Lost and then found

This is the story of Paul and his family so far:
Paul was waiting for his first wife, Jenny, to be declared legally dead. He could hardly wait to propose marriage to his new girl friend, Priscilla, a younger associate with whom he had been dating for three months. Paul's first wife went missing four years ago after her ship wrecked in a storm. There were lifeboats and survivors, but she was never found. Paul had asked his legal adviser about speeding things up. He did not want to wait seven years.
Paul invited Priscilla out to dinner at the new French restaurant, Victor Hugo. They had just finished their Lobster Thermidor, and were about to order dessert.
‘I'd like to have the Bavarian cream. What would you like, my love?’ inquired Paul as he returned the menu to the waiter.
‘Oh, that sounds good. I'll have that too,’ replied Priscilla, beaming with pride and expectation. This was no ordinary dinner. 
While they waited for their Bavarois au Chocolat, Paul dug into his jacket pocket and pull out a small gift-wrapped package and put on the table.
‘Oh, what have we here?’ asked Priscilla, lighting up like fire-fly.
‘A little present for you,’ said Paul smiling slyly as he slowly pushed the package on the white linen tablecloth over to Priscilla, ‘Please open it!’
Priscilla tore away the wrapping paper and found a small box. Inside was a beautiful emerald and gold ring with a hand-written note: Will you marry me?
‘Oh, Paul, you remembered my favourite colour! The answer is yes!’ replied Priscilla, in time before the waiter came with their desserts.
Paul smiled and was about to say something about their future together when the Bavarian cream arrived. Paul ordered coffee and surveyed all the well-dressed men and women sitting at white linen-covered tables, celebrating something, just as they were. It was then that Paul saw a woman who looked familiar. She was standing by the entrance, speaking with the head waiter.
‘What is it, Paul? Don't you feel well? You look as if you've seen a ghost.’
‘No, I'm fine. Couldn't be better!’ lied Paul as he was trying to think about what this meant. The woman he saw was Jenny, his first wife. He could see her clearly. Had she seen him? 
Paul paid the waiter and rose from the table, ‘Would you like to wait here while I get our wraps?’
 ‘No, dear, I'd like to use the ladies.’ I'll meet you at the door.’
As Paul approached the coat-check, a thin blond woman touched his sleeve.

‘Jenny! Is it you?’ whispered Paul.

‘Yes, Paul. Take this and call me. We need to talk,’ murmured Jenny as she shoved a note into Paul's hand. Paul unfolded the small paper as he saw Jenny march toward the exit.
‘Well, what happened last night?’ inquired Charlotte, Priscilla's roommate, ‘Did he propose?’
‘Yes!’ said Priscilla quietly showing her left hand with the emerald engagement ring.
‘So pretty! When's the wedding?’
‘I don't know yet. We didn't talk that much. He just drove me home and that was that.’
‘Maybe he was just tired.’
‘Yes, suppose so,’ replied Priscilla unconvinced.
There was a telephone number on the scrap of paper that Jenny had given Paul. He dialed and waited.
‘Hello Jenny, it's Paul.’
‘Thank you for calling. I have so much I would like to talk to you about. Would you be willing to meet me somewhere to talk?’
 ‘Yes. Where shall we meet?’
Jenny gave Paul directions to The Silver Spoon, a middling restaurant on the other side of town. Paul wasted no time. Is the magic still there? he thought as he took Jenny's hand and walked toward the entrance. 
‘Are you hungry, Jenny? I’ve already had dinner, but I can drink a cup of coffee while you eat something.’
Paul and Jenny sat down and placed their orders. Looking straight into Jenny’s face, Paul asked, ‘What happened? Why didn't you let me know?’
‘I couldn't. We were going to take the boat, which was why our names were on the passenger list, but we changed our minds at the last moment. Tom had got this idea to take an air-trip instead. Well, to make a long story short, we got off course and crashed on a tiny island. Tom was badly injured and we lost radio contact. I did what I could to help him, but Tom died a week after the crash. After that, I was alone.'

