Bitter Coconuts.
Copyright 2016, 2018 by Raymond Johnson. Second edition.
Cover photo provided by Ersler. (www.iStockphoto.com).

Dedicated to all my readers who've given me invaluable feedback on my books and are a constant supply of new ideas.

"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light." - Helen Keller.

After renting a yacht and sailing around the islands of Costa Rica four women, Gemma, Sara, Julie and Rhonda, become stranded when their vessel runs aground. While calm to begin with tensions soon run high and it's not long before they are on the brink of insanity leading to physical violence. They soon learn that paradise cannot be enjoyed while knowing they have no means to leave.

 

 

Chapter 1 - Relaxation

I couldn't see a thing. There was a sensation of heat against my face and a dazzling light causing momentary panic while I felt disorientated. Where there was once clear sky there was now to midday sun beaming into my face. I had slept all morning up on deck damaging my delicate soft skin. Within a flash I sat and up started feeling around for my sunglasses which often had the tendency to vanish upon this trip. I suspected all too well who must have borrowed them without permission. My straw hat was missing too but luckily I found it just behind my head. A sense of grogginess as well as flushed heat caused my body to wobble as I heaved myself up from the sun lounger. I had to stop for a moment holding back the urge to feel seasick before making my way across the deck of the small hired yacht towards the sounds of my friends who were drinking at the vessel's stern. If it wasn't for the ruckus of laughter I'd probably still be fast asleep.

"Sara was it you who took my sunglasses?" I asked knowing full well that it was.

There was hesitation before her response as I made my way closer, my blue deck shoes causing the wet deck to squeak beneath my feet. The laughter stopped as though I had caught them doing something they shouldn't like a bunch of naughty children being discovered by a strict school mistress.

Sara shook her head yet responded in the positive.

"You said I can borrow them, remember," she quickly said while lowering them from her eyes.

I gave her a stern look that could appear both angry and cheeky at the same time causing her not to be certain of how I really felt upon the matter. I was annoyed and wanted her to know it but respected our friendship enough not to let it anger me too much.

"Borrow is one thing but to remove them from my face while I was sleeping is another," I said as I sat down opposite her pouring myself a drink.

All four of us gave one another awkward looks around the small fold away table as I took a sip of white wine. Rhonda stroked her wavy hair.

"They were on the deck beside you," Sara replied softly then started to pour herself another drink of her own.

There was another awkward silence and the only sounds came from the gentle rhythm of the waves lapping the sides of the yacht and the occasional gulp as we drank.

"So what's on the agenda for today?" Julie quickly asked me before turning her gaze at Sara and Rhonda in turn, "We can sail around the islands again, drop anchor somewhere, explore some of those golden beaches."

Rhonda shook her head.

"We did that yesterday," she said while continuing to twirl her hair.

"...or we could hang around here and get on each other's nerves," Julie added in a flippant tone.

Sara let out a very audible sigh and took a larger swig from her wine glass. It was clear she had already had enough but it may have been boredom rather than alcohol that was making her act that way.

"We could return to the mainland," Rhonda suggested, "Hang around the bars and casinos, may even make a bit of money."

"The whole point of this vacation is for us to spend some quality time together," I quickly said, "This boat cost an absolute fortune to rent. We didn't come all this way to blow all our money in a casino."

There was then another awkward silence.

"It's decided then," Julie said calmly, "We'll explore another island, have a nice swim, collect some coconuts, soak up the sun and have some fun."

 

Chapter 2 - The Perfect Choice

From within the yacht's small bridge it was difficult to see what Julie was pointing at as she waved her finger while up on deck at the front of the vessel. The sound of the engine was a distraction too. I wiped the small window from within the cabin of the bridge then called out.

"Which way are you pointing?!" I said whilst exaggerating my lip movements in the hope Julie could make out what I was saying.

She continued to wiggle her finger while pointing her outstretched arm to the left.

"This isn't the same island as last time, is it?" Sara said whilst standing at my side.

I knew it wasn't for we at a totally different location of the sea but part of me wished it was, for there had been lots of spiders upon that island which Sara was none too fond of. I smirked as the thought entered my head.

"No, no, don't worry," I replied, "I'm sure this island will be fine."

We exchanged glances.

"Really," I added as I gently turned the yacht's wheel, "The islands around here are smaller, mainly beach, no wildlife other than a crab or two."

"I don't like crabs," Sara said softly.

I smiled to myself and manoeuvred the yacht closer towards the small islands that grew into view in the distance as the sky blue sea around us beckoned us onward. I sensed something unusual, as though fate wanted us to head for a particular island, not the one Julie was pointing at but one to the right. The way its palm tress were spread across its beach gave me a warm feeling inside. It looked like the ideal holiday resort, yet totally natural.

Julie lowered her pointed arm up on deck then raised her other hand above her eyes to shade them from the sun while looking ahead.

"It's beautiful!" She called out.

