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be sure to check out Joan's latest on her website: (usually she updates her blog every Sunday evening but she can and will surprise you) **Special Note: all of Joan's archives are now up--almost ten years of 'bitter girl.' As Joan says, go wild!**

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Paradise Lost, part 1

I found a few typos and missing words by posting the book here, so if anyone sees anything that seems as if it's a mistake or something's missing, if you would leave a comment I would appreciate it. Here is the sequel.

Paradise Lost


Robert A. Sullivan

Carolyn Marks awakes early on her birthday, alone in her place on the island, before dawn. This is a special occasion for her–she’s turning the big Four Oh and she has decided that today she will make a decision about her body.
After she emerges from the shower, she honestly appraises her reflection in the full-length mirror in her bedroom before she dresses. There is no doubt as to her attractiveness, but she also can’t help noticing with equal conviction that gravity is taking its toll–up front and behind–and the situation can only worsen. She sees no alternative–she’s having the procedure she’s been delaying.
She’s been on the island sixteen years. Her friend Brandy had the rejuvenation procedure a while back and she absolutely loves it. She regressed to being twenty-four, but kept her memories intact–negating the old adage that youth is wasted on the young. The rejuvenator is just one of many machines that they’ve built from the aliens’ data that work fabulously.
As she continues to wander about and check things out in the now familiar paths and walkways, she sees that most people are already up and beginning their day. Then she happens on a young blonde girl that Carolyn recognizes as being one of the first babies born on the island. “Daisy,” Carolyn calls to her. “How come you’re not in class?”
Daisy waits until Carolyn has caught up with her before she answers. “I don’t know,” she aimlessly allows. “I didn’t feel like going, I guess.”
Carolyn appraises her. “Well, what do you feel like doing?”
Daisy shrugs. “I don’t know,” she repeats. “Maybe some surfing.”
Carolyn nods. It is a beautiful day–but on the other hand, they do get a lot of those. “Well–let’s go. Do you have your bathing suit on?”
Daisy shakes her head no.
“Come on,” Carolyn urges. “Let’s get changed–I’ll join you.”
After both don bikinis and grab their surfboards, Carolyn leads the way down to her favorite beach. The ocean is fairly flat and still, lapping at the shore as might a lake. Where they are, unless there’s a storm nearby, they hardly ever have any natural action–which is why they built the wave machines. “Well,” Carolyn draws up. “What’s your pleasure?”
Daisy’s eyes show the first sign of excitement of the day. “I want to ride the monster waves–the giant ones.”
Carolyn nods while she smiles, as if she were expecting this answer. “Yeah–the monster waves are the most fun–but you know what happens when we do that, right?”
Daisy rolls her eyes, mildly annoyed that Carolyn is making her recite one of the basic tenants of the island. “I know–the monster waves do severe and unsustainable damage to the beach because of erosion,” Daisy begins.
Carolyn again nods as she prompts her charge. “And that’s why–”
Daisy ticks her head to the side as she continues. “And that’s why we need to have everyone on the island agree to the monster waves, because it takes everyone’s work to put the beach back the way it was, and we can only run the giant waves for half an hour, and it takes at least four hours to renew the sand, and even then there is still irreversible damage, so the highest the waves can be to sustain the island is moderate.”
“Very good,” Carolyn commends the younger woman. “So is that your vote?”
Daisy sighs, resigned. “Yeah–let’s do the moderate ones then.”
“Excellent choice,” Carolyn crisply replies, engaging her communications device. “Hubert–are you there?”
“Good morning Carolyn,” the electronic reproduction of Hubert’s voice returns to her.
“Good morning Hubert,” she repeats. “Beach number three–would you crank up some moderate waves for us please?”
“Gotcha covered,” Hubert comes back with. “Let me know.”
In a few seconds, the giant underwater rocker panels at the edge of the island’s shelf begin producing the five or six foot surf they’ve been discussing. Carolyn confirms into her handheld device, “Looks good Hubert–thank you so very much.”
“My pleasure Carolyn–let me know if you need anything else.”
“Will do–catch you later.”
“O.K.,” Carolyn resumes with the younger girl after she stows her device in with her beach bag and picks up her board. “Let’s hit it.”
So they spend most of the morning surfing and talking. In between curling the waves, Carolyn is trying to draw Daisy out, but she still seems lethargic–only slightly animated by all this natural beauty and physical activity. Around eleven, she calls Brandy to join them.
When her friend shows up in her really tight bathing suit, carrying her body board, Carolyn is stopped as she always is at Brandy’s tall and trim physique–her long hard and lean legs, now even more darker because of all the time she spends in the sun, her trim and taut core, and the rest of her that Carolyn feels the old familiar attraction toward. Carolyn can’t get over how much Brandy now looks exactly like when they first met, in Florida, sixteen years ago.
After a few more hours of this, while all three are taking a break, lying at the water’s edge where the waves roll over and over them, Daisy asks Carolyn, “When are the aliens going to get here?”
Carolyn shrugs. “I don’t know–but I hope it’s soon. I’m starting to get a little bored myself.”
Brandy counters, “Wait till you have the procedure–you won’t feel that way then–trust me.”
Carolyn is noncommittal. “I suppose,” she allows. “But Daisy–I’m more concerned about you. You don’t seem to be having very much fun.”
Daisy looks down with sadness in her eyes. “I guess not.”
Carolyn now gives voice to the obvious. “We don’t need another Melanie. Do you have a boyfriend?”
“Nope,” she replies, shaking her head.
“How about a girlfriend?”
Again with the silent no.
“Well,” Brandy continues. “Are you masturbating?”
Daisy finally looks up in irritation. “I don’t think I’m doing it right.”
Presently Carolyn and Brandy exchange glances. “That’s O.K. sweetie,” Carolyn assures her. “We can help you with that. Once you start having orgasms, your entire outlook will change–believe me.” She looks over to her friend again and Brandy understands.
“Come on,” Brandy compels the younger blonde girl as she takes the other’s hand.
Once they leave, Carolyn begins making the rounds, talking to all of Daisy’s teachers, so much so that Mark calls her later on to ask if they need to have a meeting concerning the young lady.
Carolyn sighs, disappointed that it’s come to this but seeing no alternative. “I guess so,” she affirms. “You want to round everyone up?”
Over the years, Carolyn and John have ascended to what amounts to the island’s royalty, as they were the ones to pick the location and secure the aliens’ technology and land the space shuttle, however disastrously, in the lagoon, while Brandy, Mark and Hubert have retained the status of the functioning branch of their government, so she’s fallen into the habit of delegating everything to other people.
They have the meeting at Mark and Sharon’s place, as they have the largest living room. While everyone is still arriving, Carolyn notices Brandy come in alone. Carolyn approaches her friend to ask how everything went.
The tall woman with long straight brown hair shrugs. “She likes you,” Brandy summarily informs her counterpart. “She wants to spend time with you.”
Carolyn nods, afraid that this was the case but resigned to it. It means Daisy has a princess complex, that Carolyn is going to have to talk her out of. She’s gone through this before with some other girls on the island who have become far too enamored of her and exalted her way too much. She sits down with John. “How would you like it if I were sixteen again?” she quietly asks him.
John appraises this, his crow’s feet crinkling as he squints his eyes. As is the case with most men on the island, he’s never had the rejuvenation procedure and doesn’t foresee having it. “Like when you were stuck on François? That sounds like ‘Lolita’ territory,” he ruminates.
She nods, aware that he’s on the same track as she–kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. “Daisy needs help,” she advises John.
“So I gathered,” he returns as the last of the meeting participants have finally shown up and Mark is calling for everyone’s attention.
Sharon, Mark’s wife, kicks it off as she is the senior doctor on the island. “I examined Daisy a few weeks back,” she begins. “And what I found basically was what pediatricians label in babies that don’t have any energy as ‘failure to thrive.’ She’s a nice girl–polite and soft-spoken, perfectly healthy but just a short attention span and not having very much fun.”
Carolyn concurs as she speaks up. “That’s what I observed today–I spent the whole morning surfing with her and she was having a good time for a while, but then it was like, ‘Eh? Is that all there is?’ type of attitude. She really should have been having a blast.”
“Well,” Hubert, who is thirty-one, having come to the island when he was fifteen, now counters. “A blast is a relative term–one person’s heaven is another person’s hell.”
“Hubert,” Carolyn snaps back at him. “She was skipping school and when I asked her what she’d rather be doing, she said surfing. So that’s what we did.”
Their chief computer tech guy now raises his hands in capitulation. “I’m sorry–I didn’t realize she was skipping class. I thought she had the day off or something. That is serious.”
Mark feels the need to state the obvious. “None of us want another Melanie,” he offers.
Carolyn looks over at their chief engineer, feeling herself flush at his appearance. Mark is one of the few men that have had the rejunevation process and, having regressed himself to twenty-six, Carolyn has no doubt that if she hadn’t previously met John and Mark wasn’t married, she could have fallen for this guy in a seriously big freaking way. She has discussed this with Brandy, who is of the same opinion. But because they both respect Sharon and the peace and tranquility of their island, they have kept their distance–which is precisely what this woman Melanie hadn’t. She caused so much havoc on the island, barely two years after they got there, that she’s the only person ever to be booted out of paradise. This is why everyone’s so concerned about Daisy–they’ve seen first-hand how close their island came to destruction–as impervious to attack from the outside as it is, they found out the hard way how delicate the balance was within their retreat. “That’s what I said,” she agrees. “But before this goes any further, I think I see a way to solve the problem–I’ll just revert to the same age as she is and spend some time with her until she comes around.”
Brandy now speaks up, concerned. “I thought you were going to be twenty-four again,” she challenges her partner in crime.
Carolyn shrugs. “I thought I was too–but now it seems like for the common good of the island, I’m going back even further. I take it you don’t want to be sixteen again with me?”
Brandy pauses, and Carolyn’s best friend from high school Amy takes advantage of this and pounces. “I’ll do it Carolyn,” she announces to the room. “I’ll be sixteen again with you.”
Sharon smiles at this. She’s had the procedure herself and she went back to being twenty-four, the same as Brandy, and she’s been loving every minute of it since. “You three can get into all kinds of trouble together,” she predicts.
Presently Daisy enters the room, having overheard most of what’s been said. She shyly speaks up. “You’re doing all this for me?” she asks.
Carolyn answers her, “Yes, honey–we are. Because we love you and we want you to be happy.”
Some of the kids who are sitting with them and listening with rapt fascination start cooing, “Aww.”
Brandy motions for Daisy to sit by her, to spare the young girl any more embarrassment.
“Since we’re all here,” Mark segues in irritation, clearly ill at ease with the group harmony moments. “I guess I should bring up the time machine issue again.” The time machine, or trans-dimensional doorway or whatever anyone calls it, is the one application from the aliens’ specs that they haven’t dared yet build. “Hector, maybe you should make your case.”
Hector is one of Hubert’s kids–not biologically, but by circumstance. When Hubert and Mark were in Los Angeles at the docks, frantically loading the hydrofoil with everything they thought they were going to need for their journey to the island, somehow word had gotten around to the locals that this ship was connected to the space shuttle with the alien technology. When the first middle-aged man came forward with his son and asked Hubert to take him on board to go with them, Hubert had been so busy, he hadn’t had time or the heart to say no. Because of his easy-going nature, he also made this man and the boy feel at ease. So after the first one was successful, suddenly all these other families and parents showed up with the same story: “I’m old–I don’t care about myself. But here–please take my son/daughter/child. I want him/her to have a better life–away from all this. Protected–where you’re going.” So by the time they actually left, they had twelve extra kids and babies with them, that all somehow found guardians. He haltingly begins, “I don’t know what to say really–it’s not that I don’t like the island. I’ve always loved it and I like my work also. It’s just–I’m not a little kid anymore. If I didn’t know something else was out there, I wouldn’t care. But I do know something else is out there, and I think we ought to build the machine.”
Mark nods, having heard these arguments before. “You do understand why, up until now, we haven’t built this.”
Hector waves him off. “I know–‘Time travel is a cornucopia of complex issues.’”
Everyone laughs or smiles at the way he’s memorized this from school.
Hubert prompts him, “You also understand–another reason why we haven’t built it is we can’t figure out how it works–in other words, you would have to just wing it as you go along–and hope you don’t get killed in the process.”
Hector nods. “Yeah–Mark’s explained all that to me–but what I’m thinking about is the doorway stuff. I mean, everyone keeps asking when the aliens are going to show up. Maybe they’re waiting for us to come to them with this.”
