He looks down at me. “And how many times have you—”
“More or less than twenty?”
“OK, more than a few.”
He grins and flips open the front cover. “Property of Madeline Whittier.” He turns to the title page and continues reading. “Reward if Found. A visit with me (Madeline) to a used bookstore. Snorkel with me (Madeline) off Molokini to spot the Hawaiian state fish.”
He stops reading aloud, continues silently instead. “When did you write this?” he asks.
I start to climb onto the bed, but stop when the room sways a little. I try again and another wave of vertigo unbalances me.
I turn and sit, facing away from him. My heart squeezes so painfully in my chest that it takes my breath away.
Olly’s immediately at my side. “Mad, what is it? What’s wrong?”
Oh, no. Not yet. I’m not ready. “I’m light-headed,” I say. “And my stomach—”
“Do we need to go to a hospital?”
My stomach growls loud and long in reply.
I look up at him. “I think I’m—”
“Hungry,” we say simultaneously.
That’s what I’m feeling. I’m not getting sick. I’m just hungry.
“I’m starving,” I say. In the last twenty-four hours I’ve had a single bite of chilaquiles and a handful of Nurse Evil’s apple slices.
Olly starts laughing. He collapses backward onto the bed. “I’ve been so worried that something in the air was gonna kill you.” He presses the heels of his hands to his eyes. “Instead you’re going to starve to death.”
I’ve never actually been this hungry before. For the most part I’ve always eaten my three meals and two snacks exactly on time every day. Carla was a big believer in food. Empty tummy, empty head, she’d say.
I lie back and laugh along with him.
My heart squeezes again, but I ignore it.
Remembrance of Things Present
I feel much better after we grab a quick bite to eat. We need beach gear and, according to Olly, souvenirs, so we stop in a store called, helpfully, Maui Souvenir Shop and General Store. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much stuff. I find myself overwhelmed with the sheer volume of it. Stacks and stacks of T-shirts and hats that say Maui, or Aloha, or some variation of that. Racks of hanging flower-patterned dresses in almost every color. Carousel after carousel of tchotchkes—key chains, shot glasses, magnets. One carousel is dedicated solely to surfboard key chains with stenciled names, alphabetically arranged. I search for Oliver or Madeline or Olly or Maddy, but don’t find any.
Olly comes up behind me and wraps a single arm around my waist. I’m standing in front of a wall of calendars featuring shirtless surfers. They’re not unattractive.
“I’m jealous,” he murmurs into my ear, and I laugh and rub my hands over his forearm.
“You should be.” I reach for one of the calendars.
“You’re not really—”
“For Carla,” I say.
“What did you get?” I lean my head back against his chest.
“Seashell necklace for my mom. Pineapple ashtray for Kara.”
“Why do people buy all this stuff?”
He holds me a little tighter. “It’s not so mysterious,” he says. “It’s so we remember to remember.”
I turn in his arms, thinking how quickly it’s become my favorite place in the world. Familiar, foreign, comforting, and thrilling all at once.
“I’m going to get this for Carla,” I say, brandishing the calendar. “And chocolate-covered macadamia nuts. And one of those dresses for myself.”
“What about your mom?”
What kind of memento do you get for the mother who has loved you your whole life, who has given up the world for you? Who you may never see again? Nothing will ever do, not really.
I think back to the old photograph she showed me of all of us in Hawaii. I have no memory of it, no memory of being on that beach with her and my dad and my brother, but she does. She has memories of me, of a life that I don’t have at all.
I pull away from Olly and wander around the store. By eighteen years old, other teenagers have separated from their parents. They leave home, have separate lives, make separate memories. But not me. My mom and I have shared the same closed space and breathed the same filtered air for so long that it’s strange being here without her. It’s strange making memories that don’t include her.
What will she do if I don’t make it home? Will she gather her memories of me close? Will she take them out and examine them and live them over and over again?
I want to give her something of this time, of my time without her. Something to remember me by. I find a carousel with vintage postcards and I tell her the truth.
It’s possible that I should’ve tried on the swimsuit before I bought it. It’s not that it doesn’t fit. It’s that is does and very closely. Am I really expected to appear in public with so little clothing on?
I’m in the bathroom looking between my actual body and my body in the mirror. The suit is a bright pink one-piece with spaghetti straps. The pink is so bright that it gives color to my cheeks. I look flushed, like a rosy-cheeked summer girl who belongs in the sun.
Humidity has made my hair bigger than normal. I gather it up and plait it into a long braid to subdue it. I look back to the mirror. The only way to subdue this suit is to wear more, possibly all my clothing at once. I scan my body again. There’s really no denying that I have breasts and legs in this thing. All my parts seem to be in the right proportion and in the right place. I twist a little to confirm that my derriere is covered, and it is, but only just. What would I see in the mirror if I were a normal girl? Would I think that I was too fat or too thin? Would I dislike my hips, my waist, my face? Would I have body image issues? As it stands, my only issue is that I would gladly trade this body for one that works properly.
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