Author's Note: This is my experiment with using first person POV. I couldn't resist adding a little...supernatural element. You won't see that until the later chapters. This chapter is just the introduction, almost like a prologue. Oh yeah, and you'll need to know that Tutu is her grandmother; it's Hawaiian. I had an earlier version before that started with a surf scene, but it made the story progress really slowly, so I had to go with this one. Before I go rambling, enjoy the story. Another note on the bottom...
I knew that moving to San Francisco would be a big change, but I never anticipated that it would involve a time-traveling boy and a responsibility I never wanted. Where was my little grass shack when I needed it?
The Clock Is Ticking
Chapter 1: Aloha 'Oe
"It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change." –Charles Darwin
Time seemed to stop entirely as I watched Tutu smile that smile.
It was a sort of half-smile that evoked sadness and hope at the same time. Her mouth opened, and I knew what she was going to say before the word came out. Aloha. Goodbye.
Aloha was a funny little word. It could mean hello, goodbye, or just love. I reflected on the strangeness of aloha; hello and goodbye meant two entirely different things. But then I realized that this was the perfect moment to use aloha. I was saying goodbye to Kauai and hello to a new life in California.
"Tutu, stop," I choked out, before she could say the magic word. She laid her wise eyes on me, begging me to be okay. I could feel the warmth of tears streaming down my face. Tutu reached out to wipe them.
"Kiko," she whispered into my ear. "I need you to be strong for your sister."
I glanced down at Athena and felt her large, five-year-old eyes probing my face in concern. It looked like she was trying to decide whether to be sad or not. I plastered a smile onto my face, making the decision for her. She grinned toothily in response and tugged on my arm.
"C'mon, Kiki," she whined, using a nickname that only she could get away with. "Let'th go thee Mommy." She still had a lisp that was endearing at times.
I looked pleadingly at Tutu. "You girls better go," she said, as if reading my mind. She placed a wrinkled hand on my shoulder.
Athena wasn't one to prolong anything. She bounced over to Tutu and gave her a little hug. Tutu chuckled and fished around in her large straw purse for a lei. "Aloha, Athena," she chirped, placing the garland around my little sister's neck. Athena stopped for a second to smell the plumerias before her short attention span forced her to move on.
The ball of energy grasped her Dora suitcase from Tutu's hands and rolled it impatiently toward the woman who was announcing the final boarding call for the flight to San Francisco.
Tutu turned to me. "Aloha, Kiko." She adorned my neck with red hibiscuses, my favorite flower. I stared at them disbelievingly.
"No, Tutu." I sniffed loudly and started singing softly. "Aloha 'oe, aloha 'oe…" My voice quivered.
Tutu looked surprised for a moment before she nodded, accepting my revision. "Until we meet again." Her gravelly voice resounded in my head. I turned around, swelling with emotion, the sleeves of my sweatshirt covering my face.
When I turned around to face Tutu again, she was gone. I scanned the terminal for her, but her bright sundress and many leis could not be found. With one last sniffle, I tugged at my suitcase and entered the plane, preparing to leave Kauai for good.
I expected there to be a certain point where I suddenly felt like I was no longer bound to my home. You know, the dawning of my new life. I sat waiting for that moment as the plane lifted off, soaring above the place where I used to live.
I was still waiting for that moment when the flight attendant stopped by our row to offer us guava juice. I found it ironic that she was offering us, locals, guava juice when we were leaving Kauai. I laughed hysterically, earning myself a frown from the flight attendant and a curious look from Athena.
Athena sipped her guava juice happily, every so often glancing out the window to make sure she didn't miss anything. I smiled at her and gave her my guava juice, which she accepted gratefully, probably more because she looked up to me than because she actually wanted it. I loved that kid.
I couldn't get enough of the ocean. Sure, Athena and I had spent our last few months on white sandy beaches, but now it was all slipping from my grasp. I wondered if I would ever get a chance to surf again, or if I could lose my ability to surf. Kane said it was like riding a bike, that I would never forget how to do it. He and I broke up yesterday.
It wasn't his fault, really. I was the one who decided that a long distance relationship wouldn't work. I needed to be free of emotional attachments while I struggled to adapt to my life in San Francisco. Kane was a sweet guy, but all he really cared about was catching the biggest wave. Calling me would just become another chore, although he would never admit it. Besides, I saw how my friend Harriet was eyeing him up the other day. Maybe she was waiting for me to leave so that she could get her hands on him. It was a depressing thought, but who knew?
Harriet was another issue entirely. She promised to keep in touch with me, but I resolved inwardly to slowly detach myself from her. After a while, she would no longer find joy in calling me up to see how miserable I was.
Yes, I thought I would be miserable in San Francisco. For me, change was definitely bad. I would be like a fish swimming in new waters.
It was dark when we landed at SFO. I didn't feel any different yet; instead, I felt like I was on a nightmarish vacation.
I quickly changed my watch to match California time, which was one hour ahead. I figured that this would be momentous for me, but it wasn't. Time was almost tangible to me, and I thought that changing time would be like changing my life. However, it just felt like I lost an hour of much needed sleep.
Athena's head was resting on my shoulder. She had been asleep for about an hour, and I didn't have the heart to wake her up. The poor kid would be exhausted when she woke up.
People started shuffling to the front of the plane. I sighed and shook Athena slightly. She moaned.
"C'mon, Athena, we've got to move." Her eyes fluttered open.
"Kiki…" She smiled blearily. "Are we in-" Her question was interrupted by a small yawn. "-Are we in Frithco?"
I looked out the window and saw lights in the distance. "Yeah, we're in San Francisco."
