Authors: Di Morrissey
Di Morrissey is one of Australia's bestselling writers. She began writing as a young woman, training and working as a journalist for Australian Consolidated Press in Sydney and Northcliffe Newspapers in London. She worked in television in Australia and Hawaii and in the USA as a presenter, reporter, producer and actress. After her marriage to a US diplomat, Peter Morrissey, they were posted to Singapore, Thailand, South America and Washing-ton, DC. During this time she worked as a freelance journalist, TV and film scriptwriter and radio broadcaster, appeared in theatre productions and had several short stories published. Returning to Australia, Di continued to work in television before publishing her first novel in 1991.
Di has a daughter, Gabrielle Hansen, who is expecting Di's first grandchild, and Di's son, Nick Morrissey, is a Buddhist scholar and lecturer.
Di and her partner, Boris Janjic, divide their time between Byron Bay and the Manning Valley in New South Wales when not travelling to research her novels, which are all inspired by a particular landscape.
Also by Di Morrissey
Heart of the DreamingThe Last Rose of SummerFollow the Morning StarThe Last Mile HomeTears of the MoonWhen the Singing StopsThe SongmasterScatter the StarsBlazeThe BayKimberley SunBarra CreekThe ReefThe ValleyMonsoon
First published in Macmillan in 2008 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited1 Market Street, Sydney
Copyright Â© Babette Smith 1991
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.
National Library of Australiacataloguing-in-publication data:
The islands / Di Morrissey.
ISBN 978-1-4050-3856-0 (pbk.)
Typeset in 12.5/15.5 pt Sabon Roman by Post Pre-press GroupPrinted in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group
Internal map by Laurie WhiddonInternal illustrations by Donald K. Hall, HawaiiPhotographs on pages 1 and 446 by Getty Images
The characters in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons,living or dead, is purely coincidental.
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These electronic editions published in 2008 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd1 Market Street, Sydney 2000
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the publisher.
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About Di Morrissey
Also by Di Morrissey
As always, hugs to my amazing children who give me such love, support and joy â Gabrielle and Nick.
My darling partner, Boris, who makes each day so wonderful.
My dear family, Jim and Ron Revitt, Ro, Pauline, David, Damien, Julie, Emma and all my lovely cousins. And a big happy 95th to darling Dorothy Morrissey.
Thank you to friends who were so helpful â Lloyd and Margaret Wood and their network in Honolulu, Peter Morrissey, former USA surf champion, Rusty Miller and some special soul surfers who wish to be anonymous. And not forgetting my old friend, Ted Johnston.
Thanks and love to my non-surfing lawyer, Ian Robertson and my pal and publisher, James Fraser.
To everyone at Pan Macmillan â Ross Gibb, Roxarne Burns, Jeannine Fowler, Jane Novak, Katie Crawford, Elizabeth Foster, Millie Shilland. And thanks to eagle-eyed copyeditor Rowena Lennox.
And a special thanks to Liz Adams (and Richard) for your friendship, patience and for being such a wonderful editor!
And to the late legendary waterman, Tom Blake, who inspired the character of Lester.
In memory of my dearest mother, Kay, with whom I first visited The Islands.
THE SKY-BLUEHOLDEN STATIONwagon wound along the freshly graded dirt road lined by elderly eucalypts, a firmly anchored landmark for nearly one hundred years. The landscape was familiar to the man driving and the girl beside him. Catherine Moreland and Robert Turner were neighbours. Robert, his sisters and parents lived on a large property settled by his great-grandfather. Catherine's grandfather had started grazing sheep in the same district. Catherine and Robert had known each other since childhood.
Mollie Aitken, Catherine's girlfriend, sat in the back seat looking at countryside unfamiliar to her, as the two old friends in front chatted about local news and the big party that night for Catherine's twenty-first birthday. For Mollie it'd been a bit of a shock flying from Sydney into the rural district where there seemed to be nothing but paddocks, hills and a river. From the twin-engined, propellered plane, towns below looked to be small and few and far between. After living in trendy, inner city suburbs these open spaces made her feel very isolated.
Mollie had heard stories about bush bashes and how fantastic the parties were, so she'd been excited to be asked to Catherine's twenty-first. Catherine had told her that there were lots of single boys in the district but now, having seen where they lived, Mollie knew she could never survive so far away from shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment. But she was looking forward to the weekend house party, especially tonight's big celebration.
The Peel Airport was basic â a dressed-up shed really â and Mollie had been amused to walk outside to collect her bag from a trolley wheeled from the plane to the side of the terminal.
The drive seemed interminable although Rob and Catherine kept her entertained, describing some of the people coming to the party and giving sketchy, sometimes lurid, details of previous escapades at parties and balls over the years.
Mollie had met Catherine during a holiday on the Great Barrier Reef and they had kept in touch. On visits to Sydney Catherine stayed with Mollie. Now it was Catherine's turn to host her. Mollie had never been to a rural property in north-western New South Wales or anywhere else in the countryside before this visit. She knew that this property had been part of Catherine's grandfather's much larger holding. Over the years it had been broken up and had gone from raising sheep to become a smaller property where Catherine's father Keith raised stud Murray Grey cattle. He might be a solicitor working in Peel, the nearby regional town, but these cattle were his passion.
Mollie had been told that while other friends were coming from Sydney and Brisbane for Catherine's twenty-first, the majority of the guests would be neighbours and friends from school days.
Mollie was relieved when Catherine pointed out the enormous mailbox withHeatherbraepainted on its side and announced that they'd arrived as they turned into a narrow dusty road. Yet they continued to drive for what seemed ages past fences and dusty paddocks and the occasional head of Keith Moreland's prized cattle.
Rob glanced in the rear-vision mirror noting a truck following them, keeping well clear of the plume of orange dust kicked up by the station wagon.
âSo how many are coming tonight?' asked Rob. âSeems like everyone and their dog from the district.'
âWell, it is Cathy's twenty-first,' Mollie reminded him. âAnd she's an only child.'
âIt's looking like a B and S ball without the ball,' grinned Catherine. âI have a sinking feeling the two hundred people I asked are all going to turn up.'
âWhat's B and S?' asked Mollie.
âBachelors and Spinsters .Â .Â . meaning anyone who's single and under thirty generally.'
âOh, I see. Sounds a bit old fashioned, who calls themself a spinster in 1971?'
âIt's a term,' said Catherine. âI'm glad it's not going to rain,' she added, looking at the cloudless blue sky.
âWe could do with some follow-up rain,' sighed Rob.
âSpoken like a true farmer,' laughed Catherine.
Mollie leant forward as the house came into view. Several vehicles, muddy and dusty, were already parked close to the big shed behind the gracious white homestead.
The house was an old building, with French doors opening onto the long latticed and colonnaded verandah. A sleep-out with striped canvas blinds ran along one side and the sandstone steps from the verandah led to a length of well watered lawn and thick flowering shrubbery. The house had an air of permanence, of solid respectability, of having survived hard seasons, a place where children were born, raised and played. An extension built in the 1960s blended in. The fresh white paint and startling bright aqua pool announced that, although this was a classic building, it was also a modern home.
They got out of the station wagon and Rob reached for Mollie's bag as Rosemary, Catherine's mother, came to greet them.
âPlane must have been on time. Thanks for doing the airport run, Rob. All our vehicles are running about the countryside either working or on party business.'
âNo trouble at all, Mrs Moreland.'
âAnd welcome to you, Mollie. I suppose you're hanging out for a cup of tea?' She led the way into the house followed by Robert and Catherine.
âI certainly wouldn't say no,' sighed Mollie. âOh, it's so nice and cool in here.'
âIt's the thick walls, Dad says it's like a wine cellar, constant temperature. Even in winter,' said Catherine. âMy grandfather built the house of mud bricks.'
âI've put you in the little spare room at the back of the house.' Rosemary headed down the cool dark hallway of polished wood where family photographs were hung next to photos of prize-winning bulls and horses.
âI suppose the early arrivals are getting stuck into the beer,' said Rob with some longing.
âProbably. But I've given those fellows a few jobs to do, so I hope they get them finished before getting onto the grog,' said Rosemary. âMake yourself at home, Rob, there's a bed or two left in the sleep-out.'
âI'm okay. I have my swag, thanks, Mrs Moreland. At least the weather is holding.'
âIt's going to be a lovely night. Perfect for you, Catherine.'
Rob swung Mollie's bag onto the bed and grinned at the girls. âThere you go. I'll be off then and see if there's anything I can do out where they're setting up.'
Catherine laughed. âYou do that. See you later. Thanks again for the ride.' As she helped Mollie hang up her dresses she whispered, âHe'll be straight over to the boys at the keg.'
âWhat time does it all start?' asked Mollie.
âSeems like it already has,' said Rosemary. âI'll leave you girls to it. Shout if you need anything, Mollie, dear.'
âRob is nice, I see what you mean about country boys â very polite. Good looking too. Have you and Rob, ever, you know, been boyfriend girlfriend?' asked Mollie, keen to sort out which boys might be available. She intended to make the most of her long weekend in the country.
âHeavens, no!' exclaimed Catherine. âHe's like a brother. We had to sit in kindergarten classes together.'
âWhere was the kindergarten?' wondered Mollie. âIt must have been a long trip.'
âOh Mum ran it here atHeatherbrae, there were quite a few of us. There was always a family or two with kids. Later we went into Peel on a bus but Rob went to boarding school in Sydney. Now, let's get some tea and I'll show you around.'
âWhat room is the party in? Or is it on the verandah?' Mollie hadn't seen anywhere that could hold a large group.
Catherine burst out laughing. âIt's down in the paddock .Â .Â . as far away from the house as possible. The oldies stay up here. We'll come up here later in the evening for the official toast and to cut the cake.'
âA paddock! But I brought a new lace outfit and high heels!'
âDon't worry, everyone dresses up. Like I told you, these parties can last till sunrise! Or until the booze runs out. We can make as much noise as we want to â the nearest neighbours are miles away and they are all here anyway! I've got a few chores to do. I'm going to help Dad move our horses further away so the party doesn't upset them. Want to come?'
âI'm not very horsey,' said Mollie. âI might have a bit of a rest and freshen up. Remember, I left home very early this morning!'
Catherine rode beside her father as they led a young horse behind them. The horses walked slowly side by side allowing Catherine and her father to talk.
âThanks for throwing the party, Dad.'
âGot to celebrate the big occasion. Hope everyone has a good time. Not too good a time,' he added. âI know some of the boys can drink a dam dry.'
âThey'll be okay, Dad. At least everyone is staying the night. Glad it's not raining, though we could've moved it to the shed I guess.'
âYeah, like we did for my fiftieth.' Keith Moreland was quiet for a moment, then asked, âSo, anyone special here? In the man department?'
âYou know better than that, Dad. They're all just friends. Some are engaged, a couple married, I've known most of them since I was little.'
âDoesn't mean you can't fall in love with them. It's the best way, starting out as friends first, knowing their family background, liking the same things. Country people tend to marry country people. It's a different way of life to city people. And as for these new flower-power hippie types, well, I'm blowed if I know what they're on about. Or where they fit in.'
Catherine chuckled. âNone of them round these parts, Dad.'
They rode in silence for a few more moments, but Keith persisted probing into his daughter's love life. âSo no-one special, eh? I thought that Brian Grimshaw was a bit keen on you.'
âOh, we had a few dates. Nothing serious. Anyway he's brought up a girl from Sydney for tonight's party.'
âAnd your friend Mollie, she got her eye on some of our bush boys?'
âIf she does it will only be for the short term. There's no way she'd live out here.'
âAnd you? What are you going to do with your life, eh, love? Twenty-one is the time to think about these things.'
âI don't know, Dad. I can't think of living anywhere but here. I had a couple of months in Sydney and that was enough for me.'
They busied themselves getting the horses into a small paddock, unsaddled them and threw the gear into the farm ute that Keith had earlier left by the fence. Catherine was thinking about what her father had said. Just where would she end up? Mollie had once said to her that she had to get off the property or she'd end up an old maid looking after her ageing parents. But this threat didn't worry Catherine as she felt a deep attachment to her home and the country around it. The beauty of the landscape, its familiarity, was close to her heart. It was a lifestyle she appreciated. She couldn't imagine living in a city, in suburbia. While she still worked in her father's office in Peel, she knew she had the freedom to move on or do something else any time she wanted. She was amused by her parents' interest in her love life but, unlike her girlfriends, she wasn't worried that she didn't have a regular boyfriend or any immediate prospects of settling down.
She was happy with life the way it was.
In the far paddock, surrounded by vehicles, long trestle tables and chairs were placed near an old bathtub filled with drinks cooling in ice under wet hessian bags. Close by was a keg of beer and a newly erected bush barbecue. A bonfire was ready to light even though the weather was warm, for by evening it would provide welcome light.
Closer to the homestead a guesthouse that had been the shearers' quarters in Catherine's grandfather's day had been taken over by a group of girls who were early arrivals. There was an understood demarcation between the adults, who would be staying in the house, and the young people in the paddock, so that the groups didn't encroach on each other.
After the party people would crash in swags on the ground or sleep in their cars. Many would be so drunk that they'd sleep anywhere and not notice any discomfort.
Perched on bales of hay, on chairs and benches and on blankets on the patchy grass, Catherine's friends talked and laughed, catching up with news and acquaintances they hadn't seen in months. Two couples had a toddler and a baby, another girl was showing off her engagement ring. No-one was older than twenty-four and most had known each other forever.
At the main house the women who were friends of the Morelands helped Rosemary in the kitchen. The men had taken over the verandah, perched on the railing under the wisteria vine that in spring dripped bunches of lavender blooms. Other men sat in the old cane verandah chairs and on the front steps, beers in hand, discussing cattle prices, the economy, Prime Minister Billy McMahon, rain and rabbits.
Everyone was dressed up â ties and jackets, highly polished good boots for the men, the young women choosing mini skirts or halter-neck patio dresses, or colourful palazzo pyjamas. Most of the mothers had opted for maxi skirts, which they topped with frilled or satin blouses. Rosemary had wanted to hire some young people who worked in the pub in town to help serve drinks at the house party, but Keith told her it wasn't necessary. âAnd those kids don't need a bartender either. They'll look after themselves.'
Down in the paddock, there was some dancing, with a lot of stumbling on the roughly cleared ground, but it was mostly drinking, talking and much laughter. Catherine was hugged, kissed and teased by her friends. Occasionally she got into intense conversations she suspected wouldn't be recalled in the morning. But mostly she found herself looking around at the gathering as if just an observer. The firelight and lanterns flickered light and shadows across familiar faces. There was an atmosphere of friendship, nearly everybody knew and liked everybody else. Sometimes Catherine thought it was like being part of a clan.
Keith came into the kitchen and found his wife supervising trays of hot sausage rolls, meatballs and meat pies. âI'd better do the honours and get the young people up here for the birthday toast.'
âWell, since you're doing the speech,' she answered, âI'll get the camera.'
With everybody gathered and overflowing from the lounge room onto the screened verandah, Keith stepped forward and raised his voice.
âLadies and gentleman .Â .Â . your attention. Please charge your glasses.'
As bottles of champagne were passed and glasses topped up, Rosemary studied their only child and realised that Catherine really was grown up. She'd always been such a tomboy around the farm and she never looked her age. But now with carefully applied make-up, her hair teased and piled on top of her head and high-heeled sandals peeping below her silky green and purple Pucci print palazzo outfit, she looked elegant and sophisticated, a change from her usual outdoorsy-look of windswept burnished brown curls. Her skin was creamy, with a dusting of freckles, her hazel-green eyes clear and wide. Catherine's upturned mouth always seemed to be smiling and while not tall, she was shapely, slim and sporty fit.
âShe looks lovely. Is there a special boy around tonight?' asked Glenys, Rosemary's old school friend.
âA couple I think,' whispered Rosemary.
âShe needs a serious boyfriend. Half her friends are engaged or married,' said Glenys. âBut she deserves someone very special.'
Rosemary put her finger to her lips as Keith continued.
âThank you all for coming tonight to celebrate our Catherine's coming of age. I hope you agree with me how beautiful she looks and we all know what a beautiful person she is as well.'
There was a hearty cheer at this and Catherine blushed.
âIt's difficult for a father to admit that his daughter is now a grown woman and setting out in the world to make her own life.' Keith gave Catherine a fond smile. âBecause you'll always be our little girl. But in addition to this great party â thanks to her mother, Rosemary, her team of helpers and friends â I'd like to give Catherine a little extra gift.' He drew an envelope from his pocket and smiled at his daughter. âYou give us more joy than you'll ever know, Catherine, and while I know you'll eventually choose some lucky boy .Â .Â .'
More comments greeted this remark with a few calls for attention from a couple of lads sporting long sideburns.
âBefore you settle down in the good old district of Russell Plains, your mother and I would like you to see a bit more of the world â just to confirm we live in the best damn country in the universe.'
Another loud cheer greeted this comment.
âAnd so here is a ticket to London â return of course! But with a bit of a stopover holiday in Hawaii when you choose to come back. Enjoy it, sweetheart.' He leant down to kiss Catherine as she took the envelope from her father to big applause.
Rosemary had given Rob her camera to take pictures and Rob now eased to one side to get a better angle of Catherine.
âCome on, love, say a few words.' Keith helped Catherine onto a chair so everyone could see and hear her.
Catherine gazed out at her friends and family, their smiling faces lit by the moonlight and reflections from the strings of coloured lights strung around the roof outside and she felt a rush of gratitude and love for the life she had.
âThank you all so much for being here to share this evening. Thank you, Mum and Dad, for being .Â .Â . just so great. London .Â .Â .' She fingered the envelope. âI've always wanted to travel, but tonight, I have to agree with Dad, we are lucky to be here. We live in such a peaceful and beautiful place. With good neighbours, good friends .Â .Â . it's exciting to think about seeing the world, but it's always going to be good to come home. I hope you're all having a great night â I am!' She raised her arms and everyone applauded as she hugged her parents.
Rob circled the crowd and edged outside to cut through the kitchen.
âMum, I don't know what to say. This is too much,' said Catherine to her mother.
âNonsense, go now, before you settle down. Travelling isn't the same with kids and a husband. Have fun.' She raised an eyebrow. âIs Brian Grimshaw here?'
âYeah, he's here,' said Catherine, knowing her mother hoped their friendship would bloom into an engagement. âHe's here with friends.' She didn't add that her ex-boyfriend had brought along a new girl he'd met at the picnic races a few weeks back.
Catherine was very glad she had something to look forward to and plans to make. She'd saved a bit of money working in her father's office, and now with the plane tickets she knew she'd be leaving the district for a few months.
As she embraced her mother's friend, Glenys, there was a sudden shout from outside.
âChrist, someone's in the pool!' It was Rob's voice.
Catherine grinned at her mother. They'd had a bet someone would jump in the pool at some stage of the night.
But Rob's shouting was urgent and people were rushing to the patio.
As Catherine pushed through the crowd she knew something was wrong by the sudden change in atmosphere and the alarmed shouts calling for Doctor Haybourne. In the bright blue floodlit pool she saw Rob, dripping wet, dragging a young man from the water. He was fully clothed and seemed to be unconscious.
Rob knelt over him, trying to resuscitate him. Her father was kneeling beside him. An older man pushed through and hurried to join them.
âThank God, the doc is here,' said a guest.
As Doctor Haybourne leant over the young man, Rob turned the youth's head, and he began to cough and splutter.
âC'mon, Dave, spew it up,' said Rob. âHe's okay, he's coming to. How is he, Doc?'
They helped the young man sit up. âLet me check him, seems you got to him in time, Rob. You're a very lucky young man, I'd say,' he said to the dazed boy. Clearly he had drunk too much and had either passed out or tripped and fallen into the pool. âRob's quick actions got you out before any damage was done.'
âYou booze too much, Davo,' said Rob cheerfully.
Keith headed back into the house. âRighto, show's over. Doc Haybourne has everything under control. Everyone inside, it's all okay.' In an aside to Rosemary he muttered, âSome of these boys drink themselves into oblivion. No bloody control.' He raised his voice and said brightly, âNow where were we?'
âAre we cutting the cake?' asked Rosemary.
âGood idea, love. Okay, everyone, cake time, gather round.' Keith tried to revive the jovial atmosphere as people were talking among themselves.
Rosemary put the large cake lit with twenty-one candles on the table. âOver here, everyone. I hope there's enough to go round. Blow out the candles and make a wish, darling,' she said, holding her daughter's hand.
Now that the drama was over, Catherine squeezed her eyes shut and blew the candles out in a rush, but to her surprise she couldn't think of a wish. It seemed to her that she had all she wanted in the world at this very moment.
Her father handed her a silver knife to cut the cake as the guests roared out the words of âHappy Birthday'.
Catherine sought Rob out after he'd dried himself and borrowed some clothes from her father.
âThanks, Rob. That could have been an awful accident.'
âJust lucky I was trying to get to the front to get a good shot. Thought it'd be quicker to go round the outside than trying to squeeze through the mob inside. Then I spotted him. Gave me a shock when I saw him face down, thought he was a goner.'
âThanks again. Hope you haven't suffered any damage. Is your watch waterproof?'
Rob's date rushed up and handed him a glass of beer. âHere you go. Wasn't he wonderful?' she gushed to Catherine. âSuch a shame it nearly ruined your party.'
âAw, cut it out, Barb, it was no big drama.'
âHe would've drowned if you hadn't been there,' she exclaimed.
âYes, well, anyone would've done the same thing. Lucky I was on the spot, so to speak. Cheers, Catherine. It's a great party,' he said cheerfully.
âThanks, Rob. Enjoy yourselves.'
In the early hours of the morning as a cool breeze brought relief to those in swags and sleeping bags under the night sky, Catherine walked softly outside. Soon her parents and their friends would be in the kitchen brewing tea, starting breakfast. The hair-of-the-dog party would see the hungover young people hitting the bloody marys and beer again, until a big barbecue helped sober them up so they could start the long trek back to their properties.
Dawn wasn't far off and she could smell the earth under its layer of fine dew. A horse whinnied and the distant ridge of hills was a smudge against the lightening sky. This was home, everything familiar for as long as she could remember. She'd reached a milestone and she filed away these moments to take with her into the next stage of her life.
Catherine thought she'd never get used to the cold. And the drizzling rain of London never seemed to make its mind up to stop. She wished it would just get it over and done with and pour down in a weighty blanket of water. She missed the wild storms at home that swept across the paddocks in torrential streaming rain.
She picked her way between puddles, holding her coat to her throat and clutching her umbrella as she bumped into pedestrians with the same intent. It was grey, night closing in, yet it was still early afternoon. Lights were on in shops and pubs, car headlights shone on the wet pavement and roads. At the end of Aldwych she turned into The Strand and entered the grey stone building where the Australian flag flapped damply above the sign â Australia House.
With her name ticked off the list at the main desk she was directed to the small reception room where a drinks party hosted by Brian Lord, the Australian cultural attachÃ©, was underway. He was an old school friend of her father's and had sent her an invitation when he knew she was staying in London. Shyly Catherine edged into the room with its dark panelling and sombre leather furniture. People were talking quietly in subdued groups. She glanced at the bright photographs of Australian beaches and landscapes and thought they looked almost garish compared to the grey afternoon outside.
A waiter proffered a tray of drinks â sherry, beer, lemonade or wine. She took a glass of wine and stood at the fringe of people around the attachÃ©, who quickly stepped aside and drew her into the group. She introduced herself and he greeted her warmly.
âGood to see you, Catherine, how's your dad? Had any rain up your way?'
âHe sends his regards and as usual they're hoping for follow-up rain. Thank you for inviting me.'
âPleasure. Hope you're enjoying Londontown. Working holiday?'
âBit of both. I'm planning to go to the continent soon.'
âWonderful. Now, let's see, do you know anyone here?
A few expats and a couple of Peace Corps volunteers from the US. Few military bods. Mainly people involved in the arts here and from home.' He gestured at the young people around him. âThese fine fellows are from a theatre based in Melbourne and are currently touring the provinces.'
They smiled and nodded and Catherine glanced at their name tags but didn't recognise any names.
âWe host these little events every few months,' continued the attachÃ©. âNow if you'll excuse me .Â .Â .' He headed to another group leaving Catherine with the actors.
Catherine made small talk, where are you from, how long are you here for, what is the play you're doing â though she had to confess she'd never seen it. âI live in the country, it's hard to get to the theatre.'
A man appeared beside her. âI hope you're making the most of your time here, the theatre is wonderful.'
He had an American accent and was wearing a smart US naval uniform. He smoothly joined their group, extending his hand. âHello, I'm Lieutenant Bradley Connor, pleased to meet you.'
Catherine was last to shake his hand and introduce herself.
âSo you're not an actor? You're a country girl, you said. How long are you staying in London?' he asked.
âOh, it's flexible. I'm staying in a flat with friends and we all come and go. I'm trying to see as much as possible. What about you? Holiday or working?' asked Catherine.
âI'm trying to do a bit of both. Although I'm with the US navy, I have a desk job at the consulate at present. What about you? What are you doing here?' asked Bradley.
âMr Lord went to school with my father. I doubt they've seen each other in years and years but, you know, the old school tie and all that.'
âOh, I think I understand what you mean.' He looked around. âThis is a bit dull. Would you like to go for a decent drink and a bite to eat nearby? There're some great pubs around here.'
Catherine only hesitated for an instant. Bradley seemed charming, was very handsome, and she had nothing else planned. âI'd love to. Where'd you have in mind?'
âThe Cheshire Cheese in Fleet Street. It's always full of interesting characters. Journalists and the like.'
Catherine had a terrific evening. After the pub, Bradley took her to a small Italian restaurant and they talked for hours over a bottle of red wine. She'd told him about living on a property, small by Australian standards, and described her lifestyle. He was from California, had a brother and a sister at college and had joined the navy not just to follow in his father's footsteps, but also because he loved to travel.
Bradley dropped her off in a taxi after they'd exchanged phone numbers. Catherine bounced into the flat she was sharing to tell her flatmates about her great time only to find the other girls were out. The next morning she described her evening and the girls agreed that it sounded as though Catherine had the highest score in the date department for that week.
Her date rating went through the roof when the following Friday evening Bradley called at the flat in South Kensington to take her to dinner and gave her a posy of tiny pink rosebuds. Catherine introduced him to her flatmates, who told her later that he looked like a movie star.
And so Friday night dinner became a regular event and soon Saturday night as well. Bradley played tennis with fellow officers on Sundays and during the week his schedule was busy. Catherine could well imagine Bradley would be an attractive asset at the many events the consulate participated in and hosted.
While she enjoyed Bradley's company, she didn't want to limit her own experiences in swinging London. Bradley, she found, didn't like the disco scene, but they both enjoyed walking the streets of London exploring its nooks and crannies.
She planned trips to Paris, Spain and Greece. Bradley listened, offered advice and suggestions and gave her the impression that he'd be waiting and available in London when she returned.
âHave you slept with him?' asked Donna, one of the girls in the flat Catherine shared.
âNo! Of course not. I mean, he's not like that.'
âWhat's wrong with him? He's so attractive.'
Catherine smiled. âYes, he is. But he's so .Â .Â . polite, gentle .Â .Â . considerate.'
âConservative, you mean,' said Donna. âI'd be seducing him if I were you.'
âAnd have him think I'm cheap? I'd like him to be around for a bit.'
âAw, come on, Catherine. Make the most of it. You're not going to land this man on a permanent basis.'
âWhy do you say that?' asked Catherine huffily.
âNo offence, sweetie, but he's an officer in the US navy and going places. Up the ladder. He's probably got a girl back in California. He's too .Â .Â . different. Not our sort of fellow. Not the sort you settle down with. Can you imagine him in Peel?'
âAnd you can't imagine me in California?' retorted Catherine.
âCome on, Catherine, men like Bradley .Â .Â . well, they're different from us. And why do you always call him Bradley? What's wrong with Brad?'
âWell,' said Catherine, âI don't think he likes his name shortened. He's not a Brad sort of person.'
âOkay then, just enjoy yourself. He's generous, takes you nice places. Get on the pill, have a good time. Make the most of it while you can, I say,' finished Donna.
Catherine just smiled and thought that although Donna's comments were well meant, they contained a few sour grapes, but they challenged her. Bradley hadn't given any indication of wanting to take her to bed, but he kissed her quite nicely and he'd never mentioned another girl back home. He was always so decent and thoughtful, she felt sure he would have mentioned any other girl so as not to lead her on.
Catherine couldn't help comparing him to some of the boys back home. Bradley was so sophisticated, he'd certainly never get drunk. He wouldn't fall in a pool, or make a fool of himself. He'd once told her how naval officers were always on show, representing the navy, in or out of uniform. He didn't often talk about his work, instead they talked about the world in general, things that interested them, the shows, films and theatre that they saw in London. And they shared stories of their families and growing up.
âSo what are you going to do in Paris?' Bradley asked over dinner two nights later. âHave you friends there? Is anyone going with you?'
âNo. I thought I'd strike out on my own. I've been surrounded by friends here. I have a very detailed list of places to go and see, things to do. I'm looking forward to it.'
âTo Paris? Or being on your own?' he asked.
âWhy Paris, of course,' she laughed.
He took a mouthful of food. âIt doesn't seem right â going to Paris on your own. Unless of course you're looking for a romantic interlude .Â .Â .'
âWith a stranger? I don't think so.'
âWhat about me?'
Catherine blinked. âYou? You mean, come to Paris with me?'
âI've never been. I didn't like the idea of seeing the city of lights on my own. Perhaps we could .Â .Â . well, do it together. I'll find my own pension or something. Where are you staying by the way?' When Catherine didn't answer straight away, he hastily added, âThat's only if you'd like some company. Purely platonic of course.'
âOf course,' she smiled. âI think it's a great idea.'
âYou do? Fantastic.' He sounded relieved. âI hope you don't have the wrong idea or anything.'
âOf course not. But I insist we split expenses. Meals and travel and so on.'
He went to protest, but then nodded. âAgreed. That's very fair. And it's only for a week. I'll have to see if I can get leave.'
The next day he phoned her to say he couldn't get time off. âI'm very disappointed.'
âMe too,' said Catherine and realised how much she'd been looking forward to their trip together. Bradley was such good company.
She adored Paris but occasionally as she sat in a cafÃ© watching the crowds she wished Bradley was with her. She wished she could talk to him and share her feelings and experiences of the beautiful city. She dutifully worked her way through her list of must-see places, but occasionally she just followed a boulevard, wandered through a park or along the Seine to see where she ended up.
On her way to join the queues at the Louvre, Catherine passed a small gallery that was holding a photographic exhibition. Intrigued by the poster and the photograph on display she decided to go in and look around.
She was riveted by the photographs â mostly black and white images of people, places and streets scenes in a grainy, gritty Paris she'd never imagined. A bed on a floor with rumpled white sheets beneath a curtainless window that framed a chimney stack. A beautiful naked Indian woman in an old white claw-foot bath. A long-haired man in a doorway in a shaggy sheepskin jacket smoking a joint. Two girls in beads and kaftans behind a stall selling knick-knacks, old lace and books. A wet cobblestone street with a hunched figure in a bulky coat beneath a large black umbrella.
The exhibition was titledA Slice of Lifeand it made her think of the contrast with her own life â clean, comfortable, safe. As she continued on her walk she filed away the idea that maybe one day she'd pick up something more than her instamatic camera and document her home, its town, landscape and people.
Back at the flat in London, there was an envelope on her bed. She didn't recognise the writing, and there was no stamp. It was from Bradley.
Terrible news! I've had to leave London. Been transferred to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii as an urgent replacement for an officer. It's a far more interesting assignment than London and I'll get back to the sunshine which appeals! However I am so very disappointed to miss seeing you to say good-bye. Or au revoir. I hope you had a wonderful time in Paris. You said you had a ticket home via Honolulu .Â .Â . so I hope you'll let me know and plan to stop over as I would very much like to see you again. If I may, I'll call you. My contact address is below. I haven't a home phone as I'm in quarters.
âWell, that's that then,' said Donna after Catherine showed the girls the letter.
âWhy do you say that? I'll definitely look him up in Honolulu,' said Catherine.
âA fling maybe. Listen, don't hold your breath over that one. We met some groovy blokes who're in a band. Come with us to the pub tonight. They're playing in the back room and they're terrific. We can all hang out with them afterwards.'
âI'm tired. Maybe some other time.'
âYeah, righto.' Donna left Catherine and whispered to the other two girls, âLet her get over the Yank sailor.'
âAmerican officer,' Catherine called out before shutting her door. Loudly.
She lay on her bed and fingered the blue notepaper with Bradley's curling, tidy handwriting. She'd go to Greece and Spain, she'd go to the Lake District as she'd planned, and go to Hawaii on the way home. She was not going to mope about the handsome American. Anyway, two boys from home were due in London and she'd promised to show them around. One of them was Dave who'd fallen in the pool at her party. She hoped he wouldn't get drunk, or fight, or fall over in her company. But she was glad to be seeing someone from home.
Catherine sent Bradley a polite note telling him a little of her trip to Paris, that she was sorry she missed saying goodbye, she wished him well and said she might just stop into Honolulu on her way back to Australia in several months time.
She then booked her flight to Hawaii just to be sure. But she didn't tell anyone. Even if Bradley wasn't there, her parents had given her a week in a nice hotel as part of her twenty-first birthday trip.
Knowing sunny Hawaii was booked made the greyness of London more bearable.
THE AIR WAS PUNGENT. Sweet. A tradewind lifted the damp curls on Catherine's neck. The sun was warm. In the background she heard Hawaiian steel guitars playing. Her body was relaxing after the long flight. The snowy stopover in New York had been tiring and the weather had been freezing. Here in Honolulu the bright sunlight, the colourful clothes, the flowers, made her feel the plane had landed on a different planet. These initial sensations would stay with her the rest of her life.
