The Long Journey
ready,” Crane announced. “Permission
to come aboard?”
finished strapping down the last crate and then climbed down to the dock.
“First we take care of the two hundred dollars.”
hundred,” Lee corrected him. “You
get the other hundred when I come back.”
They walked back to the fish shop.
you’ll be coming back with us.”
you a betting man?” Lee challenged with an answering grin.
studied Crane carefully. “You
are serious, aren’t you?”
nodded. “I am indeed.”
they are adamant about non-Polynesians on their island.
Especially after the big blow-up earlier this year.”
know. And I know all about
that ‘big blow up.’”
shrugged and then chuckled. “All
right, Seaman. If they allow
you, I’ll refund your hundred. If
not, you owe me double.”
held out his hand. He
didn’t know why this exchange was giving him so much pleasure, only that
it was. Lee paid the hundred
dollars and they went back to the boat.
on board, then,” Mata ordered. Crane
did and they set off. Apparently
Mata had several small islands that he had contracts to deliver goods to
as they made one stop that day, quickly unloading several smaller crates
of supplies and taking what little the residents had in trade for Mata to
take back. The two men had a
routine and Crane saw very quickly that both men were equally skilled.
One would pilot while the other rested or slept.
Lee was not surprised to find that they were also cousins.
the second day, Crane, feeling a touch of boredom, and certainly not used
to lying around and watching others work, helped unload cargo.
At first, Mata protested. “Insurance!” But his cousin, Koana, made room for Lee to help.
threw up his hands and then directed Lee to below decks to find something
to change into. “No need to
get your only set of clothes dirty.”
grinned, found a tee shirt and a pair of very ample and grimy shorts and
used his belt to cinch them up. He
rejoined the two Polynesians.
looked him over and then shook his head.
“Why would a Navy man wear the dirtiest clothes down there?” he
were the only things I could find,” Lee shot back good-naturedly.
“I wasn’t going to go through your lockers.”
boat captain shook his head. “I
will find you something better later.”
as they were chugging away from the island, Mata joined Lee on top of the
boathouse. The setting sun
bronzed puffy clouds floating above. The ocean breeze cooled Lee’s
we arrive at Hikeru,” Mata stated.
have been there before, haven’t you?”
Lee answered simply.
given their experience with mainlanders what makes you think they will let
smiled. “I know the queen,
La’ani . . . even before she was the queen.”
didn’t blink. “We’ll
see how well.”
made no response. He had only
corresponded once and hadn’t answered the most recent letters, not that
there had been that many. With
a sigh, Lee sincerely hoped La’ani hadn’t become so disgusted with him
that she would refuse him permission to visit her homeland.
said you are Navy," Mata said after they had watched the stars appear
in the swiftly darkening sky.
Lee corrected. "Reserves
You sounded like you were still on active duty.
So you aren't stationed on Samoa?"
Lee said evasively. "I
was based out of California until just a few days ago.
I was deep-sixed."
made a sound deep in his throat, but didn't inquire further.
Lee was grateful as he didn't know why he had even divulged that
much. They lay there watching
the stars for a while longer and then Mata slowly got up.
"Next shift comes early for me and we'll be in Hikeru by
nodded and got up as well. He bunked in the small cabin with Mata, laying
in the hammock Koana slept in when not on duty.
next day was bright and clear, a direct antithesis to what it was like the
day he left Hikeru. As they
approached the island, Crane watched schools of fish veer off to the right
and left. He was amazed at
the crystal clear quality of the waters.
The narrow beach ahead turned into steep cliff and a mountain that
was ringed in wispy clouds. Lee
remembered La'ani talking about the mountain but he had never seen it.
stare like one who has never seen it before," Mata said suspiciously.
a way, I haven't," Lee said remotely, his eyes still on the island
that was at once beautiful and yet ugly.
"I spent most of my time under the mountain, not above it.
I came in darkness and left in darkness as well."
Crane felt the touches of what had happened during that last visit
and shuddered. He had to
remind himself that there was a purpose in coming and that purpose was not
to remember the pain.
gazed thoughtfully at the man studying the island ahead, but said nothing
stood at the dock with several other men waiting for Mata's boat to dock.
Apparently he had begun his run well loaded.
There was still a crate lashed onto the small deck.
Perhaps it was the equipment Queen La'ani had insisted on.
There also seemed to be an extra man.
Teva squinted and noticed with alarm that the man was not a
the boat was still twenty feet from the dock, he made a gesture to Mata
and Koana to stop. They did
so. Teva called out in
Polynesian, "We said no visitors!"
one said you would allow him to come on your island."
Lee," the white man called out and Teva gasped in shock.
looked more closely. Yes, the
man had the same build, same dark hair.
Indeed, it was Lee Crane, the man whom the queen credited with the
changes that had happened on their island.
"Heave to!" Teva called out to Mata and the boat slowly
chugged in and docked. Teva,
himself made the line fast.
cast a sharp glance at the man by his side as he watched the men from the
island tie his boat fast. Teva
jumped onboard and stood grinning in front of the Navy man. "Captain Lee, somehow I never expected to see you here .
. . not after what had happened to you."
Then he lowered his voice. "Although
the queen always hoped."
smiled softly. "I had
the opportunity and took it."
He did not elaborate. Now
that he was here, he felt strangely shy and reticent.
he saw Mata staring. "Captain?"
the Polynesian asked.
nodded. "I was."
shook his head. He pulled
something from inside his lava-lava.
It was a hundred dollar bill.
Lee smiled and took it.
Teva said, clapping the American on the back.
