The next morning he was almost disappointed when he found Cammy lying next to him instead of on top of him like yesterday. Her body had felt so soft and warm, he had actually looked forward to feeling it again. It was all for the best, however; he really shouldn't be thinking those thoughts anyway, especially about his little sister.
On the other hand, Autumn lay next to him on the other side, not that he should be thinking those thoughts about her either. They had all fallen asleep like that on the beach. It was a little chilly out here in the open, where the cool morning air could steal away the warmth of the three bodies instead of keeping it bottled up inside the tent. Lance was fortunate enough to be lying between the two girls where he could feel a little bit of heat from both of them, so he knew the girls must be especially cold.
A small leaf from one of the trees had drifted down during the night and nestled in the shadow of one of Autumn's breasts. It had found a home in a place to make men jealous. Lance looked away, finding himself in the strange situation of wishing he were a leaf right now.
They both still slept, so he decided not to wake them. Instead, he quietly rose to his feet and crept back to camp, where he set to work building a fire. He wanted to make sure they had some place warm to gather round when they awoke.
As he worked on starting up the fire, he kept glancing over at the girls lying there on the beach. He couldn't deny that they were both beautiful girls. At times he wished he weren't such a gentleman, because having those two there with him on the island, all three of them without clothes, reminded him of how long it had been since the last time he had had sex. There had been no opportunity aboard the Siren's Song of course. And now, stranded here on this island, it looked like it might be a while longer. Even if he had no legal or moral issues with seducing a girl that young, he would have a hard time convincing them to give in. Autumn would probably die from mortification at the mere suggestion, and Cammy... He was ashamed at how little disgust he felt by that thought.
Autumn stirred, then rolled over and snuggled up next to Cammy, who put her arms around the girl. Lance looked away. If he were to let his eyes linger, he wouldn't be able to hide the physical effect it had on him. In other circumstances, he would think nothing of it. It was just two girls huddling together for warmth. But after what he had seen yesterday, it took on a whole new meaning.
The fire was nice and warm by the time they roused. Autumn was the first one up. She glanced around groggily and then turned to see Lance sitting there by the fire. He waved her over, so she shook Cammy awake, then the two girls joined him by the campfire.
"That feels nice," Cammy said, rubbing the chill from her arms and legs. "Thanks, Lance."
"Maybe tomorrow I'll teach you two how to build a fire, so you can take turns. I'm tired of doing all the work around here." He meant it as a joke of course, and kept a smile on his face to let them know he was just teasing. Cammy, however, took it a little more seriously than that.
"We really appreciate you looking out for us," she told him. "Don't we, Autumn?"
"Yeah," Autumn mumbled, as usual never using two words when one would suffice.
"It's just that you know so much about everything," Cammy continued. "Autumn and I would be completely lost without you."
Lance couldn't help but grin at the flattery. His sister sure knew how to use it.
"Look," she said. "If you want us to help out some more, just ask us. We don't want to be a bother to you, and to tell you the truth, I wouldn't mind learning some of these survival tricks that you seem to know so well."
"You two aren't a bother," he told them. "I'm happy to do it. Just having you here to keep me company is all the reward I need. On the other hand, I wouldn't mind a little extra help. We've got a lot of work to do these next couple of days."
"We'd love to help, wouldn't we, Autumn?" Cammy grinned.
Autumn just nodded.
After breakfast, they began preparations for building a more permanent shelter. The tent wouldn't last long in a storm, so they needed something that could withstand a little wind and rain.
The two trees that they used for the tent would serve well for two of the corners. That would make it very sturdy. Lance set the girls to work gathering together a bunch of large and straight sticks. They found some that were basically small logs, which would work well for the frame. He used the machete to cut them to the right sizes, then lashed them together in three squares. One would form the back wall, and two would make a sloping roof. It wouldn't do to have the rain collect in the middle and cause it to collapse on top of them. He would leave the side walls until later.
To make a good frame to attach the covering to, he took some long but thin and slightly flexible sticks and wove them together into a something resembling chain link fence. By alternating the position of the ends on the inside and outside of the log squares, he didn't even have to use any more rope to fasten it together.