 

Chapter 3 - Beach Paradise

It took no more than ten minutes for us to arrive at the beach and lower anchor before stepping onto the golden sands. The hum of the boat's engine ceased allowing the sounds of the sea to become all the more audible. There was a fresh salty breeze that filled my lungs.

Within moments Julie was hurrying across the sand, leaving footprints from her flip-flops in her wake, while holding her white hat against her head preventing the small breeze to flip it off. Her red shorts and white t-shirt partly hid her hour-glass figure beneath which to be honest I felt a little jealous of.

"It's wonderful!" She called out with a joyful tone while swinging her arm back and forth.

Sara appeared to be taking her time while climbing from the back of the yacht onto the small wet rocks that surrounded the island. As of that moment I wasn't sure where Rhonda was let alone what she was getting up to. My guess was that she was still up on deck, literally above me on the roof of the bridge, likely soaking up some sun.

"Hold your horses I'm still not..." Sara called back to Julie whilst still clambering across the rocks, "Just wait up a bit!"

Part of me hoped she would slip up but I dismissed the thought as that would be mean. Maybe a slip of embarrassment perhaps but not to the extent of her getting hurt. The thought passed the moment I saw her through the window making her way closer to Julie.

As they stood side by side, chatting about something that I was out of earshot to hear, the contrast of their looks was all the more striking. Sara was at least a foot shorter than Julie with a plump tummy that overhung her red bikini bottoms. Her skin was pale too, not as pale as my own but far lighter than Julie's rich tan.

To my surprise I caught sight of Rhonda scampering across the beach towards them, carrying something with both hands, with a look of excitement about her. After a momentary conversation with Julie and Sara she then raised the item next to her mouth as to mime she was drinking from it then let out a giggle. I realised she was holding a coconut.

Leaving the bridge and clambering over the side of the yacht I hurried over to my friends. The sand felt hot beneath my bare feet.

"Fresh is always best but we could do with a mixer," I overheard the end of what Rhonda was saying as she dropped the coconut onto the beach.

"We'll need a way to break it open," I said calmly as I made my way closer then glanced my eyes down at it making me realise Rhonda had already given up on the idea.

There was a momentary silence as we exchanged glances with one another while Julie still held her sun hat against the top of her head. I wondered where my own hat had gotten too, I must have left it onboard.

"It is a beautiful island though, don't you think?" I said whilst looking beyond Julie who stood in front toward the palm trees behind her.

Julie smiled with a wide gummy grin.

"It sure is!" she responded in an exaggerated tone.

"I'm going to catch some rays," Sara calmly said then made her way back towards the boat.

It was then that I noticed my sunglasses protruding from the back of her bikini bottoms. I wasn't sure I wanted them back now I realised where she was keeping them. I then began to imagine how often I chewed the handle of my glasses whilst holding them and wondered if Sara often kept them tucked beneath her bikini. The thought caused me to shudder.

When Sara returned from the boat she was carrying a large beach towel with her as well as a bottle of suntan lotion. Julie copied her idea and headed for the yacht while Rhonda wandered further up the beach among the many palm trees.

"Sara?" I said calmly while she laid the towel across the sand.

"Mmm," she responded as she sat herself down.

"It's silly for us to argue over sunglasses," I said, "You can keep them, I don't use them much anyway."

She smiled.

"Thank you," she said then slid them out of her bikini placing them upon her face.

I sat down beside her as the afternoon sun shone down warming the top of my back and shoulders. Julie made her way back up the beach but rather than carrying a towel she held a wine bottle and some glasses.

 

Chapter 4 - A Commotion

A number of hours later I awoke from my unplanned siesta to some commotion, which I ignored at first until my name was mentioned. Letting out an internal sigh I forced myself to sit up from Sara's towel I was using as my bed and stared at Rhonda and Julie standing above me. Sara was standing further down the beach next to the yacht. I yawned while leaning against my elbows waiting for someone to say something.

"Well?!" Rhonda moaned resting her fists against the hips of her jean shorts.

I glanced towards Julie then back at Rhonda.

"What's happened?" I asked calmly.

"It's not too bad!" I heard Sara call out while standing tentatively alongside the yacht trying to peek inside without having to step upon the slippery rocks.

"Our only transportation off this God forsaken place has sunk that's what!" Rhonda said firmly with a look of anger, fear and worry all rolled into one.

Glancing my eyes down the beach, and at Sara who appeared to be attempting to board the said vessel, everything appeared normal to me. It was possibly water upon the deck or something trivial. There was a water pump for such eventualities.

"Fine," I responded calmly while heaving myself up from my comfortable position, "I'll take a look."

Rhonda continued to stare at me as if wishing me to hurry as I brushed loose sand from my body while Julie already started making her way towards the boat.

"You must have cracked the hull while parking," Julie said calmly as I hurried myself towards her side, "It's not too bad but I doubt it's sea worthy."

A sense of calmness filled my body when I saw Sara clambering about the top of the yacht just above the bridge only to be replaced with panic when I noticed a pool of water filling the back of the boat. It must have been three feet deep at least. I closed my eyes while thoughts flashed through my mind as to our next course of action.