‘When did you get off the island?’
‘About a month ago. When I was found by the fishing boat, the embassy was notified and I was sent to hospital, where we started making inquiries as to who could help me.’
‘If I had only known. We all thought that you were dead.’
‘How are the children?’
‘Sarah was only two when you disappeared; Colin was four. My brother and sister-in-law have really been helpful with Sarah and Colin. They can't have any children of their own, so they want to adopt them.’
‘Please say that it has not yet been done.’
‘No, not yet. I have yet to get a final death certificate.’
‘So I am presumed dead?’
‘Surely, we can get this misunderstanding cleared when I show up alive?’
‘Yes, of course. I’ll get my legal adviser to help you.’
‘Do you still have any of my things, my clothes, books and such?’
‘There are still a few things left, that I could not part with, but I am afraid that we have already had an auction and sold most things.’
‘I see.’
‘To be fair and honest, I must tell you that I have been seeing someone.’
‘Oh? Is it serious?’
‘Well, I had thought that I might remarry. Four years is a long time.’
‘Yes it is. Try spending it alone on a deserted island. After Tom died, I only had one thought to sustain me: to stay alive, be rescued and reunited with you, Colin and Sarah. What do you think, Paul? Is it too late for us? I still love you, or at least, I still love the Paul I knew.’
‘I want to help you any way I can, Jenny. But I think the best thing would be for us to not be married again.’
Jenny put her hand to her mouth and tears rolled down her cheeks, ‘Four years. Think about it! Four wasted years. Please don’t throw the rest of my life away. Let's not decide today.  Let me see the children first at least.’

‘I’m engaged to be married. I gave her a ring. I need to speak with her. Your return  changes everything. I don’t know what to say.’
‘Do you still love me, Paul?’
‘Yes, Jenny, I do. I have grieved for you. I have wished and prayed for your return. But now that you are here, I am confused, bewildered and worried.’
‘Aren’t you glad to see me?’
‘Yes, Jenny, I am happy. Very, very happy that you are alive,’ said Paul and could say no more as tears flooded his eyes.
A Mrs Robinson Crusoe rescued after four years  [Fictitious newspaper article]

Jenny Holland, 32-year old journalist, is the sole survivor of a crash-landing on the tiny, isolated island of Derasepsy in the South Pacific. The pilot, Richard Smith, perished upon impact and Mrs Holland’s colleague, the well-known photographer Tom Norton, died of severe injuries one week after the crash.  

Miraculously, Mrs Holland survived the emergency landing unscathed and waited nearly four year alone before being rescued, by fishermen. Mrs Holland has stated that after the initial shock of the crash, the grief of losing her two friends, and the physical strain of building a Robinson Crusoe-like existence, that it was loneliness and fear that were hardest to bear.

‘I was constantly afraid of hurting myself or becoming ill by eating the wrong plant or fish. I wanted to be rescued, but not by criminals who would have murdered me. I kept thinking that I must survive to see my children and husband again. That kept me going.’

‘There are, however, three things that I could have done better: 

First of all, a mother of two small children, age two and four, has no business doing dangerous work. I should never have accepted the assignment.

Secondly, if you are making a risky voyage, you should have a ditch-kit with you. I had no tools with me, not even a pocket knife. It was thanks to Mr Smith’s toolbox that I had the means to survive as well as I did. I could make a shelter and kitchen utensils. I took whatever I could use. I used the airplane's stainless steel teapot to boil drinking-water. 

The third thing that I regret not doing properly is telling someone exactly where we were headed. We had booked passage on a ship, but changed our plans at the last minute and made our way by air. This contributed to the misunderstanding that we had drowned when that ship wrecked. It is sad to think that if we had been rescued sooner, perhaps Tom Norton would have survived. No one knew where we were. I could have spent the next ten years alone on that island and died there too without ever being found if I had not been lucky enough to be found by a fishing vessel that had sailed slightly off course.

Mrs Holland has received several offers from publishers to write about her time as a female ‘Robinson Crusoe’.

‘One good thing that I did do on the island was to keep a written diary. I also had a calendar with me which enabled me to keep track of the passing days. These brief daily notes have been invaluable in writing my book. Otherwise, I would have lost the ability to pinpoint when certain things happened.’

‘But what is more important than the book is getting back to being a mother to my children.’

Excerpts from Priscilla's diary:
Saturday April 7th, 2012

I can hardly believe what has happened. Earlier this evening, Paul invited me out to a fancy restaurant, the Victor Hugo, and proposed! He gave me a gold ring with an emerald!!!
I'm engaged. 

Tuesday April 10th, 2012

I am worried about Paul. He hasn't called. And as soon as he had given me the ring something happened to him to make him very quiet. We were leaving the restaurant and while I said I was going to the ladies room, I stopped and watched him go to the coat check to fetch our wraps. The lobby was so crowded, he probably did not notice me looking. He spoke to a blond woman and she put something in his hand. If she was working there, wouldn't he be the one to give her money? Why would she give him anything? Who is she? Does she have anything to do with Paul's change in mood?

