|Yellow is a pretty color
Author: MeanRunt PM
Nick Hamilton wants to see again. Roarke has a serum. There is only enough for one dose. And there are many others who want and need it.Rated: Fiction K - English - Words: 10,012 - Reviews: 3 - Published: 07-08-05 - id: 2474507
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Yellow Is A Pretty Color
By Barb & Pat Roman
All Fantasy Island characters are the property of Aaron Spelling, Sony Tri-Star and TPTB. Any other copyrighted characters are the property of their respective TPTB. We're only borrowing them for a while. We'll give them back when we're done ... Maybe. Anyone else belongs to us and can be used only with our permission.
"De Plane! De Plane!" Tattoo called from the tower of the great house. All over Fantasy Island, people were scurrying to make the myriad of last minute adjustments that were necessary to greet the visitors to this tropical paradise. Roarke, impeccable as always in his white suit, came out of the house and got into the convertible with the red and white striped awning cover, and led the entourage to the seaplane dock.
As soon as they had assembled on the dock, the droning of the engines could be heard in the distance, and the plane grew from a small speck to a red and yellow seaplane. It landed gracefully as a swan on the calm waters of the lagoon and began its approach to the pier.
"Smiles. Everyone." Roarke said to those gathered there. "Smiles."
Nick Hamilton held firmly to the arm of the attendant as he exited the seaplane that had tied up to the Fantasy Island dock. Tattoo could tell that he was in his early to mid thirties, about six feet tall, with a lion's mane of dark curly hair. It was obvious that he was lean and muscular, even under the oversized sweater he was wearing. Roarke's diminutive assistant could not tell much about his face. He could not see his features very clearly since they were partially hidden by the large dark sunglasses that covered most of his face. He leaned down hesitantly as a female attendant in native dress placed an orchid lei around his neck. Another one placed an orange colored drink with a small bamboo and paper umbrella sticking out of it, into his hand.
"Until four years ago Nicholas Hamilton was a very talented and internationally renowned photographer." Mr. Roarke explained. "His works have been shown at some of the most prestigious galleries in the United States, as well as in many galleries and museums abroad. Do you remember the exposition of his work that we had here on the Island a few years ago?"
Tattoo nodded. The photographs in the exhibit had been a huge success, both with the critics and with the general public. Their sale at auction had brought a considerable sum for the Charities Fund.
"He has also established a successful chain of photography studios in and around the Madison Wisconsin area that he still owns." Roarke continued. "Unfortunately, four years ago, an accident in his darkroom cut short his career as an active photographer. A bottle fell off the shelf above his work area and landed in a tray of developing solution. The developer fluid splashed into his eyes. He has been blind ever since. He has undergone numerous operations and treatments, but they were to no avail. His only wish is to see again."
It was then that Tattoo noticed the tall white cane that their guest carried in his left hand. "Can we do that, Boss?" Tattoo asked. "Can we give him back his sight?"
"There are many ways to see, my friend." Roarke said with a slight smile. "And not all of them involve the eyes." He took a glass of a clear mint green colored beverage from the tray that the attendant held to him. Tattoo did the same.
As soon as all the guests had received their leis and drinks, Roarke held his glass up in front of him. "Greetings, my friends." He said with a smile. "I am Mr. Roarke, your host. Welcome to Fantasy Island."
Nick Hamilton winced as the nurse drew another blood sample. This was the fifth one. "Are you sure you're not a vampire?" He said impatiently. "How much longer do I have to endure this torture?"
"Almost done." The nurse replied. "One more test to go, and I'm through."
"Haven't you done enough tests already? What more could you possibly want from me? You already have more than enough samples of all my bodily fluids. You've poked and prodded me in every possible manner. I've said a-a-a-a-h enough times that my throat is getting sore. I've coughed, sneezed, grunted, groaned and moaned, and breathed deeply for you ever since I landed in this hospital."
"Touch the tip of your nose with your left index finger."
"That's what the cops tell you to do when they think you're intoxicated." Nick said as he complied with the nurse's request. "I am NOT drunk!"
"I didn't say you were." She replied curtly. Seconds later, Nick heard the door open and close, signaling that the nurse was indeed, through.
The door opened again.
"Look. If there's anything more tests that have to be done, you can do them later. I've had a long flight and I'd like to get some rest." He shouted grumpily.
"I can understand that." A male voice with just a hint of a Hispanic accent answered. "I shall try not to keep you any longer than necessary. I am Mr. Roarke. I just wanted to make certain that you were comfortable here at Fantasy Island Hospital."
"Well ... MR. ROARKE." He made the name sounded like an expletive. "For your information, I am NOT comfortable. I've been in too many hospitals in the past four years. This one is no different than any of the others. I didn't like them, and I don't like this one, either. I came here for a specific purpose, and it was not to lie in a hospital bed the entire time I'm on this island. Just answer one question. Are you going to restore my sight or not. I didn't come halfway around the world and pay good money for some charlatan to give me a snow job. I've run into a few of those, too."
"I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but this is all very necessary." Roarke continued. "As I have already explained to you, I am in possession of a medication that can help immensely in cases like yours.
The medicine was developed by a Doctor Chiang Tu Wong of the Asian Peoples Republic. When Dr. Wong escaped to the West a few years ago, he managed to bring a small sample of the serum he developed with him. Unfortunately, Dr. Wong was not a young man and he was not in the best of health when he left the Peoples Republic. The rigors of the escape took their toll on him. He died before he could reveal the entire formula.
