Pami Cotter sat on her bed in the lonely hotel room waiting for her agent Buzz Katz to call back. She was in Hawaii opening for Currie but the tour had been abruptly cancelled when word came that the boys' mother had taken seriously ill back in South Carolina. Now Pami was in limbo waiting for Buzz to come up with a new plan for her. Her cell finally rang and she quickly answered.
"Okay, I got you on a flight back to LA this afternoon," Buzz reported in his usual business tone.
"Thanks, Buzz," Pami said with relief.
"Unless…." Buzz said tentatively.
"Unless?" Pami asked with confusion.
"Well, there's a USO show finishing up its last month," Buzz revealed. "Sweeney Lee is six months pregnant and not up to completing the tour. You could replace her if you were interested."
Pami wasn't interested. She was tired and lonely and she missed home. With the unexpected time off, she could fly back to Virginia and surprise the family while enjoying some welcomed and needed down time to figure out what she wanted to do next. But then she thought about her older brother who had done a tour in Iraq and she wondered if the USO had entertained him.
"Where?" Pami asked with uncertainty.
"South Pacific," Buzz answered. "You'd catch up with them in Guam."
"Jerry Gavin who's been active with the military since his War Story movie," Buzz said. "Plus a couple of comedians. You'd do a few or your songs and some improv with Jerry."
Pami sucked in her breath and thought about it for a moment. A USO tour wasn't the same as front lining the popular Christian Rock Band Currie concerts but she thought about her brother and she knew giving back to the troops was something she should do.
"Okay," she decided, missing her family all the more already. "I'm in."
There was a pause and Pami knew she had caught Buzz by surprise. "Really?" he asked. "You might be a little bit too young for this."
"Come on, Buzz, if I'm not to young for Currie, I'm not too young for the USO, am I?" the nineteen year old Christian singing sensation wanted to know.
He laughed. "No, I don't suppose you are."
"Do you think my act will fit in?" She worried.
"Lots of born agains' in the military, Pami," Buzz told her. "You'll be fine."
Three hours later Pami Cotter was flying on a small private chartered jet from Hawaii to Guam. The plane was being sent to retrieve Sweeney Lee and it worked out that Pami could catch a ride. It felt awkward to be the only passenger on the plane but Richard the third crew member was friendly and helpful making sure her needs were met, going out of his way to be nice and attentive. Pami liked Richard even though he was obviously a homosexual and once again she found her religious beliefs clashing with her personal intuition. Richard was tall, thin, and bald even though he was in his twenties. He spoke with a feminine voice and he walked like a girl but he was funny and personable and Pami pretended not to notice his natural failings.
The co-pilot stepped into the cabin during the flight to get Pami's autograph for his fourteen year old daughter and that made Pami feel good. She wasn't always sure if she had a teen following given the style of her music.
Pami began singing in her church choir at a young age and because of her obvious talent she was invited to sing at larger churches and various retreats. She eventually found her way onto nationally broadcasted revivals and festivals which landed her a contract to perform Christian rock while writing her own lyrics with Christian ideals and values. Her Faith never wavered even as her success and popularity grew.
Pami's bookings forced her to leave school to travel the country singing traditional Christian songs as well as her own lyrics. Because she was young and pretty, Pami became a welcomed new face for the industry and she landed several national television shows including mainstream programs which gave her a new audience. Her music was never in your face or preachy, just innocent and loving. Many who heard her songs for the first time assumed she was writing about her love for a boy and not her love for Jesus.
Her virtuous relationship with her boyfriend Clint waned and strained with the weight of her career and when Clint went off to play football at Virginia Tech that was the end of their long and loving chaste courtship.
Currie was a successful band that performed music influenced by their Christian Faith and even as they and Pami became mainstreamed they never denied their Faith or turned away from the Christian Rock image.
Currie (and Pami) played such venues as the Creation Festival, Ichthus Festival, and the Cornerstone Festival as well as the Rock the Universe Festival in Orlando and the Night of Joy Event at Walt Disney World.
Pami was grateful for her successful career that included a few guest appearances on various situation comedies and children's programs but she found life on the road and in the business to be incredibly lonely. Her mother and other family members accompanied her on tour but the grind was too much for them and when Pami turned eighteen she mostly tagged along with the Currie entourage. The three Currie brothers – Mickey, Gabe, and Eric – adopted Pam as their kid sister and while she got along well with the boys she was still lonely and she often thought about giving up life on the road and returning to her small town roots in Virginia.
It was a nine hour 4,000 mile flight to Guam and Pami occupied her time by working on a few new songs, answering e-mails, and sleeping. She was awakened from one of her dozes by the shaking of the plane and when she glanced out the window she saw that it was night but that the sky was being repeatedly lit up by dancing flashes. She wasn't sure if she should be nervous but she tightened her seat belt just the same as the plane was really starting to rock and roll. Pami began to silently pray for God's presence in the rough weather.
Richard came stumbling out of the cockpit and he handed the passenger a life jacket from one of the storage bins.
"Should I be worried?" Pami asked with concern.
"Just normal precautions," Richard replied as he put a preserver on as well. There wasn't any panic in his voice but Pami could see the worry on his face. "Look, if anything happens and for some reason we end up in the drink, pull that red lever by the door," Richard instructed "A life raft will automatically expel."
Suddenly there was another flash of energized electricity across the sky followed by a boom and the jet jerked as the lights went out for a moment and the plane violently dropped in attitude and pitched heavily to the right, sending Richard flying into the wall and causing Pami to scream in fear. The engines began to whine with a deafening squeal as a dazed Richard dragged himself to the chair on the opposite side of the cabin and Pami became aware that she was crying and shaking uncontrollably.
The aircraft was falling from the sky at a tremendous speed and it felt like Pami was on some sort of bizarre final amusement park ride. Her life literally flashed before her eyes as she thought about her death and she realized that her success as a Christian Rock singer wasn't worth a plunge into the Pacific Ocean. She should have stayed home and been content with her hometown and her family who loved her, making babies with Clint. Now she was going to die with three total strangers.
The plane continued to pitch, buckle, swan, spin, turn and fall. Pami kept her eyes closed while praying aloud during the periling moments and it wasn't until she heard Richard's yelling voice that she opened her hurting lids. Richard pointed to the level he had showed her earlier. She nodded that she understood and she prayed that her life would be spared.
The rough decent took forever, long enough for Pami to mentally review every regret, mistake, and memory she ever experienced. She would gladly trade her breakout success, the television appearances, the touring with Currie, and her popularity just to be able to hug her mother one more time and tell Clint she had always loved him.
Pami looked out the window and in the flashing lightning she saw the white waves of the angry ocean below getting closer as the plane fell from the sky in a controlled crash fashion.
"Mama, I love you," Pami said aloud just before the jet bounced off the top of the ocean's surface. "Jesus, save me," she screamed.
There was a terrible sound of ripping metal. Pami saw the skin of the fuselage peel open as the broken wing sliced its way down the cabin parting a hole and suddenly Richard was gone in an instant, his seat ripped from the floor and sucked into the night as Pami screeched with horror.
The plane skipped and bounced along the ocean surface, spinning like a top as sea water began gushing in. When the plane finally stopped moving, Pami was able to collect her bearings and she knew that she needed to get out of the plane before it sank. There was an eerie silence – the silence of death. Pami had the presence of mind to unbuckle herself from her seat and wade to the lever Richard had shown her. She pulled it and she heard noise from the outside of the fuselage and she assumed that the raft had deployed. She glanced toward the closed cockpit door but she was afraid to open it to see if the pilots were still alive.
