Authors: Jasinda Wilder
CAUGHT IN THE SURF
Copyright © 2015 by Jasinda Wilder
CAUGHT IN THE SURF
This title originally appeared in the short story collection
Summer on Seeker’s Island
, published by The Indie Voice.
All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the author except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental. Characters or settings from
Summer on Seeker’s Island
used by permission of the original copyright holders of the respective characters or settings.
Cover art by Sarah Hansen of Okay Creations. Cover art copyright © 2015 Sarah Hansen.
Kailani Kekoa groaned into the pillow of her sweat-slick arms and wished she could pass out again. Unfortunately, now that consciousness seemed to have gotten a hold on her, it was refusing to let go. The problem with being awake, especially at that particular moment, was that it included not just the ever-present heartache, but a whole new kind of awfulness that Lani hadn’t experienced in quite some time.
She was hungover. Or, actually, if the persistent wavering and blurring of the world past her squinting eyelids was any indication, she was still drunk. Still really,
The first order of business was to sit up. She could do this. Seriously. If she could ride the barrel of a thirty-foot swell with one arm in a bag-wrapped cast and win a national championship in the process, then surely she could manage to lever herself upright.
Oh, god. That hurt. Movement, even twisting her head slightly, sent lances of pain shooting through her skull. Once she was upright at last, the next order of business was to figure out where she was, and why.
Maybe finding out
she was would be an even better place to start. Lani peered blearily around her: rows of cracked plastic chairs bolted to threadbare carpeting, an abandoned podium bearing the logo of an airline she’d never even heard of, dirty floor-to-ceiling windows. Darkness hung thick and impenetrable beyond those windows.
Something niggled in the back of Lani’s brain. The darkness boded ill, somehow. It shouldn’t be dark out. But why not?
Digging in the purse at her feet, Lani withdrew her cell phone and pressed the “home” button to bring up the screensaver and the clock. 9:40 p.m.
Awareness filtered into her throbbing head and then struck like lightning, and was accompanied by a blistering bolt of actual lightning from outside, followed by a crack of thunder so loud and so close it rattled the windows.
Her connecting flight had been at 6:15 p.m., and had been the last plane out of this godforsaken postage stamp of an airport until the following day. And by godforsaken, she meant totally remote. Miles and miles from anything, anywhere—that kind of remote. No hotels, no bars, nothing. Just a single-strip runway a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean, a glass-walled hut containing a ticket counter, a single row of chairs that had probably been ancient in the seventies, and a four-foot-long slab of sticky laminate counter in the farthest corner of the lounge area, behind which had been a tired, silent, well-used sort of woman with pale dishwater-blonde hair and lonely, exhausted brown eyes. The woman hadn’t said a word, but she’d served Lani enough mai tais render her unconscious. And, considering Lani’s diminutive size, it had taken a shocking amount rum to do so.
Now she was stuck here in this hell-hole of an airport until morning. And she appeared to be completely alone. As in, all the lights had been turned off. As in, even the
lights had been turned off.
Lani stuffed the cell phone back into her purse, stuffed the purse in turn into her backpack, and stood up. Which might have been a mistake, since she swayed like a hurricane-blown palm tree and then fell back onto the chair. Which hurt, a lot. All this, of course, only made her head throb even worse.
Lani let a pained “fuck me” slip out of her mouth, stood up more carefully, and this time stayed standing. Her backpack made it onto her shoulders without mishap, and she even managed a dozen steps in a straight line toward the bar before she stumbled. The bar was empty, of course, but there was a stack of rocks glasses on a web of black rubber behind the counter, and a soda gun. Lani reached over the bar, snagged a rocks glass and poured water into it, drank, and then filled it again. She repeated this procedure about six more times, at which point her mouth no longer contained balls of cotton, but her stomach was rebelling the treatment and sloshing noisily.
“Probably wishing you had a Tylenol about now, I’d think,” came a rough male voice from somewhere off to her left.
Lani squeaked and jumped. “Holy shit!” She spun in a circle, looking for the source of the voice.
There, in the shadows near a window and a cracked-open door. The faint orange glow of a cigarette being dragged on.
“How long have you been there?” Lani demanded, striding closer to the voice.
“Long enough. Too long.”
The voice was odd, Lani decided. There was a definite Southern twang, but there was also a kind of burr, almost Irish. It was a deep, slow voice, and something about it seemed to hit Lani between the shoulder blades and stroke down her spine.
“That’s not an answer,” Lani retorted. “And yeah, I would kill for a Tylenol. Or some codeine. Or morphine. Or a shovel between the eyes.”
“Ain’t got none of that, sorry to say.” The voice seemed to be rising upward, and the orange glow followed.
Up, up, up. The cigarette tip stopped about a foot and a half above Lani’s head, and then glowed brighter, crackling. A stream of smoke was visible for a moment, then was sucked out into the sky beyond the airport.
Now that Lani was conscious, she smelled the rain and, layered beneath it, the ocean, along with the faint acrid whiff of the cigarette smoke.
“If you didn’t have any Tylenol, why’d you bring it up?”
The man grunted. “Icebreaker, guess you could call it. There’s probably some kinda painkiller in the first aid box under the counter, though.”
Lani circled around behind the bar and squatted. There was a battered white metal box with a red cross painted on it. Rusty metal clasps held it closed, sort of, and Lani flipped these open. Sure enough, there were several packets of generic pain reliever. Lani took several packets and replaced the box.
