Monday Check-in: Julia
The orchid on her pillow did it. Julia arrived in Oahu on a late flight from Chicago, ill-fed, stiff, wearing too many clothes. In the fourteenth-floor room of her Waikiki Beach hotel, the fuchsia jewel suggested a treasure chest of possibilities. She slid open the lanai door, shed her clothes, and melted into bed. The flower-drunk air kissed her good night; the ocean sang her to sleep.
At daybreak, a teasing breeze investigated her room, slipped through the closet’s louvers, and ruffled the clothing hanging there, light as a pickpocket’s touch. Rose and gold clouds hugged the horizon and framed a tourist’s view of Diamond Head. Surfers waited, their bobbing heads sprinkling the ocean like peppercorns.
A lone man swam back and forth across the blue cattleya that glowed from the bottom of the hotel pool. She sat on her lanai, drank coffee, watched . . . interested. He flipped onto his back and regarded the bank of hotel rooms. The sun broke the horizon, and, gradually, people appeared on the beach. Early people, stuck in wrong time zones.
In sundress and sandals, the bright orchid pinned in her hair, Julia strolled to breakfast at the House Without a Key. The swimmer sat at a nearby table. Over the top of his menu, his eyes smiled at her. She smiled back. In the garden alongside the restaurant, one of the seven brides Julia would see that day posed for pictures. The air was that precise temperature where it cannot be felt at all, and the world held its breath.
A waiter brought pineapple juice and a note. “Dinner – La Mer – 7 pm?” She rubbed the orchid’s velvet petal between finger and thumb and with the offered pen wrote, “Sharp.”
Thursday Check-in: Kurt
Business meetings in Hawai`i are an affront, Kurt thought, and scowled at the view. From his fourteenth floor lanai, every single thing he could see was infinitely preferable to another marketing meeting. The orchid pool. He hadn’t surfed in years, but . . . Girls in bikinis decorating the beach bars. The snorkeling bay hidden behind Diamond Head.
Hours later, in the windowless downtown conference room, the afternoon dragged, participants grew edgy, needed breaks, shifted in their chairs. Early adjournment.
For a forty-eight-year-old man, at least that many pounds past trim, Kurt moved fast. Within a quarter-hour of re-entering the hotel, he was downstairs again in turquoise swim trunks, t-shirt, and flip-flops, gleaming with suntan oil. In even less time, he hugged a longboard and splashed into the sea.
The surf shop’s rental manager, a skinny kid with sun-whitened hair, took out his camera. He wasn’t going to miss this.
Saturday Check-in: The Thorntons
Standing on the lanai, Bill sighed first. The Halekulani—“their” hotel—had grown and changed since their honeymoon, but the ocean hadn’t. The welcome hadn’t. The feeling they’d found a place where everything was good hadn’t. Dee twirled the pink orchid and let it draw her into memory’s arms, fourteen floors above the beach where they’d been young.