The water level was to her chest now so Pami exited the sinking plane through the hole that had taken Richard and she saw the yellow raft bouncing in the waves. Her life preserver kept her on the surface of the water when she jumped into the waves and Pami swam to the raft before it floated away just as the remains of the jet plane sank under the surface behind her. Pemi crawled into the raft, activated the strobe light on her life jacket, and secured herself inside the raft that was bouncing and pitching in the stormy seas as the rain fell on her.
"Jesus, thank you for saving me," Pami said aloud. "Now please rescue me."
Pami dozed while riding the raft through the rough seas, fearful that she could be thrown from her safety at any moment. The bottom of the raft was full of sea water and she was drenched from the ocean and the rain. When she awoke in the morning the storm was gone, the seas had calmed and the sun was shining brightly in the blue sky. The raft included a built in survival kit that included water, granola bars, chocolate, nuts, dry fruit, some ready to eat meals, band aids and bandages, sun screen and lotion, a flashlight and a laser pointer, flares, compass, Swiss Army knife a whistle, fishing line with hooks, a small mirror (for reflecting the sun), antibiotics, iodine, matches and a lighter, a bandana, a sewing kit, a plastic poncho, a space blanket, a trash bag, cotton balls, petroleum jelly, disinfectant pads, a razor, rubbing alcohol, scissors, and a radio transceiver.
Pami desperately played with the radio but she couldn't pick anything up. She wasn't sure if the equipment had been damaged in the crash, she wasn't operating it right, or she was so far from civilization that it was a useless tool. She was overwhelmed by fatigue and distress. The image of Richard being sucked out of the hole haunted her. She also thought about the cheerful co-pilot who was so pleased to get her autograph for his daughter, a girl who most likely would never see her father again.
Pami wondered if she'd ever see her family again as the raft bounced along the waves. The sun went down and rose again. Pami either dozed or passed out a few times, weak from the ordeal and the stress. She felt nauseous from the motions of the waves that could be either subtly soothing or physically upsetting. She learned to urinate and defecate off the side of the raft without falling overboard. Even with the sun block and sun tan lotion, her skin turned red and burned. She began to smell her own body odor and her hair was matted to her head as if it had been baked to her skin.
Pami began to lose track of time. Had the sun come up twice? Three times? She was dazed and uncertain, at some points perhaps even delirious. One night she thought she saw ship running lights in the far distance and she desperately flashed her laser light and flashlight to no avail.
During the day Pami thought she heard the rumble of an airplane engine but when she looked up in the sky she saw nothing although she continued to hold the mirror in her hand hoping the reflection would hit somebody's eyes. Was anybody searching for her? Could she ever be found? She thought of the airliner that disappeared in the Indian Ocean with all those people and how no sign of the wreckage was found.
Pami sang Christian songs aloud to keep herself alert and responsive and she prayed aloud until her voice hurt. She leaned over the side of the raft and talked to the fish she couldn't see. She even caught a couple with the fishing line from the survival kit although eating raw fish was not something she could easily swallow.
Sometimes she would cry in despair, convinced that she would die at sea alone.
"My God, My God, why have you forsaken me!?" She wailed at one point.
There were times when she wondered if she should take off her life jacket and just silently slip over the side of the raft and allow herself to drown, drifting down to the bottom of the sea like Ariel in The Little Mermaid. Pami sang "Under the Sea" aloud and laughed at her craziness.
After several days of being lost at sea, Pami was never quite sure when she was sleeping and when she was awake, when she was dreaming and when she was hallucinating from her ordeal. Her despair became so great that she would wake up crying.
Pami awoke one morning to the strange sounds of seagulls and when she opened her eyes she was surprised to see a couple of the creatures circling above the life raft. For a moment, she thought they might be vultures waiting for her soon-to-arrive demise but when she sat up in the raft and focused her eyes she realized that the gulls were real.
Pami almost leaped from the raft when she saw a small island in the distance. It was her first concrete sign of something besides blue ocean since the crash and she desperately tried to paddle the raft with her hands in the island's direction. Luckily, the tide was moving the raft in that direction anyway and Pami found herself praying that she'd be able to step foot on solid ground.
"Thank you, Jesus," she said over and over again.
Pami wasn't sure how long it took the raft to drift to the island's shore. The water was clear and she could see the bottom of the ocean when the raft drew closer to land but when she saw the coral reefs she feared the raft might not make it over the natural barriers that circled the island.
Sure enough, Pami felt the bottom of the raft scrape over a sharp coral tip and suddenly there was a tearing rip and water began to flood the craft. Pami grabbed the survival kit and rode the raft until it cleared the coral reef and then she rolled out of the sinking boat and safely swam ashore.
Pami fell onto the white sandy beach feeling exhausted and it took her a few minutes to feel her legs again and be able to pick herself up and walk.
"Jesus, thank you for answering my prayers," Pami said aloud. "You saved me, I know."
Glancing around, she noticed that the island didn't seem all that big. She could see it curve onto itself from both directions and in front of her were trees, vines, and rocks that made it impossible to see how deep the jungle went. A small peninsula of water also disappeared into the jungle and she noticed a path running along side of it.
Pami didn't think it was possible that there were any inhabitants on this tiny speck of land but hopefully there would be food and perhaps some natural shelter. She stumbled for a moment as she tried to make her legs work. She was barefoot having lost her sandals in the crash, dressed in the khaki shorts and Hawaiian shirt she was wearing when she left Honolulu although both were soiled and tattered.
Pami crossed the beach and began to walk the path into the woods, looking for fruits, melons and other sources of nutrition. She rounded the corner as the path twisted and she screamed when she nearly plowed into a man who was walking in her direction on the sandy trail. She was even more startled because the man – who didn't look all that much older than her – was completely naked. His skin was golden brown with a deep tan – all of him. He had a look of total shock and disbelief on his face as he stared at her as if he was seeing a ghost. Pami wasn't sure if she should be embarrassed, frightened or relieved.
His hair was matted, curly, long and bleached from the sun. He had a long messy brown beard that resembled a bird's nest.
"Who are you?" She finally asked when the naked man didn't say anything, gawking at her as if she was a figment of his imagination. "Do you speak English?"
"Are….are you…real?" The man managed to squeak after a few more awkward moments.
"Yes, of course I'm real," Pami answered with annoyance.
"Where did you come from?" The man looked fascinated staring at her like she was a gift from heaven.
"Our plane crashed at sea," she said. "I ended up here."
"Are there any others?"
"I don't think so," Pami replied sadly.
The man nodded in understanding and then he seemed to remember that he was naked, perhaps helped by her wandering eye that kept glancing downward. Pami had never seen a naked man up close and personal. She was a pretend virgin who had accidentally given her innocence to a man she thought adored her but who lost interest after their clothed sex in the back of a limo. All those years of saving herself for Clint only to give it up in the backseat of a limo with a creep of a person.
The story of Adam popped into her thoughts for some reason – how Adam did not know he was naked until Eve had sinned. Was this man Adam?
"Oh," the naked man said, glancing down at himself although he didn't appear to be embarrassed or horrified. "Sorry, but there was no need to be modest on a deserted island when you're all alone," he explained. "Come on, I'll get decent."
He turned to reveal the other side of himself as he walked in the direction from which he came. Pami followed, trying not to look at his toasted brown buns as they walked but she couldn't help herself. She had been a good girl with a positive image to protect and she never allowed herself to be put in compromising positions, especially with men. But she couldn't help looking.
The path took a sharp turn to the right and then it travelled up a steep slope that emptied into a small plateau on a hill that included an opened metal shack overlooking the ocean. The man led Pami into the hut and she stole one last secret look at his nakedness before he put on a pair of camouflaged fatigues and a blue tee shirt that had some sort of markings on them. The pants were shredded and the tee shirt had several holes in it as well.
"What is this place?" Pami asked as she glanced around the hut.