Mark nods to show he understands, as their group operating in the function of the unofficial ruling council has discussed this numerous times and this same point has been raised. “Well–I say if Hector understands the risks and still wants to go–then it’s his life.”
John concurs. “Does anyone disagree?” he asks everyone in the room.
When no one dares utters a sound, Mark concludes, “Then I guess Hubert and I have a project. Let’s get started right away.”
As everyone breaks up, Sharon approaches Carolyn and Amy. “So are you ladies ready for your make overs?” she inquires of them.
Both their wide smiles of expectation reveal that they are. Then an idea occurs to Carolyn. She excuses herself and tells Sharon and Amy she’ll catch up with them shortly. She explains it to John first.
John listens to Carolyn as she elaborates what she wants to do. He waits a moment before he responds, “Always looking to cause trouble, aren’t you?”
Carolyn shrugs and shyly smiles, unconsciously affecting Daisy again. “Well, I figure this way, if I do regress my mind and memories as well, I can get rid of this whole François thing and just wake up and fall in love with you.”
“Uh-huh,” John dryly replies, to show he understands her Sleeping Beauty fantasy. “But what about Brandy?”
Uh-oh, Carolyn thinks. “You’re right,” she returns, chagrined. “Maybe I better go talk to her first.”
When she relates her idea to Brandy, the latter is even less sympathetic. “Carolyn–I can’t even believe you’re telling me you want to do this.”
Carolyn is honestly amazed at how hostile her friend is. She tries to take her hand. Brandy violently withdraws it and removes herself from Carolyn’s reach. “Brandy, why are you acting like such a bitch?” she demands of the other.
Brandy snaps back, escalating things higher with, “Oh. I’m a bitch? What about you? What about us? You wanting to have the procedure all the way is like telling me you don’t care about us at all. Or me.”
Now Carolyn’s heart aches so much she can’t even put what she’s feeling into words. “Brandy, I love you,” she honestly tells the other woman.
Brandy’s eyes retain their steely glint. “You’re not acting like it.”
Carolyn sees that there’s no talking to her now. “Fine Brandy–if this is the way you’re going to be, then I’m going to leave you to it.” And when her friend doesn’t respond, Carolyn sighs in a huff as she turns and walks away without saying anything more.
Returning to Sharon, Amy and John, Carolyn explains that Brandy isn’t happy with the idea at all but she’s equally determined. John sees Carolyn’s strength and offers to have the same procedure–to wake up sixteen again without any memories of the years beyond. Amy promises both that she’ll be able to relate and orient them if they consummate matters. Everyone prevails on Sharon before they think much more about it.
Since Sharon can process only one person at a time, it’s decided to regress Amy first, then Carolyn and finally John.
Once Carolyn leaves, Brandy tries to calm down, with only partial success. She opens her communication device and calls Sean. “Hi,” she greets him. “Are you busy?”
“Nope,” the electronic reproduction of Sean’s voice returns to her. “I guess you heard about my sister’s latest scheme?”
“Yup,” Brandy replies. “So Amy’s leaving you out in the cold also?”
“Looks that way,” he confirms. “Want to come over and talk about it?”
Brandy nods, unseen on her end. “Yeah. I guess I do.”
Sean puts his communication device away. He’s not had the procedure yet but he’s kept in shape. Brandy being twenty-four and distraught and in his arms is every fantasy he’s ever had come true. When she knocks at his door and he lets her in, there’s hardly any conversation before Brandy turns out the lights, to envelop both in the darkness.
Back at the medical center, a few hours later, Amy is the first to slowly come around. She opens her eyes, as if she’s been asleep for a while. “Whoa,” she softly interjects, sitting up on the medical platform where she’s been lying.
Sharon asks her, standing next to her, while reading some data off the indicators, “How do you feel?”
Amy looks down at her body, underneath the now loose-fitting gown. “A lot younger. Can I get up?”
Sharon nods, taking Amy’s hand. “Sure–if you don’t feel dizzy or anything.”
Amy doesn’t, so she carefully lifts her legs and plants her feet on the floor. When she stands, she realizes she’s fine.
Sharon is watching Amy with great interest as Amy walks over to Carolyn, still lying on her bed. Amy takes her best friend’s hand and softly calls her name. When that doesn’t bring her around, Amy kisses Carolyn’s cheek and brushes her hair back, appraising her. Yup, Amy thinks. That’s Carolyn from high school–the summer her parents went away on her.
Carolyn slowly awakes to see Amy in her field of vision. “Hi Amy,” Carolyn softly greets her.
“Hi Carolyn,” Amy returns to her. “How do you feel?”
Carolyn blinks. “O.K.,” she relates and then she sits up and starts looking around. “Where are we? What happened?”
“It’s a long story,” Amy replies. “But it’s a good one. Are you thirsty?”
Sharon doesn’t want to unduly alarm Carolyn, as she gathers from Carolyn’s questions the latter might perceive herself to be in trouble. She and Amy seem to be getting along well, so she hangs back and goes over to see about John. She is checking his indicators when he comes around.
“Hi John,” she greets him.
“Hi,” he returns.
“How do you feel?”
John thinks before he replies. “A little groggy, but O.K. I guess.”
Sharon places her palm over his forehead, to check his temperature. She then presses the side of his cheek with the back of her hand. “Do you know where you are?”
John looks around. “The hospital, I guess.”
Sharon smiles, amused. “It’s more of a medical center. Do you know what year this is?”
John blinks. “Uh–two thousand twenty-six,” he figures.
She smiles again. “That’s very good–except it’s a little later than that. Actually it’s two thousand fifty-eight and you’re no longer in the United States–you’re on an island in the South Pacific.”
John nods. “That’s interesting,” he relates. “How did I get here?”
Sharon looks over across the room to see Amy and Carolyn giggling and talking and going on as Amy tries to keep the focus and fill Carolyn in. “It’s a long story,” she decides to tell him. “But it’s a good one. Are you thirsty?”
After they talk awhile and Sharon begins bringing John up to speed, at one point John asks who those two girls are across the room. Sharon advises him, “That’s your girlfriend lying in bed–her name’s Carolyn–and the other one’s her best friend named Amy. Say hi to John girls.”
Carolyn and Amy both drawl on “Hi,” in affected manner before John waves back at them and greets them both with, “Hi.”
After everyone resumes conversing, Amy excuses herself and rises from Carolyn’s bed. She walks over to Sharon. She sees the light in John’s eyes. He doesn’t even notice her, he’s so entranced with Sharon. “Sharon, may I speak with you privately please?”
When Sharon and Amy leave the room, Carolyn looks over to John. “Hi,” she repeats to him.
“Hi,” he returns as before. “Guess you’re supposed to be my girlfriend.”
“Yeah,” Carolyn replies. “Amy says you’re my boyfriend. And she’s trying to tell me we’re on some stupid island–that we’re not in America anymore.”
“Yeah,” John agrees in vehement hostility and disbelief. “I mean–what’s up with that?”
“I don’t know,” Carolyn leisurely allows. “But it does sound messed up.” She gets up off her platform. “I can stand–can you?”
John rises from his bed to try. “Looks like it,” he announces. He walks over to her. “I don’t even know you,” he perfunctorily tells her after he appraises her. “How can you be my girlfriend?”
“I don’t know,” Carolyn returns, hurt. “I don’t know you either.”
“See what you did?” Amy is petulantly yelling at Sharon with all the ferocity of a perturbed sixteen-year-old in the other room as they continue to monitor Carolyn and John. “He’s all in love with you now. Way to go, Sharon.”
Sharon sighs. She knows what she did was wrong but she just couldn’t help herself. “O.K.,” she concedes. “I’ll stay away from John. Why don’t you go in there and try to talk to them.”
Amy does, but it’s no use. John won’t listen to her because she’s the same age as he is. Watching all this, Sharon opens up her communication device. “Mark,” she speaks into it. “We have a problem. Would you come over to the medical center please?”
Mark does drop what he’s doing and obliges but he also informs his wife that he’s in the middle of a project and can’t be what he considers overly concerned about intrigues such as this one. “You started this,” he privately tells her after he introduces himself to John as Sharon’s husband, to let John know what the score is. “You finish it.”
Sharon can’t help a growing smile of satisfaction, as she realizes now that this infatuation of John’s will have to run its course.
And now Amy is disgusted beyond measure but all she can do is comfort Carolyn and try to help her friend heal her hurt feelings, besides obtaining for them both some new clothes that will fit them from the replicator.
The next day everyone wakes up to news of what’s happened overnight. Daisy is aghast that she’s somehow precipitated any predicament so she joins Amy and Carolyn to see if there’s anything she can do to help, besides allowing both to copy some clothes of hers that both like and can fit into. After the outfitting is complete, however, Amy is overwhelmed to find she presently has two crying sixteen-year-olds to deal with. When she realizes she must involve both in another project immediately, this propels everyone squarely back to the time machine.
Hubert and Mark and their multitudes of assistants assure Amy and company that they have more than enough help, so Amy is left with the obvious. “O.K.,” she announces to both her red-eyed charges. “Let’s go surfing.”
After they suit up, they happen to pass Sean and Brandy, walking along, arm in arm. Amy greets them both amiably with, “Hi Sean. Hi Brandy.”
Brandy returns, “Hi girls. Going surfing?”
Amy replies that they are.
“Nice day for it,” she allows before she continues with Sean.
After he repeats ‘hi’ back to Amy, Sean greets his sister with, “Hi Carolyn,” who doesn’t say anything back.
When they are gone, Carolyn asks Amy who that was. “That’s your brother Sean.”
Daisy addresses Carolyn in horror. “You mean you don’t recognize him?”
“But he’s so old," Carolyn protests to both in purple tones of teen-aged anguish.
“I know,” Amy lightly returns in contrast. “He hasn’t had the procedure yet. Come on–let’s go.”
After Amy hits Hubert up for the moderate waves, Carolyn starts to really get into it, trying out her new body. Amy also–she loves the way she feels now–so vibrant and alive. And Daisy loves having two new friends to play with her own age, as their enthusiasm is contagious. After a few hours of this, Amy happens to see Hector on the beach.
“Hey Hector,” she calls to him from her board out in the water. “Why aren’t you helping with the machine?”
Hector waves back at her. “Oh–they’ve got enough help so they booted me out. Everyone wants to learn from Mark and Hubert. Is it O.K. if I join you girls?”
Amy sees that it’s a good thing that she’s there, because from the looks on both Daisy’s and Carolyn’s faces they couldn’t open their mouths at this point, much less form a coherent answer. “Sure–grab your board and come on in.”
So Hector surfs the afternoon away with them. When they finally become tired, lying around as the waves wash over them time and time again, Hector is entrancing Carolyn with his energetic description of how she crash-landed the space shuttle in the lagoon. When she once more professes disbelief, Amy and Daisy assure her that’s what happened.
“Then where’s the shuttle now?” Carolyn demands of them.
They all explain how it got towed out by the hydrofoil with much ado and sunk in deeper water, as an artificial reef. When she again begins arguing with Hector and he offers to take her scuba diving to show her, Daisy takes advantage of a pause in the conversation to tell Hector that she admired what he said last night about going somewhere in the time machine and that she’d like to accompany him.
Amy reminds Daisy that the machine is highly experimental and could be quite dangerous.
“I don’t care,” Daisy announces to all of them. “Other people risked their lives for me, so that I could have my life on this island. This is what I want to do.”
Amy tells Daisy that maybe she needs to think about it or at least sleep on it, but Hector is quite impressed. Before this goes any further, Amy calls Hubert and has him shut down the waves for the day, because now it’s time for all of them to return to Carolyn’s place, to prepare for dinner.
Amy checks Carolyn’s refrigerator and sees she has ample food and beverages for tonight. She directs everyone with some housekeeping until she decides it’s time to eat.
When everyone’s seated around the dinner table, Amy has Daisy explain to her why Carolyn regressed herself to sixteen again. Daisy relates, haltingly, what happened at the meeting last night. Then she and Hector take turns telling Carolyn the story of Melanie, how they learned it in school. By now, dinner’s over and Amy directs Daisy to see Hector back to his place.
The minute they’re alone, Carolyn starts going off on Amy. “What do you think you’re doing?” she demands of the other sixteen-year-old.