The researchers in our laboratories have been working around the clock to analyze what little we have of the serum and attempt to duplicate it. So far, their efforts have met with only negligible success. There seems to be one ingredient that has alluded their most intensive efforts to identify it.
We only have enough of the medication available to treat one person. We must be absolutely certain that it goes to the right person. That is why we are conducting all these tests."
"Look, Mr. Roarke. Let's get one thing straight. I don't give a damn about your research. And I don't give a damn about your tests. I paid you an exorbitant amount of money for this fantasy and I expect you to uphold your part of the contract. I want to see again, and I don't care what you have to do to make that happen."
"And so you shall, Mr. Hamilton. So you shall. I will grant your fantasy as I promised. Before that happens though, I must insist that all of the tests be completed."
"I thought the nurse said that all the tests were done." Hamilton said with a fair amount of exasperation in his voice.
"As far as she was concerned, they were." Roarke continued. "However there are other tests that must be conducted. I have taken the liberty of setting up an appointment with a Miss Jennifer Burgher. She is a counselor here on the Island."
"A shrink?" Nick said. "Look, Mr. Roarke. I'm not crazy. I'm blind." He sighed heavily. "But then again, if that is what I have to do to regain my sight, then I guess I have no choice but to do as you say. I'll see her. Figuratively speaking, of course."
The nurse led Nick into the room and seated him in what felt to him like an overstuffed easy chair.
"Hi." Jennifer Burgher said. She sounded to Nick to be young, about his age, and if the voice was any indication, pretty as well. She was indeed pretty, with twinkling cobalt blue eyes and a peaches and honey complexion, framed by shoulder length wavy light brown hair.
"Let's get something straight right from the start, Miss Burgher." Hamilton said angrily. "This whole evaluation thing was Mr. Roarke's idea, not mine. I'm not crazy and I'm not irresponsible either. I'm blind and I want to see again. That's the bottom line.
If you are going to give me the standard lecture about blindness, you can forget it. I can recite it by heart. How blind people can do almost anything a sighted person can do. How the other senses compensate and become more sensitive. How there are hundreds of thousands of blind people all over the world and the majority of them are living full, productive, and happy lives in spite of their handicap. Well, I'm not one of them. I'm in the minority. My life is not full, productive, or happy."
"I never thought for one moment you were crazy. Or rash. And I have no intention of lecturing you. I just want to talk."
"We have nothing to talk about. I am ... I was ... a photographer. And a very successful one at that. I made my living capturing on film the things that I saw. How can I do that now? I'm blind. How can I photograph what I can't see?
Are you blind, Miss Burgher? Do you have any idea what it's like to be blind? To have to be led everywhere you want to go. To grope around and bump into things and not have any idea what you've stumbled over? To have people staring at you? To have people pitying you and feeling sorry for you? Even though you can't see them doing it, you still know they are."
"No, I'm not blind. And I don't pity you or feel sorry for you. I don't have to. You've got enough self pity and angst all by yourself for the both of us ... And for half the people on this island to boot."
"I thought you weren't going to lecture me."
"That wasn't a lecture. Just an observation."
The door opened. "Excuse me, Miss Burgher. I left some things in here. I'll only be a minute." It was a young girl, probably no more than nine or ten. Although Nick could not see it, she had a mop of reddish brown surrounding a heart shaped face.
"Little girl!" Nick said tartly. "Can't you see that Miss Burgher is busy. Come back later."
The footsteps came toward him and stopped at the side of his chair. "I'm sorry. I didn't know that there was anyone else in the room. And I couldn't see that you were here. You see, I can't see."
"It's all right, Sandy." Jennifer said softly. "Get your things quickly."
"What is this?" Nick said after Sandy had left. "Some kind of a cheap trick? National Make the Blind Man Feel Not So Much Of An Outcast Week?"
"No tricks, Mr. Hamilton. I do have a small confession to make, though. I'm not really the hospital counselor here on Fantasy Island. I am actually a therapist for the Mendota Home For Crippled Children in Middleton Wisconsin. There is no summer camp in that part of the state for special needs children, so every summer Mr. Roarke brings a group of kids here for a vacation. Since the regular hospital counselor is treating patients in the hospital on the next island for a week or so, I agreed to see you in his stead."
"I've had enough of this!" He said getting up from the chair. "I'm going back to my room." He picked up his cane and headed in the direction of where he thought the door was. Suddenly, he tripped over something and went sprawling on the floor. "Well?" He shouted. "Don't just stand there gawking at me. Get over here and help me up!"
"If you'll reach up with your left hand, you can grab the chair and pull yourself up."
Nick reached out with his left hand and after a few tries, touched something metal. The chair he had been sitting on was leather and wood. He probed a little further and he suddenly became aware of exactly what he was holding on to. It was a wheelchair.
"What is this?" He said as he pulled himself up. "Is this another scheme to soften me up? Well, you can tell Mr. Roarke it won't work. Just get someone to take me back to my room."
"You asked me earlier if I was blind. I said no. That doesn't mean that I don't know what it's like to be handicapped. I've been in this chair for seven years. It was an auto accident. A drunk driver ran a red light at fifty miles an hour. I'm lucky to be alive, but I'm paralyzed from the waist down. I've been there. Done that. Don't have the tattoo and don't intend to get one. I do have the T-shirt, though. From Recreation Unlimited. That's in Central Ohio. It is the closest place dedicated to the needs of the handicapped. Unfortunately, it's too far away for most of these kids to travel to without some kind of a subsidy. The budget for the home won't stretch that far. If it weren't for Mr. Roarke footing the entire bill, they wouldn't even be here."