"It was a hidden lookout post during World War II," he replied. "Abandoned long ago but it probably saved my life because I doubt I would have survived here without it."
He stepped around the hut and showed her where the radios used to be on a long wooden table in front of the slit of a window overlooking the ocean. The floor was wood but the walls metal. There was a long table pushed against the far wall, a single bunk with a tattered mattress, a couple of storage cabinets and some old metal chairs, along with a few kerosene lanterns.
"Who are you?" Pami asked.
"Parnell Peterson," the man introduced himself, offering her his hand.
She tentatively accepted his hand in a grip. "How did you get here?"
"Fell off an aircraft carrier," Parnell replied.
"How long ago?"
"Two years, I think," he answered, pointing to hundreds of line marks on the far wall scratched into the tin. "I may have missed a day or two along the way."
"And I'm the first person you've seen?" Pami asked with surprise.
He nodded affirmatively. "It's been a long time," he grinned. "Sure is nice to talk to somebody besides myself!"
"Two years?" She asked with disbelief.
He shrugged. "Seems longer," he admitted.
"I won't last two years," she groaned. "This is horrible."
"What's your name?" Parnell asked with interest.
Pami debated whether or not she should tell him her real name (Patricia Griswald) or her stage name of Pami Cotter, not sure if he would recognize her as a teenaged celebrity.
"Pami Cotter," she said.
"Nice to meet you," he replied, giving no indication that he had heard the name before. "I sure could use the company."
"I can't stay here," she moaned.
"I should go light the smoke fire," Parnell realized. "They might be searching for you."
"I was out there for days and didn't see anybody," she said with disappointment.
"It's a big ocean," Parnell replied as he headed for the open door in the side of the hut. "But you never know."
Pami followed him down the path and back to the beach where she had left the survival kit.
"Does the radio work?" a hopeful Parnell asked as he dropped to his knees and scavenged through the kit.
"I don't think so," she sighed.
"Well, we have flares and other stuff that could come in handy," he said with encouragement. "Where's the raft?"
She pointed to the ocean. "It sank."
"It's pretty torturous out there," Parnell acknowledged. "Lots of reefs and rocks. Couple of sunken ships from the war too. Believe me, I've explored every inch of this island and shore line. They had to know what they were doing when they were dropping the look out guy off here."
"Nobody's ever going to find us," Pami said with defeat.
"Never say never," Parnell replied. "The lighter and matches will come in handy. Some of the green stuff around here burns pretty smoky," he said. "I light a fire once a week or so."
"You've been here two years," Pami cried.
"I don't think anybody was really looking for me," Parnell admitted as he gathered some greens.
"I was lost at sea at night. Nobody saw me go in. It was probably hours before I was discovered missing. There were a hundred planes and helos on that ship. I didn't see one looking for me. I probably drifted a hundred miles before they knew I was gone. Like looking for a marble in a lake."
"How come nobody knows about this island?" Pami asked.
"It's not near the shipping lanes," Parnell answered as the smoke started to lift from the green leaves and wood sticks. "We're hundreds of miles from anything. There are some old maps in the hut. Jap war ships would come this way so they wouldn't be detected out on the open sea. There are other small islands on the map within miles of here that you can't see with the naked eye but I've never seen a sign of life since I've been here. Sometimes stuff will wash ashore but you're the first person I've seen. You're like a mermaid."
"Why didn't you try to get to some of the other islands?" She asked. "Maybe there's people on them or something."
"It's virtually impossible to get off this island," Parnell sighed. "All the reefs and other barriers, the strong tides and currents, you just get smacked back to shore unless you have something big and every time I tried to build something it would fall apart."
He grinned happily at her. "God, it's so great to finally be able to talk to somebody!"
"I guess," she muttered. "I was singing to myself out there."
"What kind of plane?" Parnell asked as he stood and moved down wind of the smoke.
"Private jet," she said, walking with him.
"Wowie-wow-wow," he laughed. "Ain't that special!?"
She shrugged, not wanting to tell him that she was a celebrity. Not that it really mattered anyway now she was just a castaway like him.
"How many others were onboard?" Parnell asked.
"Three," she answered.
"Well, I'm sure they sent planes and ships out looking for you guys," Parnell said.
"They never found Tom Hanks," Pami remarked. "They're not going to find us."
Pami burst into tears, suddenly overwhelmed by the entire experience. She was already stressed before the tour got cancelled, overwhelmed by the lonely rigors of the touring life, a new town almost every night, strange hotel rooms, and no real personal companionship, not the mention the guilt of betraying Clint even though they weren't even together. Then came the frightful flight, death before her eyes, who knows how many days adrift at sea in a raft, and now she was stranded on an island with a stranger who had been there for two whole years. It was too much for her.
"Don't cry," Parnell urged. "It's not that bad."
"I can't do this!" She sobbed before turning and running for the hut.
Pami wasn't sure how long she cried after she flopped herself down on the bunk in the hut. She cried until her stomach hurt and she sobbed until no more tears would come. She cried herself to sleep and she awoke in respiratory distress because she had been crying in her dreams, none of which she remembered.
She was unable to function, too depressed to crawl out of the bunk when the sun came up. She lay in a fetal position, curled up like a ball. She remembered the once naked guy giving her water from a tin cup a few times but she wouldn't respond to his inquiries asking if she was okay. She had fallen into a deep dark black hole of despair with no hope of crawling out and Parnell left her alone to wallow in her self pity and suffer alone in her emotional crisis.
Pami was pretty sure she had become delusional. Maybe she got some sort of tropical virus or some foreign insect bit its poison into her because she had never experienced such an emotional meltdown and she was actually afraid that she would never pull herself out of the cloud of gloom and doom she found herself entangled in.
And then one morning she woke up to find the warm sun soothingly shining on her face through a small hole in the tin roof. It was warm and Pami felt strangely at peace with herself, as if the anger and bleakness that had possessed her had been exorcised from her system. She sat up on the bunk and glanced around the hut. She saw that Parnell had made a bed for himself on the floor on the other side of the room from leaves and bamboo sticks, sand and cloth. Other than that, the hut was the same as she remembered it.
Parnell stepped into the hut dressed in his fatigues but with no shirt. He had also used the survival kit tools to cut his hair and trim his beard up to his skin so he no longer looked like an ape man.
"Oh!" he said with noticeable relief. "You're alive."
"I don't suppose there's a bathroom around here," Pami asked.
Parnell smiled and pointed to an opening in the back of the hut. "See that crate with the hole in it?" He said. "That's the outhouse."
"That's awkward," Pami said as she tired to stand but her legs buckled beneath her and she fell to the floor before Parnell could reach her.
"You're pretty weak," he said with compassion. "You haven't eaten since you got here."
"When was that?"
He pointed to the wall and she saw that he had written 'angel' on the wall next to his last stick mark. Four new stick marks were on the other side of it. "Four days ago. I gave you some water and squirted some orange juice down your throat a few times."
He helped her to her feet. "Come on, I'll take you," he said.
"The devil must have been in me," Pami testified.
"You'll be okay now," he predicted. "I had a tough time for a while too. At least you're not alone like I was."
Parnell led her to the crate and then he took a few steps away and kept his back to her. Pami managed to get her kahki shorts and what were once white but now gray panties down her thighs as she squatted down on the crate with a hole in it and emptied her bowels and bladder into the hole, hearing plops and squirting splashing far below.
"Okay," she said quietly once she had stood and pulled her panties and shorts back up.
"You must be hungry," Parnell said as he turned and helped her back toward the hut.
"Yeah," she admitted. "Starved, actually."
"Well, it's not exactly a four star restaurant but we have a few menu delights," Parnell remarked as he helped her to one of the chairs in the hut. "Plenty of fruit. There's a few MREs left in your survival kit. And I just happened to catch a couple of fish this morning."
