The staticky sound of the intercom blared and following it was the garbled voice of the airline pilot announcing that we’d be landing in Honolulu shortly. I’d already been on the crowded plane for a duration of eight hours. In that time, I’d taken an uncomfortable nap with my head against the window shade for about two of them, read a romance book I’d put on my Kindle the day before, and rewatched a boring movie I’d seen a month prior. Landing couldn’t come soon enough.
After I’d adjusted my seat into the upright position and collected my belongings and tossed them back into my bag, I slid the window shade up and looked out into the immense sky. The plane had just descended through a patch of thick white clouds, revealing to me the vast dark-blue Pacific Ocean and sending a rush of blood to my head. I sucked in a deep breath and then let it out slowly, feeling all the air leave my lungs. What’s in store for me during the next six days?
It was the beginning of June when Brett Williams came into my life. My summer break from school had just begun. Brett had been a mutual Facebook friend of one of my acquaintances and had seen my photo in his friend list, I deduced. I wasn’t sure how it all came about, but around two weeks ago, he’d contacted me through the Facebook Messenger app.
Brett had impressed me—he always said good morning, sent me messages during the day to check on me, and always said good night. No eye-roll-inducing dirty talk, no annoying bragging, and nothing too personal went on. Brett proved himself to be respectful during our interactions. I was no longer used to a guy who was thoughtful enough to check on me. Unfortunately, I didn’t know if his face matched his perceived kind personality. He didn’t have any close-up photos of himself on Facebook. And he was wearing sunglasses in all of the pics he did have. It was hard to judge his looks from the images.
After a few days of talking on and off, I did have several facts on Brett: 1) He was from Los Angeles. (This is approximately five hours from Tempe, where I lived with my roommates during the past school year while attending Arizona State University to become an elementary school teacher. However, now I was back in Phoenix living with my parents for the summer.) 2) He was thirty years old and an engineer at a large corporation (with a promising career). 3) He was impulsive (and the reason I was on my way to Hawaii).
But we knew nothing substantial about each other. Our conversations weren’t lengthy or detailed—just a message here and there. However, what little I learned, I liked and made me look forward to our brief encounters through the messenger.
At one point, I’d suggested we FaceTime or at least exchange photos (so I could inspect the guy), but Brett had another idea brewing. He’d proposed something unexpected and pretty crazy.
I unlocked my phone, which was still in airplane mode, and opened the text thread between Brett and me. More than anything, I wanted to reread our conversation to make sure I hadn’t misunderstood something and wasn’t on my way alone to Hawaii.
Me: I’m wondering when we’re going to meet in person and have our first date.
Brett: I have a better idea.
Me: Oh? What’s that?
Brett: How adventurous are you?
Me: Hmm. I’d say it depends on the adventure. What do you have in mind?
Brett: I thought that our first date might happen in Hawaii. A vacation could lead to something more romantic. I have six vacation days coming up next week. And I know you’re off from school for the summer.
Me: Are you serious?
Brett: Dead. A coworker of mine booked a room at a beautiful resort. His vacation fell through yesterday, but the hotel expects over 21 days cancellation notice or something like that. Since he can’t get a refund, he offered me the room at a discounted price. I’ve always wanted to see Hawaii, so I bought myself a plane ticket last night leaving out of L.A.
Me: Wow. This is an insane offer. We don’t know each other. And I could never afford this.
Brett: I agree. It’s last minute, but the room deal was too good to pass up. And I’ll pay for your plane ticket. You don’t want to turn down a free vacation, do you?
Me: Well, where exactly in Hawaii is all this resorting happening?
Brett: Lanai. It’s a smaller island by Maui and not as touristy. The resort is one of the best. I can send you some photos now.
Me: Brett, these photos are amazing. I know you got some discount, but still, you can afford it all?
Brett: I got a work bonus last Christmas. I set it aside until I decided what I wanted to use it on. So, if money is an issue for you, then don’t worry. I’ll pay for everything. I would like to go. This could be the most romantic trip of our lives. Maybe one day we’ll be telling our children how we met.
Me: I don’t know what to say.
Brett: Say you’ll go with me.
Me: My birthday is next week.
Brett: It is? And which birthday will we be celebrating?
Next, Brett had taken down all of my personal information in order to purchase a ticket. The following morning, a confirmation for my plane tickets was in my inbox. Brett was serious. We were planning to meet in Lanai, Hawaii and have our first date. Oh, how I hoped the attraction would be there once we met. The idea of being stuck in Hawaii with someone I didn’t find attractive was worrisome. I felt a twinge in the pit of my stomach at the thought of it.
Upon learning what I had planned, the reaction from my sister, Violet, was one of pure excitement. “Someone you’ve never met in person wants to take you to Hawaii?” Her gray eyes widened, and a smile spread across her lips. She reached for my arm and pulled me over to the bed to sit beside her and get the details.