Building the frames took the whole morning. He checked the snares again before lunch, but again there were no rabbits. He wasn't too worried; if he didn't catch any before dinner, he would set out several more snares. They were a little low on string since they were using it to lash together the frame of the hut, but he could afford a few more feet for snares.
After another lunch of fruit and taro, Lance looked over their handiwork. The frames seemed nice and solid. The trick would be the covering. There was plenty of grass around that they could dry and use for thatching. The problem was that he didn't know how to do it. He had been on half a dozen survival camps in various climates, and could make a shelter out of just about anything, but those shelters were just temporary, meant to be discarded after serving their purpose.
Supposedly palm leaves made good thatching material, and there were plenty of palm trees around, but the leaves, though broad, seemed too flimsy to provide much protection, so he discarded that idea. That brought them back to the grass.
In the end, it was Autumn who came up with the idea for making a solid wall of grass on the frames. She suggested binding the straw together into small bundles, using more grass instead of string to tie them. These bundles could be then attached to the "chain link" frames, again using more grass to tie them. Cammy refined her idea by suggesting that they tie the bundles on the inside of the frame at the top and the outside of the frame at the bottom, layering them like shingles. This would keep the rain from dripping inside.
Lance made an experimental few bundles of grass and attached them like the girls suggested, and it seemed to work well, so he set them to work collecting all the dry grass they could while he cut down some more to lay out in the sun to dry.
It took them all afternoon to cover one of the square frames. That was fine; he had expected it to take several days anyway. Even if it took a week or more, it would be well worth the effort. He didn't mention it to the girls, but he was pretty sure that they were in for the long haul. If they were going to be spotted by Search and Rescue, it would have happened by now.
Just before dinner, he checked the snares once more, and found that he had caught a rabbit. He killed it and skinned it, then took it back to camp.
He found the girls relaxing in a grassy meadow near the camp, lying on their backs next to each other and staring up at the sky. In the warm tones of late afternoon, their bodies almost glowed. He tried not to stare at the beautiful softness of their skin, bathed in sunlight and surrounded by the emerald greens and bright reds, whites, pinks, and oranges of the flowers. Each of the girls had even picked a flower and placed it over their ear. This simple adornment multiplied their beauty the way no makeup or clothes could ever hope to match.
They sat up, glancing at the thing in Lance's hand that had once been a rabbit. Cammy looked curious, but Autumn wore a look of disgust on her face. However, for all her show, after he cooked it over the fire she was happy to eat her fair share. It was the first meat they had eaten in days, and it tasted delicious.
That night they slept in the tent again, then got up and set to work immediately. This time with all day to work on the thatching, they managed to cover both pieces of the roof, and still had time left over for a late afternoon swim. Lance mostly stayed out of the water. Lately his favorite hobby was watching the girls bathe. He enjoyed the sight of their jiggling breasts as they laughed and splashed each other, the way the dampness sparkled on their bodies in the sunlight, and the way the water droplets rolled down their smooth skin when they stood still. The glistening mermaids painted a lovely picture before his eyes.
He found it especially delightful when the girls washed each other's backs. Even if he hadn't seen them kissing already, that kind of touching seemed a little intimate. On the other hand, it could be construed as perfectly innocent; they weren't touching any parts of each other's bodies that would be covered by a swimsuit anyway. And they certainly wouldn't be giving him such a show if they knew what was going through his mind. He kept fantasizing about one of the girls getting a little frisky and reaching around for some less innocent groping, but it never happened.
The next day they finalized the framework by setting up the back wall and attaching the roof pieces to it and to the trees in front. A couple of logs on the bottom sides solidified it. Now they had a glimpse of the end result of their labors, and the girls were delighted to see it taking shape. Lance had to admit, there was a certain feeling of accomplishment in building something like this. It was especially nice for the girls because they had actually come up with some of the ideas for it and not just followed his orders. It measured only about twelve feet on a side and nine feet high at the pinnacle, but compared to their previous accommodations it was a mansion.