"Well there goes my deposit," I said matter-of-factly while shaking my head.

There was silence as we all stared at the water. It was clear the yacht wasn't going to totally submerge due to its proximity to the beach, but without a crane and a repair team there was little chance of it carrying us back to the mainland.

"Well?!" Rhonda said firmly from behind.

"Let me think for a moment," I said calmly.

Rhonda jerked up both her arms in one swift action, clenching her fists tightly, then tutted loudly before making her way back up the beach towards the palm tress.

"It's not too bad!" Sara said from atop the boat, "Nothing's changed, we've still got food, water and our beds and stuff. Just radio for a rescue boat."

I smiled.

"Thank you Sara," I said softly while looking up at her and tilting my head to one side letting out a half smile.

It appeared she was the only one who was thinking straight. I couldn't fathom as to why I hadn't thought of that myself. Maybe Rhonda's sense of panic was effecting me.

Julie took it upon herself to climb into the back of the yacht ahead of me with an eager sense of excitement while I followed from behind. I could feel Sara's eyes staring down at me as I waded through the waist high water within the yacht's bridge.

Picking up the handset of the radio I clicked it on and off a couple of times out of habit then twiddled the frequency knob.

"Mayday, mayday!" I said into the handset confidently making sure not to sound too afraid, "This is the..."

I hesitated before mentioning the name of the yacht on account that it sounded stupid. I felt silly saying and under the circumstances it sounded a whole lot worse. Now wasn't the time for jollity.

"Mayday, mayday!" I said again, "We're not in immediate trouble, but our boat has sprung a leak, we cannot..."

I adjusted the frequency of the radio again trying to make contact with anyone but it was clear to me, and to Julie who was standing at my side, that the radio wasn't working. It was totally silent, not even static.

I turned and looked down at the engine compartment of the yacht which was now underwater then looked back at the radio which was totally dry upon its shelf. I wondered how it was powered and if the battery was wet.

"Well don't give up, keep trying!" I head Sara's voice as she made her way across the roof of the bridge cabin then down the metal ladder splashing into the water.

"It's not working," I said softly with the handset still firmly grasped within my hand.

"Give it here," Sara said budging past Julie and taking the handset from me.

"But..."

Sara switched the radio off then back on before twiddling the frequency knob at random then clicking the handset button repeatedly. She had no real idea what she was doing, it was more of a case of copying what I had done.

"Mayday, mayday, coastguard, anyone," she said holding the handset right up to her mouth, "This is The Hairy Beaver. We've grounded our ship and are stuck on an island, north east of the Costa Rican mainland. Is anyone out there?"

Julie cradled Sara's hand that held the handset and lowered it.

"The radio's dead," she said softly.

"But we've got to try something, we can't just give up," Sara responded.

I made my way over to the side of the boat then sat myself down, allowing my feet to dangle over the side. I needed time to think.

 

Chapter 5 - Taking Charge

Sara was still within the yacht's cabin speaking to the dead radio while I remained in my position sitting on the side of the deck wiggling my feet within the sea. Julie had already made her way up the beach and was sitting in a heap, intentionally not allowing herself to get comfortable. Rhonda on the other hand had hidden herself among the trees repressing her anger and shading herself from the afternoon sun.

I still wasn't sure what to do and part of me hoped another boat would sail by while I was still in thought, but it was not the case. Other than the other islands within the distance there was nothing upon the horizon. Jumping from my perch, splashing into the water, I made my way up the beach towards Julie who was laying in a very awkward position upon the beach towel. She startled herself to an upright position as I began to speak.

"Okay, may I have your attention everyone?!" I called out knowing Rhonda was hiding somewhere, "The radio's busted, we cannot make repairs to the yacht, all we can hope for is rescue. This is a tourist destination there are bound to be passing boats within the next few days. It's just a case of remaining calm and being patient!"

Rhonda's eyes peeped out from among the bushes staring at me. It was difficult to tell what she was thinking.

"I assure you this isn't a life and death situation!" I continued, "This is simply an inconvenience. We still have plenty of canned food and drinks aboard, and there's coconuts abound, we're going to be fine!"

Sara had already given up with the radio and started making her way up the beach to join me. Julie was still laying on the towel covering her head with her hands.

"Ronny!" I called out to Rhonda while holding out my arm beckoning for her join us.

There was a few moments of hesitation before Rhonda left the bushes and made her way towards us. She appeared calm which I put down to my comforting words. I felt pleased at the way I took control of the situation.

"I'm fine staying here for another few days," Rhonda said softly, "It's no biggie. But the food won't last forever and I've no intention of eating crabs and coconuts for the rest of my life."

I glanced towards Sara knowing full well she hated crabs, not that I was too fond of them either.

Rhonda let out a deep breath.

"There's thousands of square miles of sea and dozens of islands," she said shaking her head, "Erm, we'll have to stack some wood, and prepare a beacon to signal a passing ship."

"Good idea," I said.

