Summary: Diane is a horrible woman. She knows this, and is okay with the fact. She's a ruthless lawyer with enough ambition to trample on whoever attempts to get in her way. She's a home-wrecker, who willingly pursues a relationship with a man who is already married. And Diane really hates children - so much so that she stopped talking to two of her closest friends when they became mothers.
Allegra is a lonely child. Intelligent but strange, she recently became an orphan - or at least she did according to the government. Allegra holds a strong belief that her father is still alive, and she plans to find him and live with him. Allegra's naive plan accidentally throws Diane overboard - literally - and the two of them end up on an uncharted island with no way of contacting the outside world.
The island is the home of two inhabitants: Ted, an American man who's been there nearly nine years and Hirotas, a wild boy who was born on the island. At first, Diane hates everything about her situation, from the bugs to the food to the children. She wants more than anything to be rescued from what she sees as her own personal hell, and can't understand why she seems to be the only one who hasn't resigned themselves to their fate. But living with Ted, Allegra and Hirotas and seeing the way they interact with each other brings out a side of Diane she did not know existed. And that of course causes more problems than it solves.
Part I - Lost
1. On the cruise
Diane Mercier was trying to forget why she was on this luxury cruise around the Caribbean, trying to forget that it had all been paid for by the man who had very recently broken her delicate heart. She didn't want to think about Alexander Whitley but Diane couldn't help it. Everything she did from sleeping in her cabin, trying on clothes in her complimentary wardrobe or drinking the free drinks was paid for by Alex and was a painful reminder of him. Whenever Diane closed her eyes, she felt like she could almost touch his soft hair and smell his musky money-and-cigarette scent.
It was hard to swallow that the same man whom she had shared a loving and meaningful relationship with had actually paid Diane to leave England and her job for two weeks so she could sun it up on a Caribbean cruise. It hurt that Alex didn't want her around anymore and would go to such lengths to keep her away from him. Diane supposed Alex didn't want her to spoil things for him and his newly pregnant wife.
Diane knew she should have seen it coming from a mile away. It was inevitable that Alex would grow tired of her. Diane's best friend Betsy had even warned her that Alex was only using her to bring a little excitement into his dull politician's life but Diane had refused to believe it. Love had blinded her to the obvious. Alex never cared for Diane; she was only a bit of harmless fun to him. Now that his wife was pregnant with their first child and he was running for Prime Minister, Alexander realised that a sordid affair wouldn't look good and had to break things off with Diane, which he did in a crude text message.
Alex had sent Diane on a cruise in the hope that she would vent her anger by the time she got back and wouldn't feel the need to spill their dirty little secret to the tabloids. The last thing Alex wanted to do now was soil his public image. People didn't usually take too kindly to men who cheated on their wife of six years, especially when there was a furious 'other woman' in the picture.
Truthfully, Diane wasn't angry with Alex. She was plenty angry with herself but when she thought of Alex, she only ever felt sadness for him. They had been secretly dating for months – almost a year – and Diane had deluded herself into thinking they had something special, that he was worth feeling like a whore. Somehow, even with the rational comments from her friends, Diane had even convinced herself that Alexander was going to leave his wife for her. She honestly thought they were both in love.
Diane clearly thought way too much of herself. Alex's wife was lovely; Joy was every bit as cheerful as her name suggested. She had a bubbly personality, was an undeniable natural beauty and it was hard-going to find anyone who had a bad word to say about her. And Diane had done a lot of digging.
Diane on the other hand was as sharp as Joy was bubbly. Sure Diane was tall and slim with luscious blonde hair – but she was nowhere near a natural beauty. Her pristine appearance usually came from a leading brand of makeup and even then it couldn't mask her thin lips or bug-like eyes. What Diane lacked in looks, she more than made up for with confidence and self-control. Diane was also a lawyer and that made her instantly untrustworthy to all who crossed paths with her. She worked for a man named Nicholas Depoe who ran Depoe and Co. Law Offices and her one goal was to win as many cases as she possibly could. She was working her way to owning her own law firm and she liked to think she was nearly there.
Some people – okay, a lot of people – would call her ruthless. Maybe she was a little more dedicated to her job than most but that was what made Diane so damn good. She wouldn't be anywhere if she didn't have this much determination, would she?
In any case, Depoe had thought that a vacation was a wonderful idea and had encouraged it when she'd mentioned it to him, claiming that she had been working far too hard and a break would do her good. He had become concerned about her: she always seemed to be working and Depoe, although impressed by the number of cases she had won, worried that she was going to lose touch with reality. Depoe advised Diane that most clients preferred their lawyers not to be mechanical robots and so Diane had gone on this cruise to prove she wasn't just a law machine. She was capable of having fun like anyone else.
Diane sighed, leaning back on the deckchair and truly relaxing for the first time in a long while. She closed her eyes against the glare of the sweltering sun and hoped she got a lovely golden tan. That would be a good look for when she got back to the office – she had just better not freckle.
