The Royal Swan is an old tour boat, so old that it is practically falling to pieces. Almost as if making fun of the name, the once-glittering white and red paint has been faded and dirtied into grey and pink, and the engine sputters along with rapid jerks. Hung on the center of the ripping canopy is a tiny little bell. The bell was once beautiful shining sliver with a jeweled cord of sapphires to ring it with, but now it is so tarnished that it looks nothing more that a dirty tin bell with a lumpy cord. No one knows why it's there or how it got there, they only wonder why the U.S. Navy had the ugly little thing put there.
Marianna Walters is the cheerful 15-year-old daughter of the ship's captain, Georgie Walters. She has curly brown hair, blue eyes, and most often wears a black striped dress with a red belt and black shoes with red bows. Her lovely mother, Lelia Sky Walters, died when she was just two. Marianna loves chocolate and will do anything for a Jumbo Reece's Cup and a big glass of milk. She also likes Reece's pieces, Reece's pieces ice cream, and PBCC&J Sandwich. (Peanut Butter, Chocolate Chips, and Jelly)
Her twin brother, William "Gill" Walters, and is kind of, well, stupid. He is very nice and means well but can be very annoying sometimes. Marianne also has a movie-star cousin Oscara Walters, an Uncle James who has 10 different college degrees and 5 master's degrees, and an eccentric Uncle Howard and his wife Aunt Dolly. Marianna loves all of her relatives, but sometimes wishes she had a less mismatched group.
Smiley Island is what Marianna names the tiny island that she get shipwrecked on, because it has a long, curved piece of land next to two tiny islands. Smiley Island is a few miles away from Florida, and is so tiny that it's hard to spot in the ocean if you're a ship or plane. A little lagoon between the small islands and the big one makes a lovely little spot where the ocean water is shallow enough to swim in, and the water is a deep blue instead of the blue-green of the rest of the ocean. It's also shallow enough that no sharks can get in, but fish can, which is very convenient for fishing. The bigger island has a mini-jungle, with a family of monkeys and a few parrots, and the small ones simply have a few coconut and palm trees.
Claudettica Abner is Marianna's worst enemy. She has copper-red curls that shimmer with a glint of gold in the sunlight, dark brown eyes, naturally white teeth, and well-tanned skin. The grown-ups think she is so beautiful that she must behave like a little angel, but one their back is turned, she's always doing something mean. She was expelled from Whitessmith Academy because of the time she pushed Marianna down the steps and broke her ankle. Her reputation with the teachers was ruined since then. Ever since, Claudettica wanted revenge on Marianna, but never had a good enough opportunity.
Marianna sighed. Another aunt or uncle was getting a late-night snack, which would have been no problem if the squeaky pantry door had been fixed. Silly Gill had forgotten to fix it again, and Daddy had no time to do it. Now the door had been creaking every fifteen minutes, and she couldn't get to sleep.
A mischievous idea crept into her head, and she giggled quietly. Slipping out of bed, she tiptoed down the stairs to her dad's toolbox and looked for the superglue. Once she had found it, she took it to the pantry, where she smeared some on the latch and locked the door. Giggling some more, she put the superglue back and slipped the superglue solvent into the pocket of her pajamas. She went back up the stairs thinking happily of getting some sleep, and began dreaming as soon as her head hit the pillow.
She dreamed that she was cleaning one of her father's boats, The Pearl Oyster, when a girl a little shorter than she was walked up. She had shiny black hair and freckles that seemed to smile with her, but what Marianna noticed most was long eyelashes. Marianna had always wanted long eyelashes.
"Hello," the girl said, "My name is Katie. I'm looking for my dog Sugar. He has long ears and he's colored brown, black, and white. Have you seen him?"
Marianna shook her head. "I haven't seen a dog come by in three hours, and it was a Golden Retriever. I'm Marianna," she added.
Just then a dog came running from behind a nearby boat, barking happily. "Sugar!" Katie cried, and scooped him up. Marianna smiled. The dog's warm brown eyes nearly matched his owner.
"Esther!" Katie suddenly hollered down the beach, "I found him!"
A tall girl about the same height than Marianna walked up. She had choppy blonde bangs that were casually swept away to the side, and the vivid blue dye on the tips nearly glowed in the sun.
"Marianna, this is my sister Esther," Katie said happily.
Marianna was very surprised they were sisters. The only thing they seemed to have in common were lovely, long eyelashes.
Marianna was jolted awake by a loud scream from Aunt Oscara's room. Throwing off the covers, she dashed out of her room, down the hall, and into the room at the same time as Uncle Howard, Aunt Dolly, and Gill. Aunt Oscara was trembling, and her wide green eyes were even wider with fright as she looked out the window.
"Aunt Oscara, why did you scream?" Gill asked.
"I was laying in bed, tossing and turning," she explained, "When I decided to open the window, just a crack, for fresh air, you see. And then I saw a ghost ship, sailing on the breeze, coming closer and closer to the shore! See for yourself."
They all crowded around the window.
"By golly, it IS a ghost ship!" Uncle Howard boomed, and delicate Aunt Dolly let out a little shriek.
Marianna just laughed. "It's just my Father's boat, silhouetted so it looks creepy. Remember how he said he would be home late?"
"Ah yes," Uncle Howard said grudgingly, "I suppose we can go back to bed now."
Marianna sighed. Daddy was home, that was good, but it had been a very long night. Turning around, she went back to her room and fell into a deep sleep.