 

Chapter 6 - Nightfall

Having something to keep us busy was a good way to take our minds off the situation. We spent the rest of the afternoon breaking small twigs from the trees and bushes further up the beach, pilling them up ready for when needed. We created three large piles surrounding the small island. It wasn't long before the beautiful sunset dropped below the horizon and we were plunged into darkness. Not only had the sun gone but also the heat, and it was a surprise to us all how cold the small island had become.

"We should be getting inside now," Sara said whilst hugging herself.

I nodded then we began making our way down the beach towards the partly sunken yacht. It was pretty well wedged against the sand and rocks of the shallow water but I still felt concern that it could somehow sink further or maybe get dragged out to sea. I personally didn't want to risk it, but as the captain of sorts of our little excursion did I have the right to tell everyone to remain on the island? The thought passed through my mind a number of times before I decided to make a firm decision.

"No one settle down yet we've still got work to do," I said in an authoritative tone, "We need a small fire to keep us warm for tonight and we're going to remove everything salvageable from the boat. Food, water, clothes, everything. It'll be safe on the beach."

Sara had a look of bewilderment about her.

"We'll just sleep onboard," she said, "I don't care if there's water covering the floor, the beds are fine, the mattresses completely dry."

"Yes bring the mattresses out too," I added nodding my head trying to convince Sara it was her own idea.

"You're not serious are you?" Sara moaned then glanced her gaze toward Julie and Rhonda.

Julie opened her mouth but hesitated before responding shaking her head with annoyance.

"I just need to get my head down," she said, "I'm dead on my feet."

"Then let's sleep now and do this tomorrow!" Sara yelled then turned her head away from me.

Rhonda had already made her way over to one of the wood piles we had earlier made then started to remove some smaller branches and twigs gathering them together in a small pile. When Sara realised what Rhonda was doing she hurried down the beach in a huff heading for the boat.

"Bring some matches!" Rhonda called out to her.

Sara raised her middle finger flipping Rhonda off.

 

Chapter 7 - Bedtime

The crackling sound of the fire felt comforting as all four of us huddled around it, as though deep in thought, while staring at the flame. Julie also had the only dry towel left covering her shoulders while the rest we had hung on the trees further up the beach. Some of our clothing had gotten wet too but it wasn't a problem to dry them out, the sparkling clear sea water wasn't enough to dirty them. Our food was okay too, with most of it tinned, so there wasn't an immediate danger within our unfortunate predicament. As for our beds however, Sara was wrong in her assumption, and our mattresses were soaked through.

"What was that noise?" Sara asked from opposite the fire.

I looked up and could see nothing more than her silhouette within the near darkness contrasted against the fire's flames.

"What noise?" I responded.

"Nothing," she said.

We continued to sit still for a few more moments listening on tenterhooks but hearing nothing more than the crackling fire and the sounds of the sea.

"I need to use the bushes," Sara then said, "Will someone come with me?"

I understood what she was referring to right away for we had been using the bushes as a lavatory multiple times that day as the chemical toilet onboard the yacht was flooded. I wondered if it was possible to physically remove it from the boat and make some kind of outside latrine but the more I thought about it the more I realised the impracticalities at doing such a thing. Digging a hole in the sand behind the bushes would have to suffice.

"Please..." Sara added.

"You can go by yourself, you're a big girl now," I said in a cheeky tone trying to lighten the mood.

"But it's dark and I may trip," Sara quickly said.

I turned to Julie at my side but she had already rested her head down on the beach using the towel as a makeshift blanket. Rhonda was twiddling her long wavy hair with her fingers staring blankly at the fire not paying attention. It was clear Sara wasn't worried about tripping over and was simply afraid of being alone in the dark. I had no wish to embarrass her so I decided to make up an excuse to go with her.

"Actually I could do with a quick pee myself," I said before heaving myself to my feet.

Sara jumped up as I made my way over to her. She held my hand tightly and we headed up the beach into the bushes but made sure not to stray too far from the glow of the fire. The soft sand felt so cold underfoot compared to how it had been during the day.

"Shall we share the same hole or should we..." Sara asked before I quickly interrupted.

"No, no, no. We'll dig one each," I said not relishing the idea of peeing directly beside her.

"Okay but don't be too far way," she added.

Scooping some loose sand using my hands I dug myself a small hole among the bushes next to Sara then crouched. I tugged my black bikini bottoms to one side and did no more than a trickle of pee before letting the elastic pull the bikini back into place. Standing myself back up I used my foot to slide the sand back into place as I waited to Sara to finish. I could hear her trickle, followed by silence then more trickles. I hugged myself and wiggled my body for warmth waiting for Sara to finish. She let out a breath.

"Are you okay?" I asked calmly.

"I'm just not used to doing my business outside is all," she responded, "Just give me a moment, and stop looking."

"I certainly am not looking!" I said loudly but not with an angered tone, "I was momentarily but only because you spoke!"

There was silence for a while before Sara stood herself back up. Even within the darkness I could make out from her body language that she felt uncomfortable.

"I could have done with some leaves," she said.