In the airport terminal everyone was smiling, welcoming, greeting people with âAloha, aloha'. Walking through the exit Catherine saw waving palms outside the glass doors and a blur of faces.
And there was Bradley, just as he'd promised.
In the last few months, Bradley had surprised Catherine with letters and occasional phone calls and this had strengthened the bond between them. The distance had given them time to develop a different relationship where they'd exchanged thoughts and feelings on all kinds of subjects, the kind of things that might be difficult to say face to face. And without the physical closeness there wasn't any pressure to move their friendship to an intimate level.
Strangely, she felt she knew Bradley better because of this space between them, rather than if he'd been by her side. He wrote to her about his new job, telling her that he might be based in Pearl Harbor for the next few years or so. He described his commanding officer and his organising wife. In his letters Bradley summed up his colleagues and the people he met in a few pithy sentences that were often quite hilarious. Catherine really enjoyed his sense of humour, which she hadn't appreciated in the short time they'd known each other in London.
They had arranged to meet on her way back to Australia so that he could show her round Honolulu and take her to dinner and a show. Catherine's father had insisted on treating her to a final fling before she came home and âgot back to work', so here she was booked into an old but stylish hotel on Waikiki Beach.
Catherine walked towards Bradley and found she was shaking at the sight of him. He stood out from the crowd not only because he was so tall, but he also looked handsome in his crisp white naval uniform. His arms showing from under the short sleeves of his shirt were tanned and he held his peaked officer's cap under one arm while he carried a lei made of perfumed creamy flowers. He was smiling broadly and Catherine couldn't help noticing the second glances he got from other women.
âHello, hello!' He embraced Catherine, kissed her cheek, took her luggage and put it down beside them as he lifted the lei over her head. âLocal custom.' He smiled and kissed her lightly on the lips.
She lifted the lei and inhaled deeply. âHow gorgeous. Are they frangipani?'
âPlumeria. Slightly different. Is this all your luggage? I'm parked out the front. You must be exhausted. Such a long flight.'
As they drove to the Moana Hotel they fell into easy conversation, picking up where they'd left off in their last phone call. She felt as if she'd known him for years. Bradley pulled up under the Corinthian columns of the portico at the hotel entrance as a smiling bellboy opened the car door and took her hand luggage.
âI'll see if I can park out on Kalakaua Avenue,' called Bradley as Catherine followed the young Hawaiian into the lobby.
As she looked about her, she realised that the hotel had gone through many stages â the old wood panelling, the touches of art deco, some fifties modernisation and the Italianate entrance made it an odd mixture, but the breezy open plan looking out to a courtyard flanked by wide verandahs was definitely tropical.
âFirst order of the day â a drink under the banyan tree,' said Bradley as she signed the registration card.
âI don't know what time of night or day it is,' laughed Catherine.
âA fresh pineapple juice, with a splash of coconut milk,' suggested Bradley. âOr a coffee?'
âJuice sounds wonderful, thanks. Wow!' Catherine gasped as they came to the steps leading to the courtyard flanked by the polished wood floor verandahs. The hotel was at the edge of the beach and the sand was swept and lined with deck chairs where holiday makers lounged. Beyond them glittered the blue ocean where long low breakers lazily rolled towards the shore. Further along the beach jutted the unmistakable outline of Diamond Head. In the centre of the courtyard was a magnificent banyan tree, its branches shading several tables and chairs.
âThe tree's very historic. Been here since 1904, planted a few years after the hotel opened.' Bradley drew out a chair. âGreat spot for an evening cocktail.'
âI don't think I'll move from here the whole week of my stay,' sighed Catherine.
Bradley had to work the next day so Catherine used the time to explore a little on her own, though all she did was walk along the beach and browse in the shops on Kalakaua Avenue. She preferred to sit in the shade of the banyan tree in the hotel courtyard watching the people on the sands of Waikiki. This was such a long way from Peel and from London. It all felt so exotic and romantic. The locals stood out. Fit and tanned wearing colourful â if sometimes sun-faded â casual clothes. She decided she had to buy a beach sarong. She noticed the women hotel staff, generally older and all smiling and friendly, wore long full and loose muu-muus that fell from a yoke at the top. Most of the women were plump but looked cool and comfortable in the flowered print dresses.
When Bradley arrived that evening to take her to dinner, she was wearing flowers from the lei he had given her in her hair.
âGlad to see you're getting into the aloha spirit,' he said, giving her a light kiss.
âI went shopping in that International Marketplace but got utterly confused with all the different Hawaiian prints.' She pointed to a woman in a bright muu-muu. âIs that the traditional dress?'
âNow it is. They were originally introduced by the missionaries to cover up all that decadent naked flesh. No more grass skirts and bare breasts.'
They sat on the terrace at the Ilikai Hotel which was further down the avenue and watched the sunset ceremony of lighting the tiki torches as an Hawaiian warrior blew a large conch shell to summon the men and women dancers to gather on the outdoor terrace. Musicians appeared and as the sky glowed red and orange and the sun sank below the horizon the dancers performed popular hulas.
âIt's a bit hokey, but it's kind of nice,' said Bradley.
âI like it. Where else are tourists going to see this kind of thing?' said Catherine.
âOh, lots of touristy places do cultural shows. One drink and we'll head back to Waikiki for dinner and we'll see some wonderful classical dancing.'
âIn the heart of Waikiki?' Catherine was hoping they'd head away from the tourist strip and go somewhere more local, though there was time for that she figured. It was nice of him to show her the glamorous side of the city. Waikiki was what everyone came to Honolulu to see.
Bradley took her to yet another famous old hotel â the Moonflower â explaining, âThere's a woman I want you to see, and it's a lovely setting. The hotel is named after a sweet-smelling flower that only blooms at night.'
They walked onto the terrace that faced the sea and settled at a table and Bradley ordered two mai tais. âAlso a tradition. Basically pineapple juice and rum.'
âThis is gorgeous.' Catherine sighed as the ever present tradewind wafted across the terrace, still glowing in the remains of the sunset. The moon was rising as a band set up and a beautiful woman wearing a figure-hugging Hawaiian dress and draped in long flower leis walked between the tables, pausing to greet the scattering of people around the terrace and verandah of the restaurant.
âWho's that?' whispered Catherine. She was struck by the beauty of the Hawaiian girl and her interesting blend of features, tawny olive skin and dark rippling hair. âIs she pure Hawaiian?'
âShe's just called Kiann'e. I think she's pure Hawaiian. Wait till you see her dance.'
The dancer smiled at them and made her way to the raised dais in front of the band. She chatted to the musicians and then moved to the centre of the stage as they began to play âLovely Hula Hands'. In her bare feet Kiann'e began to sway, her hips circling, her arms lifted in a graceful curve, her eyes on her fingertips. She moved slowly, like an unfolding flower.
âWatch her hands, they tell the story,' said Bradley. âI know it's all a bit old fashioned, but this is so popular.'
âI was thinking of those rattling grass skirts and shaking fast swinging hips,' said Catherine. âThis is exquisite. I suppose you have to be born to it to dance like that.'
âFor sure. They learn as toddlers.' Bradley sipped his drink served in half a small pineapple decorated with a bright red cherry and paper umbrella.
Catherine was entranced by the dancing.
After the show they moved into the restaurant for dinner and Bradley talked about his work, living in Honolulu and how much he enjoyed it.
âWhat about a nightcap?' he suggested after their meal. âTake in a couple of the old Hawaiian institutions â the tiki lounges.'
âMaybe just one bar or club will do tonight. And no more mai tais, they sneak up on you.'
She wondered where he was driving them as they wound down a lane past a cement plant and came to a lagoon, finally parking near a sign pointing to the Mariana Sailing Club.
Catherine glanced at the marina in the distance. âIs this a club?'
âYes, but people come here for the Hawaiian atmosphere. It's been run since the 1950s by this lady. She bought all kinds of memorabilia from some of the old establishments like Trader Vic, Don the Beachcomber, the Kon Tiki Room. Are you familiar with Exotica music? Tourists love it.'
âNo. I only know the latest London groups.'
âThis is the old music started by Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman, Les Baxter and it's a kind of Polynesian cultural mix of Hawaiian music, jazz, drums and sound effects like frogs and waterfalls. You might recognise it when you hear it.'
Catherine doubted it. This was another world and a long way from the country music back in Peel.
The lounge bar was strung with coloured lights, the ceiling and walls were of bamboo and large carved tiki gods scowled from the doorway. Coloured glass balls on ropes were strung around the room next to plastic palm trees and in one corner a small waterfall splashed into a miniature pond where coloured lights played across the water. A large artificial frog sat on a plastic lily pad. The waiters wore bright Hawaiian shirts and white shorts and the waitresses wore Hawaiian-print strapless dresses with the mini skirts showing lots of tanned legs.
âA lot of the staff here are from California,' said Bradley. âThe surf thing, you know.'
âYou know a lot about Honolulu in a short time,' said Catherine.
He smiled. âAh, sailors. They find the hot spots pretty quickly so I get to hear about them. Not that I frequent some of the joints they recommend.'
They ordered drinks but when the music started conversation was difficult so they leaned close to talk and at one point, while Catherine was trying to explain how different London disco clubs were, Bradley moved closer and kissed her on the lips. A lingering kiss that made her tingle.
They danced to a slow song, Bradley didn't like fast dancing.
âMy mother made me go to ballroom dancing classes.
I earned some money during college teaching ballroom. Assisting the lady teacher as her partner.' He pulled her tighter to him. âI didn't want any of my fraternity brothers to know about that. They were on the football team. There, I've told you my darkest secret.'
They danced through another song holding each other close, aware of the building sexual attraction between them. The music finished and he took her hand, leading her from the little dance floor.
âNo, I'm ready to go if you don't mind. I'm still a bit jet lagged.'
He opened the car door for her at the hotel. It was late, no staff appeared. A low branch of a large plumeria tree bowed over them. He plucked one of the creamy sweet flowers and handed it to her.
âPut it on your pillow and you'll know you're in the tropics.'
Catherine drew a deep breath inhaling the scent of flowers, the soft breeze, the tang of salt. In the lull of music and voices they could hear the soft splash of waves lapping on the beach in front of the hotel. âIt's been wonderful. Thanks so much, Bradley.'
âIt's been wonderful for me too.' He leant forward to kiss her goodnight but this time he wrapped his arms around her and kissed her with more passion than he'd ever shown before. Catherine curled her arms around his neck and returned his kiss. They pulled apart somewhat breathless. Bradley smiled and touched her cheek.
âSleep well. See you after work tomorrow. If I can get away early there's somewhere I'd like to take you.'
âI'm in your hands. You're being very generous,' said Catherine.
âI wish I could spend every minute with you .Â .Â . while you're here.' He took a step towards the car. âWe'll make the most of it, shall we?'
Catherine nodded and walked up the white stone steps into the hotel lobby knowing he was watching her. He waited until she was out of sight before pulling away from the portico.
The next morning Catherine caught a bus down to the Ala Moana shopping centre and lost herself among the stores â Liberty House, Sears and Shirokiya â as well as browsing among the proliferation of shops selling Hawaiiana looking for gifts to take home. She bought bottles of Hawaiian flower perfume and quilted potholders and cushion covers featuring brightly coloured flowers and palm trees, which she thought her mother would love. She wandered into a boutique called Carol and Mary and tried on dresses and bought a new swimsuit. As she was paying for it Kiann'e, the dancer from the Moonflower, came in and the woman in charge hurried to greet her. Kiann'e smiled at Catherine.
Catherine smiled back. âExcuse me, but I saw you dancing last night and I thought you were just wonderful.'
âThank you,' replied the beautiful young woman. âHave you found something to buy here?'
Catherine held up her pink carry bag. âA new swimsuit.'
âTerrific. They have lovely things in here,' said Kiann'e.
âYes. I love the dresses you wear in your show. Do you buy them here?'
âWhy, thank you. No, my aunty makes my holomuus. Based on the old style. I come in here to feel modern.'
Catherine laughed. âWell at least you'll never go out of fashion.'
âI hope not. The dances I mean. We teach the little ones so it gets handed down.'
She had a lilting accent and Catherine thought she was the most beautiful woman she'd ever seen. She guessed Kiann'e was around her own age, perhaps a little older. With her smooth olive skin and classical looks it was hard to tell.
Kiann'e smiled her wide infectious smile. âEnjoy your swimsuit. Enjoy Hawaiâi.'
âWhere are we going then?' she asked late that afternoon as Bradley drove past the multi-storey Kaiser Hospital at the Ala Wai yacht harbour.
âI'd like you to see Pearl Harbor â theArizonamemorial,' he said quietly.
âOh, the American battleship that was sunk. It got America into the war didn't it?' said Catherine.
âCertainly did. The whole Seventh Fleet was attacked. December 1941. I think this is a very special memorial. Being a naval man, it has a lot of meaning for me.'
âOf course.' It was obvious that Bradley loved the navy, as had his father and grandfather.
Catherine was silent as they parked near the visitors' centre where the tenders departed to take visitors out to the odd-shaped white memorial floating in the harbour.
It was late in the day and there were only two other couples boarding the tender. It was manned by smartly dressed naval personnel and cruised across the bay to the sunken remains of the USSArizona.
The six visitors clambered onto the memorial and as they went through to the midsection one of the men took a bunch of flowers from his wife, dropped it into the water and saluted. Bradley stood to attention, and everyone fell silent. After a few moments Bradley took Catherine's hand and pointed out the remains of the sunken vessel below them.
âThe memorial doesn't touch the ship below .Â .Â . it's where more than a thousand men are entombed,' said Bradley. âIf you look carefully, you can see oil from theArizonastill rising to the surface.'
Catherine shivered. The thought she was standing on the grave of those young men was so sad.
At the far end of the memorial, in the Shrine Room, they stood before the marble wall where the names of all those lost were carved. Everyone spoke in whispers.
Catherine glanced at the solemn-faced Bradley. âDo you ever think about going to war?'
He thought for a moment then said, âI think if you choose to serve your country, you accept whatever comes along.'
âWhether or not you agree with the reasons behind it?' she asked, thinking of the protest demonstrations against the Vietnam War she'd seen on television at home and in London.
âLike I said, you choose to serve. I believe in what our government is doing. The public doesn't always know what goes on behind the scenes.' He took her arm. âThanks for coming along. I thought it might give you a sense of the history that's here.'
âYes. Thanks for bringing me.' The visit had given Catherine a sense of how important the navy was to Bradley. As the tender ferried them back to the visitors' centre, Bradley put his arm around her.
âAre you up for another Hawaiian institution?' he asked. âSomething romantic.'
âOf course. Where're we going?'
âIt's a show â Don Ho at the Beachcomber Lounge. But I thought we'd have a cocktail under the banyan tree first. You can change into something else for the show as it doesn't start till later. Or you can go as you are of course. You look lovely whatever you wear.'
âI bought some things today including a dress, so I'd like to wear it tonight. That's thoughtful of you.' She was learning Bradley was thoughtful â and a planner.
They took their regular spot under the banyan tree and a waiter appeared and Bradley ordered a mai tai for Catherine and a Tom Collins for himself. She wondered what that was and would have preferred something other than the sweet and sneaky mai tai but she didn't want to hurt Bradley's feelings.
âAnd bring us a platter of pupus as well, please,' added Bradley.
Catherine lifted an eyebrow.
âLittle snacks, Hawaiian hors d'oeuvres,' he explained.
They picked at the tasty food, Catherine had a second mai tai, which she sipped slowly as she was already feeling somewhat mellow from the first one and they talked and talked. She found Bradley immensely entertaining and interesting. Their conversation always flowed easily and fluently without her having to think of a subject to discuss or wonder what to say next.
Bradley glanced at his watch. âDo you want to slip upstairs and change?' Catherine would have preferred to stay where they were as the sun had set and it was cool, the courtyard and beach almost deserted.
âIs your room okay?' asked Bradley as he pulled out her chair.
âYes. It has a wonderful view of Diamond Head from the little balcony, or lanai rather. Why don't you come up? I'll only take a minute to change.'
Bradley grinned. âNow that's something I like to hear. None of this fussing and primping and messing with hairdos that takes hours.'
The room was neat, spartan almost, with dark wood, crisp white sheets, a mosquito net looped above the bed and a stiff arrangement of waxy red anthuriums with spiky green leaves was arranged on the coffee table. A bowl of plumeria sat on the bedside table. Catherine suddenly felt a little uncomfortable at the intimacy of the small space. Bradley didn't seem to notice and strolled onto the small lanai and looked at Diamond Head, a glimpse of Waikiki Beach and the lights from the hotels illuminating the sand.
âWon't be a minute.' Catherine scooped up her dress and sandals and shut the bathroom door. She slipped out of her clothes and took off her bra. The new dress was daring and backless. She brushed her hair and swept it up in a ponytail that she twisted into a knot, wisps curling around her face. She touched up her make-up, sprayed her new pikake perfume in a mist around her head, added some dangly earrings and slipped her feet into silver sandals.
Bradley was leaning on the lanai railing and straightened up as he heard Catherine behind him. He turned and stopped. âCatherine, you look lovely, utterly gorgeous. I love the dress.'
She was pleased and twirled before him. âJust trying to fit in with the locals.'
âYou need a flower in your hair.' He took her hand and led her into the room and took one of the plumeria blooms from the bowl. He tucked it in her hair. âThere. Perfect.' He leaned forward and kissed her gently.
But his lips lingered and Catherine found she was winding her arms about him, clinging to him as their kisses became more passionate. They fell back on the bed, wrapped in each other's arms, desire and longing overwhelming them. Catherine kicked off her shoes and pulled at Bradley's shirt as he tugged at the straps of her dress. But as they clung together, naked in the soft light, Bradley pulled back, searching her face.
âI'm not so sure we should be doing this.'
âWhy not? It's all right,' she murmured.
He was still hesitant, shy even, and let Catherine lead. She felt powerful and it heightened her desire to feel she was in charge. Such a caring man, not wanting to push himself on her, but she ached to have him make love. She pulled him on top of her and Bradley surrendered.
They lay together, warm wet bodies side by side as they came back to reality.
Bradley nuzzled her neck. âThat was wonderful. I can't tell you how wonderful.'
âMmm, yes, it was.' She smiled and ran her finger down his firm lean chest.
âI'm sorry if I've ruined your make-up, crushed your clothes.'
âWho cares! It was fun.' She laughed. She felt full of energy. âHey, I'm starving, can we still make that show?'
Bradley sat up and looked at his watch. âYes, the late one. It's only over the road. You still want to go?'
âIf you do. Though I'mveryhappy to stay here,' she said giving him a cheeky look.
He laughed, swung his legs over the side of the bed and began to dress. âI have the tickets. You shouldn't miss Don Ho.'
As they left the hotel Catherine felt different. She had the feeling the staff, the taxi drivers waiting out the front of the hotel, passers-by in the street, were giving them knowing glances. Bradley held her hand as they ran across the road.
Inside the lounge Catherine felt she was entering another world, but one with which she was becoming familiar. In the time she'd been in Honolulu Bradley had introduced her to cocktail lounges, piano bars, garden terraces, resort hotels and beachside cafÃ©s. Drinks, food, entertainment amidst stylised Hawaiiana with slick American overtones was so new, so different, from what she had known at home and in cold wet London. It was not hard to take. As they settled into a booth under starry lights where a candle flickered in pink glass surrounded by flowers, she asked Bradley if he'd lived like this before he came to Hawaii.
âCalifornians like their bars and nice eateries. My parents dine out every week at their club and try new places with their friends. My father retired early with ideas of dabbling in real estate but really my parents just enjoy themselves.'
âWhat about holidays? Where do they go?' Catherine was thinking of the camping trips she was used to where they piled into the car and headed along the river to a quiet spot to pitch a tent, or out into the hills where her father fished quiet streams or panned for gold. Their nights were spent talking around the campfire or the bush barbecue. Sometimes her cousins Peter and Suzanne were invited and the bush would ring with their laughter and excitement.
âOh, my folks like Lake Tahoe. There's a lodge that's lovely in the winter, not that they ski or skate, we kids did though. And in the summer the lake was fun, but the water is really cold. My folks liked the casinos and the nightlife. Lots of big-name entertainers go to the casinos.'
âSounds fun,' said Catherine politely. âOur parents sound quite different.'
âAre you liking it here?' He leant over and took her hand, looking concerned.
âOf course! This is a dream. Fantastic. It's going to be hard going home to the humdrum.'
He squeezed her hand. âI don't live like this normally, either. That's the magic of Hawaii. It's the ultimate romantic getaway,' said Bradley softly.
His words stung her. âIs that what this is? How often do you have romantic getaways?'
âOh, I didn't mean it like that. This is a first for me too,' he said quickly and earnestly. âIn every way.' He took both her hands in his. âCan I kiss you?'
They leant across the small table and he kissed her quickly but fiercely, trying to erase his words. They drew apart as the waiter put their drinks on the table.
âCatherine .Â .Â . these past few days, well, it seems like months .Â .Â . they've been very special. This is the first time I've really had someone to share Honolulu with and, well, it's just wonderful.'
Catherine didn't speak, but nodded, feeling rather lost for words. It had been a wonderful magical time. And their lovemaking had brought them closer together.
Bradley continued. âDo you think you could stay on here a little longer? Change your booking?'
âHeavens, I have no idea. But, yes, what a fabulous plan.'
âI want to spend more time with you,' said Bradley softly. âAs well as show you Hawaii. Maybe we could go to another island.'
âHow many islands are there in Hawaii?'
âWell, hundreds, but most of them are really tiny. The main ones are Oahu, that we're on now, the Big Island of Hawaii with its volcanoes, Maui, and the one that's supposed to be the most beautiful of all, Kauai. And the smaller ones are Lanai and Molokai.'
âVolcanoes. Won't that be dangerous?'
âNo, not really. They're not the explosive type. More damage is done by tsunamis.'
âWhat's a tsunami?'
âA tidal wave. The Hawaiian islands are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, so if there's an earthquake anywhere out there, the effect is felt in Hawaii. Luckily, most of the tsunamis are quite small.'
âThat's a relief.' She squeezed his hand. The islands sounded beguiling and exciting and to see them with Bradley made them even more appealing.
He handed her the menu. âLet's order dinner, the show is about to start.'
Catherine enjoyed Don Ho's show. His throaty voice, his humour and flirtatious manner, the bevy of Hawaiian dancers and singers was unlike anything she'd seen before. The last big show she'd seen had been an outdoor concert by the Who in London where it had rained.
She whispered to Bradley, âNot like the Who, is it?'
âCertainly not. Do you want to dance? This is his signature tune.' He pulled her to her feet as several couples went onto the small dance floor. âKnow the two-step?'
âKind of.' She allowed Bradley to lead her as the singer began.
Tiny bubbles .Â .Â .
Bradley was a great dancer and, being tall, he swept her easily around the floor holding her close, singing softly along in her ear.
So here's to the golden moonAnd here's to the silver seaAnd mostly here's a toastTo you and meSo here's to the ginger leiI give to you todayAnd here's a kissThat will not fade away .Â .Â .
He kissed her gently and led her from the dance floor. âShall we leave now? Do you want to go somewhere else?'
He looked at her with such longing that Catherine picked up her purse. âA nightcap on my lanai?'
He stayed the night. And in the morning when she awakened he was sitting on the lanai, wrapped in a white towel, smoking a cigarette. She looked at his strong back, the outline of his head and thought he was the most handsome man she'd ever seen.
âGood morning. Sorry I slept in, how long have you been awake?' she called.
He put out his cigarette and came towards her. âNot long. I watched you sleep for a while. You look like a little girl.' He dropped the towel and slid into bed beside her. âYou in a rush to go anywhere?'
She giggled and reached for him. âNo, sir. Are you?'
âMy day off. We could stay here all day .Â .Â .'
Bradley and Catherine spent as much time together as they could for the next few days, while Bradley arranged time off work for a trip to Maui. She phoned her parents to tell them she'd be spending a bit longer in Hawaii.
âI'm moving into a cheaper hotel when I get back from Maui.'
âSounds like you're having a good time. You like Hawaii, eh?' said her father.
âIt's fabulous,' said Catherine, knowing her voice was very upbeat.
Her father seemed amused. âSounds like it. Well, you enjoy yourself, love. You sound very happy. Must be nice to be in the sun after London. We can't wait to have you home though. Your mother is making all kinds of plans.'
âOh that's nice of her but, Dad, I really just want to relax. Be with you, ride around the place, settle in, you know. No parties, please. You know what Mum's like.'
âI understand, sweetheart. Send us a telegram when you know you're coming home. Cheaper than these phone calls.'
Catherine couldn't stop smiling and she couldn't stop thinking of Bradley. He arrived at her hotel room after work each day with a lei, chocolates, macadamia nuts and a nice bottle of wine. They fell into bed and made love with an eagerness and enthusiasm that left both of them gasping, laughing, hugging and exclaiming that neither had enjoyed making love so much before.
She found Maui interesting and not as touristy as Honolulu, though Bradley pointed out that holiday apartment complexes were beginning to be built.
Wandering around the old whaling port of Lahaina, Bradley came out of a shop and pressed a small package into her hands.
Catherine exclaimed in delight at the tiny pretty coral earrings. âHow sweet, I love them. Thank you so much.' She gave him a kiss and they linked arms.
âLet's eat at one of these seafood places overlooking the water and you can put them on,' he suggested.
They were sharing the cost of their hotel â Catherine had insisted â and she was quite surprised at how easy and comfortable the arrangement was. She thought it would be awkward living with a stranger but Bradley was so easy to be with. He didn't snore, he was attentive and sensitive to her needs, excusing himself to go and buy something if he sensed she wanted privacy or time alone. They walked on the beach and went for a swim before breakfast, he planned their day's sightseeing, made suggestions about where to go for dinner. The days sped past. She was pleased that she'd extended her holiday. They returned to Honolulu and she moved into a smaller hotel set back from the beach but with a view of the ocean from the top floor where she was staying. Bradley returned to work but spent every evening with her.
Sometimes during the day she opened the closet and touched Bradley's crisp white spare uniform hanging beside her clothes. She felt a sense of proprietary togetherness seeing his toiletries in the bathroom.
A few days before she was due to fly back to Australia, Bradley said he had something to ask her. He sounded slightly hesitant.
âIt's about tomorrow night .Â .Â . I was wondering if you'd like to come to a dinner .Â .Â . It's with my superior officer. They have these social get-togethers. His wife is a great hostess and they have a house on the base at Pearl Harbor. Of course, you might find it a bit boring .Â .Â .'
âWhy would I find it boring? It'd be nice to meet people who live here. Is it for a special reason?' she asked.
âNot really. The idea is for us all to maintain close links, keep in touch socially, which is supposed to help us work together.'
âSounds a good idea.' She wondered why he sounded so formal. âIs there anything I should know? What to wear? Who's who?'
Bradley grinned. âYou always look nice. They're just a bit conservative .Â .Â . older ladies, you know. It'll give you a taste of the other side of my life here.' He wrapped his arms around her and lifted her off the ground. âSo you know what I'm putting up with while you're galloping around Peel.'
âMy other life,' mused Catherine. âI only gallop aroundHeatherbrae. Not much to get excited about in Peel.' She kissed him thinking how dull Peel would seem after all the glamour and fun of Hawaii. And Bradley. It was going to be hard to say goodbye. She refused to think about that moment.
Commander and Mrs Goodwin were gracious and made a fuss of Catherine. She was introduced to the other wives who were gathered on the terrace. The men, dressed in smart casual clothes, were bunched on the lawn by the pool. The immaculate grass was dotted with palms and its elevated position boasted a lovely view of the harbour.
âWhat a spectacular place,' said Catherine.
âThe senior officers and families are housed in that section over there, the single officers are in an apartment block. It has lovely views,' said Mrs Goodwin. Then turning to several other wives she said, âDon't you just love Catherine's accent?'
âIt's darling. I've always wanted to go to Australia. My husband visited there on his way to Vietnam. Where's your home, dear?' asked a woman with bright red hair lacquered into a helmet that flipped up on her shoulders but didn't move.
âOh, it's in the country. Nowhere anyone's heard of,' answered Catherine.
âYou mean like a ranch, honey?'
âA small one. Just horses and stud cattle. A hobby for my father. He's a solicitor. A lawyer,' she added as Bradley had explained that solicitor wasn't an American term.
âAnd how long have you known Bradley?' asked another wife, joining the growing circle around Catherine.
She sensed their curiosity. Their glances flicked up and down from her shoes to her hair, and she felt she was being judged. Had Bradley brought other girls to meet the boss's wife?
âOh, we met in London, at a reception at Australia House,' she threw in for good measure. âWe've kept in touch and as I'd planned to stop over in Hawaii â a twenty-first birthday present from my father â we were able to catch up again.'
âHow nice. I suppose you're looking forward to seeing your family. How long have you been away, Catherine?' asked Mrs Goodwin. âDo you have a job waiting or are you going to college?'
Bradley suddenly appeared behind her. âMrs Goodwin, ladies.' He smiled at the women who all gave him big smiles in return. âWould you excuse us if I stole Catherine for a moment? Commander Goodwin and Jim Bensen have a dispute about Australia. We're hoping Catherine can settle the question.'
âI'll try.' Catherine made her escape.
âSorry. Hope they didn't grill you too much,' whispered Bradley.
âIt's all right. What's going on?'
âOh, it's just an argument of semantics really. You say tom-mah-toe, we say too-may-toe .Â .Â . kinda thing. I just thought I'd rescue you.'
She was introduced to several other naval officers about Bradley's age. They made cheerful talk, happy to chat with someone more interesting than the older men. Catherine enjoyed their company but she kept an ear tuned to what Bradley was saying. He was obviously regarded with some esteem by his fellow officers and held his own in most of the discussions.
Later in the evening as they drove back to Catherine's hotel, Bradley apologised. âI hope it wasn't too painful. They're all well meaning, it was a bit unusual for me to turn up with a date. I haven't done that before.'
âThey did seem to check me out, but as soon as I told them I was going back to Australia, they lost interest.'
Bradley chuckled. âYou were terrific. All the guys thought you were great.'
âSo how often do you have to go to an evening like that?'
âAh, not often. I owe you one for coming along and making it less painful for me.'
âSo why go, if you find these things painful?' asked Catherine.
Bradley looked genuinely surprised. âAh, well. It's the done thing. When one's commanding officer invites, one doesn't have a choice.' He changed the subject. âIt's not too late, anywhere you'd like to go?'
âI've had my fill of fancy food. She must've worked for hours on all those fiddly pupus and things,' sighed Catherine.
âOh, no. I'm sure she had them made by the cook at the officers' mess. How about a drink? Somewhere we haven't been?'
Catherine rested her hand on his thigh. âNo, but thanks. We have cocktail makings at the hotel, wine and some beer. We'd better drink it or you'll have to take it home with you when I leave.'
He laid his hand over hers. âGood thinking.'
They had a drink, went to bed, made love and Bradley turned on his side and slept soundly.
Catherine lay beside him, wondering how she was going to adjust to being without him. This sojourn had been like playing houses, playing at being married. She'd never had a relationship like this, brief as it was. Her relationships with various boyfriends had been sporadic and fragmented. She'd never spent as much intimate time with anyone else before. But she knew it was coming to an end. Their lives were so different and no matter what promises they made of meeting again, keeping in touch, distance would make the relationship dissipate. They would go on and lead very different lives. Live for the moment, she told herself. But the moments were running out. She turned on her side and silent tears ran down her cheeks.
In the morning, she felt calmer and she lay quietly, not wanting to wake Bradley as the sun rose and light filled the small room.
He woke, stretched and reached for her, drawing her close to him. Sleepily he held her, stroking her hair. âWant to go for a swim? A walk on the beach?' he murmured.
Catherine snuggled into him. âNot this morning. Do you want coffee?'
They lay quietly, their bodies wrapped together, each caught in their own thoughts.
Suddenly Bradley rolled on his back. âI have to go to work. Hell.'
âWhat's up? A bad day looming?' It occurred to Catherine she was very hazy about what he did every day.
âNo.' He hugged her tightly. âI want to stay with you and make love and eat and drink and make love and never get out of bed all day.'
She laughed softly. âSounds like a good kind of day to me.'
He smiled, looking into her eyes and slowly lowered his face to hers and kissed her gently.
It was a kiss that went on and on, ranging from touching lightly, to deep passionate lingering, reluctant to part.
They drew apart, staring deeply into each others' eyes.
Bradley traced the outline of her face, as if memorising it. âI love you,' he said softly.
âMe too,' said Catherine, closing her eyes and lifting her mouth to his. The words came easily, with no emphasis or deep thought or implication. She wanted to taste his lips again, lose herself in his kiss.
But Bradley didn't return her kiss. He looked thoughtful, concerned almost, and she was suddenly worried that she shouldn't have said what she did, that it might place some sense of obligation on him. The words âMe too' had slipped out. She was not analysing whether it was Bradley, Hawaii, or how serious she felt about Bradley. She'd spoken spontaneously from the heart.
But the words had resonated with him. âDo you? Love me?'
She nodded. Not trusting herself to speak, not wanting to be clingy, get teary, have their parting uncomfortable by making heartfelt promises they wouldn't keep. Keep it clean, keep it tidy, don't make it hard for him. For me, she chided herself. She closed her eyes.
âThen will you marry me?'
Her eyes snapped open in shock. âWhat! What did you say?'
He looked sheepish. âI think I just proposed. Well, will you?'
âMarry you?' Catherine was swamped with a wall of emotion as the floodgates fell and all the feelings she'd been storing up, afraid to show him, overcame her. She grabbed him in a giant hug, squeezing him to her as hard as she could, afraid he'd disappear. âYes. Oh, yes. Oh, Bradley .Â .Â .'
