Their "minus one, plus one" speculations having run their course, Heather and Duncan turned for a time to general reminiscences of their experience on the "island". Each discovered that the other still remembered pretty much all the major points of camp life, although neither could recall with any certainty which girl was Katie and which was Sadie.

Their conversation eventually turned to the question of what the other contestants had been up to since. Heather had little information on this topic, but Duncan had a great deal, mostly via Courtney.

No, Duncan told his old campmate, he and Courtney were no longer a couple. That had been merely a summer hookup, although they retained fond (if somewhat conflicted) feelings for each other and maintained more or less regular contact. Courtney kept in touch with several of the others, as well, and kept indirect tabs on most of the rest, either through her direct contacts or through periodic Internet searches.

"She's very organized," Duncan observed, adding, "If we ever have a reunion, I'd bet good money that she'll be the driving force behind it." Heather was inclined to agree.

Duncan himself had found a legitimate outlet for his thieving ways, and now repossessed cars for a living. Heather, for her part, had majored in Business Administration because she still felt that she was best suited to directing others. She had spent a few years in the workforce, but was not currently working outside the home.

Duncan suggested that her current job title was "trophy wife". Heather allowed that Duncan's assessment was not unreasonable, given that her husband was a successful businessman and almost ten years older than she.

Heather's current plan was to begin online studies for an MBA when her child (or youngest child, since she and Jim wanted two) was out of infancy. By studying part time whilst she cared for her kids, she expected to have her degree at about the time her children entered school. Heather considered that convenient timing, for under this plan she would be reentering the workforce with fresh credentials.

Courtney was now a freshly minted lawyer, and had landed a job with a prestigious firm in Vancouver. She had begun to dabble in politics, mostly as a campaign worker for various candidates. She still planned to run for office herself someday, but was still too young for most people to take her seriously as a candidate for anything significant. In the meantime, her campaign work was a good way to learn the science of running a proper political campaign.

Like Courtney, most of the former "campers" were in the early stages of getting established in their careers. A few had either returned to school or were still in school, either because they were taking graduate degrees or because their studies had been delayed for some reason. Several were still active in the public sphere, in one way or another; but most, like Duncan and Heather themselves, had either tired of the public eye or grown indifferent to it, or had been forgotten after their summer in the sun.

Eva, of all people, was currently the most financially successful of the lot. She was also the highest-profile celebrity, albeit not in Canada. After returning with her parents to their native Germany, she had pursued a career in professional track and field, which was big business in Europe. Eva had become a star heptathlete and was now wealthy enough that, if she took decent care of her money, she would be set for life. Better yet, her temper was now under control. Her fits of rage had been found to have an organic cause, and she had responded well to medication. She would have to take that medication for the rest of her life, but it had turned her life around, so that was a small price to pay.

Eva had qualified for the German national team in 2016, but an untimely injury forced her to sit out the Olympics. Indeed, she had been plagued by injuries the last couple of years, and was reported to be contemplating retirement.

D.J. had gone to college on a football scholarship, and became good enough to be drafted by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. After failing to make the team, he returned to school to complete his studies in veterinary medicine.

After the competition, Geoff, the other footballer in the troupe, had taken to partying even harder and oftener than before, if that was humanly possible. His grades had suffered to the point that he was in danger of losing the football scholarship that he was widely expected to get, and related problems had nearly cost him Bridgette's love, as well. Fortunately, he had recovered his bearings, thanks in part to Bridgette's insistence. Geoff hadn't really understood Bridgette's resistance to his "party till you drop" lifestyle, but had eventually decided that the fact that it did bother her was enough. He remained a party animal to this day, but he had learned moderation.

Geoff, like D.J., became a star in college and was drafted into the CFL, by the Montreal Alouettes in Geoff's case. Unlike D.J., however, Geoff had found some success in the pros. Now in his fifth year in the league, he was currently a backup quarterback for the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Heather made a mental note of that. Her husband was a football fan, following both the CFL and the NFL, so she would have to look for Geoff the next time Jim was watching a game that happened to involve the Tiger-Cats.

Of all the couples that had hooked up that summer at Camp Wawanakwa, only Geoff and Bridgette were still together. They were now living together, but had no plans for marriage or children, as far as anyone knew. Bridgette was earning her daily bread as a swimming instructor.

Justin had been a model, in one capacity or another, ever since the competition ended, and was gaining national prominence in that field. Heather had once seen him in a newspaper circular, modeling a line of men's underwear. With the aid of several breathing exercises, Heather had succeeded in restoring her normal heart rate and body temperature.

