We’re supposed to be snorkeling because I have a date with the humuhumunukunukuapuaa, but Olly insists that he has a surprise for me first. We take a cab to a tourist district called Lahaina.
I’m going to kiss you properly today. It’s going to be epic. Not right now, but definitely today.
It is very early and the morning ocean air is cold and misty like a fine spray and I can feel it invading my lungs. A thrill of anxiety moves through me. Am I taking my last breaths? How much time do I have before I have to pay for my desires?
Olly’s in an extraordinarily good mood.
“Two things, Madeline Whittier,” he says. “One: I’m not going to tell you where we’re going because it’s a surprise. Two: I’m going to kiss you properly today. It’s going to be epic. Not right now, but definitely today. Sometime in the next couple of hours.” With that he takes a few steps backward and executes a perfect back flip. My poor shocked heart does the same thing, though a little less perfectly.
We’ve been walking for fifteen minutes and the light mist has thickened into a heavy fog. The air is moist and white. I imagine that a wayward cloud has descended from the sky and we’re walking through it. How strange to be able to see the air you breathe. The fog deadens sound and I can barely hear our footsteps. Above us, streetlights form perfect blue-white halos. An occasional car goes past, headlights briefly illuminating a cone of white air. I feel as if I’m walking in a snow globe that someone’s shaken up.
We haven’t spoken since Olly’s back flip. Me, because all I can think is “kiss, kiss, kiss,” over and over again as if no other word exists. Olly’s not talking because he’s a weird, mysterious and unknowable creature with weird, mysterious and unknowable thoughts.
All of the shops around us are closed, but I press my face against the windows of every one. There’s a hat store that I’m certain has more hats than there are people who want to wear them.
“I could wear a new hat every day,” I say out loud. “I could wear two at the same time.”
“Why stop with two?” Olly asks.
We wander on. We pass by a pizza place claiming to have the world’s best pizza.
“How can they be certain?” I ask.
“They’ve asked everyone on the planet. Also, they’ve eaten all the pizza on the planet. So, you know, they’re sure.”
We pass jewelry stores with no actual jewelry in their windows—just pictures—and a bead store with curtains of gemstones hanging in the window. We pass by a handful of other people and I want to know all about them, but in third person, as if they were characters in a book.
Olly takes my hand. “Surprise number one,” he says, guiding me to a lighted doorway. An Open sign hangs on the door. I look up and find another sign: Ye Olde Book Shoppe. A book store. A used book store. I stand at the threshold with my hand over my heart.
“Don’t cry.” He squeezes my fingers.
“I’m not crying,” I say, crying.
The store is a single small room with floor-to-ceiling shelves, each overflowing with books. The room is dimly lit by small penlights attached to each shelf so that books are just about all you see. The air smells like nothing I’ve ever imagined. It smells old. As if it’s been in the same place for a very long time.
I like the idea of living with someone else’s memories, in someone else’s life. I need as many lives as I can get.
I let go of Olly’s hand and head to the first shelf I see. I don’t know where to begin. I want to touch them all at the same time. I want to add my name to all the people who read them before me. I trace my fingers across the spines. Some are so worn, so well used, that I can barely make out the titles.
“Olly,” I whisper. “Olly, it’s too much.”
“Of course it’s not,” he says.
I lose track of time in there and I’m dimly aware of Olly talking to the owner and of other patrons coming in and out. I find a copy of The Little Prince that has the names of twenty-four different people on the title page. The store’s owner explains that she allows visitors to borrow certain books for the duration of their stay. All she asks is that they write their names and where they’re from, and return the books before they leave.
I find an old, ornate photo album, the kind with white photo corners instead of plastic sheets. The pages are yellow and brittle and filled with family photos of people I don’t know. Olly buys it for me, saying that I can put my own photos in there one day, but I know I won’t. Besides, I like the idea of living with someone else’s memories, in someone else’s life. I need as many lives as I can get.
By the time we leave the store, the fog has dissipated, replaced by a light drizzle. The street has come to life. People mingle and meander and stride and move on. Cars park and idle and slow and creep along. I have to stop and let it wash over me. It’s another kind of ocean, this life.
“Surprise number two,” Olly says, choosing just that moment to kiss me. He puts his hands on my waist and pulls me in close. This kiss is light and gentle, like slipping into warm water. We take our time, as if this kiss is just the first in a lifetime of kisses. He kisses the corners of my mouth and tip of my nose and across the freckles on my cheeks. He kisses my bottom lip and then the top. He pulls back and cups my face with his hands.
“I’m sorry about yesterday. I’m sorry about being so moody. I’m all done with that now.”
A door swings open behind us and music momentarily blasts from inside. The drizzle is barely a drizzle, maybe a heavy mist, but it’s moisture from the sky and still qualifies as rain.
I start laughing.
He frowns and pulls back, confused.
“Oh my God, Olly, we’re in a movie.”
“Is it a kissing movie?” he asks, staring at my lips. He makes me feel edible.
“Definitely,” I say, and pull him back in for more kisses.