"Yea me too," I told her, "It's fine though, just leave it. No one will know."

It was at that moment that I realised what she was referring to and what part of her body she was talking about needing the leaves for.

"Oh, I see," I quickly added, "Erm, have a dip in the sea when the sun comes up."

Sara held out her hand and we both made our way in the darkness across the thicket heading back towards the fire which appeared all the more inviting. Sara's hand felt a little moist which I hoped was due to sweat but I knew it was likely to be something else. Under other circumstances I would have been annoyed or made a joke about it but didn't feel it appropriate. I could tell her about it after our rescue then share a laugh.

"Wait," Sara said while we were still out of earshot of Julie and Rhonda.

"What is it?" I asked her.

"Just..." she said, "Um, I don't know. We're not going to die are we? If we are I want you to be honest."

I took a step back while facing her then took a deep breath.

"Now that's just tiredness talking," I told her, "Let's get back to the fire and get some sleep."

"Okay," Sara responded softly.

I held her clammy hand with both of mine cupping her palm. I smiled too which was probably difficult to see in the near darkness.

"Now no more speaking silly now," I said.

As we made our way closer to the fire it was clear Julie was already fast asleep while Rhonda kept nodding herself awake using her own knees as a pillow.

"You get any more twigs?" She said in a very quiet voice to Sara and myself as we approached.

"No," Sara replied while slowly sitting herself back down, "It's too dark to see anything."

I glanced at the fire. The flames were dying down but there was still plenty of glow in the ashes. I guessed sunup wasn't too distant so wasn't worried.

"It's fine, you should get some sleep," I told Rhonda.

"We should have gone to the casinos," she replied letting out an exaggerated chuckle.

In a daze of tiredness Rhonda heaped up some sand behind her to create a makeshift pillow then rested upon her back. She mumbled something beneath her breath and let out another chuckle. It wasn't too long before she was sleeping.

Sara continued to sit stretching her hands out toward the flickering flames of the fire. I was reminded of her damp hand and took a mental note of washing my own first thing in the morning.

I slid myself over next to Julie and laid beside her wishing the bath towel she was using as a blanket was larger. Closing my eyes I forced myself to keep the thoughts of our predicament clear from my mind. I needed to sleep and I was certain things would be better in the morning.

"Did you hear something?" Sara then said.

"Go to sleep," I responded bluntly.

"I'm not used to sleeping outside," she said.

I could still hear Sara talking as I drifted into slumber.

 

Chapter 8 - Coconuts

I awoke to the sound of something being hit very hard. At first I imagined it to be a hammer but as I sat myself up I could see Rhonda doing something further down the beach. She caught my eye contact.

"Are you lot going to lie there all day?!" She said while making her way in our direction.

It was then I realised I was laying between Julie and Sara with the beach towel stretched lengthways across our bodies. It wasn't the position in which I laid the previous night and I guessed Sara must have had something to do with it. The fire to the left of us was no more than a pile of ash.

"What time is it?" I asked while heaving my way up from my sleeping friends letting Sara's arm flop away from my body.

"Half ten," Rhonda replied.

"We should prepare breakfast," I suggested.

"Already on it," Rhonda said.

The sun felt comfortably warm against my skin, I only wished there was a way to store the heat for use at night. As I approached Rhonda I kept an eye out toward the horizon seeing if there were any signs of distant ships, but alas there was nothing. A creepy feeling of us being alone, on a very small island, in a vast ocean chilled my spine. I shook myself.

"Cereal is off the menu today," Rhonda continued, "Unless you want sea salt flavoured corn flakes. We have tinned corned beef, sardines, baked beans, spaghetti, ketchup, wet fruit which should be okay... or, fresh coconut."

Coconut sounded a wonderful idea, and was a good way to make our existing food supplies last longer. I looked on eagerly as Rhonda retrieved a coconut from the sand and started throwing it against a rock.

"Are you sure that's the best way to open them?" I asked, "You don't want to spill any of its contents."

Rhonda placed both hands on her hips and turned to face me.

"Well unless you have some kind of tool what other choice do I have?!" She said in a firm tone.

I shook my head.

"It's fine, it's okay," I said calmly, "You're doing a splendid job."

There was an awkward silence.

"I know," Rhonda quickly said, "We can't drink sea water, I'll try not to spill any coconut water okay. You don't need to tell me."

I gave her a smile. I sensed her frustrations beneath a shallow surface which could explode into anger at any moment. It wasn't as though we were short on coconuts anyway for they were scattered all over the island.

"Here," Rhonda said holding up a piece of pre-smashed coconut still attached to its husk.

"Thank you," I said before biting into its white fleshy inner surface.

It was tough, with a rubbery texture and tasted bitter. It was either far too fresh or way beyond ripe, I couldn't tell. It was surprisingly more juicy than expected however so I licked my fingers as moisture ran down my hand.

"What are you eating?!" Sara called out while waving her hand further up the beach.

"We're having a coconut breakfast!" Rhonda called back to her.

