Cassandra on the Island: Hyacinths

The following is the second section of my novel Cassandra on the Island. You can read the previous section here.

Hyacinths

He loved how Cassandra would always awake with a smile. There were days (usually when he needed inspiration for an upcoming big event that was weighing him down) that he would wake up early just to catch it. There were even times (of course, he wouldn’t tell her) that he wouldn’t dare even let himself sleep. He would be like a child waiting for Christmas morning to break.  Fidgeting and trying to find comfort while resting on the same arm for almost six hours, never daring to move to the other arm. Her smile was worth the discomfort for him.

“His sunrise.” Yes, that’s what he called it. It began a thousand silent poems that sang in his head (The ones too beautiful for simple words or paper) as he watched her sleep. She always slept on the side of the bed near the window. It was the window the sun would break through, as if nature wanted to be sure to take part in this little daily event. But they, in the long run, could only be supporting players to her performance.

The smile would always start slow. The left side of the face… yes, it would start there… a fidget… a slight movement… rise… rise… then the right… a little… her teeth would make a brief appearance… then one hand would (usually the right) reach to touch her pillow (he never knew why she would have that impulse)… and then… eyes… smile… cue the sunlight…

You couldn’t help but kiss that smile. Cassandra was awake.

What the good reverend didn’t know is that Cassandra was always haunted by nightmares. If he knew he probably would’ve asked her to discuss it (as his thousand hours of practical social work skills kicked in). But that was a road she didn’t want to go down… no need… no need…

She already knew where the nightmares came from. She didn’t need an analysis to tell her that. The images flew in a torrid wave of flesh and tight unreleasing grips and pain. All her memories had become one man to her. He had four arms that held her down and eight legs that would bump and grind forcing her into uncomfortable positions. “The Beast” (yes, that is what she called it in her mind) had no face, but every night it would consume her. She was consumed by the touch, the humiliating and painful embrace, and just his presence. She felt his weight all pressing down, down, down on her.

At six a.m. she could feel the Beast finishing. When he started to finish was when she began to relax… and then…. It was always the beautiful same, she would remind herself of who she was now. It was then she would reach for her pillow (she never had soft pillows in Amsterdam; she couldn’t allow herself comfort when she was in that place)…. Is it?… Yes, it’s a soft pillow. She is still saved. She knew her reality and who she was again in this existence.

She was Cassandra, the wife of the good reverend and a mother of two playful children… And THAT is what made her smile.

“Didn’t get any sleep last night, honey?” Cassandra asked that morning over coffee.

“It’s the sermon,” he said.

Cassandra knew that was going to be his answer before she even asked. But when you’ve been married for almost ten years asking a question for an answer you know it is more a sharing than a hassle. “I don’t know why you stress over it.”

“I know,” he sighed. He looked at his watch. He would allow the children to sleep for fifteen more minutes.

“They will still drink before the big race.”

“I know.”

“And no one will blame you if something does happen.”

“I know.” He paused and looked in her eyes. She could read it all there. He still blamed himself for the death of Reggie Cody. Reggie made his addition to the mythology of Royal Carlton Island eight years prior. Reggie was twenty-two and liked to drink. And when he drank, things always multiplied by three. He thought the wheel he was steering led him to the finish line and a kiss from Mrs. Royal Carlton Boat Race; but the REAL wheel turned him on to shore (at an alarming speed), up the beach, up onto North Street and into Monty’s Movie House.

Reggie’s last words were “Where is my kiss?”

As hard as the mortician tried, he couldn’t get Reggie to stop puckering. And it’s too bad he didn’t because it became even more of an embarrassment at the funeral. Reggie was very popular with the girls while alive and many of the girls who once dreamed of dating him took his facial problem as an opportunity to taste those lips… Well, until Mrs. Cody was pushed too far.

When Debbie Lynn (of the Lynn-Rochesters), age 13, went up for her third kiss (a dare from her pesky, visiting cousins), Mrs. Cody (all in black with hankie in hand) stood and declared, “Will you please stop kissing my dead son, little girl?”

No one knew a proper response to remove the awkwardness that followed that moment. To this day, Debbie Lynn will hide if she ever comes in the slightest contact with Mrs. Cody.

Sadly, that was not the end of the mythology surrounding the lost Reggie. Shortly after that he became a ghost in stories. Many a drunk student and late night fisherman would tell the story of the ghost of Reggie. He walks the shore, soaking wet, asking whomever will listen, “Why am I so cold? Why am I so cold?”

