Here is something I started a few years back. I was writing a script for a class and this story idea just kept popping up and I could not concentrate on my script. Finally, I took a night off from the screenplay and wrote this. I find this story fascinating and unfortunately it has come to a halt the past couple years. I keep revisiting it, however. Chapter 3 is almost finished and Chapter 4 is halfway done. I'm really excited to see where this goes. I hope you are too.
And the title of the story is definitely changing. Those are just the two main themes of the story so it nicely describes it.
Chapter 1 – Answers Have No Place in a World of Questions
Sally was unpacking her things. One suitcase sat on her bed, open, half emptied. Another was against the wall, closed and obviously bursting. She exited the closet with some hangers and proceeded to her bed. It was made and looked like it had been empty for weeks. The clothing was warm-weathered, in contrast to the snow that was starting to fall outside the window.
The phone rang and she jolted. Her clothes dropped back into the suitcase, crumpling her carefully folded seams.
It rang again and she went to answer. “Hello?”
“You miss me?” It was a familiar voice.
“How’d you know I was back already?”
“Listen, there’s no time to explain myself. I hold in my hand two tickets to the Pacific Islands.”
“Does it matter?”
“Good, then I’ll expect to see you at the airport in an hour.”
“Wait a minute. I haven’t even unpacked yet.”
“Well then grab your suitcase and call a cab.”
“I just got back.”
“There’s no time like the present.”
“Just what’s on this island that’s so important?”
“As I said, there’s no time to explain myself. See you at eight.”
The line went dead and Sally took the receiver away from her ear, staring at it. She looked at her suitcase. The luggage sticker was still on it from her previous trip. She had only returned to her apartment maybe twenty minutes earlier.
She hung up the phone and took the clothes with the hangers into her closet. Moments later she exited with the shirts she had already put away. “Damn it, Alex,” she said, throwing the clothes into the bag and reaching for the phone. She dialed.
“Raimi, it’s me.”
“Sally, didn’t I just drop you off?”
“Yeah, about that…your car’s still warm, right?”
“Then it won’t be much of a problem for you to come get me and bring me to the airport, right?”
“You serious? Did you forget something?”
“Yes and no. I’ve got another flight in an hour.”
“Then why did you bother coming home?”
“Cause I didn’t know about it until now. Will you drive me or not?”
“I’m walking out the door. Give me five.”
“Thanks, Raimi. I’ll be outside.”
Sally hung up and looked at the clock on her wall. It read five past seven. The airport was roughly thirty minutes away. She would be on time provided there wasn’t much traffic or weather problems.
She gathered her things and brought them into the hall. Turning to grab her keys, she noticed her two goldfish staring at her. “Shit,” she exclaimed, forgetting her keys and going back to her bedroom for the phone.
“Yeah, Laura, it’s me.”
“Oh, Sally, how was your trip? Did you take pictures? Meet anyone?”
“I have answers for all those questions, but right now I need to talk about the fish.”
“Oh. I fed them every other day like you said. They seemed fine. What’s wrong?”
“Nothing, they’re fine. But I need you to look after them again.”
“Why, where’re you going?”
“The Pacific Islands.”
“Not sure yet.”
“What’s the occasion? Didn’t you just get back?”
“I don’t know and yes. Can you do it or not?”
“Yeah, sure. I left my key in your apartment so just leave it under the rug outside or something.”
“Of course. Thanks so much.”
“I expect full details when you return.”
“Naturally. So long.”
Sally returned to the hall, grabbed her keys, and looked around. “Fish, check. Ride, check. Luggage, check. Sanity…” She paused and looked down at her two suitcases. What was she doing? She had a life to get back to. She couldn’t always be on tropical vacations with unknown purposes.
She turned from her suitcase to the window. Snow was falling in and out of the streetlights. “Sanity, check. All right, looks good.” She opened the door, dragging her bags out, then shut and locked it. She put Laura’s key under her welcome mat and went down the hall towards the elevator.