“Uh-huh.” I bit my lower lip while waiting for her to warn me of the dangers of going somewhere with a stranger.
She clutched the sides of my arms and gave me a serious stare. “You totally have to go. You’ll never get an offer for a free vacation again. And Hawaii, of all places.” She shook her head in disbelief. Her demeanor shifted, and I sensed she was envious that no one had invited her to an impromptu vacation in Hawaii.
Violet had nothing to be envious of with me. She’d only been home a week from Yale, where she was pre-med and would return in late August. She was in her third year and had a full ride. Then there was me, who hadn’t left home except to live in an apartment and stayed in the state to attend ASU. A teacher versus a doctor is no contest in terms of society’s standards of an amazing career. Yet she acted like my life was better than hers.
I’d stared at my sister, letting all our history—the many secrets we’d shared over the course of our childhoods and that I’d never thought I could repeat to another soul—sink in for a fleeting moment. To our graves, we’d take one of those secrets because it was for the best that it remained buried only in our memories alone—except for Noah, who never spoke to me again after he realized the truth. And perhaps if I never thought of it again, it’d be like it never happened.
In many ways, Violet had me to thank for the opportunity to attend Yale. But I didn’t recall a time when she told me thank you. Perhaps it was an unspoken gratitude. Nonetheless, we were at this point in our lives because of how things unfolded during our teen years. There was nothing I could do to change the past, as Violet had told me, and should only think of the future. It seemed like good advice. So, why hadn’t I let go of the past?
I opened the text thread between Violet and me before I’d boarded the plane.
Me: Any more advice? I’m about to depart.
Violet: Did you bring condoms?
Me: Yes. But I’m still on the pill. Didn’t think I should mess with my hormones by going off it.
Violet: You don’t know Brett’s sexual history, so use a condom.
Me: If we go that far, then I’ll expect him to.
Violet: That loser guy asked me out again. But I told him off.
Me: I don’t understand why you don’t like him.
Violet: What’s not to understand? He works at Starbucks. I’m not saying he isn’t nice. But still.
Me: So, he’s beneath your doctor status? I am, too. Maybe you’ll stop liking me.
Violet: We’re sisters, Camellia. It doesn’t mean I have to like you.
I stopped there, not wanting to reread what we’d discussed after that. Our conversation already had put a damper on my mood for this flight. The last thing I needed was a reminder of what my sister and I had been through together.
The person beside me nudged me, and I realized the flight attendant was waiting on my trash. I gave a faint smile while grabbing my plastic cup that had held cranberry juice and now contained my crumpled napkin. After I’d tossed the cup into the garbage bag she’d held up, I turned to glance out of the window once more. When I saw the airport in the distance and realized the plane was about to land, I shuddered.
Once I’d landed in Honolulu, I had to take a smaller plane to Lanai. That flight was about forty-five minutes in duration. I think by that point we all just wanted to be done, because passengers were shoving into the aisle of the small plane trying not to be the last ones to disembark. I’d peered over at my seat to make sure nothing had fallen off it onto the floor. When I turned back to see if I could get into the aisle, I noticed someone tall and skinny already in it a few seats behind me facing the front of the plane. His hair stood out the most to me. It was parted but in a haphazard, messy way down the side, with flyaway, poofy curls that grouped around his earlobes. The back dropped into another layer onto his neck. It appeared like he’d tried to straighten some of his curls out but had failed.
I’d hoped to see someone bad looking, but it wasn’t the case. In fact, he reminded me of some young actor with the same thin body structure who I’d seen in a movie on Prime a few months back. Could it be him? No… Possibly sensing he was being studied, he glanced in my direction to check. I looked away in haste, realizing he’d caught me. When I thought the coast was clear, I peeked back at him to study his face. I noticed he had a perfectly chiseled jaw, prominent cheekbones, a fair complexion with no visible stubble at all, and possibly green eyes that contrasted with his thick dark eyebrows. I guessed him to be around my age. Then I realized it was my turn to exit my row, and I needed to focus on getting off the plane.
They sent a car from the resort to the Lanai airport to pick me up. I’d sent Brett a text as soon as we’d landed, but he hadn’t replied. I figured he was still in the air and couldn’t text me yet. Besides, he’d planned for us to meet at a restaurant on the resort’s property at 7 p.m. for our first “date.” He said it would ease our nerves to meet over dinner rather than in a hotel room. So, I agreed to wait until dinner to see him. Until then, he remained a big mystery—but a much anticipated one. Let me be attracted to him. Better yet, let him look like the guy from the plane.
The driver (who’d said his name, but I missed it) chatted on and off with me upon learning I’d never been to Hawaii. He pointed out things along the drive to the resort.
