Violence/Sex: No violence, nope. One character is a photographer and the other is a writer. They may get frustrated and beat up camera equipment, or throw their laptops out the window, but nothing explicit. If you are offended by such displays, then this story may not be for you. Otherwise, you should be fine. The theme of two women falling in love (yes, with each other) is pretty much the basis of the entire plot (well, sort of). If you are under 18, or live somewhere were this kind of thing is illegal, then off you go. There are no graphic sex scenes, but they might get mushy here and there. So be forewarned.
Author's Note: This story takes place mostly on Midnight Island, which doesn't really exist. It's a fictional island in the Caribbean, off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico (which does exist). Questions and/or comments may be directed to email@example.com. I hope you enjoy this. Feedback is always welcome.
Part 1 Chapter One
Sara Audin stared blankly at the computer screen in front of her, watching the cursor blinking endlessly after the last word she'd written. It had been a week since her arrival on Midnight Island, and so far her creative inspiration hadn't flickered once. She sighed, running her hands through her strawberry blonde hair in frustration. I must have left my inspiration back in New York, she thought, shutting off the laptop computer, and placing it to the side of the lounge chair she was resting comfortably on. Before her, the Atlantic Ocean in all of its majestic glory roared as its waves crashed loudly on the weathered shore.
She stared at the ocean for a moment longer, before rising to her feet, and entering the luxurious beach house she was renting for the summer. The stillness of the house was interrupted by the ringing of her cell phone. She pulled the device from her jeans pocket, and flipped it open. "Audin," she breathed into the receiving end.
"How's paradise treating you?"
Sara rolled her eyes at the sound of her editor's voice. I should've turned the damn ringer off. "It's going well."
"How's the novel coming along?" Katherine Levi asked, cutting straight to the heart of matters as usual.
"Slowly but surely," Sara responded after a moment's hesitation. More slowly than surely, she added silently.
"I need it by the end of the summer, Sara. Email me what you have so far."
Sara sighed, wondering if she could pretend to be going through a tunnel so she could cut off the connection in a believable way. Tunnels in a tropical island in the middle of nowhere? Right. "I don't have much, yet," she admitted.
"How much is 'not much'?"
"Half a page?" She pulled the phone a way from her ear, as Katherine's voice rose to great altitudes. She crossed the living room area of the beach house, keeping the phone far from her ear. Sara was well aware that it had been over a year since the release of her third novel, and she also knew that there were anxious people waiting for the release of the next book in her Island Fever series, but she was blocked. She'd left New York in the hopes that some time in a virtually unknown Caribbean island would spark some of her lost creativity, but so far there was nothing. Sara pulled the phone back to her ear, as she entered the kitchen area. "Kat, look, I'm blocked, okay? I don't know what it is, but I feel like there's something I'm missing. I need? something. I just don't know what."
"Sara honey, I totally sympathize with what you are saying, but you have got to get something to me soon." The editor sighed. "Look, take the next couple of days off. Relax. Do some soul-searching, and figure out what it is that you 'need', but I want at least twenty pages by the end of the week."
"Alright," Sara agreed, having no other choice. She ended the conversation, and placed the cell phone on the kitchen counter, leaning against it as she did so. Twenty pages, huh? Well, at least I have week.
Dyan Warren was in the process of packing for her return trip from Los Angeles, when the cell phone she'd thrown on the bed started ringing. Crossing the hotel room, she picked it up and clicked it on, pressing it to her right ear. "Yeah?"
"Dee, we need to talk."
Dyan recognized her boyfriend's voice immediately, and her ice blue eyes narrowed at his tone. "You can't wait a few more hours?" she asked, walking over to the window which overlooked the hotel's pool. Sunbathers were out in all their glory catching the early afternoon's sun. "I'm on my way back to the island this afternoon. The flight leaves at three." She turned her back to the window, and ran her hands through her jet black hair in annoyance.
"No it really can't wait," Jonathan responded.
Dyan waited for him to continue.
"Look, Dyan," Jonathan began, "I'm leaving Midnight Island tonight."
Dyan frowned in confusion. He's leaving? "Are you taking a trip somewhere?"
"No, I'm leaving for good," Jonathan responded. "I just wanted to call you and let you know that."
"But I don't understand," Dyan responded.
"Oh come on, Dyan. You can't tell me that you didn't see this coming. Our relationship, if you could even call it that, has been crap since the beginning. I kept thinking things would improve if I'd just give it more time, but time just made it worse. I can't compete with your job, or your camera, and I'm more than tired of trying."
Dyan let the meaning of Jonathan's words sink in. She didn't know what to say, so she remained silent, knowing the dull ache in her heart would only get stronger.
"Dyan, I'm really sorry," Jonathan continued, this time in a gentler tone. "You're a wonderful person, and I don't regret the past two years, but I'm tired of being second best to your career. You're just not the kind of person who could ever give their heart away. I see that now, and I'm a fool for not realizing it sooner."
Dyan took a deep breath, and shut her eyes to keep the tears from falling. "There's some one else, isn't there?"
Jonathan hesitated for a moment. "Her name is Mitsi Davis, and she is a lifeguard instructor in Florida. She offered me a teaching job there, and I decided to take it." He paused. "Dee?
"Don't call me that," she snapped. She was clutching the cell phone so hard that her knuckles went white.