Trent had never been quite the same. Oh, he behaved normally enough, and people who hadn't known him before Gwen's death wouldn't be likely to notice anything amiss; but to those who had known him from earlier times, his music seemed somehow less hopeful and more melancholy than before.

Now a professional singer/songwriter, Trent was making a modest living on the nightclub circuit. He had signed on with an independent record label, and had released an album not too long ago. Sales were promising, although it wasn't expected to go gold anytime soon. Duncan had seen one of Trent's performances a few years ago, and had kept in touch since. Apart from Courtney, Trent was currently the only former campmate with whom Duncan had anything resembling regular contact.

Not surprisingly, Trent's album included a song in memory of Gwen, although the song did not identify her by name. Trent had stumbled upon an obscure public domain song, and he had liked the lilting tune. ("From some old musical," Trent had said, although he didn't remember the name and apparently couldn't be bothered to look it up.) Trent had tweaked the tune a bit and set his own lyrics to it, although he had mostly kept the original refrain, and the resulting tribute to "a pale and beautiful gothic girl" had become his first standard. Trent now sang it at most of his gigs, usually as the closing number.

Heather now recalled having heard the song somewhere, but at the time she had not associated it with Trent.

Trent made other gestures of remembrance, as well. He lived within day trip range of the camp, Duncan told Heather, and once a year he came here to leave flowers in memory of his first love, either on the anniversary of her death or as close to it as he could manage.

"Looks like he's already come and gone," Heather noted, motioning to the bouquet on the lodge table.

"Too bad. I'm sure he'd have loved to be here today," Duncan suggested enigmatically.

"Why today, especially?" Heather asked in puzzlement. True, ten years was a round number, but that didn't really seem to explain Duncan's remark. Trent surely had no particular desire to see Heather again, so her presence couldn't have had anything to do with it.

"Hatchet is coming here today to shoot a scene for that anniversary special I mentioned," Duncan elaborated. "There have been some serious injuries over the years, but Gwen is still the only contestant to actually die, so Hatchet is going to lay a wreath."

With Duncan apparently at the campsite for that event, Heather was starting to wonder whether he had gone soft. "How did you find that out? You never seemed the type to keep track of things like that," she observed.

"My niece told me," Duncan explained. "She's kind of a TDI junkie, and she spends a lot of time online sussing out tidbits like that. When she told me, I left a message for Trent, but it was such short notice that he probably wasn't able to clear his schedule."

Heather pressed the point. "So, you're here for the wreath laying? I didn't think you cared about ceremony."

"I had nothing better to do," Duncan replied dismissively.

"That sounds like the Duncan I know," Heather declared in a satisfied tone, as if all was once more right with the world.

"So," Heather continued, "does Hatchet have a sadistic sidekick to torture the contestants while he's here showing off his softer side?"

"Tweedledum and Tweedledee are probably holding down the fort," Duncan speculated.

In the context of Total Drama Island, that description could only refer to two people. "Katie and Sadie?" Heather asked dubiously, "What's their connection?"

For all his by-the-book style, "Chef Hatchet" (as he was still popularly known, and probably would be until his dying day) had made one significant innovation. In Season 6, his first as host, he began bringing in contestants from prior seasons to be assistants or, less commonly, guest hosts. He did this three or four times per season, typically twice during the team phase and once or twice after the teams merged. He normally brought in TDI alumni in pairs during the team phase, or singly after a merger.

Tyler and Jerry, the Season 2 jock, had comprised the very first pair, serving as team coaches for an athletically oriented challenge. Her memory jogged, Heather now remembered that she had also been invited for a Season 6 appearance, but had declined. At that time, she was already growing disenchanted with low-grade celebrity (higher-profile fame having eluded her), and the pay was poor—little more than reimbursement of expenses.

Katie and Sadie had appeared together (naturally) as assistants in Season 8, and had been a sleeper hit. While maturity had tempered their bubbly personalities and their desire to be exactly like each other, and they no longer required constant proximity to each other, they remained children at heart. Their resulting tendency to treat the contestants as equals had endeared them to the teens, and the genuinely warm interactions that resulted had endeared them to the viewers. In Season 9, they became the first TDI alumni to make a second guest appearance. In Season 10, they appeared yet again, this time as guest hosts.

For Season 11, the season currently in production, the producers had hired Katie and Sadie as permanent additions to the show's staff. Accordingly, when reports surfaced that Hatchet was considering leaving the show after the current season, the companion rumor inevitably arose that Katie and Sadie were being groomed to succeed him if he did, indeed, decide to move on. If there was any truth at all to those rumors, then having the "twins" run things whilst Hatchet attended to the ceremony at Wawanakwa would be a logical move.