"Will you cook it?" Pami asked.
"Of course," he laughed. "No sushi here!"
He went outside the hut and after a few minutes Pami could smell the fish cooking on an open fire. She thought about how much she should tell him. Did he need to know she was a Christian? A Celebrity. She wasn't sure how safe she felt with him yet even though she sensed she knew him more intimately than anybody else having seen him naked.
After a while, Parnell returned with a large piece of fish on a round piece of wood, along with some slices of coconut, oranges and bananas. There was a tin cup full of coconut milk. He placed the meal on the table and took a seat next to her. "Eat," he said.
"I'm not crazy," she told him, feeling it was important to let him know. "I know I probably looked it these last few days but I'm better now."
"You looked like an angel," Parnell assured her.
"I don't know what happened," she admitted, feeling humiliated and stupid for her complete mental collapse.
"I didn't fall off the ship," Parnell said quietly.
"What?" Pami asked, not quite sure she heard him.
"I didn't fall off the ship," he repeated.
"What happened?" She asked, giving him a long look.
"I jumped," he said.
"I was trying to off myself," Parnell told her. "I was committing suicide."
At first, Pami had the same religious reaction she had with Richard. Suicide was wrong – a sin against God and for a moment she despised and disliked Parnell for his treason but how could she turn against the man who had saved her?
"But why?" Pami asked with shock.
"I guess I was where you were at these past few days," Parnell replied. "I just didn't give a shit anymore. I had fallen into such a deep place of despair and pain that the only way out was off the side of the ship."
"Holy cow," was all Pami could think to say.
"I joined the Navy to get away from a miserable home life," Parnell explained. "But the Navy was just as miserable for me. I wasn't happy. I wasn't functioning. I didn't like the confines of life at sea. I wasn't the most social person around. Then I got a Dear John letter from a girl who I thought cared about me and I just felt the four bulkheads of the ship closing in on me. I was a loser and I wanted out."
"Geez, Parnell," Pami exclaimed as she looked at him with disbelief. "It's a sin against God to kill yourself."
"I know," he said sheepishly. "It was a pretty stupid thing to do, especially considering I didn't die!"
"What happened?" She asked with amazement.
"I sneaked out on the flight deck elevator which was down at the hanger bay level," he said. "It was night, it was dark, and nobody saw me as I pirouetted off the elevator into the sea."
"I can't believe you did that," Pami said, immediately defaulting to her Christian beliefs that life is sacred.
"I should have been churned up by the ship's propellers but I wasn't," he said. "I should have drowned. No life jacket. No flotation gear. No nothing."
"Why didn't you?"
"It was the Grace of God," he answered truthfully.
She was surprised to hear him say such a thing. "Amen," Pami replied knowingly as she looked at him.
"I floated in the ocean for days," Parnell continued. "A log floated by and I grabbed on to it and that made me realize that I still had the survival instinct in me. That I really didn't want to die. I took the log as a sign from God that it wasn't my time yet."
"I believe that to be the truth," Pami said.
"I had a lot of time to think as I floated around out there waiting for the sharks to come and I realized how precious and special life can be. I decided right there and then that I wanted a second chance to do it better."
"Good for you."
"I woke up on the beach of this island and I've been living here ever since, alone but grateful to be alive," Parnell said.
"You're my inspiration," Pami decided. "I'll never feel sorry for myself again."
"Oh, believe me, I feel sorry for myself," Parnell laughed. "This isn't exactly the Garden of Eden – although it feels a little more like it now that you're here!"
Pami felt herself blush.
"I've had many lonely days and sad nights but I'm still here and to me that's a sign from God," he concluded.
"Amen," Pami said again as she ate her breakfast.
"I know how it feels to be alone all the time," Parnell told her. "The challenge was to rise above the loneliness and start living again."
"And you did," Pami realized.
"I didn't have much of a choice," Parnell replied with a grin. "After months of waiting to be rescued and longing for a second chance I decided to live a new life better than my old one right here knowing that the misery from my past didn't have to stay with me and hoping that I'd eventually get the opportunity to experience my second coming with a rescue."
"It must have been lonely being here all alone," Pami said.
"I was alone all the time even on a ship with six thousand other people," Parnell sighed. "At first I thought that was what I wanted but as I treaded water in the ocean watching that huge air craft carrier getting smaller and smaller on the horizon I realized that was the last thing I wanted."
"As you said, it's a big ocean out there," Pami remarked as she finished her food.
"It felt like I was dying a little more every day," Parnell admitted. "I'd cringe thinking about the past and all my failures and mistakes but slowly I adjusted to life on the island and slowly the hurt started going away," he said. "Oh, I'd still wake up and realize I was all alone but I learned to live with myself and be okay about it. I learned to survive in isolation and with time I even came to embrace it. It was like one long therapy session and I became more comfortable spending days without speaking even once. I functioned and made it through. I had good days and bad days but I found ways to make myself laugh and my confidence in this new life became stronger. There were moments when I didn't think I could handle another day of the emptiness gnawing inside me but I felt alive and I knew that was the most important thing."
"You were never alone, you know," Pami told him.
He looked at her quizzically.
"Jesus was with you the whole time," she said.
He nodded knowingly. "And now you are," he added with relief.
"Not by choice," she admitted.
"I thought you were a mirage to be honest," Parnell laughed. "It didn't even register that you were real for a moment."
She smiled. "I'm real," she assured him.
"I watched you lying there like a zombie these last few days," Parnell said sheepishly. "It feels good not to be alone after so much time even if you were in a coma," he grinned. "I'd sit there watching you, studying every pore on your skin and appreciating your beauty. I had forgotten what another person looked like. I'm sure it's going to be awkward because we probably have nothing in common and we'll spend a lot of time staring at each other trying to think of something interesting to say and do. I wasn't the most social person before and after two years alone on an island talking to myself I'm not sure I even know how to talk to another person."
"You're doing fine," Pami smiled.
"All I know is that there's nothing worse than being alone," Parnell concluded. "It's nice to have you here even though I know this is the last place you want to be."
"I'm pretty sure after two years this is probably the last place you want to be too," Pami replied.
She was done eating so Parnell showed her how he cleaned the 'dishes' in a bin outside of the hut and then he gave her a quick 'tour' of the facilities, showing her the water pails he used to collect rain water for drinking. There was a natural spring too but it often dried up during the hot season. There was also a wooden box sunk in a deep hole used to help preserve food and a small garden where he tried to grow eatables. He pointed out the various fruits on the island - guava, noni, papaya, coconuts and bananas and how he caught the fish. He explained how he got good at shimming up trees and using a long stick to get the coconuts.
It didn't take him long to walk her around the island which was perhaps a football field long and maybe twice as wide. There were a couple of caves that were useful for cooling on hot days and Parnell mentioned the various birds that seemed to come and go throughout the year. He warned about strange bugs and insects and the occasional snake. They came full circle and ended up by the peninsula that ran down some rocks, caused by one end of the island being higher than the other and the ocean water passing through.
"Is this where you bathe?" Pami asked.
"Is it okay if I take a dip?" she asked. "I'm really rank."
"Sure," he said. "It's about eight feet deep right below the rocks."
Pami left the path and maneuvered herself onto the rocks and then she stepped off of the ledge fully clothed into the water. Parnell watched her swim and then rinse out her long golden brown hair underneath the falls.
"Its salt water but it feels fresh anyway," Parnell said as he took a seat on the rocks. "There's some leafs on the island that smell kind of nice."
"You'll have to show me those," Pami replied as she boosted herself out of the water and sat next to him on the rock to dry in the sun "What did you do in the Navy?" She asked.
"Religious Program Specialist," he replied.