Jonathan sighed. "I don't know if this means anything to you right now, but I will always lo-"
Dyan threw the phone across the hotel room, hearing it crash again the wall and bounce onto the floor. She leaned back against the wall behind her, and wiped the tears from her eyes, feeling more angry than hurt. She sighed noticing the time on the alarm clock. Pushing all thoughts of Jonathan from her mind, she grabbed her camera and headed out of the room.
After deciding that no good could come out of moping around the beach house, Sara went in search of entertainment. Or something along those lines, anyway. It was nighttime and the tourists were out basking in the glory of the many parties in full swing all around the island. Sara didn't feel much like celebrating, so she made sure to stay away from the crowds, which proved a difficult task, considering the amounts of people out and about. Damn tourists, she thought, chuckling to herself.
The warm ocean breeze sprayed long strands of blonde hair over Sara's face, and she pushed them away with her hand. After an hour of walking around, she'd finally gotten far enough away from the beach to find herself alone. She stared up at the building in front of her, and headed for the entrance. Sara had heard of the Midnight Island Gallery before she'd ever heard of Midnight Island itself. From what she could tell, it was probably the only well-known thing about the place. She entered the building, and felt a chill as her skin came into contact with cold air.
Sara was not surprised to find that she was the only person in the gallery, and she had no complaints on the matter. She started walking, sticking her hands in the pockets of her khaki shorts to keep them warm. The white tank top was probably not a good idea, she thought, feeling the goosebumps popping up all over her arms. Note to self: next time, bring a jacket.
She spent half an hour walking up and down the photograph-covered walls, before coming to a stop in front of a display that caught her eye. She moved closer to get a better look. Oh wow, she thought, moving from one picture to the next. Each one captured her attention like nothing else in the gallery had. One picture in particular made it hard for her to turn away. She was so involved in gazing at the photographs that she didn't notice when someone came up beside her.
"Nice aren't they?"
Sara jumped, and turned to look at the man standing next to her. He was about middle age, possibly younger, with shaved brown hair, and small brown eyes. He looked friendly enough. "Nice isn't really the word I'd use to describe them," she finally answered, turning back to the display.
"Are you a photographer?" the man asked.
Sara laughed. "Not quite," she answered. "I'm not very good with a camera, but I do enjoy looking at photography. I find it inspiring."
The man nodded, and extended his hand. "My name is Charles Rawson, but most call me Charlie. I run this place." He motioned to the gallery around them for emphasis.
Sara shook his hand and smiled. "Sara Audin, pleasure to meet you." She nodded to the photograph she'd been looking at. "Are these photographs for sale?"
Charlie nodded solemnly. "Sure are."
"How much for that one?"
"You have three messages. I will play three new messages. Message one: Saturday, 8:34pm. Beeeeeeeeep!"
"Dee, this is Charlie at the gallery. Good news! One of your photographs was sold tonight..."
Dyan looked up and away from the refrigerator at her answering machine, which rested on the kitchen counter beside her portable phone. "Which one?" she asked it, as though it could actually hear her.
"...one with the ocean waves crashing on the shore with the moon shining in the sky?"
Dyan slammed the refrigerator door closed, after grabbing a can of Coke. "Like I said, which one?"
"...there's a check here with your name on it, so whenever you want to come pick it up it will be waiting. Congratulations, Dee. Talk to you soon. Bye."
At least the day wasn't a complete loss, she thought, as she popped open the can of soda.
"Message two: Saturday, 9:56pm. Beeeeeeeeep!"
"Hey Dyan, it's Vickie. I'm calling to invite you to a party at my beach house on Saturday. Bring a bathing suit and leave your camera at home for once in your life. Ever think about taking a vacation? Anyway, bring that cute boyfriend of yours. Ta ta!"
Dyan lied down on the couch and shook her head. What cute boyfriend? she thought sadly.
"Message three: Saturday, 10:22pm. Beeeeeeeeep!"
"If I know you the way I think I know you, I'd say you're lying on your couch drinking a can of soda, and sulking over the loss of Mr. Perfect..."
Dyan half-smiled at the sound of her friend's voice. Camilla Marquez--better known to her adoring public as Mist--prided herself in being the only true psychic on Midnight Island. Dyan had known Mist for over three years, and was one of the few people Dyan tolerated. They had met while Dyan was taking pictures of the sunset in one of the more deserted parts of the island. Mist had been leaning against a palm tree, staring intently at the ocean, and Dyan had instinctively captured that moment on film. Feeling guilty for intruding on Mist's privacy, Dyan had walked over to apologize for taking her picture. Mist's engaging smile and alluring personality had won Dyan over. They'd been good friends ever since.
"...am I right, or am I right? I know I'm right. I didn't even need to use my powers to know that. You're so predictable, Dyan. Darling, welcome back to the island. I have missed you so. Just so you know, that boy is not worth his weight in gold, or yours for that matter, or even the weight of a feather. So quit feeling sorry for yourself, and join me for lunch tomorrow at The Escape. I already know you'll be there so don't bother thinking it over. I'll see you tomorrow. Ciao."
Dyan shook her head and leaned back against the arm of the black leather couch. She stared up at the ceiling, and sighed. It was nearly three in the morning on Midnight Island, and she could still hear the people out partying on the beach. I hate tourist season, she thought miserably.
