:Short Story 2 "HIBISCUS"

*Copyrights belong to Laura Mártires

My name is Moana.

I am 48 years old.

I am happy with my life.

I have a stable job, a lovely daughter, I am surrounded by friends and people I enjoy being with, but most of all I don’t regret my life.

I have embraced and accepted that everything that happens to us is meant to happen for a purpose and I don’t believe in coincidences. I treasure my memories as if they were delicate flowers living in the garden of my mind. I am afraid of losing them, yes, because they are as much part of me as I am part of them and losing them would mean losing myself; an unbearable idea. Although I nurture my past as I tend to say I do, I do not rely on it to move on. I look forward embracing what life has to give and I have learnt to separate things that are gone from the ones that are yet to come.

There is one thing I miss though, and that’s my sister Ahina.

I was born in a small island in Hawaii, Kaua’i or “The Garden Isle” when she was already a year old. We shared a unique connection comparable to what twin siblings do. People would mistake our names and although she was older, she was skinnier and shorter than me. That didn’t mean she was the weaker one. She had energy to light up a fire and keep it going for a great while, or her name wasn’t “Ahi” meaning fire in Hawaiian. Our mother had decided she would have two daughters from a young age, and our names were both chosen since then. Moana and Ahina, Water and Fire. And as destined, we were both to become quite different, needless to say, quite the opposite of one another.

Some people believed my mother had divine powers and many neighbors from the village would come to her asking for advice. Even people from other islands would summon her, not even knowing her name. They only knew how to find her due to her scar. Mother had a scar on her left cheek resembling a Plumeria, some ubiquitous flower in that area. In fact, there were so many of those around our garden that every night sphinx moths would fly around, lured by the sweet, fragrant odor spreading from the “Lady of the Night” *. On those nights our house appeared to glow and its contours viewed from a distance seemed to smudge with the surroundings. Mother loved those nights. In fact, as the Plumeria, she was more active during night time. She was also more beautiful during those dark hours. Her jet-black, straight hair shone with the moonlight and she would leave the house to wander the beach until dawn. She would come back without a sound, her steps light as a cat, carrying her straw basket full of secrets I am still oblivious of.

She didn’t speak much and most of the time her presence soothed the house as a flat sea calms the sand. I couldn’t blame the neighbors for their insisting adulation…many times as I was growing I wished she was there so I could rely on her too and ask her for guidance, comfort.

Only once was I allowed to witness her wrath and it was exactly how I thought it would be. A majestically harsh thunderstorm would posses her and take away my mother. Her mark would become bright red and although I only saw it once, it made me respect her and fear her forever. Most of the times her mark was dark as charcoal and just before she died it took on a dim grayish color. I was four at the time.

Father was broken hearted. He was a fisherman and his whole life was my mother. He started drinking and his face deformed with the sadness that was going on inside his heart.

My sister took care of me for a while. Although we were both quite young, we understood our misery and relied on each other to make our lives less dry. She would make me laugh till I dropped and we would spend entire afternoons picking flowers around the house and making necklaces. We would go to our aunt’s house and observe her as she took care of the plants on her garden. We were often mesmerized by the white Hibiscus that grew around the place. It seemed magical to us that such a fragile structure could be that strong and useful in so many ways. We would tuck a flower behind our ears making fun of each other, guessing who would get married first, to regret minutes later when we’d realize we had killed it.

Auntie was really kind and she would cook dinner for us and Father. For reasons I don’t know she decided both me and Ahina should start school together and when I became six, we started going to school. This was the beginning of the end of our relationship. What until then were two merged personalities and two people thought to be one, became two separated entities, slowly growing apart.

On our first day of school the teacher realized Ahina was left handed. By then, a left handed person was still considered an abnormality, something to be corrected by all means. Ahina struggled to change her habits for a while, but with no results. The teacher would become irritated and at times beat her hands with a straw; other times ridicule her for being different while encouraging the rest of the students to do the same. Ahina’s spirit wasn’t the kind to stay put and swallow the scorn, she would react violently similarly to my mothers outbursts of rage and often Auntie or Father were called to the school to take her home. Needless to say she didn’t want to go to school. Sometimes she would ask me to lie for her and tell the teacher she was sick that day so she could wander around by herself. I would do as told. Those days my mind wandered as well and I couldn’t study. I would daydream of Ahina playing on the beach, adventuring into the wild mountains and meeting strange creatures that in my mind were all but unimaginable. My mind would drift for a couple of minutes or until the teacher asked me some question and I couldn’t answer. Although life wasn’t easy I kept being an average student and had little problem coping with the situation…at least when I was left alone, because from then on, Ahina as I knew her was gone.