Nick lay on the bed, his fingers absently tracing the Braille characters in the book on his lap. He wasn't sure why he was reading this particular book. He wasn't interested in the subject matter. It was just something to do. He had spent the evening thinking about what Roarke had done. Surrounding him with crippled people. What did he think that was going to do? He groused. Whatever it was supposed to prove, it wasn't going to work.
He heard the small footsteps heading for his bed.
"Who's there?" He called.
"It's me. Sandy Evans, Mr. Hamilton. We met in Miss Burgher's office earlier today. I just came to say goodnight to you. Miss Burgher told me you were going to get Dr. Wong's medication. I think that's terrific. Just think. In a few days you'll be able to see. Aren't you thrilled?
I'd really like to stick around and talk to you, but I gotta go before Ms. Pruitt comes in and chases me out. She's the floor nurse for this section. She's a real pill, too. She tries to treat me like I was some kind of a cripple. And she treats me like a little kid to boot. I'm not a little kid. I'm eight years old, you know. Don't you hate it when people do that to you? Treat you like you're different from everybody else?" He felt her face against his and she gave him a resounding kiss. "Bye!" The footsteps disappeared into the hallway.
A few minutes later, Ms. Pruitt came in. She was the same nurse who had done the series of tests when he first arrived on the island. "I hope Sandra did not bother you too much, Mr. Hamilton. She has appointed herself as the unofficial 'Goodnight Person', and each night she goes on her rounds to each patient and makes sure they are tucked in and that everybody gets a goodnight kiss. She knows she isn't supposed to be wandering the halls by herself, but she is such a sweet little kid, I don't have the heart to fuss at her for it. She has a lot of guts, that kid."
"How long has she been blind?"
"Practically since birth. She was three months old when a fire swept through the apartment building and killed her parents and two older brothers. She was the only survivor. She's been blind ever since. She spent the first two years of her life in and out of hospitals to repair the damage from the fire. They did a beautiful job, too. Except for her eyes, you'd never know how horribly burned she was. She's adjusted to her handicap very well. Of course, she's never known anything else."
"Can't anything be done for her?"
"Not any more. She was on the list of people being considered for Dr. Wong's serum, but Mr. Roarke chose you instead."
"I don't understand."
"Economics, Mr. Hamilton. Pure and simple economics. Research takes money. Lots of money. Sandra Evans is an orphan and a charity case. You aren't. You have money. She doesn't. That's the bottom line. Perhaps with the money that you've paid for your fantasy, we can fund the research that will find a cure for Sandy as well."
Nick sat in the hospital lounge. Again, he hadn't wanted to be here, but he didn't want to spend the day in his room either. He also declined the tour of the island and the complimentary tickets for the Fantasy Island Theatre showing of a Charlie Chaplin marathon. Why should he go? He couldn't see anything anyway.
"Hi, Mr. Hamilton!" The enthusiastic voice behind him called out. It was Sandy Evans. "How are you doing today. It is a beautiful day, isn't it?"
"How did you know I was here. I haven't said a word."
"Your after shave. And you have a habit of tapping your foot." She put a large piece of cardboard into his hands. "Wanna see my picture? Miss Burgher helped me make it."
Nick ran his hands over the board, but as far as he could tell, there was nothing there but a meaningless jumble of dots and ridges. "As the saying goes, you're jerking my chain. There's no picture here." He said practically throwing the cardboard back to her. "I knew that they were pulling some kind of a scam here. Blind people can't draw."
"Oh yes they can." Sandy said stubbornly. "I made this one and I've made lots of them before this one. There are all kinds of different shapes here. The square dots are buildings and things like that. The round ones are trees and bushes. The triangles are hills. Squiggly ones can be just about anything. The different sizes can tell you if it's near or far away. The bigger they are, the closer they are." She put the board back into his hands.
He began to run his fingers across the board again. Suddenly, he saw in his mind what his fingers were tracing. "You're right! There is a picture here. It's a farm! At sunrise!" He almost shouted. "I remember as a little boy going to my grandfather's farm every summer. Many times I'd get up very early and climb up to the roof of the barn to watch a sunrise just like this. Everything was cool and sweet at that time of the morning. It seemed like it took forever, but eventually there would be a little sliver of sun on the horizon and then, all of a sudden, there it was. The sun! Sitting like a giant yellow ball on the top of the hills. It was breathtaking. I've photographed the sunrise thousands of times all over the world, but none of them ever compared with the sunrises on my grandfather's farm."
"Mr. Hamilton. What is yellow like?"
"Yellow is ... " Nick paused. How do you describe color to someone who has never seen. "Yellow is a lemon pie, with a whipped meringue topping so thick you have to bite twice to get through it. Yellow is the lemon itself. Bitter and tart enough to make your mouth pucker. It's a canary, singing to no one in particular. Just for the joy of it. Yellow is a hot summer sun that warms you all the way to your soul and makes you feel happy to be alive."
"Mr. Nick. Yellow sounds like a very pretty color to me."
Nick put his arm around her and pulled her close to him. "It is, Sandy. It is. Yellow is a very pretty color."
Just then, Jennifer came into the lounge. "I hate to break this up, but Sandy, you had better get moving. They're getting ready to start the ballgame any minute now. In fact, they're already choosing sides. I know you are one of the better hitters and they really can't start without you."
"Thanks Miss Burgher. I don't want to miss out on that. I'd better hurry." Sandy took off at practically a dead run, her cane making a loud staccato on the floor.
"Ballgame?" Nick asked. "How can Sandy play ball? She can't even see."
"Come on out to the playground and I'll show you." Jennifer replied. "You push me. I'll tell you where."
