Orchids in the Sun

© by The Lavender Quill, 2002

Warning: the following story contains graphic descriptions of male/male sex between consenting adults. If that sort of thing bothers you, or you are a minor, or it is illegal for you to read this type of content under the laws of your area, don’t read any further.

This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual people or events is purely coincidental.

Setting: Island of Maui, Hawaii.

Chapter 1.

I strapped my surfboard to the homemade rack over my aging rusty Toyota Rav4 and wiped sand off my hands. It had not been the best day for surfing, but any day I can surf the north shore of Maui at all is a good day. I looked around to see who might be looking. I’m not overly modest, but didn’t want to startle any tourists or kids. I stood between my Rav4 and a van next to me. Private enough, I decided. I stripped off my shorty wet suit. I quickly toweled myself dry and pulled on a pair of shorts and a tee shirt.

It was late morning, and I drove to Kenji’s great uncle’s home, a small older cinder block house in the eastern part of Kahului, the largest city on Maui. Kenji is one of my two best friends. Nick is the other. The three of us have been nearly inseparable for about five years. We met at a gay student group in high school.

Of the three of us, I think Kenji had life the toughest. His great uncle, Masashi, had Alzheimer’s, and Kenji had moved in with him after he finished high school to help take care of him. He also wanted to move away from his parents. We three were all out at school. Nick and I had come out to our parents, but Kenji didn’t. His parents had converted to Mormon when he was a kid, and they were fairly vocal about their negative opinions of gays. Frankly, I was surprised they never found out, since we were so out everywhere else. Masashi’s wife had died long before we were born, and he had no kids of his own, so he was happy to have Kenji around. He maintained some of his old Shinto practices and thought Kenji’s parents were foolish for becoming Mormon. If he had any opinion about gays, he never spoke a word of it one way or the other. In many ways, he was very traditional Japanese, and rarely displayed any kind of emotion at all. None of us had ever come out to Masashi either, but not because we expected a bad reaction. It just didn’t seem very, well, Japanese. I’m sure he would have been deeply shamed if we talked about sex at all, gay or straight. Nevertheless, I always felt comfortable around him. Over the years, I had learned, as much as I could, how to treat him with respect in a Japanese sense, and he had always been unfailingly polite to Nick and me. Though most people wouldn’t notice, he doted on Kenji, as much as Japanese tradition would allow.

Kenji had found a serious boyfriend about a year after I met him. William. They went out for several years, though they managed to keep it from his parents. William had died about fifteen months ago in an auto accident while visiting relatives in Colorado. Kenji and William had truly been in love, probably would have gotten married and everything if it was allowed. Kenji was beside himself with grief, of course. He had been so depressed for a long time. I suppose he will never completely get over it. He is doing better these days, though. He had gone through a tough period on the one-year anniversary of William’s accident. Nick, Kenji and I had found a secluded area of shoreline, and made a native Hawaiian memorial of pumice rocks piled into a small pillar. Kenji said goodbye to William as the pillar was eventually swept into the sea when the tide rose. That seemed to be a turning point for him, and recently he seemed almost back to his old normal self.

I sort of lived with Masashi and Kenji part time too. Sometimes I stayed at my dad’s place, sometimes at Masashi’s. I led kind of a vagabond existence. I barely remember my mother, and my father and I moved around a lot, depending on the vagaries of his erratic employment. Nick and I both tried to help Kenji as much as we could. I started spending more and more time at Masashi’s after William died. At first I would just crash on his couch occasionally. Over time, I stayed there more often. Eventually, Masashi replaced the old couch with a nice hide-a-bed model. Of course, he never said anything about it. He just did it. I thanked him, but he pretended not to hear or not to understand. That was my signal not to mention it again. It would be unseemly for him to appear to pity me. Unless he actually saw me sleeping on the hide-a-bed—which he rarely did since he went to bed earlier and slept in later than I—he pretended that I was just visiting for the day. That way he did not have to acknowledge my odd living arrangement.

When I had time, and when the weather cooperated, I tried to surf in the morning. Kenji was busy with the orchid nursery, so it was my unofficial job to help Masashi with lunch. I parked behind Masashi’s old Buick. It was uncommonly free of rust, given that the car was older than I am—cars tend to rust out fast in Hawaii. Probably one reason it was in such good condition was because Masashi hardly ever drove it, much to the relief of the three of us.