This year’s boat race had all the makings of being a true disaster of magnificent proportions! As Cassandra’s husband said to Mrs. Wilkins two days earlier at the Royal Carlton Shopmart, “You might as well hand them loaded guns and bull-eyes to place on their foreheads.”

For this year, this year, two fraternities from Royal Carlton Community College (Go Acorns!) had joined. Normally two drunken boats would be bearable, but that was far from the case here. And this disturbing case could all be traced back to the lips of Miss Betsy Stevens.

Miss Betsy Stevens by age 18 was already an icon. A symbol. She was Homecoming Queen every year she was in high school plus one (The high school males voted for her when she was in eighth grade for the plain reason- they stated it to anyone who would ask- that all the others were dogs). This year, Miss Betsy Stevens, sorority sister, communications major, resident of 1428 Maple Drive, was Miss Boat Race.

This was the danger= One kiss for one man.

So where normally a boat would include two drivers (It was rare anyone considered driving solo like poor Reggie so many years prior), this year everyone was driving solo. So when it was announced that two fraternities had joined the high-speed boat race, it didn’t mean only two boats joined, it meant twenty-eight new boats had joined. Twenty-eight boats controlled by twenty-eight young men powered by their hormones and the dream that maybe, just maybe, through that kiss, Miss Betsy Stevens would fall in love with him.

The other twenty drivers in the race claimed not to care about the kiss. They claimed for the benefit of their wives that it was because of the tradition of the race that there were taking part in it. However, that didn’t explain the amount of work and ordering and pressure the Baker’s Boat Mechanics had been placed in three weeks before the race. As Mr. Baker explained to Cassandra one day over bridge, “It’s not the college boys I am worried about, it’s the twenty older men who call me every hour asking if their new motor has arrived.”

“A mess built by parents trying to buy their children’s love,” the good reverend mumbled to himself over his second cup of coffee that doomed morning. That was another true fact. Many of the fraternity boys had no experience boating and many of the boats only arrived a few days prior; and every one of the twenty-eight boats was purchased and being driven for the same purpose.

They didn’t even attempt to hide that fact! The boats were christened everything from “The Kiss” to “The Betsy” to “The Miss Stevens” to even “The Marry Me, Betsy, I’ll Make You Happy!”- That was Mrs. Wilkin’s boy’s boat. He was always a little troubled in the head.

The kids were up-

“Oh, mom! Why can’t we go to the start?” Peter sighed.

This was not the first time Cassandra had heard that whine from her son. And she knew it probably wouldn’t be the last time that day. She turned to Jonathan (Who was still slowly drinking his coffee and scribbling notes on a notepad. He had no idea how to turn the speeches of a Jesus into a sermon on controlling a boat safely; nothing, nothing, nothing about speedboats). Jonathan caught his wife’s nod and turned to face his son. “We discussed this Peter.”

Cassandra walked to the doorway of the kitchen and shouted up the stairs. “Lucy! Your pancakes are getting cold!”

“Just a second, mom!” Lucy replied from the top of the stairs and then suddenly, (VOOM!)  she was racing down the stairs! She was sitting on her pillow and using it as a sled!

…..thump

………..….thump

………………….…thump

………………….………….thump

………………………………………thump

………………………………………………plop.

She smiled up at her mom.

Cassandra pointed back at the table. “Pancakes.”

Lucy skipped to the table.

There were three places you could have found the boaters on that fateful morning before the race.

1. The Bars

There are four bars on Royal Carlton Island and each tried to be the first to open that day. McDaley’s Irish Pub opened at 7 a.m. with a “Buy two drink get a third drink” special. “TO THE BEAUTIFUL, BETSY STEVENS!” The patrons cheered and drank.

In second place was Del Toro’s Bar and Grill, but you would never have known it by his business. He had an even better special that day- “Buy two drinks and the next two are free!” “TO BETSY’S EYES!” the patrons there cheered even louder.

In third place was the Casting Call Bar (located next door to the Royal Carlton Civic Theater). The special for the day was buy a beer and have a free shot. The trick was it was cheap whiskey, but still the bartender couldn’t find a customer that would even turn that down. “TO BETSY’S LIPS!” His patrons cried from every corner.

In last place was The Original Royal Carlton Bar, but they had the greatest special of all- Free Beer for the first twenty customers! No one cared that the owner, Mr. Trueba, stopped the special after ten they still cheered just as loud. “TO BETSY!”

