Beauty Queens

13,086
05.03.2019

“If we cut down the rigging and use the ropes to pull her, I think we can do it.”

“Worth a try,” Nicole agreed.

Mary Lou could barely contain her excitement. A real pirate ship! Once on board, she stepped behind the large wooden wheel and pretended she was Josephine on a run through the islands, escaping from the British navy. “Ahoy, me hearties,” she growled to herself. She wished she could tell Tane about this, and that thought gave her pause. Where was he? What had happened? Maybe he wasn’t any better than Jacques-Paul or Billy. Or maybe the girls were right and he was some strange fever dream brought on by the island, a prince mirage.

“ML!” Shanti waved from the crow’s nest. “How bitchin’ is this?”

“Awesome!” Mary Lou called back. She wouldn’t think about Tane. She was a pirate queen, and pirate queens had more important things to do.

Alongside the pirates, the girls climbed up the rigging and cut down ropes, dropping them to the deck. Down in the water, Petra and Sosie helped secure the ropes to the sides of the ship for the eventual haul.

Jen and Chu went belowdecks to examine the hole.

“Do you think she’ll sail again?” Jennifer asked Chu, who wore a Pharma41 T-shirt.

Chu put his entire head through one section. “Don’t know. They didn’t teach us anything about shipwrecks in pirate camp. Mostly, they wanted us to work out and get cool haircuts.”

Jen chewed at her bottom lip. “Got any tools on this ship?”

“Besides the captain?” The pirate’s smile was sheepish. “Dunno. Not really tool savvy. But I can do one hundred crunches in two minutes. Check my abs.” He raised his shirt.

“Little clue: wasted on me.”

“What?”

“I’m into girls.”

“Oh. Oh!” Chu said. “Right. Got it. That’s cool. I’ve got a cousin who’s g*y. Amy Liu. Know her?”

Jennifer laughed. “Oh, sure. I’ll just look her up in the Big Book of Lesbians. We get a copy of that with the purchase of our first flannel shirt.”

“Really?”

Jennifer stared. “No. That was a joke. Come on, dude. Let’s find those tools.”

The rest of the girls went from cabin to cabin, taking stock of the situation as if they were preparing for a pageant, evaluating the good and the bad. The computers had taken on water and were nonoperational. (Bad.) The guys had, in fact, smashed the radio. (Bad and stupid.) Much of the food had spoiled or gone overboard in the storm. (Bad.) However, the cannons were fully functional. (Good, they supposed. Or at least not bad.) The sails, while torn, had mostly survived and were definitely mendable. (Good.) And there were packages of Top Ramen, tins of sardines, crackers, protein bars, oranges, and chocolate. (Okay, good, good, very good, good, and totally awesome.)

“We can fix this if we really work hard,” Shanti said, and the girls felt a renewed sense of hope that they might at last get off the island.

“All right, everyone!” Sinjin called. “Time for the old heave-ho!”

“It’s like the biggest tug-of-war contest ever,” Tiara said as they formed two lines on either side of the ship, dug their feet into the sand, and took up the ropes.

“One, two, three!” Sinjin called. They grunted and groaned, pulled and yanked. It took hours, but finally they dragged the wounded boat ashore.

For the better part of several days, everyone worked together. Using two of the girls’ rescued suitcases, they bailed as much water as they could and then scraped the hull of barnacles. Petra and George, whose mother was a seamstress, mended sails. Using the machete, Nicole, Ahmed, and Sosie took turns cutting a tree into lumber. Jennifer had found a tool kit with a hammer and a collection of mismatched nails and was ready to go.

“The wood’s not dry enough yet,” Adina said. “Trust me. I’m from New Hampshire. You’ve got to let that season a bit or it’ll be useless. It’ll just splinter right up on you.”

“How long?” Duff asked.

“Not sure. In this sun, maybe a few days. Maybe a few weeks.”

The girls’ shoulders sagged. There were groans.

“Now, Miss Teen Dreamers,” Petra reprimanded in her best Taylor twang. “I cannot believe y’all are grumblin’. I once went an entire year without any wood at all.”

Nicole sputtered. Adina fell in the sand laughing.

“What?” George asked.

“Nothing,” Petra said and put the lumber out in the sun to dry.