Neal stood in the shower, letting the steamy water run through his hair and down his body.  He swept his thick blond locks back from his face, tilting his head back in the water.  Neal scrubbed, getting sand out of his hair and ears.  The granules collected in a swirl around the drain, slowly being pulled down by the flow.  He had his eyes closed, feeling the warm fingers of water on his skin, smiling to himself at the luxury.

            He emerged from the bathroom in a borrowed bathrobe and walked to the guest-room he was sharing with Owen.  His roomie was similarly dressed, looking out the window at the extensive gardens behind the house.

            “Hey,” Neal nodded.

            “Hey.  I was thinking of getting some food, what do you think?” 

            “I’ll be down in a bit, sure.”  Neal smiled, and Owen nodded, heading out the door.  Neal walked to the same window, looking down at the big garden in the back, with a fantastic pool in the centre.  He couldn’t get over how nice this place was.

            There was a soft knock at the door.  He turned towards it.

            “Come in.”

            Lamb opened the door a short way, peeking in.

            “Everybody decent?  I don’t want to intrude…”

            “Oh, Mr. Lamb.  Sure, sure, come in.  I was just admiring your garden.”

            “Ah, yes.  Thank you.  Neal, I was wondering if you had a moment?”

            “Certainly, sir.”

            “Neal, my lad, you seem to be the most mature of the group, am I right in assuming that you’re the oldest?  Earlier you seemed to be the spokesperson.”

            Neal blushed a little and grinned.  “I guess.  I’m a few months older than Owen, the two of us are the oldest.  It wasn’t intentional, but I’ve kind of been in charge since the plane.  It’s not like there was an election or anything.”

            “Oh, no, no, there wouldn’t be.  You come across as a natural leader.  They want to follow you, Neal.  I feel fairly certain that they’d rely on your opinion, seek your advice, regardless of any elected position.”

            Neal felt his spine straighten.  “Yeah, I guess you’re right.  It’s kind of always been like that with us.  I just never thought about it.”

            “Well, I noticed right away.  Because of it, I thought that I’d ask you something.  The press is going to want to meet all of you, once they find out you’re alive.  It’s a bit of  a miracle that you survived.”

            “The press?  Really?”

            “Well sure!  The hurricane was big news, and the eight of you coming back will no doubt cause a stir.  But I think it’s something we can manage ourselves, if we try.  How would you feel about organizing a press conference?  That way it can be done and over with, on your terms, instead of a feeding frenzy of reporters and photographers later.”

            “A press conference?  I’ve never done anything like that.”

            “You just listen to their questions, and give thoughtful responses.  It never hurts to tell a few jokes, or appeal for sympathy.  Win the crowd over.  Viewers like to see human beings dealing with adversity with strength and vulnerability at once.”

            Neal’s brow furrowed with thought.  “A balance, right?  Like, showing that it was hard, but that you’re dealing with it.”


            “I think I get the concept, but I’m not sure about meeting so many reporters and answering questions so soon.”

            “Don’t worry,” Lamb smiled, “I’ll teach you.”

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