I accepted the challenge. Here's my short story.
I walked down the jetway with a jaunty step. I’d never been to Hawaii. I’d never even flown by myself. And here I was. Honolulu, Hawaii. The excitement of this trip had me nearly dancing out of my skin. I was probably grinning like a fool.
A smiling Polynesian girl held out a lei and said, “Aloha, wahini nani.”
“Ooh. What does that mean?”
“Welcome, beautiful girl.” She slipped the lei over my head.
“Thank you. Wait. I mean, mahalo.” I grinned, pleased that I knew that phrase. I held the flowers of the lei close to my nose. “Mmm. What a lovely smell.”
“Plumeria,” she said then moved on to the next passenger.
Standing on tiptoe, I scanned the area for Zoe, certain my friend would be close by. I couldn’t see her. Cries of “welcome” and “aloha” surrounded me. But they weren’t for me. When someone’s carry-on bag bumped into me, followed by a quick “sorry” in a male voice, I realized I’d been blocking traffic. Stepping to the side and dragging my own carry-on with me, I continued to look for my friend. Zoe had flown out four weeks ahead of me, staying with friends until I could get away from my tutoring job. We both taught at the same elementary school. Every year as soon as school was out, she headed to Hawaii and spent all summer there. I could only take off two weeks. Still, two weeks on Hawaii was better than staying home in boring, old, Michigan.
She’d said she would meet me at the gate. I wished she’d hurry up. After that long trip, I needed a restroom. About to say the heck with it and beat it into the nearest lavatory, I saw a man running toward me carrying a mangled sign, with “Mannington” in black Magic Marker.
While that was my last name, I hesitated. The man, tall, well-tanned and fit, wore neon yellow board shorts, flip-flops, and a tight tank top. His blond hair, bleached from the sun and longer than most men I knew wore theirs, hung over his forehead. He looked like a surfer dude.
Coming to an abrupt halt in front of me, he shoved his hair back then grinned. “Sally Mannington? You’re Sally, right?” He had a pleasant voice with a cadence I recognized from TV shows, like Hawaii 5-0.
The waiting area had emptied, except for me and the flight attendants exiting the plane. I still hesitated. Who was this guy? How did he know me? And where was Zoe?
“Hang on.” He dropped the white cardboard sign on a nearby seat and dug into his shorts pocket. He pulled out a crumpled snapshot and showed it to me—Zoe had her arm around my shoulders. “You are Sally Mannington, right? Zoe Turner’s friend. Hi. I’m Jack.” He held out his hand.
“Jack?” Reluctantly, I shook hands with him. He did mention my friend’s name. Still, I looked at him askance.
“Oh, boy. Didn’t you didn’t get Zoe’s text yet?” He shoved his hair back again. “Better read it. She explains. Sorry I’m late. Let’s go get your luggage.” He grabbed the handle of my carry-on bag. Before I knew it, he was striding down the corridor, his flip-flops slapping the floor.
“Hey, wait.” I raced after him while trying to dig my cell phone out of my pocket. By the time we reached baggage claim, I’d read and reread Zoe’s text. Maybe if I read it again the message would change.
Hey, kiddo. Rico wanted to go to Tahiti, so I’m off to Tahiti. Jack will take care of you. Have fun.
My friend deserted me. We’d planned this trip for months. All winter—while slogging through snow and slush—she’d regaled me with tales of the islands. How beautiful they were, how much there was to do, how much fun we’d have. Huh. Now, I was all alone, regretting I’d ever succumbed to her enticing view of our adventure. What should I do? I’d never been on vacation by myself before. Why, oh, why had I listened to her?
“Hey, sweetheart. Tell me what your luggage looks like.” Jack, whoever he was, glanced at my cell still in my hands. “You got her text. Great.”
I walked over to a row of seats and sank into the closest. With a puzzled expression, Jack followed me. “Problem?”
“I don’t know. Who are you?” I looked up into warm brown eyes, with laugh wrinkles fanning out from squinting at the sun, I assumed.
“I told you. Jack. Jack Turner. I’m Zoe’s brother, here to give you the grand tour of Oahu and anywhere else you’d like to go.”
Zoe never said she had a brother or that he lived in Hawaii. All she ever talked about was her boyfriend Rico. The same Rico who took her to Tahiti and left me here alone. Ditched by my friend. Alone in paradise. Scared out of my mind. With no idea what to do.
Okay, I had a choice. Go to a ticket counter, get back on a plane, and return to Detroit. Or stay and let some man I’d never even heard of show me the islands.
If I turned around and went home, I’d always regret not staying. I didn’t know this man. He seemed friendly enough. Should I ask to see his I.D.? What should I do?
Make a decision, I told my scared self.
I stood on shaky legs and held out my hand. “Hi, Jack. I’m Sally. My bag is that blue one with bright green tape on the sides.”
The next challenge is October.