Diane was on the upper deck of the cruise ship, next to the outdoor pool. The entire ship seemed to glisten, especially on sunny days like these. The name of the cruise ship was the Ode to Noreen. It was incredibly spacious and modern, host to a large number of the upper class and several celebrities. It floated on the surface of the sea like a white swan, majestic and elegant on its journey. There were seven main levels of the Ode to Noreen and each was as polished and regal as the other. Not a thing seemed mismatched or out of place on board such a finely established cruise ship. As a successful lawyer, Diane was no stranger to the finer things in life but even this was a giant step up for her and she had to admit that she was enjoying herself so far.
A few other women were spending their time much like Diane, sitting on deckchairs and soaking up the sun's welcome rays, although Diane noticed more children than she preferred splashing around in the pool nearby. One child was one too many in her view so the fact that there were any aboard the ship made her want to write a letter of complaint. Diane disliked children with a heated passion and given her way, would live in a world in which they were neither seen nor heard. Even mentioning them would be a taboo. It riled Diane to see children of all ages wandering carelessly around the Ode to Noreen and the way their parents allowed them to act like hooligans didn't exactly help.
"I'm so sorry!" an apologetic mother giggled as her son threw a bucket of water at his sister and missed entirely. He had completely soaked Diane's dress, a slinky, skimpy number that barely covered her slim frame. It had cost a nearly half of her last pay cheque.
Diane was drenched and infuriated. She could only imagine how like a drowned rat she must look and hid her embarrassment under a heap of anger. She glared at the family with her icy blue eyes.
"You should keep those things on a leash," she snarled, before getting up, begrudgingly returning to her cabin so she could change into something dry. What few people Diane passed on her way there were subjected to the darkest look she could muster and made them feel like they had insulted her. That idiotic boy had ruined her good mood and she wanted to spread that feeling with everyone else.
Swiping her room key faster than usual, Diane stormed into her cabin and made straight for the wardrobe. The cabin itself was the same size as a medium-sized hotel room and complete with en suite bathroom. Her bed was queen-sized and soft, the rugs on the floor seemingly brand new. The decor and obvious cleanliness, Diane guessed, were a result of Alexander's selfish needs. The better her cabin, the less likely she would be to spill all about their affair. It was as if he thought she was an incredibly materialistic girl who could only be trusted if she was being bought. Diane would have been deeply insulted had it not been true.
She involuntarily shivered as she pulled off the sodden dress: she couldn't believe people willingly gave birth to such perfect monsters. After enduring countless court cases in which whiny, bratty children had featured a heavy role, Diane had built up a strong dislike for all of them universally. It raised quite a bit of conflict as two of her close friends had one or more children and Diane had found herself drifting from them ever since they'd given birth. She was just grateful that Betsy had yet to fall into the death trap of pregnancy and they were able to spend what small amount of free time together without the burden of children.
Unlike most women, Diane was glad that she was incapable of having children herself as she had never once had a period and was told by numerous doctors that the chance of her conceiving was less than three percent.
She wasn't in the mood to continue sunbathing anymore so Diane decided to entertain herself in her cabin for a while, or at least until dinner. It was this decision that guided her to put on an old work shirt and some loose shorts as her substitute dry clothing. With this great window of opportunity facing her, Diane chose to do what she loved best: catching up on some paperwork. She had packed some along with her so she wouldn't fall behind while she was on this so-called vacation. Diane didn't want to give any of her co-workers reason to believe she was slacking off simply because she was away from the office. That might give them the idea to go for the job Diane was working so hard to obtain: owner of Depoe and Co. Law Offices.
Penelope Hansen would jump at the chance to snatch up something Diane wanted without a doubt. The two women had been rivals ever since secondary school and Diane wasn't happy that Penelope not only worked for Mr Depoe, but hosted her own TV show in which she publicised some of her more interesting cases. Penelope enjoyed boasting to Diane how popular her show was and how it was only a matter of time before Mr Depoe handed his law firm over to her. Diane wanted nothing more than to squash Penelope Hansen down to size.
Seating herself at the hardwood desk shoved against one side of the cabin, Diane got out a fresh black ballpoint pen. Before she got stuck in, Diane tied her long blonde hair back so it didn't fall in her face when she bent down to write and got on her nerves. With that done, Diane got started.
"Allegra, no running off this time," Mrs Wilson, a stocky woman in her late fifties warned the light skinned child next to her. Although the heat was near-unbearable at this time of the day, Mrs Wilson was still in her charcoal grey skirt suit but had donned a yellow floppy summer hat to balance out the look. She didn't understand why she was being forced to go on this unusually expensive cruise trip but according to her supervisor, it had stated very clearly in the late Monique Santos's will that in the event of her untimely death, her daughter Allegra was to go on the two-week long cruise around the Caribbean before being put indefinitely in the care of the social.
Allegra's mother had died earlier that month and after some delayed paperwork, Mrs Wilson had booked the cruise which had used up all of the money Monique Santos had left behind. It had surprised the elderly woman that Ms Santos had wanted to fritter away what limited funds she had on a worthless cruise rather than putting it towards her only daughter's education, as it seemed Allegra could go far in terms of intelligence.
It wasn't even as if Allegra was making the most of her trip on the Ode to Noreen: ever since the boat had set sail she'd spent most of her time in their cabin or else ran off to the most unusual parts of the ship. The last time, Mrs Wilson had discovered Allegra down in one of the cupboards in the kitchen, hiding inside one of the larger pots.