2. Church

“There is no crime in coming in second. I turn to Jesus as an example. Did he care about winning or being the best? Did he?” Jonathan knew it was a stretch, but he continued. “Jesus loved life. (Harry, boy, can I have fifteen on Kev’s boat?) He didn’t have to be the winner. He was happy being himself. He was happy living life. You have to learn to see things in perspective. Will life change if, say, I don’t know, you didn’t win a race? (Harry I would like twenty-five on that blue number on the beach. You mean, Gab’s boat? Yeah, that’s the one). You have so much to look forward to on this world. So much magic to see! It would be silly to throw away all your potential, all your days, just for a trophy (Harry, are you running the betting pool? Who wants to know?). Life would go on without you, but it would be empty without you. Think of your relatives, your…. YOU ARE NOT RUNNING A BETTING POOL IN MY CHURCH!”

That caught Harry’s attention. Harry was a third-year graduate student at the local college. He was working for his master’s in accounting. And, at that moment (with a pile of money in his hand), all this intelligent and gifted mathematician could think of to do was bolt for the door. He ran through that door like the devil (or worse, Reverend Jonathan) was chasing him.

Jonathan turned back to his sermon (which was not much of a sermon, more of a weak lecture and they all knew it).

One of the people in the back of the church turned to his friend. “Damn him. I didn’t get a receipt.”

3. At the Docks

 It was here that the true racers could have been found. They were the ones checking their engines, checking their supplies and their emergency kits. Like that one there. In the red boat. He is the one with the checklist going up and down and making sure everything is there. That is a good boater…not at all like the thirty boaters that were being bought drinks across the town in the bars.

Hmmm… interesting… most of these boaters are already wearing their life jackets.

Jonathan dreaded every aspect of the day. He especially hated how he had to sit in the stands near the rest of the city council and stare at the boaters. He hated how more than half of those boaters looked like they were incapable of listening to anything below a shout aimed directly at them. It didn’t help that the Mayor was almost putting him to sleep as well. Jonathan looked up at Mr. Meyers. Poor old Mr. Meyers. In Jonathan’s opinion, he was probably the unhappiest person in town.

The sad thing is Jonathan could remember another time when Mr. Meyers was happy with life. Royal Carlton Island had an interesting political system. One of the few cities to actually have someone elected to argue against the mayor, the Anti-Mayor. It didn’t help that for almost a decade-and-a-half the Anti-Mayor was Mr. Meyers own wife.

“Is this microphone on?” the Anti-Mayor joked to the audience. “After the Mayor speaks I always assume he turns it off so you can’t hear the truth.” Only a few people in the audience laughed. It was an old joke. “For those that don’t know,” she continued, “I’m Mrs. Meyers, the Anti-Mayor of the town. And it is my responsibility, nah, duty, to present the opposing viewpoint of everything the Mayor says and does.” Everyone in the crowd already knew this; this was another example of Mrs. Meyers showing to the world how much she loved being the Anti-Mayor. “And this responsibility is one I usually enjoy… with relish.” She turned and made eye contact with the Mayor.

Mr. Meyers blushed and looked away. He had been uncomfortable with living ever since his wife was elected as the Anti-Mayor to his Mayor. It was common knowledge around town that for the last six months, Mr. Mayor had been attending a therapist. Some would think that that fact would change how Mrs. Meyers handled her job. Of course, everyone else would argue that that small group really didn’t know Mrs. Meyers very well.

She loved her job wholly and her husband only moderately.

“But today, I get the rare responsibility to agree with the Mayor. And for those that attended last Tuesday’s council meeting, you know how little I must enjoy that fact.” She smiled wickedly. She knew everyone had watched. Ever since the city council meetings were first broadcast, it had become incredibly popular on the island. And Mrs. Meyers loved every bit of the attention. Half the fun in watching was to see what she planned that week (from the day she filled the room with garbage to the day she spoke every line as if she was singing). It was all a show to her and rarely any business got done. Which made Mr. Meyers’ regime the least successful since the island was founded, another fact that only an Anti-Mayor would enjoy.

She took a moment to cough. For those closest to her, they were pretty sure hidden in the cough was “Mayor is a wimp.”

“Excuse me,” she smiled to the audience. “But today, I do agree with him. We want you to have a safe and fun race. Yes! I see you over there, Lamba Iota Tau! Rock on to you too! Please be safe. And don’t worry all you racers! If you don’t get a kiss from Miss Boat Race, I would be happy to assist you. [Everyone in the audience felt awkward by that.] Speaking of which, may I present, your Miss Boat Race! Betsy Stevens!”

