Ch 5. Native Drums and Gothic Horrors

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*** Russell ***

Russell tried in vain to find a comfortable position in his cramped seat, thinking Beth was right about one thing; he should have arranged an upgrade to business. Planes were not designed for human beings of normal height and size; they were made for small furry animals and young children. More than seven hours to go until they landed and the ball of lead in his stomach was growing heavier by the minute.

Why had he agreed to this? Why was he doing this to himself, going to Hawaii of all places? It wasn't how it was supposed to have been-nothing was the way he had planned. Nothing was right since that empty stretch of road in the desert. Damn, he could use a cigarette. He needed that ritual, that calm, that smoke to take her place near him.

No, he argued with himself for the hundredth time since Friday night; going there is exactly the right thing to do. Do what you planned to do, just not with her. Do it with Beth, help her get over that jerk and keep her job, and get Hawaii out of your system. Then maybe, just maybe you can move on with your life.

He had to take Beth's offer as a stroke of fate. He had to, because believing in such things kept him alive. Without him asking or searching, she had materialized at his side and offered to take him to Hawaii-a fabulous get-away for two colleagues to have a great time and make everyone at the office sick with envy. She truly was one of the few bright lights left in his bleak world. He stifled the urge to ask her more about her past and her upcoming divorce. Unless he was careful, he would get too close, know too much, open the cracks too wide and let her crawl inside him. That would be a disaster. Besides, she was busy reading a book and it would be a shame to interrupt her.

He turned his eyes to the clouds outside, as if watching them was interesting or that he might find answers to endless internal debate. No, the answer was in the plane with him; this deal he had with Beth was his last chance.

*** Beth ***

Well, if Russell was not going to tell her anything about their deal, then she was going to read her book. They had another seven and a half hours to kill until they reached Honolulu and she could not think of any conversation topics that were safe to bring up. At some point she must have fallen asleep, because suddenly someone was shaking her awake.

"I'm sorry, Beth, but I would like to go to the restroom now," Russell said, staring intently in her eyes.

She blinked several times. "You want to go to the restroom?" she asked.

"Yes, if you don't mind."

"No, I don't mind," she said and something her sister had said at the airport suddenly clicked. The mile high club. Was he inviting her? "Did you want me to go with you?" There are no stupid questions, as they say. If I don't ask, I can't be sure, she reasoned.

"I think I can find it on my own," he replied, grinning. "I just can't get past you to the aisle."

"Oh, of course! Of course. I'm standing up to get out of the way. There you go, you are free." Shut up, Beth, you sound like an idiot. So much for the mile high club. Well, that wasn't part of the bargain, apparently.

She kept her nose deep in her book until they started their descent for landing. Russell nudged her.

"Are you sure you don't want to look out the window?" he asked.

"Mm-hmm," she said, but looked anyway. And gasped in awe on Russell's chest when she threw herself at the window. Oahu, the island with the city of Honolulu, rose from the sapphire ocean like an uncut emerald lined with gold. Distinct areas became visible: a large crater formation near the largest city, towering cliffs, thicker bands of golden beaches, turquoise bays, pinpoint white caps on waves as they approached the shore, an armada of boats, and (the cherry on top) she thought she saw a rainbow arching over the mountains in the center. Even the play of light and shadows on the surface of the water beneath the plane was dazzling.

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