Paradise was a lonely place.
Beautiful. But lonely.
Verity took strolls along the beach every day. An hour’s leisurely walk would take her full circle around the shores of the island and, if she elected to slip off her shoes, finagle soft smooth-grained sand between her toes. Which she would then wash away with a paddle in the glittering shallows of the lagoon. Every day.
At least, as far as she could estimate. There was no night and the sun never moved in the sky.
But she had a very reliable body clock and by adhering to a routine she had been able to create what could be counted as a day.
Approximately eight hours’ sleep. Then Hour One: breakfast on fruit and coconut milk. Followed by her stroll. Then two hours – or what she gauged to be two hours – of scribing in the sand, mostly drawings of the kind of shelter she would like to build for herself out of trees and foliage if she ever acquired the tools to cut them down. Then a lunchtime attempt to spear fish with a stick of bamboo she had broken off for herself that first day she had landed here.
Fishing was not always successful, not least because she had not yet sharpened her bamboo, and so she often went without lunch. But it didn’t matter as long as she devoted the same amount of time to the activity.
Whether fed or not, she would then spend three hours running inventory on the trees and bushes that covered the island interior. Then she would gather shellfish and a salty but edible weed from the rock pools and sit down to dinner. After which she would write a short story in the sand, a tale for her to read back to herself at bedtime.
Between all this and a handful of other assorted activities she had no trouble filling her time. But such days as she created still felt very empty.
Until the day the man fell from the sky.
He splashed down in the water not far from shore and she watched him flap and flounder for a bit before he realised the lagoon was only waist-deep and he could safely wade to the beach. Which he did and then stood dripping into the sand, while his black robes with silver trim hung about him, sodden and lightly adorned with seaweed.
Verity hadn’t had lunch that day and the seaweed was the edible kind. So she was sorely tempted to pick pieces off the man’s robe and snack while he dried off. But really, he might consider such an act terribly forward and she did not wish to give him the wrong impression.
He was not ugly. He possessed a rather flat, inoffensive face with a moustache that had been careful to grow only so far in order not to provoke any strong reactions either way. He seemed polite enough as he reached up to doff his hat – before discovering that he had lost his headwear in the splash down.
All the same, Verity did not wish to broker any relations beyond civility. She thought it very unfair if the gods intended this gentleman as her mate since she would much rather have been presented with a choice. Not merely handed one prospective husband from the sky and expected to make do.
“Uh, hello,” said the man. He flapped the sleeves of his robes to shake out a little excess water, then proffered a handshake.
Verity smiled and advanced close enough to shake his fingertips. “Hello,” she said. And wondered if she should add more. “I’m Verity,” she said finally – and trusted that did not sound too forward.
Honestly, she had quite forgotten all the social graces. She must have been here alone for longer than she thought.
“Ah. Verity. I’m – allow me to introduce myself – I am – that is to say – I think I am – yes, I’m reasonably sure my name is Norris.”
“Norris,” repeated Verity. “That’s so funny.”
“Oh, not your name. No, it’s perfectly – ” Perfectly what? Lovely? Hardly. “Fine. Perfectly fine name,” she decided. And hoped he believed her. “No, it’s only that for days and days after I arrived here, I couldn’t remember my name. Odd, isn’t it?”
“Yes. Yes, I should say so. Slight memory loss – from hitting the water, I suppose.”
Verity’s mind wandered on from names to the black robes with silver trim in which her castaway was attired. She was struck both by their familiarity and a sudden consciousness that she was comparatively underdressed. After days of sweltering on this well-baked island in the sun she had torn up her robes and re-fashioned them into a bikini. She glanced down at herself and it reminded her that it too was black with silver trim.
But if Norris thought that turning up in a matching outfit would guarantee him a mate, then he was sorely mistaken.
Still, there was no denying the simple fact that he was here. On her island. Which meant adjustments would have to be made. Adjustments to her daily timetable. Adjustments to everything.
“Well,” she said, “welcome to – ” She realised she hadn’t yet named it officially. “Paradise.” Why not? “Paradise. First of all, you’ll be wanting to dry off. And then we had better talk inventory.”
“Inventory?” said Norris.
“Yes. This is an island economy with limited produce and, between you and me, no industry. And now a population that has doubled. Also, between you and me.”
Norris appeared to enjoy the joke. “Why, I would love nothing more than to take inventory with you.”
“Whoa! Steady on there!” Verity showed him her palm.
Even in Paradise, men wanted to move too fast. She was here first and this was her island. She wasn’t about to stand for any funny business.
She turned and led the way up the beach. If nothing else, Norris might have some DIY skills and assist her in constructing a sturdy shelter.
He trudged after her, squelching and dripping, but otherwise good enough to keep quiet for now. Which was something. Because in the short space of their conversation Verity had lost all track of time.
Now she was going to have to start all over again from Hour One. Which would mean breakfasting again. This time with company.
What kind of screwy Paradise was this?
[To Be Concluded…]