Did Betsy Stevens speak? Did she say anything? No one knows since every boat horn blared at that moment. Two boats attempted to start early and a holler was let forth so loud that even Cassandra could hear it over on the other side of the island.

Soon…

The starter with his pistol moved forward next to Betsy. Betsy covered her ears.

And…

To this day, no one knows exactly how many shots went off. There were three videos taken that day and the local authorities analyzed each one. Each brought a different count. The only thing the police could say to any great extent was “We think it’s around fourteen… maybe… could be…” Just as hard was it to discover where those shots went. Most were done in celebration by the boaters and went straight into the air. However, there were a few that seemed to have a worse intent behind them. Two engines were ruined; a glass was broken on the Douglas’s boat; three leaks happened on ship bottoms (Even though those boaters claimed that someone shot their boat, it is a common assumption that they stupidly did it themselves, since they were too drunk to realize it was smarter to shoot up, then down in a boat); and a bullet was found in the driver’s seat of the boat of Mr. Byrne who was believed by many to be the best boater on the island. He was luckily on the front of his boat when the cushion was hit.

As much as the local authorities would have liked to stop the race right there, it was too late! The race was on and there was no person alive that had the power to stop the male testosterone ignited with those shots.

The famous boat race was on!

 “No, Peter, I said, No,” Cassandra repeated for the fourth time that afternoon. She and Jonathan had put in place three rules for the day:

  1. The children could watch the race as long as they did not leave the porch. One step on the sand was an understood punishment that began with an afternoon sitting in the living room (which was in the front of the house facing away from the beach with only a lovely view of Main Street).
  2. The children could not do anything on the porch that could be a possible distraction for the boaters. This was more Jonathan’s rule than Cassandra’s. As much as Cassandra didn’t believe that two small blurs (as they would be seen from the boaters) had the capability to district boaters in high-speed vehicles, she allowed the rule to stand. He had enough stress to deal with that day.
  3. The children could not complain about the arrangement and just be happy their mother and father allowed them to watch this madness. (Peter was testing this rule… )

“But Mom,” Peter moaned. “You really can’t see anything from here. I can’t tell which boat is which and what is going on. Look there goes two more! I mean, seriously! Mom this sucks!”

Cassandra closed her eyes (he is 8, it’s part of his age) and then reopened them slowly. Without saying a word, she made eye contact with her son. He shut up immediately.

Lucy, on the other hand, was using her imagination. She had her eyes closed and she was watching it in her mind. As much as she was enjoying this way of watching the race, it really annoyed Peter.

“Open your eyes Lu! The race is right there!”

“I can see it fine… Oh, look! That boat is being controlled by a lion!”

“It is not! It was… some guy… yeah, that was definitely some guy! Mom! Lucy is making up things again.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Cassandra asked. She had brought lemonade out for her children. Peter eagerly took his. Cassandra had to place the second drink in front of her daughter, who was sitting with legs crossed, eyes closed, in the middle of the couch swing. She looked strangely like she was meditating.

Peter couldn’t think of a good response to that. He just turned his attention back to the race. “I don’t know,” he mumbled, “it just annoys me.”

“Can I join you?” a voice asked from the side of the house.

Cassandra turned to view the speaker. “Of course, Alisha. Lucy, make room on the couch. Do you want some lemonade?”

Alisha nodded her head yes.

Peter smiled at Alisha (It was an understood fact of anyone that had spent fifteen seconds in the presence of Peter that he had an incredible crush on her). “Hi, Alisha.” Peter smiled wide.

“Hi, Petey,” Alisha said as she tousled his hair. She was the one person who could get away with that. She was also the only person that could get away with still calling him “Petey.”

Cassandra emerged from the kitchen with the extra glass of lemonade. “I saw your husband at the start of the race…” Alisha tried to begin.

“You were at the start?” Peter interrupted. “What was all that noise? It sounded like a war! Was that just one gun? It sounded like more. I mean, if it was just one, it must have been huge.”

“Peter, please, let her speak,” Cassandra said. Peter turned back to the race and crossed his arms.

Alisha continued, “He had his hands full. He was frantically working with a group trying to get the drunken boaters and boats damaged by the beginning shots out of the way of the racers…”

This thought did not make Cassandra feel safe. She felt cold… He’ll be fine, she thought, he’ll be fine.

“…So far there has only been one accident. The Wilkins boy, he crashed into the dock at the start of the race. The sad thing is that the dock was behind him…”

Peter (even though he was pretending not to listen) broke out laughing. “He was in reverse! What an idiot!”

