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Maui is beautiful. Blue waters in shades of sapphire, cerulean, azure, and mores shades in between than you ever knew existed. These beautiful waters shot through with black lava rock fingers and the pastel and creams of coral reefs are overarched by the tropical blues and whites of the sky. Sometimes the ocean's so still it reflects another sky onto the sea. Other times Poseidon roils it into a frenzy of huge white capped waves, just to delight surfers.
And of course, the flowers-plumeria, hibiscus, awapuhi, bougainvillea, protea-in pinks, whites, yellows, and reds, all the colors so vibrant in Maui's tropical air. They hang from trees, crown the ends of bushes, drip from vines and sprout up from the ground on thick stalks. Looking like birds or beautiful red pine cones.
Maui smells good. That same ocean provides its own familiar fragrance, salt, seaweed, fish. Those flowers Maui is so famous for provide perfume to its air. Heavy sweet smells hang sticky in the airs around the iconic pineapple fields. Hawaiian Tropic suntan lotion the signature smell at Maui's local beaches. All this mingles in various combinations around the island sometimes tinged with the smoky sweetness of burning sugar cane.
I can't believe I call her home.
It was my husband, Cal's idea to move thousands of miles away. Unlike me he didn't have a job to quit.
I'm standing on the lava rock divider that separates the two Makena beaches.
I'm crossing this outcrop to get to Little Beach.
Out to sea is Molokini, the remains of a volcanic crater. Several charter boats bob inside it's sheltered crescent. The water is deep clear and full of brightly colored fish. Great snorkeling. Not being a confident swimmer, I find the thought of navigating those waters terrifying.
This vantage point apexes the beauty around me.
The small ribbon of white sand, Little Beach, is infamous. Secluded by this tall cinder cone and on the other side by an ancient lava flow and a forest of kiawe trees. Not totally inaccessible its not easy to get to. Plenty of locals and tourists find their way. The very liberal dress code is what brings us here.
Picture postcard perfect.
Days like today I'm glad I live here.
Clambering down to Little Beach loosening sand and cinders, I head straight for my spot under the kiawe tree. It spreads out over the sand, a natural umbrella.
Wednesdays, under this tree, on this beautiful beach, are ladies' day for my friends and me.
It's early. I don't see familiar faces. Most of the people here are tourists trying to rid themselves of pesky tan lines.
Once on Maui I reinvented myself from banker to gift shop manager. Fortunately, or unfortunately I lost that job in a store closure.
Cal wanted to move here to be a surf bum. Its me who's leading that life while collecting unemployment.
Today I'm looking at my unemployment through the rose-colored glasses I'm wearing to shield my eyes from this bright Maui sun. Not through the eyes of my dwindling bank account.
For reasons, even I don't understand, I never remove my bottoms. Topless and sun screened I lay back in my chair to enjoy doing absolutely nothing. Once hot I will swim.
I'm startled awake by the squeals of a baby. The beach is now crowded. Two couples are sharing a large blanket and their toddlers are running around in the sand. They are all happily naked.
Sharon my cohort and neighbor has arrived because her chair and cooler are beside me though she's absent.
Looking around I spot her waving at me from a towel she's sharing with another beach regular, Karen. She too comes alone. She and her husband moved here from some southern "A" state. He's retired; his hobby is the stock market so he rarely comes to the beach during the week.
I think about crashing their gabfest but ennui with doing nothing has not reached the point where I wish to move.
I begin watching the female half of what might be a newlywed couple, a natural redhead, cartwheel herself down the beach at water's edge. Despite my best effort not to I provide a part of the audience she craves. Good thing she has implants sizable ones at that. The implants keep her breasts firm and stable as she cartwheels down and back again toward her husband.
He too is completely nude. A pale thin man who seems to lack shoulders. He's dotted with patches of dark body hair. The hair on his head is cut short but fashionable and his lips are very red. I wonder if its their natural color or if they're chapped.
The most remarkable thing about him, however, is the sizable mole that consumes a disturbingly large portion of his left eyebrow. The unfortunate pinky lump is so large that its easily seen even from my distance. He watches the show his wife's providing with obvious pride.
"Money. I bet his family has money." Sharon deadpans as she lowers her nude self into her chair in one graceful motion. She never turns her eyes from the gymnastic feat being performed seaside.
"Plenty." I respond in kind watching her reach into her small cooler for her lunch.
"We're meeting at Kihei Beach for a luau tonight. You and Cal will be there."
Not a question a mere statement leaving no option to decline. I am never offended. Sharon knows that I prefer to prepare one dish for twenty than make a whole meal for two.
It reassures me of our friendship.
Sharon and her husband Roland moved here about five years ago. Like mole man Roland's family has money. Like Cal he isn't too fond of working and hasn't had a job since moving here. Neither has Sharon for that matter.