They kissed through smiling lips, hugging, laughing, kissing. She flung a leg over him pinning him on the bed, running her hands over his body, feeling him respond. But Bradley gently lifted her arm.
âDon't do that or I'll never leave. I have to get to work. I'm running a training program for some new guys. But tonight .Â .Â . tonight we celebrate!'
âWonderful.' Catherine watched him get out of bed. âI guess we have plans to make .Â .Â .'
âWe'll talk about the future over dinner, shall we? First thing is a ring. What's your favourite stone?'
âAh, I don't know. I've never thought about it.'
âA diamond of course, but maybe we can find something special. Do a little browsing today.' He jumped in the shower. He was off and running into another day.
Extract from The Biography of
THE WATERMAN 1918
Red Hawk, Nebraska, was swathed in snow. The wind that swept in from the prairie sent icy flurries along the near-deserted main street. Snow, splashed with mud, piled in mounds against the corners of buildings.
The young man, head bent, hugging his coat around him, kicked his boots along the soggy sidewalk. He stepped off the street into the foyer of a small movie theatre to stare at the film posters. He dug deep into his trouser pocket, counted out several coins and slid them under the grille to the girl in the ticket booth. She was reading a fan magazine and chewing gum. As she pushed the ticket to the boy she glanced up and gave him a big smile as if to acknowledge that he was even better looking than the movie stars she was reading about.
Still shivering, he slid into a seat in the dark where several other figures were slumped, thawing in the warmth of the small theatre. The young man knew nothing about the movie that was playing, but the old wooden theatre was cosy, a good place to pass the time until he met his father at the general store.
The movie newsreels flickered across the screen, pictures of American soldiers marching into France. He closed his eyes, dozing in the warmth. When he re-opened them, the screen was showing the most amazing sight he'd ever seen.
Even in the scratchy black and white images he could imagine the colours of the scene: the blue ocean, the green headland, the emerald palm trees and the golden sand.
But the miracle that mesmerised him was the sight of the tall dark men riding on the curling waves, standing on long wooden planks. They made it look so easy, the way they nonchalantly glided across the top of the ocean. Pretty girls with long hair, coconut halves on their breasts and long leaf skirts swayed their hips, lifting their arms to the sky as they danced on the sand.
He could feel the sun and tried to imagine what it would be like to walk on water like that. The film titles on the screen explained that this was surfboard riding in the islands of Hawaii. It was an art once practised only by the kings and chiefs, but now it was the sport of champions and in Waikiki it seemed anyone could learn it.
He never remembered the main feature showing in the movie house that day. But from the moment he walked out of the dark theatre into the bleak afternoon, the young man promised himself one day that he would ride the waves at Waikiki.
There wasn't much to entertain young people in Red Hawk, Nebraska, but this young man liked to keep himself fit. In the summer he swam in the mountain lakes far out of town. When it became too cold for that, he enjoyed running. People thought he was strange to run for miles across the plains or along the lonely roads. There was nowhere to run to, they reasoned, just the prairie that met the Indian reservation on the outskirts of Muskosha in the foothills of the Rockies. And then he'd turn around and run right back again, through the moonlight to reach home. His endurance was such that he could travel for days with little food.
The young man had worked on his father's farm, done odd jobs for tradespeople in the town of Red Hawk. He talked to people passing through, from travelling entertainers, to circus performers, to itinerant families looking to make a home on the great plains.
He wanted to travel as well, so he started moving around the country, taking odd jobs for food. And everywhere he went he seemed to find a benefactor willing to help him when he had nowhere to turn and hunger and cold claimed him.
He became adept at riding the freight trains across the plains and mountains. He quickly learned to avoid the railyard âbulls' hired to beat anyone sneaking into a boxcar. He learned to fight hunger and discomfort by mentally removing himself to another place. In his mind he saw again the Islands of Hawaii.
A hobo, sharing a freight car, told him to go west. California was where dreams came true. A paradise, home of Califia, the Queen of the Island of California. As they rattled over the tracks, the hobo spun the tale of the island ruled by beautiful black Amazonian women, dressed in gold armour, who raided the seas, stole the men they favoured, ravished them and put them and any male children to death by feeding them to giant man-eating griffins.
The young man decided California would be his next stop. And eventually he made his way to the City of the Angels.
It was close to paradise. The air was clear, he could see the distant Santa Ana mountains, the sun was warm, the streets had palm trees. And there was the beach and the ocean almost as beautiful and magical as he imagined the Islands of Hawaii to be.
Come the summer he took a job as a lifeguard at the beach. He soon became known as the strongest swimmer at the beach and he saved several people from drowning, stroking strongly to reach them and pull them back to shore.
It was one such grateful survivor who handed the shy young man a wad of money. And that gesture of thanks allowed him to live through another winter in LA when there was no work. He was able to concentrate on swimming and running, keeping his body fit, his mind clear and dreams intact.
MOLLIE DROVE THROUGH THEmorning peak hour Sydney traffic, which was slower than normal due to a slight drizzle.
Beside her Catherine looked at the rows of neat suburban red-roofed houses and remarked, âEverything looks so tidy, so straight-laced after the rampant greenery and casualness of Hawaii.'
âHawaii sounds lovely. You'll notice a difference when you get to Peel. It's been dry. Your mum saidHeatherbraeneeds rain.'
Catherine nodded. Hawaii had stolen her heart. She'd thought about it on the flight home and while she knew her love of Hawaii was bound up in her love for Bradley, there was still a pull about the Islands that held her. A promise of so much to discover. She couldn't wait to get back there.
She hadn't yet told Mollie about her engagement. When Mollie had offered to meet her, Catherine had planned to rush straight to her from Arrivals and wave her hand in her face and cry, âI'm engaged!' But her bag had been lost and by the time it'd been located and she'd exited the customs hall, Mollie was there, jumping up and down and grabbed the bag from her, saying, âQuick, quick, I'll get booked. I'm parked illegally.'
So they'd rushed to the car, Mollie chattering nonstop about her new job, a fellow she'd met and mutual friends, then she'd needed to concentrate on driving out of the jammed airport and the moment had been lost. Catherine began to plan a little scenario about how she'd break her news to Mollie. She also wanted her advice as to how she could tell her parents. She knew her mum would have very mixed emotions, primarily because she would be marrying a foreigner and wouldn't be living close by.
Settled in Mollie's flat, Catherine had a shower while Mollie boiled the kettle for a cup of tea.
âSo what would you like to do for the rest of the day?' asked Mollie. âThey say it's best to stay awake till bedtime to get on local time.'
âI'd love a snooze, you could wake me up in an hour and then we could go out. I'm so sleepy.' Catherine stifled a yawn.
âWhat's that?' Mollie grabbed Catherine's hand away from her mouth and bent over the ring on her left hand.
âOh. I've been trying to find a way to tell you. I'm engaged.'
âOh my God!Oh my God!' shrieked Mollie. âWho? Where? When? How could you keep this a secret? Is it that American?' she demanded. She leaned closer to examine the ring. âIt's just beautiful.' She sat back and folded her arms. âOkay, tell me everything.'
Catherine smiled and settled back with her cup of tea, anxious to recount once again every detail of meeting Bradley and their friendship in London, despite what she'd already told Mollie in her letters.
âWere you lovers?' interjected Mollie.
âIn London? No. He was very courteous. Very proper. We went slowly. We became friends first off.'
âBoring,' sighed Mollie. âGet to the exciting stuff.'
Their mugs of tea sat untouched as Catherine talked and talked.
âAnd so were you expecting him to propose?' asked Mollie finally.
âNo. Not all. But I was getting sad at the idea of leaving him. And Hawaii.'
âAnd then he popped the question and flourished the ring.'
âThe ring came afterwards. He chose it. He asked me my favourite stone and did I want something big and flashy or smaller and good quality.'
âI'd have asked for big,' said Mollie. âNot that yours is tiny. An emerald and two diamonds. I didn't know emeralds were your favourite stone.'
âI always thought I'd have a sapphire and diamond engagement ring. Bradley chose this and I love it.'
âI'd rather choose my own,' said Mollie. âThough I 'spose if he's paying for it you can't very well say give me that big rock of a diamond. Is he rich?'
âI don't think wildly so. His parents are comfortable by the sound of them. Middle-class Californians.'
âDoes he know you are a lady of some means? After all, your father has a good legal practice and is a highly respected citizen of Peel and of course there'sHeatherbrae,' said Mollie. âAnyway, everyone is going to be mightily impressed. And a bit jealous. You've outclassed Trudy Rowle who thought she was the bees knees when she snared Adam Thomas with his grandparents' Point Piper house.'
âIt's not a competition, Mollie,' laughed Catherine. But secretly she was rather pleased she had broken the mould of her contemporaries and was marrying outside the familiar circle.
âSo where and when is the wedding? AtHeatherbrae? Your mother is going to be beside herself! Does she know? Hey, am I going to be a bridesmaid?'
âOf course you are. But you'll have to come to Hawaii. We're getting married in the Islands.'
âWow! Ooh, is your mum okay with that? You're not eloping are you?'
âMollie, really. No. But I haven't told my parents yet. Thought it would be better in person and Bradley only proposed two days before I left. He's writing to his folks.'
âFolks?' exclaimed Mollie. âDon't you go all Yankee on us. Well, let's get to the important stuff. What are you going to wear? Let's go look at wedding dresses this afternoon!' She jumped up.
Catherine laughed. Mollie's enthusiasm was nice. And it did give her a tingle in the pit of her stomach. A wedding dress, trousseau stuff, she'd need to get some nice things together. And what personal pieces would she take to their home in Honolulu?
Catching her train of thought Mollie asked, âSo where are you going to live? Will you have a beach house in Waikiki so we can all come and visit?'
âKind of. I think so,' said Catherine thinking of the naval compound around the Goodwins'.
Mollie stared at her. âI was kidding. Are you serious? He must be rich. I thought there were only big hotels at Waikiki.'
âIt's the navy base at Pearl Harbor. The navy have the best spots on the island Bradley says. There are different quarters for the married and single officers, the enlisted men, and the senior brass.'
âOoh, I don't like the sound of that too much. Do you? Living and working with the same people. Can you get your own place?' asked Mollie.
âI thought of that and mentioned it to Bradley but if we want to save money, living on the base is better. But he says he's looking into things,' said Catherine. âMy next issue is calling Mum. She'll be wanting to know if I've arrived safely.'
âOh, I forgot. Yes, she rang here just before I left for the airport. Look, you can't tell her your big news over the phone. Give her a call and say you're jet lagged and want to stay here for a day or so and see old friends before going home,' said Mollie.
âThat's a good idea. Otherwise she'll be jumping in the car and coming down to get me.' Catherine reached for the phone.
Her mother was excited. âI can't wait to see you. You're going to love your room, Dad painted .Â .Â . oh dear, he wanted it to be a surprise, don't let on. We thought we'd have a party on the weekend to welcome you home. So many people we haven't seen since the races .Â .Â .'
âMum, that's all lovely. But let's hold off a bit. A party sounds great .Â .Â .' Catherine rolled her eyes at Mollie and wagged her ring finger. âI just want to enjoy being at home again. On my own. Go for a ride, maybe a picnic, just us.'
âOf course, dear. Lovely. Though so many friends keep asking after you.'
âSure, Mum, we'll work out something. Anyway, I want to stay here with Mollie for a day or so. I'll come up on the Saturday morning flight. Love you.'
It was cloudy when the small plane took off from Sydney but within minutes they were in sunshine and had left the coast behind. Catherine kept looking out the window trying to recognise the country below.
Once they started to descend she felt a lump come to her throat and she had to blink quickly, surprised at the sudden tears in her eyes as she recognised the gorge country from where the Home River flowed onto the plains around Peel. The wheat paddocks were brown stubble, cattle clustered in blotchy brown and black groups, tin roofs shimmered in the bright light and the miles of fences below delineated the borders of family properties. She was pretty sure she recognised the ribbon of road that headed towards the north-west andHeatherbrae.
They flew over the compact township of Peel and came in to land at the airstrip. As she got up from her seat she could see her parents among the group standing in front of the glass doors of the airport building, waving madly at the plane.
On the drive back to their property, her mother chattered from the front seat to bring Catherine up to date with all the local news. âAnd Rob's got engaged to that nice girl, Barbara, but I'm not sure that she's all that keen on living in the country.' Her father occasionally glanced at Catherine in the rear-vision mirror, giving her a small smile and a âbe patient' look.
Catherine exclaimed in delight at her freshly painted room and admired her mother's garden.
âHow's Parker doing? And your cattle, Dad?'
âThey're great. Feed was a bit of a worry for a bit, but I handled a case for a client who paid me in feed,' he replied. âI rode Parker a few times and so did Rob when he came over to tell us about his engagement.' He shook his head. âNot sure how that girl is going to settle down out here. City girl, like your friend Mollie.'
âNow then, Keith, you don't know how girls can adapt to please their man. How about a cup of tea, dear, and Dad will take you round the paddocks, up to the knoll? Or we could take lunch up there, like we used to. What would you like to do, pet?' asked her mother.
âEr, sure, Mum, whatever you'd like.'
âDon't rush her, love. Let her adjust to being back here. Must seem quiet after the big cities you've seen, eh?' said her father.
Catherine saw a chance to raise the subject of her engagement. âWell, London was great, but I really loved Hawaii .Â .Â .'
âCertainly must have,' interjected her mother. âExtending your stay like you did .Â .Â .'
Her father interrupted his wife. âYou throw that picnic together and I'll take Catherine down to see her horse.'
They drove past the dam and stopped to watch several head of cattle and calves in the best paddock.
âThey're looking good, Dad. It's a bit dry though isn't it?'
âIt certainly is, nothing like the green of Hawaii, I suppose.'
âThat's for sure,' answered Catherine. She touched her father's shoulder. âGiving me that holiday in Hawaii for my twenty-first was the best thing you've ever done, Dad.' She paused. âDad, there's something I have to tell you. And Mum.'
He flicked an amused glance at his daughter as he started the car. âWouldn't have anything to do with that ring you're wearing, would it?'
âOh, Dad! You're a smart old thing,' said Catherine with relief, lifting her hand to admire her engagement ring. âYes, I got engaged. Happened just before I left Honolulu. Bradley's living there. Oh, Dad, I'm so happy. But I just don't know how Mum is going to react. About not knowing Bradley, not living here .Â .Â .'
âHang on, pet, start at the beginning. Has he got a job? Not some dropout is he?'
âOf course not! He's a naval officer. Very impressive, well educated, handsome, his family lives in California .Â .Â .'
Catherine saw the slight frown cross her father's face. âWell, yes. Charming, warm, caring. He's very sensible. You'll really like him, Dad.'
âMmm. Never thought you'd choose a foreign bloke. Never thought you'd live far fromHeatherbraeand us.'
âNor did I, Dad. Is that going to be a problem for you and Mum?'
âYou have to make your own life, sweetie. And if this is the way the cards have fallen, well, we'll make the best of it.' He glanced at his daughter, his heart had filled with love at seeing Catherine so glowing and happy. âBe hard on your mum having you so far away. Still, I suppose the wedding will keep her occupied for a bit.'
Catherine was silent a moment. âWe're planning on getting married in Hawaii. His parents will come out and you and Mum can have a holiday at the same time. Be less work for everyone,' she added brightly.
âYour mother might be disappointed. She'd always hoped you'd be married here, in the garden. Maybe when he comes and sees this place, you might get him to change his mind.'
âWe hadn't planned on that. Coming out here first,' said Catherine quietly. âBradley really wants to get married in the naval chapel, he's so much a navy man.'
âSeems like you've made all your plans, then,' said her father, turning the truck around.
âOh, Dad. I'm sorry.' Tears sprang to Catherine's eyes.
He patted her arm. âWe just want you to be happy. As long as you're sure about this. It's a big step. Come on, let's find that horse of yours. He's as fat as a pig. Needs some serious riding.' Her engagement was put to one side.
Catherine had always loved the small knoll at the back ofHeatherbraeas it was a place away from everything and where she could sit and dream. Yet she never felt alone up on the knoll. Perhaps because there had been so many family gatherings on the grass plateau with its sweeping views: picnics and barbecues, bonfires and fireworks. Other times she sat alone while Parker picked at the grass and she watched the birds swoop, a lizard sun itself or a wallaby hop through the tall grass at the edge of the trees further down the hillside. It was a place where problems were solved, where dark moods lifted and where anything seemed possible. She always rode away cheered, invigorated and enthused. It seemed right that her engagement should be celebrated at this outdoor family sanctum.
After initial dismay, her mother had become more accepting of the news of her daughter's engagement. As the sandwiches were passed and Rosemary poured the tea from the thermos into mugs, she became more enthusiastic about the wedding, raising details that Catherine hadn't yet considered.
âWhat about bridesmaids? It's a long way to go, who can afford such a trip? Does Bradley have a sister?'
âYes. But I don't know her. I only need one bridesmaid â and that's Mollie. She's already agreed. She's been saving for a holiday so she's keen on Hawaii. I guess Bradley will ask his brother to be best man. We want to keep it small. Simple,' said Catherine. âMr and Mrs Connor want to throw a party for us in California later at Thanksgiving. Be wonderful if you could go over too.'
âI don't know about a trip to Hawaii then a couple of months later a trip to California,' said her father. âPlane travel is expensive and I can't be away from the office too long.'
âWe can spend time with Bradley's family after the wedding. They're staying for a bit longer aren't they? Of course, we should really go over early to help with arrangements, it's the bride's family's obligation,' added her mother.
âMum, the whole idea is to keep this low key and simple so we don't get into all the mother of the bride stuff .Â .Â . flowers, cars, who pays for what .Â .Â . Bradley wants to pay for everything just so we can do things our way.'
âIf he wants to run the show let him, love,' said Keith to Rosemary. âI think I'll have a quiet word with Bradley about the financial arrangements when I meet him in Honolulu. But the boy clearly takes his responsibilities seriously and that's a good thing.'
Nevertheless Rosemary was determined that part of the celebrations would take place atHeatherbraeand a welcome home party was rearranged into a kitchen tea and an early evening drinks party.
So, while the women gathered in the house to watch Catherine unwrap gifts and show photos of Bradley taken in Hawaii, the men sat around the barbecue and pool area talking farming, politics and the weather.
Before the last guests left, Rob found Catherine in the kitchen stacking glasses, cups and plates at the sink.
âHey, congratulations. You caught everyone by surprise,' he said warmly.
âThanks. I hope you and Barbara will be happy. How're plans going for your big day?'
Rob rolled his eyes. âBloody dramas every day from the smallest thing like the colour of the corsages to someone who's not invited because they don't get on with someone else. I'm keeping out of it. If you and your bloke can pull off a simple, easy event, good on you. I suppose getting married on a tropical island away from everybody is the smart way to do it.'
âI'll miss all my friends, but what you describe is what Bradley is trying to avoid. It might be hard for us with families on opposite sides of the world, but it's simplified the wedding.'
âYeah, I suppose so. Aren't you going to miss being here though? You're a long way from those who love you, Cath. And Aussie-land. You always seemed more attached to this place than many of us.'
âExcept you, Rob. I hope Barbara settles into country life,' said Catherine, changing the subject. Rob had touched a nerve. âI'll try to come back as often as I can and Mum and Dad plan to come over and see us as well. Anytime you and Barbara want an Hawaiian holiday â just yell,' she said lightly.
âTakes a few bob to dash across the Pacific at the drop of a hat. You know us farmers. If there's any spare cash it goes into the land or a new ute.' He smiled. âThis chap must be pretty special. Good luck, Cath.'
âThanks, Rob. Same to you and Barbara. I'm sure our families will swap wedding photos so we can see how it went.'
Bradley picked up an orange pottery canister with a cork lid. âCatherine, this is truly ugly. I can't believe you paid to ship all this stuff over here.'
âThey're our wedding presents.'
âRight, but most of them are awful. Or things we don't need.'
âI didn't have time to go through everything before I left. I thought this would be fun,' said Catherine miserably. Compared to what was available in American shops and displayed in magazines, the selection of gifts from family and friends did not seem very inspired. She didn't want to be mercenary about things, but tea towels, pottery canisters and a Corning Ware lasagne dish were never going to be kept as family heirlooms. Moreover, Bradley was right, it had cost a lot to ship over the box of gifts.
âI should have waited. But I was anxious to get here and set up our first home.'
Bradley had bought a small apartment in which they could live while they waited for married quarters to become available on the base. While the apartment in the TradeWinds building was small, it was across the street from the Ilikai Hotel and marina and Catherine loved sitting on their lanai watching all the activity and hearing the jingle of the rigging of the moored yachts. The apartment was furnished with the basics, which Bradley had decorated with his personal effects collected during his time at college and his travels with the navy. There was nothing very feminine about it and Catherine wished she'd brought more of her personal memorabilia. She decided to ask her mother to bring some photos she had taken of Parker, her friends and scenes ofHeatherbrae.
Catherine had arrived two weeks before the big day, but found that Bradley, true to his word, had arranged everything. She'd bought a wedding dress in Sydney with her mother and Mollie but now she fretted that it wouldn't look right on the day. It seemed too formal, too stiff and stylised. Bradley had his dress uniform to wear, which suited any occasion. She pored over magazines, the social pages, and looked in the stores at the Ala Moana centre, feeling that her choice was not quite right for the Islands. But, she didn't discuss her concerns with Bradley as she'd told him she had everything organised and didn't want to appear as insecure as she suddenly felt.
Bradley was working longer hours than usual, partly because it was the nature of the job and partly because he wanted to get everything up to date before he left for the honeymoon, so Catherine was not surprised when one day he told her that he had a function to go to after work. It was only for naval personnel so she was not invited and, as he would miss dinner, he suggested that she walk across to the Ilikai and treat herself to a meal.
Catherine didn't want to eat alone at a tourist spot so she decided to walk the length of Waikiki Beach at sunset and grab a hamburger at a small restaurant on the way back. She knew she could get on the bus that ran past their apartment and hoped to be back by dark.
The beach was almost deserted save for a few surfers standing by their boards. The flame torches around the hotels' gardens were already alight and people were gathering for sunset cocktails. Walking past the Moonflower she saw the band setting up and as she walked closer to see if Kiann'e was there, she was hailed.
Catherine turned to see Kiann'e on the beach ahead of her being professionally photographed. âHello! I was just wondering if your show was about to start.'
âShortly. We wanted a sunset picture for a new album cover. How are you? Are you still on vacation, or have you been home and come back? Can't keep away? It's been awhile since I saw you in Carol and Marys.'
âYou have a good memory! Actually I have been back to Australia but I'm here now to get married.'
âWonderful. A beach wedding? And then back to Australia?' Kiann'e joined Catherine as the photographer set up a silver umbrella on a small stand.
âNo, we're going to live here. For a while anyway. He's with the navy.'
âGreat. Then we'll probably see each other again. I'm Kiann'e Schultz. I married a German,' she added by explanation. âAre you living at the base?'
âI'm Catherine Moreland soon to be Connor. We're living in a small apartment near the Ilikai while we wait for quarters on the base. Is Honolulu your home?'
âNo, Kauai. But we live on Oahu because of the work. Where're you getting married?'
âAt the naval chapel. His commanding officer and his wife are giving us a small reception at their home. It's a pretty setting.'
âIs your family coming from Australia?'
âJust my parents and my best friend. Bradley's parents and brother are coming from California. I don't know many people here yet.'
âYou know me now. Would you like to get together one day for coffee?'
âI'd love to!' exclaimed Catherine. âThis might sound crazy but I brought a wedding dress with me and now it doesn't seem right. Would you know anywhere I might find something .Â .Â . not too formal but not too .Â .Â . extreme?' she finished.
âYou mean not too Hawaiian, but a bit of the flavour of the Islands?' asked Kiann'e. âDon't want your family to think you've gone too tropical! I'll be glad to give you my suggestions. I'll give you my number.' She went to fetch her small basket beside the photographer's gear.
âCan we get this shot before all the light goes?' he asked.
âHere's my card. Give me a call. We'll make it a project. Aloha.' Kiann'e handed Catherine a business card and then took her position in front of the camera.
Catherine waved, tucked the card in her wallet and retraced her steps along the beach, wondering at the ease with which she'd made a friend of the beautiful Hawaiian girl. People were shopping, strolling along the colourful strip and the bars were jammed. She saw a bus marked Kalakaua Avenue, jumped onto it and got off at the International Marketplace. Later she caught a bus to the Ilikai Hotel, crossed the street to the TradeWinds and caught the elevator to the seventh floor.
The phone was ringing as she got inside.
âWhere have you been? I was starting to worry. Did you go across the road for dinner?'
âNo. I walked down the beachfront to Waikiki.'
âYou what? At night, that could be dangerous. There're a lot of hustlers round that International Marketplace. You're still a bit of an innocent in Honolulu,' exclaimed Bradley. âWhere did you eat?'
âOh, I bought an ice cream. There's stuff here. Hey, guess who I met?'
âWho?' asked Bradley still sounding worried.
She told him about Kiann'e and he was slightly surprised until Catherine explained they'd met before in a shop at Ala Moana.
âThat's nice. Hey, maybe she'd dance at our wedding! No, forget that, the arrangements are already made. So you're okay then? I'll be another half hour or so and then I'll be home. Shall I bring some food?'
âNo, thanks. I'm fine. See you soon.'
âWatch some TV. Johnny Carson'll be on soon.'
Catherine put a record on the stereo. She wasn't as addicted to American television as Bradley was.
Both families arrived a few days before the wedding. Catherine moved out of Bradley's apartment into the Moana, where her parents and Mollie were staying. She enjoyed a late breakfast with her parents on the verandah by the courtyard while she told them how sitting under the banyan tree at sunset had played a role in her and Bradley's courtship.
Catherine was to meet Bradley's parents at the classic Royal Hawaiian Hotel for a celebratory drink, before being joined later by her parents and Bradley's brother, Joel, for dinner in the hotel's restaurant. She felt apprehensive about this first meeting, but was quickly put at ease by her future in-laws.
Bradley's mother, Angela, was attractive in a polished, beauty-shop way. His father, Richard, wore a cream golf shirt under a blue linen jacket. Both were gregarious, laughed loudly and âjoshed' each other.
âDon't take any notice of Richard,' said Angela. âHe's such a tease. We're just so thrilled for Bradley. For you both. We always hoped he'd find a darling like you. How wonderful for you both to start married life in paradise!' She waved her arms around the cocktail lounge with its rows of orchids, potted palms and views out to Waikiki Beach.
âIt is a rather special place,' agreed Catherine. âIt's like being on holiday all the time. Though I hope I can find some kind of job.'
âWork? Whatever for, honey? That Bradley is earning enough for you to stay on permanent vacation,' declared Richard. âDon't you let him kid you into taking a job. You enjoy yourself, sweetie. Soon enough there'll be little bambinos, other postings. Not every assignment is as luxurious as Hawaii,' he said. âAngela and I had some tough early posts. Not so bad for the men at sea, harder on the gals. So you enjoy your time here.'
âHe's right, Catherine. You set up your little nest, be there for him. You'll find you have plenty to do just running a home. Friends are the secret. Other women in the same boat! Besides, what kind of work could you possibly do here?' said Angela who'd been a navy wife for thirty-five years.
Catherine bristled. âI'm sure I could find a job. I don't want to be totally dependent on Bradley.'
âDarling, the navy is his life and you'll quickly discover it will be yours too. As a navy wife you'll have obligations and duties,' said Angela.
Bradley appeared with a waiter carrying a tray with champagne and four glasses. âHere we are .Â .Â . time to celebrate.' He glanced at Catherine who gave him a smile.
The waiter filled the glasses and Richard lifted his champagne. âHere's to you, Catherine. Welcome to the family. I hope you and Bradley will be as happy as you can be.'
âIndeed, darlings. This is so exciting. Bradley, dear, to you and Catherine.' Angela delicately sipped her champagne.
âTo you, son,' said Richard. âCongratulations. Pleased to see you settling down at last. Always thought you were too picky. But you've found a little gem in your Aussie gal here.'
Bradley winked at Catherine as he raised his glass.
âSee the world first, we told him,' Angela said to Catherine. âAnd that's what he's doing. You wait till you come visit our home and see Marin County. God's own country. You'll adore California.'
Bradley caught the expression on Catherine's face and said quickly, âCatherine is hoping you'll visit Australia too.'
âWell, of course we will, dear. Shame it's so far away,' said Angela.
âYou can bank on it, sweetheart. We'll make sure we head Down Under one of these days.' Bradley's father downed the last of his champagne and handed his glass to Bradley. âHow about getting your old man a decent belt? Scotch and soda with lots of ice.'
The dinner where the two sets of parents met was a great success, though, as Catherine said to Bradley, it would be hard not to like his very gregarious parents.
âAmericans are a friendly bunch, aren't they,' said Keith at breakfast to Catherine and Rosemary.
âThey'll be very easy to get along with as in-laws,' her mother added.
âEspecially when they're miles away,' commented Keith.
âSame goes for us,' said Rosemary. âNow, they are coming to visit Australia and stay atHeatherbrae, I hope. We'll have to make sure we show them a good time. I don't think they're really country people by the sound of it.'
âMum, that's not going to be for a while, so don't start planning just yet,' said Catherine. She didn't like to remind them that Bradley had already arranged for the two of them to spend Thanksgiving in California to meet the rest of his family.
âWell, I'd like to spend some more time with Bradley, on his own. Just the four of us. Get to know him better,' said Rosemary.
âI'm not going to give the poor chap the rounds of the kitchen,' said Keith. âIf Catherine's picked him then that's all there is it to it.'
âAnd it is a small wedding, Mum. There'll be plenty of time to get to know him.'
âIf it were at home it would be a full-on event with a hundred people and four bridesmaids and so on,' sighed her mother.
âMore like two hundred,' said her father. âYou've got a good bloke in Bradley. So what're you wearing? A grass skirt?'
Catherine laughed. âNo, you know I'm not. I have a new friend here, a lovely girl, in fact you'll see her tonight. It's our turn to host dinner so I thought we'd go to the Moonflower and see Kiann'e dance. I'm so glad Mollie has arrived, she's going to love Kiann'e.'
She wanted her parents to meet Kiann'e as well as see her perform. She was happy that she had made a friend here already. She and Kiann'e had got together twice since they'd met on the beach. After a coffee and exchanging life histories, Kiann'e had come to the apartment one morning and Catherine had tried on her wedding dress to get the dancer's reaction.
âI just feel it's a bit formal, stiff, you know, after seeing what people wear here,' said Catherine. âBut I couldn't not wear it. My mum and girlfriend Mollie and I had a huge shopping expedition one day in Sydney to find it.'
âOf course you can't not wear it and you look dreamy,' exclaimed Kiann'e. âFrom what you've told me, you'd have had a huge wedding at home and this would be perfect.' She walked around Catherine who stood still in the tiny lounge room in her cream wedding dress. âIt's kind of Elizabethan, very romantic,' said Kiann'e. âBut it's the little crown and the veil, I think, that makes it so formal.'
âI'll pin up my hair, pull it back in a smooth bun,' said Catherine, trying to control her flyaway curls.
âNo. I like that casual hair,' said Kiann'e. âIf you like I'll get you an Hawaiian tiara .Â .Â . made of fresh flowers. Keep your hair soft and I'll bring over a wedding lei of tiny pikake flowers, strands and strands that hang down almost to your knees. Then you'll look more like an Hawaiian princess. Just a touch, yet still a regal bride.'
âThat sounds perfect. I can't thank you enough, Kiann'e. I wish you could be there. I'll ask Bradley.'
âNo, no. Not at this late stage, and while I'd love to be there .Â .Â . this is a family thing. I'll see you on the morning.' She hugged Catherine.
That evening with Bradley, Catherine raised the idea of inviting Kiann'e to their wedding but Bradley was definite and shook his head. âNo, we couldn't possibly.
Mrs Goodwin would have a seizure. If she'd been booked to come and dance as a performer, well, okay, I guess, but Mrs G has every minute of the reception planned.'
âBut what about just as a guest, as my friend?' persisted Catherine.
âSorry, sweetheart. Not how things are done. You can see her socially, and I love watching her dance at the Moonflower .Â .Â . but, well, there's just a protocol thing. She wouldn't feel comfortable either.'
Catherine didn't argue. She knew it was a very last-minute request but she sensed there was more to the issue than that. She decided not to tell Bradley about Kiann'e's change to her wedding outfit. She'd told him she'd bought her dress at a bridal salon in Sydney with her mother and girlfriend and that was it quite traditional. He'd seemed pleased.
The day of the wedding was another perfect day. Catherine went out on the hotel lanai with a glass of pineapple juice and watched the sky turn from cloudless pink to clear blue and the tops of palm trees begin to shiver awake in the first breath of a breeze. Her father appeared behind her wrapped in the kimono provided by the hotel.
âMorning, princess. Another top day. Do you suppose you'll get sick of this endless summer, though by the looks of the greenery they get their share of rain. Hope it's raining back home.'
Catherine linked her arm through her father's and leant against him. âI'll miss home. Miss you and Mum too. Look after Parker for me. I can't believe I'm not going back there for ages and ages.'
âIt's a big step in life, love. Getting married. You sure about this bloke? The kind of life he's offering? You're leaving your family, friends and your country. But if he's the one, thems the breaks, eh?' He patted her hand. âIf you're as happy as your mother and I have been, well, you'll be all right.'
âI hope so, Dad. Bradley is terribly considerate and caring. You have any advice? Putting on your legal hat as well as your dad's hat.'
âYour grandmother always told us, never go to bed on an argument. And while you have to make your own decisions together, I don't have to tell you I'm here whenever you want an ear. Just to run things past. I know you're not one of those bra-burning feminists, but you stick up for yourself. Put your side forward as well when it comes to making those big decisions.'
