He seemed confused, as if he’d expected this to be a lot harder. And maybe he had—our first two break-ups certainly hadn’t been this calm, on either side. Maybe that was because we’d been unfinished then. I didn’t know, any more than I knew if we were really finished now.
All I knew was that after all this time, after everything that had happened to me in the last couple of weeks, I wanted Mark to be happy. If Chelsea could make him happy, then I certainly wasn’t going to do anything to mess that up.
“Are you sure? I mean, I know you’ve been going through a rough time and I didn’t want to hurt you.”
“You didn’t hurt me, Mark. Honestly.”
He reached for me, dragged me closer so he could see my face in the porch light. “You swear, Tempest? Because I haven’t done anything—”
“Shhh.” I laid my fingers on his lips. “I swear, Mark. I’m fine.”
He reached out a finger, traced it down my cheek. “You really are the most beautiful girl.”
“You’d better be careful or I’m going to think you hit your head.”
“That’s one of the things I always liked about you—you never see yourself the way the rest of us do.”
I laughed. “Yeah, well, don’t get used to it. Cheerleaders are a whole different breed from surfers.” And then I was standing on tiptoe, brushing my lips softly across his. He kissed me back, his lips warm and firm, and for just a minute there was that old spark, the one that had kept bringing us back together no matter how many times we’d broken up.
And then it was just us, two friends, moving on.
“Good-bye, Mark.” I squeezed his hand.
I let myself out into the rapidly darkening night. The stars had just begun to peek through the purple sky and I watched, starstruck, as one shot across the heavens.
I wished on it, like my mother had taught me to when I was little more than a toddler, and then walked slowly home.
When I got home, my father was sitting in the family room, reading a book while Moku and Rio watched Batman for the three thousandth time.
“Did you have fun?” he asked, watching my face closely.
“I did, actually.” I headed up the stairs. “I’m going to go start on my homework now.”
“There’s dinner in the kitchen. I left a plate for you.”
I started to tell him that I wasn’t hungry, that I’d get it later, but the look in his eye warned me not to push it too far. He’d been trying to give me more space than usual since I’d gotten home, but there were limits to that. And starving myself was definitely outside of those limits.
As I waited for my chicken and broccoli to heat up, I couldn’t help thinking about how funny life was. Six weeks ago, I’d had a mother I hated, a boyfriend I loved, and a life I was almost comfortable with. Now, I had no mom—to hate or otherwise—no guy, and a life that was anything but comfortable. And yet, for the first time in a very long time, I was close to being at peace. Who would have thought breaking up with my boyfriend could change my perspective so completely?
Since I was in the kitchen, I took the back staircase up to my room. But once there, I couldn’t settle. I kept looking out at the sky, at the ocean, and thinking about my mother. Thinking about Kona.
What was he doing now? Had he seen the shooting star? Had he wished on it like I had? Or was he too busy keeping up with all his princely duties to notice?
I opened my chem book, tried to get started. But the last thing I was interested in was the periodic table. Tossing it away, I tried English and then precalc. Nothing stuck. I was too restless, too twitchy, to concentrate on anything.
I prowled my room looking for something, anything, to do, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the ocean. It was wild tonight, the wind whipping the surf into a frenzy. It was beautiful and I wanted to be out there, wanted to dive deep and swim until I was too tired to go any longer.
But that was impossible. That wasn’t my life, wasn’t what I wanted for myself. And yet I couldn’t help wondering if I’d felt so peaceful earlier because I’d cut one more tie to my human life.
My eyes fell on the backpack Kona had given me so many weeks ago. I hadn’t touched it after I got home, hadn’t done anything but fumble in it that one time on the beach, when I’d pulled out the sarong.
Suddenly I had to know what was in there. I picked it up and my fingers were working the zipper before I’d even made it to the bed. I dumped the contents on my paint-splattered purple comforter and slowly started sifting through them.
At first I was disappointed. There was a pair of cute flip-flops with seashells on them, a violet tank top that matched the sarong, and my mother’s box. Nothing personal. Nothing that might have carried a message from Kona to me.
Not that I should really expect one—I’d dumped him and I hadn’t been nearly as nice about it as I had been with Mark. Why should he want to have anything to do with me after that?
But as I lifted up the T-shirt and shook it, something round and shiny fell out of it and bounced onto the carpet.
I scrambled off the bed and started searching my less-than-pristine floor. I tossed aside my dirty clothes, the book I had been reading the day before, and a bunch of pillows before I found it, nestled against one of my canvases.
I picked up Kona’s gift gingerly, shocked by how much it glowed in the dim bedroom light. My first good look at it told me it was an amethyst as big as a baby’s fist. It was a deep, rich purple—so dark that it was almost black—and cut so that all of its many, many facets reflected light.
I held it under my lamp, then gasped as it seemed to catch fire. Kona had sent me a sunburst, a moonbeam, a shooting star to light up the darkest nights of my life. I clutched it to my chest and tried not to cry—for everything I had already given up and everything I would give up in the future.
I sat there, curled up on my bed, for a long time, clutching the stone to my chest and watching as night quietly settled over the ocean. And then figured, since I’d already come that far, that I might as well go all the way.
I reached for my mother’s box and flipped the clasp open. I was nervous, my hands trembling just a little bit, but I refused to give in to the nerves. It was just a box, I reminded myself. Just a box, and whatever was inside of it didn’t have the power to hurt me. I wouldn’t let it.
I lifted the lid and on top, just as the queen had said, was a letter in my mother’s handwriting, addressed to me. I pulled it out, laid it on the bed without reading it. There would be time enough for that later.
There wasn’t much else in the box, just my mother’s engagement and wedding rings, a drawing of the ocean I had made her when I was seven or eight, and a picture of the five of us. In it, my mother was seated with Moku on her lap and Rio and I on either side of her. My father stood behind us, his hand on her shoulder and a huge smile on his face.
I studied the picture for the longest time. I had never seen it before and was shocked at how happy we all looked. At how much of a family we seemed. I turned it over, was shaken by the date on the back. It seemed impossible to imagine that in less than a year from when the photo had been taken, my mother would be gone.
I wanted to resent her, wanted to keep up the rage that burned within me, but looking at her in the picture—so young, so vibrant, so obviously in love with her husband and children—it was hard for me to stay angry. I didn’t know why she’d chosen to leave all those years ago; I’d probably never know. But wasting my life hating her, not wanting to be like her, wasn’t doing me any good.