Amy lashes back, having had enough alcohol and Carolyn’s obstinate attitude, launching into, “No, it’s ‘What do you think you're doing?’ that is the question. I’m being your best friend–because if I wasn’t, I never would be putting up with this malarkey at all. Look–this is how it is–I know you’re used to getting your own way and running the show and being bossy and all, but I’m here to tell you that now I'm running the show. I’m here to tell you what’s what–and before I hear one more smart remark out of you–let me just explain how, yeah–I can’t kick your rear end if you don’t cooperate, but I know someone who can–Brandy. And she is livid at you–she is madder than hell won’t have it again–because you did this to yourself. All she needs is one excuse. One call from me, picking up the phone and telling her that you’re being a pain, and she will disengage from Sean and take a break from having sex twenty-three hours a day with him and she will come over here and kick your sorry can from one end of this island to the other and then back again for good measure. I don’t know what you thought you were doing when you decided this Carolyn, but all I can say is that not everyone on the island thinks like you do. Not everyone is as altruistic as you to regress themselves and their memory back to being sixteen again and then to have your boyfriend do it as well–all I can say is, you deserve what you get. You thought John was going to wake up and be madly in love with you–well, cutie-pie, I’m here to tell you that ain’t how it works. Timing is everything–you know what I’m saying? It’s like what they say in real estate–location, location and location. So I have no sympathy for you whatsoever. This whole thing was your freaking idea–all for Daisy and the good of the island. Well–I’m telling you right now–Daisy is the one who needs a boyfriend–not you. And now she’s got one–Hector. So whatever you think you’re going to do with Hector–just forget it right now. He and Daisy are riding off into the sunset together and John will eventually come around after his ridiculous infatuation with Sharon and everything’s going to be just peachy. I have just laid down the law–I have just read you the riot act. So if you don’t like it, you can lump it.”
Amy’s long speech gives Carolyn time to suppress her initial reaction to tell Amy off, call her bluff, kick her out and figure things out on her own. “O.K.–I’m sorry for being a pain and I accept you as the boss. Please forgive my inquisitive nature and elaborate in more detail why this Brandy girl is mad at me?”
Amy looks at her old friend, now back to being young again. “Because she wanted you to regress to being twenty-four–the same age you were when you met her–but she wanted you to keep your memory.”
“So Sean has been with you up until now?”
“Yup. And all that went out the window when I volunteered to be sixteen again with you. You asked Brandy first–and she hesitated just long enough for me to speak up. I’m supposed to be keeping you out of trouble. What a laugh.” Amy downs the last of her wine.
“So you kept your own memory but I didn’t.”
“Right. Because you wanted to get over this François thing.”
“How old was I again?”
Daisy reappears. “I hope you guys weren’t arguing about me,” she shyly advises them.
Amy gestures, as if to dismiss the thought. “We weren’t,” she lies. “So did you give Hector a smooch goodnight?”
Daisy shakes her head after she sits down at the table again. “No,” she relates, blushing. “He kissed me.”
“Dynamite,” Amy interjects. “You guys want to watch a movie? Daisy–you can have more to drink if you want, but I think Carolyn and I have reached our limit.”
“No thank you,” Daisy replies. “I’m fine.”
Carolyn dares make one more crack to Amy as they clear the table. “You really are the boss–aren’t you?”
Amy shakes her head without even giving her old friend eye contact. “Learned it all from you darlin',” she advises the other headstrong sixteen-year-old. “Every blessed thing.”
The next morning, Carolyn prevails on Amy to take her over to the medical center. She catches up with John while everyone else hangs back to watch and give them some time alone.
“Hi John,” Carolyn greets him.
He looks up from what he’s been engrossed in. “Oh hi Carolyn,” he returns. “How are you?”
“Fine,” she replies. “How are you?”
“I’m fine also,” he confirms. “How’s everything going with you and Amy?”
Carolyn’s voice slides a conspiratorial shade lower. “She’s been telling me all this stuff.”
John snorts. “Yeah,” he abruptly comments. “I’ve been getting an earful also–I’m rooming with the twins–Mark and Sharon’s kids. They have a lot to say about you.”
Carolyn blanches in wide-eyed horror. “Like what?” she demands of him.
John levels his gaze at her. “Melanie was their older sister,” he duly informs her. “And apparently you and she got into it–you two were rivals or something–and that’s what set her off.”
“How were we rivals?” Carolyn now wants to know.
John returns to his project while continuing the conversation. “Melanie got hooked on this S&D stuff too, just like you and Amy did–but in a bad way, not a good way. All you two did was write stories. Melanie thought she really was Sim–or she could do anything Sim could. Anyway, they were pretty guarded about the details, but the reason Melanie got booted I’m pretty sure is that she tried to–you know–seduce Mark.”
Carolyn’s eyes widen even more at this revelation. “Her own father?” she incredulously asks.
John looks down as an answer. “Something bad happened here, Carolyn–and nobody wants to talk about it. And supposedly that’s why we regressed to sixteen with no memories–because we were right in the middle of the whole thing–whatever it was.”
She reluctantly concurs. “That’s pretty much what Amy’s been telling me–unfortunately everything you’re saying fits.” She waits a little before giving him some back. “So how are you and Sharon getting along?”
John blushes at this and still won’t look up. “Just fine,” he replies in a small voice.
“You do realize that she’s married to Mark,” Carolyn continues.
“Yes,” he returns in a really tight voice. “I realize that.”
Carolyn sighs, preparing herself for the long speech that seems highly reminiscent of the one Amy gave her last evening. “The reason I’m pointing all this out John is because if you think anything is going to happen with you and her, you can just forget it. I’m telling you right now, if you keep this up, you’ll spend four months following her around like a little puppy and she’s not even going to give you the time of day. She’s not even going to take her shirt off for you. Why should she–she doesn’t have to.”
John finally meets her eyes. “I cannot believe you were ever my girlfriend–you are such a bitch.”
Carolyn doesn’t even blink. “I’m not being a bitch John–I’m telling you the truth. And you can forget about hurting me again–you did that yesterday. You’re not doing that again to me.” She stops. “O.K. Why don’t you see what else you can find out, and I’ll see what I can get out of Amy.”
“O.K.,” he concedes. “That sounds like some kind of a plan. Maybe we can talk over the phone or something.”
“O.K.,” she agrees and she impulsively kisses him on the cheek. “Bye John. Hope you have a nice day.”
“Bye Carolyn,” he mutters back, blushing again. “Hope you do too.”
When Carolyn regroups with Amy, Sharon and Daisy, Amy compliments her, “Nice touch–that peck at the end. Give him something to think about.”
While Carolyn accepts the accolades, she can’t help but also ruefully shake her head. “Man, I can’t believe I was ever head-over-heels for this guy, because all this crap he’s heaping on me just so isn’t worth it.”
Amy disagrees. “Everything’ll work out fine in the end. You’ll see.”
After Carolyn, Amy and Daisy leave, Sharon takes John aside. “Two things,” she advises him in a very low voice. “One: there’s no profanity on the island, O.K.? It’s like an unwritten rule. There’s always another word you can use. For example, for the ‘B’ infringement, you could have simply said ‘nasty.’ Just telling you so you know. And two: despite what Miss Carolyn just told you, I will be taking my shirt off for you–and a whole lot more. Provided you can keep your mouth shut about it.”
John nods. “That’s very interesting,” he comments.
And just to show him how interesting, Sharon kisses him. On the lips.
Next on the agenda for Carolyn, Amy and Daisy is the school:
They stop by the first grade class, which is studying S&D. Karen is supposed to be teaching, so all in the group are stunned to see Brandy leading the discussion. “Well children–looks like we have special visitors today. Everyone say good morning to Miss Carolyn,” Brandy graciously instructs them.
A unison chorus of “Good morning Miss Carolyn,” erupts from the twelve or so five-year-olds.
“Good morning, everyone,” Carolyn returns to them.
Brandy segues to assignments. “Amy, Justin over there could use some special help, and Daisy–Madeline could also benefit from some extra attention. And I’m going to sit with Jason over here, so Miss Carolyn, if you would please.”
Carolyn and Amy exchange glances and roll their eyes, as Brandy would pick the cutest little boy to work with. Once everyone is situated, Carolyn claps her hands together for her group that’s left. “So everyone,” she begins. “What’s new in the world of Sim and Don?”
All the children look around and at each other with question marks on their faces. A few hold up their hands in a gesture of ‘I don’t know’ and one little boy eventually answers, “Nothing.”
Carolyn follows up here. “Nothing?” she incredulously repeats. “I kind of doubt that. There’s always something going on with Sim and Don–they’re always up to something. Can anyone tell me why we study Sim and Don in the first place? Why we’re even bothering with them?”
One little girl takes a while but eventually she comes up with, “Because they love each other.”
Carolyn points at this precocious tyke in triumph. “That’s exactly right–because they love each other. That’s very good–what’s your name, young lady?” Carolyn can see what it is as they all have Welcome and Hello stickers on but she wants to make the little girl say it.
“It’s Carmen,” she enunciates with care.
Carolyn nods. “Thank you Carmen–that was a very good answer. Come on up here and sit in my lap–you’re going to have a special moment.” She makes sure she has everyone’s attention and meets all of their eyes while Carmen gets out of her seat to happily oblige Carolyn. “Everyone has a special moment from time to time and this one is yours Carmen, because you answered my question correctly. And you also get a hug and a kiss, because you’re a cute little girl and I like you. Can you give me a hug back? Thank you. Now–what else is special about Sim and Don? They love each other–and what else?” She waits while all the children again pantomime thinking. “Come on–I know you know this. It starts with an ‘R.’ Carmen–do you know?”
Carmen emphatically shakes her head no. “Mm-mm,” she pronounces.
“That’s O.K., sweetie,” Carolyn immediately replies and she kisses the little girl again. “If you knew everything, you wouldn’t need to go to school. Anyone else? Here–I’ll give you a hint.” She disengages from the little girl so she can write on the whiteboard with a grape marker. “R-E-S-P-E-C-T, just like the song says. What does that spell?” She waits again in the deathly silence of no answers. “Sound it out–come on, I know you guys have had phonics–what does an ‘R’ sound like? And ‘E?’ This is a short ‘E,’ not a long ‘E.’ And ‘S?’ Right–like a snake: ‘sss.’ And ‘P?’ ‘Puh’–that’s right. Carmen is doing it correctly. And this is another short ‘E’–like ‘eh.’ And ‘C?’ This is a hard ‘C’–like Carolyn or Carmen. If it were a soft ‘C,’ it would sound like the ‘S’ does. And ‘T?’ Put that all together and what does it say?” She again helps them. “Respect,” she enunciates, and they repeat after her. “Sim and Don respect each other. Now–what does that mean? That they’re considerate of each other’s feelings. Each makes sure that the one doesn’t hurt the other. So they love each other–that’s when you can feel a warmth in your heart when you’re with someone or you think about them. And they respect each other–just like we respect each other and the island. We’re considerate of each other’s feelings. I respect you and you respect me. And what’s the last thing they do guys? There are three things that Sim and Don do for each other–number one: they love each other. And number two: they respect each other. And what’s the third thing they do for one another?” She waits again. “Carmen, what else do they do?”
Carmen shrugs. “I don’t know,” she plainly enunciates.
Carolyn disagrees. “Yes you do honey–and I’ll show you. Give me your hand.” She pulls the little girl into her lap again while sitting down on the teacher’s desk. “Now what did I just do for you? I helped you. That’s the third thing that Sim and Don do for each other–they help each other. So they love each other, they respect each other–just like we love and respect the island–and they help each other–just like everyone on the island helps everyone else. ”
“Miss Carolyn,” Carmen pipes up, having had enough of this for the moment. “When are the aliens going to get here?”
“I don’t know honey–but that’s a good question,” Carolyn returns. “Maybe they’re waiting for us to come to them. Daisy–excuse me–Miss Daisy? Would you come up here please?” When Daisy obliges, Carolyn continues with, “Why don’t you explain what you and Hector are up to with the time machine?”
While Daisy is enthralling the group with what she and Hector have tentatively planned, Carolyn hangs back with Amy and Brandy. Amy compliments her with, “Bravo Miss Carolyn–you’re a natural.”
Carolyn disagrees as she shakes her head. “No, they weren’t buying it,” she softly but accurately assesses. “We have to find some way to engage them. Maybe this is it.” She waits until Daisy hits a snag before she gives voice to her plan. “Maybe we should have a field trip to see how far along Mark and Hubert are with the machine. Miss Brandy, what do you think about all of us having a field trip?”