They worked until well after supper that day, finishing the thatching on the two sides just before it was too dark to see. Now they had three walls and a roof finished. To celebrate their success, they slept in their new nearly-complete home, taking down the tent and hanging it in front as a temporary fourth wall.
They woke up the next day eager to finish the job. This meant building a fourth wall and some triangular pieces to fill in the empty space caused by the sloped roof. Lance suggested they make the entire front wall movable, with a simple hinge made by a couple of loops of rope wrapped around one of the trees. That way, the entire wall became the door. They used lighter sticks instead of heavy logs like they had used for the frame of the other walls and roof, and it seemed to work well.
They attached the front triangular piece to the roof, but the back one they made removable so that they could open it during the day to allow some cross-ventilation to cool the inside of the hut. With the dry grass of the walls soaking up a lot of the heat during the day, it would get a little stuffy inside otherwise.
They still had to sleep on the ground, but Lance had some ideas in mind to build some portable hammocks out of the sailcloth now that they no longer needed it. The girls hadn't complained one bit, though, so he was in no real hurry.
Now that their new home was complete, he looked for another major task to occupy them. He had earlier dismissed spearfishing as requiring too much time and effort to learn, but how that he had plenty of leisure time, it seemed like an interesting possibility for a hobby.
When he mentioned his idea to the girls, they both seemed quite eager to learn as well. They were especially excited because it wasn't something that he was already an expert in; they would learn it together.
It required the right equipment, of course. The spear itself was easy; they just needed a long, straight stick. The spearhead, on the other hand, was the tricky part. There were three choices. He could use the pocket knife, but he wasn't sure how long it would keep from rusting in the salt water, and he didn't want to risk it. He could simply sharpen the point of the stick. That would probably work just fine. Or he could fashion a point from stone. That wasn't the fastest or most efficient method, but then, speed and efficiency weren't the goal here.
He decided on the third option. A few years ago he had gone on a retreat in the Southwest with a group of people learning about Pre-Columbian Native American traditions. One of the things they had learned was how to make arrowheads. The knapping, or lithic reduction (a needlessly technical term that meant nothing more than chipping away pieces of stone), could be performed with objects that were readily at hand here on the island. He couldn't claim to be an expert, but it would be fun to give it a try out here in the wild.
Lance described the types of stones they would need and had them go scour the beach for them. He searched for a large, flat-topped stone to use as his work bench, and found one at the base of the hill near the waterfall. It was too big to carry, but he was able with some difficulty to roll it out to the beach near the lagoon Unfortunately, as he was moving it the last couple of feet into place, he felt something pop in his shoulder.
"Ow!" he exclaimed, grabbing his shoulder with his other hand. Fortunately the girls were out of hearing range; he didn't want them to worry.
It turned out not to be that bad after all. He had just pulled a muscle. After moving his arm around for a minute or two, most of the pain went away.
Cammy and Autumn returned with an arm load of rocks a few minutes later. Lance gathered up a couple of good candidates and placed them on top of the flat-topped stone, then knelt in front of it to demonstrate the technique. By hitting the softer rocks with harder rocks at strategic points, pieces would flake off. They would use that method to roughly shape their spearheads. The finer details could be done with softer rocks, or even wood or bone. He hoped to create something like an arrowhead, with notches behind the point that could be used to lash it to the spear itself.
He wasn't very good at it, which was to be expected. He mostly ended up with a bunch of broken rocks that were completely useless. But he hadn't expected it to work on the first try anyway. No doubt it would take several days before he was skilled enough to be able to fashion a useful spearhead.
The girls gave it a try as well, with similar lack of success. They had a good time laughing and joking at their pathetic attempts though, which in the end was more important than the results of their labors. Cammy told him he would make a terrible cave man, and he agreed.
As the day wore on, the soreness in his shoulder gradually worsened, until he finally had to give up. He set down the rocks and rubbed his shoulder, wincing.
Cammy immediately noticed his distress, and hurried over to him. "What's wrong?" she asked, concerned.
"Oh, nothing really. I think I pulled a muscle moving that big rock into place, and it's just gotten worse."