She was surprised by his revelation given her religious background and chosen career path. "Really?"
"What exactly is that?"
"RPs administratively assist the Chaplains," Parnell told her. "Chaplains are considered non-combatants and they aren't authorized to bear arms so that's our job."
"But mostly its paperwork," he clarified. "Setting up the chapel for services and Mass, taking care of ecclesiastical documents of the various faith groups, maintaining schedules, that sort of stuff."
"Were you religious before you joined the Navy?" Pami wondered if he was a Christian too.
"Not really," Parnell admitted. "My father never went to Church. It was my mother who had the religion but she died when I was young."
"Oh, I'm so sorry," Pami said with sincerity.
"I was pretty much on my own after that but my friend Jess took me to youth groups at the Catholic Church with Father Fitzgerald who talked to me about stuff and took an interest in me even though I wasn't even Catholic," Parnell recalled.
"That's terrific!" She smiled.
"I was originally going to be yeoman which is basically a clerk but when we were in training a guy came in and asked if anybody wanted to be a RP instead," Parnell said. "A cute girl in my class raised her hand so I raised mine too."
"That was the motivation?" Pami groaned with disappointment.
Parnell shrugged. "It all worked out," he said. "I never saw the girl again but I guess I took the path I was supposed to because here I am."
"So, are you a Christian or not?" Pami needed to know.
"I don't know," Parnell admitted. "I believe in God. I found God – that night in the ocean and here living alone on this island. "I feel close to God. I've felt a spirituality I've never felt before. I got in touch with a spiritual presence. I believe God saved my life. But will I go to church the first week we're rescued? I don't know."
Well, at least he was honest, Pami thought to herself. And listening to his story she began to think about her story. If the path Parnell took led him to this island, was Pami's path supposed to lead her to the same place? That she was on the plane for a reason? That she had chosen to do good for the troops through the USO for a purpose? Only the purpose was Parnell Petersen and not Sweeney Lee? And what lesson was she supposed to take from it? That people like Richard die? That she should feel terrible for thinking bad things about Richard hours before he died? That she was supposed to step away from her career and remember what's more important in life? That she was supposed to get in touch with nature and her own soul and spirituality here on the island?
"I'm a Christian," Pami told him, throwing him a look.
"I knew there was something about you," he joked.
She smiled. "Really?"
"There's a certain aurora about you," Parnell said as they sunned on the rock.
"You don't mind?"
"That you're Christian?"
"Well, I'm an artist too," she said.
"No, a singer," she giggled. "A Christian singer to help bring God glory through the body of Christ. I saw my career as a way to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I know that God gave me this talent in order to communicate and express my love for Jesus through song."
"You're a professional singer?"
"Yes," she said proudly.
"How old are you?" He asked with surprise.
"Nineteen," she replied. "But I found success early." She glanced at him. "How old are you?"
"Twenty-two, I think," he answered.
"The diversity of self-expression through music and my own life experiences and the ways God has made himself known to me is my calling," Pami said. "When I'm writing a song I'm always asking myself what personal message does God want me to uniquely communicate? I want my music to be filled with authentic life experiences without being preachy or boring. I try to communicate a personal message while striving to be true to God's message and Jesus' teachings."
"So you do this for a living?"
She nodded. "You never heard of Currie in your RP work?"
"I didn't pay attention to that stuff," Parnell admitted.
"They're a pretty big deal in the Christian Rock industry," Pami said. "I've been touring with them."
"You mean you're some sort of celebrity?"
"I'm more humble about it than that," she said.
"Pami Cotter?" He struggled to think. "Doesn't ring a bell."
"I was just getting big when you went over the side," she said.
Parnell studied her for a long moment. "I knew you were too good to be true," he sighed.
"What do you mean?" She tried not to feel hurt.
"As if somebody like you would want to be seen with someone like me," he stated.
"I'm not some egotistical snob, Parnell," she said.
"You're rich and famous," he said.
"Not that rich," she joked. "Besides," she said, standing and crossing her arms across her chest with a heavy sigh. "I'm not sure if this is exactly what I want to be doing anyway."
"What do you mean?" Parnell wondered.
"It's a lonely life," she sighed. "You become almost a fake person, always being attended too by other people. Treated differently. I miss being a kid back home. I miss my family."
"But you like to sing," Parnell guessed.
"It's my passion," she said warmly. "But I was happier singing in my church."
"Maybe now you'll have a little time to reflect," Parnell suggested.
"I'm conflicted," Pami admitted. "I've found the confidence to grow as a Christian singer and pursue what I think God has called me to do but I'm not sure if this is what I want to be doing."
"Maybe you should reconsider what you think God wants you to be doing," Parnell remarked as he stood too.
"My mother said he wouldn't have given me this voice if he didn't want me to be singing," Pami said as they left the rock and maneuvered back to the path.
"Maybe that voice was meant to be singing to somebody else besides a concert crowd," Parnell offered.
"What does it mean to be a Christian and a singer if I don't spread the message through song?" She asked.
"Maybe the question is who should be hearing your songs," Parnell said as they walked along the path.
"Part of being a Christian artist is to help people reflect on the beauty and truth of Jesus Christ," Pami reasoned as they approached the hut. "That He really does exist. Beauty needs expression and Truth is heard through song because as we seek God's glory as a Christian the result will be great and uplifting and thought-provoking to the world."
"But were you happy?" Parnell wondered as they took seats in the shade of the hut.
"I was happy the tour was cancelled," she admitted truthfully.
"Where were you going when the crash happened?"
"Guam," she answered. "USO Show. My brother was in Iraq before and I wanted to give back somehow."
"You could do a USO Show here if you want," Parnell said lightly.
She smiled. "Well, you are in the Navy."
"Let me hear you sing," Parnell requested.
Pami cleared her voice and began singing 'How Great Thou Art' which nearly took the roof off the hut and overwhelmed Parnell who was quite taken by her voice and her talent.
"Sing me one of your originals," he said when she was done.
"I should have a guitar," she protested.
"I'm sure it will be fine," he insisted.
Pami stood and went to the door of the hut, looking out as she sang 'Naturally Yours'. If Parnell didn't know she was a Christian Singer he would have assumed she was singing a love song to her long lost love and not to Christ Jesus.
"Very nice," he said when she was done.
"Thanks," she smiled before sucking in her breath. "So, what do you do around here all day every day, day after day, week after week, month after month?"
"Year after year," Parnell sighed as he went to his make shift bed and lay down.
Pami took a seat on the bunk and looked at him.
He told her that he usually woke in the morning when the sun came up. He'd walk around the island to see if anything of interest, importance or use had washed ashore overnight. He checked the horizon for the possibility of any ships. Once a week or so he lit a smoky fire. He fished for fresh meals and picked the fruit for that day's meals. Depending on the weather and how much energy he exerted, he might take a nap in the afternoon. He spent the evenings on watch looking for ship lights in the distance. There was a pair of field glasses on the table left by the long ago soldiers. He might perform minor repairs on the hut, tend to the garden, or take on other projects, like raft making (although none survived the reefs or waves).
"The only reading material left behind was the Army's Field Jacket," Parnell laughed. "I have it memorized!"
"Too bad it wasn't a Bible," Pami said as she lay back on the bunk and stared at the tin roof above her, noticing the many bee-bee sized holes in it.
"If you stay busy, you can forget about the monotony of the day," he said.
"I don't understand how you didn't go crazy being here for so long on your own," Pami remarked as she put her hands behind her head and crossed her legs.
"Well, as you said, I wasn't alone," Parnell replied with a smirk. "But I kept thinking and talking to keep myself present and my mind functioning," he said.
"By talking to yourself?"
"That and playing Serguci League Baseball in my head," he said.
"What's that?" Pami asked with confusion.
