“Surprise!” cried Harriet as she burst out of the closet.
There were some screams from some of the others. I sat right where I was, waiting. The screams quickly transformed to questions—and some of them didn’t sound very friendly.
“What the—!” one male voice said.
“Who the hell are you!” several female voices said.
“What the ***[i] are you doing on my *** boat!” cried the “nice” boy whom Harriet had chosen for her husband. Maybe that tone of voice would alter her wedding plans.
Harriet seemed stunned. She’d expected quite a different reception.
“Well, we … we … we—”
“We?” barked the boy. “There’s more than one of you?”
I figured that was my cue to enter. I struggled to my feet, stepped out into the light. And the bright anger.
“Oh, great!” cried the angry boy. “A middle school field trip—right on my *** boat!” He glared at us. “Any more of you aboard?” he said. “Did you all bring your little permission slips? Your juice boxes?”
Harriet was crying. And I was thinking about it.
Some of the girls, responding to her tears, came over to comfort her. I could hear the boy’s sigh of disapproval. “Oh, great,” he said. “Now we’re supposed to feel sorry for stowaways?”
“She’s just a little girl,” said one of the girls who had an arm around the sobbing Harriet. I knew Harriet wouldn’t like hearing that, but, considering the situation we were in, I loved hearing it. It meant safety, at least for the moment.
Seeing the sympathy we were getting from the young women aboard, the boys backed off a little, waiting. “Okay,” said one of them, “can’t we at least find out what they’re doing here?”
The girls seemed to think that was a reasonable request. They stepped back, looked at us with question marks replacing the pupils in their eyes.
I said nothing, waited for Harriet. After all—it was her lame-brained idea that had put us on this boat in the first place. “We—we—we—” She broke into sobs again, the older girls circled again.
I sighed. Figured I’d try to explain. “She … Harriet”—I pointed—“overheard you talking in one of the stores about your plan to see the islands today.” No one said anything. “And she thought it would be fun to, you know, join you?” I tried a questioning tone, a smile.
One of the other boys said, “That’s the dumbest *** thing I’ve ever heard.”
“We’re young,” I said. “Not dumb.”
Everyone stared at me. “And curious,” I went on. “We really would like to see the other islands up close.” I tried to sound like an eager, harmless tourist.
One of the girls said, “Do your parents know where you are? Know what you did?”
“Of course—” began Harriet.
“Not,” I said. I ignored Harriet’s sharp look. “My father would never allow me—or one of my friends—to do something as thoughtless as this.” I was thinking that if I sounded serious—apologetic and regretful—that maybe, just maybe, Harriet and I would escape this day unharmed. Foolish thought.