She had succeeded in pushing her conversation with Jonathan to the back of her mind all day. Between switching planes three times to get on the island, and getting settled back into her beach house it hadn't been such a hard task at all. But now was a different story. Dyan had always known that her relationship with Jonathan would not last forever. He'd hit home with a lot of the things he'd said to her on the phone, and perhaps it was facing that truth which was hurting her so much. She knew she'd never been in love with him, and more often than not she'd wanted him the hell out of her life. So why am I depressed? she wondered, getting up to throw the empty can of Coke in the trash. Two years of memories. Two years of friendship. Two years of living in the comfort of a steady relationship. Two years of not having to worry about having a date somewhere, or having nothing to do on Saturday night. Like now, she realized sadly. Dyan leaned against the kitchen counter, and buried her face in her hands. I'm single again. Then she sighed, looking around the silent beach house. I'm alone again.
The Escape was the most popular restaurant on Midnight Island, due partly to the fact that it remained open year-round, while most other restaurants closed once tourist season ended, making it the only place on the island where people could enjoy modern music and good food all year long. However, The Escape's overall ambiance and convenient location near the beach was what made it a favorite among the islanders.
Dyan entered the restaurant for what felt like the millionth time in her eight years of living on Midnight Island, and looked around. It came as no shock to her that the place was over crowded, since it was June, after all, and tourist season was well underway. Toad the Wet Sprocket's "Walk On the Ocean" blasted through the speakers on the wall. Because of The Escape's oceanic theme, everything inside the restaurant was sea-related. The walls were colored blue, and there were fish tanks in various spots across the place. There were surfboards and plastic fish glued on, as well as painted to the walls.
Dyan nodded at a couple of waitresses she knew, and proceeded to look around for her best friend, whom she had telephoned earlier to ask for the exact time of their scheduled lunch date.
Mist was not a particularly hard-to-spot character, and so Dyan had no trouble finding her amidst the mobs of people walking through the restaurant. Clad in a brightly colored tie-dyed shirt, and hot pink bicycle shorts, Mist sat patiently in a booth, sipping what appeared to be a piña colada, and looking calm and relaxed. Her long, bright blue hair was tied back into a pony tail, and her hazel eyes sparkled brighter than ever. She smiled and waved excitedly as Dyan approached.
Dyan mimicked Mist's excitement by smiling and waving back at an exaggerated level, as she slid into the seat across from her friend.
Mist grinned, arching an eyebrow. "Glad to see your sense of humor has not left you," she stated.
Dyan shrugged. "I could never pass up an opportunity to mock you. It's way too tempting."
"Glad I serve some purpose." Mist looked around the restaurant silently for a moment, then turned back to Dyan. "Do you see that guy over there in the blue bathing suit?" She motioned with her head.
Dyan glanced over in the general direction she saw Mist point to, and saw a blonde, surfer-type guy standing by the bar, wearing blue trunks. She turned back to Mist. "Uh-huh."
"He thought you were hot," Mist said, matter-of-factly.
"You can read minds now?"
Mist smiled, her eyes sparkling with amusement. "Wouldn't that be something though? No. I just saw him looking at you as you passed by, and one of those 'hey, she's hot' smiles passed across his face."
Dyan nodded mockingly. "Right."
"Go talk to him," Mist insisted. "He's cute."
"Not my type," Dyan argued. "Besides, I thought you invited me here so you could cheer me up. You know, mend my broken heart."
"This is how I work. I set you up with a really cute guy, he proves to be the man of your dreams, and then you forget all about Mr. Perfect, get married and have lots of children. You'll die a very happy old lady. Go talk to him."
Dyan stared at her best friend, then shook her head.. "I told you, he's not my type, and besides, I'm not ready to start a relationship. I'm quite content remaining in this miserable resentful stage. It will be good for me."
Mist glanced at the guy for a moment, and shrugged, turning her attention back to Dyan. "My only concern with this new single status of yours is that now that Jonathan isn't around to take you out once in a while, you're gonna bury yourself even deeper into your ever-present camera and never come out."
"Nothing wrong with that."
"Listen, hon, you know I think you're a wonderful photographer, and I know you love your job, but you can't hide behind that lens your entire life. There's so much going on! Take a vacation or something. Living on a tropical island you miss out on so much of life. Go to New York City. I bet you didn't see a thing in L.A. other than the Vamp headquarters and the black room."
"Darkroom," Dyan corrected, then shrugged. "I was on a schedule."
"Created by whom?" Mist inquired, her tone revealing that she already knew the answer.
"Me," Dyan admitted. She sighed. "Can we drop the subject?"
Mist rolled her eyes, and sipped the last of her piña colada. "As you wish."
"Sorry for the wait, it's a zoo in here today."
Dyan gazed up at the waitress standing beside her. "I don't envy your job, Kim," she joked, looking around the crowded establishment.
"Well we can't all be famous photographers now can we?" Kim teased, winking at Dyan. "Are you ready to order, or would you like me to come back in another hour or so?"
"Caesar salad," Mist answered. "And another piña colada."
Kim nodded, and turned to Dyan expectantly. "The usual?" she asked.
Dyan nodded, and Kim walked away.
"So how was L.A.?" Mist inquired, playing with her eyebrow ring, as she usually did when she asked questions she already knew the answers to.
Dyan shrugged. "It was okay. I photographed a few hundred models, and then I jumped back on a plane to the island."
"A few. You know the magazine loves to throw parties."
Mist raised an eyebrow. "I meant, did you go to any?"
"Oh." Dyan shook her head, and shrugged again. "I went to one, but I spent most of the night taking pictures of this really exotic bird in the backyard. You know I hate parties. Vickie called and invited me to one at her beach house on Saturday."