“Hello Masashi,” I said loudly when I walked in. I’m not too sure how well he hears. It seems to vary. I suspect he hears more than he lets on. When he looked my way I bowed at just the right inclination that Kenji had taught me.

“Good morning Trevor,” he said to me, nodding his head in acknowledgement. He was standing, leaning slightly on his cane. He had seen me drive up, of course.

Masashi was old. I don’t really know how old, exactly, but at least eighty, I’m sure, maybe ninety. He was rail thin, and even shorter than I am. I was one of the shortest boys in our graduating class (not that I’m self conscious about my height, you understand). I must have a throwback jean or something; I’m not even as tall as my mother was. We worried about Masashi not getting enough to eat. We also worried about him hurting himself or damaging the house. Sometimes he left the stove on or left the refrigerator open, or the faucet running. That is why I tried to get over there at lunch.

Masashi fought his Alzheimer’s and tried to be independent as much as possible. If he was trying to make his own lunch, I would let him. I would just make sure everything got closed or turned off or whatever when he was done. If he was ignoring lunch, I would try to be subtle. I would tell him I was making a sandwich or something for myself or the guys, and make one for him too. He was a proud man, trying to hold on to some of his older Japanese traditions, even though he was nisei (second generation) and had been born and lived all his life in Hawaii. It is hard, however, not to lose face when you have Alzheimer’s, though he tried valiantly. I knew he would refuse any overt help from me. My pretext for being there nearly every day was to get lunch for me, Kenji, and Nick, to bring to the Nursery.

Kenji and I talked often about how long we could continue to take care of him while pretending we weren’t taking care of him. Eventually, we knew we would have to move him into a nursing home.

Sometimes Masashi forgot how old I was.

“Don’t worry Trevor,” he said to me as I made sandwiches for both of us. “You just a late bloomer. You grow next year. Next year.”

That was my clue that his mind was in a different time. I’m twenty now, and unlikely to grow any taller, but I’ve known him since I was fourteen or fifteen. “Thank you sir,” I said to him. “I’m sure I will.” It wasn’t important to correct him, so I just went with it. At least he still remembered who I was.

Once he was fed and settled, I drove to the nursery, the ‘Hitohana Hinata Orchid Garden’. Hitohana Hinata is Japanese. It translates loosely to ‘flower of the sun’. It was part way out along the road to Hana, not far from Kailua. Technically, it belonged to Masashi, but one day it would be Kenji’s. Amazingly, Masashi owned almost fifty acres of land, of which the orchid nursery was only a small part. The rest was mostly wild jungle. He owned the land and his house, both free and clear. Unlike the rest of the United States, very few people actually owned land on Maui. Most people leased the land. A vast majority of land on Maui is owned by a handful of huge landowners or the government. Masashi was a rare exception. I have no idea how he managed it, nor how he was able to pay it all off. And, of course, it would have been unforgivably rude to ask.

When I arrived at the nursery, I parked around the side of the retail shop. I walked in and saw Marlene at the counter. She was a lesbian who had just graduated from high school. Kenji had just recently hired her. She seemed to have things under control, so I wandered back to see if I could find Kenji.

It is a fairly large operation, and we’ve been expanding it recently. There are about five acres under shade cloth, divided into six sections, all filled with rows of orchids three shelves deep. Unlike the greenhouses necessary to grow orchids in cooler climates, we only needed shade cloth to keep them from burning in the sun. It was warm and humid enough year round on this part of the island that orchids can almost grow wild. There was also a large packing shed, a small lab, a couple of other outbuildings, and an office.

Sometimes Kenji can be hard to find, but is usually in the orchid tents, as I call them. I found him in the fifth one back. There was nobody else there.

“Hey Kenji,” I said. I walked up to him and gave him a hug. “How you doing today, brah?” I always ask this. With Kenji, it is not a casual question. A dead lover, parents he rarely talks to, a great uncle with Alzheimer’s to care for, and a business to run is a huge load for a soft spoken twenty year old.