Parnell pointed to the wall above her head and she look back over her shoulder to see some names scratched in the tin wall - Browns…..Giants…Beansters…Lions….White Sox….Crusaders….Mudhens….Royals.
"I still don't understand," she said.
"Those are baseball teams," Parnell explained. "Back home. There's this amateur baseball league that plays in Beano Field every summer. I used to go to games with my friend Jess. His brother played for the Browns and his cousin played for the Beansters. Sometimes we were bat and ball boys but mostly we just hung out watching the games."
"And you replayed those games in your head?"
"New games," he said. "I found some dice here. Even numbers are hits, odd numbers are outs. I remember most of the line ups from memory and I made up names for those I couldn't recall. So every night I pick two teams and play a nine inning game in my head. Even do the play by play out loud. Then during the next day I'd do the stats in my head. Who has the most home runs, best batting average, ERA, all that stuff."
"In your head?"
"It became a discipline," he explained. "Something to concentrate and focus so I wouldn't lose my mind. It was nice going back to Beano Field every night."
She smiled. "Well, now you can talk to me," she said.
"I may have forgotten how to converse with people," Parnell admitted. "It's been a long time and I wasn't the most gracious social talker to begin with."
"You're doing fine," she said.
"I was always afraid to talk to people," Parnell revealed. "My father was verbally abusive, telling me I was stupid whenever I said something he didn't agree with or if I tried to participate in a conversation in front of him so I learned to keep my mouth shut and not say anything."
"That's terrible!" Pami exclaimed.
"It becomes a constraint and I got stuck in a box," Parnell said. "People thought I was antisocial or stuck up or just plain dumb."
"You're none of those things," Pami said. "You just need to change your mentality. I had stage fright when I first started singing in front of people but my mother told me to pretend I was singing to Jesus and after that I never had a problem again. I don't even see the people when I'm on stage. All I see is Jesus."
"I know in my head that most people are friendly and perfectly willing to converse but in my gut I fear rejection every time," Parnell sighed.
"It just takes a little confidence to cross the awkwardness stage," Pami told him. "Sometimes I feel fake because I'm just repeating the same thing over and over again when fans approach me. I have to remind myself that for the person it's a big deal talking to me, even if I've already talked to fifty people that day. But each person I interact with is an opportunity to learn something. What they say to me, what they're willing to share, some story they want to tell me. It's really a remarkable gift and I never get tired of meeting someone new."
"I never had a lot of friends," Parnell revealed. "There were a couple of teachers and other adults who were mentors. Father Fitzgerald. But my romantic relationships were limited. Hell, that girl I jumped over the side over slept with half the guys on base so I don't know why I was so addicted to her."
"Sounds like you were lonely," Pami said. "We all hope we'll meet our ideal love and sometimes we get desperate in our dreams."
"I was usually too intimidated to approach women," Parnell sighed. "How could I expect to find love with that weakness?"
"Do you know how many times I was rejected before I got my first real break?" Pami asked. "I learned early on that I had to let the opinions of others roll off my back or I'd never make it. You should have seen some of my early reviews. The key is not to take it personally. Everybody has their own viewpoint. Not everybody is going to like me but instead of dwelling on my insecurities and weaknesses I focused on my strengths and positives. I have a good voice. I have a presence on stage. I can write a good song. Sure, I'm sort of reserved but a smile can solve that problem every time. A well timed joke works well too."
"Well, I guess we'll have plenty of time to practice our skills on each other," Parnell grinned as he stood. "I should go try to catch some fish for dinner."
"I'll go too," Pami said as she stood along with him.
It occurred to her as they walked along the path that she hadn't spent this much time with one person in a long time. Counting the first day she came ashore, the four days of her being possessed by the Devil, and now this full day together, this was a personal record. Usually, people were coming and going in her life - or more accurately, she was coming and going. On to the next town. The next show. Now she had time to slow down and forget about that fast pace of life. Here, on the island, she didn't have to be Pami Cotter, Christian Rock singer. She could just be herself.
That night, after they ate the fish and fruit, and Parnell recited some of the Army Field Manual to her, they went to the bed once dusk turned to dark. It probably was against her values and virtues to sleep in the same room with a man but Pami was getting the impression that most of the normal rules of her life no longer applied, at least while she was on the island. She lay awake long into the night listening to Parnell's soft breathing across the room and the occasional snore. She hadn't felt this contented and peaceful in a long time.
Pami thought about Richard often. How she pre-judged him and found fault with him because of his apparent homosexuality and how her religion was against unnatural sins. But Richard was a nice man who treated her kindly and helped save her life by showing her how to deploy the life raft and she felt guilty for not being more accepting of him in his final hours.
Now here she was on a deserted island with a man who tried to kill himself and she found herself wrestling with that reality knowing it was a sin against God to have such thoughts.
Pami tried to rationalize that Parnell was not in control of his actions because of his devil thoughts. He was depressed and unhappy and who was to say it was any different for him than it was for her when she went into her comatose condition those first four days on the island.
"What made you jump from the ship?" She had to know.
They were sitting around the fire he made outside the hut as the sun was setting. "It wasn't any one thing in particular," Parnell said openly. "Just years of built up frustration, defeat, loss, unhappiness and despair. I honestly don't know what possessed me to do what I did that night."
"The devil," Pami decided.
"When I look back on it now, I can't believe I did it," Parnell told her. "I wasn't close to that girl. We didn't really have a relationship but when I got her letter I felt a rejecting hurt that just made me snap. I was begging for love and I was rejected. I know it was a selfish self-involved thing to do."
"You must have been in so much pain," Pami said. "You should have turned to God."
"Turns out God turned to me," Parnell smirked. "I just wished He hadn't waited until it all became so overwhelming."
"He knew when the time was right," Pami remarked.
"I guess it got to a point where I just couldn't cope anymore," Parnell confessed. "It was ironic because here I was a Religious Specialist working side by side with the Chaplains helping other people dealing with personal problems and depressions and crises of faith but I never once asked for help myself. Instead, I attempted suicide."
"It was a cry for help," Pami said.
"Nobody heard me," Parnell noted.
"I suppose I expected people to have ESP and figure out on their own that I was lonely and unhappy," Parnell said. "I was waiting for some guardian angel to save me when it was really up to me to save myself."
"And you did," Pami reminded him proudly. "Here you are."
"Through the Grace of God."
"It's not your fault bad things happened in your life," Pami pointed out. "Your mom dying. Your dad being abusive. You shutting down. Hurting."
"I was a mess no matter how you look at it."
"God and time has healed you," Pami said warmly. "You're taking care of yourself emotionally and spiritually. You've grown as a person all on your own. You saw the truth and the way. You know what's important. You value your life."
"Everything feels different now," Parnell admitted. "I'm living my life and not just surviving it."
"And that should help me get through this too," Pami said with encouragement. "I know I'm responsible for my own well being but I'm frightened and I miss my family terribly. I was feeling lonely before but this is about as lonely as I've ever felt. I don't mean because of you, of course," she added with conviction. "I thank God you're here because I don't think I could make it alone. But, as you said, that's a big ocean out there and I can't help but think we're just two tiny little specs."
"We just have to do the best we can and take care of ourselves and watch out for each other," Parnell said. "I've learned to take it one day at a time and live in the moment, for today. I can't project about tomorrow or next week or next month. Today is all that matters."
"I guess that attitude takes away some of the immensity of it all," Pami said.
Parnell stirred the fire embers while thinking about their situation. "I always wanted someone to fix me but once I turned it over to God I realized that I could get better with His help."
"You're one of the lucky ones," Pami told him.
"I've learned a lot since that night," Parnell said. "I can't imagine ever being in such a dark place again or doing something so drastic. I've learned to trust God and I'm no longer angry at myself or others. My internal struggle is over because I've turned it over to God."