"Well you'd better stop working right now. You've been wearing yourself out. You'll be no use to us if you end up flat on your back for a week."
"Yes Mom," he grinned.
Cammy laughed. "Well, since I'm taking her place, I'm going to send you to your room. Go lie down in the hut."
"But I've got to go check the snares and harvest some more taro root for supper."
"I'll do that. You stay here. That's an order, young man."
Lance laughed. Cammy really did sound like their mother just then. The truth was that he was glad for the opportunity to take it easy for a while. He really had been working hard, and he felt just a little envious of how much fun the girls had been having. Not that he would ever let it get him down; he had been the one who had decided that it would be that way, after all.
While Cammy headed out into the jungle, Lance sat down in the shade of the newly built hut. He massaged his shoulder with his good hand, wincing occasionally at the pain. He had really wrenched it hard. As he worked over his shoulder with his good arm, Autumn appeared in the doorway of the hut. He bid her enter, and she came over and sat down beside him in the shade. He glanced over at her with a smile.
"How... how's your shoulder?" she asked.
"I think it will be fine if I don't do any heavy lifting for a couple of days. So you don't have to worry about me picking you up and throwing you in the lagoon," he joked.
Autumn merely smiled and blushed, staring at the ground. Well, it was about as close to a laugh as he could expect to get out of her.
"Lance?" she asked.
"Um..." she said. "Um, never mind."
"Autumn, it sounds like you want to say something to me, but you just can't get it out. Look, there's no reason to be shy with me. if you're worried whether I like you, well, I do. You've been a great friend to Cammy, and even if you haven't been the most talkative person, you're nice to be around. So whatever it is, you can tell me. Okay?"
"Well, it's just... I wanted to... thank you for bringing me on this trip."
Lance laughed, then immediately caught himself as she turned bright red.
"Oh, I'm sorry, Autumn," he told her. "I wasn't laughing at you. Okay, maybe your timing wasn't the greatest, but really, I was laughing because you caught me off guard. I mean, are you really glad you came along? Now that we're stranded on an island in the middle of the Pacific without knowing how long it will be until we're rescued?"
"Yes I am," she replied. "It's so beautiful here, and so peaceful. We have food, water, shelter, really everything we need. So what if we're not on the boat? I like being here even more."
Lance was astonished. That was more than she had said to him in days. Maybe she was just defending her statement, but at least she was speaking with him. And there was a certain truth to what she said, a certain wisdom that he had been missing this whole time.
"You're right," he smiled. "I've been so caught up with just trying to survive that I hadn't thought to stop and enjoy myself. I've seen you two having fun, laughing and joking, and enjoying each other's company while I've been setting traps, building the shelter, and lighting fires. But you know what? I think in the end, you've chosen the more important part."
Autumn nodded, but didn't say anything. She stared out at the rippling water of the lagoon. Lance followed her gaze, and noticed the way the sun sparkled on the water, almost like fairies dancing. Autumn was right; it really was beautiful and peaceful. Yes, they had to work if they wanted to eat, but they had had to work on the boat in order to keep it running. Was this really so different?
He felt something soft on his hand, and he glanced down. Autumn had placed her own hand on top of his. Their eyes met for an instant, then she immediately pulled away.
"I'm sorry," she said with a fearful look in her eyes. "I shouldn't have--"
He was surprised and touched by her boldness. It was the first time she had been the least bit forward with him. He wasn't sure how appropriate her gesture was, but at least she had made the effort, and he hated to think of what it would do to her self-confidence if it turned out to be a bad experience.
"Yes you should have," he insisted, grabbing her hand and holding it in his own. She stared at him in shock, but he simply smiled tenderly at her. "Autumn," he said. "It's okay. Cammy told me you have certain... feelings for me."
She turned away, blushing. "She shouldn't have said that," she mumbled.
"There's no need to be ashamed of your feelings," he said. "I'm touched, and I'm honored. You're a beautiful, sweet girl, and I'm glad you're here."
"Does that mean... does that mean that you... like me too?"