In addition to Katie and Sadie, three other "campers" from that first TDI competition had made more than token appearances on the reality show circuit in recent years. Lindsay and Tyler had become, in effect, professional reality show participants. They had even appeared together on two shows, one while they were still dating and another after they divorced. Lindsay, as ditzy as ever, had also made a TDI alumni appearance, alongside Justin in Season 7.

Lindsay and Tyler had tentatively begun to discuss marriage when an unexpected pregnancy forced the issue. Their marriage collapsed, though, irretrievably stricken, after their 7-week-old son died from SIDS—a tragedy the celebrity gossip media covered relentlessly and with much embellishment, with at least one tabloid writer going so far as to hint at parental foul play.

Heather had reached out to Lindsay during that difficult time, sending a note of condolence; but Lindsay did not respond, so Heather could only assume that old resentments still lingered. Duncan now confirmed that Lindsay had responded to condolences from Courtney, among others, which seemed to confirm Heather's supposition.

Lindsay's rebuff had left Heather questioning, for the first time, the wisdom of her TDI strategy. Although the contestants weren't on the show to make friends, as Heather had once infamously noted, the incident left Heather wondering whether it had really been necessary to make as many enemies as she did.

After the divorce, Lindsay had tried her hand at acting, and had lived in Los Angeles for a time whilst pursuing that dream. Her excessive difficulty in remembering lines limited her to bit or nonspeaking parts, though, so she eventually gave it up and returned to the reality show circuit, where remembering lines was not an issue.

Owen, the last former camper with a substantial reality show presence, had continued to pork his way through life until he was diagnosed with diabetes at the age of 21. The diagnosis later turned out to be erroneous, but Owen had been "scared straight". He returned to reality TV as a contestant on The Biggest Loser, placing third. There was no word on how successful he had been at keeping the weight off.

Izzy had dropped completely out of sight. She had reportedly been killed in the sinking of a ferryboat, but her body was never recovered. None of the survivors could remember anyone matching her description, and neither Courtney nor Duncan believed that she was really dead. "We're not getting rid of her that easily," Duncan had written at the time.

Apart from Eva, only Noah was known to be making his home outside of Canada. He was currently living in New York, working for a Wall Street investment house as an analyst. Although he was apparently in the States to stay, he reportedly had no plans to seek U.S. citizenship. Noah had made a TDI alumnus appearance in Season 6, filling the spot that the producers had originally offered to Heather. According to reports, he did not find the experience rewarding.

Initially united by their feelings for Gwen, Trent and Cody had become very close. Cody, now a hotshot software developer, was making marriage plans with his longtime girlfriend, and had asked Trent to be his best man. One of the best man's traditional duties is to plan the bachelor party, and Trent was planning a soiree that would stand in his friend's memory for a long time.

Heather had run into Harold during an interview trip to Calgary a few years before, and until today he had remained the only TDI contestant with whom she'd had any substantial contact since shortly after the competition ended.

During the competition, Heather had found Harold boring at best and annoying at worst, not to mention completely beneath her station, so she had generally avoided contact with him. In the finals, though, he had been her lone supporter, if only because he couldn't bring himself to support Duncan's girlfriend.

At the time, Heather had merely accepted Harold's support as her due, and hadn't even acknowledged him afterward. That day in Calgary, however, the more mature Heather decided that the time was right to make amends, so she and Harold had a long and mostly pleasant chat. (He was still inclined to ramble, but Heather had been able to steer him away from the more boring topics before her eyes glazed over.) Afterward, they had corresponded for a time, but their pen pal relationship died within a year—Harold and Heather were both lackadaisical correspondents by nature, and they had few common interests. Heather still had an e-mail address for Harold, but she had no idea whether it was current.

Harold had always been proud of his wide variety of "mad skills", and had found a way to wear many hats at once: he had gone into business for himself, selling martial arts equipment and teaching novice-level classes in several martial arts disciplines.

Harold and LeShawna, at that time, were still keeping in touch. They regarded each other as good friends, but their brief romantic flare had never amounted to anything. LeShawna, employed by a Toronto nonprofit, was working with underprivileged children and was then expecting her first child. Duncan was able to add, by way of Courtney, that LeShawna's marriage had not endured, so she was raising her 4-year-old son alone—a task much aided by supportive relatives, including those of her deadbeat ex-husband, who had abandoned her and their son without the formality of a legal separation. Duncan had no additional information on Harold.