Jennifer held the ball in her hands. "This ball has a beeper in it. At it comes closer, the beeping gets louder. By listening to the sounds, you can tell exactly where the ball is." She activated the speaker and moved the ball close to his head and then farther away. "See what I mean?"
He could hear the change in the loudness and pitch of the tones.
" Here. Catch." She threw the ball to him.
He reached for the sound and was mildly surprised when his hands closed around the ball. It appeared to be only slightly larger than a softball.
"Over here, Mr. Hamilton." A boy called. "Throw it here."
"That's Billy Chernafsky." Jennifer said. "He's five feet tall and about ten feet away and about a foot to your left."
"Don't worry about all that technical stuff, Mr. Hamilton. Just aim for my voice."
Nick threw the ball toward the boy's voice.
"Good shot. Right on the letters." Billy exclaimed. "Here it comes back to you."
Nick reached for the sound and again he caught it with ease.
"You're a natural. One more time." Billy called. "Watch out, though. I've moved." It sounded as though he was now about two feet farther to the right.
A second time Nick threw at the voice. Seconds later he heard the sound of the beeping coming closer again. He wrapped his hands around the ball. It seemed like a normal natural thing to do. It felt right. It felt good.
"Hey. You're pretty good at this. Why don't you take a turn at bat? You can be up second. Right after Tommy and me."
"Second? You mean I'll be batting third, don't you?"
"No. He means second." Jennifer explained. "Tommy and Billy bat as one. Billy was born with spina bifada. He wears braces up to his armpits and although he can walk, he needs crutches and it's slow and tedious work. Tommy Arles's mother was and still is a drug addict. She's been in and out of rehab nearly all her adult life. Tommy never knew his father.
He has only flipper like stumps for arms. He uses prostheses most of the time, but he can't get the right balance to swing a bat. They worked this arrangement out about three years ago. It was their own idea, too. Billy hits the ball and Tommy runs the bases. They make a good pair, too. Their average is .393."
Billy/Tommy struck out their time at bat.
Someone put a bat in Nick's hands and several other children enthusiastically led him to the batter's box. They took great pains to position him just so. There was a hushed silence as the pitcher took his warmup and threw the ball. Nick aimed at the sound as it came toward him, but the bat only caught air.
"Ste-e-e-e-rike One!" The umpire called. It was Roarke.
"You're swinging too soon." Jennifer coached. "Wait until it's almost on top of you."
He heard the ball coming at him again. He waited as Jennifer had said, and just as it reached him, he gave a mighty swing. The bat only curled around his shoulders.
"You're trying too hard." Sandy admonished.
"She's right." Billy added. "Relax. Let your natural instincts guide you."
Although it wasn't necessary, he closed his eyes and thought back to all the times he had played little league and sandlot baseball. As the third pitch came toward him, it seemed like the bat automatically came off his shoulder at the correct time. His wrists stiffened and he felt the resistance when the bat met the ball. He heard the beeping getting fainter as the ball sailed in an almost straight line for center field.
"First Base! First Base! Run to me." A voice called. Nick ran toward the man in as straight a line as he could. All along the base paths there was someone ready to guide him back if he happened to stray off course. As he reached first base, the baseman repositioned him. "Second Base! Second Base!" Another voice called. As he rounded second, the third baseman took up the call. As he stepped on third he heard the catcher call "Head for home." The third baseman pointed him in the right direction and he took off. He ran for the sound of the catcher's voice as he repeated "Home ... Home ... " "SLIDE!" Jennifer shouted as he approached the plate. When he judged himself to be close enough, he threw himself on the ground. His fingers grabbed the canvas of home plate a fraction of a second before he heard the ball slap into the catcher's mitt.
He was immediately surrounded by a throng of cheering boys and girls. A hand grabbed his and helped him to his feet. It was Jennifer's.
"I DID IT!" He shouted as he hugged her. "I did it. I hit a home run."
"Does it count, Mr. Roarke?" Billy asked.
Roarke thought for a few moments. "Only if your team wins by two or more runs." He said with a huge grin. He knew it was not uncommon for the scores of these games to be in the double digits. They were usually also seriously lopsided.
"I want him on the Tigers tomorrow at the picnic." One of the other boys said.
"No way!" Billy said defiantly. "He's on my team and he'll stay on my team. I got first dibbies on him."
"You can't do that." Another said. "You know the rules as well a everyone else does. Anyone can get anyone for any game. Nobody has dibbies on anyone. Ain't that right, Mr. Roarke?"
"Well, I ... "
"I'm flattered that everyone wants me." Nick interrupted as he brushed the dirt from his shirt. "But I think I'll bow out now with my perfect record intact."
There were groans from several sources as he made his announcement. The loudest was Billy's. "You can't do that, Mr. Nick." He protested. "The Sharks need someone like you."
"Sorry." Nick reiterated. "I'm officially retired. You'll just have to muddle through without me." He said with a wide grin.
Nick and Jennifer spent the rest of the game on the sidelines, with Jennifer providing a running commentary. The Sharks won by a score of 33 to 28. Because they had won by more than two runs, Roarke had allowed Nick's run to stand.
"What's this about a picnic tomorrow?" Nick asked as he pushed Jennifer back to the hospital complex.
"It's one of the highlights of the trip. Mr. Roarke has built a special area in the woods. There are paved paths with ramps and handrails so the kids can go for nature walks. He has labeled nearly everything in both English and Braille so the children know where they are going and what they are encountering. He even has even built special playground equipment to accommodate the handicapped. The kids just love it." She sighed heavily. "I just wish we had something like this closer to home for them."