We wouldn’t play as much together as before and most of the time I would do the house chores while she wandered the beach as if in search of something. She would come late when Father was already half-asleep from the bourbon shots, and occasionally she would carry with her a dark bag full of things I only knew what were a year or two later: Shells. She would collect shells, pebbles, pretty stones from the shore. She would keep most of them in a red velvet box hidden under her bed and some were used to make earrings, bracelets or hair pins. When I discovered them I was fascinated by the intricacy and delicacy of those pieces. I kept my discovery a secret because Ahina had become more and more silent towards me and whenever I discovered a new piece I would admire it for a while wondering what she had thought when she had made it. Although we didn’t talk much to each other, I could somehow feel closer to her, as if the small jewelry pieces were the shattered expression of her thoughts.

During that period I became a sort of hermit. I withdrew to myself and spoke only when spoken to. I read books, I loved biology books and I would get lost in the pictures of plants, flowers or trees. When I started my first herbarium Ahina was 10 and she would smoke cigarettes with the boy next door behind our house. I would observe them from the kitchen, through the window and day by day I saw her changing. First her clothes, then her hair, later she would wear makeup and her breasts were growing. We rarely talked those days. I felt so childish and dull. She was beautiful. Her silhouette resembled my mother in every way and I felt no more than a shadow of the deceased.

One day I woke up with the strike of a lightning. It was one of those tropical storms that come suddenly and unearth the roots of the trees. Many houses were destroyed on the shore, trees fell down and the place was filled with clutter…that night Ahina disappeared.

The last time I saw her she was cheery with her cheeky smile and she was walking towards the beach. She looked back, stared at me and showed me her perfect white teeth. By then she was 14. Nobody knows what happened to her.

I mourned her loss for about a year and blamed my Father for her disappearance. My blossoming years were spent mostly in my room, with the storm shutters down as if I was waiting for another storm to come and make me disappear forever as well. I was too scared to live and too scared to die. I studied and after some months I decided that I had to leave the island as soon as I could. If I wanted to have a sparkle of hope, if I wanted to build a life, I would have to leave. But how or where I didn’t know.

So, I went back to school in order to finish it. My life went on as usual. I was a regular student, no great ambition, no boyfriend or interest in having one, no friends in particular. I considered myself a pretty tedious human being for about four years. All my classmates had their hobbies, their interests: music, fashion, dancing, books, boys, girls, etc.

I felt as something was missing. And until that something came back I wouldn’t be able to move on. It wasn’t a very fun time, needless to say. Father was old, Auntie was kind as usual and she taught me how to garden, how to weed, crafts that now seem useless living in and out of a concrete jungle, but on my last day of school I was finally happy. I felt that something was finally ending and I would find my way soon.

That night I decided I would go to the beach by myself and drink as Father did for the first time.

At 6:30 I was sitting on the sand, looking west and absorbing the last rays of sun on my skin.

The beach would become all yellow, then orange, purple, blue, black. The waves seemed to calm down for “lady night” to set in and the noise they would do pounding the sand during the day would diminish as if by magic. It was as if life slowed during those moments.

I gulped some scotch and spat it right back into the sand. Couldn’t understand why Father was so keen on it. Nevertheless I kept drinking, this time slowly. After a short while I felt my pupils heavy and I couldn’t focus on a single point. I lit a cigarette and started smoking which was not that unpleasant but it made me feel even drowsier. I let my back slide onto the sand and opened my eyes wide to count the first stars in the sky. The smoke would form shapes above my head and in my trance I could see people, animals, flowers and a myriad of images just above my eyes. Some images were pleasant, but others were terribly frightening. At some point I felt as if something was touching my face. It felt like hair. I woke up and stood up quickly.

As I stood up I heard footsteps behind me. I turned and a young woman was walking towards me. She was tall, tanned and looked vaguely familiar. She asked if she could sit with me, I agreed and she lit both our cigarettes.

“Nice beach here”, said the woman.

“Where are you from?” I asked.

“Here and there.”


“Kind of…”

We stood there for a while in silence until she asked what I was thinking about.

“Nothing special, I have nothing really to think about.”

“That’s impossible”, she said.

“I used to think the same, when I had a future.”

“What do you mean?”