“Peter,” Cassandra said in a slight scolding manner.

Alisha didn’t notice Peter’s hurt expression. She was too busy trying to figure out what Lucy was doing. “Lucy, dear, why are your eyes closed?”

“I’m watching the race.” Lucy responded.

“Right,” was the only response Alisha could think of to respond to such a statement. Alisha looked over at Cassandra (who was sitting in her rocking chair). Cassandra was watching the boats race by. Alisha followed her example and faced the water.

There was something strangely serene in watching the race. They had no idea who was winning, all they saw were the machines glistening off of the waves. They looked liked majestic animals. It almost looked like they were flying.

“Does Jonathan think he has enough votes to stop the race at council next week?”

“Not yet,” Cassandra replied. “But he is pretty sure when the race is completed and if there are any casualties he won’t have a problem.”

“So he is expecting there to be a problem?”

“He doesn’t want there to be one, of course. But it takes so long to get anything in front of the council since Mrs. Meyers was elected, he had to take the opening. If he waited to see if something happened, he would have had to wait over four months. And that’s assuming she doesn’t come in with those Spanish dancers again.”

Alisha giggled to herself over that. What Cassandra didn’t know was it was Alisha’s idea to bring the Spanish dancers to the council.

“It’s coming,” Lucy stated.

“What is, honey?” Cassandra asked.

“Look at that boat right there!” Peter exclaimed. He ran to the edge of the porch and gripped the railing. He swung his body out as far as he could. “It’s the fastest I’ve ever seen! It’s going to pass that other boat!”

Peter, you stay on the porch! You know the rules!” Cassandra said to Peter. She turned her attention back to her daughter. Lucy’s eyes were still closed. “What is coming dear?”

“A crash,” Lucy said ever so matter-of-factly.

“Look at it go!” Peter pointed. “Look at it, Alisha! Look at it go!”

“It’s great, Petey,” Alisha replied. She walked down to stand next to him on the porch.

“A crash, honey?” Cassandra asked Lucy.

“Yes, mom,” Lucy said calmly. “Right…” Lucy clapped her hands and out of the corner of her eye, Cassandra saw the flames rocket up into the sky.

“Wow!” Peter exclaimed.

Cassandra took off running for the beach.

Alisha took off after her.

Cassandra pointed back at her kids. “You stay on that porch! You hear me! Stay there!”

“But mom!”

“Stay there, Peter!”

Cassandra ran up her dock and then dived into the water. Alisha dived after her. They had to move quickly, soon the water would be filled with other boats and there was no way those two injured boaters would survive that onslaught.

The first boater was floating with his body hunched over. Cassandra swam to him first. “Take him into shore,” Cassandra said.

“Cassandra,” Alisha begged. “You take him! You have children. Let me look for the other one.”

“You heard me, Alisha! Take him in!” Cassandra ordered. She dived underwater before Alisha could argue.

Where was he? Where was he?

The water was dirty with the leaked gasoline from the boats. She couldn’t see anything and it hurt her eyes to keep them open for too long. She could feel in the waves other boats approaching. He had to be near her. Was he trapped under his boat?

She couldn’t see anything near the boat or under it. Both boats were in flames. The one that was hit was already sinking quickly. The other had just turned over and…

She hit something with her foot.

She immediately dived down.

Suddenly from above she heard the noise!

Boats!

She didn’t take enough air! She knew she didn’t take enough air. God, why didn’t she take a deeper breath?… calm… think of other things… concentrate on something other than lungs and breathing… think of when Jonathan proposed… think of Peter taking his first steps… think of reading Lucy bedtime stories… think of the first date with Jonathan… just don’t think of breathing.

The noise passed…

She fought her way to surface and…

Breathe…

There were more boats coming.

She had to move quickly. She dived back down and grabbed the arm of the boater and pulled! He was much bigger than her… and yet… she could feel herself pulling him up. She could feel herself holding him and herself up in the water. She could feel herself swimming him to shore.

“Oh, my God! Cassandra, I thought for sure you were…”

“Not in front of the children,” is all Cassandra could get out as she laid the second boater next to the first. The one Alisha saved was gasping for air and choking up water. Cassandra’s boater was not even moving.

Cassandra breathed into his lungs.

“Breathe, God damn it, breathe,” she gasped frantically.

Her children had left the porch and were standing over her. They broke the first rule, but this was not a time for punishment.

Cassandra breathed into his lungs again.

“You are not going to die. You are not going to die in front of my children,” she said as she pounded on his chest.

