Last Light(5)By: Dean Koontz
“Oahu. I was born there.”
“Hamakuapoko?” he asked, naming a popular and sometimes difficult surfing location on Oahu.
“I learned some there. Here, there, and everywhere on the island, from when I was seven and only bodyboarding.”
“Nuumehalani?” he asked, and then he translated, perhaps to impress her with the fact that he knew more than just the name. “ ‘The heavenly site where you are alone.’ It means alone with the gods, no matter how many people might be there.”
“Sure. Went there so often, I maybe could have staked a claim to part of the beach.”
Something like delight enlivened his face. While he tipped his beer to his lips and drank, Makani waited to hear what amused him.
He licked the foam off his lips and put down the glass and said, “I saw you there once.”
“I don’t think so. I haven’t been in Oahu in more than five years.”
“This was ten years ago. I was a month short of my twenty-first birthday, in the islands on business, wanted to catch some waves. A weekday in October. You were with three girls, a couple of boys. You were wearing a yellow bikini.”
“Must be a million girls with yellow bikinis.”
“You were riding a Mayhem by Lost Boards,” he said.
Surprised, she said, “I loved that board. I broke it two months later when I bailed out on a big set.”
“Couldn’t be two girls in the world who looked like you, with those eyes, and riding a Mayhem.”
“You recognized me right away, out there today?”
“At first sight.”
She was flattered, but also embarrassed. “I don’t remember you.”
“Why would you? You were with your crew, having a great time.”
That October, ten years earlier, the unwanted gift of psychic insight had not yet been given to her. She had been normal. Free.
“I admired you from a distance,” he said. “Almost approached you to say ’sup, or something just as stupid. Then I realized you must be the same age as the other kids, fifteen or sixteen. And I was almost twenty-one. Wouldn’t have been right.”
Makani didn’t blush easily, but she blushed now.
“That day,” Rainer said, “you were so radical, so live, the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen.”
Flattery had always embarrassed her. Virtually from the cradle, her mother had taught her that humility was a virtue as important as honesty, just as she had been taught by her mother, Grandma Kolokea. Now Makani could respond to Rainer’s admiration only with gentle sarcasm: “What—were you blind until that day?”
“Well, I’m not blind now,” he said, compounding the flattery and her embarrassment.
To gain time to catch her breath, she said, “You were in Oahu on business that day? What business are you in?”
“I’m a facilitator,” he said, and sipped his beer, as if that one word should say it all.
“Facilitator? What do you facilitate?”
“Negotiations, transactions, financial arrangements.”
“Sounds important. You were doing all that when you were just twenty?”
He shrugged. “I like people. I’ve always had this ability to, you know, bring them together when all they want is to be arguing with each other. I can’t stand people fighting, always looking for a reason to be at each other’s throats.” A solemnity overcame him. An underlying pallor seemed to leach some of the glow out of his tan. He looked down at the table. “When I was a little kid, I saw enough of that. My old man, my mom. Too much drinking, so much anger. I couldn’t do a thing about…the brutality.” He looked up with repressed tears in his eyes. “We get only one life. We shouldn’t waste a day of it in anger.”
Because Makani knew too well the darker corners of the human heart, she sympathized with his childhood trauma and hoped that things might develop between them in such a way that she could be a comfort to him.
“You facilitate between businesses?” she asked. “In the surfing world?”
“Yeah, exactly. I did what every surf mongrel dreams of doing—found a way to make a living out of living the waves.”