Three kids—Poppy, Zach, and Alice—are playing an elaborate game with action figures. Their toys (secondhand dolls and a boat made of paper) are humble, but their imaginations are wild and vivid.
Technically the kids are playing on the lawn in front of Poppy's broken-down house, but in their imaginations, they're on a pirate's ship in the Blackest Sea. People are lashing themselves to the mast and everything.
Zach's character is William the Blade, the captain of the ship; Poppy is playing with the mermaids; and Alice is Lady Jaye, a thief who is William the Blade's traveling companion.
Apparently Poppy often plays villains because she's super bossy.
Out of nowhere, Poppy announces the terms of the "mermaid's curse." According to her, William the Blade must sacrifice a member of his crew to the sea. Zach, however, as William the Blade, says he's unwilling to sacrifice anyone.
Wrong answer. Poppy, as the mermaids, claims Lady Jaye for the sacrifice, and the kids start bickering about whether Poppy's playing fair.
As they argue, Poppy's brothers come outside and start laughing at the babies playing baby games. Zach feels ashamed. If his friends at school found out…
In addition to being jerks, Poppy's brothers have a reputation around town for being hoodlums—it's a reputation shared by all of her siblings, it seems.
Poppy's brother Tom reports that Alice's grandmother called; she wants Alice to come home. Tom's really rude about it for no reason.
Alice seems frustrated by the way Tom is talking to her. Evidently she takes a lot of lip like this from guys because she hit puberty at a young age.
Zach feels protective of Alice, but he isn't sure how to handle the situation—he tells Poppy's brothers to leave Alice alone, but they just mock him.
Poppy asks Alice to spend the night, but Alice needs to get home, so she goes inside the house to get her stuff.
Poppy's house is like something straight out of Hoarders. The place is overrun with garbage, basically, a physical scene that matches the volatile and violent family dynamic that's caused by her parents having largely checked out from the whole parenting thing.
Alice and Zach can't help but feel envious, though—they wish they had Poppy's freedom.
Zach follows Alice into the house and finds her staring at the Great Queen, an old doll that Poppy's mother bought at a tag sale.
The Great Queen is possibly valuable and definitely creepy. She lives in a glass case because Poppy's mother wants to sell her to Antiques Roadshow someday.
This doll even has her own ghost story: One time Poppy's sister woke up in the middle of the night and said the Great Queen was coming for them.
The ghost story spooked Poppy, Zach, and Alice so much that they decided to make the Great Queen part of their game. Ever since, the Queen has been the distant but cruel ruler of their imaginary land.
Staring at the Queen, Alice starts complaining about her grandmother. To be fair, it seems warranted: Her grandmother is really strict.
Poppy joins them and wants an explanation for what they've been talking about; she seems anxious and insecure.
Also insecure? Alice, who seems upset as she finally departs for home. Zach notes that lately it seems like Alice doesn't like him spending time alone with Poppy. Why? Zach has no idea.
Zach may be oblivious about what's up with Alice, but Poppy isn't and she asks Zach if William the Blade likes Lady Jaye. (You know, like likes.)
Also not oblivious? Shmoop—we know full well that what Poppy's really asking is whether Zach likes Alice.
But poor old Zach really doesn't have a clue—pirates don't even believe in marriage, he explains—so Poppy gives up on this line of questioning.
After a long talk about everything from basketball practice to the zombie apocalypse, Zach prepares to go home. On his way out, he thinks he sees the Great Queen flutter her lashes. Creepy…