“Hey Trevor,” he said. “Good, brah. Lookin’ forward to Nick’s party tonight. He say he gonna’ hook me up with some cute boys.” Six months ago when Nick had brought up the subject of dating, Kenji had paled and nearly started to cry. I never brought it up again. But Nick, being the more forward of the three of us, mentioned it every now and then. Kenji had recently indicated he might be willing to date again, if he found the right guy.

Nick is the third of our triad. He was the first of us to come out and start going to the gay student meetings in high school. Mind you, he was a year older than Kenji and I, and a grade ahead of us, which seemed like a big deal at the time. Unlike the horror stories I hear about high school in many parts of the mainland, our school was pretty laid back and accepting. It was mostly easy to be out. Nobody much cared, with the exception of a couple of jerks. They were easy enough to ignore or avoid.

Nick is the malihini, or newcomer. Kenji and I both grew up in the islands, but Nick moved to Maui from Cleveland when he was about fifteen, when his dad got a job at an observatory up on Haleakala.

The party was to celebrate his twenty-first birthday. The party was also to celebrate one year working at the Hitohana Hinata Orchid Gardens. He just worked part time, since he was in college. The business belonged to Masashi in name only. In reality, Kenji ran it, and had for the last two years. He had been working with his great uncle since he was a kid. I started working at the garden part time shortly after I met Kenji, mostly as an excuse to hang with him. Over time, I had become integrated into the business, almost as if I was a member of the family. I was thrilled that the three of us worked together, despite Nick’s parent’s mild disapproval. They thought he was wasting his talents with us hick farmers, and fully expected him to get a real job once he finished college.

“Are you ready for that?” I asked. “The whole dating thing?”

“Donno, brah. I still miss William, you know? But I can’t be alone the rest of my life. William wouldn’t have wanted that, and neither do I.” He paused. “I’m a little nervous, I guess. You know I never really dated anyone besides William. I feel like I don’t even know what I’m doing.” He grinned at me. “But I ain’t had sex with anything but my right hand for over a year. I’m gonna start getting desperate. That ain’t healthy, brah!” We both laughed. He inspected an orchid plant on a shelf next to us. “How ’bout you? Is Ed coming tonight?”

I sighed. “No” I said. “And I don’t want to talk about it at all tonight. This is supposed to be a fun party for Nick.” I am a hopeless romantic. I had always been a little jealous of Kenji and William’s relationship, and dreamed some day of finding the perfect guy of my own. I had been dating this guy, Ed, for about six months. He is quite a bit older than me. He’s thirty-two, but still good looking. When we first started dating, I thought I was in love. Nick knew right away it wasn’t love, and told me so. I was pissed at him for a while. He was right, though. I wanted it to be love, but I could tell it wasn’t like Kenji and William. Nick and Kenji both tried to let me down gently, but I was blind.

Ed was gone a lot, flying to the other islands frequently, mostly to Oahu on business. At least that’s what he said. I was in love, so of course I believed him. Every word. About two weeks ago, Ed was supposedly on a business trip to Los Angeles, so Nick, Kenji and I went to a movie. Some lame romantic comedy—I don’t remember which one. When we were leaving the theater, I spotted Ed walking out ahead of us. He didn’t notice us. I noticed the other guy he was with. Kenji tried to calm me down. Maybe it was just a friend from work. Maybe I got the dates mixed up or the trip got cancelled at the last minute. Even though it was dark when we left the theater, I notice Ed was holding hands with the guy. Definitely not a work buddy.

I made a big scene. How totally embarrassing. Nick always said I’m a bit of a drama queen. He’s probably right about that, too. The next day Ed called. He wanted to make up. I was ready to jump right back in his arms. Nick and Kenji said I was loko. Nick knew the guy we’d seen Ed with, and we called him up. He said Ed had been seeing him off and on for a month, and never mentioned me. He was pissed at Ed too. Nick started asking around, and we found out Ed was a real player. I felt totally used. Yet Ed was still calling, leaving messages, wanting to make up. I was still tempted.

“Maybe Nick can find me a dude who likes short guys and doesn’t sleep around,” I said. Nick is a boy magnet. He is so good looking.

“Trevor, you gotta get off of that. You ain’t that short, and you are damned cute. Lotsa guys fall for you blond surfer types.”