"Please say you'll come, Mr. Nick! Please!" Sandy implored. He did not even realize she was with them. She was joined by a chorus of pleading children. "PLEASE!"
He thought for a moment. This was not the reason he had come to Fantasy Island. If he wanted to go to a picnic, he could have stayed in Madison.
"I don't think so." He said. "I've got other things to do here besides go on a picnic."
"Please say yes." Billy beseeched.
"Well ... "
"PLEASE! Ple-e-e-a-se !" Sandy begged. "Pleasepleaseplease?"
"Okay. Why not?" He said at last. "It's been a long time since I was on a picnic."
His answer was greeted with a resounding cheer.
Nick and Jennifer sat in the shelter house. The day had been perfect for a picnic. The sun was bright in a nearly cloudless sky and the temperature was just warm enough without being overly hot. Everyone took full advantage of the day. If he had not known differently, Nick would never have suspected that the group of boys and girls with him were anything but normal healthy children. They squealed and yelled nearly constantly, and had the normal quota of squabbles and minor fights. Not to mention the inevitable cuts, scrapes, and bruises. Almost nobody in the group, counselors and guest included, had clean clothing anymore. Thanks to the ballgame.
Although he had said he wouldn't participate, he eventually gave in to the children's pleas and allowed himself to be drafted onto the Shark team. Unlike the first time he played, he struck out more times than not. He did hit two singles and a double, and he had scored when Leo Markham had hit a home run. Still, the Sharks lost to the Tigers by the score of 27 to 19.
There was the hiss of airbrakes as the bus pulled up in the parking lot to take them back to the hospital. Jennifer and the others assembled the reluctant children for the return trip. If it had been up to them, they would have stayed here for the rest of the time on the island. There was the usual round of groans and protests as the counselors made certain that the assorted frogs, reptiles, caterpillars, grasshoppers, turtles, and other small creatures were returned to their natural habitat.
"Miss Burgher!' Miss Burgher!" Billy yelled as he ran toward the bus as fast as his crutches and braces would allow him. "It's Sandy! She's disappeared! We were on the nature path when she suddenly ducked under the guardrail and took off across the field. I kept calling to her to come back, but she ignored me. I tried to follow her and bring her back, but I couldn't go that fast. Then she headed into the woods, and I lost sight of her. That's when I came back here to get help."
"You did the right thing." Jennifer said. She motioned for one of the other counselors. "Tell the driver to wait right here. Billy and I will try to find her."
"I'm coming too." Nick said. "I can push faster than you can wheel." He grabbed the handles of her chair and, guided by Billy, took off down the path.
Billy stopped at a field of daisies. "This is where she ran off. I was telling her that there were Black Eyed Susan's in the field and that they were yellow flowers with black centers. All of a sudden she said something about wanting to see the color yellow and took off across the field." He pointed to an area where the flowers had been trampled. "You can see where she ran through the field and where I followed her. " His face dropped. "What if she got lost in the woods? She could get eaten by a bear or something like that. If anything happens to her, I'll never forgive myself. I should have been able to stop her. I'm not a kid anymore. I mean I'm gonna be thirteen in a few months. And I am a guy and she's just a little girl." His voice broke.
"I doubt if there are any wild bears on Fantasy Island." Nick said as reassuring as he could. "And I'm positive you did everything you could to find her. You did the right thing to come and get help. That was the best thing you could have done. Don't worry. She's going to be all right. Go back and tell the bus driver to put in a call for a search party. Tell him to take the rest of the kids back to the hospital. Jennifer and I will stay here and keep a watch. Just in case she returns on her own."
"Okay, Mr. Nick." Billy said as he started back along the path to the shelter house.
"She's got to be all right." Jennifer said taking hold of Nick's hand.
"I know. She'll be all right. Sandy will come through this with flying colors. You'll see. That kid has a lot of spunk."
It was not immediately clear which one of them he was trying to comfort.
"Sometimes I think she has too much spunk." Jennifer replied. "Sometimes I don't think she fully realized exactly how much of a handicap blindness can be. I know there are no bears out there. But what if she's lost? Or hurt? It will be dark soon. I know this is a tropical island, but it can get very cold once the sun goes down. What if she has to spend the night ... " Her voice trailed off.
"Don't worry. She'll be all right." He said, holding her tightly. " Then in a barely audible whisper. "She has to be."
They stood for a few moments staring across the field. "If you think she might be in danger, maybe we shouldn't wait for the search party. Maybe we should go looking for her ourselves."
"And how do you propose that we do that, Mister Wizard? My wheelchair will never make it through the field, and if you go in there after her by yourself, the chances are overwhelming that you could get just as lost as she is. Then we'll have to come looking for both of you."
"Maybe not. I've been thinking about that." He crouched in front of the wheelchair. "Take a good hold of my shoulders. I'll carry you piggyback. You can be my eyes, and I'll be your legs."
"And you're positive this will work?" She said as she wrapped her arms around him.
"No. I'm not positive. But it's the best I can come up with on short notice. It has to work if we are going to find Sandy before nightfall. Just hang on and watch for any obstacles." He straightened up and threaded his arms around Jennifer's legs. Surprisingly, she was not nearly as heavy as he thought she would be.
It wasn't hard to follow her trail through the field, but when they got to the wooded area, the path became more difficult. The ground was hard and covered with leaves and other small objects that effectively obscured the girl's footprints. Their progress had slowed almost to a standstill as Jennifer called out one potential pitfall after another on the almost undetectable trail.