"Are you going?"
"Probably not. I mean, everyone will just be asking where Jonathan is, and I don't feel ready to accept the reality of our relationship being over."
Mist frowned. "And this is healthy?"
"Of course. I need time to get in tune with the child within."
Dyan laughed. "Everything's kinky to you."
"Everything is kinky," Mist responded with a smile. "Just depends on how you look at it."
"I see, and you come from a sexually frustrated standpoint?"
Dyan nodded. "Thought so." She grinned for a moment, feeling more relaxed than she had in weeks. Mist could always make her feel better. When she's not lecturing me about how much time I spend with my camera, she amended.
"So what are your plans for the day, Oh Resentful Misery Woman?"
"You're the psychic, why don't you tell me?" Dyan teased.
Mist closed her eyes and hummed, self-mockingly. "I see....I see a camera in your near future. And...oh, you're pointing the camera at something...there's a sudden bright light...and another...and another...then it stops." She opened her eyes, and shrugged. "I just don't know what to make of this vision. What could it mean?"
"Anyway, yes, I'm going by the studio later, but first I have to stop by the gallery and pick up a check. One of my photographs was sold."
Mist's eyebrows shot upward. "Oh really? Bet you feel all high and mighty now."
"So what are you doing to celebrate?"
Dyan shrugged. "I don't know. Probably holding back the temptation to use the check as a tissue as I cry myself to sleep tonight."
"You wild woman, you."
"I'm open to suggestions."
Mist considered. "Well, you can start by paying for lunch. And then you can skip the studio all together, and take me shopping for frivolous clothes."
"Do I have a choice in the matter?"
At around two in the afternoon, Sara wandered back to the Midnight Island Gallery, partly from excessive boredom, but mostly out of a compulsive need to return to the D. Warren display. I wonder what the "D" stands for, she thought, staring at the framed photographs, which filled her with a strange sense of déjà vu. She didn't understand what it was, but there was something about those pictures which made her feel at home.
The grand majority of the display featured photographs of various landscapes, but something Sara noticed was that in each picture either the sun or the moon were always present. Something else she noticed was that there were no pictures of civilization of any kind. No people, no houses? just nature. It's as though she's trying to capture some kind of memory. Sara frowned at the thought, not knowing where it had sprung from. For all she knew the photographer could've just as easily been obsessed with celestial bodies and mountains and grass. He's probably some kind of nature freak.
Behind her, Sara heard two female voices, but didn't turn around. She heard one say she'd be right back, and then the other walked closer until she was standing right next to Sara. Sara glanced over, and her eyebrows rose at the sight of a blue-haired woman, wearing bright colors, an eyebrow ring, and dangling jewelry. She turned back to the photographs to keep herself from staring.
"No, it's okay, you can stare. I find it kind of flattering actually."
Sara faced the woman again, and found herself staring into a pair of amused hazel eyes. For once in her life, she found herself speechless.
The woman nodded to the photographs. "Aren't they amazing?"
Sara was relieved for the change in conversation. "Yes, I was just thinking that myself, actually. They're breathtaking."
"Yeah, I've tried telling her as much, but she's so damn stubborn."
"Her?" Sara asked, slightly confused.
The woman stared at her curiously for a moment, and Sara wondered if she'd answer the question at all. Finally, she nodded at the display. "Dyan Warren. The photographer."
It's a woman? Why did I think it was a man? Sara wondered, frowning slightly at her ignorance. Then she snapped out of it and regarded the blue-haired woman. "You know her?"
"You could say that."
Dyan Warren. Sara repeated the name in her head, then turned back to the photographs. "Well, tell her I think she's amazing." She glanced at her watch, and decided to head back to the beach house and attempt to do some writing. If I'm gonna get twenty pages, I better get a move on.
Well, she'd sat down to write. It wasn't her fault that she still couldn't get a sentence out without immediately going for the backspace key to delete it. Sara sighed, and looked around the empty beach. After searching for what had felt as hours, she'd finally found a secluded spot, and so far she'd had no interruptions. Not that there was much to interrupt. She leaned back against the trunk of a fallen palm tree, and balanced the laptop computer on her lap. For some reason the fact that she was blocked was not worrying her much. Sure, the publishers would have her head if the novel wasn't out by the promised time of release. A few book signing tours would have to be either cancelled or rescheduled, but that didn't really matter to her either. Not as much as it would have, say, four years ago.
At twenty-four, Sara knew she'd lucked out career wise. She was no Anne Rice, and she was well aware that she probably never would be, but she wrote for a sense of completeness, of self-awareness. It was more spiritual than anything else.
Sara frowned at the computer monitor. The screen saver flashed on the screen, and she stared at the colorful fish swimming back and forth from one side to the other. Sighing, she clicked the shift key, and Microsoft Word reappeared. She reread, for the millionth time, the half a page she'd written, and frowned. Why can't I write, she wondered.
It was true what she'd told Katherine. She was in desperate need of something. But what? I'll be damned if I know. Sara closed her eyes, and retreated to a time where creativity flowed through her like a wild river. She'd never had a problem before. So why now? she asked herself.
She opened her eyes, and put the laptop aside. She crossed her arms against her chest and stared blankly at the black ocean ahead. The waves crashed noisily on the shore and then rolled away, leaving a marked path in the sand. She watched this display for a few minutes, trying to figure out why her heart felt empty and her soul felt cold, and why all the feelings that she loved to write about felt numb inside her.