"Yes Mrs Wilson," said Allegra monotonously, staring at the other kids splashing around in the pool. For an eight year old girl, Allegra had all the mannerisms of a sulky teenager – at least where Mrs Wilson was concerned. To look at her, no-one would have thought there was anything remarkable about Allegra: she had nervous green eyes hidden behind glasses, a rather generously sized forehead, badly cut dark hair that curled in humid temperatures and her front two teeth jutted out at an angle, being too large for her mouth.
"I mean it, Allegra," said Mrs Wilson, more seriously this time. "No family is going to want to adopt a child who won't do as she's told." Allegra remained silent. She had long given up trying to convince the oblivious woman that she had no intention of getting adopted: after all, it wasn't as if she was a proper orphan. Allegra's father was still alive, though after more than seven years death in absentia had already been declared. Allegra felt that this was far too presumptuous and had yet to give up hope that he was somewhere on this planet, alive and well.
"Alright, Mrs Wilson," said Allegra, giving off the perfect tone of annoyance. "Can I go and play now?" Mrs Wilson said she could, reminding Allegra that she would be watching her like a hawk from the other side of the deck.
Allegra ran happily away from her, jumping into the pool with a loud splash. There was a sickening moment when Allegra thought her blue rubber ring had become defective but then she bobbed back up to the top and everything was alright again. Breathing a sigh of relief, Allegra kicked her feet and tried to keep away from the other children. They had already sussed that she was different and were keeping their distance, much like the kids who used to be in her class at school.
With Mrs Wilson's well-trained eye on her, Allegra began to speak loudly to a person who wasn't there. Mrs Wilson had previously learned that this was 'Florence', Allegra's imaginary friend. Allegra and Florence wondered how dense the water in the pool was and then attempted to work out how many fully grown people it would take to fill it completely. One or two other kids eyed Allegra warily.
"You should keep those things on a leash!" a furious voice growled shrilly. Allegra's head shot up; she witnessed a lean blonde woman giving a happy family the evil eye and stalking away. Some adults are so rude, Allegra thought to herself. Then she repeated it aloud, for Florence and Mrs Wilson to hear. Mrs Wilson tittered but didn't say anything. She'd seen the whole ordeal with the uptight woman too and had already judged her as a horrible woman, nothing like the kind of woman Mrs Wilson had in mind to adopt Allegra.
Looking back at the small girl, Mrs Wilson saw with a heavy heart that she was doing it again. Allegra had her eyes closed and was counting on her fingers. That on its own wasn't so bad. She was also reciting the alphabet backwards at top speed – loudly. It was her habit whenever she felt uncomfortable in a situation or was nervous about something. Mrs Wilson feared that it was going to hold her back from getting a really good adoptive family. Most prospective adopters wanted a normal child to take in. Allegra Santos was a far cry from normal.
Out in the pool, Allegra was receiving some strange looks from the other kids. One even left the pool in tears, wanting to be as far away from her as possible. She took weird to another level. Allegra didn't care. She had grown used to such treatment. Besides, if her calculations were correct, she'd be off this ship by tomorrow morning.
Allegra's bag was packed, hidden underneath her bed. That was the primary reason she had claimed the bottom bunk as soon as she saw the cabin she and Mrs Wilson shared. Her bag was filled with clothes, food, bottles of water and other essentials Allegra thought she might need and Mrs Wilson had no idea.
Though she was only eight years old, Allegra was more intelligent than some adults could ever dream to be. Her mother had been ill for some time, Allegra knew because of her dad's disappearance. Allegra's mother had always spoken highly of her dad and she was aware that her depression was causing her slow demise. Still, Monique Santos had given up hope of ever seeing Allegra's father again and though the thought of raising his child carried her through the first few years of Allegra's life, Monique Santos knew she couldn't go on much longer. Life was just too painful without Allegra's father by her side and Monique had all but given up.
Allegra had never mentioned that she had faith her dad was still alive to her mother. She knew such talk would only serve to upset her mother further and possibly speed up her inevitable end. It had been Allegra's quiet resolve to search for him once her mother had passed, in order to find out once and for all who had been right. If Allegra didn't find him then she'd go back to Mrs Wilson and cooperate with her so that she might be adopted into a family of strangers.
Her dad had been on a ship similar to this on a family holiday when they were hit by a terrible storm. Many people had been flung overboard but he was the only one whose body hadn't been recovered. Allegra had gotten her mother to tell her everything she knew about the accident – anything her mother didn't know, Allegra had either looked up on the internet or worked out herself. All Allegra had to do now was wait until the ship was at just the right location and she would simply get off. There was a strong current nearby that Allegra believed had carried her dad to a small, mythical island near the equator. Scientist and explorers had theories that it only showed up during a certain star alignment or when the temperature was just right, though no two theories were the same.
As smart as Allegra was, her youthfulness was what made her unique. When it came to the mythical island her dad may or may not have lived on for nearly nine years, she didn't want to know what the probability of it existing was. There were some facts and figures she didn't very much care for.