Minutes later she was outside. Raimi was already waiting. He got out of the car and grabbed a bag. “So can you offer me an explanation?” he said, opening the rear passenger door and stuffing the bag in. He turned to accept the other one.
“I’ll let you know everything as soon as I know it,” Sally responded, handing off her bag and getting into the car. Raimi looked at her, perplexed, then entered the car and pulled off.
“Where’s this other flight to?” he asked.
“Some island in the Pacific,” she responded, looking out the window at her apartment building fading into the snowy fog.
Sally turned to her friend. “That’s the question on everyone’s mind.”
“Then I’ll assume there’s no answer.”
“So what are you going to be doing if you don’t even know where you’re going?”
“That’s a very good question. I’ll ask Alex when I see him.”
Raimi let out a big belly laugh. “Alex Maloyez?” Sally nodded and Raimi laughed again. “I should have known. What’s that kid up to?”
“We’ll both ask him when we get to the airport.”
“I almost don’t want to know,” Raimi said, changing lanes. A car honked and Raimi yelled back. “Asshole,” he muttered under his breath.
“I want to know,” Sally almost whispered. She opened her purse and took out her wallet. Inside was a photo of her and a man, two years her senior, standing on a beach. Behind them was a decrepit temple, something of a wonder at the time but she had seen so much more since then. A couple natives could be seen in the background, barely in focus. They were shirtless and practically naked, which had surprised her at the time. However, by the end of that trip she was more used to bodily freedom than the confines of modern society.
“When was the last time you saw him?” Raimi asked, sending Sally on a first class trip from her memories to reality.
“Years ago, I can’t really remember,” she responded. “But we’ve always kept in touch via the mail. He sends postcards from his various trips and I leave him letters at his house. We’re usually both a few months behind on the other’s current events and whereabouts.”
Raimi, an older man with a graying beard that yearned to tell stories of the great unknown, turned to the girl beside him. “I haven’t seen that kid since that great trip to Kaliwei. You remember that?”
Sally turned to accept her friend’s gaze, but he had turned back to the road. “How could I forget? That was where I met the two of you.” Her mind drifted again to the memory of the island in the photograph.
Kaliwei had been an experience that no one in her circle of friends would ever forget. She had arrived on the island, journal in one hand, camera in the other, and a bag slung over her shoulder. She was greeted outside the eight-passenger plane by Raimi and Alex. Raimi was ten years younger then. His beard was fuller and he was still excited by the smallest possibilities in life. Alex stood next to him, a young man by comparison but a peer to Sally. Alex knew who she was instantly and she was immediately drawn to him, an attraction that had yet to dissipate.
“You must be Sally Conor,” Alex said, rushing up to her. She was the last one off the plane. “My name is Alex Maloyez, and this is my friend and partner Raimi Sampson.”
Raimi nodded, his smile never fading. He was wearing dark sunglasses but was still squinting. “It’s our pleasure to finally meet you, Miss Conor,” Raimi said, extending a hand.
Sally accepted it in hers. “You can call me Sally. I expect we’ll be spending a lot of time together so we might as well get used to each other’s names.”
“Straight forward, just like you said, Alex,” Raimi said. Alex smiled and looked at the fresh face across from him. Raimi had a wife on the island but Alex was free to survey the population. “You’re going to fit in well here on Kaliwei, Sally. I’m glad you’ve finally come for the hands-on experience.”
They walked to the cargo area of the plane where Sally’s larger bag was resting. “Thank you, Raimi,” Sally said. “I couldn’t possibly have passed up on this opportunity.” She went to pick up her bag, but Alex immediately dived, intercepting it. She smiled. “Thanks. I packed enough for a month or so. I’m not sure exactly how long I’ll be here.”
“You’re welcome to stay as long as you want,” Raimi said, motioning for them to start leaving the plane. “There’s always an extra place to sleep, plenty of food, and mediocre washing facilities that keep your clothes relatively clean for as long as you can stand the smell.” He laughed the belly laugh of a thirty year old.