I was skeptical of his opinion. William had been huge—my opposite. I’m short, haole (there is supposedly some native blood in my heritage somewhere, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at me), blond hair bleached almost white by the sun, totally smooth. In contrast, William had been almost a full-blooded native with a massive build, not really fat, but just huge. He’d had very dark skin and black hair. How could I compare?

“Whatever,” I said, noncommittally. “Is there anything I need to get done this afternoon that can’t wait? If not, I’ll work on getting ready for the party.”

“Nah. Slow day. Go ahead and get set up. Pig in da ground,” which meant he had already started a pig roasting in fire pit in the ground. He turned and wandered back up the row of orchids.

I went out to the packing shed and pulled off my shirt. I spent part of the afternoon clearing it out. We would move the party inside if it started to rain. That part of Maui can be subjected to sudden and unpredicted bursts of rain. When I was done, I dragged some tables and every chair I could find back to an open show garden behind the orchid tents. Kenji brought some of the most beautiful orchids specimens out and hung them from tree branches. Even though I had been surrounded by orchids for years now, I still was sometimes awed by their beauty. I strung some lights in the trees surrounding the clearing.

“Should we bring Koko out?” I asked. Koko was a large white cockatoo with a brilliant yellow crest. He was older than any of us. Almost as old as Ed, that fuck. Masashi received Koko ten years or so before Kenji was born, a final gift from his wife before she died. He was pretty much a fixture at the nursery. I had heard somewhere that those birds can live seventy years or more.

“Yeah. We can always take him back in if he gets too noisy.” Sometimes around dusk he starts screeching something fierce.

I went back to the retail shop at the front of the nursery. Koko gets to perch on a stand in there during business hours as long as he doesn’t screech too much. Customers seem to like him, and he is pretty used to people being around a lot.

“Howzit?” I said to Marlene. “You stayin’ for the party?” I didn’t know her very well yet, but she seemed okay.

“Nah. Can’t tonight. Maybe another time.”

“Okay.” I walked to Koko’s perch. “Hey there, Koko. Are you a pretty bird?” He stopped preening the feathers of a wing and cocked his head at me. “Pretty bird,” I repeated. I had heard some of these birds can talk, but Koko steadfastly refused. Never uttered a word in twenty-five years. He was either incredibly stupid or incredibly stubborn. I held my hand in front of his breast and he stepped onto it. I would have put him on my shoulder, but his claws would dig in to my skin, so I just carried him on my hand.

I walked out back with him. I decided there was plenty of time before the party, so I headed up along a path into the trees. It only takes about ten minutes to walk back to a place we call ‘the grotto’. There is a small stream that runs through the property. Like most of the streams on this side of the island, the flow can change dramatically from rain running off the slopes of Haleakala. There is a small double waterfall, about a twenty foot drop into a small bowl shaped pond. Not big enough to swim in, but big enough to wade and splash around in to get cool. At its deepest, the water came up a little higher than my belly button. Most of the land up hill behind the nursery was left wild, but Kenji had planted a few bird of paradise and ginger plants around the grotto to add some color. It was a place of great beauty.

I set Koko on a branch, then took off my shorts. The grotto is quite private, surrounded by dense green jungle. The three of us go there to skinny dip occasionally.

Nick would always be the first one to get naked and wade into the water. Of the three of us, he is the most cheerful, self assured, outgoing, and friendly. Also easily the best looking. I thought he was nearly perfect. He is an even six feet tall, sort of slender but nicely muscled, though not an obsessive gym body. He has medium length sandy brown hair that fades to a dirty blond in the sun. Other than that he is nearly hairless. He has a great chest and amazing bubble butt. I had never seen him hard, but even limp you could tell he had a sizeable dick. I’d heard from others he was quite impressive hard. He has a lovely face with generous lips and a big smile. He was the whitest of us three, but always had a medium all-over tan. He must lay out nude on his parents private balcony while they are out. He had never had a serious relationship, so far as I knew. He didn’t seem interested in committing to just one person. He was good looking and lots of guys wanted to sleep with him. With his easygoing nature, he often said yes to them. He was the most likely of us to do something a little outrageous, like shaving his pubes, or getting a nipple pierced. If I thought I could ever have him to myself, I would probably pursue him, but I knew that it would break my heart to have sex with him a few times and then watch him move on to someone else.