Sara came running down the beach looking like an overexcited child. Her grin was wide and it was good to see her in such a happy mood under the circumstances.

"I'm just going to have a quick dip in the sea first," Sara said, "I can't wait to tuck in, my belly's been rumbling all night long."

It was then that I realised I had yet to wash my hands.

 

Chapter 9 - Waiting It Out

Rhonda was getting quite the knack of hitting the coconuts against a small pointed rock and splitting them in two, sometimes without spilling the precious coconut water inside. It was a way for her to feel good about helping us survive and a way to vent her anger.

"Grr!" She grunted hitting another coconut hard against the rock.

Sara had returned from her brief dip in the sea and was eating coconuts along with myself and Rhonda. Julie was still in the same position she had slept in further up the beach but she had managed to move the towel and lay on top of it due to the sun warming the island.

"Julie!" Rhonda called out to her, "Come and get some breakfast!"

She responded by moving her body into a different position but made no attempt to get up. All three of us looked on.

"She better not be ill," I said whilst trying to remain calm, "That's the last thing I need on my plate right now."

"Our plate," Rhonda said bluntly.

"I better go and check," Sara said.

"No, we'll all go," I said while keeping my eyes firmly focused upon Julie, "Bring some coconut with us."

Sara hurried ahead while I and Rhonda followed on. It was then that I noticed Sara's bikini bottoms sagging as though the elastic had become loose. We still had more clothing, but as of that moment they were still wet. The morning sun would soon dry them out however.

"Go away," I heard Julie mumble as Sara crouched beside her.

"Wakey wakey!" Rhonda said in a cheerful tone holding the remains of two coconuts within her hands, "Rise and shine, sleepy head. Time for breakfast."

Julie sat up bolt upright in one fast movement practically hitting her head against Sara's who was crouching beside her. There was a slight pause as Julie gazed her eyes at each of us in turn then looked out at the sea. She appeared disorientated.

"Are we... are we about to be rescued?" She said slowly.

Rhonda shook her head.

"Fat chance," she responded, "It'll be some time yet. In the meantime we thought you may enjoy some fresh juicy coconut for breakfast. If you don't fancy that you can have regular food, but we're on an island after all so should enjoy the delicacies it has to offer. Making the best of it."

Rhonda appeared unusually cheerful which in turn caused me to smile.

"Come on Julie," I said, "You haven't eaten since we got here."

"Just piss off and leave me alone," she grumbled before laying back down.

"You're not ill are you?" Sara asked.

Julie didn't reply.

"Well if you do change your mind you know where we are," Rhonda said in a calm tone before turning and making her way back down the beach.

I hesitated not knowing the best course of action then followed Rhonda who had already picked up another coconut ready to smash it open.

"Are you okay?" I asked her as I approached.

Rhonda squinted her nose then shook her head. Within an instant she let the coconut drop from her hands onto the soft sand. She let out a deep breath then knelt down.

"It's been less than twenty-four hours and we're..." she said before stopping mid-sentence.

"We're what?" I responded.

"She's given up hope," Rhonda said glancing her eyes back up the beach toward Julie with Sara still at her side.

"She'll be fine don't worry," I said remaining calm, "We had a tiring night, she's exhausted physically as well as mentally. She'll be okay after some sleep."

I wondered if it was possible to sleep in the hot sun and whether we should suggest she move into the shade of the trees.

"I hope so," Rhonda said still keeping her gaze fixated upon Julie.

I still had a piece of coconut within my hand so scrapped my teeth across its surface letting some of its juicy coconut milk to moisten my mouth. Its bitter taste still lingered causing me to twist my mouth.

"I don't want to dig a grave if anything should happen?" Rhonda said bluntly.

"What?!" I said in shock.

"I don't think I'd be able to face that," Rhonda continued, "If anyone, God forbid, did pass away I'd swim out to sea never to return."

"No, no!" I said as I knelt down to join Rhonda in her sitting position, "Nothing like that's going to happen. We have food, we have everything we need to survive, this isn't a life and death situation. We just need to be patient and wait it out!"

"And if Julie is sick?" Rhonda asked.

I glanced my head away not knowing how to answer. Julie and Sara appeared to be exchanging words. Sara then caught my eye contact and tilted her head indicating that she wanted me to join her.

"Seriously don't worry, it'll never come to that," I told Rhonda calmly pressing my hand against the side of her shoulder, "If it did we'll all, you know, swim out to sea together."

I wasn't sure if it was the right thing to say but I was having to think fast. It wasn't the kind of conversation I had ever had before. As I heaved myself to my feet I noticed Sara already making her way down the beach holding her bikini bottoms in place with her right hand due to the loose elastic. I wasn't sure if she had heard what me and Rhonda had been saying or not, if she had she wasn't letting on.

"Julie wants to wait it out," Sara said as she approached, "She doesn't want to do anything until a rescue ship comes."

"And have you told her that could be weeks, months, or possibly years?!" Rhonda said.

"She's not stupid she knows," Sara replied.

