SISTERCHICKS DO THE HULA
Robin Jones Gunn
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It was Laurie's idea to go to Hawai'i. Both times.
The first time she made the suggestion was in 1983, on a stormy night in March. We were twenty, sophomores at UC Santa Barbara, and I was up to my knees in shattered bits of my own broken heart.
Apparently while I was busy trying on bridal gowns and ordering invitations for our June 18th wedding, my "fiancé" had been busy making out with some seventeen-year old cinnamon twist that worked at Taco Bell. I burst into our dorm room the torrid night of his confession and splurted out my wretched news: my engagement was off!
I suppose Laurie might have seen this coming, but to her everlasting credit, she did not bash my ex-fiance nor did she try to collect the fragments of my heart and glue them together. Instead, she administered a steady supply of tissues for my big, gloppy tears.
When I finished my fateful soliloquy, Laurie gathered a lovely bouquet of sweet words and presented them to me as if this had been opening night on the world's greatest tragedy and the stage had been all mine.
"It's okay, Hope," she said. "You're going to be okay. Better, in fact. You are a rare and valuable treasure of a woman. One day a true-hearted man will come along who will be worthy of your love. You'll see. Until then, you'll be very good at recognizing the pirates when they comes along."
A curtain on my naive childhood notions closed that night and I went on to believe new truths about myself. Truths I never would have seen, had Laurie not been there to show them to me.
We then proceeded to the vending machine at the end of our hall and ceremoniously inserted our laundry quarters until all the Oreos and Reece's Pieces were ours. Returning to our room, we ate every last dot and crumb while sitting cross-legged on Laurie's sheepskin rug.
I almost had my emotional equilibrium back when Laurie said, "I think we should go somewhere on June 18th. Just you and me, Hope. Someplace exotic."
"That way June 18th will have a new significance for you. You know, like in The King and I'. Remember how Anna went to Siam after her husband died? She made a new adventure for herself. Remember how she danced with Yul Brenner?"
I wadded up the last candy wrapper and tossed it into the trash. "How could dancing around with a bald man who wears pajamas possibly make me feel better?"
Laurie laughed. "Don't you see? Whenever one dream goes away, you need to go chase a new dream until you catch it."
"However," I pointed out, "It's not as if Anna actually caught the king of Siam in the end."
"True, but she could have, if she wanted to. I think."
I started crying again.
Laurie held firm. "Come on, Hope. This isn't about guys. It's about dreams. Adventure. Carpe diem and all that. You and I are both free women. We can go anywhere we want. Where should we go?"
"How about Hawai'i?" Laurie said with a wide grin.
With that, our first dream of Hawai'i was born. Within two days we had the whole adventure-filled week planned.
The only thing we needed was money.
Laurie decided to go home for Spring Break and work at her parents' restaurant in the Napa Valley. I went with her. We hoped for many generous tippers but it turned out there was only one. Gabriel Giordani.
Before my eyes, Laurie fell in love with this struggling artist who came to the café every day with his two daughters. His wife had passed away a few years earlier and all the locals loved gossiping about Gabe and his paint splattered jeans. Laurie gave them something to really gossip about on the morning we drove back to school. She kissed Gabe on the mouth, right in front of the café window.
We were about three miles down the road when Laurie said, "You know what, Hope? I'm going to marry that man."
I smiled and said, "I know."
I also knew that our plans for Hawai'i were permanently on hold. But what did that matter compared to finding true love? I wished her all the best, just as she had wished a pirate-free life for me.
Dashing Gabe was hopelessly in love with Laurie and put a diamond on her finger on the 4th of July. His daughters adored her. They wore matching flower girl dresses at the wedding that fall and when their baby sister who came along fifteen months later, they were ecstatic.
I finished school with a degree in business and took an entry level position for an insurance company in Hartford, Connecticut. My love story isn't as dramatic as Laurie's but it's all mine. Darren and I met when I joined a church softball team. I tried to steal home at the first game and ripped the knee on my jeans, losing the game but winning Darren Montgomery's keen admiration. He was everything Laurie had predicted would be waiting for me in a true hearted man. I asked her to be my maid of honor but finances and distance kept that little wish from coming true.
For the next decade Laurie and I managed to occasionally send Christmas and birthday cards but we rarely called each other. I was busy having babies; three boys. Laurie was busy raising their three girls and working part time at her parent's café while Gabe pursed his art.
Then something happened that changed the importance of our friendship. Gabe became practically famous.
One morning, about five years ago, Laurie called me. She was crying little sniffly tears. An untrained ear might think she was simply coming down with a cold, but I knew she was crying. She leaked and squeaked. I slushed and gushed. We knew this about each other.
"Everybody wants something from me," she said. "I feel like I can't trust anybody."
"One of the moms from school called me last week and said she'd love to get together for coffee. I thought she truly wanted to get to know me. So I invited her over this morning and do you know what she did? She brought all her watercolors and three oils."
I wasn't sure what that meant.
"I now have fourteen canvases propped up in my living room waiting for my husband to come home and evaluate her work so she can get discovered."
"I didn't know she was an aspiring artist. I thought she wanted to be my friend."
I invited Laurie to go ahead and fling all the jagged bits of her battered heart at me. I listened for a long time. Then I told her she was a treasure and this experience would help her be much more clever about spotting future pirates who wanted to use her to get to her husband.
"I know. You're right. I can be so naïve sometimes."
"I miss you, Hope. I wish we could be in each others everyday lives."
"So do I."
After we hung up, I went right out and mailed Laurie a bag of Double Stuff Oreos and a jumbo bag of Reece's Pieces with a note that said, "I will always be your true friend." I also told her I would call her the next week. And the week after. And the next.
Thus, the second season of our friendship was launched.
With it came the sweetness of lingering hopes whispered at midnight decades ago, when we first trusted each other with the invisible key to the back door of our heart.
What neither Laurie nor I knew about this new season was that it was going to be better than the last, due to a secret neither of us expected to share. It all started when we learned to do the hula.
Excerpted from SISTERCHICKS DO THE HULA © Copyright 2003 by Robin Jones Gunn. Reprinted with permission by Multnomah Publishers Inc. All rights reserved.
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