Raimi continued talking but Sally was not paying full attention to him. How could she with Alex right next to her, staring at her, sizing her up? It seemed that she was the first woman he had seen in years, which was impossible because the island was known for its extensive native population. Nevertheless, she was flattered by his attention.
She had come from Boston where it was October and pressures of school, work and family had kept her from most social events. Alex sensed this without any words. He had that ability, to know what someone was thinking, and to know their past with a single look from head to toe.
They reached the first village of many and Raimi disappeared into a hut. Alex walked into another. Suddenly Sally was alone. She looked at her surroundings, for the first time soaking it all in. The sun was bright even though the evening was beginning. The first hues of the sunset were starting to form. Oranges appeared at the horizon, over the endlessly blue ocean. Clouds seemed to disperse in an effort to make room for the sun in the sky.
There were plenty of people on the beach, mostly dark skinned natives. They wore paint on their faces and bodies, which were barely clothed. Some children ran around naked, completely unaware of the differences in sex or age. It didn’t matter to them as much as it did to kids on the mainland where everything was controlled by the constructs of society. She felt free for the first time since childhood and let out a breath that seemed to finalize her trip. She was on Kaliwei and would be for some time, maybe forever if it was always this wonderful.
Alex exited the hut, carrying drinks, a straw hat and a dress slung over his arm. “You haven’t moved,” he said when he stood next to Sally.
“It’s more incredible than the books make it out to be,” she responded. Alex handed her a drink and she graciously accepted it. She drank and was overwhelmed by the flavor. It took the essence of the island atmosphere and made it liquid.
Alex put the hat on her head. “You’ll learn that it’s better to be with a hat than without. Feel free to change styles, there are a variety, or make your own.” She looked to him, not sure why someone she just met was so compassionate. Maybe it was the tropical air that pushed all worries out of people’s minds. Alex held up the dress. “This is what the natives wear. Don’t feel obligated to wear it, but it may be more comfortable on the hotter days.”
“How hot does it get?” she asked. She tried to look to Alex but her gaze was now fixed on the foliage emerging from the inland forest onto the beach.
“That depends, really,” Alex replied. “For me, it’s never hot enough.”
The car came to a screeching halt and Sally was thrown from her memories back into the passenger seat of Raimi’s Volvo. “Well, it looks like there’s an accident up ahead.” He reached into his pocket to grab a cigarette. “I wish people would truly learn to drive before they started driving.”
Sally looked at her watch. It was past seven thirty. There was still time for her to get to the airport. “Do you think Alex will wait?” she said.
“Well he invited you, didn’t he?” Raimi said, keeping the cigarette clinched between his lips as he searched for a lighter. Sally produced one.
“I don’t know how important this trip is for him, or what it even means to him,” she sighed. Raimi accepted the lighter and she turned to look out the window once more. Snow danced over the rooftops and streetlights without regard of what damage it may do to any manmade structures. “I’m not even sure what I’m doing here. Does this make sense to you?”
“To be honest,” Raimi said, taking a puff and exhaling out the window crack, “not much that kid ever did made sense to me. I’m surprised that half of our expeditions were successful. Alex just goes off and does and thinks what he wants, assuming that others will follow. And if they don’t, well that’s their own fault and he usually won’t slow down for others.” He inhaled again, already feeling his nerves calm down. “But, then again, he always had a special liking for you.”
Sally would have blushed if she did not believe it. She turned to her friend and noticed he was halfway through the cigarette already. “Would you go?” she asked.
“On this mystery voyage?” he responded. She nodded. “If I wasn’t tied down to life here, you know I’d be in that airport already. The only reason I’m not traveling with Alex is because of Nora. After Kaliwei all she wanted to do was settle down, find someplace that wasn’t always tropical.” For a moment Sally thought he regretted the marriage. Then Raimi chuckled. “But I love the gal, so what was I supposed to do?”
The laughter was welcome, and the world seemed to enjoy it, for the traffic began to clear. “Finally,” Raimi said, shifting into gear. Sally checked her watch. They could still make it.