Cassandra breathed into his lungs again.

Lucy was crying. Alisha wrapped her arms around her. “It’ll be okay, Lucy.”

Cassandra breathed into his lungs again.

The other boater looked at the one Cassandra was performing CPR on. “Shit,” was all he could get himself to say.

“Breathe, damn it!” Cassandra screamed as she pounded on his chest. He looked young, no more than twenty. God, he was just a baby, she thought. “Come on!”

Cassandra breathed into his lungs again.

Alisha touched Cassandra’s shoulder, “Cassandra…” Cassandra brushed Alisha’s hand off her shoulder,

Cassandra breathed into his lungs again and this time, there was something different in the breath.

Something from deep within Cassandra entered this boy and…

COUGH.

Water coughed up out of his lungs.

“Thank you, thank you,” the other boater said. He was weeping.

Cassandra smiled softly and then immediately passed out.

“You should have seen it, Dad! Mom was like an action hero! She dived right in and, swish!, pulled him out and…”

Jonathan looked at his wife. This morning could have been the last time he saw her; his mind raced back to that morning. What was the last thing he said to her that day? “Don’t let the children distract the boaters.” That. That would have been the last thing he said to his wife if she…

Cassandra smiled at him and patted his hand that was on the table.

“…And he was dead, Dad. He was all dead. He looked as white as a ghost…”

Lucy was silent throughout the meal, barely touching her food. Cassandra reached over and ran her hands through the little one’s hair, using her fingers like a comb. She had tried to talk to her when she was cooking dinner with her, but with no luck. Lucy had been in her own mind since the accident.

“… And mom, she kissed him. And pounded on his chest! The other boater was crying and mom didn’t stop! Alisha even tried to get her to stop and she didn’t. She kept right on going and…”

Jonathan couldn’t take his eyes off of his wife. He would never leave her without saying he loved her again. He promised himself that. He almost lost her today. She mouthed, “I’m fine.” He smiled back.

“He was alive! She brought him back! And then mom fainted! And then the ambulance arrived…”

“I didn’t faint,” Cassandra explained to Peter. “I passed out.”

“What’s the difference?” Peter asked.

“Well,” Cassandra thought for a second, “It’s just different. I was tired.”

Jonathan couldn’t stop smiling.

“Mom,” Lucy said quietly. Cassandra was about to turn off the bedroom light when Lucy spoke. She turned back to face her daughter. She was clutching her stuffed lion (Aslan) tightly.

“What dear?”

“I didn’t do it,” Lucy said quietly. “I just want you to know, I didn’t do it.”

Cassandra nodded. “I know that, dear.”

Cassandra smiled and shut the door behind her.

After the excitement of the day, the last thing Cassandra could think about was going to bed. So while her house was all put to sleep, she put on her favorite sweater, her baseball cap (Chicago Cubs) and wandered out into the dark.

The sand was cold on her bare feet.

There were few parties on the beach.

There was nothing worth celebrating.

There was no winner, unless you can count the two men that had escaped death.  Betsy Steven’s lips were saved again from the rushes of the local boys. Of course, what the local boys didn’t know (And Cassandra did, thanks to Jonathan), Betsy Stevens was not returning to Royal Carlton Island Community College. She had transferred to a college off of the island. As she told Jonathan before the race began, “I have to learn to be more human. I can’t be human here.” Jonathan was very impressed with that insight. Neither he nor Cassandra thought she had it in her.

Cassandra knew what would follow this day. The race would never happen again. Jonathan (for better or worse) got his crash. Next Sunday’s morning edition of the Royal Carlton Press (It was rarely more than five pages long since there was so little to write about and, frankly, there were only two writers on the staff and one only reviewed restaurants) would be filled with ads for slightly used boats.

Cassandra loved the evenings on the beach. She had never seen so many stars until she arrived on the island. It was truly a wondrous sight.

“Excuse me,” a hoarse and almost hollow voice said alongside her.

She turned to face the speaker.

He had his arms wrapped around himself. He looked very cold, very wet. “Why am I so cold?”

Cassandra was stunned. She tried her best to stay calm.

“Why am I so cold? Tell me, why am I so cold?” Reggie asked again. His gray and cold eyes were pleading to her. Yes, she could read that. His dead eyes wanted something, begging.

“I’m sorry,” Cassandra stammered out, “I can’t help you. I wish I could. I’m sorry Reggie.”

“Why am I so cold?” Reggie asked. His eyes were still pleading, so very hard. “Tell me, why am I so cold?”

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