Kenji was usually the second in the water. He was the most serious, quiet, and reserved of the three of us, though apparently not as body-shy as I am. He was the same height as Nick, and almost as nice of a build. He had completely different features of course. Like many Hawaiians, he had a mixed ancestry, mostly Japanese, but with some native islander thrown in. I thought he had beautiful eyes. His skin was the darkest of the three of us, and he had short raven black hair. His chest and ass were smooth, but he had hairier legs than Nick. Kenji was the most effeminate of us. Not a flaming queen, just sort of softer natured, more graceful than Nick or I. He would occasionally wander around in a sarong in the nursery or at Masashi’s house, though oddly I didn’t think that made him look any less masculine. I had seen him partially erect a few times when William used to join us in the grotto before the accident. Though Asians have a reputation for being small, I always thought that was an unfounded stereotype. Kenji may not be as big as Nick was reputed to be, but was quite well endowed nevertheless. I had long been jealous of his relationship with William, and secretly fantasized of having the same kind of relationship with him, though in reality I knew I could never replace big William.

I was usually last in the water. I’m not so down on myself to think that I am ugly. I know I’m decent looking, and have a cute bubble butt. I never felt I could compare to Nick or Kenji though. I’m almost a full head shorter then them, and while not tiny, my dick is admittedly slightly smaller than average. I had a darker tan than Nick—probably due to that little bit of islander blood—and they liked to tease me about my bright blond hair. Even my pubes were light blond. I sometimes felt inadequate when I compared myself to my two best friends, and always hesitated a little before joining them in the pond.

Once I was naked I picked Koko up again. We brought him up to the grotto fairly often, and he liked the water. “Koko want a bath?” I cooed. “Koko want a bath?” I don’t know why I persisted in trying to teach him to talk. I just felt like I should. I kept at it doggedly, never completely giving up hope that some day he might utter a recognizable word. I waded in to the pond and sat down in the cool water. I held Koko just above the surface. He seems to like the pond as long as we don’t take him too close to the waterfall. He dunked his head in the water and stood back up. He squawked and fluffed his feathers and crest out, and dunked again. He shook and water sprayed around him, and he began to preen happily. I smiled at his antics.

Once he stopped, I started to get slightly chilly and I waded out of the pond. I set Koko on a branch, and sat on a rock to dry for a few minutes. I almost started to doze off when I heard a noise from down the path. I quickly stood and pulled my shorts back on.

Kenji appeared a moment later with a tiki torch tucked under one arm and five pots of orchids hanging from his hands. “Hey, Trevor,” he said as I pulled my zipper up, “you no gotta dress for me, brah.”

“That’s okay. I was just about ready to head back anyway.” Even though we’d seen each other naked a hundred times, I was still a little self conscious around them.

He handed me three of the orchid pots and set the other two down. “Hang these around, ’kay? Donno if anybody come up here later, but I want it to look nice for Nick boy’s party.”

I started to hang orchids from tree branches. Kenji found some soft dirt near where the trail entered the grotto and shoved the pole of the torch into the ground. On the top of the post was an oil lamp in a wicker basket, a cheesy kind of torch that the tourists like. We can get them cheep, and it is a practical solution up in the woods. We finished arranging the orchids, then I picked up Koko and we walked back down together.

When we got back to the garden where I had set up the tables, I saw that Lori had arrived. She was Nick’s older sister. She was bringing most of the food other than the roast pig.

“Hey guys!” she called setting two bags on a table. She joined us and gave Kenji a kiss on the cheek.

“Hey Lori,” said Kenji. “How’s my main wahine?” I thought it was very corny, but she loved it when he called her that.

“Couldn’t be better. I get to spend the evening surrounded by cute guys who won’t paw all over me.” We laughed.

“I gonna go clean up and change,” said Kenji, and he walked off.

Lori turned to me and kissed my cheek too.

“Need any help?” I asked.

“Nope. I got it.” She went into party prep mode, bringing bags of stuff from her car, cutting up lots of fresh fruit and putting things in dishes. My contribution to the effort completed for the moment, I wandered around with Koko, talking to him, fussing with the orchids, just relaxing until people started to arrive.

At one point I noticed Lori staring at me. “What?” I asked.