âThanks, Dad. You're the best. Look after Mum. I don't think it's hit her yet â that I'm off in the world and not just on a holiday trip. Although I'm getting married, I want to do something else that's fulfilling as well. I'd like to get a job so I can save up and come and visit as often as I can.'
âAny time you want to do that, we'll always stake you the fare. Just make sure Bradley understands how much your home and family mean to you. It's different for fellows, and Bradley seems very content here, travelling, his job, now a lovely wife. He won't feel the same pull to go back to Californ-eye-a the same way you'll miss Peel.' He gave her a quick hug. âDon't worry about your mum. She'll be busy helping out with Rob's wedding, and I thought I'd try a few angora goats. It's a new thing. Make it her little project. I'd better wake her up. She's still complaining about these tea bags. First thing we'll do when we get home is make a decent cuppa.'
âOh Dad, I'm going to miss you. I love you so much.'
Catherine remembered some moments quite vividly but other parts of her wedding day were a blur. Her mother became teary and upset over a misplaced earring and everyone was relieved when Mollie burst in to help dress the bride and diffused the tension, cheering them up with her bubbling excitement. Not long before Catherine and her father were due to leave, Kiann'e arrived as she promised, dazzling them with an armful of beautiful flowers.
When Catherine emerged from her bedroom wearing the tiara of tiny flowers threaded with delicate ferns and leaves and the long lei of pikake flowers, her parents and Mollie applauded.
âStunning, perfect. What a lovely touch,' exclaimed her mother. âKeith, quick get the camera and take a photo of the girls.'
Kiann'e kissed Catherine on the cheek. âHo'omaikai hauoli ame akaaka. It means blessings, joy and laughter for your married life.'
âI can't thank you enough. Promise you'll come and have dinner with us after we're back from our honeymoon?'
âOf course. Now where are you staying on Kauai? The Plantation House? The Cottages? Or the Palm Grove?'
âThe Palm Grove, of course. Bradley is such a movie buff and apparently some famous old movies were made there in the fifties.'
Kiann'e smiled. âIt's wonderful, you'll love it. Be sure and tell Eleanor you're my friend. She's been like a best aunty to me.'
âIs she the manager?' asked Keith.
âThe owner. She's run the place for twenty years and really made it the attraction it is. Her husband bought it along with the Moonflower but it's the real gem â thanks to Eleanor's inspiration. The Palm Grove is her life, she still has big plans for it. She always has a big dream. She's amazing.'
âMy, she sounds an energetic person,' said Rosemary. âNow you two relax and enjoy yourselves over there.'
âKauai is a very romantic island. It's my home,' said Kiann'e. âYou'll fall under its spell I'm sure. Now one more thing before I go.' She gave Rosemary and Mollie beautiful leis that matched their dresses and then held up a length of dark green leaves that she put over Keith's shoulders. âMaile leaves, worn by the kings and princes,' said Kiann'e. âI've made one for Bradley as well. All the flowers were picked early this morning.'
âHow about that? Well, we look a pretty smart group. Very thoughtful of you, Kiann'e,' said Keith. âAnd there's one more adornment for the bride.' He took two small boxes from his pocket. âOne from Bradley and one from us.'
Too surprised to speak, Catherine opened the box from Bradley and found a string of tiny perfect pearls with a card: âMay each pearl represent years and years ahead with you. My love. B' And from her parents there were matching earrings.
Kiann'e took photos of them all and then left as Keith glanced at his watch.
âRight. Can't keep Commander Goodwin waiting.'
âThe car will be there. You and Dad follow Mollie and me. Give us time to get out of the car and be ready to help you.' Rosemary dabbed at her eyes. âOh dear, I'm going to ruin my make-up.'
The ceremony was short, the padre's advice to the couple brief and practical reminding them to serve each other, God and country and as they left the chapel as husband and wife, they walked through an honour guard of Bradley's fellow officers.
The formal atmosphere continued at the reception at the Goodwin's lovely home. The small group gathered on the terrace and two waiters in white mess jackets served champagne from silver trays. There were several officers with their wives also at the reception. Two of these couples were the same age as Bradley and Catherine sensed they would be an integral part of their social circle. All were charming, socially graceful and made courteous if dull conversation.
After a few polite questions about Australia, their interest waned and Keith gallantly asked about the American economy and various parts of America. He and Rosemary listened as the virtues of the USA were extolled at length.
Mollie received attention from two single officers but she managed to whisper to Catherine, âHell, what a dead dull bunch. Wish Kiann'e had come along.'
Bradley took Catherine's hand. âIt's time to do the rounds and thank everyone. We're supposed to be out of here by six as it stipulated on the invitations. And we have a plane to catch.' He squeezed her arm.
They'd changed back at the Moana, their bags were waiting and Catherine carefully packed their leis and flowers in a box to take with her. Bradley didn't want to wear the wedding leis because he thought they would draw unwanted attention.
Outside the hotel, as they put their bags in a taxi, Mollie said she wanted to go to the airport with them.
Bradley smiled at her and told her politely that it was unnecessary. âIt's only a forty minute inter-island hop. You've done enough and it's been such a big day. Enjoy your vacation.'
Rosemary was holding Keith's hand as it dawned on her that her daughter was not just leaving on her honeymoon but was moving on from their shared life. âI can't believe we won't be seeing you after the honeymoon,' she began. âWe should have gone to Kauai too.'
âDarling, it's their honeymoon, they don't want us oldies around. We'll be seeing them before you know it,' said Keith.
âWe'll phone you, Mum. Tomorrow, I promise.' Catherine's eyes filled with tears as she hugged her parents.
Mollie grabbed her and gave her a kiss. âI'll look after your mum and dad. You get on with the rest of your life. But call me, okay?'
Catherine nodded as Bradley shook hands with her father and ushered her into the taxi. It all seemed so rushed. She looked out of the taxi to see the three waving figures in the soft light, silhouetted against the white columns of the portico of the Moana.
Bradley put his arm around her shoulders and drew her close. âWell, I'm glad that's all over. We mustn't forget to send a thank you to the Goodwins.' He kissed her. âSo, Mrs Connor. Are you happy? You looked beautiful. I was a bit surprised at the Hawaiian touch, but it was very appropriate, seeing how Hawaii is your home now.'
He pulled the airline tickets from his pocket to check them and didn't notice the tears trickle down Catherine's cheeks.
IT WAS EVERYTHING Ahoneymoon should be. Catherine and Bradley spent hazy hours lazing in bed, making love, talking, wandering along the beach holding hands and swimming in the warm blue water. It was tropical, exotic, utterly romantic. Barefoot, flowers in her hair, wrapped in a sarong, it was unlike anything Catherine had ever imagined her honeymoon would be. She also was unprepared for the magical experience of the Palm Grove Hotel. She had an image of a tropical resort in her head, but it was not just the hotel's setting and layout, its staff and service, the daily events and entertainment, that had her attention, but the powerhouse behind it all â Eleanor Lang.
Kiann'e had contacted Eleanor to tell her that Catherine and Bradley would be there on their honeymoon. There had been a spectacular flower arrangement in their Princess Bungalow and a chilled bottle of champagne waiting for them, with a note:âAloha! E komo mai. Congratulations and welcome.'They opened the champagne as they explored their thatched bungalow sheltering in the magnificent gardens.
âBradley, look in the bathroom â we have a basin each, but it's a giant clam shell! And there's an indoor and outdoor private shower.'
Bradley was looking at the bedhead, which was rattan inlaid with an intricate design of peacock feathers. The bed cover was a traditional Hawaiian quilt of appliquÃ©d hibiscus and anthurium flowers entwined with dark green leaves. On the wall was a beautifully framed sepia photograph of an early Hawaiian princess.
âSeems like all the cottages are named after Hawaiian royalty,' said Bradley. âMrs Lang is obviously keen on the old traditions as well as the architecture.'
âWell, let's go to the evening torch ceremony tonight then,' said Catherine.
Eleanor Lang, dressed in a brightly coloured muu-muu and a fresh lei, greeted her guests at sunset. They were offered complimentary fruit juice or the evening's special cocktail and directed from the terrace along the pathway beside the row of interconnecting man-made lagoons to chairs set up at the edge of the grove of coconut trees that had been stripped of their coconuts.
Catherine and Bradley chatted to some of the other guests, many of whom were returnees who swore that there was no place anywhere in the Islands like the Palm Grove and it was all because of Eleanor.
âWhat happened to her husband?' wondered Catherine aloud.
âHe died very suddenly just after they bought this place about twenty years ago. It was a run-down old hotel and Eleanor has transformed it. It's her life,' confided one woman.
Catherine wished she had their little camera with her at that moment. The last rays of the sun streamed through the hundreds of coconut palms, gilding the waters of the lagoons silvery gold.
Everyone suddenly fell silent as a wooden canoe slid into view on the furthest lagoon. Standing in its centre was a tall, well-built Hawaiian with a red and orange cloak over his naked shoulders. He wore a short red lava lava around his waist and on his head was an elaborate feather headdress. He carried a large conch shell.
The canoe was paddled by an older man wearing just a lava lava and a shell lei around his neck. Catherine recognised him as the man she'd seen earlier tending the gardens. He guided the canoe into the centre of the lagoon and stopped, steadying it carefully as the other man, standing stiffly, lifted the conch shell and blew a long deep musical note. The sound of the conch shell rang through the darkening grove and was followed by one more haunting call.
There was a murmur from the guests as flickering lights emerged through the palms. And then Eleanor's voice echoed from a microphone on the terrace.
âAs the sun slips from day to welcome the stars of night, we rejoice in the passing of the day and the release of the spirits of the moon. These are the spirits of days past who protect and watch over the land, its creatures and all who shelter here. Enjoy this special part of Kauaâi as all who have shared the bounty and beauty of the place that was once the kingdom of kings, queens, princes and princesses and which we now know as the Palm Grove.'
Drum beats rang through the grounds and from out of the grove came two young men, lean, brown, bare-chested and smiling. They each carried a flaming torch and darted between the palms, and along the canal and lagoon as far as the hotel terrace, sprinting to light the flame torches speared at intervals into the ground. Within minutes the grove had become a twinkling fairyland. To the rapid beat of the drums, the runners, the drummers and the canoe with its heroic conch shell caller, all disappeared. Later they were to reappear in the guise of waiters, bellhops and gardeners.
âWell, that was pretty spectacular,' admitted Bradley as everyone rose and headed for pre-dinner cocktails, or to other parts of the hotel.
âLet's go for a walk around the lagoon. It's so pretty,' said Catherine. She didn't want to break the spell of the brief ceremony and the strong emotions it had aroused in her. Nor was she ready to make small talk with strangers.
They wandered into the heart of the palm grove and in the fading light saw there were plaques at the base of many of the coconut palms. Some of the trees were tall, old ones, others were young, more recently planted. In the fading light Catherine and Bradley read the names and the dates on the plaques. Some names they recognised, others they didn't â but all commemorated a tree planting here in the last twenty years.
âThere must be hundreds of trees planted in here,' said Catherine. âBy everyone from movie stars to mavericks by the look of it.'
âA lot of big Hollywood movies were filmed at this hotel in the fifties,' said Bradley. âIn fact lots of films were shot on this island. Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Esther Williams, they all stayed here.
âThey all seem to have contributed something to Hawaii or had a connection to the island,' said Catherine. âWho's Duke Kahanamoku?'
âDuke was an American hero, as much for who he was as for his prowess in popularising the sport of Hawaii's kings. He was a great Hawaiian gentleman. You should know about him, he's the father of modern surfing. I thought all Australians surfed,' said Bradley.
âI wouldn't know. I'm a bush girl,' said Catherine. âHow come you know about him? Were you a surfer?'
âNot at all. But living in California, surfing has become huge in the last few years. The Beach Boys, surfing music, that kind of thing.'
They held hands as they walked from the grove back towards the hotel dining room. As they reached the terrace Eleanor appeared with one of the young torch bearers.
âGood evening to you both. Did you enjoy our evening ceremony?'
âWonderful. A great idea,' said Bradley.
âDo you do it every night?' asked Catherine.
âHaven't missed since we started,' replied Eleanor. âEven when there was a hurricane! Isn't that right, Kane?'
The torch bearer beside her nodded vigorously. âI was trying to run through water past my knees. But da torches no go out.'
Eleanor Lang looked at Catherine and said seriously, âI like to think of it as the spirit of our island, lighting the way no matter what happens around us. I hope while you're in the Islands you learn something of our Hawaiian culture.'
Catherine studied the American woman who spoke with a cultured accent and whose bright blue eyes seemed to take in everything around her at a glance. That probably accounted for the attention to detail at the hotel that Catherine had already observed. The Palm Grove proprietor had an air of authority and a firmness in her manner which commanded respect.
âYes, I'd like to do that. I feel very ignorant about my new home,' said Catherine. She suddenly realised that this would be something she'd really like to pursue. Hawaii intrigued her.
Eleanor studied her for a moment. âMake the most of your time here. I can introduce you to some of our staff, you'll learn a lot from them.'
Bradley gave a small laugh. âDarling, it is our honeymoon, don't forget.'
Eleanor glanced at him with a polite smile. âOf course it is. Catherine, when you return to Oahu, spend time with Kiann'e. She's a very special person. Now, I do hope you'll be joining us for dinner this evening. Our chef has prepared his famous kalua pig on the spit and coconut cream pie.'
âLooking forward to it,' said Bradley.
âAnd tomorrow evening, I hope you'll come to my cocktail party after the torch-lighting ceremony.'
âThank you, we'd be delighted,' said Catherine.
âWhy did you accept her drinks invitation?' said Bradley in a low voice as they walked away. âWe might want to do something else. Or just be together.'
âCome on, Bradley. You're always telling me how important it is to socialise and meet new people.'
âWell, you're probably right about Mrs Lang, she's a legend, isn't she? But we'll never see any of these other people again. And you're not really interested in hearing some gardener's story of his family or whatever, are you?'
âYou make it sound like this is a one-off experience and we'll never come back here,' said Catherine.
âOh, you mean you want to come back here for our anniversary? I'd rather explore another of the Islands. The Big Island is great, you'd like it.'
She took his arm. âLet's enjoy being here and make the most of it, eh?'
He grinned. âOkay. Want to forgo dinner in the Palm Palace?'
Catherine laughed. âNo way. I'm starving. Let's try the Lagoon Room.'
The main dining room was crowded. On the little stage near the dance floor an Hawaiian band played, dwarfed by the soaring peaked ceiling of thatched palm fronds and hung with coloured lights. The conch shell caller, now dressed in the hotel staff uniform of a bright aloha shirt and a lei made of shells and seeds, greeted them and showed them to their table.
âWelcome, Mr and Mrs Connor. So glad you are joining us this evening.' He gave Bradley a broad smile, showing large white teeth. âI'm Abel John. Any time you have any request, want to go anywhere, see the island, join in our hotel activities, please, you call me.'
âThank you. We enjoyed the torch ceremony tonight,' said Catherine.
âIt's a tradition at the hotel. Mrs Lang has made the Palm Grove a very special place by paying tribute to old Hawaiâi.' He gave the islands' name its traditional pronunciation. âEnjoy your time on our beautiful island. This is Narita â she will look after you this evening.'
A short plump waitress of Japanese descent bustled around them, pouring water into glasses, unfolding their napkins, handing them menus.
As Bradley studied the menu, Catherine asked her, âHave you been working here a long time?'
âFive years only. Many people have been with Mrs L much longer. Except the young ones. But they part of da family too. The Palm Grove family,' she explained.
âIs everyone from Kauai or do people come and work here from the other islands?' asked Bradley. âThere seem to be plenty of staff.'
âWe are all from Kauai, this hotel has helped many families. Wherever possible Mrs Lang uses local people to do things. My mother make all da staff uniforms, even Mrs L's muu-muus,' she said proudly. âIf you want some made, I can ask for you,' she said to Catherine. âAnd you get one special cheap price.'
âThanks. I'd love that,' said Catherine. âI'll talk to you after dinner perhaps.'
âYou enjoy your dinner. We have delicious ahi caught today.'
As Narita bustled away Bradley shook his head. âSurely you're not serious, Catherine?'
âAbout the ahi? Here it is .Â .Â .' She read from the menu. âSeared ahi with okra and ginger.'
âAbout the dresses. It's like aloha shirts â an impulse buy you never wear when you get home.'
Catherine glanced at Eleanor Lang who, dressed in her muu-muu with long sleeves, was making her elegant way around the room, greeting people at each table. âI know, but they are very practical, flattering, you don't have to think what to wear. Add sandals or high heels and you're casual or formal. I love them. And the flowers .Â .Â .' Catherine patted the hibiscus she'd pinned in her hair.
âI like what you're wearing now,' said Bradley.
Catherine glanced down at her simple sundress, but just the same she decided that she'd buy an aloha shirt for Bradley and order a muu-muu for herself.
The meal was fresh and delicious, much of the produce was grown and brought in by local farmers, Narita told them.
During dinner there were performances by a singer nicknamed Mouse and his band and a hula dancer. Abel John acted as the MC and he called out the names of those celebrating a birthday or an anniversary and introduced Bradley and Catherine, âWho are here on their honeymoon. We wish you many years of joy and hope you will celebrate every anniversary with us here at the Palm Grove. And bring the little keikis with you too!'
There was a round of applause and laughter and Bradley cringed and said he didn't want to dance after dinner and they left soon after their coconut cream pie was served.
It was almost their last day .Â .Â . the ten days had melted away too quickly. They had succumbed to many enticements: a waterfall picnic in the high lush hills. Abel John had given them directions to Secret Beach, where they hiked down to a pristine empty beach save for a few surfers riding the long breakers off the point; they had gone snorkelling in a beautiful bay; and Catherine had beat Bradley at a game of tennis. He was a bit put out, saying he hadn't been trying.
âYou underestimated a female opponent,' laughed Catherine.
When Catherine spotted a sign âHorse Riding' she couldn't resist the chance to go for a ride. Mouse, whose cousin owned the horses, offered to go with her as Bradley refused to sit on a horse.
Catherine was elated to be riding again and it was the perfect way to explore the ravine rising above the fields of pineapples and sugar cane. Mouse told her a little of his family history. âMe a mix of Hawaiian Portugee and Chinese'. The latter had come to the Islands as indentured workers and they still worked the same land as their ancestors. Mouse told Catherine that he had been hired to work in the gardens and to care for the coconut palms at the Palm Grove and one day while he was singing as he worked, Eleanor overheard him and asked if he sang in public.
âI tell her, my family, we all sing,' he said. âSo she got me singing to the guests. Sometimes my sisters sing, too. Mrs L, she even get me on a record. I made three now. We have a Palm Grove choir. Do shows and make big concert at Christmas for guests. It good fun.'
The horses broke out of the heavy foliage and picked their way along a lava rock path where Catherine stopped to admire the breathtaking views from the peaks across to the ocean.
âThis island is so beautiful, so tropical and unspoiled,' said Catherine. âNo wonder it's called the Garden Isle.'
âWe get plenty rain, so there are many rainbows, mists and flowers. Some of the places around here are sacred places. There's a special heiau, a temple, I could show you. Abel John knows much stories 'bout this place. He tell Mrs Lang all the old stories and she use them in the shows. She's always putting on some Hawaiian story for the guests.'
âThe local people, do they know the stories, the history?' asked Catherine. This outer island, where the landscape was so untouched, made her realise there was a society with a mixed cultural heritage linked to old Hawaii that appeared to be very vibrant.
âWe Hawaiian people are all mix up, but the pure Hawaiians, like Abel John, they are very proud of their people, their royalty. Mrs L, she knew the last princess of the Kauai royal family, she let the old lady live in one of the cottages till she die, 'bout ten years ago. Mrs L has been given plenty knowledge, more than many local people.' He paused, then picked up the reins of his horse. âPeople here now more interested in making money from tourists.'
âIt's good then that the Palm Grove gives visitors a taste of the old traditions,' said Catherine. She wished she and Bradley would be there for some of the other ceremonies she'd heard happened at the Palm Grove â the honouring of the last princess, a special tree planting and the great king's birthday.
âYep. It's good that people know Hawaii isn't just like the rest of America. We have a special history. But that Mrs L, maybe she dress them legends and ceremonies up some. They go way back, so who's to say, eh?' He grinned and clicked his tongue and their horses moved on.
Bradley was in the swimming pool doing as many lengths as he could to work off what he considered to be his overindulgence in the copious food on offer when Catherine got back. âBuffets are my downfall,' he confessed. âWe'll diet when we get home. Just a couple more laps and I'll be with you.'
Catherine wandered off through the coconut palms, a peaceful place she found fascinating. Bradley's comment about going âhome' had made her realise that home was now their little Honolulu apartment.
While they'd lived together before the wedding, it had seemed a temporary arrangement and it had all been fun and exciting. Now, with Bradley returning to work, she wondered what her life would be like. Cleaning, shopping, planning meals, making friends, fitting into navy life. They'd have to sort out their lifestyles, tastes, social roles and finances. It worried her that she would have no income and Bradley seemed disinclined to let her look for work. Nor was a family on their immediate agenda. Bradley had made sure she was on the pill so that they wouldn't start a family until the time was right.
It was still and steamy. No midday breeze stirred the drooping palm fronds. The soil beneath her feet smelt dank, the grass a crumpled carpet. No birds swooped or rustled the dry leaves, though behind the grove she could hear the grunt of Eleanor's pet water buffalo near the hotel zoo, a fenced section you could walk through that housed some exotic birds.
Catherine stepped onto the paved path that wound through the main part of the grove and stopped in surprise, wondering for a moment if what she saw was a hallucination. A couple were standing together, he staring into the distance as she gazed up at him.
The huge bronzed man was wearing the royal regalia of an Hawaiian king. His cloak was of feathers, as was his helmet, a great collar of shells and feathers lay against his bare skin, a skein of maile leaves was draped around his neck and he held a large carved wooden staff. His lava lava wrapped around his hips was painted like tapa cloth. His feet were bare.
His queen was dressed in a shimmering fabric, her dress long with a train, a tight bodice, high neck, the sleeves flounced over her shoulders covering her arms to the wrists edged in lace. She wore a crown of fern leaves and flowers, a thick lei of blossoms and the long royal maile leaves draped around her neck fell to her knees. It was the painting that hung in the Palm Palace dining room come to life.
As Catherine gasped, expecting the apparition to disappear in the wavering heat haze, a man's voice spoke and the royal couple relaxed their rigid pose.
âGreat, move to the right and we try one more.'
Catherine walked closer and saw the Palm Grove photographer, a dark-skinned Japanese man, resetting his shot of the pair. Now, as Catherine approached, she recognised the queen as Talia, one of the housekeepers who cleaned their bungalow and the king was none other than Abel John.
âAloha,' he called. âHow're you, Mrs Connor?'
âGood .Â .Â . What's going on?'
âMr Kitamura is taking a picture for Mrs Lang's Christmas card. She always do something special for her cards.'
âShe send out hundreds,' added Talia.
Catherine watched the photographer move his tripod and peer through the camera. Around his neck dangled another camera, which he decided to remove. He handed it to Catherine. âWould you like to assist, ma'am?'
âOf course,' she said. For the next half an hour she stood behind the photographer as he worked, stepping in to adjust the king's cape or the queen's train as Mr Kitamura directed. Occasionally Catherine peered through the viewfinder of the solid SLR camera he'd given her to hold, framing her own version of the photograph.
âYou like to take pictures?' Mr Kitamura asked as he began to pack up.
âOh, only happy snaps,' said Catherine thinking of the photos she had taken ofHeatherbraeand Parker. âThough since being in Hawaii I've been thinking I should buy a good camera. There are so many stunning sights to photograph.'
âYou can buy that one. I grading up to this one,' said Mr Kitamura quaintly. He held up the expensive Leica large-format camera he'd been using. âThat one you have, it very good one. Single lens reflex, good brand, strong make. It has big zoom lens too.'
âOh, I don't think so, this looks too professional for me,' said Catherine.
âThe mo better da camera the mo better da pictures,' said Abel John. âTake a few lessons. Mr Kitamura will show you.'
Catherine turned the solid black camera over in her hands. It felt weighty and comfortable. When she looked through it, the world was reduced to a controllable image with limitations, or she could frame what she wanted and exclude what didn't please her. Or, with a twist of the lens she could make the image blurry and soft, sending it into another dimension, or bring it back into sharp-focus reality; another twist of the zoom lens and she could push the image far away or draw it as close as she chose.
Catherine lowered the camera. âIs it expensive, Mr Kitamura?'
âYes, when I bought it. But now .Â .Â .' he shrugged. âI will give it to you for a fair price.'
Catherine wanted to buy the camera. But immediately she felt guilty and hated her confusion. In her single life she wouldn't have thought twice about it, but now she was unsure about her financial situation and she wasn't earning any money. How would Bradley feel about an impulse â and unnecessary â purchase like a big camera? He'd talked in general terms about a budget, housekeeping expenses and investments âafter they were married' but the talk hadn't yet eventuated. She assumed they'd sort it out when they settled into their new life. Nevertheless, she rationalised that she still had some of her own spending money left over from her holiday and so she could still do as she pleased. She nodded to Mr Kitamura. Yes, she would buy the camera. Just the same, she packed it at the bottom of her suitcase and decided not to tell Bradley but keep it as a surprise.
On their last day Catherine collected two Hawaiian dresses and Bradley's new shirt from Narita's mother in her little sewing room at the back of the housekeeper's quarters. She was pleasantly surprised at the price, which wouldn't dent her budget. She said goodbye to Mouse, Mr Kitamura, Abel John, the housekeeper Talia, the waiters and Mr Hong, the Chinese chef at the Lagoon Room, where they'd breakfasted most mornings.
Eleanor was there to see them off and she gave Catherine a kiss on the cheek. âYou'll come back to Kauai again and you are always welcome here,' she said warmly. âPlease say hello to Kiann'e and ask when is she coming over.'
âIf you come to Oahu, please give us a call, we'd love to see you,' said Catherine.
âThank you, my dear.' She shook Bradley's hand. âGood luck to you both.'
âIt's been a delightful experience,' he answered.
They drove down the driveway marked by the spreading fans of old traveller's palm trees and at the gates, where Palm Grove was spelled out in shells glued to the black lava rock wall, Catherine sighed. âYou feel like you've been visiting a family who are friends â they don't seem like staff â and you don't feel like paying guests.'
âThat's Mrs Lang's recipe for success, I'd say. She probably makes the staff sit up at night memorising guests' names. One couple who'd been there before said the staff remembered their names, their children's details and their favourite cocktail and food. Everything we ate and said has probably been noted in a book for our next visit,' said Bradley.
âOh good, we're coming back then?' said Catherine.
âDo you really want to? It was lovely, very romantic and a beautiful setting, but maybe a bit homespun, too much of the community spirit if you ask me,' he answered. âAnd you can see it's getting a bit run down. Some of the furnishings need replacing. I think the place could do with an overhaul.'
âMmm. I'd rather be here than at a cold, impersonal, big international hotel,' said Catherine.
âI'm glad you liked it.' He patted her knee. âIt was a wonderful interlude. But real life beckons, sweetheart. For me anyway.'
âWhat about me? What's my real life going to be, Bradley?' she asked lightly, but with some concern.
âWhatever you make of it, Catherine. Of course I'd hoped you would see your role as wife as a new challenge. And you mentioned dressing up our apartment somewhat. Not that we need to totally re-decorate, as I'm sure we'll get bigger quarters on the base and then we can rent out the TradeWinds apartment.'
âThen there's not much point in my making a nest, is there?' said Catherine. âI should look for a job.'
âThat's not necessary. I have some money put aside in investments, but we should stick to a budget.'
âAnd how does that work?' asked Catherine.
âI'll set aside an amount each week for our expenses, food, utilities, travel, a dinner out on Friday nights, entertainment like movies. You can manage that can't you?'
âOf course, I just want to contribute,' answered Catherine.
âKeeping the house, making meals, dropping and picking me up from work â so you'll have the car all day â attending the Wives' Club and social functions .Â .Â . sounds like a pretty full life to me.' When she didn't answer, he took her hand. âI'm sure you'll miss your parents and this is a new place and a new routine, but I just want you to be happy, Catherine. You will tell me if there's anything .Â .Â . wrong, if you're not happy?'
âI couldn't ask for anyone more thoughtful. You've thought of everything,' said Catherine. âI'm just a bit nervous about the Wives' Club thing .Â .Â .'
âOh, it's just a bit of fun. And the other women will sweep you up and you'll settle in with a bunch of girlfriends and tennis and goodness knows what before you know it.'
âGreat,' said Catherine. âI just hope your navy friends are going to like me.'
Bradley turned his attention to the signs to Lihue Airport and then began talking about their trip to California to his family for Thanksgiving.
Within a few weeks a routine was quickly established. Bradley only had black coffee for breakfast and a cigarette.
On weekends he'd eat the fresh red papaya with lime juice squeezed over it that Catherine prepared. Then he would walk down to the mini mart on the corner for the morning paper and bring back some of Mrs Hing's freshly made malasadas, fried donuts with cinnamon and powdered sugar on top, to eat with his coffee as he read. Weekday mornings he dressed in his naval whites â crisply ironed pants and short-sleeved white shirt with the naval insignia on it â which Catherine had struggled to iron to perfection. The laundry in the basement of the building required perseverance and after a disaster with his naval dress pants they'd settled on sending those to the cleaners. Catherine also sent off a few of his dress shirts as well then hung them in his closet minus their plastic covering as they had defeated her pressing capabilities.
Meals, too, were a challenge. Catherine thought back on the parties atHeatherbraewhere her parents had entertained and fed up to one hundred people at a gathering. Throwing half a cow on the barbecue with the men in charge and enlisting the talents of the women who were good country cooks and always brought along a casserole, salad or cake to share had made feeding everyone seem easy.
Catherine hadn't had much practice in making a candlelit dinner for two. American recipes cut from theHonolulu Advertiserconfused her when they talked about broiling and using Crisco as a softener â was that butter, margarine or lard? she wondered. The name of the white shortening rang a bell. She'd commented to Narita at the Palm Grove about her beautiful skin and she told Catherine she used Crisco as a night cream. Catherine couldn't bring herself to cook with it after that.
Bradley sometimes liked pancakes with eggs, bacon and maple syrup â a crazy combination as far as Catherine was concerned. She was unfamiliar with the local seafood and the names of fruit and vegetables â aubergine for eggplant, bell pepper for capsicum â took getting used to. The idea that the salad was served before the meal rather than as an accompaniment threw her entirely. She could hear her dad saying âSo what's it matter?' but Bradley hinted, with a small frown, that she'd better get one meal down pat so that they could entertain guests at their first dinner party.
âWell, who are we going to invite?' she asked. âKiann'e and her husband? Someone from your work? None of them is going to be fussed about what we eat. In fact, why don't we get one of those hibachi things I've seen everywhere. You know, it's like a little barbecue with coals and a hot plate and we could set it up on our lanai and grill satay sticks or prawns or something.'
Bradley gave her a look. âOur lanai can seat two people. One small table and a pot plant and it's full. It's not an entertaining area. We have enough room inside to have a dinner for six people, maximum, with drinks and hors d'oeuvres in the living area. It's tight but it can work. It's expected of us, Catherine. We owe Jim and Julia, Lance and Melanie an invitation. They've had us over twice, at least.'
âOh. I didn't realise it was kind of tit for tat. I thought they were just being friendly, showing me the ropes, doing the right thing,' said Catherine, who'd found Bradley's colleagues and their wives saccharine and superficial. Entertaining them would be a duty rather than a pleasure. The men always talked baseball and football, the wives, well, she couldn't recall what they'd talked about really .Â .Â . the Liberty House sale, the Christmas fundraiser, one poor family's problem with a miscreant teenager. She'd tuned out. It wasn't conversation but chit chat. Someone had asked about their honeymoon on Kauai and when Catherine had launched into the characters, especially Eleanor, the ethos at the hotel, the emphasis on Hawaiian traditions, the women had lost interest, asking, yes, but what about the food? And what was there to do? To buy?
Bradley broke into her thoughts. âThat's it â doing the right thing. What my mom calls a nice gesture. We have to reciprocate, Catherine. They are trying to make you feel welcome, included. Included in my world. It's all very well feeling comfortable and relaxed here in Hawaii, which is peaceful, beautiful and has nice people who speak the same language and is part of the USA. In other posts, other situations, it can be a lot more difficult. So whom do we turn to for support, for help, for information, for fun? Our navy family.'
Catherine couldn't argue with him. Just the same, even though American culture wasn't entirely alien, the small differences between it and her own became picky and petty issues. It was similar and familiar enough not to present huge adjustments so she found she was whingeing about the way a formal table was set, how food was served. The tiny social observances that, in her normal life, were of no consequence, now became frustrating, numbing problems. AtHeatherbraethey wouldn't have mattered to anyone. But here, in Bradley's world, the navy world, and among his friends, these little things really mattered. Table settings, flower arrangements, the latest trendy food fad â fondue and parfaits â were somehow important. Catherine wilted under the inaneness of it and the fact these things were of consequence to her husband.
She rang her mother and unburdened herself.
âOh, sweetie, that's all quite normal. You know what a wonderful cook Granny Moreland was, and Dad had all his favourite dishes and of course I never made them as well as his mother.'
âBut, Mum, this food is so foreign .Â .Â . I would expect it if I was living in Hungary or Greece, but I didn't think American food was so different to ours!'
âIn what way, sweetie?'
âBradley complains about his weight, but can't see that toasty tarts with jam â excuse me, jelly â are bad for you, and everything here has so much fat, artificial cream, and they serve just so much food on a dish, no-one can eat it all .Â .Â . the waste is shocking.'
âWhat about Hawaiian food? Don't they eat lots of fruit? Seafood?' asked Rosemary.