"Good job!" He complimented her as she successfully guided him around a small boulder. "We make a good team."
Without warning, Nick's right foot tangled with an exposed root. Before he could stop, he was pitched forward. The added weight of Jennifer threw his center of balance off, and before he was aware of what was happening, he had landed with a resounding thud on the ground. Dazed and winded, he tried to get up, and found that Jennifer was no longer clinging to his back.
"Jennifer!" He called out breathlessly. "Are you all right? Where are you?" The panic in his voice was almost tangible.
"I'm all right." She said. "Just a little dazed and a few scrapes. I guess I got bounced off when we hit."
"Some navigator you are. You were supposed to be watching out for things like that." There was no anger in his voice.
"I know I should have seen it and warned you. And I'm sorry. My attention wavered when I saw this." She put a small piece of cloth into Nick's hand. "It was caught on a bush. It's from the T-shirt that Sandy was wearing. She came this way."
"Then what are we waiting for?" He lay back down on the ground and waited for Jennifer to once more place herself on his back. With a great deal of effort and the assistance of a nearby tree, he managed to get to a standing position. His right ankle throbbed. He tested it and found that, to spite the pain, he could put his weight on it. He doubted he had broken it. He figured he had probably sprained or twisted it in the fall.
They started out again. This time they called Sandy's name every few feet. They had gone about another hundred feet when Nick suddenly stopped.
"Why did you ..."
"S-h-h." He said barely above a whisper. "I thought I heard something."
"I didn't hear anything."
"That's one of the perks of being blind. Your hearing becomes much more sensitive ... At least that's what they tell me." He called Sandy's name again.
This time Jennifer heard it too. It was Sandy. She sounded weak and far away. There was also a slightly hollow sound to her voice.
Slowly, they made their way toward the sound.
"STOP!" Jennifer called out, and Nick stopped in his tracks.
"About three feet in front of you and to your left. There's a large hole. It might be an abandoned well. According to Tattoo, this whole area is dotted with them. The early settlers dug them, but soon found out that it wasn't fresh water in the wells, but seawater. It looks like this one was boarded up at one time, but about half the boards are missing and the rest are all rotted and broken. Sandy must have fallen down there."
"Sandy!' She called. "Take it easy. It's Jennifer and Nick. We hear you and we're going to get you out."
"Hurry!" Sandy called. Her voice was trembling and high pitched. "The water is really deep in here and I can't swim. And I'm scared."
"What happened?" Jennifer called as Nick lowered her to the ground.
"I wanted to see the flowers. I know I wasn't supposed to go off the path, but Billy said they were yellow, and I had to see what yellow felt like. You were right, Nick. Yellow feels good." Sandy said half crying. "I must have got turned around somehow. I couldn't find my way back to the shelter. The more I tried, the more lost I got. Then I fell in here. I hollered and screamed, but nobody answered until you came. I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have gone off by myself like that. Billy tried to warn me, but I wouldn't listen. Now look what I've gotten myself into. Literally." She laughed sadly at her joke.
"Don't worry, Sandy. We'll get you out." Nick said as he lay on the ground and inched his way to the well. He reached over the side as far as he possibly could.
"It's no use." Jennifer said. "It's too deep. There's at least a foot between the end of your hand and the top of her head."
Nick pulled himself back from the edge of the well. "Take it easy, Sandy." He called to the frightened girl. "The search party should be here in a little while. In fact, they should be on their way here now. They can get the equipment necessary to get you out. We'll have you out of there in no time."
Jennifer moved beside him. "There may not be any time left." She whispered. "The water in the well is nearly up to her chin, and it's getting deeper by the minute. My guess is that the well is fed by an underground tidal pool and that the tide must have started to come in. If we don't get her out very soon, she will probably drown."
Nick put his head in his hands. "If I had a pole, she could grab it and I could pull her out with that. Is there a large branch or something that I could use?"
Jennifer searched the area. The ground cover was mostly leaves and small twigs. There was nothing very substantial nearby. The remaining boards around the well were so rotted that they wouldn't possibly hold much weight. Not even as small a weight as Sandy's. If they had been stronger, she might not have fallen in the well in the first place. "There doesn't seem to be anything that I can see."
"There's got to be something here that we can use ... " He thought for a moment. Suddenly, Nick began unbuckling his belt.
"What are you doing?" Jennifer asked. "That belt won't hold her weight either."
"Not the belt." Nick replied. "If you don't mind knobby knees and undershorts, I just remembered something from my days as a Boy Scout." He stripped off his trousers and then tied the ends of the cuffs together. He tested the knot several times. "Yes. That should do it." He said as he lowered the makeshift sling into the well.
Guided by Jennifer, he positioned the pants next to Sandy.
"Grab hold of my pantslegs." He called. "They're right in front of you." When Jennifer confirmed that she had done that, he continued. "Put your head and arms through the end with the knot and hang on very tight." He felt Sandy do as she was instructed. Jennifer verified it.
As soon as he was sure that Sandy was secure, he began to slowly pull the pants up hand over hand. It was slow going, and he had to stop several times in order for Sandy to reposition herself. His shoulders and arms ached from the effort, and his hands were raw. With all the wetness and friction, bloody blisters and welts starting to form as well. After what seemed like an eternity, his fingers touched her head.
"I'VE GOT HER!" He shouted. With a strength that seemingly came from nowhere, he gave one last mighty pill on the pants. He felt his hands touch her shoulders, and their arms intertwined. Carefully, holding Sandy tightly, he slid back from the edge of the well, pulling the girl over the lip of the well and onto solid ground. "She's safe. She's safe." He repeated like a mantra.