"I like you," he told her cautiously, "but not necessarily in that way. I mean, I am eleven years older than you, after all. I'm not saying that to put you down, or to imply that you're at all inferior to me. I just mean that any kind of relationship between us would be... well... illegal."
"Not here it isn't," she insisted. "We're hundreds of miles from civilization, and all its stupid rules. Here, we make the rules. Why can't you and I fall in love if we want?"
She had a point. Was there any real obstacle to them getting together like that? They had left the rules of civilized society far behind, and here on this island, they had nothing but freedom.
He sighed. "Okay, I'll admit that things are different here than they would be back in the States. I just don't want to make a mistake that could ruin our lives."
Autumn nodded, though with a look of disappointment in her eyes. "I understand," she said. "And it's okay if you don't like me the way I like you. Maybe some day I'll get over you. It's just that you're the first boy I've ever felt comfortable being around."
Considering how shy she had acted around him, he would hate to see what she would be like around other boys. He didn't mention that, though; it would be a little insulting. He merely sat there in silence, giving her time to collect her thoughts.
"Lance?" she said.
"You don't mind if I hold your hand, do you?"
He smiled at her, then lifted her hand in his own, bringing it up to his lips to give it a tender kiss. "I think at least we can do that much," he said. She blushed again, but this time with a smile on her lips.
They sat like that for a while, not saying anything and not needing to. Autumn really was the sweetest girl, and he wished he could give her what she wanted. Maybe she was right. Maybe out here in the middle of the Pacific, there was nothing wrong with a 25-year-old man and a 14-year-old girl getting together like that. Would it really be so bad? It might be just the thing she needed.
Or it could be the worst thing to happen to her. She was young and inexperienced, and really just had a case of puppy love. She didn't know what she was doing, so it was up to him to be the strong one.
By silent agreement, they dropped each other's hands when Cammy returned. She appeared in front of the hut, then upon seeing them there, came over and sat down on Lance's other side.
"No rabbits today," she announced.
"Actually, I'm kind of relieved," Lance smiled. "Preparing them for cooking would have been painful with my arm like this."
"Here, let me see." She crawled around back behind him, then grasped his arm firmly just below the shoulder. She moved it around, causing him to wince and suck in his breath a couple of times.
"Okay, I'm ordering you to take it easy for the next few days," she said. "We'll put the spearhead-making project on hold for a while. Autumn and I will take care of things."
"I'm sure I'll be fine by tomorrow," he told her. "But thanks."
In fact, his arm was mostly back to normal by the next day. He was glad of that; while it had certainly felt nice to hold Autumn's hand, he knew he couldn't take too much of that, or he probably wouldn't be able to restrain himself. He wasn't quite up to smashing more rocks together, but despite Cammy's insistence that he stay home (the fact that she used the word "home" in reference to the camp was not lost on him), he needed to get away for a while. He said as much, but reassured them that it wasn't because he was angry at them; he just needed some time alone to think.
He set off just after breakfast, mostly just walking along the beach. Here away from the girls, in the solitude of his isolation, he had time to think about the way things were turning out. Cammy had used the word "home" to describe the camp, and that concerned him, especially since he had begun to think of it the same way. They now had a kind of a house, and were starting to fall into a routine of daily chores. In several days they had seen no sign of rescue planes or ships; in fact, they had seen nothing to indicate the presence of other human beings at all. Like it or not, they had to deal with the fact that they were going to be alone on the island for quite some time.
The word "home" also implied a kind of family. Yes, Lance and Cammy were blood relations, but Autumn didn't quite fit into that. Despite that, he couldn't quite see her as an outsider, because she fit in so well with the other two. And now that she had begun to open up her heart to him, he felt more and more like she really belonged with them.
That was the main thing that bothered him. He didn't know what to think, or to feel, about her any more. Yesterday it had been so clear; even while holding her hand he had known that they couldn't take it beyond that. He had decided to be strong, but his resolve was beginning to weaken. Admittedly, part of it was just the fact that he hadn't been with a woman in months, and part of it was seeing the girls' nude bodies every day. If there were no more to it, he was pretty sure he could hold out as long as he needed to.