Brandy replies, “I think that’s an excellent idea. Everyone–put all your things away in your cubby holes–you won’t be needing them. We’ll come back here after the field trip for snacks and nap time.”
When a couple of the little boys are slow to obey, Carolyn admonishes them with, “Chop chop–come on, let’s get a move on here. You heard her–Miss Brandy says it’s time for a field trip, so let’s go guys. Chop chop.” And she claps her hands together again, which they imitate, pick up and repeat the ‘chop chop’ part. “Come on Carmen–you hold my hand. You’re going to walk with me.”
“All right,” Carmen agrees.
While they are making their way over from the school to where the time machine is being assembled, Carolyn asks Amy, “So what happened with Karen?”
Amy doesn’t know, so she defers to Brandy, who advises them both, “She wasn’t feeling well, so she called me. She’s over at the medical center now–Sharon’s checking her out.”
“Does it have anything to do with the procedure, do you think?” Carolyn inquires. Karen recently went back to being twenty-four, as Brandy had.
Carolyn’s estranged friend shrugs. “I don’t know. I hope not. I feel fine.”
Sixteen-year-old Carolyn’s eyes go wide at this. “You look it,” she advises her former lover, although unable or unwilling to make eye contact at the moment.
The crowds are thinner today than previously in the assembly area that Mark and Hubert have set up, but even if there had been too many people around, since children are valued on the island as gold would be elsewhere, accommodations would have been made for them. They continue their journey to Mark and Hubert, who as usual are surrounded by assistants and helpers as rock stars would have been a hundred years before, back in America. “Halt,” some impudent ten-year-old solemnly intones to Carolyn and Carmen, who are the vanguard of their group. “The Wizards are at work–they cannot be disturbed.”
Carolyn permits herself the smallest of smiles as she waits for her magic to do its thing. “That’s O.K. Jeremy,” Mark’s basso ostinato informs everyone, as might the very voice of God Himself. “Miss Carolyn and her students are always welcome.”
Carmen sticks her tongue out at the older boy and gives him the raspberry after he reluctantly withdraws his upheld hand. Carolyn is more gracious as she winks at Jeremy while they walk by. “Thank you Mark,” Carolyn regally addresses their chief engineer, in the manner a queen might speak to her prime minister in public. “Our first grade class here is curious about the machine. Perhaps you could give us the play-by-play.”
“Certainly,” Mark responds, both figuratively and literally rising to the occasion. “It would be my pleasure.”
While Mark is captivating his small but wide-eyed audience, Carolyn takes this opportunity to hang back with Brandy alone. She takes the other’s hand and draws her away from everyone else. “Look,” she begins, making eye contact with her friend. “Amy says you’re mad at me, and if you and Sean are having some kind of a relationship, then I’m not trying to step on that, but–I just wanted to say I don’t want any tension between us. I don’t remember what happened between us but obviously something did, so I’m sure there was a reason why I did whatever it was that I did, just as I’m sure there was a reason why I regressed myself to sixteen with no memories of my years beyond, which I gather is what you’re upset at me about. All I’m saying is, I don’t want you to be mad at me. I don’t want that.”
Brandy levels her gaze at Carolyn, ready to let the latter have it with both barrels. “Listen to me,” she very quietly but extremely vehemently advises the younger version of her endless love. “When I first met you, you were twenty-four and let me tell you–you looked fabulous. You were drop dead gorgeous. I loved your hair and I desired your body right from the start but I can’t stand the way you are now–you have practically no breasts and your butt is hardly even there. And your hair is all different–you have practically no highlights now. We fit–do you see how I look now? Well, this is how you could have been–or even more so. Now I’m going to have to wait eight years before you get to be my age, when I’m going to be thirty-two? What am I supposed to do until then–just sit around and wait for you? I’m sorry–but this whole thing makes me so insanely angry I could scream. As much as you say you did all this for the good of the island–that’s how much I wanted you in my arms again–just like when we first met. I know you don’t remember–but let me tell you, it was good. It was intense. Yeah–I get some of that when I’m with your brother, but not all of it. That’s what I miss. That’s what you passed up. Thanks a lot. That’s why I’m furious at you–because you basically said I don’t matter. I’m just not good enough to bother with.”
Carolyn lashes back at her with, “Brandy–what kind of trash are you talking here–the island is paramount–it has to be. Do I really need to mention the name ‘Melanie’ to you?”
“God–bless it Carolyn–Daisy was not going to turn into another Melanie and you know it,” Brandy practically screams while still trying to keep her voice down.
“I know it? Now you know what I know better than I do?” she harshly and incredulously demands and then immediately stops herself, lowering her tone. “This is neither the time nor the place for this conversation, but I would like to continue it with you later in private. Do you have any plans for dinner?”
Brandy averts her eyes. “Sean and I may be doing something–I don’t know. I’ll call you and let you know.”
Carolyn nods, aware that people had been watching them and talking amongst themselves. “Fine,” Carolyn agrees. “For now, I’m going over to the medical center and see what’s happening with Karen. I want you to take the kids back and have them do stories and draw pictures about Hector and Daisy and their adventures in the time machine.”
Brandy nods. “Sounds good. And then you’ll stop by afterward, so that I can give them something to look forward to, right?”
Carolyn nods as well. “Sounds like a deal. If they need more time, you can always let me know when I come back.”
Brandy blinks. “Sounds like a plan. Are you taking Daisy?”
When Carolyn responds in the affirmative, they break and Carolyn finds Carmen to say goodbye. When she hugs the little girl, she whispers into her ear, “I need a really good Hector and Daisy story out of you, O.K.?”
“Like what?” the little girl quietly asks.
“Like–how about–Hector and Daisy go back in time and they fight all these really big dinosaurs. How does that sound?”
“O.K.,” she breathes back in the same way.
“Good girl,” Carolyn privately replies to Carmen even as the former disengages from the latter. “Mark, thank you very much for your update on the device,” Carolyn graciously concludes with the island’s chief engineer and most popular heartthrob after she stands up.
“My pleasure Miss Carolyn,” he gallantly returns. “You and your students are always welcome here.”
“Hubert, thank you for your help also. Goodbye children–I’ll see you all very soon again.” After the youngsters finish yelling goodbye to her, she privately relates to Amy, “You were right–Brandy’s livid at me. Go back with her and help her with the kids and I’ll catch up with you later.” Then she takes Daisy’s hand to exit--stage left.
“Where’s Hector?” Carolyn asks Daisy as they make their way to the medical center.
Daisy looks back at Carolyn as if to suggest that she’s not his keeper. “I don’t know.”
“Well, you need to find him, because the two of you have to be ‘Show and Tell’ for later. From now on you need to start keeping better track of him and what he’s doing. For right now though, come with me to Sharon’s.”
“O.K.,” Daisy softly responds.
After she checks on Karen, Carolyn advises John that she needs to speak privately with him. When they leave, Daisy notices Sharon doesn’t turn on the monitor as she had before, to eavesdrop on them. When Daisy innocently inquires about it, Sharon keeps her face very still when she tries to engage the screen. “I can’t,” she levelly informs the younger girl. “He’s disengaged it on his end.”
“I wonder how he would know how to do that,” Daisy lightly throws out.
“I’m sure he picked it up on his own,” Sharon pretends to conjecture without a pause. “He’s quite intelligent.”
“Mm-hmm,” Daisy agrees without tipping her hand that this confirms to her that Sharon has been fooling around with John.
The minute the young couple is alone, Carolyn turns into a blubbery mess. “Oh John,” she begins, simultaneously crying and falling into his arms. “Brandy was so mean to me. She’s ready to scratch my eyes out. She’s making it sound like I picked the island over her and I don’t love her and she wasn’t worth it and all this crap. She says she hates the way I look now and I don’t turn her on at all and she doesn’t like my hair and my butt’s too small and I don’t have any boobs and all this kind of stuff. She was making a scene in front of all these people and now I have to go back there and see her in front of all those little kids again.”
John waits until he feels Carolyn has calmed down enough so that he can talk to her. “Carolyn,” he addresses her. “Have you seen pictures of yourself when you were twenty-four?”
She nods yes, still crying and in his arms.
“You were beautiful and you’re going to be beautiful again,” he tells her. “I’ve been looking at all the recorded stuff of us together and I think part of why we did this is starting to make some sense to me. But look–this thing with you and Brandy–I mean, that’s your relationship with her. My advice would be to let her alone if she’s mad at you–just give her some time to cool down. Otherwise I don’t know what else to tell you.”
Carolyn sighs as her tears finally stop. “Unfortunately that’s not an option, but I do appreciate you being supportive.” She stays in his arms until she feels herself return to normal. “So now I need to get myself cleaned up before I go back to see those first graders. Crap–is there a mirror around here somewhere?”
John graciously shows her but points out, as she is fixing her appearance, making herself pretty for their tiny corner of the world again, “Carolyn–we do not use profanity on the island. It is an unwritten law–that it looks like you and I came up with, actually.”
“John,” she admonishes him while holding an index finger up to him. “We are the makers of manners here, need I remind you.”
John nods, as if he were expecting this answer. “So you saw that movie too huh?” he dryly asks, referring to Henry V.
“I had a mad crush on Kenneth for almost as long as he was married to Emma,” she lightly advises him as she finishes applying her makeup. “By the way–would you like to come back to the school with me? There are some first graders there who have become bored with S&D so I’ve fixed them up instead with H&D.”
“H&D?” John asks as they make their way out of the examination room where they’ve been conducting their interactions. “I don’t believe I’ve heard of that.”
“Oh, you will,” Carolyn archly predicts to John. “It’s the wave of the future. Soon it’ll be all the rage.” To Karen she theatrically implores her, “I hope you’ll feel better.”
Karen replies from her monitored bed, “Thanks. I hope I will also.”
To Sharon, she advises, “I’m borrowing your assistant for the afternoon–I hope you don’t mind.”
“Not at all,” Sharon parries without missing a beat. “Will you be back again tomorrow then John?”
“Absolutely,” he seamlessly returns to her in kind. “I’m learning so much here I can hardly stand it.”
“Works for me also,” Carolyn agrees with a smile. Once outside, she remembers, “Oh, we have to find Hector and Daisy before we hit the school.” She retrieves her communication device and engages it. “Daisy, where are you?” A pause. “Good–stay there till we arrive–should be about five minutes but don’t announce us, O.K.?” Another short lull. “Love you too. See you in a minute. Out.”
John appraises her again as she stows the instrument in a pocket. “You just love everybody today, don’t you?”
She takes his arm in zest as she announces, “Sixteen-year-olds love the world John–but since we’re not part of the world anymore, I’ll settle for just us and everybody else on the island.”
When they catch up with Hector and Daisy at the school, Carolyn notices that they’re standing next to each other addressing and interacting with the students, but not close enough. She excuses herself from John for a second and goes over to Daisy to whisper in her ear, “Put your arm around Hector’s waist but wait until I’m back with John.”
Daisy flashes Carolyn a glance that she understands and claims what's hers.
Hector responds by encircling Daisy’s waist with his own toned appendage even as he’s explaining to Carmen why he’s not planning on using the time machine to visit the Upper Cretaceous Period. “I’ve already seen that movie,” he patiently but flatly elaborates to the little girl, referring to the misnamed Jurassic Park. “I’m not interested in being eaten by a tyrannosaurus rex.”
Carolyn waits, but when no one else contributes, she bridges the gap with, “But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you guys can’t do a story about that–if that’s what you want to do. That’s why it’s called fiction–it doesn’t necessarily have to be true or realistic. It can be, for example, surrealistic.”
As Carolyn gives them time to absorb this slant, Brandy picks it up. “Or, if you wanted to keep it more realistic, by contrast, you could do stories about what kinds of aliens Hector and Daisy may encounter if they do use the trans-dimensional doorway, as Hector is planning on.”
As they ponder this counterpoint, Carolyn continues. “Right. In other words, it really doesn’t matter what you pick–you just decide on something, work on it and see where it leads you. But you must pick something before you can get to work–just as Mark and Hubert picked the plans for the time machine before they started building it. One thing naturally follows another.” When an idea occurs to her, she addresses Hector. “You are planning on having a full body scan, from Sharon, before you go through the machine, right? In case anything happens.”
Hector nods, understanding. “Yes I am. That way, if something bad happens in the machine, maybe Sharon and Mark can run me through the rejuvenator and they might be able to save me that way.” He turns to Daisy. “I guess that would mean you’d have to do that too.”
She nods. “It wouldn’t be a guarantee,” she assesses. “But it sounds like good insurance.”