"Karen invited the redhead and her unfortunate husband to tonight's luau." Sharon says between bites of her corned beef sandwich. The sudden sound of her voice makes me feel guilty for my thoughts.
"Really." I say licking a bit of mayo from the corner of my mouth. New prospects?"
"Possibly. Karen seems to think so."
Karen and her husband Winston, or Winn as he prefers, find great excitement in the intimate entertaining of other couples.
Apparently, Karen can easily spot likeminded couples, such as redhead and mole man.
Thankfully my radar must say semi-prude. I'm not sure about Cal. However, such trysts do require two, and since there's no immediate sign of hell freezing ...
"Jordon won't be able to come tonight." Sharon adds once again reining in my thoughts.
"Too bad. We'll miss his food." I say wondering how she knows this tidbit.
"The latest singing phenom, John somebody, and his model-Barbie doll wife, Julie something, are at the resort. They want a meal in their private bungalow tonight. Jordon's going to be their personal chef for the evening."
How does she know all of what is going on with Jordon? Hmm, maybe he talks with Roland.
"Think he invited them to Little Beach?" I add laughing.
"I hope not. All we need is one more surgically altered bathing beauty."
Karen startles us referencing the female portion of the couple I think they intend to swap with. "You want to go for a quick swim?" "Sounds good." Sharon stands up and discreetly brushes bread crumbs from her crotch.
"By the way" Karen again "the lovely redhead is a vegetarian."
"Huh? Oh, vegetarian. Glad you told me. I think I will make my beef and broccoli salad."
"Great. I really like that and Roland really enjoyed it when you made it last time too. We are bringing ribs. I'm sending Roland down early to fire up a grill or two."
Karen chuckles at our obvious dig to redhead.
We head into the cool water.
Surprise, no; concern, definitely not. There are no words to describe my emotions when I see Cal's car in the driveway.
It's half past two and I am fresh from the grocery store and ready to cook for tonight.
One little part of me says Cal's on this side of the island because work brought him here. He just stopped by the house to use the bathroom.
The bigger part of me is laughing at that little part.
I start to grab the doorknob but the door flies open with Cal on the other side in a green and white bathing suit and no shirt.
"Hey Tiny" he tries to embrace me.
How I hate that nickname. Where it comes from is beyond me. At five foot ten inches I'm too tall to be called Tiny; at 125 pounds I'm not fat enough to be called Tiny.
"Cal stop calling me that I hate it. It makes me feel like a sumo wrestler!"
"Sorry – forgot."
"Like hell, you do it to annoy me." I shoot the words at him.
"I thought you would still be at the beach."
"Funny, I thought you would still be at work."
"Hey, give me a break" he whines.
I'd love to break something – right over your stupid head!
"I kept thinking of you at the beach and wanted to be there too."
"What is today some half day holiday I don't know about? Maybe we are celebrating the 262nd day of sunshine?" I'm screaming like a harpy and don't care.
"Don't be like this. I told Don I was sick and needed to go home."
"What did you do throw up in your trash can?"
"You are being silly. Why are you home? I thought you would still be at the beach. You are usually there till 4:30 or 5:00 on Wednesdays."
"Except when we are having a luau which we are tonight at Kihei Beach and I'm home to cook."
"Forget cooking let's go back to the beach."
"I can't believe you would rather stay here and cook than go back to the beach with me!"
"I can't believe you left work sick to play hooky at the beach."
"Why do you act like this?"
"Like what? An adult, reasonable, responsible?"
"I was in a good mood!" Cal's voice changes to that nasty petulant growl he uses when he doesn't get his way. Storming around me he's out the door.
"Damn you." I say. I take my anger out on the broccoli I bought at the grocery store. The recipe did say to cut into small florets.
I hear Cal's voice out our open kitchen window. I can't hear what he's saying but I see him in the doorway of Roland's garage. "I will not let him ruin my day." I command myself.
I mix macadamia nut oil, hot pepper flakes, ginger and just a little soy sauce. I pour the requisite amount of wine – recipe calls for red wine – white will do – and a little red wine vinegar, to make up for the lack of actual red wine and generously massage the fragrant concoction into the flank steak in front of me.
As I put the unused portions of the ingredients away I notice there is only a little wine left.
I take my stemmed glass from the cabinet, Cal gave it to me for my twenty-seventh birthday. Its beautiful, crystal with a design of purple flowers hand painted on it. It might actually have been bought with his own money.
I pour the remainder of the wine into the lovely glass and take it outside so I can grill the steak.
By the time the grill heats my anger begins to cool. I'm happily grilling when Sharon's head pops out around the corner of the house.
"Smells great back here. Need help?"
"I don't need help but company would be nice." I say smiling up at her from my seat across from the grill. "There is another bottle of Chardonnay in the fridge if you don't mind."
"Not at all."
She reemerges with another stemmed glass and that lovely bottle of Chardonnay in a bowl of ice.