"The others can unload the supplies. Let me take you to see La'ani." Teva gave orders in Hikeruian and then led the way to the end
of the main village where a larger house stood.
closer Lee got, the more reticent he became, until he began to wonder why
he had followed this strange compulsion.
Then he saw La'ani walk out of the house to the large thatched-roof
porch. She looked more regal,
mature and yet, the same all at once.
Lee was stunned and stopped short.
she cried. She paused only a
moment and then flew across the porch and into his arms.
"I was beginning to think you would never come."
La'ani finally released Lee from her hug and took a step back.
He looked so much better than he had when she and Na'alu had left
Santa Barbara six months ago. And
yet.... Yet she saw something
in his eyes; something in his demeanor that told her all was not quite
right. "Lee, come
and sit down. You look tired
from your trip here. Did you
fly in your little submarine?"
shook his head. He wasn't
ready to open up to her. He
had traveled thousands of miles and yet he couldn't tell La'ani why he had
done so. "I had a great
deal of leave time and . . . and wanted to take you up on your
steered him onto the porch where sat several western-style wicker chairs,
but when she gave him his choice, Lee sat on one of the tapa mats.
She sat down in front of him, laying her hand gently on his knee.
He looked at it and smiled softly.
"So the admiral decided he could make do without you for a
little while," she said with a laugh, which died when she saw him
cringe. "Lee, what's wrong?"
he shook his head. "I'm
afraid I didn't divulge my travel plans."
eyes widened at the several implications that such a statement brought
into her mind, but the little she knew of this man, she wasn't going to
barge into his private life like she was his mother.
She smiled softly. "I
didn't get to know your Admiral Nelson as well as I would have liked, but
now that you're here, perhaps he might want to know ...."
She let her voice trail off, not wanting to go further, not wishing
to sound like A'ona Matua. La'ani felt a twinge of sorrow.
Only a month ago, the old woman had died peacefully in her sleep.
It was almost as though she had accomplished all that was needed
and it was time to pass to another realm.
nodded. "You're probably
right. I told Meeka I'd call
him but never did. Could Mata
take a letter?" Then he
thought that he didn't have the ability to call Meeka and that she would
probably like a note, too.
time La'ani did a mental about-face.
That name had been mentioned before.
During Lee's time at the hands of the evil one, Mendon, he had been
delirious and had spoken several names she didn't know.
She had wondered about them, this Meeka's included, but had not
asked. Was this a sweetheart?
Betrothed? She wasn't
sure she wanted to know but . . .
didn't tell you about her, did I?" he asked. She shook her head.
Lee sighed and then continued.
"I have done both of you a great disservice.
And yet Meeka still continues to call me her Vadeer, or
couldn't help it, she felt a brief instant of relief, but tried to keep
that relief from her face. Then
she wondered if Lee was married and hadn't told her that, either. "A daughter? I
had no idea that you were . . . uh...."
There her determination to probe subtly failed her.
There was nothing the least bit subtle about her thoughts right
Lee finished for her. He
smiled. "No, nothing as
simple as that."
girl brought a tray of fruit juices and set it down in front of them.
La'ani spoke to her in Polynesian.
When the girl had left, La'ani turned back to Lee.
"I asked her to bring letter writing supplies and send word
for Mata to wait if he could." She
smiled at Lee's bemused expression. "What?"
can't seem to get away from mother hen types," he said sardonically,
then he mentally winced at his choice of words.
noticed his quick, but subtle change of demeanor but again chose not to
ask why. "I am curious
about this daughter," she prompted.
was shortly before I went on the mission that landed me here.
Chip Morton and I ended up in the middle of a coup in a small
European country. We had to
hide out in the countryside and ended up at an orphanage.
The priest in charge was mortally wounded and made me promise to
take care of the orphans. We made our way across country with fourteen kids ranging in
age from twelve years to a ten-month-old baby.
But we got 'em all out and the oldest, the girl I had made a sort
of chief over the rest of them, asked me to adopt her. That's Meeka."
Lee! That's wonderful!"
La'ani cried. "You are a
was no humor in his smile. "I
don't feel like one. I don't
think I've averaged one decent visit a month since she came stateside.
And besides, I can’t adopt her.
I’m a bachelor with a dangerous job.
The courts allowed me to be a joint foster parent.
A couple has her most of the time.”
Lee dug into his pocket and pulled out his wallet.
He found Meeka’s spring school picture and showed it to La’ani.
is a very pretty girl. You
must be very proud of her.”
nodded. Yes, he was very
proud of Meeka and what she had accomplished.
He said as much.
will have to bring her to visit,” La’ani suggested.
girl brought writing materials and waited while Lee composed a quick note
to the admiral telling him where he was.
He also wished the new captain well and sent his regards to the
crew. La’ani and the girl
had been conversing in Polynesian. As
he folded the paper and put it in an envelope, he chuckled.
“I’m going to have to learn this language of yours.”
He addressed the envelope and handed it to the girl, then he did
the same for Meeka. “Thanks,”
he told her. She smiled and
took the envelopes with her
said that this time you would have to stay long enough to properly fill
out a lava lava,” La’ani told him with a musical laugh.
didn’t say anything for a moment, but then he began to laugh with
La’ani. “Now I know
I’ll have to learn the language, if you are going to talk about me that
way.” But the topic of
dress strangely made him think of A’ona Matua.
He asked about her and was disheartened to see La’ani’s eyes
fill up with tears. He
suspected he knew exactly what that meant. “La’ani, is she….?”
Matua died a month ago.”
was speechless. It was very
close to the time his mother had died.
“I’m sorry,” he said sorrowfully.
said she had finished her life as it should have been and it was time for
her to go. And she did, one
night in her sleep.”
very peaceful way to go,” he said softly, but with great sincerity.
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