It wasn't a beautiful raft, but it was strong. The escape craft was constructed of a mixture of dark brown maple and oak trees. In all, there were ten twelve-feet long dry logs. The wood had been chopped down with a chain saw, leaving a clean cut at the ends. The one thing on the vessel that drew your attention was the thick, faded red rope tied around the logs. Though it was old, the red rope wasn't weak, and it had been used just enough so that it was easy to work with. A medium-sized cherry tree that had been cut by a chain saw, as well, served as the perfect wood for the oars. The eight sturdiest limbs were chosen, and two groups of four were placed and tied firmly together. Although it was leaky and creaky, the raft maintained its buoyancy as well as any other boat on the river.
Katie Anderson had a knack for building. The twelve year-old raven-haired girl had built her own treehouse before her parents' fatal boat accident. Katie had nicely tanned skin, chin-length black hair and a zillion freckles. Katie was very content at being five feet tall. Her brown eyes were framed with dark eyebrows and long eyelashes. Katie was a sweet, giving girl, though sometimes she got herself into trouble for mouthing off or not doing her homework. She was a free spirited girl with a good dose of moxie.
Katie's only sibling was her older sister, Esther Anderson, who would sometimes take Katie places for fun.
Katie was good at many things, like schoolwork, swimming, and sewing, but her favorite hobby was building. Mostly, she liked to construct things to occupy herself when she was done with classes. She would make chairs, small tables, picture frames, and anything else that was needed. But what she really enjoyed were long, challenging projects. Katie would spend days just planning out the details, and it usually took a couple of weeks to finish the project. Her treehouse was one of those challenges. Once, she had tried to make a small wooden car for her friend's little sister that she could ride in. That was hard, too. But Katie was good at it and she had fun.
Katie's dog, Sugar, was a well-behaved puppy. Only two years old, she liked to follow Katie around. Sugar's long brown ears touched the floor when she ate or drank. She was brown, black and white with big, round brown eyes that melted Katie's heart.
Since she had been homeschooled by her mother, Katie had the wonderful freedom to play outside after lessons. Katie enjoyed playing outside, because she loved to run, swing and play in her treehouse. After the two girls' parents were killed by a speedboat collision , they went to live with their Aunt Sara and Uncle George. Aunt Sara didn't want to teach the girls herself, so she simply sent them to the local school just down the block. But Katie was just glad that she got to keep Sugar.
It was a small, uninhabited island that had never been officially named. When the two sisters washed ashore with The Pig, a tall, thin boulder reminded them of the silo on their parents' farm. So the two lovingly called it Silo Island.
The sand on the beach was rough and rocky. Instead of palm trees, the island sported massive boulders that randomly dotted the perimeter.
The forest on the island was extremely difficult to traverse. Though the ground was roughly flat, the intense thickness of the trees and branches made even crawling through the woods nearly impossible. There were a few clearings in the thicket of trees that served as wonderful resting spots. It was worth fighting through the bramble and tangled branches to reach them.
A few streams flowed throughout the island, zigzagging between trees and rocks. Since the island was surrounded by the ocean, salt water often mixed in with the streams. The only pure fresh water on the island came from rain, which would collect in large crevices on boulders and such.
The west side of the island was the roughly sanded beach. The rest was pretty much trees and big rocks. Besides where the light-brown sand met the blue water, there were rocks edging the island. While the east and south had bigger boulders, the north side was rimmed with smaller rocks.
Because the island was farther north, it experienced cooler seasons. The beautiful island enjoyed warm springs and summers, and its fall foliage was gorgeous. But the frozen sea spray on the bare trees during winter was the most breathtaking scene of all.
Esther Anderson was Katie's seventeen year old sister. She was a talented pencil sketcher and thoroughly enjoyed water colors.
Esther's blonde bangs were side-swept and choppy, and the blue dye on the tips of her hair matched her sparkling eyes. She was precisely five feet five inches tall with a button nose and long eyelahes, like Katie. Unlike Katie, Esther had thin, arched black eyebrows, and her straight blonde hair completely reached her waist.
Besides her talent for drawing, Esther was a beautiful ballerina. Her mother had put Esther in the studio that she, herself, had trained at for years in her youth. Esther took ballet for eight years before she and Katie had to move to their Aunt and Uncle's house.
Olivia Rose had been Esther's best friend, besides Katie, since second grade. But Aunt Sara forbade the girls to see any of their friends except for during school hours.