Sandy clung to him almost as fiercely as he did to her, while Jennifer gave the girl a cursory examination. Except for a few minor cuts and bruises, she did not appear to be hurt. She was more frightened and chilled than anything. Jennifer took off her sweatshirt and pulled it over the girl's head.
"Your pants are ruined." She said to Nick, "And if you think I'm giving you mine, think again."
"No problem." Nick said as he untied the knot in the bottom of his trousers. "As long as they cover what they have to, I don't mind ripped soggy bottoms." He tried to stand up, but a fierce spasm of pain from his right leg forced him back to the ground. "I must have hurt it worse than I thought. Either that, or the adrenaline high is starting to wear off."
"Adrenaline high?" Sandy asked. "What's that?"
"You know when you're playing real hard and you hurt yourself. Sometimes you are so caught up in playing that you don't notice the hurt until you stop."
"Uh huh. I've done that." Sandy replied.
"It's the same thing here. I was so focussed on finding you and getting you out of the well that I didn't realize just how bad I had hurt my ankle when I fell a little while earlier."
"Now how do we get out of here?" Jennifer said, a slight trace of desperation in her voice. "The sun is almost set and as I said before, it can get very cold at night. Especially with the two of you in wet clothes."
Nick reached out and took her hand. "Don't worry. We'll get out of here. Even if I have to crawl on my hands and knees carrying the two of you on my back all the way to the main house. I didn't come all this way and pull Sandy out of the well just to have the three of us freeze to death in the woods."
Progress was slow. Although Jennifer had fashioned a splint of sorts for his injured ankle out of two sturdy but small branches and his belt, he could not travel more than twenty feet or so without having to stop and rest. Carrying Jennifer did not help matters either, but there was no way he was going to tell her that. Sandy clung fiercely to his uninjured leg, and that was also slowing things down as well.
"Leave me here." Sandy said the next time he stopped. "I'm only slowing you down. You and Jennifer can get help and then come back for me."
"No way." Nick said, hugging her with all his might. "We came here to rescue you and there's no way I'm going to leave you behind now that I found you." He tweaked her nose. "You got that?"
"Yeah, but ... "
"But nothing." Jennifer added. "We are going to get out of here. All three of us. Together. Don't you ever doubt that."
In the distance, they heard the shouts.
"It's the search party!" Jennifer shouted.
"Over here! Over here!" They shouted until Roarke and the others came into view.
On the ride back to the hospital, Nick, Jennifer, and Sandy sat huddled together under blankets. Despite assurances from almost everyone involved that they would be all right, Nick refused to release his hold on either of them, and they on him.
Nick lay in his bed, his foot bandaged and propped on a pillow. As he had suspected, he had badly sprained it, but he had also torn several ligaments and had bruised the Achilles Tendon as well. It would be at least a week before he could even think about putting any weight on it.
Jennifer and Sandy had fared much better. Other than the cuts and bruises from the fall in the well, and a moderate case of hypothermia from being in the water for over two hours, Sandy was fine. They had kept her overnight to insure that there was nothing else wrong. There wasn't.
Jennifer also had some very minor scrapes from the fall, but nothing that a cleaning with antiseptic and a few Band-Aids wouldn't take care of. She, too had suffered from the cold, but she was pronounced in excellent condition. As soon as she had been suitably warmed, she was released from the hospital. She had, however, spent the night alternating between his and Sandy's room. "Just to be sure they were all right." She said. He was glad she was there, and he suspected that Sandy was, too.
A smiling Roarke came into his room. "I have good news for you, Mr. Hamilton. The results of all the tests we took have come back. I am pleased to report that they are all positive. If it is all right with you, we can begin to administer Dr. Wong's serum to you whenever you are ready."
"I am not ready, Mr. Roarke." Nick said. "In fact, I have changed my mind. I don't want the treatments."
"I do not understand. This is your fantasy. This is why you came to Fantasy Island in the first place. Don't you wish regain your sight?"
"I want to see more than anything in this world. But I found out there are more important things than that." He paused. " If you are worried about the money I paid, you can keep it. I want Sandy to have the medication." Another pause. "For most of my life, I have been able to see. Since I am a photographer, I've probably seen more of the beauty and wonders of this world than most people will ever see in three lifetimes.
Sandy has never seen any of this. She deserves that right, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to give her that chance. Besides, I know what color yellow is."
There was a prolonged silence. Somehow, Nick sensed that Roarke was puzzled by his remarks. "I do not understand, Mr. Hamilton. When you came here, you were most adamant about seeing again."
"Don't try to understand it, Mr. Roarke. I'm not entirely sure that I do, either."
Sandy lay on the hospital bed. Her eyes were heavily bandaged. It had been three days since the doctors had injected Dr. Wong's serum into her eyes and today was the unveiling. It was the moment of truth. A doctor and Nurse Pruitt stood at the top of the bed next to her face. Nick and Jennifer were on either side, holding tightly to her hands.
"Are you ready, honey?" Nick asked.
"Uh huh. And a little scared, too."
"I know what you mean. Don't be scared. The medication will work. I know it will." Jennifer said, giving her hand a squeeze.
It seemed like it took an eternity for the doctor to cut and unwrap the bandages. Finally there was only the thick eyepads left.
"I want you to close your eyes while I remove the pads." The doctor said softly.
"Okay." Sandy said nervously. They're closed."
The doctor gently lifted the pads from her eyes. "Now open them."
Sandy did as she was instructed. Suddenly, she screamed and put her hands tightly to her face. "It hurts! It hurts!" She cried.