Two years after the competition, Beth happened to run into Ezekiel as she was passing through to begin her college career. That chance meeting kindled something that hadn't been present before, and they married two years later. They already had three children, including a set of twins, with a fourth on the way and plans for more. Ezekiel had become a mechanic, and was making an enviable living servicing farm equipment, so he was supporting his growing brood easily enough. They were not planning to home school their kids, mainly because Beth didn't think she was suited to it.

Courtney had visited them a year ago, and had found them delightful company. "Zeke never was such a bad guy," she had written to Duncan afterward, "just ignorant about some things. He always seemed to mean well."

All this talk of marriages and families brought Duncan's attention back to Heather's family way. She appeared to be several months along, so he asked when she was due.

"In about five weeks," she told him, adding that she would be having a girl.

"Have a name yet?" Duncan inquired, mainly because he thought the question was expected of him.

"Believe me, you wouldn't believe me," Heather demurred with a shake of her head.

Duncan couldn't let an assumption like that slide, and his curiosity was now genuine. "Try me," he challenged.

"Gwen," Heather replied softly. Anticipating Duncan's reaction, she looked him in the eye and repeated, "We're going to call her 'Gwen'."


NOTES:

The "obscure public domain song" from which Trent lifted the tune for his tribute song is "A Wonderful Joy Our Eyes to Bless" (a.k.a. "A Bright and Beautiful English Girl"). This song is also Bridgette's theme song in the author's compilation, Total Drama Island, by Gilbert and Sullivan. See below for lyrics.

The "old musical" the song comes from is Utopia, Limited, the next-to-last collaboration of W.S. Gilbert & Arthur Sullivan. It is one of three little-known Gilbert & Sullivan operettas (which would be called musicals if written today) that are not part of their 11-operetta "main sequence". The reason why Utopia, Limited is rarely performed is that it is too elaborate for most theater companies—it requires an unusually large number of principal-quality voices, and most of the cast require two costumes.

SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is the term for any sudden, unexplainable death of a child who is less than one year old. It is also known as "crib death" in the U.S. and "cot death" in the U.K.


Lyrics – "A Wonderful Joy Our Eyes to Bless" from Utopia, Limited (see Glossary for underlined terms)

A wonderful joy our eyes to bless,
In her magnificent comeliness,
Is an English girl of eleven stone two,
And five foot ten in her dancing shoe!
She follows the hounds, and on she pounds—
The "field" tails off and the muffs diminish—
Over the hedges and brooks she bounds
Straight as a crow, from find to finish.
At cricket, her kin will lose or win—
She and her maids, on grass and clover,
Eleven maids out—eleven maids in—
And perhaps an occasional "maiden over!"

Go search the world and search the sea,
Then come you home and sing with me
There's no such gold and no such pearl
As a bright and beautiful English girl!

With a ten-mile spin she stretches her limbs,
She golfs, she punts, she rows, she swims—
She plays, she sings, she dances, too,
From ten or eleven 'til all is blue!
At ball or drum, till small hours come
(Chaperone's fan conceals her yawning)
She'll waltz away like a teetotum,
And never go home 'til daylight's dawning.
Lawn tennis may share her favors fair—
Her eyes a-dance and her cheeks a-glowing—
Down comes her hair, but what does she care?
It's all her own and it's worth the showing!

Go search the world, etc.

Her soul is sweet as the ocean air,
For prudery knows no haven there;
To find mock modesty, please apply
To the conscious blush and the downcast eye.
Rich in the things contentment brings,
In every pure enjoyment wealthy,
Blithe as a beautiful bird she sings,
For body and mind are hale and healthy.
Her eyes they thrill with right goodwill—
Her heart is light as a floating feather—
As pure and bright as the mountain rill
That leaps and laughs in the Highland heather!

Go search the world, etc.


SONG GLOSSARY:

All is blue: the entire sky is blue, i.e. full daylight.

Drum: a noisy party.

Follows the hounds: the stanza containing this term is full of fox hunting terminology. Following the hounds wherever they go requires considerable riding skill, and this is what makes English-style fox hunting a sport.

Maiden over: In the game of cricket, an "over" refers to a set of deliveries by the bowler. A "maiden" over is one in which no runs are scored.

Punt: operate a boat with a pole, usually on a river. Also, a type of boat that is typically operated in this way.

Rill: a small brook.

Stone: a British unit of weight equal to 14 lb. "Eleven stone two" is therefore 156 lb (11x14+2), or about 70 kg. In other words, the girl of this song is big and athletic.

Teetotum: a type of spinning top. Jews call it a dreidel.