In the beginning there was nothing. And then there was everything.

This Time

Olly smiles. He will not stop smiling. He gives me every variation of smile that there is and I have to kiss his smiling lips. One kiss leads to ten until our kissing is interrupted by the sound of Olly’s stomach growling.

I break our kiss. “I guess we should eat something.”

“Besides you?” He kisses my bottom lip and then bites it gently. “You are delicious, but inedible.”

I sit up, holding the blanket to my chest. I’m not quite ready to be naked again despite our intimacy. Unlike me, Olly’s not feeling at all shy. He’s out of bed in a single movement and moves about the room completely naked. I lean back against the headboard and simply watch him move, all grace and light. No dark angel of death now.

Everything’s different and the same. I’m still Maddy. Olly’s still Olly. But we’re both more somehow. I know him in a new way. And I feel known, too.

The restaurant sits right on the beach and our table faces the ocean. It’s late—9 p.m.—so we can’t really see the blue of the water, just the whitecaps of the waves as they crash against the beach. We hear it just beneath the music and chatter all around us.

“Think they have humuhumu on the menumenu?” Olly teases. He jokes that he wants to eat all the fish that we saw while snorkeling.

“I’m going to guess that they don’t serve the state fish,” I say.

We’re both starving from all the activity of the day, so we order every appetizer on the menu: poke (tuna marinated in soy sauce), crab cakes, coconut shrimp, lobster pot stickers, and Kalua pork. We don’t stop touching for the entire meal. We touch in between bites of food and sips of pineapple juice. He touches the side of my neck, my cheek, my lips. I touch his fingers, his forearms, his chest. Now that we’ve touched so intimately, we can’t stop.

We move the chairs so that we’re sitting right next to each other. He holds my hand in his lap or I hold his in mine. We look at each other and laugh for no reason. Or, not for no reason, but because the world just then seems extraordinary. For us to have met, to have fallen in love, to get to be together is beyond anything either of us had ever thought possible.

Olly orders us a second helping of lobster pot stickers. “You make me very hungry,” he croons, eyebrows waggling. He touches my cheek and I blush into his hands. We eat this plate more slowly. It’s our last. Maybe if we just sit here, if we don’t acknowledge that time is passing, then this too-perfect day won’t have to end.

As we leave the waitress tells us to come back and visit again soon, and Olly promises that we will.

We head away from the lights of the restaurant and toward the darkened beach. Above the clouds have hidden the moon. We slip off our sandals, walk close to the water’s edge, and sink our toes into the cooling sand. Nighttime waves crash mightier and louder than daytime ones. The further we walk, the fewer people we see, until it begins to feel as though we’ve left civilization behind. Olly steers us to dry sand and we find a place to sit.

He takes my hand and kisses the palm. “My dad apologized to us after he hit her the first time.” He pushes the sentence out on a single breath. It takes me second to realize what he’s talking about.

“He was crying.”

The night is so dark that I feel rather than see him shake his head.

“They sat us down together and he said he was sorry. He said it would never happen again. I remember Kara was so angry she wouldn’t even look at him. She knew he was a liar, but I believed him. My mom did, too. She told us to forget all about it. She said, ‘Your father has been through a lot.’ She said that she forgave him and that we should, too.”

He gives me my hand back. “He didn’t hit her again for another year. He drank too much. He yelled at her. He yelled at all of us. But he didn’t hit her again for a long time.”

I hold my breath for a moment and ask the question I’ve been wanting to ask. “Why doesn’t she leave him?”

He snorts and his tone turns hard. “Don’t think I haven’t asked her.” He lies back in the sand, links his hands behind his head. “I think that if he hit her more often, she would leave him. If he were just a little more of a bastard maybe we could finally go. But he’s always sorry, and she always believes him.”

I put my hand on his stomach, needing the contact. I think maybe he needs it, too, but then he sits up, pulls his knees into his chest, and rests his elbows on them. His body forms a cage that I can’t get into.

“What does she say when you ask her?”

“Nothing. She won’t talk about it anymore. She used to say that we’d understand when we’re older and in our own relationships.”

I’m surprised by the anger in his voice. I never guessed that he was angry at his mother. His father, yes, but not her.

He snorts again. “She says love makes people crazy.”

“Do you believe that?”

“Yes. No. Maybe.”

“You’re not supposed to use all the answers,” I say.

He smiles in the dark. “Yes, I believe it.”

“Why?”

“I’m all the way here in Hawaii with you. It’s not easy for me to leave them alone with him.”

I tamp down my guilt before it can rise.

“Do you believe it?” he asks.

“Yes. Definitely.”

“Why?”

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