âYes, but it's dressed up with so much decoration, trimmings, sauces and side things like chips â not French fries, crisps. I'm told real Hawaiian food is starchy and fattening. I tried poi and it's horrible â grey glue.'
Her mother laughed. âYou're overreacting. At least you're not starving. Start a new trend and eat and serve Aussie tucker. Keep it simple, plain meat and salads.'
âMum! Meat comes cooked in lots of ways with a zillion sauces and there are a hundred types of salads from waldorf to caesar with honey cream dressing, ranch to roquefort cheese, you name it. Simple and plain doesn't exist in American cooking,' wailed Catherine. âI'm going to gain weight and be a failure as a hostess.'
âThen, when in Rome, do as they do or just do your own thing. I'll send you some Australian cookbooks,' advised Rosemary. âReally, I can't imagine this is such an important issue. Just watch what others do, look in magazines and cookbooks. If you can read you can cook. You'll be fine.'
âThanks, Mum,' said Catherine, not feeling all that much better.
She hoped entertaining was far off. Serving Bradley a meal each evening when he was tired, preoccupied and talking about people and plans she knew nothing about didn't make for a jolly evening. He was polite though, and complimented her on her cooking whether the meal had worked or was a rescued disaster. She began to wonder if she'd ever be up to doing a dinner for six people. She wrote to Mollie who sent back a swift reply â âGet a caterer or buy in ready-made on the quiet and tip it into a dish in the oven. Who's to know?'
Catherine dropped Bradley off at the entrance to the base where two sailors, smartly turned out with impassive faces under their peaked caps, manned the sentry boxes at the gate. She watched them salute and wave Bradley through. As he crossed the emerald lawn in his white uniform, she felt her heartbeat quicken at how handsome and striking he was.
She collected the dry cleaning and some of Mrs Hing's just-cooked malasadas and returned home to change for her first Wives' Club meeting, being held at the Goodwins. She put on a pretty aloha print sundress that showed off her tan. On the way to the car she picked up a plumeria flower that had fallen from a tree and tucked it in her hair.
By the time Catherine arrived, feeling slightly flustered as she'd had difficulty finding the right place to park and had taken a short cut and got lost, all the other women were there. The housekeeper greeted her and showed her into the large living room where about twenty women were gathered, standing and holding glasses of juice or cups of coffee. A long buffet table was set with food, beautifully presented on pretty dishes and decorated with slices of fruit, flowers, or radish and carrot rosettes.
Connie Goodwin came forward with a smile. âMy dear. You made it at last. I was worried you'd got lost. Oh, and you brought something, how nice.' She took the plastic box of buns from Catherine and handed them to the housekeeper. âPut these out â on a platter, please, Amber.'
Catherine glanced at the table. âHow beautifully laid out the food is. My, I thought it was just morning tea.'
âOh, our girls are so talented. Very artistic too.'
It suddenly dawned on Catherine that everyone had taken âbring a plate' rather seriously, vying to outdo each other with elaborate presentations. All presumably homemade. Well, at least she'd taken the buns out of Mrs Hing's takeaway carton and put them in her own plastic box, even if it wasn't Tupperware.
âCome and meet our current club president, and the other members of the committee,' said Mrs Goodwin steering her towards one group who were wearing ribbons above their name tags. âYou'll be given your name tag at our little welcome to the club ceremony,' she added.
Catherine's heart sank. She had thought that this was to be an informal morning tea but it had all the hallmarks of a political rally, a class reunion of some private girls' school and a church supper rolled into one. Catherine had been to a lot of meetings of the Country Women's Association with her mother and had found them great fun, efficient, practical and welcoming. She now felt she was on show and being studied, assessed, judged and found wanting.
And she was dressed inappropriately. Despite the sunshine and soft breeze outside, the Goodwin's home was closed up and air conditioners hummed, sending an icy blast through the rooms. Catherine shivered and saw that the other women were dressed as if they were going to a smart lunch in San Francisco. Jackets, pencil-line skirts, high heels, nylons. Who wore stockings in Hawaii? Smart dresses were accessorised with elegantly knotted scarves or strands of pearls and gold chains. All had been to the hairdresser and their make-up was immaculate. Each woman was clearly trying to impress the others. Catherine felt completely inadequate.
She shook hands and smiled as she was introduced to the committee members. And the awkward newcomer smalltalk began.
âYes, that's right, just married. Met in London. Kauai was lovely. Yes, we'll be in California for Thanksgiving. His family are delightful. Yes, we hope to be living on the base very soon.' On it went. When it was her turn to ask questions she asked, âWhat exactly does the Wives' Club committee do? Does anyone work?'
âWe all work, Catherine. That's the idea of the committee, to share the workload,' said Elizabeth, the president.
âWorkload? I meant does anyone have a job? Is anyone employed in Honolulu?'
âNot that I'm aware,' said Mrs Goodwin in a tone that implied that if she did know she would not approve. âYou'll discover all our committee and the club work very hard, not just for our own community but for those less fortunate around the world. Our country, as I'm sure you are aware, has a social conscience to help little children and their suffering mothers in those countries not as fortunate as our own.'
Catherine held her tongue and nodded approvingly, while trying to think what to say next. She came up with, âHow long do committee members hold office?'
This was safe ground and there followed a detailed explanation of the voting procedures.
Eventually Mrs Goodwin went to the middle of the room and rang a small bell and there was immediate silence. She said a few words of welcome, called the meeting to order and handed over to the president. The women all sat down on the circle of chairs as Elizabeth consulted her notes and ran through some âhousekeeping' about the next meeting, asking for volunteers to put their name down for the school and hospital visits and a proposed outing to tour the Dole pineapple plantation.
âWe now come to some very pleasant business. And that is to welcome our new member â Catherine Connor.' She beckoned Catherine to stand up and join her, which Catherine did with a nervous smile.
Elizabeth handed Catherine a gold name tag pin with a small ribbon attached. âWelcome and wear this badge with pride. As wives of the officers of the United States Navy, whose men so gallantly uphold the American flag, its honour, tradition and all that America stands for, join us in saying the pledge:We pledge to honour our country, its fighting men, those who work and serve in every capacity to make this world a better place. We stand by those who serve. God bless America.All stood with their hands on their hearts and Catherine mumbled along. She vaguely recalled some paperwork in the welcome kit the navy had sent home with Bradley but she hadn't had the time, or inclination, to study it. Obviously she was supposed to do so and be word perfect with all this.
Elizabeth turned to Catherine. âAnd now we'll hear from Catherine.' As Catherine shot her a shocked blank look, she said, âTell us about yourself. Your background, your interests, your hobbies. It doesn't have to be very long,' she added in a stage whisper.
Catherine wished even more that she'd paid attention to those briefing papers in the welcome kit. âI'm from Australia, from a small country town surrounded by very beautiful countryside,' she began in a quavering voice. âMy father's a solicitor â lawyer â and runs a small cattle stud calledHeatherbrae. I'm an only child, so it's very hard for my parents having me live so far away but I've been brought up to follow my heart .Â .Â .' Here she gave a small smile as there were encouraging smiles on several faces. âAnd Bradley is a wonderful man, very special and so .Â .Â . here I am. Oh, I have worked as a secretary, personal assistant, in my father's office and as a general dogsbody on our property.'
âHobbies?' prompted Elizabeth.
âRiding. I have a horse, Parker, that I miss very much. I'm still adjusting to being a bride, well, a new wife. I'm not much of a cook, I don't do any craft or sew, but I'm hoping now I have the time, I might improve my skills,' she finished quickly, not wanting to appear a handicap to the group.
There was polite applause. âThank you, Catherine. I'm sure over the coming months we'll hear more about your homeland and we can all share our favourite recipes and handy tips with you. And, of course, we are all here to support you in any way we can. My goodness, I don't know where I would have been without my sorority sisters when I first got married,' trilled Elizabeth.
Catherine decided not to mention that she hadn't gone to university as it was not as commonplace in Australia as it was in America. The fact that Mollie and half their friends hadn't gone to university wouldn't be understood by these women, most of whom had gone to college at eighteen to âfind a husband'. Few, Catherine discovered, had done anything career-wise with their degrees.
The morning dragged on and at the time appointed on the invitation, they rose to make their goodbyes and thank Mrs Goodwin effusively. The food they'd brought had disappeared and a pile of clean plates, platters and bowls were stacked on the table for their owners to retrieve. The housekeeper stood to one side ready to answer Mrs Goodwin's sudden demands .Â .Â .
âAmber, fetch some leftover cakes for Mrs Hand's driver's family. Amber, where are the brochures for Mrs Gordon? Did everyone get their information sheets? I'm so glad you've volunteered for the Christmas craft roster, Catherine,' she said as Catherine stood in line to bid her hostess farewell.
Catherine had not wanted to volunteer for anything specific, but had become aware that one had to sign up for something and so had put her name on the first sheet handed to her. Craft. She had no craft skills. Well, she'd deal with that later. She just wanted to get out of the freezing house and claustrophobic atmosphere.
Driving home Catherine broke into peals of laughter in the car and wished that Mollie was with her to hear her mimic the president and some of the other women.
Over a drink before dinner she began to regale Bradley with her now hilarious morning, but he stood up and cut her short.
âCatherine, I don't find it at all amusing. You're being childish and quite unappreciative. These women mean well, they are trying to help you fit in, and, remember, their husbands are my work colleagues and fellow officers and, indeed, superiors. If you offend them you harm my professional standing. Please be aware of that.'
âOh, come on, Bradley. It was a morning tea party with a bunch of women with nothing but time on their hands trying to feel important,' she retorted.
âCatherine, that's not the right attitude at all. You have to stop being so critical. Have you considered those women probably feel sorry for you? They consider you a country girl from Down Under who has a lot to learn about how things are done in the USA?'
Bradley sighed. âLook, just fit in, be sweet, listen, do what it takes. Don't rock the boat. It's my career and the wives play an important role, even when it comes to promotion. This marriage is a partnership. I thought you understood that.' He spoke in a serious voice as if to an errant child.
Catherine didn't know whether to laugh or cry. She wanted to raise her voice and tell him he was being ridiculous. When Bradley had talked about his career, the support of the other wives, the navy community â the navy family â she'd thought in general terms, in the big scheme of things: some social events and if there was a problem, then the other women were there to support you. She hadn't considered that she would have to play a role in the minutiae of a weekly social club with women whose focus was so narrow.
âOkay, Bradley. If it means so much to you and my baking cakes and going to craft classes will help your career path then of course, I'll do whatever you say.'
He gave her a sharp look to see if she was being facetious though her tone was meek. âI'm not telling you what to do, Catherine. I'm assuming you will make that call yourself and know what is the correct thing to do.'
She changed the subject and busied herself in the kitchen wondering if they'd just had their first fight.
It was a relief when she had a chance to meet Kiann'e for coffee and the two hours they spent together disappeared in a flash. Catherine told her how wonderful she thought Eleanor and the Palm Grove were and Kiann'e told her more about Eleanor, Abel John, Mouse and the ethos of working for the hotel.
âEleanor can be a tyrant in some ways, things just have to be done her way, there is no other. But you can't deny she's what makes it work. She took me under her wing and encouraged me and she arranged a job for me at the Moonflower.'
âI find it strange that a woman from the East Coast should be so steeped in the culture and traditions of Hawaii. How, why did she come to the Islands?'
âI think she ran away from a broken romance somewhere. She doesn't like to talk about herself. She married Ed Lang who was older and they were so happy. I know she desperately wanted a child but it didn't happen, then Ed died so suddenly and everyone thought she'd sell their hotels they'd bought and go back East. But she threw herself into the Palm Grove and it was like she was reborn. Itisher life.'
âShe seems very knowledgeable about the old traditions, the history and so on,' said Catherine. âI was fascinated. All I knew about Hawaii was Waikiki Beach and that Captain Cook was killed on the Big Island.'
Kiann'e swirled the last of the coffee in the bottom of her cup. âThere's a lot to know. Many of the kids today have no interest in the old days; it's past history, they say. A few quaint traditions linger that are trotted out for tourists .Â .Â . But there's a lot happening in some quarters,' said Kiann'e carefully.
âLike what? I'm really interested,' said Catherine, aware that Kiann'e was hesitant about going into details.
The dancer smiled. âSlowly, slowly. If you're really interested we can visit a few people, special places. I think you'd appreciate and understand there's a lot more to learn.'
âI'd like that, really I would,' said Catherine eagerly. âI need more in my life than craft classes, tea parties and talking to women who are adornments to their husbands' careers.'
Kiann'e gave a soft laugh. âYou're Australian, so you're a straight shooter, Catherine. I like that. In the coming weeks and months, let's just tell your husband you're out with a girlfriend. But really, you and I .Â .Â . we're going on a journey.' She reached across the table and the two young women clasped hands.
Extract from The Biography of
For the young man, swimming was not just a way of earning a meagre living as a lifeguard. Swimming was a challenge like running, a sport and a pleasure. It became the focus of each day. Something he looked forward to, an earned gift after the boredom of sitting on the beach and fulfilling his lifeguard duties.
When he was running he found himself as much a novelty in the suburbs of Los Angeles as he had back in Red Hawk. Residents didn't walk about much because the popularity of automobiles was increasing. Sometimes he was regarded with curiosity, but a second glance at the fit and handsome young man, determinedly running at an even steady pace and taking no notice of passing traffic, soon settled any doubts. Sometimes passers-by waved or called a greeting but most ignored him and sped past.
After the barren plains of Red Hawk, the geography of Los Angeles intrigued him and he never noticed the distances he covered. He came to know the sprawl of the town, areas of adobe houses, farm fields, the west-side mansions, the orchards of the San Fernando Valley and the cluster of buildings and movie studios known as Hollywood.
He discovered small pockets populated by foreign people and in one section, five miles from Hollywood, he discovered a dark-skinned man with heavily accented English who had opened a small shop and baked heavy wholewheat bread for ten cents a loaf. Three loaves of this wonderful bread and a bag of groceries from a local farm shop kept the young man going for nearly a week.
When he was running and swimming the young man came alive. He tested his body, felt every muscle, every fibre, every breath and every heartbeat. His feet and arms moved as a machine, but his mind whirled free as his feet pounded over the miles.
Sometimes he imagined he was zooming over the Rockies like one of the great eagles, or the hawks of his home town. Sometimes he was sliding in snow, skimming over an icy lake, or taking the first spring plunge in a frosty river. And always his fantasy, the movie in his mind, ended with him, upright, standing on a board, riding the waves of Hawaii.
The ocean at Santa Monica was unpredictable and not always suitable for serious swimming so when he heard that the smart new private sports and athletic club was about to open he managed to slip in to watch the extravagant opening ceremony.
He had never seen a building so grand. The beautiful swimming pool was on an upper floor â a first for the city â and decorated in the beaux-arts style with etched coloured-glass windows, chandeliers, lamps in the shape of swans and marble floors. On the ground floor a forty-piece band was playing and waiters in sharp suits passed around food and drinks to the movie stars and other celebrities. He was amazed when he realised that the initial âplunge' into the pool would be taken by the Hawaiian king of swimming and surfing â Duke Kahanamoku, the very man he had seen in that newsreel in Red Hawk.
He pushed forward and was there, waiting to shake the Duke's hand as he left the pool. Breathlessly the young man, less than a decade the Duke's junior, told him how he'd seen him one day in the movie theatre and how he now dreamed of going to Hawaii.
âLook me up at the Outrigger Canoe Club when you get there,' the Duke said kindly before he was swept away by officials.
In the weeks that followed, the young man made the acquaintance of one of the security guards of the club who allowed him to go into the pool late at night to swim by himself. With no day job other than being a lifeguard at the beach in summer and using the money from his grateful benefactor in winter, he spent every spare moment lapping the pool. He began to compete against others and frequently won. When he heard of a competition he'd turn up, dive in and win. The club began to notice his success and the club coach explained there was a system to these events and he needed to represent a club. He suggested the young man represent theirs. He no longer had to train at night by himself.
The coach persuaded him to swim for the club at the long-distance swimming championship in Philadelphia. The coach accompanied him and this time he travelled as a legitimate train passenger. Second class wasn't luxurious but it was vastly superior to the boxcar of the freight trains.
While the coach had befriended him, the young man had no illusions their friendship was based on anything more than his winning for the club. Should he fail to do so, he would once again be alone and at a loose end. He did not have close friends among the club's members or the other competitors. He kept to himself and his drive and determination isolated him.
The race was along the chilly and choppy Delaware River but when he dived in he imaged he was swimming in the tepid waters of Waikiki. He won the race by yards and found his face on the sports pages of the local newspaper the next day. The newspaper account hailed the champ from the west who had annexed the local titles in his debut long-distance swimming meet. He carefully cut out his first newspaper photo, wrote the date on it and slipped it into his wallet. He was asked to stay in the east and compete in several more events from a one-mile invitational to a ten-mile race, and he won them all. He was starting to become famous not only as a long-distance swimmer but for winning any event he entered. His name now appeared regularly in newspapers and so it came as no surprise to him that he was asked to try out for the Olympic Games.
When the Princess Matoika sailed from New York with the US Olympic team bound for the Games in Antwerp, the young man was amazed to find himself sharing a cabin with his hero and the star of the swimming team, Duke Paoa Kahanamoku.
THE SUN HAD YETto appear but already fierce gold light was piercing the soft skirts of fading night. Catherine waited on the street outside the TradeWinds watching the early morning shift workers head for hotels, coffee shops and businesses. Even though Honolulu was a holiday place, where, on a morning like this, you could tell already from the gentle breeze, the warmth in the air and the clear sky that it was going to be a picture-postcard day, life for many was as humdrum as in any city in America. Children to get ready for school, breakfasts to prepare, news programs on television, people planning their day, going to jobs and generally focusing on the daily issues of their lives. And yet, decided Catherine, there was a difference here. The casual way people dressed, the mixture of races, the smiling demeanour on their faces. Glance upward in any direction and you glimpsed a palm tree with the knowledge that not far away you'd strike a strip of beautiful beach and stunning scenery. Yes, Hawaii was different. Living here she couldn't escape or ignore the fact she was part of this âisland paradise' and, as everyone reminded her, she was lucky to be part of it.
Kiann'e had suggested that Catherine join her on one of her early morning outings where she walked on the beach, had a swim and was home in time to make her husband's breakfast before he went to work. Catherine agreed, though she admitted to being not much of a beach person.
She recognised Kiann'e's little red truck as it pulled into the curb.
âMorning. Have I kept you waiting?' asked Kiann'e.
âNo, I didn't want you to have to wait so I was a few minutes early.'
âIs Bradley up? You should bring him along.'
âHe was just waking up .Â .Â . but he needs a cigarette and black coffee before he gets going. How about your husband, Willi, isn't it?' Catherine hadn't met Kiann'e's husband who ran a small factory making some sort of light industrial equipment that Catherine didn't quite understand. She knew he made frequent trips to Germany where his father had an engineering business. Kiann'e didn't talk about Willi's business or her home life very much and Catherine hadn't wanted to pry. Besides, she was far more interested in Kiann'e's dancing career and her stories about growing up on Kauai.
Kiann'e drove below the rugged peak of Diamond Head, circling Kapiolani Park and pulled into a small apartment building of dark wood with lanai railings all painted bright turquoise. The wooden shuttered screen doors gave the Ambassador Apartments a Japanese flavour. She parked underneath in a resident's parking place and got out.
âWho lives here? Anyone you know or do you just park here?' asked Catherine as she followed her out of the underground car park to a narrow strip of lawn and small swimming pool. A low rock wall separated the grounds from the beach with several steps leading onto the sand. The beach was deserted save for two men walking. An older woman was sitting by the pool reading a newspaper. She nodded at Kiann'e as they went down onto the sand.
âLet's walk first.' Kiann'e pointed up at one of the apartments that faced the beach. âLester Manning lives up there. He doesn't drive anymore so he doesn't mind me using his spot. A couple of times a week I pick up some groceries for him.'
âHandy. And who's Lester Manning?' asked Catherine as they began walking along the water's edge.
âLester Manning? He was a world champion surfer for years. A legend. Like Duke Kahanamoku. And Tom Blake. Made some radical changes to surfboard designs. Very famous in his day,' said Kiann'e.
âOh. I see. How do you know him?' asked Catherine. âIs he a relative?'
âNo. But I've kind of adopted him. He doesn't have any family. Abel John looks out for him too, when he comes to Honolulu.'
âYou don't take him out?'
âSometimes. He's in his seventies and has terrible arthritis so he finds it difficult to move around now. It's hard for a man who was so active, such an athlete who loved the water so much not to be able to enjoy it. Eleanor looks after him too. I heard she owns the apartment and lets him live there for free.'
âHe didn't make money as a world champion surfer?' Catherine wasn't very interested in surfing, but even she'd read about its becoming commercialised with movies, magazines and surf shops.
Kiann'e knew what she was thinking. âIn the old days there wasn't the money to be made as is starting to be now. Mind you, very few make a living at it even now. Surfers are a special breed anyway. They do it for the love of surfing and hope they can pay a few expenses. That hasn't changed. I'll introduce you to Lester later if you like. C'mon, let's go as far as that palm tree bending over, and swim back.'
âAh, that's why we left everything back on the beach,' said Catherine as Kiann'e sprinted ahead before wading into the clear water.
There were no waves, just a gentle wash that slapped in and out onto the sand. Catherine waded out to her waist then dived underwater as she'd seen Kiann'e do. She stroked behind Kiann'e who was swimming like a fish, her head down, arms barely making a splash as she cleaved through the water. It was like being in a huge pool protected by a reef, which suited Catherine. Large pounding waves like those at beaches in Australia didn't appeal to her. There were several other early morning swimmers stroking lazily through the water or floating on their backs, almost looking to be asleep. All were older people who perhaps were retirees from the mainland. Bradley had told her it was the dream of all his parents' friends in California to retire to the Islands.
Holidaymakers were stirring, sitting on their balconies, appearing at the open-air dining rooms of the beachfront hotels.
âHey,' said Kiann'e, âyou're a good swimmer.'
âWell,' laughed Catherine, âI mightn't have lived anywhere near the sea, but we did have a pool in our backyard.'
âGot time for a coffee with Lester?' asked Kiann'e.
âWhy not? Bradley is taking the car today as he has a few other things to do so I don't have to race back.'
âThat's terrific. Maybe we could go out for lunch. Or I could you show you some of Oahu,' suggested Kiann'e.
âSounds great. Our apartment is so small, I feel a bit claustrophobic at times, after the wide open spaces at home.'
They got out of the compact elevator on the third floor and Kiann'e rapped on the door of the end apartment then let herself in. âHi, Lester, it's me. I've brought a friend to meet you.'
The two women walked into the small apartment to be met by an older man leaning heavily on his walking stick. Catherine was struck by the man's straight posture and forceful presence. He had silver hair but his face and upper body were tanned. His skinny legs looked like those of a bird poking beneath his voluminous shorts. He wore a yellow singlet and his bright blue eyes and cheerful smile made Catherine think of a cheeky canary.
âHello, hello. Who have we here? Another pretty girl. What a lucky man am I. What's your name, girl?' He held out his hand.
Catherine took his hand to shake it and was impressed by his firm and friendly grip. âI'm Catherine. I'm so very pleased to meet you. Kiann'e has told me a lot about you.'
âHas she now? She exaggerates. So, where're you from, Miss Catherine? You a malahini?'
âA newcomer to the island? That's me,' she smiled, glad she'd heard the expression before. âI'm from Australia. Western New South Wales. Near a town called Peel.'
âAustralia! Went there with the Duke once. My, those Down Under boys took to surfing like ducks to water,' he chuckled. âCaptain Cook, after he discovered Australia and came to Hawaii, was the first person to write about surfing.'
âHe was?' said Catherine. âIt goes back that far?'
âWay, way back. The Hawaiian kings were the first surfers. Royalty and the chiefs used to ride wooden planks on the waves. Show off to the villagers.'
âLester is an encyclopedia on surfing. How are you feeling this morning?' asked Kiann'e. âReady for some coffee?'
âYou girls go ahead. I've had my quota. But you can make me one of those concoctions of yours, Kiann'e.'
âI whip him up a milkshake in the blender with plenty of fruit and vitamins,' she said to Catherine. âYou guys sit and chat.'
âSo what brings you to the Islands, young lady? Pull out a chair.'
Catherine sat on a cane chair opposite Lester. âI just married an American, he's here with the navy.'
âUh huh. And what do you do with yourself while he's at sea?'
âHe's onshore, at the base. Administration. So I'm not on my own.'
âYou've got a good friend in Miss Kiann'e. She been showing you round? You been to Kauai? That's one beautiful island.'
âYes. I had my honeymoon there. At the Palm Grove.'
The old man's face lit up. âAh, that's a magic place. Eleanor and Ed had a dream and that Eleanor, she's made it happen. She's a hard worker and a tough boss but, by golly, that place is one in a million.'
âShe seems an amazing woman. I really liked her,' agreed Catherine.
âHeart as big as Hawaii, too. She sure been good to me,' said Lester. âThis is her place, y'know. Belonged to her and Ed and she lets me stay here. And I'm not the only one. She don't talk about it, but I know she helped that Abel John. Put him through some school.'
Kiann'e handed Lester his milkshake. âI'm not surprised that Eleanor helps you. You're a somebody, for sure.'
âI'm just an old kamaaina.'
Kiann'e wagged her finger at him. âYou're more than an old timer in the Islands and you know it. They call him an Hawaiian treasure,' she said to Catherine.
âHave you always lived here?' asked Catherine as Kiann'e made their coffee.
âNo. Would've been 1918. Our boys were fighting in France and I was a young man. It was winter in Nebraska and I was watching a newsreel in a little movie house trying to get warm and they showed a clip of the Duke standing up on a board off Waikiki, his arms crossed, cruising down a wave like he was standing still, with sand and palm trees in the background. And I said to myself that's where I'm going.'
âAnd you never left?'
âOh, occasionally. When my father died â my mom died when I was a baby â and a couple of times I had to scratch around for some money.' He paused. âAnd once or twice I went to the desert. Arizona. When I needed to think about things. Sitting on a mountain, out there in the wilderness, on your own, helps me think. I reckon it's the air .Â .Â . so clear and sharp, the light so bright, nothing gets in the way between you and a conversation with God.'
âI know what you mean,' said Catherine. âThere's a small hill, a knoll, at the back of my parents' property and I like to ride my horse up there and sit and look at all the empty countryside. It's so beautiful, so peaceful. A good place for thinking.'
Lester nodded. âYep. The desert and the sea. Very important places in my life.'
Kiann'e brought in two mugs of coffee. âBet you never imagined you'd end up staying here and becoming a surf champ like the Duke, eh? He helped you a lot didn't he?'
âHe was a mighty man. Helped many kids. But we became pals, real good pals. He died a few years ago and I miss him. He was an Olympic gold medallist swim champ, but he'll always be remembered as the father of modern surfing. That's right, isn't it, Kiann'e?'
âSure thing, Lester. But you racked up a few achievements yourself. Now where's your shopping list?'
âOn the kitchen counter. Say, Kiann'e, you taken Catherine to some special places? She met your family?'
âNot yet, Lester. But we'll do that.' She turned to Catherine. âNow that's something we could do today. Go and visit my family on the windward side. I have to take some things to them anyway. My aunty will make us lunch.'
âI don't want to put her to any trouble,' began Catherine, but Lester and Kiann'e both laughed.
âWait till you meet my family, there's always a small tribe hanging around. Nothing's ever any trouble. C'mon, I'll drop you back at your place and you can change, I'll go home and feed Willi, then we'll head over the Pali.' She dropped a kiss on Lester's head. âTake care, I'll bring your groceries over tomorrow.'
âAloha to your aunty. Nice to meet you, Catherine. I know I'll see you again. Say, any time you want to swim here, you know the ropes now.'
âReally? That's lovely of you, Lester. Thank you.'
Kiann'e's little red pick-up wound up the Pali and she turned off at the sign pointing to the Pali lookout.
âHave you stopped at the lookout?'
âNo. I'd love to stop, we seem to be very high,' said Catherine.
âHold onto your hat. It's always unbelievably windy,' said Kiann'e.
âWhat happened to the day?' said Catherine as she got out of the pick-up and felt the cool wind whip around her. They were shrouded in mist and as they walked to the edge of the lookout Catherine could just make out the coastline below.
âPali weather. We're about a thousand feet up here.'
âIt's a spectacular view,' said Catherine. âBut kind of creepy. The weather I guess.'
âYou're tuning in to the landscape. King Kamehameha the First conquered this island by forcing his enemies up here until they all went over the cliffs. There are a lot of superstitions about this place. Some silly â though my mother believes them.'
âLike what?' asked Catherine.
âOh, not carrying pork over the mountain at night. And she swears she's seen a menehune up here one time. Says he followed her from Kauai.'
âWhat's a menehune?'
âLittle people, as the Irish say. Spirit people. Small people with magic powers believed to live in the forests on Kauai. They've supposedly built many things.'
âSo they're not just mystical, they do practical things?'
âSome academics say they are from an original race that first peopled the Islands. My mother doesn't agree,' said Kiann'e. âShe prefers the history of the ali'i, the powerful Hawaiian chieftans. Did you see Abel John enacting the role at the torch ceremony at the Palm Grove?'
Catherine laughed. âI did. I have to say I'm with your mum. He looked so majestic, so big and strong. Is your mother pure Hawaiian?'
Kiann'e stared at the stretch of coastline, distant towns and beaches below them. âNo, but her mother was. Mom's very proud of her connection to the old royal house of Kauai rulers.' Kiann'e shrugged. âIt's a rather complicated history with marriages, deposings, wars, politics, the British, then the United States. The families of ruling royals exist in name only now. But she grew up on Kauai and won't move.'
âSo your mother has royal blood! And on your father's side?'
âAh, then we get into Chinese, Portuguese, other Europeans.' She grinned. âMany people have washed ashore on these islands, fallen in love and chosen to stay. Not always with happy endings,' she added. âYour Captain Cook, for example.'
âHe's not my Captain Cook. He was English,' said Catherine. âThis wind is driving me nuts. Shall we go? I'm worried about being late at your aunty's.'
But when they arrived at Kiann'e's aunty's house, Catherine saw she needn't have worried about being so punctual.
The house was opposite a strip of parkland and a beach. The lawns were littered with palm fronds from the large coconut palms shading the house, which was a rambling old home surrounded by a wide terrace. The yard was crowded with cars, a playhouse and garden furniture, a couple of hammocks were strung between the trees. A faded striped awning sagged over the front windows. It was a house that looked as if it had been well lived in for many years. Two small children were playing in the front and when they recognised Kiann'e's little red pick-up they raced over shouting her name.
A tall stately woman came out of the house, calling to the children. Although her figure was more than ample, she walked with a straight-backed, regal carriage and was smiling broadly. Her dark hair was shot with silver and twisted into a braid on top of her head and a flower was tucked into the side. Bare brown feet poked from beneath her muu-muu.
âAloha, girls. Come on, Keiki, here's Kiann'e and her friend.'
The little boy and girl ran to Kiann'e, wrapping their arms around her knees, while glancing shyly at Catherine.
âThis is Catherine. Give her a hug too,' said Kiann'e. âThese are my cousin's children. One of my cousins. We're a big family. Aunty looks after them while their parents work. And those two,' she pointed at two older girls hanging by the front door, âthey're neighbours who are living here for a while .Â .Â . been a few problems in their family, so Aunty is caring for them.
âCatherine, this is my aunt, Keialani Pakula â everyone calls her Lani.'
Kiann'e's aunt opened her arms and swept Catherine into a big hug. âWelcome to the ohana. Come, come inside. You two, cold drinks, go and pour them.' She waved at the two older girls who giggled and hurried inside. âKiann'e says you are a new bride and new to the Islands .Â .Â . We'd better show you some old-fashioned Hawaiian hospitality, then.'
âEveryone is being wonderful. I hope we haven't sprung this visit on you. It looks like you have your hands full.'
âNonsense. Many hands make light work. A cold juice and a walk around the garden before we eat.'
âI've brought things you wanted, Aunty. I'll unpack them,' said Kiann'e carrying a brown paper supermarket bag inside.
Lani took Catherine's hand and, trailed by a small boy, they walked through the house to the back porch where a large brick barbecue was smouldering. There was a long table with mismatched chairs under an old thatched roof as well as an unpainted shed that was crammed with canoes, surfboards, a lawn mower, storage boxes and tools. A fish pond with water lilies and a small pit covered with wire mesh surrounded by burnt grass completed the picture.
âWhat's that?' asked Catherine.
âThat's our imu. Nothing fancy, just an underground oven, for luaus and any time we want to cook for a big group. You had lomi pig yet?'
âWe had roast pig on a spit at the Palm Grove.'
âNot the same as in the underground oven. We'll have a luau one of these days. You bring your husband.'
âThat'd be great.'
âDoesn't have to be a special occasion, we just get people together, get the pig, or a goat, cook it all day and in the night we eat and sing and dance. You sing, play ukulele or do hula?'
âOh, gosh no. I just love watching Kiann'e dance.'
âEveryone can learn hula. We teach 'em from babies. Little boys too. You show Catherine how you can dance, yes, Otis?'
The little boy nodded seriously. âAnd the mele, Lani?'
âFor sure. You know 'bout that, Catherine? The important things to learn? Oli, the old chants, mele, the songs, mo'oleho, storytelling, and hula, the dance. That's how we pass on our culture, from ancient times.'
âThe Aborigines back home do this sort of thing too. I'm looking forward to seeing it. Not like the shows done for the tourists, I suppose.'
âThe essence is there. Kiann'e dances some of the old hulas but the tourists they want the happa haole stuff, what they see in the movies, hear on the records. But that's okay, many of the old songs and dances are sacred, some that have been handed down are secret.'
