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Star Thistle

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It's five o'clock, and she's in the hut when Mary Ann dances in, all smiles.

"Gilligan and the Skipper found a crate down by the water! And it has so many pretty things in it!" She claps her hands together before rushing back out. Ginger can't help but be amused at the display.

She follows Mary Ann, struggling to keep up with the energetic farm girl and finally shedding her high heels exasperatedly in favor of bare footedness.

As she approaches, she attempts in vain to get a look at the box. She never would have thought six people could form such a crowd, but they do, and even with her advantage of height she still has difficulty seeing.

The Professor stands nearby, reading an issue of Science Quarterly that was apparently among the items. She taps him on the shoulder.

"What is there?"

He glances up from the water-stained magazine in his hands.

"Clothing, mostly. A lot of clothing. There're also about three boxes of jewelry, varying widely in value, and some recent magazines. Even a few comic books. And some miscellaneous items. The outer box is rotting terribly, but everything else seems to have survived."

She nods stiffly, and turns to survey the other castaways. The Skipper and Gilligan are spreading wet newspapers the box was presumably lined with out on the sand and Mr. Howell rummages through a box of wine bottles, almost as it he's looking for a specific vintage. His wife hugs a fur coat, while Mary Ann descends upon a box of costume jewelry.

"Look at them!" the brunette exclaims, tossing the baubles into the air like confetti. Ginger has to remind herself that it's probably the most jewelry her friend has ever seen in one place, however worthless it all is.

"Okay!" the Skipper bellows, getting to his feet, "let's get this stuff back to the huts!"

With that, the seven organize into groups and set about doing just that.

 


 

The rest of the evening passes swiftly as they tote their finds back to their small bite of civilization, and by the time dusk blankets the island, the seven of them are sprawled out across the benches and table, each enamored by different objects from the box.

"Anything left on the beach?" The Professor asks half-distractedly, toying with a watch found in a pants pocket.

"One more box." The Skipper replies, starting to get up from his seat.

"I'll get it." Ginger volunteers, and she can feel their eyes on her, like because of her past it's just presumed she won't do her fair share of the work.

No one says it, of course. But the implication resonates from all of them.

Except for Gilligan. He's already hunkered down with his comic book, squinting yet still seemingly without a care in the world besides the exploits of Morgan the Mighty and his faithful sidekick Roger Wilco.

She hastens away from the scene, embarrassed in way she hasn't felt in a long time, certainly not during her career in Hollywood and perhaps not for a while before then. Out of their sight, she slows her pace, staring at the ground as if to hid her blush, even though there's no one around to see it.

Meandering towards the beach, she sees the box, partially obscured by shadows. A chill shoots down her spine as she goes to pick it up, and she spins around, expecting to see someone behind her, distinctly feeling she is not alone.

But there is no one, and so she proceeds.

She turns back in the direction of the huts, eyes set on the guiding light of the tiki torches, their warm, orange glow seeming to penetrate the bare chill of the night even at her distance.

She hasn't gone more than three yards toward them when something sharp pokes her bare foot and she goes down. Her arms splay out, sand scratching tender elbows; the contents of the box go flying.

She draws in a sharp breath, and for a moment she simply lies there, foot throbbing, pride wounded for some peculiar reason.

Regaining her composure, she crawls forward, gathering the scattered items and placing them back in the box. A fur collared jumpsuit. Opera gloves. A hideous, moss colored swimming cap. An orchid evening gown.

She pauses, and, after a moment's thought, removes the beaded gown and runs her fingers along it, reading its uniform spheres like Braille.

Someone must have toiled for hours over this dress, securing each bead to the fabric with just a thin piece of thread, one after the other. A true act of faith, really, knowing all that work could be undone by a slip of the scissors. Looking a bit closer, she sees a tiny circle of red where the seamstress must have pricked her finger.

She wore a dress similar—oh, so very similar—to this the night she turned down Harry Lorrain—a man, who, in hindsight, she realizes she probably would have been very happy with. But he did bit parts, and her career was on the rise—she couldn't see it happening. It was a prideful, careless choice made too quickly, before she'd had time to fully think it through.

She wore the same dress on her way to the premiere of Gasper Also Rises. She didn't go with the rest of the cast in the limousine—she doesn't remember why—and was running late. Taking a shortcut on a side road by the river, she'd somehow collided with the only other car there, sending it plunging into the water.

And she left. In hit-and-run fashion, she left. The premiere was on in fifteen minutes, she'd reasoned. She had to be there. And what could she do, when the car was probably already ten feet underwater? After all, she never could swim.

But she's carried it with her ever since.

And of course, that's the same dress she was wearing the night she and Ashleigh Jones, a friend of long standing, had their last falling out. It started out as a slight misunderstanding and culminated with her stomping out in a huff, having poured out all her grievances in less than kind tones. From that point on, she refused Ashleigh's calls, tore up her letters, ignored the pleas she sent via her sister…

In fact, they never spoke again.

Thinking of it, her chest tightens and she winces.

Of course there's no one but herself to blame. She knows that all too well. And she does blame herself. Most of the time.

But sometimes, she can't help but think that it might have been the dress.

It's funny how girls are with their clothes, their jewelry. They turn them into sponges, permanently absorbing the emotions of the wearer—remorse and elation alike.

Silent, but oh, so observant witnesses.

It's why many women hold onto their wedding and prom dresses, or their grandmother's pearls—as shimmering reminders of beautiful moments in the past.

And yet it often works the other way, too.

Her roommate, Debbie, once gave her a diamond necklace because she said couldn't wear without thinking of the horrible sins she'd told her confessor with it on. Another time there was an expensive silk kimono that she'd been wearing when the phone call came announcing that her mother had died.

But Ginger's not one to rid herself of beautiful things, regardless of what memories they hold. That's why she held onto that beaded dress.

And sometimes, she wonders if that's why she kept making mistakes in it.

A sharp wind gusts by, tossing her hair to one side, and from the corner of her eye she espies a flash of red, a tease of faded denim.

Coming into full view, Gilligan kneels beside her, sand softly crunching under his knees.

"You okay, Ginger?"

She musters a strain of happiness into her voice. "Yes."

"You sure?"

She nods.

"Come on back to camp. Mary Ann's fixing a real feast. Then we're gonna break out the records and dance."

"I'll be there in a minute, Gilligan. I'm…I'm just going to stay here a little longer. Tell the others not to wait for me."

He rises to leave but then stops.

"Ginger…well…" he thrusts a tiny drawstring bag at her.

Deftly working open the top, she gently shakes the contents onto her palm.

Earrings, tiny rings strung with jewel tone seed beads.

She looks up at the sailor.

"I saw them in one of the boxes and…well, I thought they were awfully pretty. Just like you." He smiles shyly, looking down at his shuffling feet. "Do you like them?"

"I love them."

And for the first time in a long time—a very long time—she smiles.

Not a stage smile. Not a mask. But a real, honest-to-goodness smile.

And for the first time since they've been here, she doesn't regret being stranded.

She looks down at the gown cradled in her lap, the jewelry in her hand. And she makes a decision.

She's going to go out tonight—as out as one can go on this island. And she's going to make some good memories in her newly acquired beaded paraphernalia.

She glances up again, intent on searching out the first mate's eyes, only to see that he's already walked partway down the beach.

"Gilligan…" she calls, a new lightness in her voice.

He stops and turns around. "Yeah?"

"Save the last dance for me."

And despite the distance between them, she can almost see the grin spread over his face as the words sink in.

"I will Ginger. I sure will."