She stared up at the moon, blazing lazily in the sky. It stared down at her like some kind of omen that she couldn't understand. What am I missing?
Dyan let her camera dangle loosely around her neck as she stared speculatively at the moon. Ever since she'd picked up her first camera at the age of five, the moon had always been the main star in her photographs. To this day she couldn't understand what drew her to it. For a long time she had wondered, but now she simply didn't care to understand. Whatever it was about nature that called to her, it was a mystery she had yet to uncover. She sometimes wondered if Mist knew what it was. There were times when Dyan could almost hear the unspoken words in Mist's mind, but Mist never said anything. She had promised Dyan never to reveal anything about her life, unless Dyan asked.
She never had.
Dyan sat down on the soft sand, leaning back on her arms as she watched the darkness of the ocean before her. She usually went out at night to photograph the sky, if not for any other reason than it brought her an odd sense of comfort. Tonight however, she had no desire to lift her camera from its current resting place.
Over the crash of the waves Dyan heard the distinct sound of a sneeze. She instinctively frowned, and listened intently. It came again. Who the hell would be out here at this hour? she wondered. This area of Midnight Island was pretty unknown. It was far from the public beaches, and other tourist areas, and most of the islanders didn't frequent these parts because there was simply nothing to see but water and trees.
Dyan stood, brushing the sand from her hands on the pant legs of her light blue Levi 501s. She started walking in the direction the sound had come from, and found its source sitting against a palm tree. Long blonde hair provided a curtain shielding Dyan's vision from the face behind it. The girl was staring intently at the screen of her laptop computer, completely oblivious to Dyan's arrival. She stood awkwardly for a moment deciding on the best course of action. Why did I walk over here, again? "Uh, bless you," she said finally.
The girl, who looked no older than nineteen-years-old jumped at the sound of Dyan's voice. In the process she accidentally snapped the laptop shut on her finger. She yelped out in pain, pulling her finger out and shaking it in the air. Finally her eyes found Dyan's. "I'm sorry?" she asked, confusion written plainly on her face.
"That was you who sneezed before, right?"
In response, the girl held her hand up in a gesture of "hold that thought", and sneezed again. She shook her head as though to clear it. "Yes, that would have been me." She paused. "Thank you," she said belatedly, regarding Dyan curiously. "You walked all the way over here to bless me?"
Dyan shrugged, and her lips quirked into a half-smiled. "Actually, I was curious. This part of the island is usually deserted." The girl's eyes caught the moonlight and sparkled so brightly that Dyan almost reached for her camera. She stifled the impulse, and focused on the girl's face. She's beautiful. I wonder if she's ever considered modeling?
"That's my favorite aspect of it, actually," was the response. She noticed the camera, and nodded toward it. "Photographer?"
"I guess," Dyan replied modestly, sitting down on the sand. Standing felt awkward.
"Is there a convention of photographers in town, by chance?"
Dyan regarded the girl curiously. "Not that I'm aware of. Why?"
She shrugged. "Just curious."
Dyan wondered if she had interrupted something, and suddenly felt stupid for choosing to sit down. She probably thinks I'm insane. Dyan rose to her feet. "I should get going," she announced. "I hope you don't catch a cold and ruin your vacation. Are you here with your parents?"
The blonde started laughing. "That would very much defeat the purpose of my coming here," she responded.
Dyan's eyebrows shot up. "And what would that be?"
"To get away from my every distraction."
Dyan grinned. "Well good luck with that." She started walking away, and shook her head, amused. How many distractions can a teenager possibly have?
"A movie," Sara cried incredulously into her cell phone. "They want to make Island Fever into a movie? The series isn't even complete yet!"
Her agent sighed. "If you get the third installment out in time it will be." The sound of a cigarette being lit crackled through the phone, and Sara could almost imagine the tired expression Melinda Harvey wore on her face like a constant mask. "Sara, the book has to be finished in time. They're willing to wait for the third book to get released before going forth with the idea. You have two months until the deadline."
Sara buried her face in one hand, as she leaned against the kitchen counter. Oh my God, this is not good. Well it's good, but it won't be good unless I manage to get this novel finished, and I don't see that happening any time soon. "I know," she breathed into the phone, her mind reeling from the news. She couldn't help being excited about the thought that her series could be turned into a movie. How do I fit three books into a two hour long screenplay? she wondered. It sure boggles the mind.
"Good," Melinda responded. "Now that that's settled, how's life on a tropical island?"
Sara stood up straight, relieved that the issue of deadlines had been dropped. She jumped up and sat down on the counter, letting her bear legs dangle over the edge of the wooden top. She caught her reflection on the microwave mirror, and pushed a loose strand of hair back into place. "Have you ever heard of Dyan Warren?"
"It rings a faraway bell."
"She's a photographer," Sara added, staring down at the shiny black tiles on the floor, unsure of why she'd brought up the subject.
The agent paused for a moment. "I believe she's the one with the Amazon Moon collection, but don't quote me on that."
Amazon Moon? What an interesting title. "Could be."
"What about her?" Melinda asked.
Sara frowned. Good question. "I just bought one of her photographs at the gallery. Her display is magnificent. Have you ever seen her work?"
"Can't say that I'm a grand follower of photography," Melinda answered. "However, my husband is a fanatic of the arts. So it is possible that I may have seen her pictures at some point or another."
