The Island – Chapter 1

Here is the first chapter in a book I’m working on – would love any feedback!

It was always hard for Melanie to do drugs in a public setting, but add in some plane turbulence and it became an entirely different animal.

The needle shook going into her skin and jabbed a few times before sinking in properly. It stung more than usual but after a year of doing it multiple times a day, Melanie was starting to get used to it. Diabetes was not a fun disease to deal with. There was no fix, just a constant struggle of battling blood sugar numbers and needle bruises.

No one noticed Melanie’s shot, thankfully, and she was even able to discretely clean up the bits of blood that dotted her stomach along the waistline of her pants. It wasn’t unusual to get weird looks from strangers who didn’t quite understand what she was doing and often mistook it for something else. It was always a relief to get away without those glances, and for some reason, Melanie had a habit of looking for them. Strangers seemed to be drawn to the young woman sticking a needle in her side, but she couldn’t blame them. If Melanie didn’t know what it was she would probably do the same thing. The person next to her certainly didn’t notice as he, like most of the passengers it seemed, was asleep.

The next bout of turbulence woke him quickly and Melanie saw the concern cross his face. It was something she was hoping not to see of course, because it solidified her own fears, despite the lack of communications from the pilot to tell them one way or another. They hadn’t even seen a flight attendant in the past half hour, when the turbulence had started little by little.

To Melanie’s relief, her dad was still passed out in his window seat. He requested the seat and took enough sleeping and anxiety pills to last for four hours, and they were doing their job. It was for the best; He never did well with flying. Melanie found it comical, the man she had always looked up to and shared her twisted sense of humor did not do planes or elevators. No man is without his quirks, Melanie thought, smiling to herself.

The man next to her squirmed and Melanie moved as much as she could, though it was a challenge. His sweaty arm on the armrest was a little too close for comfort and she really enjoyed personal space, turbulence or no turbulence. Melanie tried her best to ignore it. She reached down to grab her bag and rummaged for a minute before finding her headphones which were surprisingly untangled.

The plane jolted again, this time a little more harshly, and Melanie smashed her head on the seat in front of her. She rubbed her head and mumbled; always a magnet for injury.

“What’s goin’ on?” The man next to Melanie asked, getting antsier by the second and ignoring her grunts of pain.

“I’m not sure,” Melanie mumbled and pushed the headphones in her ear before putting the other end in the port of her cell phone. Some music ought to help, she thought. A little Good Charlotte always put her in a good mood. But no matter what Melanie could have tried, she couldn’t ignore the conversation starting around her.

The other passengers were starting to look around. The confusion and turbulence were getting worse, that fast but slow action, until the masks came down from the ceiling and the panic really began.

Finally, the pilot came over the speakers but no one could make out the words through the conversations and ominous noises from the engines of the plane. Melanie’s stomach rose to her throat and she could see on the other passengers’ faces the same revelation kicking in. No more groggy curiosity, they were panicked, though some showed it more than others.

The plane was going down, no doubt about it. The problem was they were nowhere near their destination and Melanie couldn’t see land outside the window. She could only hope that the other side showed a more promising view.

As much as she didn’t want to, Melanie shook her father awake, she was surprised he had slept through all that in the first place. His eyes opened slowly and he blinked a few times, registering the concern on her face.

“What?” He rubbed his eyes and sat up.

Melanie took a breath and began as slowly as she could, trying not to concern him despite the chaos building around them, “Dad, we are going down-”

Before they knew it, the plane hit.

There was water everywhere, inside and out. Only a second later Melanie realized that the front half of the plane wasn’t there. The back part of the plane started to flood much more quickly than expected. Melanie was towards the break in the plane and managed to unbuckle herself and her dad. She grabbed his hand and blindly shoved off from the seat into the open water.

Melanie got more than she bargained for as water broke through her lips and down her throat. The sinking plane threatened to pull them down, but only managed to separate the pair. Melanie panicked for a second, but she told herself he was fine, he could swim.  

Melanie could feel the burning in her chest, and when she finally settled on the surface her lungs released everything they took in. Twelve years of swim team instinct kicked in and she propelled herself forward, away from the sounds of destruction and towards the only other thing she could see – a beach. She checked behind her briefly to make sure her dad had surfaced as well. He looked confused, all his fears come to reality, but he paddled along in Melanie’s tread. She gave him a small smile, the most she could do despite all she wanted to say to relax him. He smiled back, though not as convincingly.