“It’s quite underdeveloped and yet a playground for the wealthy. Lanai is very low key, and when you get outside of the town, you might not run into another person. It’s that remote. And did you notice there aren’t any traffic lights?”
I hadn’t noticed but craned my neck to see. When he glanced at me in the rearview mirror, I nodded and smiled. It surprised me how old a lot of the houses appeared—as if I’d gone back in time to the 1920s.
“You’re traveling alone, yes?” he asked, glancing at me in the mirror.
I smoothed out my sundress, which had gotten wrinkled during the flights. “No. I’m meeting—” It sounded so weird that I’d flown to Hawaii to meet someone for the first time. And this guy didn’t need to know the details. “—my boyfriend. We live in different cities and are meeting up for a vacation.” I didn’t know why I was explaining our circumstances (accurate or not) to the driver.
He continued to talk about the views before me and some history of the island, and I pretended to show interest. But my mind was all over the place, and a panic attack seemed to brew within my body. My palms were feeling sweaty, and I needed to take in some heavy breaths. How crazy am I for doing this?
We drove up to the front of the resort, and I gasped in the back seat. The driver pulled into the covered parking in front of the hotel lobby, where a large round fountain was on display.
Once I had my bags from the trunk set out on the curb, I said goodbye to the driver and thanked him. He wished me a wonderful stay. Then I drew in a deep breath while studying the resort’s exterior. A faint scent of the ocean filled the air. Flowers and foliage not seen in the desert where I came from lined the walkways. I let out the breath I’d been holding, then grabbed the handle of my suitcase and began rolling it into the lobby.
Entering the resort, I admired the view of the ocean from the large bay windows ahead and made my way to the front desk to get checked in. Once I’d shown my ID and credit card and the desk clerk had tapped a few keys on a computer, I was all set. He handed me a wristband key to my room, told me about the restaurants on the property, and gave me a map that had my room circled. After a quick check of my texts to see if any new ones had come from Brett (none had), I asked the clerk if he could give me directions from the lobby to the restaurant where I was to meet Brett for dinner. He circled the restaurant on a property map, which he handed to me and I tucked into my purse.
Brett’s coworker had reserved an oceanfront room on the first floor in the left wing near the lobby. I wound my way through the hallway and found my room. The wristband allowed for easy access. I let myself into the room and dropped my suitcase from my hand to take in the view from the window. Wow wasn’t a strong enough reaction to the beauty that greeted me from my window.
And the room itself was impressive. The king-size bed had a bright white comforter across it and a couch at the foot of it. I switched on the ceiling fan, which spun over the bed. The TV was mounted in the ceiling and could be tucked away if desired. There was a small table and chairs used for dining in the corner and a minibar. I walked across the mahogany floor toward the sliding patio door. Then I unlocked and slid open the door and stepped out to the patio. An ocean breeze blew into my face as I stared out at the blue water that was inviting me to swim. Warm memories of my childhood with Violet filled my head, and I smiled. Vacation evening number one was about to start. And I needed to get ready for dinner and meeting Brett.
I still had a couple of hours before he was to meet me at the restaurant for our first official date. After enjoying the view for a while longer, I went back inside to unpack. I hung up my clothes in the closet and put away all the items from my suitcase that I didn’t want wrinkled. Then I lined up all my toiletries in the bathroom beside one sink, leaving the other one for Brett. I’d brought a couple of sexy lingerie outfits but was still on the fence about wearing them. They’d come on the trip just in case. The box of condoms was tucked in a pocket of the suitcase. I planned to leave them there until I knew Brett and I were into each other. I felt it was important to be prepared, and I didn’t want to rely on him to provide them. But if he explained his sexual history, I might not insist on using one anyway since I was on the pill.
Next, I took a long overdue shower to wash all the plane germs off myself. When I stepped out, I wrapped a soft white towel around my body and piled my hair inside a second one. I’d planned to ask the front desk for extra towels after dinner in case Brett might need more. Using my hand, I wiped off the steamy mirror so I could see my reflection, then I applied lotion all over my body.
It took me about another hour to finish blowing out and styling my hair, apply a nighttime makeup look, and squeeze myself into a dress I’d bought for the occasion. The blue dress had large pink flowers on it (very appropriate for Hawaii). It was low cut to show off my cleavage, with spaghetti straps, and flared out over my waist and hips but fell above my knees. I slipped on some white espadrilles, put on a pair of earrings, and applied one more coat of my mauve lipstick. Then I stood before the full-length mirror and admired my appearance. Here goes nothing.
Heart Wreck is available for purchase on Amazon for less than the price of a Starbucks and for free with Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime (through Kindle Owners’ Lending Library). Readable on any Kindle or device through the free Kindle app.