âHas the hula always been just entertainment? How did it start?' asked Catherine who was beginning to realise there was more to the dance than the swaying dusky maidens in grass skirts depicted in old movies and on postcards.
âHow it began is lost in the mists of old Hawaiâi .Â .Â . maybe because it was a form of worship of the Gods and homage to the ali'i, the old ruling chiefs, it could have come from a spiritual base. But it's always been used to greet visitors, entertain on special occasions. But the way it was taught in the old days was very strict, very kapu, taboo.'
âI heard that the missionaries banned the hula,' said Catherine.
Lani chuckled as they walked around a bank of hibiscus bushes. âThey found it too sensual, depraved even. So, yep, they banned hula and put the women in long dresses.' She lifted the hem of her cotton, ankle length muu-muu. âHowever that tradition has stuck. Most comfortable dress invented.'
By the time they had circled the house, there were several men standing around the barbecue where hamburgers were sizzling. Kiann'e and the older girls were setting the table under the thatched pergola and another woman came from the kitchen carrying a large bowl.
âHeavens, it's a party!' exclaimed Catherine.
âNo, just some friends come by. Arnold Lapoka and Bill Opooku been helping me fix up the roof. That's Bill's wife, she helps me with the keikis, like little Otis here. I never know how many heads we have around a table or how many beds I got to find come night time,' chuckled Lani.
Catherine was introduced to the friendly, casual group. Salads were prepared, yams wrapped and tied in banana skins had been baked and Bill expertly slashed the tops off a bunch of green coconuts which were then handed around with straws poked in them.
âHawaiian milkshake,' said Kiann'e. âAnd after you finish the juice you scoop out the soft flesh, it's delicious.'
It was a very informal meal with lots of passing of dishes, chatter and laughter. The children climbed on laps, were hugged and kissed and teased, then given small tasks to do to help clean up. The men leaned back in their chairs. Arnold pulled a small harmonica from his pocket and Otis ran to bring Bill his ukulele. Suddenly everyone was singing.
Catherine didn't understand the Hawaiian words, but the sense of fun was contagious. The children were eventually lined up and, with the two older girls on each end, they sang and danced an old fishing song, mimicking paddling the canoe, throwing out the nets and pulling in the humuhumunukunukuapuaâa.
âIt's one little fish with da big name,' Otis told her.
Later the women and children walked across to the beach to watch the children swim.
âThis is heavenly,' sighed Catherine. âIs this all traditional land?'
âNo,' replied Kiann'e, âit belongs to Aunty's husband's family. They came to Hawaii as indentured labourers to work on the plantations and were given this land for their houses. Back then beachfront land was worthless. Now, of course, it's very valuable. Developers want it for hotels and expensive houses, but Aunty would never leave it. Too nice. I think we should start to drive back, don't you?'
Catherine was shocked by how quickly the day had sped by. She hadn't even thought about preparing dinner.
âWe'll stop at Cheekys, they do a great saimin noodle salad and some pork satay. All you have to do is cook a bit of rice.'
âSounds great. And easy. Kiann'e, I can't thank you enough. It's been a wonderful day. It was fun and I learnt so much. And your Aunty Lani is terrific. Amazing.'
Bradley was surprised by the meal and complimentary. âDelicious. But tell me, you didn't make all this from scratch?'
âNo. I have to confess, Kiann'e took me to one of her favourite hole-in-the-wall eateries.'
âThat's fine for us â on occasion. Buying ready-made food is expensive. But when we entertain, you must do it yourself.'
âI'm working on it,' she assured him, thinking of the lunch she'd enjoyed at Aunty Lani's house. Perhaps she might be willing to teach her how to make some of the delicious food they'd had. But on second thoughts it probably wouldn't be the kind of meal Bradley expected her to serve. She was dreading the idea of entertaining at all.
âWhen we go home for Thanksgiving, you'll see the sort of thing my mother prepares. Perhaps she can give you some ideas,' suggested Bradley.
Bradley's parents were waiting at the airport, scooped them up and headed homewards in their comfortable older model Cadillac. Sights were pointed out to her, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, and Catherine remarked how the bay reminded her of Sydney Harbour.
Sun filtered through the fog and the skyscrapers glinted in the late afternoon light, then as the freeway cut through Marin County, Catherine thought how barren the countryside looked â brown hills and so few trees. They passed tracts of large homes and shopping malls clustered in muted-toned blocks like a child's building set.
As if reading her thoughts, Bradley said, âIt's winter. Always looks a bit dry. Soon we'll see the peaks of the Sierras. Should have snow on them.'
âDo you like skiing, Catherine?' asked Angela. âIf we have time we could drive up to Tahoe. Why don't we do that, Richard? The Roses told us we could use their house at Thunderhead any time while they're in Europe.'
âMother, I'm not sure we'll have time. I want to show Catherine San Francisco. And I'm sure you have friends we have to see.'
âNow, Bradley, don't be like that. Of course, our friends all want to meet Catherine. We thought a little party .Â .Â .' And as Bradley groaned, she smiled at Catherine. âGet it all over and done with in one go. It'll be fun, don't you think?'
âI guess so,' said Catherine unsurely. âWhatever you've planned is fine by me,' she added politely.
âThere, you see, Bradley. Catherine's fine with a little reception.'
The Connors' home was in a quiet cul-de-sac in Deauville where the houses were similar in style, neatness and decoration. They all seemed to be ranch-style houses â elongated with French windows looking out onto unfenced lawns to the kerb. They all had circular driveways, neat shrubbery and trees and elaborate mail boxes sprouting the stars and stripes. The Connors' house was tastefully furnished with plush cream carpet, pale-blue velvet sofas, gilt mirrors and a polished wooden antique-style dining setting. Catherine and Bradley were shown to their room, which was filled with photos of Bradley and his siblings, stuffed toys and a large handmade patchwork quilt.
âWhat a cute little boy you were!' said Catherine looking at the toddler posing with a teddy bear. âAnd here's the bear rug shot!' She laughed at the naked baby lying on a fur rug.
âI think we visited the photographer every year until we were old enough to object,' he answered. âDon't let Mom go through the childhood picture albums â it will take hours.'
They joined Richard and Angela in the family room, a large comfortable room with an elaborate bar, a big TV, easy chairs and a long sofa with a generous coffee table. The walls were lined with photos: a group family portrait, family graduation photos and Christmas snaps.
âWhat's your pleasure, Catherine?' asked Richard from behind his bar.
âA glass of white wine, thanks.'
âNapa Valley's finest coming up. And you, son? The usual? Tom Collins?'
âThat's fine, thank you.'
Angela carried in a platter with dips, cheese, crackers and olives. âHot hors d'oeuvres on the way. Your favourites, Bradley.'
âYour mother's been cooking up a storm for a week,' commented Richard. âShe's doing the entire catering for this party.'
âThat's a lot of work,' said Catherine, hoping Bradley didn't expect her to do this sort of thing.
âNot really, I just make things and put them in the freezer. You know, little vol-au-vent, rolls, savoury things that can be heated up in a flash. A couple of big casseroles to eat with salad. Richard has ordered a whole wheel of cheese. It'll just be cocktails and a buffet. After all, Thanksgiving is only a couple of days away.'
The Connors' little cocktail party was rather overwhelming for Catherine. So many people to meet, names to remember, so many questions, so many compliments, so much food and drink. Sixty guests filled the sitting and family rooms and some stood outside on the patio, even though it was a cold evening. Catherine held onto Bradley's hand as they went from group to group, overhearing comments.
âDidn't you just know he'd marry someone like that!'
âShe's just darling.'
âI love that accent.'
âCongratulations, Bradley, join the navy and see the world, huh? Well, you brought back a little champ.'
âAre you excited to be in America, Catherine?'
Earlier she'd helped Angela put the extension in the dining room table and set out the good china, linen and silverware, paying attention to how Angela laid the cutlery in a carefully arranged fan shape next to the pile of plates at one end of the table. The crystal wine glasses and ice bucket to chill the champagne were set on the buffet next to two special champagne glasses that had ribbons and small flowers tied to their stems and âBradley' and âCatherine' etched onto their rims in an entwined heart.
Catherine was glad she at least knew Bradley's brother, Joel, who'd been the best man at the wedding. His sister, Deidre, arrived late, dressed in an expensive lace dress and jacket with a fur collar. She kissed Catherine and handed her a huge bag of gifts.
âI'm so sorry I couldn't be at the wedding. So I've brought some wedding gifts and a few goodies I found at Neiman Marcus .Â .Â . I couldn't resist so I asked Bradley your size and what colours you like.'
âYou shouldn't have,' said Catherine, feeling rather dazed as she pulled out a cashmere sweater.
âDeidre is a shopper,' said Bradley. âI'm sure she and Mother will take you round the stores.'
âThere's a wonderful white sale coming up and there's always a pre-Christmas special sale after Thanksgiving. You'll love it,' said Deidre.
âI don't know that I need anything,' said Catherine, worried about Bradley's budget and wondering why Deidre had bought her a winter top that she would never use in Hawaii.
âNeed? Who said anything about needing things?' laughed Deidre.
âThese girls send me bankrupt saving money at the sales,' said Richard, putting his arms around his daughter and his wife.
âI know Bradley hates shopping, so you come with us,' said Angela. âNow let's serve the food.'
Richard made a toast and Angela announced supper was served.
Everybody gushed effusively about the food, told Bradley once again what a lucky man he was, extended invitations to them both to âCall around for a drink before going back to the Islands' and commented on Catherine being such a darling gal, and when were they moving to California?
The whole trip was go-go, as Bradley described it. Shopping, meals at the Connors' club at the golf course, cocktails, shopping and shopping. Bradley had given Catherine some spending money. Angela and Deidre cruised every floor of every department store, went into every little store they found cute and checked out any new place to shop even when they had no intention of buying anything. Catherine didn't see the point. She found it tiring and boring after she'd toured just one smart store, trying on outfits Angela and Deidre insisted would be perfect for her.
Nevertheless, a small alarm did go off when Deidre asked if she had a nice outfit to wear for Thanksgiving, as Angela pointed out, âWe do dress for the occasion.'
Back at the house she asked Bradley how formal was Thanksgiving to be and he shrugged. âDad and I wear a tie and jacket, mother and Deidre wear something dressy â like they did for the party.'
âBut that was a cocktail reception. People were very formal â lace, silk, jewels, bare backs, low fronts, glittery high heels .Â .Â . I thought this was supposed to be a family dinner. A time to give thanks.' She was thinking of her simple Hawaiian long dresses that could be quite formal in Hawaii but here, in the cold weather, where people came in furs and sequined tops, floral cotton didn't quite measure up.
âDidn't you buy something? That's what the shopping was all about, wasn't it?'
âNo! I didn't know I was supposed to be looking for something fancy when it's just the family.'
âIt's not just family. Mother always asks along a loner or two. You can't have Thanksgiving on your own. And of course Aunt Meredith is coming. Mother's sister from Portland.'
âThat's not helpful, Bradley. I'm feeling dreadfully out of place here. Why didn't you tell me this was such a big deal? I thought that one of my Hawaiian dresses would be fine, and you're telling me it won't. Is it the same for Christmas?'
âMother does go to town at Christmas when there are kids around but you know, Catherine, Christmas isn't celebrated everywhere here for religious reasons, so Thanksgiving istheannual event. The turkey, trimmings, the full schmeer.'
âI suppose it's the cold weather that makes it so formal.' She thought about their relaxed Christmases atHeatherbrae. âAt home it's hard to be formal when it's the middle of summer and it's boiling hot and all you want to do is lie in the pool.' Nevertheless, even though she found it bitterly cold outside, the inside of the Connors' home was excruciatingly hot. A fake fire flickered in the gas ornamental fireplace and the central heating roared, so everyone left their heavy outer-garments at the door and wandered around in lightweight party clothes.
âIt's also the fact this is a special occasion,' said Bradley. âMeredith is coming all the way to be here to meet you.'
âWhat's she like? She's your mum's older sister, right?' Catherine was trying to get a handle on all the family.
âMeredith is a bit of a radical. Quite different from Mother. Divorced when young, no children, had a career, rather bossy. But I suspect you two will get along quite well.'
âNothing to do with being bossy, I hope,' said Catherine tartly.
Bradley smiled. âOf course not. Just take everything she says with a grain of salt.'
âShe exaggerates? Is less than truthful?'
âNo, it's not that. She's rather opinionated.'
âOh, I see. Well, I'll try not to say anything to set her off,' said Catherine, but she thought to herself it might be stimulating to hear a few strong opinions. Everyone around her was being so sweet, thoughtful and, well, bland. She supposed Bradley's family were on their best behaviour and didn't want to say anything to give a bad impression or make her feel uncomfortable. Politics, religion, nasty relatives, blunders one had made, all were avoided. Only the pleasant and adorable stories of Bradley as a little boy had been aired.
Richard and Angela weren't stuffy but even after quite a few cocktails, when they laughed a lot and voices were louder, nobody talked about anything of substance. They hadn't asked about Bradley's career, their plans and prospects, the situation with the war in Asia and the build up of the US fleet in the Pacific, or the rumours of an oil crisis in the Middle East. But then Catherine realised that as Richard was also a retired naval officer he would know exactly what their life was like. Angela asked how she was going to fix up their little apartment, where she did her shopping and how she got on with the other navy wives. Catherine didn't raise the subject of getting a job.
Meredith arrived on the eve of Thanksgiving and Deidre insisted that she take her room, as she was staying with a college girlfriend.
âI am perfectly happy to stay at the Deauville Lodge but, if you insist, thank you, Deidre. It will give me more time to chat to the newest member of the clan. Hello, my dear. You are obviously Catherine.' She advanced towards Catherine, holding out her hand and shook Catherine's hand vigorously. âGood to meet you. Nice to have fresh blood in the family.'
âMeredith, really. You make us sound like two-headed hillbillies.' Angela led her sister down the hall. âCome and drop your bag then we'll have coffee or a drink. Dinner won't be long. Just a light supper, quiche, I thought. A little caesar salad.'
âSaving our appetites for turkey day? Hope I haven't delayed proceedings. Traffic, you know. Everyone was travelling to get home for Thanksgiving. Nightmare.'
âDid you drive all the way from Portland?' asked Catherine.
âCertainly did. I'm heading to Big Sur down the coast. Extraordinary place. Interesting people. Tell Bradley to take you there.'
âIn here, Meredith. I've put out fresh towels.' They disappeared into Deidre's old bedroom. Though she'd vacated it at eighteen when she went to college, it was still decorated in her childhood dÃ©cor of ruffled pink and white gingham cushions, curtains and bedspread, all edged in white broderie anglaise.
Meredith's strong voice echoed down the hall. âLord, Angela, has Deidre still got all this junk? Must I sleep with those bears and dolls? I feel like I'm on a sugar overload.'
âI'll make you a black coffee. No sugar, then,' snapped Angela and left her sister to unpack.
Catherine carried the mug of coffee down to what Meredith called the sugar 'n' spice room.
âCome in, girl. Sit down on that rocker, move all the doo-dads.' Meredith took a sip of coffee, eyeing Catherine, who stared frankly back at her.
Meredith had the same eyes and mouth as Angela but was taller, broader and less glamorous. Her greying brown hair was trimmed neatly, parted on one side and held with a tortoiseshell clip. She sat very straight on the edge of the bed, her feet planted firmly on the ground.
âHow are you finding the family? Married life all you thought it'd be?'
âI've only been here a few days. I hardly got a chance to get to know everyone at the wedding and it's been quite hectic since we arrived.'
âI know. You don't have to trawl around stores, you know. Tell them you'd rather stay here. Sit on the patio with a good book. That's what I do.'
âEveryone is so hospitable and Bradley wants to show me around.'
âShow you off, more like it. You're a pretty thing. Nice and natural looking. Stay that way. You like the Islands?'
âI do! Have you been there?'
Meredith smiled at the rush of enthusiasm in Catherine's voice and face. âIn the fifties. Took a cruise. I don't like to fly.'
âBut you must come over and visit us,' said Catherine, surprising herself.
âNo, you come and visit me sometime. I knew I'd like you. Bradley has done very well for himself. Thought he'd end up with one of Angela's endless parade of suitables. Glad to see the boy has a mind of his own. So what do you do with yourself while he's off playing boats?'
Catherine immediately wanted to defend Bradley's career and how seriously he took the navy, but she realised Meredith would know that, it was just her flippant manner of speaking. âI'm still settling in, finding my way around, exploring. I've met a lovely local girl, a dancer. She's shown me a lot. I've been to her aunt's place. She's related to the Kauai royal family, one of the princesses, I think. Oh, and of course, I have my visits and duties with the navy Wives' Club.'
âOf course,' said Meredith with a wry smile. âListen, young lady, you get out and do what you can, as much as you can, while you have your freedom.' She drained her coffee and stood up. âAngela will think I'm grilling you â on toast â to quote Richard. Let's face the music, cocktails at the ready. At least you must feel at home here.'
âYou mean, in California?' asked Catherine as she followed Meredith down the hall.
âYes.' She lowered her voice and pointed at the thermostat on the wall. âThey heat the place like the tropics in summer. Madness.' She promptly twisted the dial a few degrees lower. âOpen your window at night for some fresh air, this central heating dries you out like an Egyptian mummy.'
âGood tip,' answered Catherine who decided she liked the plain-speaking Meredith.
After supper, Meredith retired early. âI'm not watching drivel and quiz games on television.'
Angela asked Catherine to help her set the table while Bradley and his father watched an old John Wayne movie. Catherine was initially surprised that they were setting the table for a meal happening late the next day. âWe'll eat at two p.m.,' Angela had explained. But Catherine could see the logic when she saw the elaborate preparations.
The extended dining table was covered with a starched linen and lace cloth with matching napkins in silver napkin rings that matched the silver candelabra. Angela had polished all the silver and shined all the crystal glasses. She showed Catherine one place setting: the white and silver dinner plates under the salad plates, bread and butter plate to one side, the napkin folded like a bird inside its ring centred on each plate. Catherine copied the setting around the table set for ten.
Bradley and Catherine had their monogrammed champagne glasses at their place on silver coasters engraved with a turkey and the silver carvers and platter were put in front of Richard. Angela had written pretty little place cards with guests' names and they sat in a small porcelain holder in front of each plate. In addition to the four of them and Meredith, there were Bradley's brother, Joel, and his girlfriend, Trudy, Deidre and a girlfriend, and Jay, a friend of Richard's from the club whose wife was away on a cruise.
Serving dishes, bowls, olive forks, spoons to dish out the condiments, a set of crystal pepper and salt shakers at each end of the table were readied. And in the centre next to the candelabra was a bowl of roses ordered from the Deauville florist. Once the table was done to Angela's satisfaction she ran through the menu with Catherine, double checking they had everything set for the final preparation the next morning.
âYou have to be prepared, the day just goes. There's the Macy's Parade on TV, phone calls, and we have to be through in time for the boys to watch the game. Those Miami Dolphins are on a winning streak. Richard always wants to make daiquiris or gin fizzes and forgets to get the sourdough bread. So here's the mixture for the stuffing, I thought liver pate and marinated prunes this year, sound all right to you?'
Catherine nodded as she gazed into the shelves of the fridge and freezer where Angela had dishes and containers labelled with ingredients.
âThe bacon rashers are to go on top of the turkey while it's cooking, they come off at the last minute to get it browned. I bake the yams with orange juice and brown sugar and we toast the marshmallows on top so they melt â just a second or two as they catch fire so easily. The potato salad â my mother's recipe, the waldorf salad, fresh green beans, gravy, cranberry sauce, and the hors d'oeuvres I've made ahead and frozen .Â .Â .'
âDessert?' asked Catherine feeling weak, wondering how they'd get through all the food.
âIce cream cake. But not just any ole ice cream cake, a friend makes them for very special occasions. It takes ages to create. I love making desserts, but even I can't make anything like this.' She pointed to the back of the freezer to where what looked to be a real basket of fruit sat. âThe basket is woven out of wafers. The bow on the handle is real, but every piece of fruit is a separate piece of ice cream with the flavour of the fruit â bananas, peaches, strawberries. It's just heaven even though it's so much work.'
âIt looks amazing.'
âOf course, there's Jell-O, ice cream and chocolates. We like to string out dessert before coffee and liqueurs.'
Knowing what was coming, Catherine abstained from Richard's big breakfast. Everyone had to dress and assemble in the sitting room in front of the fire at midday for hot toddies, light snacks and photographs posing together in their new outfits.
Because she had not bought a special dress to wear and had already worn her one cocktail frock, Catherine decided to heed Meredith's advice and wear what she felt comfortable in. Most of the women were dressed in after-five fashions. Shyly Catherine joined them while Bradley was in the family room helping his father with the first round of drinks.
Catherine stood there in her long sleeveless muu-muu topped with a pale yellow silk shawl and her pearl necklace and earrings. Her dress was simple yet stylish with pale embroidered primroses scattered across the fabric and had the effect of making every other woman feel overdressed.
âOh, honey, you look just lovely.'
âMy, a real breath of the Islands. Gorgeous.'
On hearing the fuss being made over Catherine, Bradley came into the room. He blinked a moment as he saw her, then smiled and went to her side. âYou look just great, Catherine.'
She looked at her husband in his pale lemon shirt and camel wool jacket. âWe match.'
âYou certainly do, a pigeon pair. Here's to you both. Cheers and may we all share many more Thanksgivings,' said Richard carrying in a tray of drinks.
The guests arrived. Deidre and Catherine, the daughter and daughter-in-law, passed trays of the dainty hors d'oeuvres that Angela had spent so much time making. There was general smalltalk and Meredith looked bored to tears.
âCatherine, come into the family room where it's quiet and we can have a little chat. From the small amount of time we've managed to spend together, I've come to the conclusion you shouldn't be wasted just on the navy. Get yourself a life of your own before children come along â not that they should kill a career â but Bradley's career will take precedence.'
âI've always known that,' said Catherine. âI've never had much of a career. I wasn't sure what I was going to do when I got back to Australia after travelling, but meeting Bradley changed all that so I haven't had to make a decision.'
âVery romantic. But you can still do a course of some kind. The University of Hawaii is excellent, as is their East West Centre. I left it very late to do my masters degree, but I've never regretted it. I'm a school principal, due to retire in two years and I'm already making plans to keep busy and fulfilled in the next phase of my life. Just remember, Catherine, nothing lasts forever, the good times and the bad times. Keep moving forward is the objective, don't stagnate, that's my motto.'
âNow, Meredith, don't earbash Catherine.' Richard appeared in the family room. âAngela is ringing the bell. Time to eat.'
The conversation was general. Catherine was seated on Richard's right, Bradley was on his mother's right at the other end of the table. Dishes were passed along the table as Richard carved the huge golden turkey that Angela had fretted over as it was a self-basting one which she'd never tried before.
âEverything is absolutely delicious, glorious, Angela. You're such a great cook,' said Trudy. âI must get your recipe for the potato salad.'
âIt's my mother's. One of her secrets is sprinkling vinegar over the potatoes overnight with â'
âNot now, Angela. Now that we've finished dessert, let's have a toast,' interjected Richard who had poured the red wine, but kept his bourbon beside him. âTo family and friends, thank you for sharing this bountiful meal. We are all damned lucky to live in the best goddamned country in the world.' He lifted his glass, ignoring the frown from Angela at his cussing. âWelcome to young Catherine, as part of our family and who'll be an American soon enough, not that we don't love those Aussies. American forces are out there fighting communism in Asia, and we pray that we clean up this mess and our boys will soon be home. So thanks to the Lord, to my dear wife, my children and friends. You too, Meredith,' he gave a nod in his sister-in-law's direction, âthanks for coming so far, it's been too long since we shared a meal. Of course, your curiosity about Bradley's wife might have had something to do with it. So let's hear from Catherine, the new Mrs Connor, to propose the toast.' He sat down.
Catherine paled, no-one had prepared her for this ritual. She rose and lifted her glass, catching Bradley's eye who looked apologetic but gave her an encouraging smile. âI'd just like to say thank you for the wonderful hospitality,' she smiled at Angela, âfor making me feel so welcome.' She turned to Richard. âAnd yes, we all hope the men fighting in Vietnam will be home soon .Â .Â . Australians have fought beside Americans in the Second World War, just as they have done in Vietnam,' she gently reminded everyone. I think Thanksgiving is a wonderful occasion, and I look forward to being a part of this great tradition. Happy Thanksgiving.' She raised her glass and sat down as everyone chorused the toast and sipped their wine. She didn't look at Bradley but along the table Meredith gave Catherine a broad smile and raised her glass to her.
Richard leant over to her. âWell said, young lady. We haven't forgotten the Aussies. I was there too, my ship was in the Pacific theatre. Met General MacArthur several times.' He patted her hand. âEven had leave in Sydney once. What a town. What girls!'
âI didn't know that. But, Richard, what did you mean about me becoming an American? You mean take out citizenship? Bradley's never mentioned that,' said Catherine.
âWhy, I just assumed you'd do that, honey. Especially if he wants to be stationed abroad. Much better for his career if you're an American. Anyway, I thought you'd just love to be a part of this glorious country.'
Angela stood up. âWe'll take coffee in the sitting room, shall we?'
As Catherine curled beside Bradley in bed that night, she raised the subject of citizenship as it had been bothering her. âWhat did your dad mean about me taking out American citizenship? I don't have to do that do I?'
âThere're a lot of advantages, darling, besides making life simpler for us. And any children, of course. And my career. Let's not worry about it now. We have to get up early. Mother wants us to be in the city by nine.'
Catherine turned over and hugged her pillow. She didn't want to spend a freezing day in San Francisco, which she'd been told was going to be wet and windy. Shopping at I Magnins and some wholesale outlet that sold designer clothes for seventy per cent reduction didn't excite her, especially as they would all be winter clothes. Lunch at the Top of the Mark and afternoon tea with some rich friends who had a beautiful home on Union Street sounded exhausting. She missedHeatherbrae, even though Bradley had promised her they'd take a trip back after Christmas. But most of all, she missed the warmth of the Islands.
THERE WAS ACTIVITY ATthe harbour. A destroyer was preparing to sail. A tender with tourists aboard headed to theArizonamemorial. Catherine was not yet familiar with the workings of Pearl Harbor, but now, after a few weeks studying the panoramic view from her tiny kitchen, she was becoming more aware of the routines of the naval shipyard and dock.
Bradley had been excited when he'd come home and announced they could move to the base and rent out their apartment in the TradeWinds. Catherine was just starting to feel comfortable and at home there and she loved being so close to Waikiki. She'd accepted Lester's invitation to use his parking space and several mornings a week after dropping Bradley at the base she drove straight to the Ambassador apartments, parked, walked the beach and then took a leisurely swim.
Kiann'e had gone to Kauai for a few days to see her mother but Catherine still followed the routine of coffee with Lester as well as doing his grocery shopping, taking it back to his apartment and sitting to talk awhile. She loved these visits and found Lester's stories of life on the island fascinating.
At Pearl Harbor she felt isolated even though she was surrounded by other naval families. Nevertheless, the condominium was bigger than the TradeWinds apartment, with a second bedroom, and it had a view towards the harbour. The block was set in well-kept lawns and was close to the amenities on the base.
She was stunned at the big base PX, which supplied all the naval families with everything from furniture to stereos and TVs and souvenirs, especially Hawaiiana, all at what Catherine thought to be very cheap prices. The Commissary stocked favourite American food and products at lower prices than in the supermarkets in Honolulu. But, while it was convenient, Catherine preferred to buy from the smaller local markets Kiann'e had told her sold local produce, especially the food shops in Chinatown.
Bradley thought it was silly not to shop at the base where the fruit and vegetables were chilled and flown straight in from California and so inexpensive. But Bradley, apart from this advice, let Catherine run the household as she wished. âIt's your department, you're in charge of the budget and you're starting to turn out some interesting dishes,' he said. âBut sukiyaki and that Korean fish dish you made, they're not really appropriate for dinner parties.'
âOh God,thedinner party .Â .Â . Do we have to?' wailed Catherine.
Bradley took her in his arms. âOf course we do, and it'll be fine. You underestimate yourself. It goes with the territory, Catherine. You saw how Mother does things; scale it down, six people, that's all. The Goodwins are very understanding.'
He kissed her and she rested her head against his shoulder but she was concerned that, as understanding as Bradley's commanding officer and his wife may be, it appeared that Bradley's career prospects could be judged on her entertaining abilities.
Bradley released her. âDo a beef Wellington, a crab starter. Something with mango for dessert.'
Subject closed, thought Catherine as she followed him out the door to drive him to work.
Kiann'e had returned from Kauai and as they walked the beach early the next morning, she told Catherine that her mother might be coming to Honolulu.
âShe's visiting Aunty, looking into all the pilikia about the Big House that's happening out at the beach.'
âWhat kind of trouble is that? What's the Big House?'
âIt's a development planned along the beachfront where Aunty lives, they want to move people out. A group of haole businessmen have come in and want to put up these blocks to sell condos to rich people from the mainland.'
âBut that'd be terrible! Can they do that?' asked Catherine.
âApparently, depending on the type of ownership you have. Land entitlements vary from gifts to informal arrangements to ownership if you're lucky. There's a plan to displace the locals who live along the coast. My Uncle Henry's land could be resumed and even if he's paid for it of course, he doesn't want to leave. It's his home. Aunty is very upset and worried. When you hear my mother and the old people talk of the Hawaiian kingdom, before Queen Liliokualani was overthrown, it makes me sad. The queen was setting up a constitution that protected the property of the local people.'
âShe was undermined by her government, known as “the missionary gang”, which betrayed her to the rich white planters. Money always talks. So the foreign businessmen and their overseas supporters took control. They plotted with the American government representative who sent for the marines and declared Hawaii a US protectorate and raised the American flag in 1893.'
âIt doesn't sound very constitutional to me. But Hawaii became a state of the Union?'
âIn 1959. But it was much earlier, when we became a republic in 1894, that the fate of the Hawaiian people was sealed,' said Kiann'e with a grimace.
Catherine was shocked at the anger in her friend's voice. âIt seems to me that Hawaii is a great combination of island and American culture.'
âThat's the problem! Mainland culture is not island culture. We were a sovereign nation with a long, long history laid down by our first rulers to cherish and protect our aina, our land, as the land is the provider of all life. It is the centre between the sky and the seas. Our land represents who we are and what we stand for, which it is why it's so important to us.'
âI think Aboriginal people feel the same,' said Catherine hesitantly, now trying to recall the stories she'd heard at home, although she really didn't know very much.
âLike American Indians and other indigenous peoples, our land and traditional customs are cherished. There's a change coming but it won't be easy and it won't be quick. Like, after hundreds of years speaking our own language it nearly died out when it was banned by the American government in 1900. But now it's undergoing a revival with Hawaiian language schools and so on. We're teaching Otis his own language as well as English.'
âSo what will happen about your aunty and uncle's land?' asked Catherine.
Kiann'e stared at the ocean as they walked. âI'd like to tell you. You seem sensitive and want to understand about the movement.'
âWhat movement is that?' asked Catherine. She was becoming aware that there was a whole other side to Hawaii and that she was only seeing the superficial, touristy, postcard picture.
âLet's sit down.' Kiann'e dropped to the sand and they looked at the smooth sea, slight rolling waves glinting in the early morning light. âThere's a group of us, no special leader or anything, who've banded together on Kauai to stop the eviction of families from a couple of the old farms and save a strip of land along the coast. It's a special place for surfers and they don't want to see development there either.'
âSo it's the same as on this island? Once someone builds a resort or homes on a place like your aunt and uncle's land then I suppose it's open slather after that,' commented Catherine. âCan't the state government stop it?'
âHeavens no, they're backing the offshore business people. It means money to the local government. The more buildings, the more people, the more fees, rates, tourism. Saving the land, keeping it the way it was and how it was managed by Hawaiian people for centuries, doesn't make them money.'
âI suppose they call it progress. What are you going to do about it?' asked Catherine.
âThere's been a bit of action, petitions and so on, but that's done nothing. So we're planning a big protest here in Honolulu about eviction and property rights and development on all the islands.'
âWow. When's that happening?'
âIn a few days time. At Iolani Palace. Eleanor and Abel John are coming over from Kauai, Mr Kitamura too, I think.'
âEleanor? She's not Hawaiian. And in a way she's part of the problem isn't she? Promoting tourism?'
Kiann'e nodded. âYes, but Eleanor is sensitive at least to traditional Hawaiian culture and she employs Hawaiian people. Tourism is fine if it shows our culture properly, but when our culture is used to sell refrigerators or motor cars it cheapens what is sacred â the aloha spirit, our dances, our way of life.'
âDances? Kiann'e, you dance for tourists!' Catherine smiled because she thought her Hawaiian friend was taking everything too seriously.
Kiann'e threw up her hands. âI know, I know. But I'm trying to show people the classical and more traditional dances, not the suggestive or corny hulas that have been “westernised” by popular singers and Hollywood films.'
âYou said Mr Kitamura is coming over .Â .Â . I wonder if I could meet up with him. I bought a camera from him but it's a bit complicated. I think I need some help. And I'd love to catch up with Eleanor,' said Catherine, trying to calm her friend down by changing the topic.
Kiann'e refused to be deflected. âCome to the rally! We have a lot of people joining us. Lester is determined to be there. There're a lot of kamaianas coming along. You could bring Bradley. I like to think that once visitors and malahinis like yourself understand what's happening, you'll support us too.'
âOh, I don't think Bradley would like that. He's so concerned about me doing the right thing for his career. He's worried enough about the dinner party I have to do for his boss and his wife and some others.'
âBut you're not concerned about a dinner party, are you?' asked Kiann'e. And when Catherine didn't answer for a moment, she added gently, âCome over to our place and see Kitamura and Eleanor. Bring Bradley, let him hear what we have to say. Willi is coming to the rally.'