We all looked at one another.

"This is a beautiful island paradise," Sara continued, "But we can only enjoy it if we know we can leave at any time."

 

Chapter 10 - Stormy Weather

Rhonda spent the day smashing coconuts and wandering the island, her mood ranging from happy to despair from one moment to the next. Sara showed a caring side as she sat beside Julie coaching her to eat while engaging her in conversation. I myself was distracted by light headedness most likely caused by the heat which I tried to relieve by sitting among the bushes. The clothing we kept hanging from the trees in order to dry them out was still partially damp, so I took advantage of the situation and wrapped a damp towel around my body. It felt refreshing but I still couldn't rid myself of my dammed headache.

"So where's Gemma got to?" I heard Rhonda's voice within the distance.

"She's, you know, in the bushes," Sara replied, "Diarrhoea probably. Too many coconuts."

Rhonda giggled her response.

I was too ill and tired to correct Sara's mistake so continued sitting on the ground among the soft leaves taking care to avoid the spiky ones. A canopy formed by a large palm tree shaded me from direct sunlight. As I rested my body back and stared up at the branches of the tree I realised the sun wasn't being blocked by the leaves at all but by the clouds. Either way I felt relief then closed my eyes intent on taking a nap.

"Shit!" I heard Sara's voice screech in the distance.

I hadn't slept for more than a few moments before the heavens opened and the rain stared to pour. There had been no warning, no gradual build up, just a torrential downpour. Jumping to my feet using the damp towel to cover my head I hesitated deciding on what to do next. Thoughts of getting back in the yacht flashed through my mind before realising that was out of the question. I just hoped it was a brief rainstorm that would soon pass overhead.

To my surprise, causing me to startle, I saw Sara and Julie standing behind me the moment I turned. Julie had her towel above her head the same as I yet it was already soaked through with water pouring down her face.

"Where shall we go? What shall we do?!" Sara yelled in a panic.

"Erm," I responded wiggling my body from side to side in readiness to go somewhere that I hadn't yet decided upon.

My head still throbbed and I could feel the rain pouring down my cheeks and back.

"Right, um," I said staring at Sara hoping she would suggest something, "Under something, let's make a shelter, use the wood we prepared for the beacon fires!"

"There's no time!" Sara shouted over the sound of the rain.

I should have planned for this. I cursed myself for not thinking sooner. We should have made a shelter on the first night.

"So, what do we do?!" Sara pleaded.

Julie was already on the ground scrambling to get under the bushes not realising they were the prickly kind. She didn't appear to make any fuss however as the sharp leaves rubbed her skin. Glancing at Sara then looking at Julie I indicated that we should do the same. Sara crouched down then scrambled into the bushes following Julie. I was about to do the same but caught Rhonda in the corner of my eye hurrying towards us. She carried a pile of sodden wet clothes she had grabbed from the trees.

"Ronny!" I called out.

The moment she caught up she gave me no more than a mere glance before piling the clothes over the top of the thicket. I did the same with the towel I was holding and we tried our best to squeeze inside only to end up being on top of one another among prickly bushes.

"My bikini's fallen down!" Sara said.

"I've got a thorn jabbing in my leg," Julie then said, "It's bleeding, I know it."

I felt I was about to puke as my head continued to throb. I had to close my eyes and concentrate to control the urge.

"Can everyone just stop talking for a moment," I said softly.

"They're around my ankles!" Sara added.

I took some deep breaths as the chill of rainwater continued to splash against my back. I felt disorientated. I was laying on someone, either Julie or Sara, while Rhonda was in a contorted position partly on me and partly not.

"Are you okay Ronny?" I asked trying to remain calm.

There was a moment of silence before she responded.

"Let's all just remain perfectly still until this rain stops shall we?" She said in an exhausted tone.

"Agreed," I responded.

 

Chapter 11 - Stormy Night

With all our combined wills we remained as still as possible as the rain pounded down from above not letting off for even a moment. Afternoon very gradually turned to evening and we found ourselves still piled on top of each other within the prickly bush as night drew in.

The area of my back that was exposed to the elements felt numb yet I was all too aware of the rain that continued to bombard against it. No doubt it was likely red raw. There was also something that occasionally jabbed against my side with I put down to being Rhonda's foot which occasionally twitched most likely due to cramp.

There was a feeling of warmth among our huddle yet it couldn't hold back the sharp draft of cooled air that found its way around the entwining leaves of the bush in which we hid ourselves. There was also a smell of urine and body odour which increased the feeling of nausea within my head while my lungs begged for fresh air. The feeling of giddiness increased and I couldn't help spewing out a line of spit, laced with vomit, onto whoever I was laying upon.

"I'm sorry," I said quickly clearing my throat.

"I've been waiting a long time to hear you say that," Rhonda said misunderstanding what I was referring to.

There was then moment as though one of us was changing position. I gritted my teeth as I rubbed my bare arm across a sharp leaf then rested my hand against someone's shoulder. Closing my eyes again I tried to calm my head in the hope the dizzy feeling would pass. I needed sleep but now was not the time.