She grinned and shook her head. “Oh, nothing,” she said. Then she looked at me. “I was just looking at you, standing there holding Koko and this garden and the orchids and everything. It is a gorgeous site. I wish I had a camera. I don’t think you have any idea how good looking you are. If you ever get tired of boys and want to try a girl, you should call me.”

I blushed. I never know how to deal with compliments, especially from girls. Lori just laughed and went back to her party prep. I must confess it was a bit of an ego boost, coming from a girl that had lived under the same roof as Nick for the last twenty-one years. I must be giving off some kind of vibe, I thought, to receive two compliments in one afternoon.

I set Koko on a branch. Kenji knew just how to trim a few of his wing feathers so that he could still fly short distances, but not really very far. “Don’t let Koko eat any people food, ’kay?”

“Sure. No problem.”

I walked out to my Rav4. I put on a clean tee shirt that I had in the back, which is as close to formal as I ever get. I pulled out my guitar case just as the first carload of partygoers arrived. We all walked back together. Over the next hour about thirty people showed up. I knew most of them, but a few were friends of Nick’s from college that I hadn’t met.

Nick, of course, was one of the last to arrive. He was wearing a bright yellow flower print aloha shirt, unbuttoned and flapping open.

“Jeez, brah, you look like a tourist,” I said, and several people around us laughed.

“A sexy tourist, though,” added Kenji.

Kenji had changed into a sarong with a dark Polynesian print, and was not wearing a shirt. I thought he looked pretty sexy himself. Almost like a native with his skin so dark. Sometimes tourists can’t tell the difference, but anyone who lives here can clearly distinguish between Japanese and Polynesian features. The sarong showed off his ass well, and he had it tied pretty low on his hips. I don’t think he was wearing any underwear.

“Happy birthday, hot stuff,” said Kenji. He put a lei over Nick’s head and arranged it around his neck. “Now I can say I leid you on your birthday.” He received a mixture of laughs and groans to his goofy pun.

“That’s beautiful,” said Lori.

It was not a gaudy lei like they sell in tourist shops. Kenji had made it himself, an intricate woven pattern of small white and yellow orchid blossoms. I had seen thousands of leis before, most of which I consider quite tacky, but I had to agree that this one was very beautiful.

The weather cooperated and it turned into a lovely warm evening. Some of the guys dug up the roast pig, and everyone began to eat. I got in line early, and once I had eaten, I got out my guitar. It is actually the best of four guitars I have. A nice twelve string acoustic. I am pretty pleased with my skill with the guitar. I had been playing since I was quite young. My dad always had a few beater guitars laying around the house.

I was the self appointed entertainment for the evening. I played a mix of Hawaiian and folk music. A little Spanish guitar too—I’m not even sure where I picked that up; I just find it kind of sexy sounding. I threw in a bit of rock for Nick’s benefit. He was getting used to the mellow pace of life in Hawaii, but he was still a rocker at heart.

It was a good party. The food was great, the people were nice and friendly, and the setting was wonderful.

I watched Nick. He was having a great time, though he almost always seems like he is having a great time. He is very charismatic, and, especially on his birthday, was the center of attention. I watched him circulate, talking, laughing, occasionally touching an arm or an elbow. He was never alone; there were always a few people hovering around him like humming birds hovering a particularly sweet flower. I noticed eyes lingering on him when he wasn’t watching. He couldn’t possibly be unaware of his attraction, his effect on people, but he chose to ignore it. Instead he was just his happy self, and that happiness infected those around him.

I was pleased to see that Kenji seemed to be enjoying himself too. He smiled and socialized more than I had ever seen him since William died. For a long time, when Kenji smiled, it had been a forced or hollow smile, never untainted by grief. Every so often now, though, I saw the real smile break through, warming his face. He shyly stayed toward the edges of the party, sometimes having a conversation with someone, sometimes keeping his own company. Unlike Nick, Kenji seemed completely oblivious of his appearance. I watched guys looking at him occasionally, but Kenji never noticed.

Nick came to sit next to me for a few minutes when I put my guitar down.

“Are you going to let one of these guys take you home and give you a personal birthday treat?” I asked. I was sure it had to be on his mind. I’m fairly certain that at one time or another he had slept with half of the guys at the party. Almost any of them would gladly go with him that night if he were willing.