"Hmm." Sara shrugged, deciding to change the subject. "Anyway, the island is beautiful, but it's hard to enjoy myself when I've got that deadline on my conscience."
"Speaking of enjoying yourself, I almost forgot. Victoria Tilden heard you were on the island, and asked me to invite you to this party at her beach house this coming Saturday. It's casual, so don't worry about what to wear."
Sara sighed. Victoria Tilden was another of Melinda's clients. She had started out as a magazine model, and then decided that writing was her calling in life. After marrying a man whose premature death had left Victoria with quite a lot of money, she had started her own magazine, and now spent her time traveling from place to place. Exotic islands were her joy in life, Midnight Island in particular. Sara had met the woman twice in her life, and had found her friendly yet boring all at the same time. "I'll think about it."
"Just relaying the message," Melinda said. "Anyway, I must be off. Take care of yourself, Sara dear, and remember to write."
How could I forget? "Bye, Melinda," she said, and clicked off the phone. She let out a long breath, and jumped down from the counter. She grabbed a Pepsi from the fridge, and walked into the living room. Dropping down on the couch, she clicked on the TV, and pulled the laptop onto the coffee table with one hand. She popped open the can of soda, flipped open the computer, turned it on, and sat back to channel surf while the laptop booted up.
She stopped at a giant chicken in the process of attacking a village. Who watches this stuff? she wondered, changing the channel as quickly as possible. She eventually settled for the TV Guide channel, and leaned forward to get a better look at the monitor. She let the arrow hover over the Microsoft Word icon for a few minutes, before going for the internet connection one instead. Finding a local server on Midnight Island had been a pain, but it was well worth the effort.
Sara opened Netscape, and typed "Dyan Warren" into the Yahoo! search engine. This borders on obsession, she thought, but nonetheless felt her heart skip a beat at the results. There was one matching web page for Dyan Warren. It was called, "D. Warren's Private Gallery" and claimed to contain never before seen photographs by Dyan Warren. Sara clicked on the link and waited for the site to load.
She scrolled down the page, trying to find some kind of biographical information, but found none, so she decided to go ahead and look at the photos. They were different from the ones on display at the Midnight Island Gallery, but they left little doubt as to who had taken the pictures. The first images were of horses, all containing one equal characteristic: they were golden-colored. The next set of pictures were of mountains, the woods ? She sure likes nature, Sara noted. For some reason her thoughts jumped to the woman she had met earlier that night. She seemed so familiar ? Sara tried to think of where she might have met the woman before, but couldn't place her face. It hadn't been her looks exactly that had Sara wondering if they had met before, it was more of a ? feeling ? of comfort. Similar to how she felt when looking at Dyan's photographs. Sara frowned at the thought, then shook her head. No ? it couldn't be ?
After looking through all the pictures, Sara closed Netscape, and opened Word. She started to open the file containing her novel-to-be, but changed her mind, and opened a new document instead. She watched the blinking cursor for a moment, and then began to write.
Dyan woke up around noon the next day, after having tossed and turned for hours on end the previous night. This is all Jonathan's fault, she thought grumpily as she padded into the kitchen.
As she made some fresh coffee, her mind drifted back to the dream she'd had the night before. It had started like all the others. There had been woods, and the moon, and the ocean, as there usually was, but his time there had been someone else present. Reddish blonde hair and sparkling green eyes caught in the moonlight. Dyan rolled her own eyes, digging in the fridge for some milk to pour over her cereal. I talk with a stranger once, and all of a sudden I'm dreaming about her. She shook her head, reaching for a bowl in the top cupboard. She filled it with Frosted Flakes, then drowned the cereal in milk. Grabbing a spoon, she headed for the living room to watch some TV.
The sliding doors leading to the patio glided open, and Mist entered the beach house. She wore bright yellow shorts and a matching bikini top. She always wore colors that represented her mood. Yellow indicated cheerfulness. Mist smiled radiantly at Dyan as she joined the raven haired woman on the black leather couch.
Dyan arched an eyebrow as she munched away on her cereal. "You're in an irritatingly good mood," she commented.
Mist frowned slightly. "But I haven't said anything."
"You don't have to," Dyan responded, sticking the spoon into the bowl and shoveling out another bite.
Mist shrugged. "Well you're right at any rate."
"Any particular reason?"
Instead of answering, Mist stood and headed to the kitchen area to pour herself some coffee. "You met someone last night, didn't you?"
Dyan snapped her head to look at Mist. She narrowed her azure eyes in the psychic's direction. "What do you mean?"
Mist closed her eyes for a moment, then opened them. "Yes, it was last night. At the beach?" She took a sip from the cup of coffee, and leaned over the blue and black tiled island, resting one elbow on the smooth top. She stared at Dyan expectantly.
Dyan stood up, having finished her cereal. She headed for the kitchen, and stopped to say, "There was a girl at the beach and I talked to her for a couple of minutes," before depositing the empty bowl and spoon in the sink.
Mist frowned. "A girl?"
"Yep." Dyan started toward her room, aware of the form that followed. "You sound surprised. I thought you knew all." She heard Mist pause at the bottom of the steps, as she herself ascended.
Mist started up the stairs. "Well, yeah? it's just?"
"Just what?" Dyan turned at the top of the stairs and gazed down at her best friend.
Mist reached the top, and stared up at Dyan. At 5'11, Dyan towered over Mist's 5'3". "Do you really want to know?"