"He's the one who fixed you," Pami stated with a knowing smile.
"Yeah," he agreed.
There was a moment of quietness as they stared at the fire and listened to the waves echoing from the beach.
"How did your mom die?" Pami finally asked.
"She killed herself," Parnell said quietly.
Pami stared at him for a long moment. "I guess that explains things," she said softly. "I'm so sorry, Parnell."
"I was too young to realize it but she attempted suicide several times when I was a small boy," Parnell told her. "She was in a lot of pain for reasons I couldn't understand. She was severely depressed - post partum depression my Aunt told me later. She was never the same after that. She was always in bed or sitting in the dark. It only got my father angrier and even more frustrated which he tended to take out on me. After she died, he drank more and it just got worse for both of us."
"I'm sorry you had to experience those horrible things," Pami said. "It must have been terribly hard for you."
"It was difficult to be left behind with such a profound grief and feelings of guilt, anger, and sadness," Parnell confessed. "There was no one to talk to about it so I stuffed my feelings and I guess that's how I became suicidal myself. I think I was feeling like I was bailing off my own sinking ship that night – that it was a huge relief just to be able to unload all my burdens. I knew I made a huge mistake the second I was falling into the night."
"I think you're going to be okay," Pami said. "If you can survive two years here you can survive anything."
"I spend every day reaffirming my life by doing the things that are pleasing to God," Parnell said. "Praying. Being grateful. Staying positive. Seeing the beauty in every day life. And now that you're here I get to share and practice that with somebody else."
"I read somewhere that forgiveness is the act of giving up hope of a better past," Pami remarked with a reflective smile. "As long as you forgive yourself you're going to be okay."
It seemed like a good place to end the conversation. Pami went to the hut, leaving Parnell behind to stare at the fire thinking about forgiveness.
Pami usually accompanied Parnell with his daily island routine - checking the beach in the morning, fishing for breakfast, getting fruit for the day, standing lookout from the hut or the ledge at the far end of the island. They didn't have ongoing conversations that lasted all day. It would be impossible to talk non-stop, especially after Parnell's two years of solitary. But occasionally Pami would recite Bible verses or sing him a song and Parnell responded by presenting something from the Army Field Manual. Sometimes, she'd ask him a question to get him to talk.
"What do you miss the most?" (steak, medium rare).
"What's the first thing you're going to do when you're rescued?" (Steak, medium rare!)
"Do you worry about what's going on in the real world?" (Can't worry about what you don't know).
"Who do you miss the most? (The middle aged waitress at the local diner who gave him extra large portions).
Parnell asked the same questions of Pami and she gave joke answers too but sometimes she'd get sad thinking about her family. Did they think she was dead? Had they given up on her? Was her mother a mess?
"It's kind of hard to imagine that you don't exist anymore," Pami sighed one day as they sat in their wet clothes drying in the sun after a swim.
"People need closure in their lives," Parnell told her. "They'll never give up hope on you but sooner or later they have to move or they'll stay stuck forever."
"Do you ever think about your Dad?" Pami asked.
"I hope he thinks about me," was Parnell's response.
Pami was glad that Parnell respected her privacy. She usually slipped out of the hut early in the morning just as dawn was breaking to use the commode – the crate box with the hole in it out in the open. Then she walked down to the falls, peeled off her clothes and bathed. Parnell had suggested that it was good to do that after using the commode because he discovered early on that using leafs for toilet paper was not always a good idea.
"I got a few rashes," he said with embarrassment.
Pami never got the impression that Parnell was spying on her and that made her trust him all the more. She remembered how her mother told her that relationships were all about respect, honor, trust, commitment and loyalty.
One of her mother's favorite Bible verses which also became one of Pami's own favorites was Ephesians 5:25-33: "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband."
That was the type of marriage Pami's folks had and one of the ways Pami coped with missing her family so much was to tell Parnell all about them, keeping them alive in her thoughts, heart and spirits with each passing day. That was fine with Parnell who enjoyed listing to her stories about her parents and siblings growing up in Virginia.
"Sounds like The Waltons," he remarked one time and Pami laughed knowing it was true.
Pami appreciated Parnell's willingness to be honest about his less than happy upbringing. It made her appreciate him more for being so strong in character now but she also understood why he was unsure about himself. Like her, he hadn't been very lucky with love but he didn't talk about his romances very much and neither did she, too embarrassed to admit that she gave it all up in the back of a stretch limo. But a Christian woman friend of hers had said that she could reclaim her virginity at any time and "start over" because chastity was a spiritual undertaking and not necessarily a physical reality.
As the weeks went by (with no sign of being rescued) Pami realized that she had gotten to know Parnell better than any other man she had ever known, even more than Clint in many ways. It was hard to keep secrets when you had nobody else to talk to day after day. Late at night, as darkness came, they would lay in their respective beds in the hut and talk, sometimes reviewing the events of the day, revisiting earlier conversations, or bringing up new topics, often prompted by a question. Pami liked to think of it as 'sharing time' and she had shared more about herself with Parnell than she had with any other man including Clint. She even 'confessed' her sin of the limo as tears fell from her eyes and Parnell let her off the hook by telling her that the guy was a user who took advantage of her and it wasn't her fault.
Pami was overwhelmed by such compassion and forgiveness and it made her believe that this was the reason why she was placed on the Island by God. So she could discover new truths about herself and get to know somebody else in a truly intimate, honest and open way. For the first time ever, she wasn't pining over Clint anymore. She was more interested in Parnell.
Her mother worried that Pami would never find the right man by choosing her career first. And after going on a few tours with her, Pami's mother was convinced that her daughter should come home, settle down, and give up the singing life on the road. "You don't have time to be a woman," she complained. "You need to find a man who makes you feel special. Who will look into your eyes and melts your heart. Who makes you feel loved, wanted, and needed, the center of his life. Treasured and important as if you were his whole world. You're not going to find that when you put your music first."
Pami realized that her mother was right. Being marooned on a deserted island gave her time to become Eve to Parnell's Adam and she spent a lot of time thinking about Eden. The island was a small version of Paradise and Pami liked to walk along the paths and beach thinking about Eden, Adam, and Eve which was always one of her favorite parts of the Bible. It's the ultimate love story her preacher once told her.
Parnell didn't stop Pami from wandering off to be alone and think. He understood that they each needed their own space. "It makes seeing you again all the more special," he said one time when Pami accidentally fell asleep under a tree for several hours and missed lunch with him.
Pami wondered how Adam must have felt standing in the middle of the garden surrounded by God's beauty. Sometimes she felt the same way watching the ocean waves from the ledge or sitting by the falls after a swim. The Island was their own version of Paradise where she and Parnell were able to forget about their loneliness and missing civilization. Pami tried not to think of her family too much because when she did she was struck with intense loneliness so powerful that it made her feel empty inside. She couldn't image what it might be like if she didn't have Parnell to save her from total isolation and she knew that is why God created Eve from Adam's rib.
How terrible it must have been for Parnell to be on this island by himself for so long. She knew he appreciated her joining him – his Eve as it were to take away his loneliness and offer him another 'half' like God did for Adam. That was why Parnell treated her more special than any man she had known. He was grateful to have her on the island with him.
What was really amazing was how easily the two got along. They had been total strangers when fate threw them together but now they were a team that communicated with one another without necessarily having to talk. Pami got the fruit on some days. She became an expert fisherman. She could light the fire by herself. She learned the game of baseball by listening to Parnell review that day's made up Serguci League game to her and she also became an expert on the Army Field Model.
