February is the month for romance,
and in the spirit of St. Valentine, the Star-Bulletin has teamed up
with the Aloha Chapter of the Romance Writers of America
to bring you "Tropical Dreams," in five parts.
In parts one and two, Lindsay Morgan was left at the altar
by her fiance, who sent his condolences via fax from Washington, D.C.
At the urging of Auntie Luana, who had arranged the ceremony through
her company, Pikake Dreams, Lindsay decided to go on her "honeymoon"
to escape the gossip of friends back home. Luana assigned her nephew
James -- nickname Pono -- to show Lindsay around.
Chapter One | Two | Three | Four | FiveBy Catherine Gail Bruhn
Special to the Star-Bulletin
Except for the two prim-looking twin beds, Pono decided that if he were the groom -- instead of a stand-in -- the honeymoon suite certainly would meet all his expectations.
A bouquet of flame orange heliconia and branches of yellow and white orchids stood on top of a koa wood table. Vibrant watercolors of hibiscus and plumeria blossoms decorated the walls. The French doors leading to the lanai opened to let the late afternoon breeze rustle the gauze curtains.
Pono caught a tantalizing glimpse of the silvery Pacific and the green hump of the Waianae Mountains. He smiled to himself thinking that this certainly should be enough to awaken in Lindsay the feeling of aina -- the love for the land that is Hawaii.
But Lindsay clearly had other things on her mind. "Posing for photographs in the lobby is fine," she said in a voice that sounded artificially bright, "but you needn't pretend with me. We can start by moving these beds apart."
She hitched up her wedding skirts to expose her calves, sheathed in white, lace-trimmed hose. "A gentleman would offer to help, you know." But her tone didn't make it sound like an order.
"Of course," Pono replied, gallantly bowing. "A truly considerate tour guide would've arranged all this beforehand."
The twin beds, covered in blue and white Hawaiian-style quilts, had been pushed together, Pono assumed, to better appeal to a honeymooning couple. As he helped Lindsay reposition the beds, Pono found himself intrigued by the smooth curve of her neck beneath her short-cut blonde hair. Her skin was tan, and he wondered if she spent time outdoors, or if the color came from one of those tanning salons. When Lindsay looked up, their eyes met, and Pono's face warmed.
"How about something to eat?" he asked to cover his embarrassment. On an end table was a basket filled with sweet bread, fresh mangoes, bananas, and Ka'u oranges. Pono figured more ono treats were stashed inside the small fridge.
"My auntie says you can't appreciate the islands without trying some of the food." Pono opened the fridge and was delighted to see a carton of poke. "Have you ever had tako?"
Lindsay had removed her tiara and short veil. She was concentrating on folding the veil into a careful square. "Mexican food's OK," she said, shrugging, "but your auntie promised us -- I mean, me -- lots of local food."
Pono grinned and opened the poke carton. "Well, this is truly local food." He took a pair of chopsticks and selected a sesame-seed flecked piece of fish. He held up the morsel, waiting for Lindsay to scrunch up her face.
"Don't spill," she said. "I'd like to sell this dress to someone who can actually use it. I certainly don't need it."
She let him feed her, and he was sure she would gag in disgust.
But she didn't. She chewed thoughtfully, savoring the flavors, then swallowed. "Some kind of salty fish. Lots of soy sauce, but not bad."
"It's marinated raw octopus," Pono said, absolutely positive she'd turn green now. He held out a napkin, feigning complete innocence.
Lindsay took the napkin and dabbed her lips, her blue eyes sparkling with what looked like wicked delight. "It takes more than a little raw octopus to make me squirm."
"Round one goes to the pretty haole," Pono said, tipping his head to show he was a good sport. He used the chopsticks to nab a bite of poke for himself. When he finished chewing, he smiled and said, "I like a woman who doesn't mind taking a chance."
"Well, that's a change, at least," Lindsay murmured. The sparkle disappeared from her eyes. "Russell didn't like things left to chance. He wanted me to organize our menus, our activities, our social calendar -- everything. Honestly, Russell wanted a schedule coordinator, not a wife." Her breezy confidence of a few moments before faded. Maybe she didn't know how lucky she was not to be tied to a man like her no-show groom.
"We don't have to talk about him anymore," Pono said. "Now's your chance to try something different. Why not let me show you my Hawaii?"
"What about the reservations? I thought ..."
Pono held up one hand to quiet her protest. "Auntie Luana can fix it all. She may not want to, but she'll do it for me. I'm her favorite nephew."
"How did you earn that honor?" Lindsay asked, brightening a bit. She sat down on one of the beds and slipped off her high heels. "Your auntie doesn't seem like the sort who is impressed by a fast-talker who's good with a pair of chopsticks."
"She pretty much raised me," Pono said, settling down next to her. "She says I'm like the son she never had. My uncle was a farmer, but he was more famous for his flowers. I try to carry on his love in my landscape designs." He used his hands to frame an imaginary landscape.
"I think of it as painting with blossoms and greenery," he said. "When I design a garden, I want others to feel like they're surrounded by beauty and mystery. I want them to feel what we Hawaiians call aina." He paused, thinking how corny all this must sound. "I didn't mean to bore you with my philosophy about life."
Lindsay surprised him by touching his arm. "It's not boring at all. In fact, it's quite refreshing. What's aina mean?"
Pono glanced out the window. "It's more than a word, really. Aina means how we should respect and cherish our land so it can support us in return. Protecting the wild mountains or the ocean is showing your respect, but so is planting a garden."
"I like that," Lindsay said, shifting to gaze earnestly at him. "I don't know if your auntie told you, but I run an art gallery. I sell a lot of things, but I like to show landscapes and natural-theme pieces the best. Not the sugary stuff you see in postcards, but pieces with real heart."
"You sound like a very special woman," Pono said. "Tomorrow, I'd like to take you someplace where you can see what I mean by aina."
"As long as it doesn't involve heights," Lindsay said. "As I told Auntie Luana, airplanes are OK, but that's only because you can read a book during the flight to keep your mind off the fact that you're not on solid ground."
Pono nodded. "I'll take care of everything. What I want to show you is better than any painting. It will take your breath away."
To be continued tomorrow.
Catherine Gail Bruhn has completed three novels, including an Orange County RWA Orange Rose contest final manuscript, "The Rednecked Girl at the Roadside Rest." Her writing has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times and Fielding Worldwide travel guides. She is married with two children.
About the writer
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