Last Light(3)

By: Dean Koontz



“I wouldn’t want that.”

“No, you wouldn’t. ’Cause I’d haunt you.”

She watched him drive away before draping the beach towel over the driver’s seat of her Chevy.

The Mercedes had helped her overcome any lingering doubt about having dinner with him. She didn’t care all that much about money, because she lived simply and had a bit-more-than-modest trust fund from her maternal grandfather, which she had come into when she turned twenty, almost six years earlier. Already, only five years after she opened for business, the customized cars that came out of her shop were legendary among hot-rodders; she could book as much work as she wanted. Rainer Sparks’s Mercedes SUV mattered only because it seemed to be proof that he wasn’t one of those boardheads who bunked with five other surf bums in a dilapidated house trailer, subsisting off government disability payments that he fraudulently obtained, living only to ride the waves. Makani loved the surfer culture, the community, but it had its share of wankers, and falling in love with one of them would be no less self-destructive than going for a long swim in the cooling pond at a nuclear power plant.

Getting behind the steering wheel, pulling the door shut, starting the engine, she smiled at the memory of his boyish reaction to her acceptance of his invitation. He was tall, buffed, gorgeous, funny, sweet, and apparently successful. Maybe he was, at last, the One.

When they first touched, she might know in that instant whether Rainer Sparks was her future or not. What else she learned upon making contact, skin to skin, was the one remaining cloud over a lovely dinner date.





2


Desperate to Escape Hawaii


Makani could have driven to the restaurant in three minutes, but she took ten, winding through the residential streets of the peninsula point, doubling back on herself, the windshield dappled with continuously changing laceworks of sunlight and leaf shadows, while she recalled her life in Hawaii.

After only six years, those days and places seemed like threads and figurations in a tapestry of dreams: the tropical forests and the pineapple fields and the dormant volcanoes that were ancient gods sleeping but aware, the sudden rains and the many waterfalls of the Ko’olau mountains, the refreshing trade winds….

She missed all of it. Now and then she suffered a long day of sadness when she realized too poignantly how the paradise of her childhood and adolescence was slowly fading from the fabric of her soul.

Most of all, she missed her mother and father. Great-Aunt Lokemele. Grandmother Kolokea. Uncle Pilipo, who preferred to be called by the English equivalent—Philip. Her sister, Janice. Her brother, Robert, who answered only to his Hawaiian name—Lopaka.

She longed for all the others as well, both blood kin and friends, whom she had left behind.

Since she had been sixteen, however, life had grown steadily more difficult when lived among so many people whom she loved. At that age, her gift came upon her suddenly and without explanation. The gift—or perhaps curse—was to discover, by the merest touch, other people’s darkest secrets.

Her family and friends were good people, struggling to live with grace and with consideration for others. They were not angels, however, not a one of them, but human beings with weaknesses and faults. Just like Makani herself. Compared to outrages that were committed by others in this fallen world, the desires of her loved ones, their moments of envy, and their less-than-noble urges were almost innocent. Yet that unwanted knowledge changed how Makani regarded each person; to preserve the image of them that she had harbored before the power came upon her, she found herself taking their hands less often, kissing them hardly at all, and even shrinking from their touch.

Her plight grew worse year by year, because in time she became even more sensitive to the current darkest secret of anyone she knew too well. With friends and family, the touch no longer needed to be skin to skin. A hand placed affectionately upon her shoulder would transmit through her clothing the smoldering resentment or ignoble desire preoccupying the person at that moment.

One day, having lost a boy whose love she’d sought, Janice envied Makani the blue eyes inherited from their Irish father, and petulantly wished on her younger sister some misfortune that would rob her of her good looks.

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