Brandy makes the connection. “Remember what Mark was explaining earlier–the difference between a good risk and a bad risk. What they are taking is a good risk–by preparing themselves as much as possible before for anything that can happen. Remember what a bad risk would be like, anyone? If we had told them no, for example, and they were going to do it on their own anyway, without any help or support.”
Carolyn waits a beat before she claps her hands together. “Well,” she sums up. “Sounds like we’ve given you lots to think about. But we’ll be back–to check on your progress. When would you say would be good, Miss Brandy?”
Brandy advises Carolyn, “I’ll let you know over dinner. I called Sean, and it turns out we can make it after all.”
“Splendid,” Carolyn returns to her friend. “Well children–it was a blast coming by here today, and I hope to see all of you again quite soon. Oh–before I forget: Carmen, would you be free for dinner tonight as well by any chance?”
“I don’t know,” the little girl replies. “I guess I would have to ask.”
Brandy raises a finger. “I can follow up on that,” she advises her estranged lover.
“Very well,” Carolyn concludes as she makes eye contact with her older friend from high school who’s been hanging back. “Amy–if you could also. Bye everyone.”
Outside, she relates to John, “Thank you so much sweetie–I really needed you by my side for that deal.”
John gestures. “NP–but you seemed fine.”
Carolyn shakes her head, seeing how little sixteen-year-old John truly understands the opposite sex. “Nope,” she quietly confides to him. “It’s all an act. This thing with Brandy is really tearing me up inside.”
John gazes into her warm brown eyes and sees not only the sadness for her problems with Brandy but the strength that she doesn’t even recognize that she possesses. He realizes now that despite his reluctance to meddling he must personally intervene in Carolyn and Brandy’s relantionship, to fix everything.
Then Carolyn realizes someone’s put a note in her pocket. She excuses herself from John’s company and privately examines it. It’s in her own handwriting and it reads:
Dear Carolyn,
This is a letter I’m writing to you from the future. The aliens are obnoxious boors. We are just another reality television channel to them–one of over six thousand. Don’t let Hector or Daisy use the doorway. Talk them out of it somehow. Sadly, we are all alone in the universe as we seem to be the only species that can manufacture our own entertainment at will. Don’t trust Mark or Sharon–they’re bad people pretending to be good. But John is all right. Just don’t let him think you’re upset with Brandy. Take care. Love you always.
Carolyn closes her eyes upon reading that, overwhelmed by the implications. O.K., she thinks. One step at a time. I can do this. I know I can.
She resumes her walk with John, holding his hand. Once they return to her place, they prepare for everyone that’s coming over.
During dinner, Carolyn seems listless and distracted. John waits until almost the end before he asks her about it.
“I’m sorry John,” she apologizes to him. “I can’t be alone tonight. Would you stay with me please?”
She wakes up in the middle of the night. She can hear John soundly sleeping next to her. She recalls the salient parts of her dream–especially when she was with Mark in the time machine and when she slammed her hand down on the doorway button at her moment of climax. This leaves a bad taste in her mouth so her thoughts revert to dinner, remembering that instead.
She catalogues all the participants and the conversation. She decides everything’s on track so she falls asleep after a while.
The next morning she wakes up, refreshed and invigorated. She takes a shower with John and has breakfast with him. They both walk over to the medical center where she relates her idea of the body scan for Hector and Daisy to Sharon, who agrees it’s a good suggestion. Then she leaves John with Sharon and heads over to the school.
She peeks in the window to the first grader’s classroom to see everyone hard at work, either individually or in small groups. Brandy spies her and excuses herself to have a word alone with Carolyn out in the hallway.
“Hi,” Carolyn softly greets her friend.
“Hi,” Brandy repeats in the same manner.
“Just wanted to make sure they’re on the straight and narrow,” Carolyn allows.
Brandy nods. “They’re running with it. Your strategy worked. Again.”
Carolyn looks into Brandy’s eyes and searches for the pain that the former must have caused the latter but finds none. “So you spent the night with Sean again?” she inquires.
“So you spent the night with John?” she asks as an answer.
She shrugs. “Does it show?”
Brandy appraises her. “Your eyes do look more vibrant. And you have a little more color in your cheeks. What about me?”
“I can’t tell,” Carolyn advises her after a while. “Brandy, what did we use to do?”
As an answer, Brandy pulls Carolyn into an enclosed space in front of a locked windowless door. She French kisses the sixteen-year-old version of her favorite sweetheart and fondles her in the old familiar way. When she finishes, Brandy asks her, “Ring any bells?”
“Wow,” Carolyn breathes out. “Holy you-know-what. So I would do that back to you at the same time?”
Brandy nods, remembering.
“Let’s try it again,” Carolyn suggests.
After a while, Brandy is the one who breaks it. “I have to get back to class,” she explains in a rush as her respiration evens out. “But that’s the idea.”
“Yeah,” Carolyn concurs. “And I have to catch up with Hector and Daisy.”
“Leave them alone,” Brandy urges Carolyn while the former dismisses the thought. “They’re in love–let them be.”
Carolyn sighs as she hands Brandy the note she left for herself as an explanation why she can’t do that.
“Oh my God,” Brandy intones in wide-eyed histrionics as she reads the contents.
“Exactly,” Carolyn ruefully agrees. “Talk about being all alone in the universe.”
Brandy returns the torn sheet of notebook paper to Carolyn. “I don’t want to know any more,” she advises Carolyn as a way of saying goodbye. “Good luck storming the castle.”
“Thanks a lot,” Carolyn retorts as she takes her message from the future back and disappears before twelve sets of tiny prying eyes pierce their private space.
She finds Hector and Daisy and leads them down to the same beach where they surfed before. She shows both the same folded missive.
“Oh my,” Daisy breathes out, holding her hand up to her collarbone.
“Ay carumba,” Hector lets out. “So the aliens are just a bunch of fat slobs that sit around all day watching T.V. because they’re too lazy to do anything else? No thanks, man.”
“Then how did they get all this stuff to work?” Daisy asks next.
Carolyn shrugs. “In my dream that I had about this, apparently most of it doesn’t work outside of Earth, for some strange reason–which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, now that I think about it.”
Hector is staring at Carolyn. “So you and Mark–” He doesn’t dare finish the sentence.
Carolyn blushes to beat the band at this. “All right,” she admonishes him. “That’s not the part I wanted you to concentrate on.”
Daisy is similarly considering Carolyn in wide-eyed horror. “So you ended up doing what Melanie did? So I guess we’re going to have to boot you off the island also, right?”
In her own defense, Carolyn points out that she actually didn’t do anything, because the note saved her from that possible future.
Hector is watching the two girls argue with his own growing sense of fright. “O.K. you two,” he advises both of them. “I’m not refereeing any cat fight here.” He pauses. “So that means that it really wasn’t Melanie after all–it was Mark. He must have a thing for sixteen-year-old girls.” He regards Daisy. “Has he ever hit on you?” he asks her.
She innocently shakes her head no.
“That doesn’t make any sense,” Hector observes while squinting. “You have all the equipment.”
Daisy now takes a turn to blush at the mention of her body and their perusal of it.
“And what about Sharon,” Hector continues, apparently fascinated by this subject. “All the women on the island are ga-ga over Mark, and his own wife goes back to being twenty-four. I mean, what’s up with that? Why didn’t she go back to being sixteen if he likes that so much?”
Carolyn volunteers, “Maybe Sharon has a thing for younger boys–look what she’s pulling with John right now.”
“Who’s your boyfriend, and yet you let him stay with her all day long,” Hector presently counters.
Carolyn shrugs. “Keeps him out of my hair. I couldn’t stand it if he were hanging all over me twenty-four hours a day.”
“And you’re not jealous,” Daisy asks but not in the tone of a question.
“I guess not,” Carolyn relates. “Are you jealous of him? If I flirted with Hector, would that make you mad?”
Daisy’s eyes reveal the truth.
“So do you want me to go?” Carolyn then asks the other girl.
Now it’s Daisy’s turn to profess indifference. “Not necessarily,” she eventually offers.
“You know what?” Hector interjects. “I think we’ve pondered enough stuff for one day. Why don’t you get your other boyfriend to crank us up some waves?”
Carolyn sardonically advises Hector, “Hubert is not anywhere near being my other b.f. He’s a nice guy, but overweight black men do not do it for me–I’m sorry.”
So Daisy, Hector and Carolyn spend a few hours surfing and discussing strategy:
At one point, Hector observes, “Well, if the doorway’s out, what are we supposed to do–go back in time? That doesn’t appeal to me.”
Carolyn counters, from her board, “Well, if you don’t do something, there’re going to be lots of disappointed people around here. Everyone’s tired of S&D–they need a new couple. And for good, bad or indifferent, you two are it.”
“Why don’t you and John go back in time and have some adventures?” Hector asks.
Carolyn sighs. “I guess we’re going to have to if you two don’t.”
Daisy hears this exchange but she doesn’t say anything now. However later, Carolyn sees her pull Hector aside and tell him something that seems important to her. It occurs to Carolyn that maybe she should leave the young couple alone for a while.
But Daisy doesn’t want that. She latches onto Carolyn when the latter tries to make an escape. They end up spending most of the day on the beach and in the water.
When the sun lowers into the horizon, all three migrate in the general direction of the medical center to collect John. “Done playing doctor with Sharon for the day?” Carolyn asks him in a voice so low that only he can hear.
John is not amused. “Would you stop with the double-entendres, surfer girl?” he counters in the same fashion. “I’m not interested in having a fight with you.”
Carolyn flashes her eyes at him. “Yes you are,” she advises him. “Because you know what that leads to after, right? Hot sex.”
Hector clears his throat as his way of saying that he considers this rude.
Daisy speaks up. “John, do you mind if Hector and I have dinner with you two?”
John blinks. “No, not at all,” he replies. “If it’s O.K. with Carolyn.”
“Of course,” she graciously ad libs. “Shall we then?”
When they return to Carolyn’s place, however, she is chagrined to find no food and no alcohol. “Shoot,” she exclaims in embarrassment. “I knew there was something we were supposed to be doing other than surfing today.”
Hector suggests, “We can always make some French fries and popcorn. That works for me.”
Presently Daisy asks, “Are we going to also watch a movie?”
Everyone looks around at everyone else. “I guess,” Carolyn supplies when no one else offers anything.
“Let’s hit the replicator then,” Hector declares. “We better get in line now. There’s always a rush at this time of the day.”
Since Hubert is in charge of the replicator, it’s at his place. And, as Hector had foreseen, there is a line. But since they are who they are, all of them are engaged, first by the people in front of them and then behind.
Sample dialog to Hector: “So you’re going in the time machine. Well, I knew it had to get built one of these days.”
To Daisy: “Are you scared?”
To John: “So how do you like being sixteen again?”
To Carolyn: “Aren’t you proud of Hector and Daisy?”
To all of them: “I hear the first grade class is working on some stories and original artwork. Will the other grades get involved also?”
Once they finish talking to everyone else and return to conversing amongst themselves, John asks Carolyn, “What’s going on with Amy?”
Carolyn shakes her head. “I don’t know,” she allows as she retrieves her communication device and touches some places on the main screen. “Guess I should find out.” A pause. “Amy–what’s up?” Another break. “Well, we’re having French fries and popcorn. Just thought I’d offer.” One more lull. “O.K. See you tomorrow.” She shakes her head again. “No deal–she’s doing something with Brandy and Sean–must be for the school.”
“Oh well,” John grandiosely pontificates.
“What’s going on with Karen?” Carolyn next queries her b.f.
John gestures. “Sharon sent her home. She couldn’t find anything wrong with her. Is Brandy still mad at you?”
Carolyn blushes. “Not as–we’re getting along a little bit better.”
Hector inquires to John, “Wonder what that means.”
John raises his hands in supplication. “I don’t know and I don’t want to know. I think this is one of the things I wanted to forget.”
Hector is incredulous. “You mean making out with a girl like Brandy is something you’d like to avoid? Man, she is built from the ground up.”
Daisy whacks him one on the arm to show how little she appreciates comments such as that from him.
“Ow,” Hector exclaims. “That hurts. Of course, Brandy can’t hold a candle to you, chakita. You’re a lot more attractive.”
“Thank you,” Daisy primly replies. “Much better.”
“Actually, I don’t know what was going on,” John rambles, as if anyone is listening. “You’d have to ask Brandy, I suppose.” To Carolyn he asks, “Did she tell you anything?”