“Maybe two of them,” he joked, smiling at me. Well, maybe he wasn’t joking. He had done that before, I had heard. To me it was a titillating fantasy, but I think I would be a nervous wreck if I were ever with two guys at once. I shook my head. “Kenji looks happy,” he continued. “He looks pretty hot tonight too.”

“Yeah he does,” I said, agreeing with both comments. “He said you were trying to hook him up. He seemed okay with the idea.”

“Do you think he’s ready to start dating again?”

“He says he is.” I thought for a moment. “I hope so. He’s such a great dude, ya know? More than almost anything else, I want to see him happy again.”

“Yeah. I know what you mean.” He looked at me. “How about you? You dating again? Going back to Ed? Going celibate?”

“I don’t know,” I said, trying not to sound depressed. “I guess he’s not my prince charming.” He gave me a quizzical look. I shrugged my shoulders. Nick and I had very different dating habits. “I can’t help myself. I can’t do what you do, Nick. I get too emotionally tied up. It’s got to be the perfect guy for me. It has to be love.” Even saying it, I knew I sounded incredibly cliché, but it was true. I was sure Nick thought I was completely neurotic. “Don’t worry about me, brah. It’s your big day. Have fun!”

“I always have fun, Trevor,” he laughed. “But you two are my best buds. It makes me happy to see you happy.”

“I’m doing good tonight,” I lied. “So is Kenji. The stars must be lined up right or something.”

“Yeah.” He gave my shoulder a friendly squeeze, then walked off to talk to a couple of guys who were calling him.

I sighed. Playing the guitar had been a nice diversion for me. Now I was alone for the moment. I watched my two best buddies having a good time, and I started to feel like crap because Ed wasn’t with me. Mind you, it seemed Ed was never really with me in the first place. Not in the way that I wanted. Not true love. I should dump the prick, I thought to myself. It made no sense at all to try to rebuild a relationship with someone who lied to me like that. I just didn’t want to be alone. Being with Ed was better than being alone. Wasn’t it? I had no clear answer.

When the sun started to set, Kenji gave me a prearranged signal, and I started to play a customized version of the happy birthday song done to an island beat. Kenji and two other mostly native guys also dressed in sarongs began to do a Hawaiian dance around Nick. I thought they were pretty good, quite provocative. This was a big deal for Kenji, who is usually much too reserved to do a sexy dance in a sarong in front of a group of people. I kept playing for a long time. I thought Kenji was incredibly graceful. When we finally finished, the guys received a spirited applause, and they each kissed Nick on the cheek.

Then Lori brought out a birthday cake that Kenji had made from fresh coconuts we had picked a couple of days previously from trees right on the property. Nick blew out the candles.

“Hey this is great,” he said. “You guys are the best.”

I played some more as the sky got dark. Cake was passed around, and Nick opened the smattering of cards and small gifts. Lori came over to me.

“If I ever find the perfect husband,” she said, “promise me you’ll play at my wedding?”

“Of course,” I smiled at her. “Anyone in mind?”

“Not yet.” She looked around and then laughed. “And I certainly won’t find one at this party. But some day.”

I’d had some anxiety worrying about what to get Nick for his birthday. I am the poorest of the three of us. My father is a hippy surfer, and as long as we had a roof over our heads, money never meant anything at all to him. I seemed to be following in his footsteps, at least so far as surfing and money were concerned.

Kenji’s great uncle is worth a lot on paper because of all the land he owned, but as a practical matter, Kenji didn’t have all that much money available to spend either. The Orchid nursery earned a modest income, but nothing to get excited about.

Nick’s family, however, is moderately wealthy. Nick drives a Lexus that his parents bought him a year ago for his twentieth birthday. There is nothing I could buy that he couldn’t get for himself. He really only works at the nursery as an excuse to hang out with Kenji and me.

So I had ended up carving our three faces side-by-side into a small piece of driftwood I particularly liked. I have an artistic nature, and it was a pretty decent likeness of us, I thought. He seemed to really like it and gave me a big hug when he opened it. Kenji and I beamed at him warmly.

