This story is by Amala Maha and was part of our 10th Anniversary Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Ellie found it difficult to walk and she held onto Joe tightly as she was wearing five inches high heels. With for every step she took, her heels made a loud “thud, thud’ sound. Joe had blindfolded her and she couldn’t guess where he was taking her until a sudden gust of wind tousled her hair and threw up her dress. Had she known that Joe was taking her somewhere near the sea she would have worn her jeans and sneakers. “Where are you bringing me, Joe?” Ellie asked again and again. “It’s okay, please take off my blindfold, I will follow you wherever you want me to,” Ellie pleaded. “Don’t worry just hang in there Ellie, you are in safe hands, just hold on to me,” Joe assured her as he led her slowly into their motorboat.
As she stepped into the boat, Ellie knew that Joe was taking her on a boat trip. Joe led her to her seat, and as she sank into it, Ellie relaxed and imagining herself to be blind, she listened to the rhythmic movements of the boat rocking gently on the water. As Joe started the engine, she closed her eyes to hear the gentle sound of waves lapping against the boat and the sounds of birds singing away as they passed by but the serenity of the sea and the cool tantalizing breeze lulled her to sleep.
It was a one-hour journey and occasionally Joe tried to look up to count the shades of the sky as he rode. The sky was bright yellowish-orange lined with shades of burnt orange and tinged with blackish blue and at the far end corner a brilliant white patch appeared, a sign that the sun was setting. The calm sea made Joe’s journey smooth and easy. Joe saw crowds of large birds screaming happily as they were returning home. A smile appeared on Joe’s lips. He couldn’t help feeling thrilled at the thought of giving Ellie a surprise. As she realized that Ellie was quiet, he quickly turned around to check only to find her fast asleep.
It was only the first year they had celebrated their Anniversary lavishly at their home garden in the company of relatives and friends but the subsequent years were a very quiet affair. Both Joe and Ellie wanted to have children right after their marriage, but things did not happen as they had planned and after four miscarriages, Ellie had conceived four years later only to give birth to a stillborn. Hope and frustrations have mounted over the years and finally, the loss of their child was too much for them to bear. While Joe had recovered, Ellie could not deal with the grief. The continuous nightmares and negative comments from third parties have taken a toll on her. Ellie was on anti-depressants and it was Joe’s care and attention that had cured Ellie had gradually.
Joe had planned a special trip for Ellie. He wanted to celebrate their fifth anniversary in Coral Island where he had heard that it is a paradise for scuba diving, snorkeling, and surfing. All of a sudden he jerked, as he realized that the journey must have taken him well beyond the estimated time and he grabbed his handphone in panic, to check the time. It was almost two hours since he had left the jetty and yet no island was in sight. He shivered at the thought of being stranded in a dark open sea. By now it was pitch dark and the sea was becoming unfriendly. Determined, he cruised nearer to the shore seeking refuge until the night was over. He was relieved to find Ellie was still sound asleep.
There was a glimmer of hope as he saw some lights from a distance away. Relieved, he proceeded towards it excitedly and upon reaching, he moored his boat to the shore and opened Ellie’s blindfold. Unperturbed by the moments around her, Ellie was still fast asleep. Shaking her gently by her shoulders, Joe whispered into her ear lovingly and said, “Get up dear, we have reached”. Ellie woke up with a startle only to witness the glorious sky filled with a sea of stardust. “Where are we now Joe?” she queried. “We are going to celebrate our wedding anniversary here dear,” Joe replied lovingly.
As he led her down the boat, he gazed at the island, and with the help of the glimmering lights above, only a dense overgrowth was visible. Only then, it dawns upon him that the lights he saw from afar were actually aircraft warning lights.
He turned around to look at Ellie in despair but her expression showed otherwise. Her face glowed and her eyes sparkled as she gazed delightfully at the seaside. At that very moment, Joe recalled the days when both of them used to hang out at the beach just to watch the sun setting in the evenings and stayed on till the wee hours of the night. Looking at her, Joe reassured himself that there was no necessity to disclose to her that he had landed on the wrong island, after all, she does not know his plan to celebrate their anniversary at the Coral Island.
“Let’s spend the night here Ellie,” Joe suggested. Delighted, she nodded with a smile. Without wasting much time, he started a fire and they ate the ready-to-eat meals that Joe had brought along. The fire kept them warm and the cold wind brought them close together. They dozed off as they listened to the hissing sound of the waves in the dark.
They woke up to a bright sunny morning and decided to explore the island. As they wondered, they came across many species of trees and wild vegetation. There were hardly any signs of human habitation. Their fear of encounters with wild animals was put to rest when the only animals they came across were squirrels, iguanas, birds, and, monkeys. They were careful not to trample on snakes.
Heavy rainfall had created puddles of muddy water everywhere. Despite the eerie, threatening sounds of large birds with black and orange feathers, they proceeded deeper into the island. They passed by friendly monkeys, babbling gleefully as they swayed from tree to tree. Intrigued by the various trees and plants, they wandered further and stopped abruptly as they heard a faint whimpering sound coming from a distance away. Curious, they headed towards it only and stopped when it ceased. As they were about to return to their boat, they stopped as they heard the same sound again but this time louder.
They hurried towards the sound, but were blocked by a small makeshift shelter of palm leaves and tree branches, “Joe, look the sound seems to be coming from here,” Ellie exclaimed pointing to the spot. Joe and Ellie stooped to peep through the holes. For a minute they were silent as they remained in the same position trying to observe the creature that lay inside the enclosure. They stood up and stared at each other, speechless, with the same question running through their minds “How on earth could this creature have ended up here?”. Without much hesitation they uncovered the shield and found a frail-looking child, all curled up lying naked on the ground covered with leaves. Dumb folded and with jitters running through them, they scooped the dainty infant who looked like a girl, tenderly off the moist ground and carried her as if she was a fragile glass doll. She must be about four years they thought but her stature suggested otherwise. The child wriggled as she felt their warm hands and whined as she suckled her thumb as they carried her cautiously across the woods. They were hesitant not to stop to pacify her or to even examine her condition because as they hurried through the woods, only one thought ran feverishly across their minds, which is to get out off the island as soon as possible before any unfriendly encounters.
Small birds were whistling and chirping merrily as if rejoicing that the child has been finally found and rescued. Tall trees waved at them casually as they advanced towards their boat. Joe drew a deep sigh of relief as he placed the child carefully on Ellie’s lap and said to her, “Oh my god, she is all bones Ellie and her skin is shriveled due to lack of nutrition. She must have been stranded for at least six months but thank god at least now, she is now in safe hands”. Deep in her heart, she knew that this child will be theirs one day. As the child laid cozily on Ellie’s lap still suckling her thumb, Ellie caressed her long thick hair lovingly, all matted and tangled. Even though she felt a strong pungent nauseating air filled the boat, she didn’t care. She wrapped her woolen shawl around the child and cuddled her closer to her as Joe rode joyfully across the sea.