Read an Excerpt
The Big Island of Hawaii
Early December 1885
I have something so exciting to tell you two!' declared Edith Preston as she, Jana, and Akela left school one afternoon the first week in December. 'I've been dying to tell you.'
'What is it, Kiki?' Jana asked, using her friend's Hawaiian name. 'Do tell. I love secrets.'
'Well, it's not exactly a secret, but I had to wait until everything was arranged. Bayard is bringing home some friends for the Christmas holidays. Papa says I am to invite you both to come stay over New Year's. It will be a real house party, the kind Papa and Mama used to have in the old days. Papa says he wants to have the house filled with young people, music. There will be a ball and a rodeo. It will be ever so fun.'
Jana looked at Edith. Even in her school uniform of shirtwaist and khaki skirt, she was strikingly beautiful. The combination of golden hair, tawny skin, and dark-brown eyes revealed her mixed heritage. Her mother had been a Hawaiian princess, and her father was the owner of the largest ranch on the island.
'So you will come, won't you?' Edith demanded. She halted, her hands on her slim hips, facing her friends.
'I don't know,' Jana replied uncertainly. She wasn't at all sure if her parents would allow her to attend such a house party. It might sound too sophisticated.
Bayard Preston, Edith's half brother, was a student at Yale on the mainland. His classmates, the guests he was bringing home, would all be his age, sophisticated college men. Details of Colonel Preston's lavish parties, which were attended by wealthy friends from Honolulu and as far away as San Francisco, fed the gossip mills of Waimea. The Prestons moved in a social world unknown to the conservative Rutherfords.
Although her parents had never done anything to discourage the girls' friendship, Jana's father, Wesley, was the exact opposite of the flamboyant Colonel Preston. She knew that her father disapproved of some of Colonel Preston's projects. His buying up of land and developing it the way he did was one example. Her father often expressed his concern that the very things that seemed to expand the economy also destroyed some of the old ways, the customs of the Hawaiian people. He believed that as more people went to work at the Preston Ranch and other such enterprises, fewer maintained their own small farms and businesses and remained independent.
Her mother's objections would be more personal. She regularly cautioned Jana not to be too impressed by what was taken for granted at the ranch. 'Money can't buy happiness, you know.' That statement totally bewildered young Jana. Edith, Bayard, and Colonel Preston seemed perfectly happy to her.
These thoughts passed quickly through Jana's mind. Edith looked indignant at her hesitation. She stared at Jana wide-eyed. 'Of course you're coming! It's going to be marvelous. Why ever wouldn't you come?'
'I'll have to ask,' Jana hedged.
By this time, they'd reached the hitching post where Edith, who usually rode to school, tethered her horse, Malakini. As Edith swung herself easily up into the saddle and picked up the reins, she said confidently, 'Don't worry. Papa will come and speak to your folks. He can persuade anyone to do anything.'
Jana and Akela exchanged a knowing look. Both the other girls were used to their friend's self-assured manner. Rarely did Edith Preston fail to get what she wanted. And no wonder. She had everything: money, position, beauty. Edith rode off, and as they continued walking, Jana asked, 'Will you go?'
Akela shook her head. 'I don't think so. Our whole family will be celebrating Christmas together in Kona.'
Of course, that was to be expected. Immediately the word ohana came into Jana's mind. Ohana, the Hawaiian word that symbolized family. A beautiful word, a beautiful reality, which the Kipolas reverenced. But it meant much more. It meant an unbroken circle of relationship that extended beyond the immediate family and included many others. Ohana meant a bond of love that surrounded, protected, the individual so that no one ever needed to feel alone. Jana envied that closeness she'd glimpsed within the ohana. Her own father was an orphan, and her mother's family lived far away in the southern part of the United States.
'But couldn't you even come for a few days?' Jana persisted. 'Over New Year's, like Kiki said?'
'Well' Akela blushed slightly as she said, 'Pelo's family will be there, too.'
At the mention of Pelo Kimura, Jana gave her a sharp glance. Were Akela's feelings for Pelo more than friendship? They had known each other from childhood, been playmates. Just as she and Kimo, Akela's cousin, were.
They had reached the fork of the road where they turned to go to Akela's grandmother's house. No more was said about the Prestons' house party as they started up the winding hill that led to the home. It stood high on a windswept cliff, overlooking a stretch of white-sand beach and a crescent of blue ocean. Through an arched gate, they passed into a garden lush with color purple, orange, yellow, pink and fragrant with the mingled scents of hibiscus, gardenias, and plumeria.
They sat down on the porch steps to take off their high-topped boots, as it was Hawaiian custom to remove one's shoes before entering a home.
Unlacing her shoestrings, Jana asked, 'What do you want to do when we finish school, Akela?'
Akela looked startled. 'Do? I don't know. I haven't thought.'
'I want to be an artist.'
'You're very good. Your paintings of flowers and all.'
'I want to do more than just pretty pictures. I mean really paint. My parents want me to go to teachers college in California. They want me to start sending out applications.' Jana made a face. 'Ugh! I don't want to teach! All I really want to do is stay right here and have my own little studio where I can see the sky and the sea, and paint!'
Akela smiled. 'That sounds nice.'
'So when we are finished with school,' Jana persisted, 'deep down, what do you want to do?'
Akela's expression became dreamy. 'I suppose something like you stay on the island, be happy.'
Just then they heard Akela's grandmother's voice calling, 'Is that you, girls? Come in, I've poured some guava juice, and there are fresh cookies.'
'Coming, Tutu!' Akela called back.
'It sounds like a sad quilt, a sad memory to keep,' Tutu said mildly.