Esther was a kind, level-headed teenager. She was constantly correcting Katie's grammar and choice of words, though Katie didn't really listen. Esther had her faults, too. She was normally wonderful at following directions, but sometimes she would get caught up in drawing or dancing, and forget her chores.
Pompom was Esther's loyal and slightly obnoxious cat. True, Pompom believed all of creation belonged to her. But she was fabulous when she wasn't stealing from the kitchen or prancing across the dinner table. Pompom's favorite things were fish and attention. But Esther liked the quiet, rainy evenings when she would lie with Pompom on her window seat, drawing pictures while Pompom licked her paws and perched on Esther's shoulder.
"We're home!" yelled Katie, slamming the front door behind her and Esther. She tossed her backpack and coat to the floor. "The wind is wicked," Katie gasped.
Aunt Sara walked into the foyer. "Put away your things," she ordered. Esther detected an irritated tone in her voice.
As the two sisters tramped up to their rooms, Uncle George hollered up after them, "Get in bed!"
Katie let out a big exasperated sigh. "It's only seven thirty, Uncle George!"
Esther gasped. "Katie!" she hissed, "Don't back-talk to Uncle George!" Both girls halted at the top of the steps. A dreadful silence filled the house. Then there were footsteps. Katie would have darted off to hide if her feet hadn't stuck fast to the floor in fright. Esther sighed. Uncle George came slowly up the stairs. He stopped right in front of the two girls. Uncle George was two stairs below them, so he was only a few inches taller than Katie, unlike his usual height of 5' 9". If it had been a better situation, Katie would have laughed.
"Did you just talk back to me?" Uncle George asked in a dangerously quiet voice.
The moxie in Katie took over her reply. "Yes," she answered matter-of-factly, "Yes, I did."
He moved in very close to Katie's face. "If you ever, ever, do it again," he whispered, "there will be consequences." Then he waved a menacing finger in the girls' faces, and turned and left.
They stayed in a sullen silence as they got ready for bed. Then they met by Esther's door, like every night, to wish each other sweet dreams. "I don't suppose you agree with me this time," Katie sighed.
"No," Esther replied, "you shouldn't back-talk to Uncle George, nor anyone else, for that matter. But I do think he could've scolded you in a more, well, 'appropriate' way, if that makes any sense."
"Yeah," Katie said, "he sure don't know how to scold people the right way."
"It's 'doesn't', not 'don't', Katie," Esther corrected.
"Who cares? Nobody heard it but you." Katie rolled her eyes.
"Well, good-night, Katie." Esther said, "Hopefully you won't have nightmares of Uncle George," Esther smiled.
Katie hugged her. "Nighty-night, Sis."
Esther turned and went into her room. She flopped onto her bed and snuggled under the covers. Pompom looked up from giving herself what Katie called, 'her royal tongue bath'. She made an impressive leap (for Pompom) from the vanity to Esther's bed, and landed quite gracefully. She curled up with Esther and they both fell asleep.
After Katie watched Esther go into her room, she turned on her heel and opened her own door. Sugar was waiting for her by the door.
"Hi, boy!" Katie bent down and scratched Sugar's ears. Then they kissed goodnight (touching noses was how they did this) and Katie hopped in bed. Sugar curled up at Katie's feet and they both fell asleep. After a few hours, Katie began to dream...
The sky was a gorgeous shade of blue, dotted with clouds resembling cotton candy. Katie-in-the-dream looked about herself with immense interest.
It took her a moment to realize that she was perched on an electric guitar about a mile above a vast blue sea.
"AHHHHHH!!!" she exclaimed. As Katie clutched wildly at the floating guitar, she happened to spy a tiny island a little way off to the east.
"Oof," she muttered, glancing about herself for a second time. "I don't see anymore land anywhere," she remarked to herself. "How do you fly this thing?"
Katie pounded on the neck of the guitar for a minute, trying to think of a better idea. Finally she leaned back, and the guitar went back, too. Katie stopped. Then she smiled. And then she leaned in the direction of the Mysterious Island.
It only took two minutes to reach the island. Katie and her flying electric guitar hovered silently. Katie looked at the island. It reminded her of a smiley face.
Suddenly, somehow, Katie knew the name of the island. She wasn't sure how she knew, but it just occured to her that this island's name was Smiley Island. Katie grinned.
Then, without warning, the guitar shot off downwards towards the mouth of the smiley face island. Katie screamed and grabbed on for dear life and closed her eyes. When she felt the intense movement cease, she peeked one eye open.