âWell, I'll ask him,' said Catherine doubtfully.
But with the looming dinner party Catherine put off mentioning the rally to Bradley and arranged to meet Eleanor and Mr Kitamura at Kiann'e's house. When she read the recipe for beef Wellington she threw it to one side. Too hard, she thought. She decided to phone Mollie. She needed her sense of humour at this moment.
Mollie immediately made her feel better. âOh, for God's sake .Â .Â . I told you what to do, go out and buy stuff. Cosy up to your favourite restaurant.'
âActually, I had thought of asking my friend Kiann'e to see if the chef at her hotel could do something for me.'
âThere you go. Ask him and take your own pot. Buy a dessert and add to it. Easy.'
âMollie, I feel terrible. What if Bradley says no?'
âDon't ask him, I wouldn't tell him .Â .Â . unless he asks. Get it all ready while he's at work. So what else have you been doing? You must be so tanned, lucky duck.'
âI swim early in the morning with Kiann'e.' Catherine went on to tell Mollie about Kiann'e's family, and the protest rally.
âWell, you're going aren't you?' demanded Mollie. âThat's not right that they can toss people out of their homes. And big hotels we can see anywhere. Next time, when I come to see you I want the postcard view .Â .Â . the empty beach, a handsome surfer, those amazing cliffs.'
âOkay, I'll fix it up,' replied Catherine. âBut you can't be serious about me going to the protest rally. Bradley will have a fit when I tell him.'
âThen don't tell him. Stay in the background, don't get up the front where you'll be photographed. Hey, there's an idea,' exclaimed Mollie. âTake your fancy camera and tell anyone who asks you're a professional photographer.'
âIt's been so good talking with you, Mol. Apart from Kiann'e I haven't got a close friend here. The other wives are nice but we have nothing in common. I guess I don't try very hard, though,' said Catherine.
âListen, I'll call you next time. We'll take turns, say, every couple of weeks. How's that sound?' said Mollie.
âGreat. I want to know all about this fellow you're seeing.'
âHe's lots of fun. And that's important isn't it?' said Mollie. âGood luck with the dinner. Just say it's your mother's recipe!'
Catherine took Mollie's advice and the dinner was a big success. The chef at the Moonflower had entered into the deception with glee. Catherine carried home a large pot of bouillabaisse, a tray of stuffed mushrooms to be baked in the oven as an appetiser and a key lime pie that stood five inches high. She was busy making garlic bread and a salad when Bradley came home with flowers for the table. Catherine told him she had everything under control.
âI'm fine with everything, darling, but could you fix the drinks?'
âIt looks wonderful, Catherine. Smells good too.' He came up behind her and gave her a hug and kissed the top of her head. âThere'll probably be a lot of shop talk, but you'll be busy with the food anyway. Oh, and don't worry if the Commander nods off, take no notice, he tends to do that. Ten minutes later he wakes up and picks up where he left off.'
After everyone left and Catherine had stacked the dishes and Bradley had tidied away the wine glasses and ashtrays and taken the trash down to the end of the hall to the garbage chute, she sat down to enjoy a nightcap and put her feet up, and to tell him how she'd pulled off the meal. But Bradley wanted to go to bed and make love. He kept saying how wonderful the meal was, how impressed Mrs Goodwin had been and how happy he was with the whole evening that Catherine shrank from disillusioning him right then. She'd tell him at breakfast. Make a bit of a joke of it and promise to practise or take a course and cook the next dinner party herself.
But in the morning he was tired, running late and distracted so the opportunity didn't present itself. And so Catherine never did tell him. She did however tell Bradley she was meeting Mr Kitamura and was going to ask for a few lessons on how to use the camera she'd bought from him.
âThat's a good idea. I thought that the camera was a bit of a white elephant. But it was your money. It will be good to get to use it properly.'
âEleanor Lang is in town too, I'd love to have her over.'
âWhatever you like, though I'm surprised you were so concerned about entertaining the Goodwins and yet have no qualms about inviting such a hospitality queen over,' he joked.
âI know Eleanor is the hostess with the mostest, but she's friendly and I like her a lot. Besides, your career doesn't hinge on my entertaining her correctly. Kiann'e asked if we'd like to go to her house, too. A lot of Kauai people are going to be there,' began Catherine, but Bradley shook his head.
âI don't think so. Why? I don't have anything in common with them. I don't know why you spend so much time with these people, Catherine. You hardly ever mix with the other women here. Why don't you play tennis with them? Join the social club .Â .Â .'
âDarling, we've been through this before. I see them at the Wives' Club dos, I've already agreed to work on the Christmas committee,' said Catherine.
âOkay, whatever you like. I'm glad you're keeping busy and not moping. Some wives get dreadfully homesick and it can be very distracting for their husbands â especially if they have to go to sea.'
But Bradley must have thought about Catherine's feeling bored or lonely because that evening he announced, âI have tomorrow off. How about we have a day to ourselves? Take a picnic to Hanauma Bay, go up to a waterfall, take a drive somewhere?'
Catherine was surprised, but pleased, and hugged him. âI'll organise a picnic lunch.'
For Catherine, it was a perfect day. The pair walked down the slope to the semi-circular beach, which was beautifully protected from large waves, and settled themselves among palm trees close to the sandy beach. The water was jewel-clear and the dark shadows of the coral reef in the shallower water was already dotted with snorkellers.
âThis is just glorious, what a fabulous place,' sighed Catherine as she spread out their towels and picnic basket. âWe can alternate between the beach, the water and here in the shade. And there's hardly anyone here.'
âIt's still early. And the middle of the week,' said Bradley. âThere's lots of marine life to look at if you float around the reef. This is the crater of a volcano that was flooded when part of the rim collapsed. It's deeper further out and great for scuba diving. Ever tried it?'
âNot me. I grew up in a swimming pool so this suits me just fine.'
âMe, too,' said Bradley, taking off his sunglasses. âI'm going in.'
She watched his tall lean figure in his favourite, faded batik swim shorts stride to the water. She reflected how comfortable they were together now, the strangeness of being with another person every day had worn off. They'd settled into a routine, they knew each other's habits, likes and dislikes. Bradley was always polite, kind and considerate. Their lovemaking was familiar and pleasant, although the issue of starting a family had resurfaced after they'd moved into their new home.
Bradley had looked at Catherine's side of the vanity where she always laid out her make-up and lotions, hairbrush and other personal items.
âWhere's your pill packet?' he'd asked. âI hope you're still taking them.'
âWhy? Is that a problem?” she'd joked.
But Bradley had become serious. âCatherine, your getting pregnant is something we have already discussed. It affects my postings, where we live, all manner of things. We want to be able to afford children and do it right, when the time is appropriate.'
âOkay, okay, for heaven's sake. I'm keeping them in here with other stuff.' She yanked open the top drawer. But she was cranky with him and felt she was being watched. She wished they could just let nature take its course and if she did fall pregnant, well, so be it. But she continued to take her daily contraceptive as deep down she had a niggling fear that if she became pregnant at an âinconvenient' time Bradley might, just might, ask her to have an abortion. Maybe she was being unfair to him, but it was a hypothetical situation she wasn't prepared to raise.
They swam, drifting and floating in the warm crystal water as colourful fish darted beneath them. The steep lush hillside rose above them and Catherine could imagine they were cast adrift, the only people on this beautiful island. But she knew above them wound the Kalanianaole Highway and she thought again of Kiann'e's anger at the threat of increasing development in the Islands.
As she handed Bradley a sandwich she asked, âWhat do you think this place will look like in ten, twenty years?'
âWell, this won't change, it's now a protected marine conservation area. They might put in an aquatic museum, a restaurant, big bitumen parking lot. Mind you, there could be more houses along the coast road leading here. Hawaii is changing.'
âBut is that good? Local people are getting pushed off their land and farms because rich Japanese and American developers want to build golf courses and condos.'
âCatherine, you've been listening to your friends too much. Hawaii is part of America, participating in the American dream, and it's un-American to stop progress. We Americans admire success and achievement.'
âThat's fine, Bradley, but Hawaii is different from the rest of the US. It was a country of its own, with its own people, traditions, culture, language .Â .Â . and that's all being taken over.'
âCatherine, please! These people you've been seeing sound a bit radical. Development brings jobs and most Hawaiians want to have a nice home, a nice car, a good lifestyle. Have what the rest of America works towards. I hope you don't raise this in front of people like the Goodwins, or any of our friends.'
âYour friends, Bradley. My friends are Hawaiians and they're different. I don't think they do want to be like people in .Â .Â . Deauville, or wherever.'
âCatherine, an Hawaiian is a mixture of races anyway. I don't believe you know any pure Hawaiians.'
âWhat about Abel John at the Palm Grove?' demanded Catherine.
âEthnically he probably is. But look what he does for a living. He caters to tourists and trades on his background, how ethical is that?'
âThere's nothing wrong with making visitors aware there was a long tradition and culture here that's being lost. I'm going back in the sea.' Catherine stomped down the beach feeling angry and frustrated. She felt she'd been chastised like a schoolgirl. She always thought she could never win an argument with Bradley, he was always calm, rational and somewhat condescending in any discussion and that infuriated her. It wasn't usually till later when she'd calmed down that she came up with a point she wished she'd made at the time.
Suddenly she decided she'd go with Kiann'e to the rally on Saturday morning. She'd make some excuse to Bradley and he'd never know where she was. Now that she'd had the discussion with Bradley, Catherine felt it was important. She just wished she was more knowledgeable and had the courage to walk at the front with her friends. She'd never been part of a protest or felt the need to participate in one. But since being in the Islands, meeting Kiann'e and her family and friends, something had stirred in Catherine.
She realised that, although she lived in rural Australia, she had had limited contact with and knowledge of Aboriginal culture. There were Aboriginal families in Peel and on the outskirts but they kept to themselves. Guiltily she began to reflect she had become far more interested in traditional Hawaiian culture than that of the first Australians. But she knew she was not alone in her ignorance of Aboriginal history, traditions and culture.
She had superficial impressions of corroboree dances, men carving canoes from tree bark, brilliant stockmen in the outback, piccaninnies with large black eyes, the names of some Aboriginal footballers as well as that of a popular singer, and the uglier side of shanties and humpies, the problems stemming from alcohol. Was this what Kiann'e meant when she described the superficial stereotypical images people outside Hawaii had of their culture?
By the time she walked out of the ocean to rejoin Bradley, who smiled and held out her towel to her, Catherine had made up her mind. If this was her new home and her future was linked to this country, she was determined she wouldn't be a bystander but would learn all she could.
Catherine left Bradley watching a football game with a bunch of his colleagues at a neighbouring apartment and drove to Kiann'e and Willi's house for what Kiann'e described as sunset drinks and a light supper. It was a charming house that Catherine, who had already visited on a couple of occasions, called âold Hawaii' architecture â lots of white wooden trim with carved fretwork around the eaves and a front patio that was made from slabs of dark lava rock. She thought that Willi's business must be doing well for them to be able to afford such a lovely place. Its dark-red tile roof contrasted with the thick shrubbery and palms and flaming torches were lit at the front and on the rear lawn. Guests could be seen moving about inside through the large French doors.
Catherine was delighted to see Eleanor in the distance and Abel John kissed her on the cheek with warm aloha. Aunty Lani and Uncle Henry and their family were also there. Taki Kitamura was the only other person she could see who she knew and she was surprised by the number and eclectic mix of people.
Mr Kitamura greeted Catherine with a big grin and a slight bow. âHave you been taking lots of pictures?' he asked.
âA few. But I want to learn how to use the camera properly, not just set it on automatic and hope for the best,' she answered.
âOnce you begin to understand, you will enjoy the challenge. Perhaps even learn to print your own films!'
âI don't know about that,' she said.
A man joined them, shaking Mr Kitamura's hand. âGood to see you here, Taki. Is this one of your students?'
Catherine held out her hand. âI'm Catherine Connor, and I'm hoping to master a beautiful SLR I bought from Mr Kitamura.'
âYou're a photographer? I'm looking for a back-up for Taki on Saturday.' He turned to the Japanese photographer. âCan you show her enough to shoot some of the side action?'
Mr Kitamura nodded. âI am sure.' He smiled at Catherine. âYou think you have the eye?'
âEr, I'm not sure what you're talking about.'
The man in the bright aloha shirt grasped her hand. âSorry, I'm Vince Akana, editor of theHawaii News. We've started up in opposition to theHonolulu Advertiserand theHonolulu Star Bulletin. I'm hunting staff and need as much coverage as I can get of Saturday's rally. You're going I assume?'
âYes, I am,' answered Catherine. âI don't know about working professionally straight away,' she laughed. âThough photography has always interested me,' she added, realising this was indeed the case, even if she'd never articulated it before. It was one of those things that she'd filed away as something to take up one day.
âI can show you enough to take pictures at the rally,' said Mr Kitamura. âBut it will be better and more rewarding for you to do the course.'
âCourse? Where is that?' asked Catherine.
âTaki organises a photography course at the community college. Anyone can go, he's been doing it for ages and it's quite popular. There are some other great teachers too and he pops in and out. It runs for about six weeks. Between assignments, eh, Taki?'
âI hadn't considered a whole course,' said Catherine, âbut I'd like to find out about it. What sort of photos do you want, Mr Akana?'
âHey, it's Vince. Well, whatever action grabs you, Catherine. Bring it back to the office straight after and I'll get it processed .Â .Â . see if I can use it. Here's my card. Oh, this is a volunteer job to help me. Call it a trial run, okay, but I will pay you for anything I use.'
âWhatever you think,' said Catherine, rather bemused at the sudden turn of events.
Vince Akana took Taki Kitamura by the arm. âI'll just borrow him, point out a few faces I need. Catch you later, Catherine.'
Catherine stood there, suddenly alone in a sea of people, until Eleanor came over and gave her an embrace and kiss. âYou look beautiful, how are you my dear?'
âGreat, thanks, Eleanor. It's lovely to see you again.' Catherine smiled at the charming woman dressed as always in her long muu-muu. âI'm doing really well. As a matter of fact, I think I just had a job interview!'
âGlad to hear it. With Taki?'
âNo. As a freelance photographer. What's theHawaii News?'
âIt's new and very good. Giving the others a run and Vince is fearless. He feels it's his role to tell the locals' side of the story. But he's fair and unbiased. He's the proprietor so he doesn't have shareholders, a board or local councillors trying to influence him.'
âI'm not sure my husband will approve of me submitting pictures to it,' said Catherine.
âI thought he would be proud of you,' said Eleanor.
âI feel I'm jumping the gun, my pictures mightn't be good enough, anyway,' laughed Catherine. âSo tell me about the rally.'
âWe're here to support Kiann'e and the cause. A lot of my staff are affected. They're locals who live on small holdings â pig farmers, fruit and orchid growers who do shift work at the Palm Grove. I hate the idea of their being pushed off their land.'
âHow do you feel about development in general? I know the Palm Grove has been there a long time, but big resorts would be competition wouldn't they?'
âNot at all. We're unique. And we're all Hawaiian,' said Eleanor firmly. âThese Waikiki hotels have already copied a lot of my ideas, such as the fire-lighting ceremony. I don't mind, it's promoting the Islands. But throwing up glass and concrete all over the Islands, displacing people who have every right to continue their way of life on their land as they've always done, is not right. All the money they're expecting will pour into the Islands isn't going to help local people. Profits go, whoosh, shooting out there.' She waved her arm towards the sky. âOffshore. Things need changing.' With that, she wandered onto the lawn to talk to another friend.
Just then Willi came in with a beaming Lester leaning on his arm and Catherine greeted him with a hug.
âYou look great, Lester.'
âGood to see you here, Catherine. I'm glad you're coming along on Saturday.'
âI'm going to take some photographs for the paper. Well, that's the plan, not sure how expert I'll be,' she laughed.
âBe sure and get those boys in,' Lester inclined his head to a group of young men on the lawn.
âWho are they, Lester?'
âThey are board riders from the islands so I've been talking to some of them. They want to save the surfing beaches. You're on a ride and you see that strip of beach with palms and mountains as you come in, it's beautiful. None of them want big hotels, houses, condos, shopping malls on the secret beaches, spoiling their rides.'
âSo they're all surfers?' Catherine glanced out at the group. Save for the darker skinned local boys, the haole surfers all seemed to have long sun-bleached hair and were trim and tanned.
âYeah, good looking bunch. Seem to be nice guys too,' said Lester. âI used to be like them.'
âYou're still a good sort, Lester. So these surfers have come here to be part of the rally?'
âYou betcha. Surfers generally keep to themselves, but they feel strongly about the desecration of the shoreline. 'Course, a lot of them live on the beach, too. Just sleeping rough. Camping or living in shacks, you know how it is.'
âNo, I don't. Lester, you know that I've never taken any interest in surfing,' said Catherine.
âThen it's time you started learning. It's what I keep telling you. Best place to do it, right here,' he said firmly.
âAnd there's no-one better to tell you all about it,' said Kiann'e. âCome on, Lester. Catherine, come and meet my mother.' She took Catherine and Lester outside to the small terrace of the house.
There was no mistaking Kiann'e's mother. Beatrice Lo'Ohouiki was a woman held in some esteem. She had reverted to her Hawaiian name after the death of her husband. She sat, straight and proud, in a cane plantation chair listening and occasionally nodding as people talked in the group surrounding her. She wore a dark-green and white flowered muu-muu and a bright red hibiscus in her greying hair. She had deeper olive skin than Kiann'e but her wide jaw, high cheekbones and large eyes showed where Kiann'e's beauty had come from. As Catherine was led forward, Beatrice turned her attention to the shy young woman her daughter was introducing.
Catherine didn't know what to say; Beatrice had a powerful personality, a regal air, that was quite intimidating. Catherine held out her hand and Beatrice grasped it, pulling her towards her, a wide smile breaking out as she lifted her cheek for Catherine to kiss.
The group made room for Catherine to sit beside Beatrice on the rattan sofa next to her chair.
âI'm so glad you're joining us, Catherine. Kiann'e has told me all about you. I am pleased she has such a sweet new friend and it's important that newcomers like yourself are willing to learn about the true Hawaii, how it was, how it should be. Mahalo.'
âYou're welcome,' said Catherine, unsure what to say and feeling silly that she was being thanked when she hadn't done anything. But then it occurred to her that the burning eyes and big smile from Beatrice were enticements and, like everyone else in the circle, Catherine was seduced. Lester, Abel John, one of the surfers, a haole couple and a young woman making notes, all wanted to do whatever they could to please and help this powerful Hawaiian woman. She glanced around the group. Mr Kitamura was discreetly in the background taking photographs, Kiann'e stood behind her mother, her hands resting on her shoulders.
âThere's food inside, a buffet, help yourselves when you're ready.' Kiann'e leaned down to her mother. âCan I bring you a plate, M'ma?'
Beatrice lightly touched her daughter's hand. âPlease.' She turned back to the man on the other side of her. âThere must be no unpleasantness. We can make our point without aggression. Double check any banners, posters. And the line-up and order of speeches. Loud hailers? Microphones? The petition to be handed over?'
Aunty Lani strode out to join them. The two sisters were striking, strong, formidable-looking women, gracious and hospitable, yet determined and passionate.
âBeatrice, let da people go. Food is waiting, no-one will eat until you come and help yourself first.' Lani waved at the group. âKau kau awaits.'
Lester got to his feet and, leaning on his cane, announced, âI'm ready. Can I take your arm, Beatrice?'
âDon't you play being an old man with me, Lester.' Beatrice got to her feet. âThank you, Lani, we'll eat and talk more later.'
âHow about one mele or dance?' muttered Abel John with a wink at Catherine. âYou've settled in to the local scene. How's your husband?'
âWatching football. Have you come over from Kauai just for this?'
Abel John watched Beatrice and Lani make their way indoors and said, âRoyal ali'i performance! Between those two and Eleanor a man has no power.' He grinned. âOf course I feel strongly about this too. My ohana, my family, is affected. As is my island. Mahalo for coming along.'
âYeah. It's good that malahinis are interested in what really goes on.'
The surfer from the group nodded to Catherine. âTourists should be indoctrinated before landing here. The surfers love the Islands as much as Hawaiians do .Â .Â . you might think for selfish reasons, but our passion is real. When you appreciate the landscape, nature and mystique of a place, get into its soul, you can't stand by and see it raped.'
They walked into the house. âI'm getting an inkling of the feelings people have for the Islands to remain an unspoiled paradise. But there's always the other side of the coin. I guess every tourist place can't be like the Palm Grove,' said Catherine.
âNo. And those places that show themselves as Hawaiian are usually the Hollywood kind, or else they move in with modern Americana that could be straight from Vegas or Cincinnati. It's the pace these guys want to go at that worries me. By the year 2000 the Islands will be bulging with high rises up and down the coast,' said Abel John.
âWhat a horrible thought. I see why Kiann'e and her family are so determined to restrain things,' said Catherine.
The following day Catherine visited the classroom at the community college where Paul Collins ran his photography classes supervised by Mr Kitamura. She spent several hours learning the basics of her camera. She watched them develop a roll of film and make a set of prints.
âI'd love to do that,' said Catherine. âI can see how you can compose your pictures, take a bit off here, blow up a bit there. Fascinating. Can I enrol in the course?'
âWe would be very pleased to have you. Two evenings a week,' said Mr Kitamura. âPaul runs the classes, but I like to help when I can get off Kauai.'
âI think that taking a photography course is a really good idea if it keeps you happy,' said Bradley when Catherine told him the next day what she was doing. âYou could become the official photographer for the Wives' Club.'
âI don't think so,' smiled Catherine. âBut the island is so beautiful I'll never get tired of taking pictures.'
âYou can buy postcards, you know,' teased Bradley.
âBut there's so much to explore!' Catherine paused. âI thought I'd spend a few hours downtown, take some photos of the old buildings and so on for Mum and Dad.'
âGreat. But the main reason that I think that the photography course will be good for you is because I've been given new orders. I'm going back to sea early next year.'
âOh. That's not far off.' It took a minute to sink in. âBradley, I know you're pleased, but I'm going to miss you. When are you leaving?'
âI know it's going to be hard on you, but it is my job. You'll get used to it. Anyway, it's not right away, the exact date hasn't been finalised. We'll still have time together.'
âI guess I'll adjust to the idea. I mean, it's hardly a surprise. After all you are a sailor.' Catherine smiled, but she felt shocked just the same. Knowing that something was inevitable and its actually becoming a reality were two different things. âWell, then,' she continued, sounding more cheerful than she felt, âI suppose if you're not going straight away, you'll still be spending this afternoon with the boys at the rec canteen at Fort De Russy.'
âYes, if that's still okay with you.' Bradley was clearly pleased at her acceptance of his news.
âYou take the car, I can hop on a bus,' said Catherine.
âDon't forget we have dinner at the Bensens' tonight.'
Catherine found there were several locals on the bus who were going to the rally. They carried flags and rolled-up placards but there was only friendly banter as if they were going on a picnic.
There were hundreds of people gathered on the lawns and in the forecourt of the Iolani Palace. Kiann'e's group were all dressed in Hawaiian clothes and wore maile leaf and kukui nut leis and headdresses. They looked impressive. Catherine was moved and took out her camera to photograph them. There were several other photographers, including Mr Kitamura, focusing on the group.
Abel John had a loud hailer. He began to call everyone together and explained there would be speeches from the steps of the palace and then a march around the downtown area. The male leaders grouped and performed a chant, echoed by the women.
Catherine circled around the growing crowd, photographing the people who were listening, talking and waving placards. A few tourists stopped to watch but shook their heads when told what the rally was about.
âProgress, man. You can't stop it. You should be glad to be part of America,' said a loud man in an equally loud aloha shirt.
Catherine heard the voices of Kiann'e and Beatrice speaking from the front and there was a roar of approval from the crowd. She moved closer to hear Beatrice.
âHere, on the sacred ground of our ancestors, on the steps of the building where our Hawaii Islands were annexed as a US territory, we demand that the lands of Hawaii be returned to our people, that there be no evictions of residents so their land can be turned over to outside interests. We call for a stop to the urbanisation of our precious wetlands, coastlines, hinterland and agricultural lands. We call for a halt to the military misuse of Hawaiian land. One day, from here, where our Queen was deposed, we will claim sovereignty once again, to be a nation within a nation!'
There was another cheer. Catherine lifted her camera and saw through the lens a photographer taking a photograph of her. She turned her head away and then looked for him again but he had disappeared in the crowd, which now numbered many hundreds. She pressed through the throngs of people and felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned to see several of the surfers who she had met at Kiann'e's dinner.
âSo you made it,' called out one of them.
âYes. It's quite something. A lot of passion and not much opposition to what's being said,' remarked Catherine.
âThere will be. Say, this is Damien, he's from Down Under, too.' He introduced one of the young men who smiled at her.
âYou staying here or just here surfing?' asked Catherine.
âBoth. It's not “just surfing”. We're on a world surfing championship safari,' he answered. âYou seen the North Shore?'
Catherine shook her head as there was another deafening roar and people around them surged forward.
âCatch ya later. Good luck with the pictures.' Damien and the other surfer plunged back into the crowd.
Catherine decided that she'd covered most of the action and was about to head over to theHawaii Newsoffice. She stopped to snap a placard âPreserve Our Natural Beauty', which was trampled on the ground. A little girl in a muu-muu was standing next to the placard, lost for the moment and crying loudly, a crown of flowers tipped to one side of her head. Catherine took her picture and bent down to comfort her but the child was quickly scooped up by her father, who smiled at Catherine.
âThanks, she'll be just fine now. This is great isn't it?' The little girl was hoisted onto her father's shoulders and they disappeared back into the crowd.
Vince Akana was anxious to hear about the photos that Catherine had taken.
âTaki isn't back yet, it's all still going on. What'd you get? I heard some of the speeches of the rally on the radio.'
Catherine carefully took the film from the camera, handed Vince the two exposed rolls and read off the notes she'd hastily made.
âI tried to move around and be the back of the crowd as I saw Mr Kitamura was focusing on the main action at the front.'
âSounds good, sounds good. Daisy hasn't come back yet to write her story. I'll rush these through, take a look and give you a buzz. If I'm using any I'll let you know.'
âI'll buy the paper tomorrow,' said Catherine.
âGreat. Thanks. And send me an invoice if any of yours appear, eh?' Vince dashed into the darkroom and Catherine walked outside to take the bus home.
Bradley was late home full of apologies about the game. He asked how her day was, but it was a polite enquiry and he jumped in the shower before she could answer. They walked over to the Bensens' large ground-floor condo for supper with some of Bradley's colleagues and their wives. As the cocktail hour dragged on, Catherine wished she could see the television news to see what coverage the rally had been given. No-one mentioned anything about the rally during supper, so she guessed no-one had been in the capitol area downtown that day. They mostly chatted about the upcoming Christmas craft fair, who was going back home for the Christmas vacation and the pull-out from Vietnam.
On the way home Catherine asked tentatively, âSo what are we doing about Christmas? Can we go to Australia? Mum and Dad are so keen for us to come out.'
âCatherine, darling, I'm sorry. On Friday I agreed to work through Christmas so some of the families could have leave. We just had the trip at Thanksgiving. We'll go to Australia later. March perhaps. How's that?'
âOh, I see. Well, that's nice of you. I suppose with kids it's good to be with family. It'll still be warm atHeatherbraein March.'
âLet's wait and see. I should be able to get some leave before I go to sea.' He reached over and squeezed her knee. âAnyway, you said you liked it here and an Hawaiian Christmas will be different.'
Catherine perked up. âYes, that's an idea. I'm sure Kiann'e and her family would love to have us share it with them. That'd be such fun .Â .Â .'
âOh no, if we're here it's only right that we spend it with the rest of our base family. The Goodwins will throw a lavish function. They bring in turkey, mistletoe, fresh pine trees, the works.'
âWe could go to the Palm Grove! How fabulous that would be! Just for a day or so over the break,' suggested Catherine, thrilled with her idea. âWouldn't you rather have a more informal, family fun party with my friends?'
âCatherine, I won't have leave to go anywhere over Christmas. I'll be lucky if I even get all of Christmas Day off. We don't always have a lot of say in these things. We have to do what's expected of us. It's my career. You know that.'
âYes. How could I forget?' she said tightly.
The Sunday edition of theHawaii Newshad the photograph of the little Hawaiian girl crying and at her feet the crumpled placard âPreserve Our Natural Beauty'. The headline above stated in bold type âTEARS FOR OUR LOST LAND'.
Catherine was thrilled that her first professional picture was on the front page. She was about to wake Bradley to show him but then she opened the paper to see what else was in it. On page three there was another big picture of the leaders performing the old chant and quite prominently in the background she saw herself. Thankfully most of her face was covered by her hands and the camera but a close look would identify her to anyone who knew her well. She closed the paper and hid it. The other papers had given the event less prominence and their coverage had included some negative comments from others, including bystanders, tourists and a city official. She decided not to mention her part in the rally to Bradley and hoped no-one would recognise her although she didn't think any of his colleagues would read theHawaii Newsanyway, as it didn't carry mainland news and sports results.
Christmas, then, was settled. They'd stay in Honolulu and join the Goodwins and other navy couples for Christmas luncheon. There was a separate function arranged for the single men and a dinner dance for everyone in the evening after church services. Carols would be held by candlelight in the park at Fort De Russy on Christmas Eve.
Catherine's parents were disappointed and she bought lots of gifts at the PX like the other wives were doing.
Bradley complained about her buying bulky and heavy items to mail to Australia, which was expensive in comparison to the rates to the mainland. She phoned her parents on Christmas Eve, which was Christmas Day atHeatherbrae, and the phone was passed around to all the friends and neighbours.
âSend us some of that liquid sunshine you have,' shouted Rob down the line. âIt's drier than Hades here.'
âWe miss you, darling, but the time till you get here will go in a flash,' said her mother.
âIt's going to be so dry, never mind, we have the pool,' sighed Catherine. âI wanted Bradley to see it at its best.'
Christmas was predictable. The men wore dress whites for the Christmas meal held at scattered tables in the enclosed informal entertaining area of the Goodwins' home. The room had been kept air conditioned round the clock to preserve the fresh pine tree. One of the Christmas wreaths they'd made for the craft festival hung on the front door. Decorations of large glass ornaments covered in silver âsnow' and figures of Santa and elves were displayed on coffee tables along with macadamia nuts in monkey pod bowls. Christmas cards covered the top of a bookcase. Each table had festive runners of red and green laid along the white cloths with formal flower arrangements tied with Christmas ribbon.
The commander said grace, conversation centred around complimenting Mrs Goodwin on the food and waiting for the naval steward to refill the tiny crystal wine glasses.
No gifts were exchanged. The Goodwins had asked that donations be made to the naval children's charity. After the meal the ladies withdrew to the screened and air conditioned sunroom and the men to the patio pool room. Catherine couldn't wait to escape.
âIt was excruciating,' she wailed to Kiann'e.
âYou would have so loved our Christmas Day. We started the morning at the beach, a sort of breakfast picnic, then everyone pitches in for the big family luau .Â .Â . We cooked for days. M'ma came from Kauai and brought her special ingredients, Uncle Henry did the pig .Â .Â . we played games, it was fun. Maybe next year?'
âI doubt it. I can't believe how everyone at the base just mixes with the same people. It's like we're living in a foreign country and no-one speaks the local language,' sighed Catherine.
âThere is a bit of a cultural gap. But then everyone comes together at public functions. You should bring all of Bradley's friends down to Kapiolani Park for the children's hula competition. The bands and dancers come from all over the Islands. Everyone brings a picnic, makes a day of it. There're stalls where people sell what they've made â some amazing things you never see in the shops â shells, carvings, quilts, woven grass hats, mats, bowls. You come anyway,' said Kiann'e.
âI'll try to persuade Bradley. I'm sure the wives would love it.'
Catherine was right. The other wives did want to come and they dragged their husbands along to the park for the big day of the hula competition. Just the same, they went in the morning and didn't take lunch as they didn't expect to stay very long and someone suggested they have lunch at one of the hotels in Waikiki.
However by midday when local families were bringing out their food, cooking on their hibachis and settling down during the lunch break to sing and play their ukuleles and guitars, Bradley's group was hungry. Bradley suggested they buy food from a stall and they all ate sitting on the grass. They watched families playing games with their children, pets tied to a tree in the shade, one family were bottle feeding a box of squeaking orphaned piglets. Catherine was amused to see all their friends had bought something from the stalls and taken photos of the âdarling little hula hula dancers'.
âYes, it has been a nice day,' agreed Bradley. âIt was all very cute. A once-a-year thing. Jim suggested we go and see the new Don Ho show next Saturday night. In fact maybe we could get Don Ho to sign some of his LPs as gifts to take to your family next month.'
âI think you have to be here to appreciate Hawaiian music. But why not? Probably a more sensible gift than an aloha shirt for my dad,' said Catherine.
âAnd what will we bring back as gifts from your neck of the woods?' he asked. âThe Goodwins might appreciate a little touch of Australiana.'
âI can just see a big cowskin in their formal sitting room,' laughed Catherine. âNo, I know. Slim Dusty records. He's a big country and western singer at home. Swap him for the Don Ho records.'
Catherine was excited to be going home with Bradley for a two-week visit. A few days in Sydney being escorted around by Mollie and a week atHeatherbraewere going to be wonderful. Soon Bradley would be at sea and Catherine planned to finish her photography course and start printing her own pictures. Vince had told her she could use theNewsdarkroom when available and he was prepared to pay her for any good photos. Bradley seemed happy with this arrangement as he realised that, while it was not exactly a proper job, it would keep Catherine happy while he was away. To Catherine, Vince's offer was a doorway to discovering more about the Islands.