“Thanks,” Lani said, ripping one open and shaking the pills into her hand.
Lightning flashed just then, and the man was cast into silhouette. He was gargantuan. Well over six feet tall, maybe even closer to seven. Shoulders and arms so thick he might as well have been carved from a koa tree.
“Why are you here?” Lani asked, chasing the pills with more water.
“Waiting for the storm to pass,” the man said, and reached out to crush his cigarette into an ashtray on the bar. “You?”
Lani hesitated. “Passing through.”
The man laughed, a short rumbling chuckle. “Think you missed the ‘through’ part of that, don’t you?”
“Looks that way,” Lani said, ruefully.
“Got a plan?”
Again, Lani hesitated. She didn’t. Not at all. Not even remotely. “No,” she admitted. “I have absolutely no clue what I’m going to do.”
“Well, your options are limited. Stay here in the airport, or walk to town.”
“How far is town?” Lani asked.
“Ten, maybe fifteen miles.”
“I don’t suppose a cab would come out here, would they?” Lani figured she might as well ask.
“A cab?” He seemed amused by the idea. “Not sure the town, if you can even call it that, has one.”
“So, basically, my only option is to stay here.”
“Alone, in a dark, closed airport. In the rain.”
“Yep.” A stool creaked in protest as the man sat down.
Lani filled her rocks glass with Coke and sipped it. “When you said you were waiting for the storm to pass, what did that mean?”
A long silence. “Well, just that I’m hoping the rain will let up on the sooner side of eventually.”
“No shit, Sherlock. I meant why.
are you waiting?”
Another silence. Lani got the idea he was avoiding answering. “Probably ’cause I’d like to get home before it’s tomorrow.”
Lani cursed mentally. Getting a straight answer from this man was like pulling teeth. “And where’s home?”
“Seeker’s Island, I guess. At least as close to home as I’d call anything.”
“Seeker’s Island? What’s that? And how are you getting there?” Lani’s head was throbbing violently still, and she had to work to contain her temper.
“Seeker’s Island. It’s…an island. A tiny little place a few miles out thataway.” He pointed to the west, toward the ocean. “And I’m gonna fly there.”
There was a brief metallic scraping-grinding noise, and flame spurted into life, revealing a striking face made of sharp features, hard lines and angles and planes, deep-set eyes.
He blew smoke out. “An airplane. A seaplane, to be exact.”
Lani’s heart leapt. Or, well, it shuffled excitedly. No part of Lani would be doing any leaping until the world stopped wobbling and her brain stopped trying to gouge a hole in her skull via her eyeballs. “Could you take me with you?”
A pause, tobacco crackling, a long exhale. “Could. For eighty bucks, one way.”
Lani just gaped. “You’re going anyway. How you gonna charge me?”
“If I wasn’t the one flying, I’d charge myself. Gas is expensive. Plus, it ain’t gonna be a pretty flight.”
“Nothing you just said made any sense.” Lani pinched the bridge of her nose. “Like I said, you’re going to this island anyway. I don’t understand why you can’t just take me with you. I won’t be any trouble. I won’t even talk. I don’t take up much space. I’ve only got the backpack.”
“I ain’t concerned about the space you’d take up. Shit, you’re so small I could probably stow you under my seat.” He stood up and slid down a few seats until he was next to her. Suddenly, he seemed to fill the entire airport. “I’m concerned about the fact that I’m flat broke, darlin’, and I’m on the end of my gas tank. An economics lesson for you: I’m the supply, you’re the demand. I’m your only way to get anywhere, and that’s my price. Take it or leave it.”
Lani just stared at him. “That’s…that’s screwed up in so many ways I don’t even know where to begin.”
“How about eighty bucks or ‘no, thank you.’”
“How about, ‘you’re an asshole’?” Lani slammed the last of her Coke like it was a shot.
“Fair enough. It’s not personal, though. I need the money, and you need the ride.”
Lani considered. She had a pair of hundred-dollar bills in her wallet, and that was it. That was all she had to her name. But she really didn’t relish the idea of sitting here alone in the dark all night.
“Fine,” she said, sighing, “but you’re still an asshole.” She dug through her backpack and purse to get at her wallet, handing him one of the crisp $100 bills.
“All day long. Got no change on me,” he said, exhaling smoke. “But I’ll get it for you once we hit the island.”
Lani shrugged as if she didn’t care. “What’s your name?”
The orange glow brightened, and he blew out a long spume of smoke. “Casey. You?”
He nodded, peering at her through the dim gloom and the pall of his smoke. “Kailani, hmm? From Hawaii?”
Lani nodded. “All my life, brah.”
“Spent a good bit of time on the islands, myself. Had a run to and from the Big Island for about two years. Made good cash, too.”
“I lived town side Oahu,” Lani said.
Casey just nodded again. “Old army buddy lives town side. Right near Diamond Head, I think. Haven’t seen him in a while, though. Might’ve moved.” Casey stood and poked his head out of the cracked-open door. “Looks like the storm’s mostly over. We should go now.”
Lani stood and slipped her backpack on her shoulders. “I’m ready.”
Casey pushed through the door, held it for Lani, and then kicked the wedge of wood away so the door latched behind them. Lani dragged in a deep breath of the tropical air and the rain-thick humidity. After a month of couch-hopping with friends all over the mainland, Lani was glad to be somewhere that even remotely resembled home. Even if she was nearly broke, alone, with no plan.