I must have fallen asleep on the basement floor again, Bel thought. The grainy scrap from her sculpture scratched her face and arms. Mom’s going be mad that I made such a mess on the floor. I must have left the lights on too, but I don’t remember them being so bright! Bel was shocked awake in a second. She was lying on soft, tan sand, not her dirty basement floor. And that was no light, it was the sun! Guessing from its height, it must be close to noon. It all came back to her in a flash. The party, Jonathan’s assumptions, Brianne’s treachery. She had fallen from the boat, but they had been nowhere near an island, so where was she now? She couldn’t have swum there, she had never been any good at it, no matter how many times her father threw her into a lake.
Bel sat up slowly. She had to admit, the beach was beautiful, and, unfortunately, deserted. The water was a perfect turquoise blue, and she could see to the bottom for a long way out. Colorful fish darted between rocks and brilliant coral fans waved in the distance. The sand was indeed soft. The softest she’d ever felt between her toes. The beach stretched a long way both to her right and left. Behind her, there were large palm trees that grew into a thickly forested area. She could see nothing past those trees into the forest. Still, the sun shone down warmly, the waves made a beautiful sound and, if she hadn’t been insulted, ridiculed, and then thrown from a boat, she might have been glad to be there.
If she’d been asked what she would want on a deserted island, it wouldn’t have been her swimsuit and this damn purple t-shirt. She looked to her right and discovered on the sand beside her, a large leaf. On the leaf was a pile of slimy looking seaweed. Bel stuck her tongue out and got up. She kicked it onto the water, careful not to let any of it touch her foot. This place might look deserted, she thought, but through those trees there might be a road.
Sand burrs stabbed her in the toes as she made her way to the tree line. She wished she had some shoes, at least sandals. When she made it into the trees, no doubt, the ground would be rougher. Hopefully that road was right ahead. She made it to the trees, parted some brush, and stepped into the cool shade.
The forest was dense. Unlike any forest she had seen in girl scouts, vines grew thick through the tops of trees. At her level, there was very little room to move. Plants covered every space. The sunlight that filtered through the trees dappled leaves of every size shape and shade of green imaginable. Ants marched in single file over fallen branches. Bel took a few steps in, but she couldn’t see where she was putting her feet. Scared that she might step on something sharp or poisonous, she returned to the beach.
The sand that had been so soft just a minute earlier now seemed like hot coals on her feet. She ran to the water as fast as she could and didn’t stop until she was ankle deep in the cool blue. When it didn’t feel quite so much like she was standing on the stove, she backed up and sat down on the sand. With one foot in the water she massaged the burnt sole of the other. She switched and rubbed the other one. She collapsed backward onto the sand and blew out a long breath.
I’m completely screwed, she thought. I can’t make it through the forest, and it’s too hot to stay on the beach. She glanced up at the sun. Its rays were becoming stronger as the afternoon went on. She knew she would be even worse off if she let herself get sunburned on top of everything else. She decided to retreat to the shade at the back of the beach and think over what she was going to do.
In the shade, the cool, soft sand greeted her like the Egyptian cotton sheets on her bed at home. Just thinking about it made her tired. She tried not to go to sleep but in less than a minute she was out like a light.