Thursday April 12th, 1012

I could not stand the suspense anymore. I asked Paul if everything was alright. He said that the woman I saw at the restaurant was his first wife, Jenny, whom he thought was dead. This means that he is still legally married. We cannot get engaged. At least not right now.

Oh what to do? If he still loves Jenny he does not have to do anything. But if he says that he still wants to marry me, he'll have to divorce her first.

My roommate, Charlotte, thinks I should break it off and not promise to wait for his divorce. She had an aunt who waited for a man and then when he finally decided to marry her, she was too old to have children. They tried everything. Eventually she got tired of his lack of commitment to her and broke it off. Now she is really alone.
Something to think about. How much does Paul mean to me?  Charlotte thinks I could do better. Maybe she's right. It would be nice to be with someone who really loves me. And not have to compete with a ghost. Especially when that ghost turns out to be a woman of flesh and blood.

Saturday April 14th, 2012

What a week! 

I returned Paul's ring yesterday. I told him he has to choose between Jenny and me. We need a break. And I need a change!
Title: 'A Romantic Picnic?'

'Where are you taking us? What's the surprise?' asked Jenny as she sat in the front seat of Paul's car, 'Why are we going to your brother's house?'

'To fetch the children.'


'Thought we'd have a picnic. Do you mind?'

'No, dear. It's probably as good a place to start as any.' 

Paul leaped up the steps of the porch and rang the door bell. Jenny took her time and stood beside Paul as he knocked on the door. The door flew open and an eight-year-old boy with sandy hair like Jenny's ran out and threw himself into her arms.

'Mummy! Mummy! You came back! I knew you would.'

'Oh Colin! I'm so happy to see you! Where's your sister?' Colin held his arms around her waist.

'Sarah's still dressing. Have you heard? We're going on a picnic with Daddy?'

'Yes, I know dear. I'm so excited. Do you know where we are going?

'To a park where we can feed the ducks,' exclaimed Colin as his younger sister appeared at the door. 'Come and meet our real mother. Say hello to Mummy, Sarah.'

Sarah looked down at her feet as she warily approached Jenny. 'You're not our Mummy!'

'Yes she is, Sarah,' insisted Colin, 'You don't remember her. But I do. She is definitely Mummy!'

Sarah ran back into the house screaming, 'Mummy, Mummy!' as Paul's sister, Julia, appeared at the door.

'Mummy, tell her to go away!' Sarah demanded of Julia. Jenny's heart sank.

'Sarah dear, a miracle has happened,' Julia explained crouching to look into Sarah's face. We all thought Mummy was dead. But here she is, alive and well. I'll always love you, Sarah. But Jenny really is your true mother. Why don't you go on the picnic with her and give her a chance?'

Sarah continued to stare at her shoes, but nodded.

'Can you say "hello" to Jenny?' Paul asked.

'Hello, Jenny,' murmured Sarah without looking up.

'Hello, Sarah,' said Jenny shaking her daughter's hand as if she were a complete stranger, which unhappily, indeed, she was.

Paul, Jenny, Colin and even little Sarah, all piled unto the car with bread for the ducks and a special picnic basket that Paul had ordered from The Silver Spoon.
A prequel:

 Title: 'I should have kissed you'

Sally Norton is the wife of the photographer, Tom Norton, who accompanied his writer-friend, Jenny Holland on a trip to the South Pacific. Here are excerpts from Sally Norton's diary:

August 29, 2009
Tom's old school friend, Jenny Holland, has won a writing contest and wants him to come with her on a trip to take photos. Tom has almost no assignments right now, so he really wants to go. Just a week. His photos will be published in Plot & Intrigue-Magazine along with Jenny's article. 

Sounds fun. Wish I could go. But someone has to stay with the children. And we can't afford my ticket.

September 14, 2009
Micky and Susan want a rabbit. The pet shop has something called 'Rent-a-Rabbit'. Families can rent a pet rabbit for a month and then return it to the breeder, when the novelty has worn off. I've ordered two.

September 15, 2009

Tom's excited about the trip. I helped him pack.

September 16, 2009
Drove Tom to the airport. Jenny, Paul and their children, as well as Paul's sister, Julia and her husband John, were all there. We came early and had time to eat lunch together. 

The kids wanted to eat hamburgers, but we succeeded in steering them away from McDonald's and took our meal at that French restaurant, Les Trois Gourmandes. Jenny ordered the Escalopes de Veal Chasseur, Paul had the Boeuf au Gingembre, Julia had the Rôti de porc poêlé, John, had the Gratin aux fruits de mer, Tom ate Beouf Bourguinon and I had Poulet poêlé à l'estragon. The children ate hamburgers: Bifteck haché. But Micky didn't like the onions and Susan wanted only catchup and no lettuce.

