away. She shook her head slowly.
"I don't know, Denny. I just don't know."
They were silent for a long time, each lost in her own thoughts. At one point, Rachel thought Denny had fallen asleep, but her smooth, low voice cut the silence. "What will you write about? Do you have a story idea?"
"Always." The blonde grinned. "Seriously," she defended to the brunette's look of doubt. "Even when I'm working on a novel, I'm fighting with myself to keep other ideas tamped down and out of the way."
"Do you write those ideas down? Like to use at some other time?"
"Nah." The author tapped her head. "It's all in here. My emotions drive me, and my emotions and moods, which are seriously entwined, change from moment to moment. Drives my husband crazy."
"No doubt. How long you been married?"
Denny noticed the change in the blonde's voice, but said nothing about it. "I once saw a picture of you two in a magazine. Handsome guy."
"Yeah, he is."
Denny was surprised at the almost dead tone of Rachel's voice. If they were talking about Hannah right now, she'd be lit up like a Christmas tree. She waited for Rachel to continue, but she said nothing more for a few moments.
"What about you, Denny? Are you married? Or at least the equivalent?" Rachel uncurled her legs and laid back on the ledge, one knee bent, the other leg straight. She rested the paper and pen beside her and her hands under her head.
"Yeah." Christmas time! Denny's grin was huge, nearly splitting her face, but it quickly turned sad. "Hannah. We've been together eight years last April."
"That's a long time. You still really love her." A statement.
Denny mirrored the author's position and nodded, the softest smile on her face. "Yes, I do. She's amazing. I love her very much, and miss her terribly."
Denny's wistful voice made Rachel wistful. "What do you think she's doing right now?" The blonde stared up at the emerging stars.
"Well, depends on what time it is back home. I'd guess it's somewhere around, let's see, end of summer, so here it's probably pushing nine-thirty. Back home, let's say it were the same time, Hannah has just fed Rascal, and is now curling up on the couch to watch the news." Denny smiled, able to see her very predictable partner in her mind's eye.
"I miss the news. Used to watch religiously. And I miss hamburgers."
"Yeah. Kind of random, huh? I had their taste in my mouth the other day, and couldn't shake it. The meat," Rachel's eyes slid shut in imagined pleasure, "would be a nice, juicy patty, loaded with the works- lettuce, tomato, onions, pickles, globs of ketchup and mayonnaise." She smacked her lips to the amusement of her companion.
"You're not a nice person, Rachel," Denny chuckled. "You know what I miss most?"
The blonde was incredulous. "Applesauce?! Of all the wonderful things out there to eat, you miss applesauce?"
Denny nodded, grinning. "With cinnamon, mm, mm, mmmm. I eat it with everything. Steak, gotta have my applesauce. Cereal, gotta have my applesauce."
"You'd make a great character in one of my books," Rachel laughed. "Nice and quirky."
"Thanks. I think."
"How does..." Michael, with brows drawn, turned the thing this way and that, raising it above his head to look under it, seeing the flat, wide bottom. Bringing it down once more, he turned it over, pinky raised as he tried to touch it with just his fingertips. Grabbing hold of the base with the other hand, he wiggled it, amused at it bounced all over the place, the density heavy even though it was awfully flexible. He couldn't help but glance down at his own denim-clad crotch, comparisons on the brain.
"Want lessons on how to use that?" Pam laughed out loud as the big Texan yelped, nearly throwing the dildo over his shoulder in his haste to hide it.
"Well, I was just curious, wonderin'... Ah hell." He slammed it down on the ground, next to the fire ring and cooking area. They had been using it when cleaning fix, beating the poor, dead sea creature with it to get as many scales off as possible, as well as pummeling leaves and berries to a pulp.
"Great night, isn't it?" the veterinarian asked, letting the poor guy off the hook. As a doctor, she knew that color of red wasn't healthy for anyone.
"Yeah. Real nice. Gonna cool down good, though," he said absently, staring up into the night sky, the roar of the ocean close. "When we was kids, we used to go swimmin' all the time down home, in the Gulf."
"So you grew up in Texas?" Pam asked, making herself comfortable on the sand, leaning back on her elbows.
"Yes, ma'am." Michael grinned big at the thought of his beloved state.
"I was down in Austin once, and I have to say, I've never seen state pride like Texans. I even saw a bag of chips shaped like the damn state!"
Michael chuckled, whistling between his teeth. "Don't I know it. You're either born in Texas, or you're born somewheres else."
Ram chuckled, shaking her head. "Pretty damn sad."
"Oh come on, now. I hear you Yankees are the same way about your New York." Michael glanced at the older woman, a slight grin on his grizzled face. He couldn't help but think of the irony that Melissa always liked a man with facial hair. Why hadn't he just grown a beard for her?
"This is true," Pam nodded in conceit. They sat in companionable silence, Michael staring at the ocean, thinking of his wife, while Pam stared up into the night sky, thinking about another woman. "I wonder what my daughter is doing right now," she said absently, her voice unusually soft for the usually loud, brash New Yorker. "I sure as hell hope she's okay."
"How old is she?"
"Grown. Has her own place, her own life."
Michael nodded in understanding. "My oldest boy, Alan, will be twenty-two this year. Can't believe it."
"It sure does." Michael sighed heavily, swallowing his emotion. "Can't believe my kids think they lost both their mom and dad."
Pam could feel the profound sadness rolling of the Texan in waves. She reached over, covering his large hand with her own, giving him an understanding smile. "You'll get back to them, Michael. You have to believe that."
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