Carolyn gestures. “It wasn’t so much a verbal description as it was–more hands on, shall we say?”
“Oh my God,” John invokes, his hand covering the upper part of his face, as if to avert his gaze. “And that’s all on that subject.”
Hector regards John again. “Not me, man. I want to hear more. I want to hear details.”
Carolyn now considers Hector. “O.K.,” she tells him. “I’ll show you.” And she whispers in Daisy’s ear what Brandy did to her at the school and asks permission.
Daisy turns beet red but shrugs. “Sure,” she decides in a small voice. “Why not?”
Carolyn French kisses Daisy and fondles her even as she had been touched. When Carolyn finishes, Daisy closes her eyes and breathes out in minor rapture, “Oh my God.”
John now gives Hector a look that suggests, ‘Are you satisfied now?’
“Holy Jesus,” Hector pronounces. “You girls are something else–that’s for sure.”
John shakes his head. “All you’re doing is encouraging them,” he needlessly explains to the older Hispanic youth.
When they finally reach the front of the line, Hector addresses Hubert. “Hello, Hubert.”
“Hi Hector,” Hubert replies. “What can I get for you tonight?”
“We need Parmesan steak fries and popcorn for all four of us,” Hector explains. “And we’re going to make tomato sauce tomorrow, so we need the base for that, the ripe tomatoes and the chardonnay.”
Hubert is genially waving him off, as he knows the routine. He inputs more information into his computer and approaches the dispenser. “Did you bring a container?”
“Shoot,” Hector exclaims. “I guess we forgot, man.”
“NB,” Hubert assures his former charge. “Just bring it back with you next time.” He hands Hector and John many such lightweight receptacles. “Would you also like some pasta and mozzarella?”
“Yes,” Carolyn answers.
“Done and done,” Hubert confirms as he happily taps further at his keyboard. “What about to drink?”
Hector gestures. “I guess D.P. is fine.”
Hubert nods. “Dom Perignon for four.” He returns again to the dispenser. “What about entertainment?”
Hector looks at Carolyn and John. “Have you two seen the recording of when you guys were on board the space shuttle and you were ad libbing all this stuff?”
Both sixteen-year-olds respond that they haven’t.
“Oh, it is a scream,” Hector assures them in his staccato Hispanic accent. “It cracks me up every time I see it, man. When those two fighter jets come in and you start reading off the call letters of each plane. I can just imagine what went back and forth over the radio. ‘Hey man, I’m not shooting down the freaking space shuttle on live world wide television. My family will disown me. My friends won’t ever talk to me again. I’ll never get sex from my wife ever again. You guys can court-martial me all you want. However many years in the stockade doesn’t measure up to my punishment after I’d do something like this.’”
Hubert smiles, amused as he remembers. “It was really funny. I’ll get you guys a copy of that also.”
John looks at Carolyn in wonder. “We were heroes,” he whispers to her so that only she can hear.
“I know,” Carolyn whispers back in the same manner, her eyes sparkling to suggest, ‘Isn’t it a riot?’
“Hubert, what do I owe you?” Hector asks at the end, as a joke.
Hubert gestures. “Only a simple ‘thanks,’” the larger black man graciously replies.
Everyone grandly expresses gratitude, while Hector advises him to take five dollars out of petty cash for his trouble.
“It was no trouble, but will do. You folks have a wonderful evening.”
After all finish assuring him they will, they leave.
When they return to Carolyn’s place, Hector and Carolyn show John and Daisy how to prepare the steak fries for the oven. Once they have that baking and the aroma of the parsley, garlic and potatoes fills Carolyn’s place, they begin drinking and popping the popcorn. Which leads them to the video.
At one point, as they are watching, Daisy volunteers, “I remember the first time I saw this in school, I was so afraid you guys were going to crash and die and the whole thing was going to blow up. I kept putting my hands over my face and I couldn’t watch.”
Hector joins in. “When I first saw it, all I could think about was how that must have been a blast to be at the controls, flying it.” He pantomimes himself as a toddler, imagining it.
Carolyn and John both agree, munching on popcorn, that it looks like quite a ride. “And we forgot all that,” Carolyn sadly but thoughtfully concludes.
John gestures, being more pragmatic than she. “Well, I’m sure there must have been a reason why we did. We wouldn’t have thrown away something like that capriciously.”
Carolyn ruefully nods. “Unless there was something even worse than that was great which we wanted to forget.”
No one dares mention the name ‘Melanie’ that occurs to all present. Carolyn stands up. “I’m going to check on the fries,” she allows, taking her glass with her.
John rises as well to follow her into the kitchen, to make sure she’s not upset.
Hector sits with Daisy in the living room for a few minutes before he asks her, “Have you thought about where you want to go?”
She blinks. “You mean in the time machine?”
“Yeah,” he replies. “That part of it is fairly straightforward, Mark and Hubert were both explaining to me. It’s just the doorway thing nobody could figure out. For the time machine you set date and latitude and longitude and supposedly that’s where you end up.” He waits before he reminds her, “If you still want to try the doorway, we can, despite what Miss Carolyn told us earlier. It’s just a lot more involved–a lot more dangerous.”
Daisy blinks again. “I’ve been thinking about the Renaissance,” she shyly advises him.
“You mean like with Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel?” He thinks for a minute. “That would be beautiful–to see it when it was first done.”
In the kitchen, Carolyn and John are having a private moment also. Distraught and crying, Carolyn is asking him in his arms, “John, what in the name of God did we do here?”
“Hey, hey,” John softly counters as he pats her back. “Whatever it was, we got rid of it. I think you’re kind of negating the whole rejuvenator thing when you’re upset about something we can’t even remember anymore.”
“You’re right,” she decides, sniffing, trying to turn off the tears. “New subject. I was thinking about how cute that little Carmen girl was last night at dinner. Have you thought about having children?”
John disengages from Carolyn so he can meet her level gaze. “Carolyn,” he advises her. “Everything’s cute when it’s small–puppies, kittens, babies.” He looks down. “If we were going to have kids, now would be the time to start thinking about it though.” He pauses again. “Sharon did fix you up with some birth control.”
“Yes John,” she dutifully informs him as she opens the oven door with her hand in a mitt to grab the pastry tray with the steak fries on it. “That’s all taken care of.”
“Good,” John replies. “Because if you pull any kind of stunt like going off birth control and not tell me, I’m going to be pretty upset.”
Carolyn sighs as she harvests that portion of the potatoes that are done baking and ready for their grated Parmesan cheese shower. “Thank you John,” she softly tells him, only slightly annoyed that he would think she would do something such as what he suggested. “I understand that.”
John and Carolyn return to the living room with the plate of potatoes. “Fries have landed,” Carolyn announces. “Get them while they’re hot.” She offers first to Hector, who in turn graciously defers to Daisy.
“Mm,” Daisy reflects as she relishes her selection. “These are so good. Hector, would you like more to drink?”
“I was just going to ask you the same thing,” he counters. “Come with me into the kitchen.”
As Carolyn and John take turns with the rest, John inquires, “Was this a François deal?”
“Yup,” Carolyn succinctly answers as she continues eating. “Sure was. Taught me everything I know. Well–about cooking, anyway.”
“Still miss him?” John follows up, munching as well.
Carolyn shrugs. “I have new people on my mind.”
“Like Hector,” John supplies. “Right?”
Carolyn arches her eyebrows at him, as if to retort that it hardly takes a genius to figure that out. “He is two years older than me,” she passionlessly explains. “And he is built–as he casually observed of Brandy. Instead of being jealous you could start exercising more–like chin ups. Or Pilates.” She touches him on the shoulder. “Chin ups would give you a nice muscle right here that I would like.”
John thoughtfully appraises this and nods. “That’s reasonable,” he allows. “That’s a good idea.” He looks over at her glass, which is half full. “But you’re also thinking about Brandy and her gorgeous body, right?”
“Yes,” she softly confesses as she kisses him quickly on the lips. “And you.”
“Hm,” John replies. “Useful information all around. Maybe we should hit the sheets.”
“We will,” she lightly promises him. “When we’re done eating.”
When everyone finishes consuming everything, John announces that it’s late and he has to get up for work in the morning. Hector then asks Daisy what she wants to do.
Everyone patiently waits for an answer before Carolyn prompts, “Daisy. We can’t read your mind.”
“I know,” she allows and then she turns to Hector to give him the God’s honest truth. “I want to spend the night with you but I don’t want to have sex,” she quietly tells him, blushing.
Hector gestures. “That’s fine,” he returns to her. “That’s all you had to say. I’ll just be your big teddy bear and I won’t touch you below the waist. We can lie out here together all night while we listen to their endless cries of passion.”
Both Carolyn and John shake their heads at that. “I have to get some sleep,” John advises the older youth.
“And I have to help,” Carolyn needlessly adds as she segues to how the couch folds out and where sheets and towels are and other such prosaic details.
A little while later, after Hector and Daisy are situated, Carolyn shuts off the light to the bathroom as her irises widen in the darkness. Slowly, by degrees, she begins to make out John lying on her bed, on his back with the sheets turned down, his hands behind his head.
She climbs into bed and straddles him. She holds both his hands with her own and pushes them out as she bends over to press her body into his. She French kisses him on the lips to start him off. When she feels him heating up, she allows his hands to gravitate down her body. When she senses him aroused, pressing against the crotch of her own wet cotton panties, she strips off her shirt and grinds herself on top of him in animated foreplay.
She holds his head in her arms, running her fingers through his hair as he kisses and tongues her own aroused form. He relieves her of her underwear as she removes his. Both sets of her warm and glistening lips let him tangibly know of her desire and wants as his fingers explore her. Still, he waits for her to mount him when she’s ready.
Once she’s audibly climaxed on top of him, her turns her on her back and holds her in his arms, while she guides and takes him between her hips. He first matches her languid pace but steadily builds until he is furiously plowing her, over and over again, while she gasps out, helplessly clawing at his back in escalating ecstacy. He roars as a lion would in his own rapture and release even as her second orgasm rips through her body, setting every nerve on fire in a frenzied silent frozen scream.
And then afterward, the long slide down the dark drain as both their thoughts empty out, slipping into blissful deep nocturnal sleep, as the last sound each hears being the echoed rumblings of their passion bursting forth from the living room, making the apparent but forceful proclamation that Daisy has changed her mind about certain particulars of her sleeping arrangement with Hector.
The next morning, on his way to the medical center, John does stop by the playground and strenuously counts five chin ups on the raised metal bar that’s there, which is all he can do. He makes a mental note to stop by again on the way home.
Back at Carolyn’s place, she, Hector and Daisy are all busy preparing the tomato sauce. Because she forgot about the hot Italian sausage, she tries to excuse herself with as many of the containers from last night as she can hold, but since she can’t carry them all, Hector and Daisy insist on helping.
They hit Hubert’s command center again. This time the line isn’t nearly as long and they return to her place with minimal fuss.
After they remove the casings from the links and brown the sausage in the butter and oil, they begin reducing the base once the meat is removed. As the aroma of red peppers, garlic and fresh Italian flat leaf parsley caramelizing in the onions fills the kitchen once again, all three start blanching the ripe tomatoes in the boiling water, to remove their skins.
When neither Hector nor Daisy initiates much conversation, Carolyn asks them how they slept. When they both answer fine but don’t elaborate, she lets this rest, herself recalling her own blissful night. Once each tomato’s skin is peeled off, all three take turns puréeing the tomatoes with some added chardonnay.
Carolyn recalls how François taught her how to make all this. This prompts her to ask Hector if he remembers when his father dropped him off at the docks.
“Just a little bit,” he allows. “I was only two, so I remember pieces of it. I remember being in my playpen, and what must have been my old backyard. I think I kind of remember a dog, but I do remember the hydrofoil, and everyone coming up on deck once Mark made the announcement about us. I remember him being pretty mad at Hubert.”
Daisy nods. “And that’s why we don’t have any pets,” she explains to Carolyn.
“Because Mark started freaking out on Hubert for taking all you guys?” Carolyn surmises.
Hector nods. “Yup,” he confirms. “After he saw us, I guess that’s when the boom got lowered.” He pauses. “So I guess you didn’t show John the note?”
Carolyn shakes her head. “I showed it to Brandy and she didn’t react well to it. She handed it back to me and basically told me I was on my own. I think I’m going to keep it on a need-to-know basis, so if you two could keep mum, I’d appreciate it.”
They both nod and signal they understand.
“Thought about where you’re going to go yet?” Carolyn next asks them.