I hope that Jenny and Tom will have a good time. Hope it brings us luck. Tom needs the work and PR.

I am wondering how Jenny's and Paul's two children, Colin and Sarah, will take this separation. Sarah is so little. I don't understand how Jenny dare to leave her for a week, even if her mother and Paul's sister are taking care of her. She's so tiny. 

Jenny seems to have jumped at the chance to get away for a while. She has been more or less alone with the care of Colin and Sarah. Jenny says that Paul is a good provider, but I bet it hasn't been easy to be married to him. Jenny says that Paul has never changed a nappy or read a bedtime story. He seems to be more interested in his career than in his family. 

I'm lucky I've got Tom, who always helps me. Bless you Tom, wherever you are!

And now we're going to have another baby! Took a do-it-yourself-pregnancy-test when I came home from the airport. Micky and Susan are going to have a new little brother or sister! Must tell Tom! He'll be glad to hear this. Maybe I could leave a message at their hotel?

September 23, 2009
No word from Tom yet. Busy day today. Everything must be nice for Tom when he gets home. Picked up the rabbits yesterday. Micky and Susan call them 'Thumper' and 'Drusilla'. 'Thumper' is from Bambi, but why 'Drusilla'?

September 25, 2009
I don't know how to write this.
Someone from the embassy phoned. Tom and Jenny took a boat and their ship went down. They haven't found the bodies yet, if ever.

I just can't believe this. Must be some mistake. Say this isn't true. I didn't even kiss you good-bye. I should have kissed you. Please God, let me kiss my dear sweet Tom again.
Another prequel:
Before nightfall, Jenny Holland wanted to write in her notebook, that she happened to have along on her air-trip, that ended with an emergency landing on a desert island.  She surveyed the wreckage and lack of equipment. The radio did not work, and she didn't know how to repair it. The pilot, who did, perished in the crash. Her colleague only survived a few days longer.

'Jack and Tom are dead. I am alone and without food or shelter. What now? It's only words. And words are all I have. Maybe I can find that toolbox that Jack talked about.'

Jenny started looking for the toolbox.


Another prequel: 'Birthday Madness'

The writing prize, that Jenny Holland had won, for Plot & Intrigue Magazine was an all-expense-paid trip to the South Pacific. Jenny asked Tom Norton to accompany her as photographer. Their first stop was a reception for the prize-winners. After the speeches and awards, Jenny and Tom mingled among the guests. Tom found an old acquaintance, Jack Richardson*, a writer who also shared Tom's interest in flying. But Richardson had done better, and owned his own aeroplane. 

'I'd like you to to meet Jack Richardson, said Tom Norton, holding his half full glass of Champagne. Jack Richardson was a handsome but short and slightly balding man in his late forties. The first thing that Jenny noticed was his ice-blue eyes and the dimples that appeared when he smiled.

'Congratulations. I've read your marvelous story.'

'Thank you', replied Jenny, feeling perplexed, flattered and strangely attracted to this man. 

'Jack is a writer as well as a pilot’, explained Tom, thinking that Jenny might like to meet other writers. 'We've just booked passage on a cruse to the archipelago. I'm taking pictures and Jenny's writing a travel story.'

'Oh really?' replied Jack lighting up as if he saw this as an opportunity. 'Where and when do you plan to go? I'm taking my plane on a short trip soon and I need a couple of passengers. How much flight-time do you have, Tom? Could you be my co-pilot?'

Said and done. Mr Richardson convinced them to change their travel plans and fly with him the next morning. But tonight they would celebrate his birthday.

'Why don't you come home with me? My wife, Myra, has planned a surprise party tonight. You don't have to give me a present. The only requirement is that you must sing a song,' he said with a twinkle in his eye.

Jenny and Tom rode in Jack's elegant car to his luxurious home with a lush garden and a large patio lined with lanterns hanging over tables laid with white linens, fine china and silver cutlery. There was also one table covered with rich meats, shellfish and exotic fruits. Later, Jenny would spend many, many days and nights dreaming about the food that she saw on this table. Little did she know then, that it was to be her last meal for a very long time.


It’s nearly Halloween, thought Jenny, as she sat writing in her journal, alone on the deserted island, where she and two friends had crash-landed almost four years ago.

Halloween, on this tropical island, was no different from any other time of year. There were no pumpkins to make jack-o-lanterns; there were no trick-or-treaters to give sweets to at one’s door. Jenny thought tearfully of her children, Colin and Sarah, and wondered if they would join a band of happy candy-hunters dressed as goblins, witches, pirates and ghosts.