But part of it was that he was getting comfortable with the girls. He had always found Cammy fun to be around, but now that Autumn was beginning to open up to him, he was really starting to like her. She was beautiful, and sweet, and just nice to be with, despite her shyness. He was also well aware of the fact that he was the only man on the island, and she the only girl who wasn't related to him. But could they ever be more than just friends?
What, really, was so wrong about having a romantic relationship with her? True, back in the States he could go to prison for that, but like she said, out here they made their own rules. Despite the difference in their ages, maybe it wouldn't be such a bad thing to love her the way she wanted. After all, the rules of society that prevented it were just arbitrary restrictions based upon cultural norms, and here on this island the three castaways made up their own culture.
No, that was more wishful thinking than anything else. Whether it took weeks or months, eventually they would be rescued, and then they would have to return to civilization and face the consequences of that forbidden love. The reason why he wasn't allowed to love her was that she was still immature, not ready to handle that kind of responsibility, at least in the world they lived in. She was only just about to start high school, after all.
He would just have to control his urges, he decided. No doubt in another week or two they would be on their way back to civilization, then he could find himself a girlfriend of his own age. Autumn would just have to get over him.
Happy that he was once again clear on what he needed to do, he turned around and headed back to the camp. It was a little earlier than he had expected to return; he had planned to be gone most of the day, but here it was not even noon yet. But he had mostly left to give him some time to think, and he had managed to sort out his thoughts already.
The girls were nowhere to be seen as he approached the camp. It was still too cold for a swim, so naturally they weren't in the lagoon. The embers of the fire still smoldered on the sand, and he had warned them not to leave camp without putting it out. Most likely they were in the hut. It faced away from him, so he wouldn't be able to see them until turning the corner.
"Cammy," he heard Autumn's voice from inside the hut.
"What is it?" asked Cammy.
"Can I ask you a favor?"
"Well... the other day, when you went to check the snares and left me alone with Lance..."
"I'm sorry, did that bother you? I'll be careful not to leave you two alone again if you want."
"Oh, no! Just the opposite. Lance was so sweet to me."
"Sweet? What do you mean?"
"Well... he let me... let me hold his hand, for one thing."
"He did what?"
"Well, he knows how I feel about him."
"Autumn, look. I only left you two alone because I know that Lance isn't the type of guy to try anything. At least, I thought he was. But if he was willing to hold your hand--"
"But I liked it, Cammy. He's a wonderful guy. Just give me a few more times alone with him, that's all I ask."
"Do you really know what you're asking? What if... what if something happens?"
"I know what I'm doing."
"Do you? If he were only a couple of years older than us, you'd have my blessing. I'd love to see you going out with someone as nice as Lance. But he's twenty-five. Almost twice your age. I think maybe I'd better not leave you two alone together."
"Come on, Cammy. I'll make it worth your while."
"Oh yeah? How?"
"Well for one thing, I'll do this."
Lance couldn't see what happened next, but he heard Cammy give a sharp squeal, followed by giggles.
"That's not fair, Autumn," she said. "You know that's my weakness. Besides, I thought you had your heart set on Lance."
"That doesn't mean I can't enjoy myself with you in the mean time. You're going to leave me alone with your big brother tomorrow, aren't you?" Autumn demanded.
"No I'm not. I-- Ooh! That's so naughty!"
"Do you want me to stop?"
"Then say you'll leave me alone with Lance."
"Fine then, I guess you don't really want me to do what I was planning to do to you."
"And what's that?"
"Come on, Autumn. Don't tease me like-- Oh my god!"
"I bet you weren't expecting that! There's plenty more where that came from. You know what you have to do to get it."
"Oh god, Autumn, I... I... I'll let you spend some time alone with Lance! There. I said it."
"Good girl. Now here's your reward."
"Oh god that feels good!"
Lance hurriedly yet quietly slipped away. He should have left sooner, but somehow the conversation, not meant for his ears, had drawn him in. He shivered as a chill went down his spine for some reason.