The waves brought them right in, along with parts of the plane. Melanie let it take her and made her way onto the sand. Immediately, she stripped off the unnecessary baggage, took a deep breathe, and headed back for the water with a few others who were able to make their way. Surprisingly, her dad jumped back in the water too, swimming towards the realization of his nightmares. Unsurprisingly, he was selfless. They all made the decision to go back together for others without a second thought or a word spoken.

There was debris everywhere in the water, but they made it through, grabbing on to anyone we could help make it to land.

After what seemed like miles of swimming back and forth to the island,  Melanie was sure they helped everyone they could. Though it probably wasn’t everyone, she thought miserably. For the last time that day, she crawled back onto the beach on all fours and passed out.

Melanie woke up on her back, the sun blaring in her eyes as the recent memories came back. It felt like a dream, but the ocean in front of her confirmed the reality. She didn’t know how long she was out, but her body hurt and she could see that her uncovered Irish arms had started to redden. She reached up to her head, her hair was clumped and salty, she decided she would have to do something about that. Melanie pushed herself up with screaming muscles and looked along the beach.

It was a long stretch, but there were people all along the sand. It was chaotic. Some were crying, others were hugging, and more than Melanie wanted to admit were not moving. Plane debris and some suitcases had started to wash up on shore.

Nearby, there was a man leaning over a few injured people, he seemed to be taking care them. Maybe he was a doctor or a nurse, Melanie wasn’t sure. His beachy clothes were ripped and tattered, perhaps on purpose to use as bandages. Regardless he looked like he could use a hand.

“What can I do?” Melanie asked as she walked up to the group. The man’s blue eyes were covered by his clumped hair, but she could still see the shadows beneath them.

The “doctor” greeted Melanie with a sad smile. “What we need right now is some supplies. Some of these people are in bad conditions. Please go look for something, anything, that could help,” He said and turned back to the woman whose leg he was wrapping in a piece of clothing.

Melanie nodded to herself and turned back towards the shore. There must be some supplies that drifted in that could help, she thought. There was a cluster of bags ready to be searched rolling up on shore every few minutes.

Insulin, she thought, pausing for a moment, Crap. I’ll have to find something for myself too. With diabetes, she would need some insulin and a blood sugar meter to stay on top of things, since it was always changing. How on earth am I going to survive on an island? Even just a day could be a disaster for me, Melanie thought, she relied on medicine constantly. They definitely didn’t manufacture that on the island, all she could see was beach and trees, it didn’t look inhabited.

I have a good handle on my diabetes, Melanie told herself, mildly confident. But I’m not sure I could manage it without anything.

She spent the rest of morning rummaging through suitcases looking for medical supplies and sorting out everything. It would have been careless to toss anything, in the situation everything could be useful. Who knew how long they would even be there? A few others were doing the same, whether it was for the good of everyone or just themselves she wasn’t sure. Melanie only hoped it was the first one, but in this day and age, she had found it can be hard to trust people sometimes to do the right thing. She kept an eye out for her dad but didn’t see him anywhere. She told herself he was just probably doing the same in another area.

A few hours and quite a few bags later, Melanie was exhausted. She dropped all her findings, except two, in one area by the Doctor who quickly thanked her and went back to his business. She wasn’t quite sure how he was still going. It was impressive.

It was time for a break, so Melanie went down by the water to sit with her stuff. She laid out the blue towel she found and dragged the bristles of the brush along her hand. She went to the edge of the water and dug her toes in the sand at the edge. As the next wave came in, she flipped her head under the water and back up like the mermaid she wished she was.

The water was cold, dripping down Melanie’s back to her toes. But her toes were protected from the cold by the sand – warm from the sun during the day. The sun itself was starting to dip in the sky, no longer delivering a harsh sunburn, but its warmth remained and Melanie was grateful for it.

Melanie’s hair was clumped from the salt water – she needed that brush. She sat back on the towel and sighed. It was a silly obsession, but Melanie always needed to run her fingers through her dirty blond hair. It was a habit.

The brush hurt, but she made it comb through her hair over and over until it felt smooth. A stupid thing, really, but it gave her a little peace in the chaos. Something normal.

What she was not grateful for were her own thoughts. Sure, Melanie found plenty of useful items and had been useful, but she hadn’t found what she needed. There were no diabetic supplies anywhere and she didn’t even have anyone to talk to about it at the moment. Her dad was there, somewhere. He will know what to do, she thought. He was a diabetic with much more experience. If I can find him.

Melanie only had a year under her belt. Her dad taught her everything she knew and she was still learning. And if her mom were there, she would have had some comfort in it all. Or would I be the one comforting her? Melanie wondered. The latter seems more likely. As annoying as her worried mother would be, the thought made her smile. Regardless, it would’ve been nice to have her.