Dyan considered the question, then turned and started down the hallway to her bedroom. Mist followed her inside. "Not really," she finally responded, pulling open the door to her walk-in closet.
Mist draped herself across Dyan's bed. "It's nothing life-threatening," she assured Dyan.
"Not interested," Dyan said, staring dumbly at the contents in her closet. The closet was way too big for the amounts of clothes that Dyan actually possessed. A suitcase would've worked just as well.
"Hmm," Mist muttered. "I'll tell you anyway. See, I thought it was a guy because?"
Dyan turned around and stared expectantly at Mist. "Because??"
Mist smiled. "I thought you didn't want to know?"
Dyan regarded the closet once again, and absently picked out a white cotton shirt. "I don't, but since you're insistent upon telling me then I might as well listen." She pulled the NYU tee shirt that she always slept in over her head, and threw it across the room toward the bed. It missed Mist's head by inches.
Mist flipped over so she was lying on her back instead of her side. She stared up at the ceiling thoughtfully. "Tell me about this girl," she said suddenly.
Dyan finished buttoning up the shirt and grabbed her favorite pair of light blue jeans. "I thought you were the one telling me all the valuable information?"
Mist smiled. "Truthfully, I'm confused. The vision I had was quite blurry, which is odd for me at this point in time, and I honestly could've sworn it was a guy."
"Hey it could've been a guy. You never know these days." Dyan half smiled. "And it was rather dark."
"Funny." Mist considered that and shook her head. "No, you're right, it was a girl. Tell me about her." Mist flipped over on her side, and held her head up with her right hand. She stared expectantly at Dyan, who was buttoning her jeans.
"There's nothing to tell," Dyan stated, crossing the room to grab some socks from the top drawer of the dresser. "She sneezed, and I was curious to see who was out there at the time of night. We spoke for five seconds, and then I left."
"How interesting," Mist commented.
For a moment, Dyan mistook the comment as sarcasm for the lack of information she'd provided, but a look at Mist proved otherwise. "Interesting?"
Mist sat up on the bed, and smiled at her tall companion. "Very!"
Dyan rolled her eyes, sitting on the bench of the SoloFlex machine to put on her socks and shoes. Mist just gets weirder and weirder. Dyan shook her head, finishing her task. She rose to her feet. "What are you doing today?"
Mist stood up as well. "Hitting the beach! I have to set up my usual table in a nice populated corner, and work the crowd." She grinned. "It's one of the highlights of tourist season! I make actual money."
"You'd make more money if you left the island," Dyan reminded her, heading out of the room. "You could go on talk shows, and write a book about the hardships of being psychic. Hell you could probably have your own show. Or, you could get one of those hotlines."
Mist followed Dyan down the stairs, shaking her head all the while. "No thank you. I like the anonymity of living in a secluded tropical island. It makes me all the more interesting. Although, I do like the book idea." She considered. "Maybe you can talk to Vickie. She knows all those big time publishers, doesn't she?"
Dyan headed for the kitchen, where her coffee was waiting. "You really want to write a book?"
Mist laughed, jumping onto one of the stools behind the island. She watched Dyan prepare her morning coffee, and shook her head. "Yeah, right. Like I have the patience for that kind of thing." She shrugged. "Speaking of Vickie, she's really outdoing herself for that party on Saturday. I think she invited the whole world." Mist lowered her voice, and leaned forward. "Between you and me, I think something pretty big is going down."
Dyan arched an eyebrow. "What do you mean?"
"I'm not entirely sure," Mist admitted. She glanced at her watch, and slid off the stool. "Well anyway, I've got to run. Have to fight for my spot early or else I'll never get it."
Dyan nodded, taking a sip from the coffee. She watched Mist wave, then disappear around the corner. A few moments later, the front door opened then closed, and Dyan leaned against the kitchen counter thoughtfully. What could possibly be going down at the party on Saturday? she wondered, curiously. She shrugged, and finished off her coffee. It was time to head over to the studio, and absorb herself in the day's work.
Laptop under her arm, Sara set out for a walk down to the beach. It was a little past five in the afternoon, and the evening was beginning to cool down as nighttime approached. Still, it was too hot for Sara's tastes. A snow storm would've been quite welcome at that point in time.
The boardwalk was swarming with tourists, and Sara took great care to navigate through the sea of bodies without getting trampled. I should've stayed indoors, she thought as a tall guy ran into her. He muttered a quick, "Sorry, didn't see you" and continued on his way. This was a bad idea. Sara sighed, and moved off to the side to let the rest of the people walk by. She leaned back against the wooden railing, and held the laptop against the front of her body, looking around the crowded boardwalk.
Sara hated crowds, but she loved energy that other people possessed. She could sit and watch people for hours. When she was young she'd spend hours watching strangers' interactions with each other, and in her mind she'd make stories about them. She'd give them fake names, and she'd try to figure out what was going on in their lives simply by the dialogue being exchanged. Sometimes, if there was only one person, she'd pretend that she could read minds and narrate the stranger's thoughts to herself.
The sound of her name brought Sara out of her reverie, and her green eyes focused on the form walking toward her. "Vickie," she greeted, smiling at the older woman. At fifty-two, Victoria could've still passed for a thirty-year-old. Her shoulder-length blonde hair hung down in bouncy golden curls, and the famous blue eyes that had put Victoria on various magazine covers sparkled brighter than ever. She was clad simply in designer khakis, which Sara suspected had cost much more than they appeared, and a white Polo shirt.
