I make a dismissive noise as we come to a one-lane bridge, the traffic backed up by a few cars as we wait for the other vehicles to come across. A sign indicates that you should let five to seven cars pass or go ahead of you when you're crossing, as a common courtesy. After our turn, we wind past a swollen river and wet fields that resemble rice paddies. With the lush, ragged mountains rising dramatically behind it all, it reminds me of pictures I’d seen of Vietnam, or some place in South East Asia.
The town of Hanalei passes by us quickly, which is supposed to be the closest town to the resort. Even in the shitty weather, people are strolling down the road without umbrellas, laughing at the rain with surfboards tucked under their arms or sucking back iced drinks. Cute storefronts, bars, and restaurants abound on either side of the road.
After we pass Hanalei, the road becomes this twisty, winding vein as it skirts the rough ocean, the surf pounding up against the lava rocks, palm trees waving in the wind. We pass one one-lane bridge after another, the scenery causing me whiplash as I try and take it all in.
Charlie continues to name certain beaches and places but I'm not really listening. I’m nervous all over again. Maybe it's the iced coffee I just drank down, but even without him saying anything, I can tell we're getting closer to our destination. We’re close to the scene of the accident. We’re close to the end of so many truths, so much heartache.
I close my eyes for the rest of the journey.
“And here she is,” Charlie says.
I take in a deep breath and slowly open my eyes as we slow down in front of a large tiki-style sign saying Moonwater Inn, the scene of a moon rising over surf carved into the wood. He pulls the truck to the right and into the parking lot of the hotel.
Oh my god.
This is it.
This is my new home.
Fortunately, it's gorgeous.
“That's the restaurant just up there,” Charlie says, jerking his chin toward the large building near the water, done up in a tiki theme, similar to the hotel's signage. “Home sweet home.” He parks the truck in a spot labeled “staff” and we get out.
The rain has let up slightly, a light drizzle, but the wind is driving it sideways. It's still warm though, and to be honest the feeling of it on my skin is refreshing. It makes me realize how badly I need a shower. I resist the urge to smell myself and hope that Charlie didn't think I needed extra deodorant.
Aside from the restaurant, there’s a tennis court to the left and a small lawn area bordered with torches. To the right, skirting along the beach and the ocean is the hotel, spread out into small, two-story buildings. It’s nothing fancy, a bit on the dated side, which is a relief. I’m not sure I could work at a high-class establishment.
Charlie brings my suitcases out of the back of the truck and gives me a triumphant grin. “Dry as anything.”
He wheels them over to me while I go back to staring at everything, aware that the longer I stand in the parking lot, the more wet I'll become. My hair is already sticking to my face.
“How many buildings are there?” I ask, reluctantly following him toward a single-story building named Reception. “How many rooms?”
“Two buildings right on the beach, three with ocean views, set a bit further back, and two that have mountain views, facing that way.” He points to the razor-ridged mountains that rise sharply from the other side of the road, their tops shrouded by cloud. “Thirty rooms in total.”
It's almost heavenly, this place: the clouds, the rain, the steady, rhythmic pounding of the waves, the rich and clear birdsong that sounds from the trees. But the closer we walk to the reception area, the worse I feel. Because this is no longer me in Chicago, wondering about the journey. This is no longer me on the airplane, imagining how things are going to be. This is no longer me in Charlie's truck, getting a quick tour of the island as we make our way north.
This is me at the start of my new life.
I think I’m going to be sick.
“Here we are,” Charlie says as he pauses by the open doors of reception. Is it just me or was there a flicker of uncertainty passing over his eyes? Considering how calm and easy-going he's been, that definitely doesn't help the situation.
“Shephard?” Charlie says, knocking on the side of the door. He pokes his head in and looks around the corner. “Where is Shephard?”
Knowing he's not in there, I poke my head into the office and see an Asian girl sitting on the other side of the reception desk, two empty chairs across from her. She's super pretty and about my age, with dark hair cascading over her shoulders, and staring at Charlie, completely unimpressed.
“This her?” she asks, not getting up, not smiling at me either.
“It is,” Charlie says. “Veronica, this Kate.”
“Hi,” I say as brightly as I can. “You can call me Ronnie.”