“I am not sure what I mean. I guess when there is nothing you really want, your head empties. Your thoughts vanish.”

“It seems like you are just being lazy…or scared…”

“I am not either of those things. I just don’t know why I was put here on this island, with this family, with no goal for myself, no special skill or desire. I am still searching for some meaning.”

“That all sounds like cowardice to me…” she said while lighting another cigarette and looking at me from the corner of her eye.

“Why do you say that”, I replied. “You don’t even know me?...”

“Well you aren’t going anywhere sitting here, that’s for sure. The sea changes the shore when it’s rough, when it moves. There is no discovery, no development, no future in stillness. I am guessing you have never left this island, probably even this town!”

“Well, where should I go? My whole life is here!”

“Follow me!”, she said.


“You’ll see.”

We walked under the moonlight with the sea at our left and the jungle at our right. She didn’t say a word. I followed her sheepishly trying to think of what to say. I gave up after a while, mesmerized by her long shiny hair. The more I looked at her, the more I felt I knew her and although there wasn’t a soul around us I didn’t feel a bit threatened or scared.

After a good twenty-minute walk I started to hear drums and I saw fire in the air. My heartbeat finally woke up to the situation, and I felt nervous. Maybe it was the alcohol or maybe it was the beauty of my surroundings, but I couldn’t remember how we had gotten to that place. I would be in trouble if I wanted to go back home by myself and only then I got scared. Of what, I wasn’t sure.

We met a group of people dancing around a bonfire. They were all half naked and most surely drunk or intoxicated with some form of drug.

“We're here”, she said. “Hi everybody! This is Moana.”

When I heard that I stared at her stunned. I was sure I haven’t told her my name.

“Lets drink!”, she said.

I recognized some faces from the group. Some of these people had gone to school with me but we had never talked before. Somebody bumped into me and passed the rum bottle. I drank and the girl looked at me with an approval look. She smiled. I smiled back. Somehow that reassured me. She had a beautiful smile.

We started dancing to the sound of the drums as if in trance or as if we were performing some ritual and everybody looked completely abstracted from reality.

At a certain point I noticed a young man looking at me. His eyes were green and he had a hypnotizing look. I felt immediately attracted to him and unconsciously I drove myself towards the place he was at.

We approached each other and he took my hand. We left the circle and walked for seconds until we were alone. He looked me in the eyes, put his hands around my neck and kissed me. I lost total control of myself and kissed him back as if there was no tomorrow. We ran further away and he jumped in the water. His glistening body tempted and frightened me at the same time, but I followed anyway. Soon we were both naked and I felt as if I would faint from so much pleasure. He took me to the shore, and we had sex. I remember hearing my cries of ecstasy towards the end and not recognizing my own voice. We stood there for a while, being splashed by the waves on our feet until the girl appeared and he was gone.

She looked at me and started laughing. I laughed too and soon we were both giggling and rolling on the sand covered in salt and alcohol.

I though I would die of bliss. Everything was too much for me. The new friend, the alcohol making my brain buzz, the deviant thoughts that ran through my head, letting myself go and trusting strangers was not normal behavior at all for me. But for the first time in many years, I felt alive.

We stretched out on the sand and stared at the sky and its last stars dotting the changing blue canvas.

After a while, I asked the girl:

“How did you know my name?”

When she didn’t answer I turned my head to look at her and discover she wasn’t there. I sat down and looked the other way. I found only a white hibiscus flower and a bracelet made of shells. On one of them I could distinguish a letter. “A”. I went back to the bonfire and there was nothing. No people, footsteps, even traces of a fire…nothing. I ran the beach searching for someone. I didn’t find her.

Until today I like to believe, Ahina had something to do with it. That was the best night of my life and it triggered everything that happened next.

As planed I left the island.

I left with the wind and traveled the world with no purpose, met many people and became a jewelery designer.

I live in another place now. It’s a huge city full of exciting people, magic places and plenty of nature around. It is still near the sea since I get my inspiration from it. From time to time, when I walk watching the sun setting on that blue, ever-changing surface, feeling the grains of sand on my feet, I still feel the subtle smell of the hibiscus flower and the wind on my face reminds me of them. Their jet-black hair.

Ahina and Mother. They walk behind me and fill my footsteps with dreams and hopes.

In the sand I find the tools to build my life. In the sea, I glimpse into who I was and who I want to be.

My name is Moana. It means Water in Hawaiian. As water, I run free through the crevices of my life.

No comments:

Locations of visitors to this page