Sometimes Pami would hear Parnell whistling or humming a tune she had sung to him and on other days he would ask her to recite some uplifting Bible verse when he was feeling sad or down. Sometimes when they ate together – at the table – or outside in the sun – she would gaze into Parnell's eyes and think to herself that he really knew her. That in some ways they had become one in survival.
Pam had noticed a change in Parnell in the weeks after her arrival. He seemed happier, stronger, and more at ease. She liked to think it was her presence and her personality that uplifted his spirits and given him a purpose to keep on going.
One time, they were sitting on the rock drying in the sun after a swim when Parnell turned to her and smiled.
"I remember how lonely I was before you came," he said. "Even though God willed me to survive and live, my life had no meaning."
"But it does now?" She asked with interest.
"You've become the center of my world," he told her. "I value you so much. It's like I found a secret treasure."
"What if we're never rescued?" Pami worried aloud one night as they lay in their separate beds in the dark.
"We'll still have each other for the rest of our lives," Parnell answered.
A biblical marriage, Pami thought to herself. Is that why God placed her here with him? So she could discover pure and honest love as a holy and sacred thing? Was God playing matchmaker?
Even after so much time on the island, Pami remained modest and virtuous. She hadn't even held Parnell's hand or offered him a good night kiss, afraid that it might lead to something as natural as the island they were living on. She still used the crate with the hole in it in the wee hours of the dawn when Parnell was asleep or when she knew he was far from the hut. She didn't want him to see her sitting on the crate with her khaki shorts down around her ankles.
But her modesty was turning her clothes into rags. Wearing them day after day and washing them repeatedly by swimming clothed was wearing them out. She swam naked early in the morning to clean all the parts of her body and she had to be extra careful each time her menstrual cycle arrived, finding inventive ways to keep herself clean while allowing the flow to happen.
Pami knew her taught vanity was becoming a problem and she kept thinking of Genesis 2:25: 'And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.'
And she often remembered their first meeting: When Parnell was as naked as Adam in Eden. She had already seen him so what was the point of making him stay clothed now? She noticed that his pants were become increasingly tattered too and soon he would have to make a loin cloth out of material washed up on shore.
"You can go naked again if you want," Pami bravely told him one morning as she watched him carefully pull up his tattered fatigues.
"I wouldn't want to embarrass you," Parnell answered. "I respect your beliefs about modesty and humility and virtues and all that stuff."
"Adam and Eve were naked," she reminded him.
"Before they ate the apple," Parnell replied.
"There are no apples here," Pami pointed out.
"I'd feel awkward being naked in front of you," he admitted.
"Why?" She asked with surprise. "I already saw you that first day."
"Because it's weird when you're clothed," he said. "I'd feel out of place, exposed."
"Well, how 'bout if I go naked too?" She suggested.
"You don't have to do that," he said, blushing slightly.
"My clothes are about to fall off anyway," she giggled. "I should probably try to preserve them for our rescue."
"I know you've never done something like this before," Parnell said.
"I trust you," she replied. "I know you won't stare and make me feel objectified."
"I'd be very embarrassed if I became aroused," he confessed. 'It has been a long time. You're very beautiful."
"It's okay," she assured him. "Nude is natural and this is Paradise."
But Parnell was right. She had never undressed in front of a man before. She was clothed in the limo. She wasn't sure how she'd feel getting naked in front of him. Then she remembered something Gabe Currie told her early in her career: "It's not who you are that holds you back, it's who you think you're not."
And she remembered a guy she was seeing telling her how uptight she was when she wouldn't put out early in their relationship or the time she declined to go skinny dipping with a group of people. Perhaps the island was teaching her that life gets a little easier and more enjoyable if she'd only relax about nakedness instead of seeing it as a sin.
Maybe Pami had confused modesty with shyness and insecurity, especially after the limo incident that happened so fast she didn't even have time to take it all in. Her family and church life harped on modesty, humility, chastity and virtues, including body image. If you were naked you were advertising sex her sister told her.
Pami had three older sisters, two of whom were more endowed than her and that made her feel insecure about her body too. Then, when she started becoming popular in the music industry, photographers wanted her to wear make up and pose in provocative situations which did not mesh with her music or her personal beliefs. Such mixed messages left her feeling vulnerable, confused and insecure.
"It's okay to be shy," Parnell remarked as they stood in the hut, neither sure what to do next.
"I have a vivid memory of not being shy naked," Pami told him.
"I was around ten," she recalled. "Out in the woods on my horse. On a whim, I took off all my clothes and rode through the woods naked like I was Lady Godiva! I had just read something about her and wanted to try it."
"Good for you," Parnell smiled.
"I can still feel the total freedom of that experience," she said. "It was the only time in my life I was so bold, daring, or spontaneous." She thought about it for a moment. "Or sexy even," she said quietly. "My sister said that nakedness is about sex so I was self-conscious and paranoid about it."
"I forgot I was naked here," Parnell said. "It wasn't until I saw you looking at me oddly than I remembered I was nude."
"I was embarrassed," she admitted. "Shamed even."
"You should spend more time naked," he joked but he really wasn't. "The more time you spend naked the more natural it feels. I got used to being as nature intended and it became natural very quickly."
"I guess I'll find out for myself," Pami announced as she untied the bottom of her blouse and unfastened the buttons (two were already missing).
The blouse opened to reveal her soiled formerly white bra and she let the blouse fall from her shoulders before unfastening the bra that effortlessly fell from her torso revealing her small but round white breasts that clashed against the dark brown tan of her arms and midsection.
Parnell swallowed nervously but didn't say anything, amazed by the beauty of his new Eve. She unbuttoned her tattered khaki shorts and let them fall to the floor, stepping out of them and then pulling down her gray-white holey panties to reveal her golden brown pubic hair that she wasn't able to tend to since the crash.
"We should go fishing for breakfast," Parnell announced in a perfectly natural tone, sounding as if she was still fully clothed.
He unsnapped his fatigue pants and stepped out of them and he was just as he was when she first saw him.
Adam and Eve.
He took her hand and walked her out of the hut and by the time they caught breakfast Pami was no longer self conscious about being nude even with her white bunny tail buns that stood out from the rest of her tanned legs although it didn't take long for all of her to turn brown under the hot and bright South Pacific sun.
Adam And Eve. Together again in God's Eden of Paradise.
The only time Pami put her clothes on was when it cooled off at night or when she was menstruating but the natural setting and the nakedness didn't cause sex to happen as Pami's sister had warned although Pami felt more emotionally and spiritually intimate with Parnell than she had with any other person beyond her family of origin. She knew she had fallen in love with him and what she loved the most was that he accepted her as she was for who she was and not once did he insinuate that he wanted anything more from her than what she was ready to give.
Pami understood that she wasn't perfect like Eve had been before she had been tricked by the devil into eating of the tree. She knew the difference between good and evil. She knew she was a sinner, her greatest sin coming in the back of the limo but she also knew that Adam loved Eve and that they both loved God and that she loved Parnell and that they both loved God. The only question left – and she was afraid to ask – did Parnell love her?
Pami knew that they could enjoy a healthy loving relationship because they both loved Jesus. Their conversations continued as before which only deepened their relationship. Parnell saw her just as she had seen him upon her landing. They knew everything there was to know about each other and now they were fully sharing their island Paradise as God wanted them to be: contented with one another while longing to be found.
Pami came to see Parnell has her common law husband as the months passed by. She kissed him goodnight by the fire once but their relationship remained celibate even in their nakedness. Then, one night, Pami felt a urging she had never felt before. Almost like a calling. She left her bunk and joined Parnell on his floor bed. He was naked and so was she and in the morning after their night of gentle and emotional lovemaking she told him that they were now married in the eyes of God.
"Good," Parnell replied. "Because I love you."
"And God loves us," Pami replied happily.
They were stranded on a desert island but they both knew they had been saved.