She leaned down to kiss Sara's cheek "I was hoping I'd run into you one of these days," Vickie stated, smiling. "I heard about the movie deal, congratulations."
Sara nodded. "Well it's not really a deal yet, but thank you."
"Well I hate to do this, but I have to run. I'm late for a dinner date. I told Melinda to invite you, but in case you haven't talked to her, I'm having a party on Saturday and I would be delighted if you'd attend."
How to refuse nicely? Sara wondered, then saw the hopeful expression on Vickie's face, and changed her mind. "Sounds like fun."
Vickie's face exploded into a brilliant smile. "Wonderful! It'll give us a chance to talk a little more. It starts at seven."
After explaining the directions to her beach house, Vickie rushed off, and Sara walked down the steps to the beach. She figured she'd take a walk down the beach and then head back to the house. Or maybe she'd head to that secluded spot she'd found the night before.
"Would you like to know your future?" a voice called from a few feet away.
Sara turned around, startled.
"Oh, I remember you."
Sara approached the table where the blue-haired woman from the gallery was sitting. She looked at the objects on the table: flyers advertising some kind of occult shop, books on the topic of dreams and astrology, candles, and incense. She looked up, and smiled. "We spoke briefly at the gallery."
The woman smiled back. "I'm flattered you remember." She extended her hand. "My name is Mist."
Sara shook Mist's hand. "Sara Audin."
Mist leaned back in her chair and stared at Sara critically for a moment. "That name sounds so familiar. Hmm. It will come to me." She nodded at the laptop. "Are you one of those people who take their work everywhere?"
Sara looked down at the laptop and then back up at Mist. She shrugged. "Well I'm not on vacation, so I pretty much have to."
"You're here on business?"
Sara thought about it for a moment. "I guess you could say that. I have a very important deadline to meet, and New York wasn't inspiring me."
"Well Midnight Island is the right place for inspiration," Mist assured her. "Would you like to know your fortune?"
Sara laughed. "Let me guess, I'm gonna fall in love with a tall, dark stranger?"
"We should all be so lucky," Mist joked.
"If I had time for love right now, I'd agree with you." Sara looked at her watch, and then around the crowded beach. She should really be writing. The deadline was weighing heavily on her conscience, and it was even worse now that she knew what was at stake. This is just way too much pressure. She sighed, and looked back at Mist, who was staring at her curiously. "I'm sorry, did you say something?"
Mist shook her head. "Nope. I'm just trying to figure out where I've heard your name before."
Sara grinned. "Some psychic you are," she teased.
Dyan stared across the booth at Vickie, wondering-and not for the first time-why the woman had asked her to dinner. She glanced around The Escape for a moment. It was crowded as usual. Several people were waiting patiently to be seated, while waiters and waitresses hurried back and forth between the kitchen and the dining area.
"You are coming to the party on Saturday, Dee?" Vickie inquired.
Dyan bestowed her full attention on the woman sitting across from her. "Well?"
Vickie held up her right hand to stop Dyan from continuing. "Before you say you weren't planning on it, let me just say that you have to be there. In fact, it's the reason I asked you to meet with me for dinner."
Dyan's eyebrow shot upward. "I'm not sure I follow you, Vickie." She picked up her drink, and took a sip.
Vickie paused, then sighed. "I'm selling Vamp."
Dyan's reaction was a mixture between gasping and coughing as she accidentally choked on her drink. She managed to get her coughing under control, and stared at Vickie incredulously. "You're what?"
"You heard me."
"You're selling the magazine? Why?"
Vickie took a long sip from her own drink, and set the glass on the table, before regarding Dyan. "Bad investments. I'm broke. Vamp is the only thing of worth I have left, and quite frankly, I need the money."
Dyan couldn't believe her ears. This was the last thing she'd been expecting from this meeting. She sighed. "Have you found a buyer yet?"
"I have a few offers," Vickie responded with a slight nod. "I'm holding an auction at the party. Anyone can bid. Top bidder gets control of the magazine."
"How much are you starting it off at?"
"Ten," Vickie responded.
Dyan frowned. "Vamp is worth at least twenty-five million."
"That's what I'm hoping for." Vickie sighed. "I wish there was a different alternative to all of this." She looked apologetically at Dyan. "I'm sorry. I know this must be terrible news for you."
Dyan nodded, pausing as the waitress placed their orders on the table. Her appetite had diminished since Vickie's unexpected announcement. When the waitress left, Dyan shook her head. "So why did you want to meet with me?"
"To warn you," Vickie responded. "I wanted to let you know what was going to happen on Saturday. I sent a letter to the rest of the staff earlier today, letting them know, but I wanted to tell you personally. You made Vamp what it is today, Dee. I never got a chance to thank you for everything you have done for the magazine, and for me as well."
Dyan smiled sadly. "We go way back, Vickie. You're the one who got my career started by giving me a job with Vamp. I should be thanking you. Who knows where I'd be right now if it weren't for you." She absently poked at the food on the plate.
"Well, we've helped each other then," Vickie stated, picking up her own fork. "I'm hoping for the best. A kind soul with a lot of money who will keep the magazine as it is."
Dyan snorted. "A kind soul with a lot of money? On Midnight Island? I'd love to see that one."
Vickie shrugged. "Stranger things have happened."
Continued in Part 2.