"Cal came over with a cooler of beer and convinced Roland and the kids they needed to get to the beach early. Cal says tables will go fast. Whether they will or not doesn't matter. All Roland needs to hear is beach and beer."
"I'm sorry Shar. He stormed out because I was angry. He had no right to interrupt your life."
"Hell, interrupt away. You think I mind having Roland out of my hair.
I planned something for the grill so Roland would be kept busy. Otherwise he would drive me crazy."
I turn the steak and sit back down and take the refilled glass of wine Sharon offers.
"Chardonnay doesn't solve anything." I say staring into the yellow gold liquid.
"Nah, but it can make things easier to deal with."
"Not really." I say, "I have been mad at Cal a long time."
"I don't know a couple of years."
"Is that all! I thought you two were coming up on your third wedding anniversary." Sharon kind of chuckles.
"We are. Right after his mother died my anger did take a vacation. But then one night it returned.
Cal just starts sobbing. I go to him and try to comfort him. He pulls away. He starts blubbering that he's all alone in the world. An orphan. He has no family left. I remind him I'm family. He blubbers on that I'm not family. We aren't blood relatives. I'm thinking this a good thing. Apparently, he's not thinking the same way. He says I can never replace the hole his mother's death left in his heart. Then he runs upstairs."
"What an ass." Sharon says softly.
"Exactly." I sigh.
"I know Roland would miss his family–well at least until the will's probated. But I have never doubted he feels the kids and I are his family now."
"I once thought we would have a child by now. I've just never felt secure enough with him to even try. Cal blew me away when we met. So much sparkle in his eyes when he'd laugh. He laughed a lot. He was fun and funny.
I just knew he loved me."
Sharon refills my glass again. "He's still funny."
Funny odd, I think to myself.
She puts her hand over mine and we sit like that until the steak comes off the grill.
Inside I begin slicing the meat on the diagonal. The aroma fills the kitchen and my stomach starts to growl. I fold a piece of the warm steak into my mouth. It tastes so good.
"Let me have a bite too." Fortunately, I bought two good size portions because Sharon and I polish off about a third of one of the pieces of meat.
"What?" Sharon is taken aback by my comment.
"Cal is ugly. Ever since that night when I look at him he is ugly. I try not to look at him anymore than I have to."CHAPTER 2
Sharon and I arrive at the luau about half past six. The caramelized soy, ginger, garlic smell of Azeka's special marinade fills the air.
Roland's pulling a batch of ribs off the grill.
"This first batch won't last long. Come and get it." Roland calls as he places the platter of ribs on the table.
"Azeka's best." He adds as walks back to the grill.
Azeka's ribs are legendary. What else can I do but grab a couple of them?
Like me, other partygoers begin to scarf them down like they haven't eaten in weeks. I'm lifting one to my lips when I see movement in the water.
"Look" I shout and point out to sea "whales."
A beautiful black and white vision jumps out of the water just about the time I point. So graceful. It's hard to believe the weight of the behemoth is measured in tons.
Cameras begin to click behind me. Another whale raises a mighty flipper, probably the size of a fishing boat, and slaps the water creating a splash we hear on the beach.
A plaintive call is heard and a third whale raises its tail and positions it right in the middle of the orange red setting sun. Another postcard picture.
Scenes like this occur daily here in Maui. How can I be sad I moved here?
I hear from everyone around me. They are mesmerized as am I. It just doesn't get any better I'm thinking, when ...
"I bet they feel just like I do when I cartwheel down the beach. It's like they know we are all watching." Redhead.
She has a nasal twang somewhere between deep in the heart of Dixie and Texas. It rips through me like a boning knife through a fish.
"Personally, I don't think they know we exist." I say trying to sound all self-righteous and condescending. "They're just getting on with their lives like their kind has for centuries." I stuff a fork full of macaroni salad in my mouth to silence myself.
The whales disappear just as the sun sets with its customary flash of green. Even if they stayed it would soon be too dark to see them.
"I'm Chastity." Again, Redhead intrudes on my peace of mind. She sticks out a perfectly manicured hand to shake.
I offer her my hand without the plate of food in it and immediately notice its chipped nails and ragged cuticles.
I say, "I'm Eva." She takes my hand without seeming to notice my need for a manicure. She shakes it hard, not what I expect from this living Barbie Doll.
Once again, I can't help getting caught up in the way she looks. Even fully clothed she's hypnotizing. I want to look away. I want to believe there's no redeeming value in looking like, what's her name again, Chastity?
Her emerald green one-piece swimsuit clings to her every curve like it's custom made. Against her red hair-striking. Just more conservative than I expected.
A faint gold paisley pattern swims through the suit. Over which she wears a pair of gold lamé shorts barely longer than the legs of her suit. Not positive but I think they were in some fashion magazine I bought in a moment of weakness. An emerald green silk shirt covers the outfit but hides nothing.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Eva in Paradise"
Copyright © 2018 Debra Anderson.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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