Yes, ghosts. 'Give me a ghost or two!' Jenny said out loud.

After more than three years of waiting to be rescued, Jenny welcomed meeting the ghosts of her two friends who had died around the time of the crash.

‘Oh Jack,’ Jenny whispered, remembering the party in honour of his birthday; his very last. But no one knew that at the time. Except for perhaps one.  

Jenny ate her last substantial meal at Jack’s party and often dreamed about all the gourmet food there that she would never again consume.

‘Please haunt me, Jack!’ Jenny called out. She missed both Tom and Jack, but for different reasons. She had grown up with Tom and missed him like a brother, although she sometimes wished that she had married him instead of her husband, Paul.

‘Please haunt me, Jack. You can do it in my dreams,’ continued Jenny, beckoning to the wind. Jenny thought of Jack’s beautiful, warm smile with dimples and his intense ice-blue eyes. She tried to forget how she closed those lovely eyes when he was dead and how she had to bury both her friends. No. She wished to see them both again as they were in life; especially Jack who made her feel so intensely alive in the short time that she knew him.‘Please haunt me, Jack', she whispered.

That very night, Jenny dreamed about Jack.

‘Hello beautiful!’ Jack said in his most playful voice, ‘Why do you want me to haunt you?’

‘Oh, Jack, I miss you, and I can’t get the radio to work. I want to get out of here! And I’m so hungry!’

‘I see that you have made good use of my leather oxfords’ said Jack playfully pointing to her feet.

‘I’m sorry. I thought it a shame to bury them with you, I mean, your...' said Jenny embarrassed. 'Look. They fit me perfectly! I can climb around the island without cutting my feet on the rocks, which is what I would have done if I had worn my silly city sandals.’

‘It’s alright, Jenny.' reassured Jack, fatherly. 'I’m only teasing. I’m glad you can use them. Please wear them. I’ll even hide in them when you leave the island and come back with you. 
'You look sharp in my khaki clothes and hat too’, Jack said with a twinkle in his beautiful blues.'

‘My skin burns so easily in the sun. I am freckled enough as it is.’

‘My pleasure, Jenny’, Jack said pulling her toward him. His embrace felt warm and natural to Jenny. Oh how is this possible?, she thought.
‘Thanks, Jack. I just wish...’

‘No, Jenny. Let's not speak of regrets. Let me help you get off the island. And perhaps you can help me solve a couple of mysteries.’

‘Anything, Jack!’ she said and kissed his cheek and then looked at him squarely in the face, ‘What mysteries?’

‘Mystery number one: If my wife, Myra, mailed my flight-plan to the authorities, someone should have been out looking for me and my aircraft, even if they mistakenly thought that you and Tom went down with that ship.

‘And what is mystery number two?’ asked Jenny already guessing what that might be.

‘Why did I die so suddenly?’

‘Yes, I have wondered about that. I assumed that it was a heart attack, but you did not seem to be a likely candidate for one.’ (When Jack slumped over in the cock-pit, he was just about to land on this tiny island. As co-pilot, Tom took over and crash-landed the plane on land rather than in the depths of the Pacific. While Tom was doing this, Jenny pulled and dragged Jack back toward the rear of the aircraft where she worked hard at trying to resuscitate him blowing air into his lungs and pounding his chest to try get him to breathe again. But he never regained consciousness.)

‘Exactly. Let’s do a little dreamtime-travelling together. Hold my hand and no one will  see us.’

With the speed of a film fade-out, it was more than three years earlier, and the invisible Jenny and Jack were standing in the middle of the decorated patio where Jack’s birthday party was about to begin.

Jenny’s mouth watered at the sight of all the party food, once again newly laid on the serving table before the guests would arrive.

‘Remember, Jenny’, warned Jack softly, ‘We cannot eat or do anything here. We are only here to observe.’

‘But I’m so hungry!’

‘I know, my sweet. You’ve been having a rough time, and you have been doing brilliantly. I’ve seen the way you’ve gathered food and been careful to boil your drinking water. But we cannot change anything here. We’re here to find out what happened. If we succeed, you will be able to return home and be with your family.’

‘You’re so thoughtful, Jack.’

‘And I need your help.'

'Why, Jack?' 

'I think that I may have been murdered.’

‘Oh no! But how could that be?’ asked Jenny trying not to think about how she really longed for a piece of pumpkin pie.

Reading her thoughts, Jack gave her a hug and a kiss, ‘All in due time.’

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