Her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of laughter. Melanie looked around to see a group of kids over on another part of the beach. She tried to turn away before they saw her watching, but she was too slow. They noticed the staring and waved Melanie over.

She wasn’t much in the mood given the situation and was torn about the decision to look for her dad, but Melanie got up with a groan and walked over. She wasn’t really sure it was a good idea, but they had been laughing and that was a good thing. She needed a reason to stay out of her head.

“Hey! Want to play Frisbee? We found one in some luggage.” Yelled a thin blond boy. He, and the other players, were probably about her age of seventeen. She recognized him as one of the others who was gathering supplies.

“Alright,” Melanie said with a small smile, “Although, I can’t promise I’m any good,” she said and the boy pointed to join the opposing team. There were about five people on each team, each visibly worn out from the day, some injured, but all looking for a distraction.

The game was fast-paced and made Melanie forget the ache in her body and in her mind. But after a while, she began to feel…different. She was hot and a little confused. Was it the sun? No, she realized. It’s my blood sugar dropping. Melanie stopped running immediately and bent over, trying to think of where to get something. She needed sugar, fast. Low blood sugar made it hard to think. And stand, for that matter.

One of the guys came over as the others started to slow the game, clearly confused. “Are you okay?” he asked, putting an arm around Melanie to help her stand up straight.

“Yea, I just… low blood sugar. Diabetes,” the words came out slowly and slurred, “I need sugar.” Melanie was disoriented and could only hope that she made sense. It came on too fast, she was never prepared. Wow, he has nice eyes, like honey, Melanie thought, blushing in her strange state.

The guy picked up the cue, thankfully didn’t hear her thoughts, and set Melanie down in the sand.  She watched him run to the closest pile of supplies with food, returning swiftly with a few candy bars that had somehow been scrounged up. Melanie was sitting in the sand trying to hold herself together and greedily took the candy when he returned.

“Are you going to be alright?” The guy asked and he sat down beside her. He ran his hand through his hair, the black strands shone in the waning sunlight, slick with sweat from running. Melanie couldn’t help but notice that unlike her hair, yucky from the salt, his looked perfectly done with a little flip in the front. How?

“Yes, I just, need a few minutes. Thank you for this, I’m lucky it was there. I’m sorry,” Melanie apologized through her mouth full of candy. She couldn’t believe it happened already, and it wouldn’t be the first time she would need someone to come to her rescue.

“No, please don’t apologize. I just want to make sure you are okay. Take your time. We can start slow,” he said, “My name is Gene, short for Eugene.”

“Melanie,”  Melanie replied with a subtle smile. She tucked a piece of sea salted blond hair behind her ear with heavy arms. Despite the brush, she could still feel the roughness- like a long day at the beach with her dad. My dad.

Melanie’s hands were still shaking and her brain still fuzzy. “It’s nice to meet you. Again, I’m sorry.”

“No problem, It’s nice to meet you too. You say sorry too much, though. How about we call it a day and try and get you some real food.” He nodded towards the other frisbee players who had stopped playing anyway.

“That sounds nice,” Melanie said with a small grin.

“I saw some other things over there, and I can make a mean campfire. What do you say?” Gene asked with a big smile.

“Alright.” Melanie was starting to get her bearings. Her legs weren’t eager to push up and Gene helped with the slack. The good thing was, she was feeling normal again, just drained. “I do have to warn you though, I can’t just hang around the whole time.”

“Why?” Gene asked curiously. “You don’t like me?”

Melanie rolled her eyes and let a smile escape. “Well, I need to go for a walk or something.” She paused and they started to walk towards the supplies, where others had started to gather. It was like everyone knew how to react, their human instincts kicking in. “I know you discovered I am diabetic but the slight problem is anytime I eat I need to do a shot of insulin. To bring my sugars down to a normal level. Since I don’t have any, I need to be active, to bring it down naturally…but at the same time try and avoid the episode you just witnessed.” Melanie said to the sand, which had grown considerably cooler over the past hour.

“Well, I could join you.” Gene replied, “I don’t really know anyone, other than my brother. I could use a friend. And besides, I like long walks on the beach…tonight, tomorrow, however long it takes.” He smirked and his golden eyes lit up from the last bit of sunlight.

“Walks in the shoes you’re still wearing?” Melanie teased, pointing at his feet and he shrugged with a smile. He was the only one who still had his sneakers on, and had even played a whole game of frisbee in the sand with them. Melanie’s hadn’t even made it to the island, somewhere along the line she kicked them off in the water.

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