Welcome to the sunny, freedom of a private island. You are in-store for a week long spree of relaxation, friends, and nothing but the heat of the sun. But be prepared for the occasional stranded cruise ship, crying passengers, and hungry zombie. At least it won't be boring, right? This is paradise.
Is it possible to find a paradise such as this?
The sun beats down on the beach that is surrounding this haven. To my left, I catch a glimpse of my friends, as they too, are entranced by the surrounding crystals of the blue-green ocean. The sky is azure, except for the dark clouds that cause the center of my vision to dip into the dangerous waters off-coast.
Lisa, my best friend and coordinator of this vacation, steps towards the shore where the waves lap at the sun kissed sand and she stares back flirtatiously at her boyfriend, Paul, who admires his girlfriend’s behind. I pretend not to notice the flexing muscles of my heart as I stare at the man my best friend has enamored. Georgia, Lisa’s cousin, lays on her stomach, occasionally stealing glances at the oceanic view that is threatening her reading time. Kyle, one of my best guy friends, runs around catching a football that John, Georgia’s boyfriend, is throwing at him. This I would consider paradise.
We had arrived yesterday by private jet thanks to Lisa and her famous actor of a daddy, Hudson Keeler—all time best male lead, four years in a row; Hollywood paid well for his type. The island we are currently vacationing at belongs to the Keeler family and we, being broke and recently out of University, did not utter a complaint at Lisa’s spontaneous suggestion three weeks prior.
As for me, well, my friends call me Joey, and I would not have it any other way.
Other islands surround this one, all busy and/or abandoned. Basically anyone with a big check-book could locate to one of this paradise havens.
“Looks like it might rain tonight,” I hear Lisa shout, her voice echoes around the cliffs that cut us off from all else around the island. “Those clouds don’t look so good.”
I look up and notice the lightning that breaks through the sky as it hits a patch of liquid-ocean that is inaccessible to us. I hear Georgia shiver near me and I raise my sunglasses onto my forehead.
“What do ya’ll want to do then?” I hear Kyle’s bemused voice coming from across the sand behind some trees that I can’t see around.
I smirk and steal a glance at Paul, “Tequila and cards sounds very inviting.”
I hear laughter from the direction of Kyle, “That’a girl!”
Kyle and I met when we were freshman at NYU and we had become inseparable. He, unlike many boys in my past, did not see me as simply another girl to “score” with, but as a friend that he could confide in. He had made his way down to New York City from Kansas after his dad had given him an ultimatum—either stay and work in the family business as a moving contractor, or be shunned from the family and do as he wished for his future. Kyle then, after telling me the story, had explained that he had always been a go-getter; a real sh*t disturber. So, shortly after the yelling and the cussing, Kyle had left his home with only a duffel bag and an acceptance letter to NYU that read “We are pleased to accept you in our school with a full scholarship”.
My story is probably the same as any other American girl, except for the fact that I wasn’t exactly born in the United States of America. I was born in the hot country of Cuba, under the roof of a searing hospital in Havana. My mom, Alejandra Rodriguez, raised me on her own (my father left the picture before I could even speak the word “daddy”) and it was her who got us out from under the burning sun of Cuba and into the ruthlessly cold winters of New York City. I was the Latin flavor of my neighborhood and my mom, well, she never remarried, but she can hold a nice longing stare from any man who happens to cross her path.
She named me Joanna Rosanna Rodriguez, after my grandmother, her one and only hero. I use my Spanish with caution and I pick my friends closely; too many mistakes to make me look back.
I stand up on the long legs that add to my five foot six frame and I slightly jog around the tree that was blocking my view. “You’ll join me Kyle?”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world Apple,” Kyle answers as he welcomes the hand shake that we created for ourselves.
I pout at the sound of his nickname for me and playfully punch him on the arm, “What is this? I thought you were done with the whole Apple thing!”
“Well,” he shrugs and backs off from me, a smirk growing on his face, “You’re just one big Apple, you have to share all of you with everyone—I am only emphasizing the love you offer!”
On cue I chase after him with high pitch squeals of laughter as he tries to escape my fury.
As I run I catch glimpses of the setting sun and the storm clouds as they begin to roll in.
Some kind of paradise.
The wind outside reminds me of the winds from the stories my mom used to read to me as a child. They are so powerful, that even a simple gust could steal your soul away, sending you prematurely to heaven.
I hear the windows of the mansion beach house that we are staying at and I hear the constant collision of tree branches and roof above my head. “This is one heck of a storm.”
“Yeah,” Lisa murmurs while fumbling with a cup of tequila and a stack of cards. “Daddy always had a problem with the rain that always hits near evening.”
I nod nonchalantly, knowing that she has no time to see that I have registered the information. I feel a chill reach me through an open window in the kitchen and I pull Kyle into the spacious room with me.
“Is it just me, or is it unbelievably awkward in there?” I say casually as I close the heavy window, rain showering me with force.
“How so?” Kyle smirks when he sees the all too unpleasant face that I make and quickly adds, “Oh, the whole Paul thing.”
I nod and lean against the marble counter, the coolness almost burning at my skin. “Exactly. Lisa has no clue what type of guy he is—”
“—yet you can’t let him go.” He cuts me off with the obvious thought that was repeating itself in my head.
“You know me too well,” I say and give him a bear hug, my voice becomes muffled in his curls of blond hair and I feel his hand sliding down my back to my behind before I pull away. “Kyle, you know you’re one of my best friends!”
His smirk has turned guilty and he looks down at me, while still holding me in his embrace. “I know, but this is vacation Joey, can’t you at least try?”
“I’m sorry,” I free myself from his arms and start walking back to where everyone else is. “But you’re like a brother to me.”
I walk out of the kitchen without a glance back, damn this paradise.
The rain has subsided and it is nearly midnight when we all decide to go for a moonlit stroll, some of us slightly inebriated. The dim natural lighting casts eerie shadows on the palm trees that line the beach about ten or so feet from the shore and the water has become a vast sea of blackness. The sand has become mush in my toes and the sound of crashing waves fills the emptiness that has become this island.
Lisa is singing while Paul holds her up and I let my gaze explore his arm as it holds her up steady. Kyle comes up beside me and forces me out of the trance by wrapping his arm around my waist.
“Forgive me?” He asks, I can sense the sound of regret in his voice.
The one thing about Kyle that I had admired from the beginning of our friendship was how he could apologize so earnestly, not like most men who apologized for the sake of it. I savor the feel of a man’s arm around me, even if it doesn’t belong to Paul, and accept his apology with a nod.
I hear Kyle’s sigh of relief and I realize that he is no longer burdened with the idea of me being mad at him, but he does not let go of my waist.
The hot air of the ocean sky whisks my hair up and I see something odd through the spaces that my hair allows my vision to seep through. At the same time that I see a darkened figure emerge in the storm raided ocean; the others gasp as they too see something.
“What the hell is that?” A drunk Lisa announces first, stating exactly what we are all thinking.
After several moments the silhouette of a boat emerges; a large cruise ship.
“Oh my G—” Georgia begins and is silenced by the sudden force of the large vessel as it becomes stranded near the shoreline.
Kyle became my leaning tower as I let him hold me up as I become sick at the sight that I am offered: bloody handprints line the sides of the ship that is easily accessible and the several doors that run down the side host the same gruesome picture. Then I see it; or them. People climbing down the long ladders down the side and several are even jumping off of the sides.
“There are people there! Oh my God, help them!” Lisa exclaims the obvious and we begin to run towards the ship and the now soaking wet people as they make their way to us, some screaming in agony and others crying.
What a paradise.