"I've been keeping quiet on this but I'm sure the others will agree, this truly is your fault," Rhonda said, "While we're stranded here I'll continue to cooperate and help build a proper shelter and smash coconuts, but once we're home again our friendship is over."

I was too tired to argue.

"I'm sorry you feel that way," I said.

I felt movement beneath me and realised it was Sara I was laying upon, and it wasn't her bare shoulder that I had my hand rested upon. I quickly pulled my arm back.

"Let's not blame anyone," she said, "It was an accident. If the boat was poorly maintained it was the rental company at fault not Gemma."

"Well I'm sure the rental company don't expect people to sail their yachts right up to the beach," Rhonda said.

"I'm too tired for this please calm..." I couldn't finish the end of my sentence as the sound of thunder rumbled across the sky.

"I've a feeling this'll get worse before it gets better," Sara said.

The rain continued to pour at a steady rate but something about the sound of thunder put us all on edge. There was then a bright flash soon followed by more thunder.

"I need to move, my face is in mud!" Julie screeched.

"We need another shelter now!" Rhonda moaned as she wiggled herself into an upright position practically taking the bush with her and exposing us all to the elements.

The crisp cold air bit into my back removing all the numbness causing it to sting. Rhonda hurried back towards the beach itself most likely fetching some of the wood we had piled for a beacon. I covered my gaze as Sara pulled up her bikini bottoms then we both helped Julie to her feet.

"Where now?!" Sara shouted over the sound of the rain.

"Ronny's gone to the beach!" I replied, "Let's see what she has in mind!"

I wanted to run but the sodden wet sand wasn't stable. I, Sara and Julie slowly headed for the beach taking one step at a time. To our surprise Rhonda didn't appear to be where we expected her, and the pile of wood remained undisturbed. It was difficult to see anything clearly however so we continued to the wood pile. Rhonda then came into view as she stepped out from behind it.

"We should take some of the wood back into the bushes!" Sara suggested while addressing me.

"Why are you asking her?!" Rhonda shouted, "Is she your boss? Do you need her permission? It's Gemma that got us into this mess in the first place!"

"Well if you've got a better suggestion we'll do it your way!" I shouted back to Rhonda.

I didn't care who was supposedly in charge. I only wanted what everyone else wanted, that was to survive long enough to be rescued. If Rhonda wanted to take over I was perfectly willing to allow her. I only wished she hadn't made her feelings known at the worst possible time.

I walked over to her holding out my arms in an attempt to calm her down, but I never got that far when something struck me directly against the mouth. Rhonda stared at me while I looked back having no idea what had happened. I was in shock, she couldn't have possibly done what I thought she had. I must have been mistaken. Had she struck me? Was it a gentle slap made worse due to the rain against my cheek, or had it been a punch? It must have been something else.

The rain continued pelting down as the sky lit up followed by more clapping thunder. We were all soaked to our skins.

"Stop it!" I heard Sara yell at the top of her voice which confirmed only too well my suspicion.

As the shock subsided the delayed pain shot into my mouth causing me to lean forward and scream out in agony. My front tooth was dislodged, bent inwards and on the brink of falling out. The taste of blood filled my mouth causing me to gulp some of it down while dribbling some out. My body trembled with rage but I bided my time, waiting to give Rhonda the chance to apologise, but no words of regret came.

"It's your own fault!" Rhonda moaned, "If you hadn't..."

Within a flash I was on top of her plunging her back first to the wet sand. Pressing my knees against her shoulders I pushed my full weight upon them.

"You fucking bitch. You fucking bitch!" I shouted repeatedly while pounding the underside of my fists against her face.

Rhonda frantically wiggled trying to get me off her but due to our position she was having difficulty. She couldn't even cover her face as I continued to pound my fists against it. It seemed like a long time but it was only a few moments when Sara and Julie manhandled me, prising me away from Rhonda's body. If they hadn't I wasn't sure if I would have ever stopped. We all flopped onto the beach in total exhaustion panting heavily. The streaks of warm tears down my face were constantly being washed away by the rain. The sky lit up and the thunder continued to roar. I was actually relieved to hear Rhonda crying as it meant she was still alive. I crawled closer to her and flopped down at her side unsure as to what I intended to do next.

The rain and thunder continued while the sky lit up with bolt lightning across the night's sky. There was another light too, coming from the sea. It was a ship with its spotlight illuminating the beach. Sara jumped to her feet and started waving with her right hand at the ship keeping her bikini bottoms in place with a firm grasp using her left. Julie laughed with relief whilst sitting in a kneeling position. I slowly heaved myself up and looked on as the ship continued to swing its searchlight to and fro across the island. I grinned widely and allowed my loose tooth to fall from my mouth onto the sand.

"Is it a ship?" Rhonda asked in a timid tone.

I turned and held out my arm helping her get to her feet. Her nose was bloody and her lip split.

"It is," I told her, "We're going home."

I gave her hand a gentle squeeze.

THE END.

 

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