Hector nods again and Daisy simply replies, “Yes.”
Carolyn returns the gesture. “Good,” she pronounces.
When John swings home that afternoon, he is greeted by freshly made tomato sauce and Hector’s announcement to him of, “I think we’re going to be changing places tomorrow. I’ll go play kissy-face with Doctor Sharon all day long and you’ll watch these two.”
John looks at both girls for explanation but both are too busy turning all shades of red and unable or unwilling to make eye contact while Hector is complaining about them. “All day long, man–I catch both of them checking me out and then they deny it. And all these eye signals back and forth, all the giggling and the whispered girl talk–man, they’re driving me crazy, and not in a good way either.”
“Come on,” Carolyn pre-empts John as she grabs his arm. “I’m feeling like some chardonnay tonight and we have to get in line.”
“Guess that leaves you for me,” Daisy tells Hector when she grabs his arm in the same way.
“Guess so, chakita,” Hector responds as he is being hauled away.
Once they again assume their place in Hubert's snaking queue, Carolyn tells John while still hanging on his arm, “Ooh, I can feel a difference already. How many can you do?”
John holds up five fingers on the other hand for the five chin ups he did this morning and this afternoon.
“Well, keep it up, honey,” she advises him. “Me like.”
After a thought occurs to him, John turns around to ask Daisy, “Hey, where are your parents through this whole thing?”
Daisy gestures. “They’re letting me have some time alone. They trust me to make good decisions.”
John is incredulous. “You mean like skipping school and going off in the time machine with Hector?”
She shrugs. “If we don’t go, you are.”
John now turns to Carolyn. “Since when?” he demands of her.
Carolyn sighs as she avoids eye contact. “John, all this is on a need-to-know basis, and right now, you simply don’t need to know. That’s why I’m keeping you in the dark and feeding you manure, like the mushroom that you are.”
“Whatever,” John decides, giving up on her for the moment but still liking the grip she has on his arm.
“Uh-oh,” Hector now feels the need to comment. “Here we go with the ‘whatevers,’ man.”
“Maybe he’s a magic mushroom,” Daisy playfully suggests to Carolyn.
Carolyn agrees. “Maybe we can get some of those from Hubert.”
“This is why I need a drink,” John advises all of them.
“Which is why we’re standing in line to begin with,” Carolyn concludes. “Brilliant, John.”
When their turn arrives, Hubert takes great delight in launching into one of his favorite lectures about how the replicator is not a toy and there are no magic mushrooms, especially for impudent youngsters. Properly humbled, Carolyn then asks for chardonnay for the four of them.
“Certainly,” Hubert replies. “Anything special?”
“You pick,” Carolyn advises the larger black man. “I’m sure you know this thing better than I do.”
After they finish at Hubert's, Hector asks John, “Hey man, what do you really do all day long at the medical center?”
John announces, “Look, I’m not going to waste my breath with you guys. If you think all I do all day long is fool around with Sharon, then you go take my place tomorrow and tell her I said to have you do everything that I usually do. Then you will find out the truth.”
Carolyn inquires, “Did you ask her about Melanie?”
John shakes his head. “I don’t dare. Those two are scary–worse than Bill and Hillary Clinton. They just chucked their oldest daughter and never looked back.” He pauses before he provides the counterpoint. “But that doesn’t mean Sharon’s not a good doctor. Or Mark’s a bad engineer. Both of them know their stuff in that regard.”
Hector agrees. “Yeah, Mark’s top of the line. It’s just, we learned what we learned about Melanie in school–all these generalities–and then everyone learns the hard way not to ask any more questions about the whole thing.”
Daisy also agrees. “People just don’t talk about it,” she advises Carolyn in a guarded tone.
“And you know what that means,” Carolyn needlessly concludes.
“Yup,” John succinctly pronounces.
Upon their return to Carolyn's place, after everyone starts drinking, at one point Carolyn takes Daisy’s hand and they retreat to the kitchen. Hector hands the popcorn bowl to John and throws out to him, “Wonder what they’re up to.”
John takes the bowl and stuffs some crunchy popped kernels in his mouth. “Probably making out.”
“And you don’t want to watch?” Hector incredulously asks.
John levels his gaze at his opposite number. “No, I don’t. All I want is a simple life.” He pauses before he resumes. “You know, Hector, you’re complaining about a problem that you created yourself. Carolyn is physically attracted to you, and she admires your courage for volunteering with the time machine. So if your goal here is to have sex with her, you may very well accomplish that, but at the same time you may also precipitate unwanted and unpredictable consequences in the process, otherwise known as the Melanie effect.”
Hector nods. “That was very well said, John. You must have been thinking about this for a while.”
John gestures as well. “You could say that.”
Hector draws up. “Well, I appreciate you telling me this as a man, and I respect you as a man. I don’t disrespect you. So all right.” He thinks for a minute. “You’re correct. Carolyn didn’t regress herself to sixteen because she was looking for some booty–she was concerned about Daisy–who is a very nice girl by the way, and I mean that both ways. She’s nice-looking and she’s a nice person to boot. I don’t know why I never noticed her before–maybe because she is so shy–so quiet. I don’t know what I was thinking with regard to Carolyn. I’m going to cool it with her.” He pauses again. “But since we are talking man to man here, let me ask you a straightforward question: just how much are you fooling around with Doctor Sharon?”
John blinks as he realizes he must be honest with Hector. “O.K. Hector,” he allows. “You got me. I’m a hypocrite for lecturing you about my girlfriend while I’m having intercourse with another man’s wife. All I can say in my own defense is that if I wasn’t indulging Sharon’s ‘older teacher who has an affair with a younger student’ fantasy, she wouldn’t be giving me the inside scoop, so to speak, as she is. I know that sounds self-serving, and it may be–but it is also the truth.”
“Holy crap, man,” Hector exclaims back to John. “Are you really banging Doctor Sharon in one of the examination rooms?”
John raises both his hands. “I’ve told you everything I’m going to. If you desire details, I suggest you ask Sharon tomorrow for the full treatment–if you know what I mean and then you can experience everything yourself.”
“Hey listen man,” Hector advises him in a low voice. “Carolyn’s already told me and Daisy that she doesn’t care what you do with anyone else–as long as you’re here for her at home.” He stops for a minute to consider the implications of what John’s told him. “So you’re getting some at work and then with her. Man, some could say you’re a lucky dog.”
John shrugs. “And some might say they wouldn’t touch Sharon with a ten foot pole because of all this Melanie stuff.”
Hector agrees there. “It is messed up. Can you imagine what kind of arrangement she has with Mark? She gets to do whatever she wants and Sharon looks the other way when Mark’s getting it off with sixteen-year-olds. It’s like, why did they get married to begin with?”
John shakes his head. “She never talks about it–and I never ask.”
The girls return to the living room. Carolyn asks, “Did you boys miss us?”
John gestures to Carolyn for an answer. She carefully sets down her wineglass and takes his outstretched hand in her own. He pulls her in close and kisses her on the cheek. “Very much,” he replies.
The next morning, Hector announces on his way out the door, “Goodbye everyone–wish me luck at the medical center today.”
“Wait a minute,” Carolyn responds. “Where are you going?”
John takes this. “He just told you. Are you sorry to see him go?”
Carolyn blinks, feeling herself ambushed here. “I–I thought you guys were just kidding last night,” she explains in her own defense, though not very convincingly.
John continues to search out Carolyn’s eyes. “Why would you think that?” he now demands, his voice getting loud.
Daisy is querying Hector why he’s leaving her. He responds that he’s already told her. Then she asks him what he’s planning to do all day. Hector is now inquiring of Daisy why she doesn’t trust him.
And John is advising Carolyn in a low but audible voice, “If you want to do him so much, Carolyn–then don’t drag this out. Just get it over with so I can go on with my life.”
“With who?” Carolyn, now red-faced and furious, wants to know. “With your Doctor friend Sharon?”
“Never mind,” John tells Hector. “You stay here with these two and I’m going into work.”
“Hey John man look,” Hector protests. “We had a deal.”
“Carolyn–I’m not into sharing,” Daisy is now warily advising the other girl.
John has a change of heart. “You’re right Hector–we did,” he agrees with the other man. “So you go then.”
“Adios,” Hector announces to all of them. “Daisy, I will see you tonight. If you don’t trust me alone with Doctor Sharon, I suggest you call me half a dozen times to check up on me, at random.”
“What a beautiful way to start the day,” John announces once Hector’s gone. Next he confronts Carolyn. “Care to explain yourself?”
Carolyn meets his gaze. “All right John,” she responds. “I’ve already told you I’m physically attracted to Hector. That doesn’t mean I was going to do anything about it.”
John gestures, as if to suggest that he requires further clarification. “But you thought about it, right?”
She continues to meet his eyes and keep her voice level. “As a fantasy–yes,” she replies. “Only that.”
“So let’s get this straight,” Daisy now unexpectedly speaks up. “You’re not planning on sleeping with him behind my back.”
Carolyn turns to the other young woman. “No, Daisy,” she evenly responds. “I’m not.”
John waits a decent interval before he sums up with, “All right then. What would you ladies like to do today?”
Carolyn lightly sighs as she sets her lips. “Isn’t it time for your morning chin ups?” she asks.
John nods. “Yes,” he acknowledges. “In the excitement, I had forgotten.”
So they cruise the playground. After John does another five reps, he asks both of them, “So was Hector right? I mean, were you two checking him out yesterday while you were cooking?”
Carolyn shrugs as she avoids his gaze. “I guess we were,” she admits to her boyfriend.
John gestures. “Well, how do you think that makes him feel?” he asks her. “How do you think it makes me feel when I see you all disappointed you weren’t going to be spending the day with him?”
She finally looks up at him to meet his eyes. “Pretty bad, I guess,” she surmises. “Which I’m now sorry for.” She kisses him on the cheek after she takes his arm. “I hope I can do something to make it up to you.”
John gestures. “That’s a good start,” he allows. “But don’t worry–you’ll have him back tomorrow and you two can do whatever you want with him then. He won’t last a day with Sharon.”
“How do you know?” Daisy now asks him.
John shakes his head. “Whatever else Doctor Sharon is–she’s a strict task mistress. And I don’t think Hector’s into that.”
When Hector returns to Carolyn’s place that evening, he relates as much. “Holy pre-holy,” he starts off. “I’m an electrician. And I’m done with school. That Doctor Sharon man–I don’t see how you can take her all day long. She really put me through the paces.”
“Did she now,” Daisy suggests at the different ways that last comment might be interpreted.
Hector points at his girlfriend. “Miss Daisy–I told you this morning–either you trust me or you don’t. Why didn’t you call me up though? I thought we were going to have lunch or something.”
Daisy gestures. “Well, we kind of got caught up in our day and–it sort of slipped my mind,” she leisurely lies to him.
Hector then asks John, “So you had fun all day long with these two?”
“As much fun as you’ll have with them tomorrow,” John predicts. “They’re all yours–and I’m going back to work. And God is in his Heaven and all is right with the world. Well–maybe not the whole world, but the island at least.”
Carolyn nods. “That was well said, John,” she compliments him.
“You took the words right out of my mouth,” Hector advises Carolyn. “It must have been when you were kissing me.”
At this, Carolyn blushes and excuses herself from the living room. When John follows her into the kitchen, Hector asks Daisy, “What did I say? It was just a freaking joke man.”
Daisy takes this opportunity to confront him. “Are you attracted to Carolyn?” she queries her b.f.
“Not this again,” Hector tries to obfuscate, not meeting her eyes.
“So is that a ‘yes?’” she then follows up with.
“Why are you acting so jealous with me?” he now counters.
“Because there appears to be a lot of temptation around this island,” Daisy suggests. “Still want to go with me in the time machine?”
Hector blinks. “Is it ready yet?”
Daisy is amused at his sense of wonder. “If you are,” she archly informs him. “Still man enough to try?”
He smiles back. “Yeah, let’s get out of here. This whole thing’s turning into The Blue Lagoon meets Peyton Place--and we’re all some Harper Valley PTA hypocrites. With some Star Trek technology thrown in for good measure. You still want to go to Italy during the Renaissance?”
“That seems like a good place to start,” Daisy allows.
But when the other young couple rejoins them in the living room, Carolyn informs everyone else that regardless of the time machine’s construction progress, Hector and Daisy can’t leave until the first graders are done with at least their initial round of stories and art work. When Hector patiently inquires when that’s going to be, Carolyn replies that she can’t call Brandy tonight because she might be interrupting something that her friend and Sean may be doing, but she’ll check at the school tomorrow.