“Trevor…” he said. “This is so cool.” He stood and wrapped it in the piece of linen I had given it to him in, and put it in his pocket. He pulled both of us to him and we all three hugged in a tight embrace. “I love you both, and I hope we are friends forever.” Then he released us. That was about the most emotional display I have ever seen from Nick. He tends to be the least emotive of us.

After Nick had finished with the cards and gifts, the party seemed to shift to a different mode. About half of the guests, including Lori, called it a night and left. Those that remained started in on another round of food. There is a saying that Hawaiians don’t eat till they’re full, they eat till they’re tired. Some of them also started drinking more heavily, obviously intent on getting quite drunk. I hoped there would be enough sober people left to drive them home, because there wasn’t really anywhere at the nursery for people to crash if they got too drunk. Kenji pulled Nick and I aside.

“I better go,” he said. “No one has checked on my uncle since Trevor was there at lunch time.” He gave Nick a warm hug. “Happy Birthday, brah. I hope you have lots more.”

We all thought of William, who would never see another birthday.

“I thought I was supposed to fix you up tonight?” said Nick.

“I said I wouldn’t mind meeting someone again,” said Kenji. “But I ain’t anxious, though, brah. No hurry.”

Nick arched an eyebrow at him.

“Okay,” said Kenji. “I met some nice guys tonight. I had a really nice time. I might hook up with someone for a movie or da kine…” he trailed off.

“I bet half those guys are gonna be asking me for your number after you leave,” said Nick. “You look good enough to eat, dude. That sarong is pretty hot on you.”

I agreed with Nick, but of course didn’t say anything. It was the first time in ages I could remember Kenji making an effort to look good. Kenji was squirming a little.

“Hey, no pressure, brah,” I said.

I stared meaningfully at Nick. I thought he was pushing too hard. It had been a hard year or so for our friendship since William had died. Nick and I had done our best to try to comfort Kenji. But, really, what could we do besides just be with him and wait for the worst of the grief to pass. Now it seemed it had, mostly. But still…

“Yeah. Whenever you’re ready,” said Nick, having caught my look. “Thanks a lot for having such a great party for me.” He beamed a smile at Kenji. As usual, that smile made everything all right. He hugged Kenji again. Kenji turned to me.

“You staying over tonight, brah?” asked Kenji.

“No,” I said. “Dad’s got tomorrow off. We’re gonna go surfing in the morning. I’ll see you back here after I check on Masashi tomorrow, ’kay?” I gave him a quick hug too.

“’Kay,” said Kenji. He turned and left.

Nick and I wandered back to the party. Nick immediately waded back in to the throng. Nick was much more of an extrovert than me. I chatted briefly with a couple of guys, but didn’t feel especially social. Ed floated back in to my mind. Ed. Was I being a wuss going back to him? Naive to believe he would be faithful to me? I scowled. Probably so.

I would have gone home, but I felt responsible for making sure everything went right. That Nick had a good time, that nobody got too drunk and passed out, that nothing got damaged, that everything got locked up and the gate closed once everyone left—all that kind of stuff. Of course, Nick could do all of that too, but the party was for him, so I wasn’t about to pass it off on him tonight. Plus, I still figured he would pick someone and make a quiet departure some time before the party ended.

So I went back to playing my guitar quietly. Not so much to entertain this time, but just for something to occupy my hands and my brain. I lazily drank a beer and passed the time with my guitar until the party wound down.

Nick walked the last group to their car and I started to clean up a little. I put away food that would spoil or attract bugs and anything that might get damaged if it rained. I was just putting my guitar back in its case when Nick came back.

“That’s the last of them,” said Nick.

“You didn’t have to come back. I’m just cleaning up a few things. The rest can wait till tomorrow. I was just getting ready to go.”

“I was gonna go up to the grotto, Trevor. Come with me.”

“Sure, brah.”

“It wouldn’t feel like my birthday if we didn’t go up there. It’s one of the most beautiful places I know.”

“Yeah. It’s a nice night too.”

He pulled a small flashlight out of a daypack, then slung the bag over one shoulder. He flashed a huge smile at me. “Bring your guitar, surfer dude.”


If anyone else called me surfer dude, it would annoy the hell out of me. I kind of liked it coming from Nick, though. I picked up my case. Nick turned on the flashlight, and we headed off into the woods.

(To be continued.)

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