When she did so, Katie gasped with delight. Standing amongst great oak and willow trees was a beautiful girl. Her hair was orange with a touch of copper, and her dark blue eyes sparkled in the sun. Her soft pink lips broke open in a smile, which caused Katie to smile, too.
For a second or two the girls just smiled at each other. Then Katie decided that this was a very ridiculous waste of time.
"Hi." Katie hopped off her guitar and walked over. She noticed that the girl was wearing a beautiful red and green plaid dress, with a matching shawl and bonnet. With her was a little golden dog, which Katie somehow miraculously knew was named Gold, and a purple cat. Katie knew that the cat's name was Vanilla. She was pleased with this. Then the girl wearing the plaid clothes spoke up.
"Hello," she said kindly. Katie thought her voice sounded as smooth as silk and the bottom of freshly cut wood. Katie considered the bottom of freshly cut wood to be a very smooth substance, for her own personal reasons, unknown to everyone including herself. "What's your name?" asked the girl in plaid.
"Me?" asked Katie.
The girl in plaid looked around. "Well," she replied, "I know the names of my pets, Gold and Vanilla, and there's nobody else here besides you, so logically I would be asking your name."
Katie looked thoughtful. "Yes, I suppose so," she said. "My name is Katie Anderson. I'm twelve."
"And I," said the plaid girl, smiling, "am The Crown Princess Alicia of Scotland. I am nineteen."
Katie's brown eyes widened. "Your parents named you The Crown Princess Alicia of Scotland?! That's even longer than one of my sister Esther's friend's name! I've forgotten it, but it was really long."
The Crown Princess Alicia of Scotland smiled her beautiful smile. "No, my parents named me Alicia. But I am the Crown Princess of Scotland. Do you want me to dye your hair?"
Katie considered all of this for a moment. "That makes sense, that they just named you Alicia. And I would very much like you to dye my hair." Alicia pulled a tool cart out from behind a palm tree, and a dainty box of bottles filled with hair dye.
"What color?" Alicia asked. Katie immediately took for a bottle of bluish grayish greenish pinkish purpleish yellowish dye.
"This. Dye my hair with this." Katie showed it to Alicia. "Please," she added.
"Of course," Alicia answered. In a matter of time, and after much work by both of them (because for Katie sitting still for periods of time was a great difficulty) Alicia presented Katie to herself. Pulling a mirror from a purple sack, The Crown Princess Alicia of Scotland waited while Katie admired herself.
"I look splendidly nice," Katie said.
"That you do," Alicia told her.
After a few silent moments, Katie remarked, "You know, I really ought to be getting back home by now. Aunt Sara won't bother keeping my food warm."
"Absolutely," Alicia replied. "I'll send you home on one of these paper boats. They're quite sturdy, though they don't look it."
Since Katie had brought nothing with her, besides the guitar she had ridden on to Smiley Island, she had no belongings to worry about packing. Katie and The Crown Princess waved good bye.
Alicia gave Katie the enormous leaf of a palm tree. Katie would miss the island dearly. It was such a gorgeous, wondrous place that she almost wanted to stay forever.
But she would miss Esther. And Sugar and Pompom. Maybe, just the teeniest ittiest little bit, she might miss Aunt Sara, too. But not Uncle George, or their cat Whistle. Whistle bit everybody but Aunt Sara. Maybe Katie wouldn't miss Aunt Sara so much after all.
Alicia waved and smiled and Katie waved and smiled back, as the sturdy little newspaper boat glided across the smooth waves, away from Smiley Island, Princess Alicia, Gold and Vanilla.
Katie-not-in-the-dream sat up so suddenly that she banged her forehead on the sloped ceiling right above her bed, and Sugar was so startled that he jumped and made an enormous flying leap across the room, and crash-landed into Katie's desk.
Sugar wimpered for a second and then crawled over to Katie, who now sat rubbing her forehead, her mind toying with the possibility that she had been dreaming. She came to the conclusion that yes, she had been dreaming.
But just to be sure, she got up and made sure her hair was still black. Sugar watched with amusement as Katie searched her room for the electric guitar, paper boat and the big palm leaf, just to be absolutely one hundred percent sure it had just been a dream.
She didn't find them.
Katie picked up Sugar, who gave her a big sloppy kiss on her nose. "Yup, Sugar," Katie laughed. "It was just a dream. And it wasn't about Uncle George."