CATHERINE TRIED TO SLEEPon the long flight back to Hawaii after their visit toHeatherbrae. She had mixed feelings. She glanced out the window and saw thick clouds and knew beneath them there was only the Pacific Ocean stretching between Australia and the tiny dots of the Hawaiian Islands. She felt the threads that bound her to her home country slowly stretching and she thought that there would come a point when she'd let Australia go and the Islands would draw her into their embrace.
But in this limbo her thoughts were with her family. The visit hadn't been all she'd hoped. It was still the end of a searing summer. The farm and landscape were brown, the creeks and the river dangerously low. The flies had driven Bradley mad and while he was charming and polite, Catherine could read him well enough to know he was bored and felt he had nothing in common with her family or their friends. But everyone liked him, thought him sophisticated and charming and said how lucky Catherine was to have married him.
The visit got off to a great start. They'd had a few days in Sydney with Mollie who broke the news that she had just got engaged. So they'd had dinner with Mollie and Jason, who was a stockbroker, which suited Mollie for, while she might claim to be a free spirit, she liked to do it with money.
Alone with Catherine, Mollie told her they were madly saving to buy a house but they'd love to go to Kauai and stay at the Palm Grove some day and she planned to keep working âuntil kids come along. Of course I adore Jason,' she added, âbut he's just an average Aussie bloke, isn't he? Not a dazzler like your Bradley. God, he's so good looking.'
Mollie seemed to have her life planned out and this made Catherine realise how many upheavals she and Bradley were likely to have in the future. She had talked to navy wives who'd moved around the world, sometimes being uprooted at short notice and who had never felt they had a permanent home of their own. Their kids hated being moved from schools and friends and with husbands at sea, the wives were lonely and the burden of the family and home fell on their shoulders.
While Bradley was in Administration he'd assured Catherine he'd be shore based most of the time, but now that seemed to have changed and she wondered how she would cope with his long absences. It was all so different from what she'd grown up with. Bradley was sympathetic about the poor weather conditions at home, but he really couldn't understand how awful a drought could be for everyone. She was upset and concerned. She could see how hard her father was working and the terrible plight of Rob, whose father's propertyCraigmorewas in dire straits.
In the brief time she had to talk with Rob alone, he'd told her that his father had run the place down terribly but wouldn't let him make any changes to modernise or reassess the management of it. Putting money into race horses had been a bigger concern for his father than putting money into his property. Rob's sisters had no interest in the place, nor did Barbara who, now that they were married, tried to spend as much time as possible going to Sydney to see her parents and friends.
âIt's only country people like us, born here, growing up here, that really understand what this is all about,' said Rob. âThe economy is doing okay, wool and cattle prices are good. Mind you, what the meat sells for in shops is way, way more than we're getting. But our feed isn't good, the land needs revitalising somehow. Dad won't listen to my “way out” rubbish-talk of course.'
Catherine missed the yarns with her father and his neighbours and their cronies about farming, the land, cattle, life in general. But she understood that it probably was boring for Bradley, just as she'd been bored by his father's talk about the golf club, a favourite new restaurant and his sports games. She knew, too, she would miss the cups of tea and long talks with her mother when she returned to the Islands. They seemed to talk about everything. It was such a contrast to conversations with Angela and Deidre, which never got beyond clothes, shopping sales, going out to lunch and some light-hearted reminiscences about Bradley and his siblings.
As if reading her thoughts, Bradley took her hand. âMissing everyone back at home already?'
She nodded, suddenly choked up. âNot just the family.Heatherbraeand the country is so much a part of me. I know you didn't see it at its best, but it is beautiful.'
âI imagine so. I thought the sunset barbecue fire at the top of your knoll was lovely.'
âUntil the mozzies came out,' she reminded him. Bradley had been eaten alive despite liberally dousing himself in insect repellent.
âWell, I did see lots of wallabies.' He hesitated. âBut really, Catherine, growing up there, what on earth did youdo?'
She stared at him in amazement. âI told you. We rode horses, helped on the farm, went to the cattle sales, the ag show, bush races, picnics, dances. And that's not even leaving the district. We went to Sydney and to other towns. I found Sydney less fun than being in the country. Bush kids know how to have a good time. We made our own fun.'
âBut it's so rural. Aren't you happier in a city like Honolulu where you can have both? The mountains, the sea. And then we have Waikiki on our doorstep. It seemed to me your friends were quite envious of your life, Catherine.'
âThey were. And I know I'm lucky, Bradley. It's just I do miss old friends, my home .Â .Â . and I can't help wondering what our life's going to be like. Not owning a home, being settled.'
âCatherine! We own an apartment. And what's all this about being settled? You were the one that wanted the gypsy life. You were so carefree, flexible, willing to take on the world. Where's that Catherine?'
She knew he was right. He hadn't wanted to marry a girl who lived near his mother, had lunch with their parents every Sunday, saw the same people, same places all the time. He wanted someone who loved to travel, someone happy to move each time the navy told them to. âI guess I'm just homesick, saying goodbye and all. And not knowing where we'll be after Hawaii.'
âEnjoy Hawaii, we could end up in a lot worse places.'
âI know that. I truly love Hawaii. I feel a great attachment to the Islands already. Especially after the rally.'
âOh. When I was downtown taking photos .Â .Â . I saw a bit of a rally with a lot of Hawaiian people.' She stumbled over her words, cursing her slip.
âThat Hawaiian land thing? Did you know some of the protesters? Was Kiann'e there?'
Catherine nodded meekly.
âI'm surprised at Kiann'e's being so .Â .Â . radical. She is different from the girl who dances at the Moonflower. So what happened?'
âYou knew about the rally?'
âIt was discussed in the office. Apparently there was criticism of the military. So where were you?'
âTaking photos of the Iolani Palace and downtown. So I took a few of the rally. Actually, I sold one to the newspaper,' she said defiantly.
âYou what? Hell, I hope no-one saw you. Your name wasn't mentioned, was it?' asked Bradley in alarm.
âYou mean, a photo credit? I don't think I'm at that level yet.'
âCatherine, this is serious. What paper was it?'
âThe Hawaii News.'
âThat trashy paper? You know that's a mouthpiece for the separatists. They've started with land issues, they're against development â and remember tourism is the lifeblood of the Islands â and before you know it they'll be pushing for secession, independence or some such nonsense.'
âBradley! People just want the right to stay on their own land. Wouldn't you?'
âCatherine, I'm not going to discuss this with you. I'm stopping this conversation right now. But just let me say this, you cannot fraternise with politically affiliated or contentious people who are expressing sentiments and essentially taking an anti-American stance. We cannot take sides when we are an arm of the government.'
âYou. Not me, Bradley.'
âYou're my wife, America is your home now. Good Lord, you're taking out citizenship,' he snapped in an angry, low voice. âYou're supposed to be thinking of us, our future. These foolish ideas and friends are damaging to us. Please consider that.'
Catherine was tempted to snap back, but saw the stewardess approaching with the meal trolley and so kept quiet.
They ate their meal in silence, then Bradley opened his book and settled himself with a pillow and was soon asleep. Catherine continued to stare at the blank world of clouds outside the plane. She could understand Bradley's point of view. But she could hear Mollie's voice saying, âStand up for yourself. Get liberated, Cathy.'
Catherine had been surprised to find that Mollie was now involved in âwomen's lib' and despite her plans for her and Jason's future, she'd told Catherine, âHe's had to accept that I want a say in our plans â where to live, my working, starting a family, my money, his money.'
Mollie's outspoken attitude had made Catherine realise how much of her life she had relinquished to Bradley. But she'd loyally told Mollie, âBradley is so organised, such a planner, so sensible, and so amenable and fair. I'm quite happy to let him run things.'
âThat's because you're an only child, Cathy. You've been looked after and spoiled and Bradley is doing the same.' Catherine had not replied to such an unjust remark, but she did think about Mollie's forthright attitude to marriage.
Catherine dozed and when she awoke they were getting ready for the descent into Honolulu. Her spirits rose. She began to think about the island's beauty, Kiann'e and her friends, starting her photography course, her early morning swim in crystal water.
When they left the plane the sight of the palm trees, the soft breeze, the warmth of the air and the smiles of the local people, the ease with which they went through customs, the calls of aloha, leis being given, people embracing .Â .Â . She took Bradley's hand.
âI'm glad to be home.'
They skimmed through the mail and Catherine grimaced as she read several formal invitations to morning teas, luncheons and a meeting of the Wives' Club. She rang Kiann'e.
âYou're back! We've missed you. A swim tomorrow? What are you doing for lunch?' asked Kiann'e, sounding delighted to hear from her.
âOh, we couldn't possibly face going out today, thanks. But I can't wait to see you in the morning. How's everything?'
âGood, good. Lester misses you. Are you jet lagged?'
âIt's been a long trip. I'll tell you all about it tomorrow.' Catherine was keen to share her feelings and tell Kiann'e all about her visit home. âBut I'm really glad to be back.'
They went to the commissary for provisions, Bradley called some colleagues and as they were unpacking and sorting laundry, there was a knock at their door.
âWho would that be?' said Bradley. âWe really need an early night. I have to work tomorrow.' His face fell as he opened the door to find Albert, Kiann'e's teenage nephew, standing there with a large basket.
âKiann'e and Aunty Lani sent this for Catherine.'
âHi, Albert. What's this?' called Catherine behind Bradley.
âThey thought you might be too tired to cook. They sent you a welcome home supper.'
âHow lovely, come in.'
âAh, that's okay. See ya.' He waved and left.
Bradley put the large basket on the table. âReally, Catherine, how embarrassing. We could go out to eat and we bought food. We're not on welfare and I don't want to be treated like family by these people.'
âThese people are friends of mine, and I think this is so thoughtful. It's the aloha spirit, Bradley. Look, how yummy.' She began taking containers of food, some fruit and a cake from the basket.
That night they broke a rule and ate in front of the TV. Bradley had to admit that the food was good.
âI suppose you're seeing Kiann'e tomorrow. When you return the basket don't encourage any more food drops,' said Bradley.
Catherine ignored the comment and said breezily, âI'm starting my photography course tomorrow evening. Can I take the car after I bring you home?'
Catherine caught up on the local news as she and Kiann'e walked the beach the next morning. She wanted to know how all her friends were and what they had been doing.
âMy mother is pleased by the support the rally had. There could have been more in the news, but it's a start. They're trying to get a meeting with local council representatives. Lester has missed you. Now tell me about the visit. What did Bradley think?'
Catherine filled her in and told her of her disappointment with Bradley's reaction to Peel andHeatherbrae.
Kiann'e shook her head. âThat's too bad. He probably finds it too isolated and well, culturally foreign.'
âWe speak English at least!'
âI mean that country life isn't for him. Maybe it's the space thing, he feels threatened by the wide open spaces! He's been living in small apartments, works in an office or else is on a cramped ship.'
Catherine laughed. âGood theory, but I don't think that's the cause. I'll adjust. I'm so glad I'm in Hawaii. I just hope we stay here a couple of years. Hey, I'm starting my course tonight.'
âGreat. You should take a portrait of Lester. I think he misses the limelight a bit.'
âGood idea. And one of you, dancing on the beach at sunset. Not at the Moonflower, somewhere quieter .Â .Â . What about the beach opposite your aunty's land?'
âFine by me. Figure out the camera first.'
Catherine loved her first photography class, though some of the more mathematical and technical aspects of it were not her forte. She showed Bradley what she'd been learning, taking several pictures of him as he browsed through a magazine.
âSee, later on I can get extra lenses and filters for special effects, put stars in the sunlight on the ocean and .Â .Â .'
âHoney, you're doing the course, not me. I don't need a full recap of each lesson. And what do you want all those expensive extras for? The guy probably has a deal with a supplier and it's not as though you need to take professional photos.' He turned back to his magazine.
Catherine was tempted to make a comment about the offer from Vince to bring him photos for theNews, but she didn't want to remind him of her participation in the rally.
As time slipped by, Catherine found she was busy from early morning till evening. She dropped Bradley outside his office, although it was close enough for him to walk, drove to Waikiki, swam and walked with Kiann'e, had coffee with Lester, then filled in the day with all her domestic chores. She had several gatherings with the Wives' Club, attended her photography classes, regularly popped in to see Vince at the paper and had started working on her major photography assignment.
âWe have to do a series of portraits that tell a story .Â .Â . not just a straight head and shoulders type photo,' she explained to Bradley. âCan I shoot you down at the harbour in your uniform?'
âI guess so. But really, Catherine, what are you going to do with all these pictures?'
âIt's part of the course and it doesn't cost anything to print them. I'm learning darkroom techniques as well. We have to submit a portfolio of photos for our grade. But there is also a competition that all the class is entering.'
She was pleased with some of the shots she took of Bradley in his crisp white uniform, sunglasses and naval cap as he stood in sunshine, the shadow of a huge dark navy vessel looming behind him. The bollard with thick ropes on the wharf next to Bradley's immaculate white shoes was a study in contrasts.
She photographed Kiann'e in a sarong and lei, backlit by the setting sun with her long hair loose, dancing on the sand at the beach near her aunty's house. They were beautiful pictures but scarcely original ideas. Catherine took other pictures afterwards during the informal supper with family, of visitors and relatives who dropped by as Aunty Lani dished out food to everyone. She snapped the jolly Hawaiian woman ladling out food onto plates with a small girl tugging at her muu-muu.
Bradley also had decided to do a short course for admin staff. âI thought if you're out a couple of nights a week you wouldn't mind if I did this course. It'll finish before I have to leave and it all helps towards further promotion.'
So while Bradley sat in the lecture room at the base, Catherine had dinner at Aunty Lani's with Kiann'e. She carried plates inside and helped with the clearing away.
âYou're almost one of the family now,' said Aunty Lani. âHere, take this leftover chicken curry home for your husband.'
âThanks, Aunty. He'll love it. He goes to class straight after work so he'll be starving,' said Catherine.
âHow's the picture taking going?' asked Uncle Henry.
âGood. I'm still looking for a few more people to photograph. There's a trip to Kauai for the winner of a photo competition and I'm dying to go back there.'
âGreat, you know you can always stay with Beatrice. Take some pictures on Po'ipu Beach. Get some of those cute surfer boys,' chuckled Aunt Lani. âSay, what about Lester? He's a good looking man even now. Oh, he was a looker when he first came here. All the girls were mad for him.'
âHave you known him a long time?'
âI met him in the thirties when I was very young. He was a legend even then. He was part of the group that hung around the Outrigger Canoe Club. He used to spend a lot of time in Kauai. But that's another story.'
âIs that where he met Eleanor? They must be good friends as she lets him live in her apartment,' said Catherine.
Aunt Lani didn't answer and busied herself in the kitchen.
âDid Lester work for Eleanor and her husband at the Palm Grove? What's the connection between them?' persisted Catherine, now curious.
âI couldn't say,' said Aunt Lani. âNot our business. Lester is a good man. Here, you come back soon.' She handed Catherine the food to take home.
Catherine asked Kiann'e about Lester and Eleanor and Ed Lang the next morning.
âWho knows what the story is? There is something though, because Eleanor acted vague when I asked her. Vague as in evasive,' said Kiann'e. âAnyway, if you want to photograph Lester, chat to him about his life. There's also probably a lot in the newspaper files, he was such a champion as well as designing boards and being active in getting surfing on the map.'
Lester was rather pleased at the idea of Catherine's taking his portrait, as much for the outing as the photography. She told him she'd pick him up on Thursday afternoon. In the meantime she went to see the librarian in the archive of theHonolulu Advertiserwho pulled out clippings on Lester dating back over fifty years. Catherine sat in the little cutting library in theAdvertiser's offices crowded with filing cabinets, shelves filled with books of yellowing clippings and folders crammed with old press photographs.
There must have been some system to the chaos because the kindly librarian hauled out the file with Lester's name on it. âWe're starting to put things on microfiche now, before the old papers disintegrate,' she said. âThere could be old newsreel footage, early TV stuff, but you'd have to go to KGMB or somewhere to ask about that,' she suggested.
âThis is great. Amazing,' said Catherine, poring over the fat folder of pictures of a handsome young Lester posing with Duke Kahanamoku and other surfers Catherine didn't recognise and in action himself. Slowly she began to see what Lester's public life had been like. Everything was centred on surfing. Shots of him on impossibly huge waves, a mere speck out the back of the waves, flipping over a curling wave, riding a long board at Waikiki with a girl on his shoulders, doing a headstand on a board with Diamond Head in the background when there had been few hotels along the beachfront. Other shots showed Lester wearing leis, with trophies and displaying an array of surfboards.
But what was his private life? Pretty girls posed with him but none of them appeared a second time in any picture. As Catherine flipped through the yellowing clippings she started to see what a contribution Lester had made to the Islands. He was indeed a true kama'aina. But he was an enigma. How could she sum this up in a photograph?
She talked it over with Kiann'e who reminded her that someone was always surfing somewhere on the island.
âYou could take some pictures of the Australian boys who are always hanging around.'
âOh, that's too hard. I know nothing about it,' said Catherine.
âAnd you're not too interested either, I can tell,' said Kiann'e.
âNope. It's one aspect of Hawaii that doesn't turn me on.'
Kiann'e grinned. âWait till you see those surfer boys in action!'
But in spite of this suggestion, Catherine thought Kiann'e's idea to take a portrait of Lester was the best.
âYou were quite the surfer hero in your time, Lester. I hadn't realised how famous you were. I saw some old newspaper clippings. You looked like a movie star.'
He merely smiled. âWell, I did appear in a few films. Wasn't for me.' He dropped the subject.
Catherine saw an opportunity to prise open the shell around his past. âWow, Lester, that's pretty interesting. Tell me more.'
âDifferent times, back then, Catherine. Nobody's interested now.'
âWhy didn't you ever marry, Lester?' asked Catherine.
He shrugged. âI didn't have much to offer anyone. I'm not the type to settle in the suburbs, pay off a home.'
âYou couldn't find a nice island girl? You are so happy here, the lifestyle suits you. And, my goodness, you were so handsome and then you became so famous the girls must have flocked to you.'
âMaybe that was part of the reason. Never any shortage of girls and I liked them all.'
âLester, what a ladies' man you are!' laughed Catherine, thinking how little had changed. Kiann'e, even Beatrice herself, and who knows what other lady friends were still dancing attendance on him.
He took a scrapbook from a shelf and handed it to her. âHow about I put the coffee on?' he suggested.
Catherine began looking through the photos and newspaper cuttings, trying to equate the arthritic older man before her with the bronzed, stunning-looking figure in the pictures. âCoffee, yes please, Lester. You look like a Greek god in these! And so fit.'
Lester looked over her shoulder. âI feel a bit stiff today, but I lasted longer than most. I won a few championships in my late forties, though no-one knew my age.'
âYou devil, Lester. I see what you mean. You look amazing.'
Catherine was astonished not just by how handsome and contemporary Lester looked, but by the quality of the old black and white photos. He was wearing fitted swim shorts in a lot of the pictures and if it hadn't been for the old-style white buckled belt around them, he could have been a surfer of today. There were a lot of photos of him posing on the beach standing against massive solid long boards, in action on the waves with Diamond Head in the background. But it was a series of studies using light and shade that caught her attention. Lester was posed on tiptoe, angled like a dancer in a brief knotted lava lava, like a nappy, she thought. Others were of him naked, back to the camera, lying on the sand. He had a lean, lightly muscled, well-proportioned body, an allover tan, the sunlight caught the light hairs on his arm, his sun-streaked blond hair fell over his face. One photo showed him on his side, back modestly to the camera, stretched naked on the sand, head resting on one bent arm, his other hand casually holding a large trophy â a cup for surfing or swimming, she assumed. The black and white pictures were of prize-winning quality, and looked as if they could have been taken yesterday.
âWho took these photos? They're excellent,' said Catherine.
âI took some myself, or I set them up and had a lady friend click the shutter.' He smiled.
âLester, could I borrow this scrapbook if I promise to guard it with my life?'
âWhy are you so interested in an old man?' he asked gently.
Catherine didn't have an immediate answer. âI like you, Lester,' she said finally. âAnd I think you'll be a great subject for the portrait competition.'
âWhat did you have in mind? I know what I'd do,' said Lester.
âAt the beach? Outside the Outrigger Canoe Club where some of these were taken?' said Catherine.
âGot it in one, girl. Let's go.'
âOkay, you're ready?'
Lester wanted to change his clothes so Catherine washed the coffee cups and put them away. She couldn't resist a smile when Lester emerged from the bedroom wearing white shorts held up by a leather belt with a fancy silver and turquoise buckle and topped with a faded blue and white aloha shirt. He had sunglasses in his pocket and carried a perky cap. He slipped his feet into his sandals and took his stick.
âI'm right to go.'
The sun was still high in the early afternoon and Waikiki was crowded. At Lester's insistence she parked in the Outrigger Canoe Club.
âMike, the manager, will let me in here. We can cut through to the beach,' said Lester as he headed towards the members only reception.
âAre you a member?' asked Catherine.
âUsed to be fifty years ago. They know me.'
Catherine grabbed her camera bag and followed him. Lester gave the girl at the desk a big smile and said airily, âHaving my picture taken out the front, it won't take long.'
âVery well, Lester, you know the rules.' She smiled at Catherine.
Lester had a few suggestions for photos: posing with an outrigger canoe pulled up on the beach; leaning against a gnarled banyan tree at the edge of the sand; and of course with a surfboard. He was a natural in front of the camera and Catherine took several pictures that she thought were good, but weren'ttheone. She looked towards the shore where several surfers were walking from the water carrying their boards. Lester studied them, squinting into the sun.
âTimes change,' said Catherine. âThose boards look different from the big heavy ones you used.'
âYes, but some things never change,' said Lester softly. âSoul surfers. That's what they call themselves now. These boys are in it for love and fulfilment, not winning and ego.' As the surfers came up the beach one of them spotted Lester leaning on his cane, and murmured to the others. They all headed towards the legend with the white hair and faded shirt as he wistfully watched them.
Catherine moved to one side and started shooting. The first surfer to greet Lester was Damien, the Australian she'd met at the rally. He looked awestruck. The other two boys, one with bleached-blond hair, the other Hawaiian, she didn't know. They all wanted to shake Lester's hand and ask questions. Clearly Lester had not been forgotten. One put his board down and came around to Catherine.
âHi. How come you're here with Lester?'
âI'm doing some portraits of him.'
âHey, could you do the boys one favour and take one picture of us all with him, please? He's one legend.'
âI know. He's incredible. And just a little while ago he was saying no-one is interested in him.'
âHe's wrong there. You know him?' asked the blond surfer, clearly impressed.
âYes,' said Catherine. âCome on, I'll take your photo before he gets too tired.'
âIt's for the boys, they'd love a copy of it.'
âWe can arrange that,' said Catherine.
She took a formally posed shot of the group. Then, because Lester's legs were tired, they moved to the sea wall. Lester sat on a bench with his stick and the boys gathered around him.
Catherine wished she could tape the talk. The boys had a hundred questions, none of which she understood, about fin designs, weights, shapes, places and the breaks, the Pipeline, the waves on the North Shore.
âYou wait till next winter, when the big waves come in,' Lester said to Catherine. âThat's the time to understand what surfing's all about. These boys, they like surfing fine, but the North Shore winter sorts them out. Only the wild watermen get out there in the winter waves.'
âDo you swim these days, Lester?' asked the Hawaiian boy.
For the first time, Lester's face fell. He'd been enjoying the young surfers' admiration, their passion, their mutual bond. âCan't get up on these old legs. I swim in the pool at the apartment.'
âWhat about a surf sometime? Nothing beats the ocean, I'll take you out on one of the old big boards. What do you say, Lester?' said the blond surfer with a warm smile. âEven for a body surf. Catch a few smallies.'
âWe might well do that sometime, kid.'
Catherine could tell Lester was getting weary. âHey, Lester, it's time, we'd better be making a move.' She turned to the surfers. âHow can I get in touch with you to give you a copy of the pictures if they turn out all right?' She fished in her handbag for a pen and scrap of paper.
The blond surfer wrote his phone number on it and handed it to her. âI'm PJ and listen, I meant what I said. I'd be happy to take him into the ocean for a dip. Somewhere quiet, no people, nothing risky. He must miss it.'
Catherine had dismissed his earlier remark but now, as she looked at PJ, she realised that he understood Lester's limitations and was sincere in wanting to help him. With a slight shock she thought that PJ looked a bit like a young Lester. The same height and colouring, smooth gold skin, sun-frosted hair, sky-blue eyes and a serious sort of smile. There was salt crusted in his blond eyebrows and on his shoulders. He was staring at her, waiting for an answer.
âI'll call you.' She picked up her camera bag and took Lester's arm.
Damien tapped Catherine on the shoulder. âJeez, mate, it'd be so cool to have a photo with a ledge like Lester. I'll pay you for it.'
âIt's okay, you've done me a favour. I think I have the photo I wanted. I'll contact PJ when I get the prints.'
âGroooovy. See you round, Cathy.'
She smiled as she helped Lester walk back into the club. Damien was a typical Aussie, abbreviating everything. Bradley had thought that it was a rather irritating trait, but to Catherine it sounded like home.
In the darkroom at the college Catherine and Paul held up the negatives in the glow of the red light globe. Catherine knew the shot she liked best of Lester: his head thrown back and an arm reaching out towards the ocean pointing to something. It was almost like a spiritual act as the awestruck and admiring surfers clustered, disciple-like, around him. With the surfboards, the strip of beach and a glimpse of the peak of Diamond Head, the expressions on their faces and the powerful face of Lester in the centre, the picture told the story.
âI'm calling it theChanging of the Guard. OrSoul Surfers. MaybeThe Old Man, the Sea and Soul Surfers. I'm not sure, I'll toss around a few more titles.'
âIt's a great shot. You can see he's such a grand old man still with enormous strength and a powerful personality. Well done. You're turning in some good work, Catherine.'
After she had printed the pictures of Lester she called around to show Vince at theNews.
âAbsolutely knockout, Catherine. Gee, I'd love to use this one. But obviously not until after your photo competition.' He studied them again, then rubbed his chin. âHmm, y'know you've been taking some good stuff. Interesting. Different. I suppose it's because you're new to the Islands.'
âMalihini eyes.' Catherine smiled.
âWhat say you do a regular picture for us? Places, people, anything that takes your fancy that has a bit of a story to it. Can you write a bit?'
âEnough, I guess. I'd love to do that. I often see people and want to photograph them and I feel a bit shy, but if it's for the paper I have an excuse to chat to them for a bit. How often would you want something?' Catherine was starting to feel very excited.
âOnce a week, we'd run it in the Saturday paper, call it “Our Island, Our Home”. We'd pay you the same rate as we have for the other photos of yours that we've used, if that's okay?'
Catherine nodded. âThis is sooo good, Vince. I can use this as a bit of an excuse to get out of some of the deadly Wives' Club things.'
âYou can bring in the film and give it to the darkroom, by Thursday if you can, or you can develop it yourself if you want to.'
âHow much do I have to write to go with it? A caption or a bit of detail?' asked Catherine.
âAbout two or three hundred words. Put in a quote if it's someone interesting. Let me see what you can do. We'll kick off with that shot of Lester, after the competition, whether it wins or not.'
Catherine shook his hand. âThanks, Vince. I've always wanted to do something like this. And write something. I'm sure that I can do something for you each week.'
âI'm not asking for a novel. Just keep it concise. And be sure to give us a bit of a selection. Couple of versions of the shot so I can choose one to work into the layout.'
âI can't wait to tell Bradley.'
âI'm surprised, well, that's handy for you. You must be coming along in that course,' said Bradley. âI hope it doesn't take up too much time, though. And I wouldn't make a big deal of it at the Wives' Club. Working off base is always a bit of an issue.'
âI'll keep it to myself. I doubt any of them read theHawaii News.' Catherine felt a bit deflated but she knew Kiann'e and her friends would be thrilled for her.
A few days later she rang the number the blond surfer, PJ, had given her.
âHi, this is Catherine Connor. I took the photos of Lester and all you guys.'
âRight. How'd it come out?'
âI have some great shots. In fact, one might run in theHawaii News.'
âHey, the guys will get a kick out of that. Thanks a lot.'
âI'll leave them for you at theNewsoffices. What's your name by the way?'
âIt's Peter James. But PJ will do. Say, that Lester, what a terrific old man. I'd really like to take him for a quiet dip in the ocean. Do you think he'd like that?'
âHe did say it would be a nice thing to do, but he kind of dismissed it as too hard,' said Catherine. âHe's pretty strong, and he's very determined. What would it involve?'
âTaking him somewhere where there's calm water, no waves to speak of. First time anyway. He was an Olympic swim champ, so he'll be okay once he's in the water and weightless. He'll just need a bit of assistance getting out of the water and up the beach.'
âI'd love to do that for him. That's really kind of you. I think he'd feel better if there wasn't a crowd. He's a very proud man, in a nice way. He was pretty chuffed at the attention from you all.'
âI'll arrange it. What's your number?'
Catherine gave him her phone number and then added, âI nearly forgot, the reason I called was to get all your names and where you're from in case the paper uses the photo with all of you in.'
âYou got me there,' laughed PJ. âI'll have to call you back. Most of the boys have nicknames and I don't know their surnames!'
At the next Wives' Club meeting Catherine listened as the president ran through the agenda.
âWe have donated the five hundred dollars raised for our children's charity from the handicraft fair. Perhaps we can begin a new project. Does anyone have any suggestions?'
Catherine lifted her hand. She'd had an idea for some time, but it was a radical one. Nevertheless she plucked up courage and blurted it out. âWell, yes. As we're living here amidst another community, perhaps it would be useful to learn a little more about the community we share. Learn a bit more about Hawaii .Â .Â . it has a fascinating history and culture,' said Catherine.
âThat's a nice idea,' broke in Connie Goodwin. âOf course, some of us have lived here for quite a while, Catherine. Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions?'
Catherine bit her lip.
Julia Bensen spoke up. âAn art class might be nice, or music â how about ukulele lessons, or even the hula?'
There was a round of laughter, followed by enthusiastic discussion about the hula.
âWe loved those dancers we saw at the hula competition in Kapiolani Park that Catherine took us to,' said Julia.
âWhy don't we put on a show? Raise money that way, have a bit of fun and give the money to an Hawaiian charity,' suggested Peta Harrison, wife of the head of the base transport division.
There was a flurry of agreement.
âBut who's going to teach us?' Julia looked to Catherine.
Mrs Goodwin turned to Catherine. âMy dear, you seem to have some connections out there in the local entertainment scene, do you not?'
âI'll ask. Of course it's only fair they are paid, or we donate money to the charity of their choice.'
There was some discussion over the detail, which Catherine found boring. The decisions over who would do what, be responsible for what, report on what, drove her crazy. She wanted to jump up and say, âFor God's sake, I'll ask Kiann'e to come and give us lessons and we donate XYZ to some local charity. Let's move on.' But she held her tongue and it was finally resolved that Catherine would ask Kiann'e if she would give hula lessons and report back at the next meeting.
âKiann'e, you don't have to if you don't want to. Or suggest someone else. But I tried, I really tried to get them interested in a project that would give them some sense of the history of the Islands .Â .Â . which I'm only just starting to learn,' wailed Catherine.
âIt's okay. There are hula classes and hula classes. They'll get a lot more with me than they expect,' said Kiann'e. âHula tells stories, we'll creep the knowledge in â to music. Of course, you'll be there.'
After Kiann'e's first lesson, the wives clustered around Catherine.
âWasn't that wonderful? It's so .Â .Â . ooh, seductive.'
âMuch more so than rock and roll, or modern dance. Wait till I show my husband this!'
âNo preview. Make them wait for the big show when we're really good,' said Julia, clearly excited by the prospect of something really different.
Several lessons later, as Kiann'e drove her home, Catherine thanked her friend. âYou're too famous to be teaching a bunch of naval wives, and real amateurs at that, the sacred dances of your people. They don't appreciate it. You're so good to do this.'
âActually it's important to let people know there's much more to hula than just these movements. The hula has a language of its own and if it speaks, even just a little, to these women so that they understand this is a means of passing down and interpreting our culture, then it's worth it. And I do think that some of them appreciate its significance.'
âIt just seems there is so much more we could be learning about the old chants, the royal family of Hawaii. And, of course, so much more we could contribute. Still, this is certainly a good start,' said Catherine.
Kiann'e was right. Many of the naval wives doing the hula classes became very keen about what they were doing. They pressed Kiann'e about the dresses she wore, wanting to have similar ones made.
Kiann'e explained, âThe big loose muu-muu is like a Mother Hubbard, brought in by the missionaries to cover up all the women. If the traditional dances were performed the missionaries had the women and men wear thick brown neck-to-ankle tights and tops under their ti-leaf skirts, pareos and cloaks. Now the long fitted dress I dance in is called a holomuu; the holoku is the same, long and fitted at the waist but with a train. And the short muu-muu is called a pokomuu.'
Some of the wives started bringing notebooks to write down the snippets of information they found interesting and over juice and coffee after class, Kiann'e was asked questions about dressmakers, leis and food.
âCatherine, this is such a good idea, it's allsointeresting,' said Julia Bensen.
âWhy don't we put on an Hawaiian feast when we do our show?' enthused Peta.
âA luau would be fun,' said Catherine. âWe could make it a fundraiser for one of the charities. Don't you think the Wives' Club should support a local Hawaiian charity?'
âGreat idea. A luau and a chorus line of lovelies from the Wives' Club. The boys will love it,' said Julia.
âWe'll need help with the food. Don't they cook it in the ground?' asked Peta.
âI have friends who might help,' said Catherine, rather amused. âI'll talk to Kiann'e.'
Kiann'e was helpful but declined getting involved in the luau and hula show for the Wives' Club. âYou run it, Catherine, you can handle it,' she winked. âSeems you're becoming a bit of a star in the club.'