Both Mom and Dad were waiting for us when we got to Baggage Claim. As soon as Athena caught sight of Mom's blonde locks, she sprinted over, all tiredness forgotten, and leaped into her outstretched arms. Mom's laughter tinkled melodiously.
I walked over to Dad and gave him a tired one-arm hug. He took some of our heavier bags wordlessly.
Athena now turned to Dad, hanging on to his leg. He patted her with a half-smile. I wondered at his lack of enthusiasm. He was usually a jolly man.
"Did you guys get any sleep?" Mom asked while attempting to hug me. I returned her gesture halfheartedly.
I snorted. "The little rascal got about an hour or so in. I got practically nothing."
Mom shifted her purse to sling a duffel bag over her shoulder. I had a lot of clothes. About half of them were swimsuits and board shorts. I wondered idly if Tutu had gotten around to shipping my surfboard yet.
"Well, your dad and I have already adjusted to California time. It'll only take a day or so to get used to it." She flashed me a bright smile.
I tried to seem excited, but it just felt so fake. I was still wondering when that moment of change was coming. The parental unit was here, but I still felt the same as ever.
We finished gathering the rest of our baggage and trudged to the parking structure. I had heard that Mom got a new car.
Sure enough, there it was in all its new car glory, a silver BMW. Was Mom really making enough money to splurge on something like that? I turned around and gave her a thumbs-up, trying to match her enthusiasm.
"Ooh, it's so shiny, Mommy!" Athena squealed, running over to touch the car. Mom laughed and picked her up, her laughter escalating when Athena yelped.
I glanced over to Dad; usually, he'd join in the fun. Instead, he was looking at the car with a look of pure hatred. I took a step back. What was all this?
Dad slipped into the driver's seat before I had a chance to question him. I put my bags in the trunk and brought my backpack with me to the backseat.
"How do you like the new car?" I asked Dad after a couple of moments of uncomfortable silence.
I had horrible timing; Mom and Athena piled into the car just as Dad opened his mouth.
"It's great," he said, but I had a feeling he was censoring himself. Mom grinned at him and then we were off.
Mom was gushing about our house, our school, and an elderly lady named Francine Derriere. Ms. Derriere was the woman who discovered Mom; without her, we would still be in Kauai, just barely skating by in the money department. I believed that this uptight woman deserved her name.
"Francine has been so nice! She gave me my paycheck in advance, and she wants me to be part of her show…" Blah, blah, blah. When Derriere saw Mom, she saw big dollar signs. Mom's designs were brilliant.
I gazed outside the window at the million orbs of light, like fireflies dancing in the night. There were so many cars, so many people…how could I handle them all? Back in Kauai, I had friends for life. I knew Kate and Kane since I was in kindergarten, and I've never been forced to make new friends. Until now, of course.
Would they think I was a simple-minded little twit? I wasn't exactly sophisticated like the people Mom spoke of as San Franciscans.
Not for the first time in the last month, I wondered if I would survive.
Soon enough, we arrived at our comfortable, if not slightly upscale, Saint Francis Wood home. As soon as the car stopped, Athena awoke from her catnap and purred at the sight of our house. Okay, maybe she was more like a Chihuahua who had finally fallen asleep but was suddenly awakened and now yapping up a storm.
"Look, Kiki, we're living in a mansion! I'll be just like Cinderella!" I was too amused by her Cinderella reference to point out that it was just a fairly nice two-story house. Although I had to admit, it was much bigger than our little weather-beaten house in Kauai.
"Hey, I thought you wanted to be like Dora. Dora lives in a modest house and traipses around with a disease-ridden monkey. But okay, if you want to be Cinderella…" I joked as I unbuckled Athena from her booster seat.
"Boots does not have diseases!" Athena cried indignantly. She hopped out of her seat, pouting.
"Surrre," I played along, stopping only to look back at the house.
I wondered if the house had any previous owners. When I was younger and snaggle-toothed, Tutu told me that a little girl lapu named Mele lived in our house (our little grass shack, Dad called it) and would always be there to make me happy. I was disturbed by the idea that a ghost lived in our house for a while, until one day I needed Mele.
My best friend Kate was ignoring me and devoting her attention to Kane, this boy she had a crush on since first grade. I felt abandoned and cried in my room for hours until I heard a little voice whispering, "Shhhh."
Back then, I thought it was Mele. Now I maintain that it was the palm fronds whipping in the breeze. But whatever it was, I sought solace from it. From then on out, Mele was my friend, my only friend for a time.
Then, Kane replaced her. He was no longer the icky, cooty-filled idiot I thought he was. And like all childhood things, Mele drifted away, along with any memories I had of her.
"Last one there's a rotten egg!" Mom shouted, shaking me out of my reverie. I smiled and tackled Athena as she scrambled to the steps of our new home.
"Heyyyy," she whined, but her smile ruined the effect. I looked around and spotted Mom frozen by the mailbox, her eyes squinting in the half-light over an official-looking envelope.
"What's that?" Dad asked as he padded to her side, before I could ask the same question. Mom whipped her gaze to meet mine and grinned.
"This packet's pretty thick, Kiko! I'm thinking it's an acceptance letter." My eyes widened. I dropped Athena and sprinted over to my parents.
"Acceptance for what?" I questioned, biting my lip.
"For Lowell High, silly!" I tried to remember applying to Lowell, but all I could remember were my goodbyes. Kane. Tutu.
"Oh my goodness gracious!" Mom shouted suddenly, teetering on her stilettos.
"What?" My dad, Athena, and I asked simultaneously.
"Lowell High starts on Monday."
What was today, what was today? Saturday.
Thank you uber much for reading and hopefully reviewing. I guarantee there will be a lot more action in the later chapters. I just felt that you needed to know her situation first. I'll send you a disease-ridden monkey if you review :) Haha, just kidding.