The next morning, when John arrives at the medical center, Sharon immediately pulls him into one of the examination rooms, shuts off the monitor and locks the door. “Don’t ever do that to me again,” she implores her protégé in a rush, as much a plea as a command, while she kisses and disrobes him. “Don’t ever make me miss you as much as you did yesterday. God, I wanted you all day long. I thought I was going to die if I didn’t see you again.”
“Sharon,” John begins, about to talk to her concerning their relationship but losing his train of thought in the frenzy of their passionate lovemaking.
Meanwhile, over at the school, Carolyn attempts to surreptitiously ascertain the first grade’s progress but is found out this time, so she, Hector and Daisy all inquire as to the status. Brandy informs them that they’re still working on it.
Hector then advises Carolyn that he’s ready to go, as Daisy also imparts. Carolyn then suggests to Brandy that perhaps the first graders need some help from the older students. Brandy simultaneously thanks Carolyn for another of her brilliant suggestions and shoos them out the door, as she doesn’t want any details of what they’re working on to leak out to the trio. So Carolyn, Hector and Daisy find themselves doing what they do best, surfing again at their favorite beach, each girl by turns checking out Hector in his tight bathing suit and strong back and shoulders. Carolyn savors every contrivance she can think of while speculating what she’d do with Hector if she were ever alone with him. Daisy by turn realizes Carolyn is entrancing herself with such fantasies while she plots how she’s going to keep his mind off the delectable sixteen-year-old Miss Carolyn tonight and what Daisy perceives as the former’s perfectly round rump, understated but sublime breasts and the rest of her hourglass figure that the blonde girl judges herself inferior in comparison.
When John returns home that evening, he grabs Daisy’s hand. “Come on,” he compels her. “You and I are going out. They want to be alone.”
Carolyn and Hector both avert their eyes at this while Daisy struggles with John. “No,” she exclaims in revolt and revulsion at the thought. “I’m not leaving her alone with him.”
“Why not?” John asks. “Don’t you trust him?”
“About as far as I can throw him,” Daisy informs the room. “You should have seen the way she was looking at him all day.”
John gestures as if she’s proved his point. “All the more reason,” he triumphantly announces. “Let them get it out of their system.”
“And if they never get it out of their systems?” Daisy lashes back at John.
John makes the same gesture. “Then if they were meant to be together, then that’s the way this will play out. We’ll both go on with different people.”
Carolyn feels the need to comment, “John, I don’t think this is such a hot idea.”
Daisy now advises John, “I wouldn’t touch you if you were the last guy on this island–you’re horsing around with that slimy Sharon woman every day. God, it gives me the creeps just thinking about it.”
“I didn’t say it would be me,” John casually points out to Daisy. “I just said it would be someone else. You’re not exactly my first choice either.”
“O.K. everybody,” Hector now feels the need to intervene. “Let’s just cool it now. John man–what happened between you and Doctor Sharon today that brought all this on?”
Now it’s John's turn to look away. “She wasn’t very happy me sticking her with you yesterday,” he allows.
At this, Carolyn speaks up. “That doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” she observes. “Why wouldn’t she be all over Hector?”
“I’ll tell you why,” Hector supplies. “Because I wouldn’t put up with all her nonsense–which apparently is what she’s attracted to in John.”
John meets Carolyn’s eyes. “She told me,” he confides. “That she and Mark haven’t had sex for years–that it’s just a marriage of convenience.”
“So why don’t they just get a divorce or split up?” Carolyn inquires.
John gestures. “Because of the twins. Because of their careers. What people would say. Because of the Melanie thing. All this kind of deal.”
Hector shakes his head. “Man, that’s one of the reasons I want out of here–I can’t take all this intrigue stuff. The politics and everything. That’s why I keep bugging you about the time machine,” he advises Carolyn.
She nods, remembering her role as the island’s Princess Di. “We have to wait for the kids–that’s how we engage everyone else on the island.”
“Which leaves us in the meantime with all this sexual tension,” John wraps up. “So you guys don’t want to solve this problem–just pretend it’s not there.”
Carolyn sighs, her hand up to her face and her eyes closed. “All right,” she allows after a minute. “I’m attracted to Hector and I’m having fantasies about him.”
“What kind of fantasies?” John wants to know.
“Sexual fantasies, John,” Carolyn incredulously admits, as if to suggest she’s speaking to a simpleton. “Very graphic and extremely intense. Triple X-rated.”
“Oh God,” Daisy lets out. “I don’t think I want to hear any more.”
John however has an epiphany. “This must have been what happened to Melanie,” he surmises. “And she tried to play out her fantasy–with disastrous results.”
“So is that what you want us to do?” Carolyn inquires of John. “Destroy the island?”
“Interesting question,” John decides to answer. “Perhaps I will let you know as the evening progresses.”
“Oh?” Carolyn asks, standing up from where she was to sit in John’s lap. “Do you still want to leave me alone with Señor Hector over there?”
“Well,” John counters. “Do we have enough alcohol for tonight?”
“Yup,” she replies. “We picked it all up on our way home from the beach.” And she kisses him on the cheek to punctuate her remarks.
Daisy decides to sit in Hector’s lap. “Guess I’ve got you right where I want you,” she tells him. “You don’t need that island trash–I’ve got what you want,” she further advises him in a low but still audible voice. “Right here.”
“Hear that, John?” Carolyn matches Daisy’s tone and demeanor. “Now I’m island trash–that you get to play with.”
John nods. “I’ve heard that sometimes it’s fun to play in the trash,” he leisurely allows. “But I won’t be throwing you into the eliminator when I’m done with you.” The eliminator is another of the aliens’ machines that takes care of all their refuse.
“Does that mean you love me?” Carolyn follows up with.
John playfully considers this. “It’s possible,” he eventually decides. “So who wants to call Brandy?”
Carolyn sardonically appraises him. “You’re just bound and determined to cause trouble tonight, aren’t you?”
“You don’t want to watch her making out with your brother?” he asks.
She shakes her head. “I keep having a bad dream about that,” she whispers to John so that only he can hear.
“What happens in the dream?” John inquires even though he knows he doesn’t want to find out.
“It’s bad,” she warns him. “Do you really want to know?”
“Yes,” he replies without hesitation. “Tell me.”
Carolyn sighs. “Well,” she begins. “It starts out all right–it’s a ménage à trois with me hanging on Hector’s back and kissing him and telling him what to do to Daisy. Then of course I get him all hot and he breaks from Daisy, but then Brandy walks in and takes him away from me. And I start crying and get all upset–blah blah blah–and then I go to find you and I walk in on you and Sharon.”
“Holy Christ,” John returns. “That does sound like a bad dream. But how does Sean fit into it?”
Carolyn hesitates before she explains, “He’s the one I run to after I walk in on you and Sharon.”
“Uh-oh,” John lets out. “That doesn’t sound good. So you and he–" and he doesn’t dare finish the question.
Carolyn shakes her head no. “But we came close a couple of times,” she allows.
“Wow,” John enunciates. “Guess I’m lucky I’m an only child.”
“So do you like banging Sharon?” she now asks him.
John shrugs. “It’s O.K.,” he decides to tell her. “She gets more out of it than I do.”
Carolyn blinks. “Maybe that’s because you had me the night before,” she speculates.
John considers this. “It’s possible,” he theorizes. “Do you really want to do Hector?”
“Yes,” she confides to him, her eyes going misty at the prospect. “But then I would hurt Daisy so much. I would feel like such a tramp, like such scum. I just couldn’t do that,” she sadly but logically concludes.
John holds her closer. “Why don’t you tell her that?”
Carolyn shakes her head. “No, I want to see what she does next. She’s already called me ‘island trash’–let’s see if this escalates.”
John smiles. “You are a scheming little wench, aren’t you?”
“Which you seem to like,” Carolyn observes and she returns his smile and tries to tickle him.
As Carolyn and John proceed with their wrestling match, Hector asks Daisy, “Well? Are you satisfied now?”
As an answer, Daisy hops off Hector and entreats John and Carolyn to cool it for a minute. “Hey you guys,” she begins to them. “Do y’all mind if Hector and I use your room tonight?”
Carolyn grins at this. “So Daisy,” she counters. “You have something special planned for Hector, then?”
Daisy does flush at this but doesn’t lose her composure. “Maybe,” she allows in a small voice. “What do you say?”
As an answer, Carolyn stands up. “How would you like to spend the night with me down at the beach?” she inquires of John, holding her hand out to him.
“Sounds like a winner, island girl,” he suavely responds after he rises from the floor with her help.
Carolyn kisses Daisy on the cheek. “Have fun, you two,” she happily wishes the other couple.
When she and John arrive at the deserted beach, the sun long set and darkness encroaching on the light, Carolyn calls Hubert. “One midnight special, beach number two, please,” she instructs him via her communication device.
“You got it, Miss Carolyn,” Hubert’s voice comes back over the small speaker. “Have a wonderful evening.”
“Thank you Hubert–we will,” she assures him and shuts the instrument off. In a minute small waves begin lapping at the shore in rhythmic fashion. “God, John,” Carolyn spontaneously enthuses to him. “I can’t believe we did all this.”
“Neither can I,” he admits, taking her in his arms. “But here we are–amid so much beauty.”
“That is so fragile,” she observes, pushing his hair back with her hand from his forehead.
He nods. “Which makes it all the more entrancing,” he manages to qualify before he kisses her and proceeds to lose himself in her divine and wondrous effervescence.
A few hours later, lying on this same beach with John, Carolyn has a variation on the same bad dream she’s been having:
She and Hector are surfing, by themselves. It’s nighttime as the sky is dark, but for some reason the beach itself is lit up, as if by artificial light, which has not been built.
The waves are large–bigger than the island can sustain without significant erosion. But Carolyn doesn’t care, as she’s having so much fun with Hector–teasing him, flirting with him. Falling in love with him.
There is no Daisy and there is no John, and in this private heaven Carolyn feels as if it’s just the two of them. At one point, she finds herself behind him in the surf, both having just caught a wave and wiped out, as her eyes gravitate down his body in her growing lust. She strokes his well-toned tush with her hand and he turns to face her.
He takes her in his strong arms as she melts on him. She wants him more than she ever desired François. She kisses him with such animated ferocity that soon he has removed her top, kissing and caressing her breasts as the surf breaks over them, again and again.
When he takes a moment to pause, she raises his lips to hers with her index and middle fingers under his chin. When she breaks their passionate French kiss, she gently pushes her hand against his chest. He reclines on his elbows as she previously had. She smooches her way down his body while she strokes him. She unbuttons his bathing suit as she feels her heart slamming within her while still kissing and tonguing his abs. Then she unsheathes him.
“Oh God Hector,” she breathes out to him. “I knew you’d be hard. I knew you’d be huge. I just knew it. Oh God. I want you so much. I’ve never wanted anyone the way I want you. I want to make you erupt with passion in my embrace. I’m going to make you. I’m going to complete you–with me.” And at this she stops kissing and playfully licking his engorged brawn and takes him into her mouth.
By the guttural sounds of his moans, she can tell she’s making progress toward his orgasm. She takes him deeper and deeper, all the way in, trying to get a sense of the best rhythm. Then suddenly he stops. Carolyn looks up as well to see what’s diverted his attention.
It’s Brandy. Hector can’t take his eyes off her, just as Brandy’s gaze is fixated on him. She kneels next to him, so that he can hear her over the crashing surf.
But Carolyn can’t understand what they’re saying. However the magic in both their eyes is telling her in plain language that she’s lost him, that she blew it–regressing herself to sixteen instead of twenty-four as Brandy had. Instead of indulging in self-pity, however, she views this insight dispassionately as she watches them make love in the roiling foam.
She discovers through all the emotions she’s feeling now that she still wants him–however much she can have of him. She kisses his shoulders while he’s plowing Brandy out. She senses him respond to her affection with harder thrusts into the older girl. She strokes his taut and dark derrière with her hand before she mounts him.
Pressing her body against his, feeling his warmth and energy, she matches his rhythm while her damp thighs grind against his lower back as her lithe and trim arms encircle and embrace his glistening upper torso. She continues kissing him with her soft lips as his gyrations escalate. The waves are crashing over them now with more force than before. She holds onto him as he wrenches into Brandy, his final roar of passion lost in the huge wall of water that envelopes them, throwing all three ashore, as she imagines seeing them from above, piled on top of each other, amused at the thought of what the tide washed in.

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