"The light. It's too much for her." The doctor said. "Close the blinds and darken the room."
He waited until Mrs. Pruitt had pulled the lined drapes over the windows and had extinguished all of the lights in the room except for a small nightlight to the right of the bed.
He gently eased the girl's hands from her face. Her eyes were still tightly shut. "Open your eyes. The light shouldn't be so bright now."
Sandy did as she was told.
The doctor pointed to the nightlight. "Can you see this?" He asked.
"I ... I think I can ... I think I ... I CAN see ... I can see something. What color is it?"
"It's sort of yellow. Why?" Ms. Pruitt asked.
Sandy cocked her head and studied the light for a few minutes. "You know something, Nick." She said with tears streaming down her cheeks. "Yellow is a very pretty color."
"It certainly is." Nick replied with tears streaming down his cheeks as well. He folded the girl in his embrace.
"It's the most beautiful color in the world." Jennifer added as she reached up to pull the two of them into her arms. Her face was just as wet as theirs.
Roarke and Tattoo watched from the pier as the attendants helped the children from the Mendota Home For Crippled Children get off the bus and onto the plane. Sandy was the last one off.
"Smile, Mr. Roarke." She called. She had a small camera around her neck and she was taking numerous pictures of everything she saw. And she was seeing everything there was to see. She stopped to unload one full film canister and insert a new one. "Now it's your turn, Mr. Tattoo. Big smile!" She called as the shutter clicked several times.
She ran up to Roarke and hugged him tightly. "Thank you, Mr. Roarke." She said, kissing him noisily on the cheek. "I never knew there were so many pretty things in the world. I want to see them all, and now, thanks to you, I can. And with this camera that Nick gave me, I can not only see them, I can save them and see them over and over again." She ran off, her camera clicking away as fast as she could push the shutter button.
Nick pushed Jennifer to where Roarke and Tattoo were standing. "The doctor says that Sandy will need some therapy and probably glasses for a while." She said. "But eventually her vision will be 20/20."
Nick held his hand to Roarke. "Mr. Roarke. I don't know how to thank you for all you've done. I have gotten so much to be thankful for, and I owe it all to you."
"But your fantasy was not fulfilled. You still cannot see."
"Oh, but it was fulfilled. I realize now just how blind I really was. And I don't mean the fact that I couldn't see, either. Even though I am still blind, I can see so much more than I ever could have before. Even when I could see.
I have contacted my lawyer and he is making arrangements to convert my grandfather's farm into a summer camp for these kids. I have also asked him to petition the court to appoint me as Sandy's guardian. If I can persuade this wonderful person here to be my wife, I plan to adopt Sandy as soon as we're married."
Jennifer took his hand. "What do you mean 'IF you can persuade'. You mean when, don't you."
The smile on Nick's face was bright enough to light up Fantasy Island for a week. "That sounds like you accept." He kissed her softly on the cheek.
"Accept!" She said returning the kiss. Her smile matched his. "I thought you'd never get around to asking."
"Congratulations." Roarke said, reaching down and kissing Jennifer on the cheek. When he straightened up, Nick shook Roarke's hand while Tattoo also kissed Jennifer.
"I would like to give you a wedding present." Roarke said. "If you will, I would like to offer Fantasy Island and all its facilities for the ceremony and the honeymoon."
"Mr. Roarke. That is the best thing you could possibly do. Yes. We accept your offer." Jennifer replied. She wanted to say more, but was cut off as Nick's mouth covered hers.
"And I have even more good news." Roarke said when they finally broke the embrace. "I have just received word from the research team. They have finally managed to isolate the elusive ingredient that has prevented them from duplicating Dr. Wong's formula. It is now only a matter of time before will be able to reproduce it in quantity. When that happens, I assure you, you will be the first person I will contact."
"That's fantastic." Nick said. If it were possible, the look of joy on his face had increased tenfold. "My life is now just about as perfect as it possibly could be. Very soon I will have a beautiful wife, a darling daughter, and my eyesight back." His face clouded slightly. "There are only a few more things I could possibly wish for. I wish there would be a serum that would give Jennifer back the use of her legs. I wish for a medication that would heal Billy's spine. I wish there was a treatment that would grow arms for Tommy. I wish there was something that would make every handicapped or sick kid or adult whole and healthy."
"Perhaps someday there will be." Roarke said sadly. "Perhaps someday ... "
"Come on!' Sandy ordered, tugging on Nick's arm. "We've got to hurry or the plane is going to take off without us. I don't know about you two, but I can't wait to get back to Madison and see all the things that are there." She darted across the dock and practically flew into the plane. "Come on!" She ordered.
"We're coming, honey." Jennifer said as she guided Nick to the plane. He pushed her where she told him. "I have a feeling we're going to have our hands full raising that one." She whispered to him in a sotto voice.
The attendants helped her and Nick get aboard, and the plane taxied out into the lagoon.
"Boss." Tattoo said as they watched the plane become a tiny speck in the clear tropical sky. "What was the ingredient that had the laboratory so stymied. I thought you could conjure up just about anything. Why didn't you just do that to the formula?"
A look of mock surprise came over Roarke's face. "Tattoo! What do you think I am? There are some things that even I cannot do. Unfortunately, that was one of them." He paused. "You are usually much more perceptive than this. I thought you would have figured out the secret ingredient by now." He looked around as though he were checking to see if anyone was listening.
He cupped his hand over Tattoo's ear. "The secret ingredient ... " He whispered. Again he looked around. "The secret ingredient ... " A twinkle danced in his eyes. " ... Is love."
This IS Fantasy Island, after all