Higher Love

19 Jul
Papohaku Beach

Papohaku Beach

Catch up here.

Hot air wraps around us as we disembark and walk across the tarmac to the baggage claim, one long stainless steel platform on the other side of the fence. J.D. grabs our bags then we pick up our rental car after talking story with the rental agent, a friend I had not seen since high school.

We drive past town to the cemetery. I remove the extra maile lei we brought with us from the cooler in the trunk and carry it in my left hand while J.D. slips his left hand into my right. We walk in silence to the gravesite. I let go of J.D.’s hand and he slips his hands into his shorts pockets. I squat down, arrange the maile lei over the concrete headstone, kiss my fingertips then press them against the warm concrete, letting them linger.

Ethan de los Santos

Beloved Son

August 14, 1969 – March 23, 1977

I know you’ll be with us in spirit. I wish you could be with us in body.

I straighten myself and step back. J.D. wraps his left arm around my shoulders and kisses the top of my head. I lean into him and slide my right arm around his waist.


I smooth out the white-on-white Hawaiian print sundress as Lola pins the hem on her knees.

“No move, Ari.”

“Sorry, Lola.” I cross my arms and stand still. “Are you mad Dad isn’t here?”

“I learn long time ago your parents no can handle being here. It hurts, but I love your dad. He gave me you and your brother.” She looks up and flashes a smile at me.

“Do you think he’ll ever get over losing Ethan?”

“He had seventeen years already,” she says focusing on her pinning.

I jolt at the sound of Uncle Jimmy’s minivan in the carport.

“No move!” she scolds. “Aysos, Ari. No need go crazy. Close da door if you no like him see you.” She sits back on her heels.

I slam the door shut to her sewing room. She deftly pins the rest of the hem and I change into my blue sundress and join them in them in the living room where they are talking story.

“Sister,” Tommy greets smiling while we hug.

“Howzit.” I give Tommy and Brad their shirts Lola made for the ceremony.

“The rest of my family is at Moloka`i Shores already and I got us checked in,” J.D. informs me.

“Rehearsal is in an hour. We need to leave in thirty.”

“I’m taking Tommy to Uncle Jimmy’s to drop our stuff off.”

I turn to Brad, Patrick, George, and Mundo, “If I take you to meet everyone, you’ll be recruited to help with food prep.”

“I can help,” Patrick offers and stands.

“They’ve been butchering pigs back there,” I warn.

“Maybe not.” He sits back down.

J.D. has not moved. “You better hurry,” I tell him in a tone implying serious bodily harm if he’s late.

“Yes, babes,” he says mockingly, leaning over and brushing his lips against mine. “I really want to take that dress off,” he whispers in my ear.

I knee him when he turns to leave. He stutters forward then spins around looking surprised. I grin innocently and curtsy then make a shooing motion with my hand.

“Drinks are in the fridge. Lots of pan de sal and Moloka`i bread on the table and fruit on the counter. Help yourself,” I tell the guys then show them to guest room next to my grandparent’s room and to my room, letting them decide who sleeps where.

I slide the back door open. “Lolo!” I call as I close the door behind me. All the grandfathers are shirtless around a makeshift butcher’s table with knives in their hand carving the last of the pink flesh down into different cuts.

“Hah?” He calls back without looking up from his task.

“Come get ready. We go soon.”


Tommy and the guys return to our condo at Moloka`i Shores with us and several cases of beer in tow after the rehearsal dinner at the house. Tommy leaves briefly to get their cousins, Seth, Mary, and Wesley, from their condos.

We spend the rest of the night drinking and talking story until the beer is gone and we cannot keep our eyes open any longer.

“I’ll see you tomorrow on the beach,” J.D. says at the door smiling bright.

“C’mon, Jack!” Tommy calls from the sidewalk in a drunk whisper. “The guys are at Uncle Jimmy’s minivan already!”

“Go before someone complains about Tommy. I love you.” I hold the door open with my palm.

“I love you more.” He leans in, leaving a soft kiss and a whisper of breath on my lips.

He runs down the stairs and jumps on Tommy’s back. Tommy hooks his hands under J.D.’s legs and piggybacks him to the parking lot. I chuckle as I close the door.


Brad steps from the red dirt path onto the soft sand towards the setting sun and the beach full of family and friends. Uncle Jimmy, Uncle Glen, and Uncle Mick are playing guitar behind Tommy. J.D. is beaming, the Summer heat and humidity not seeming to bother him in his black pants, white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to his elbow, and maile lei around his neck.

I push my maile lei off the back of my neck making it slightly drapes down my back. I lightly feel around my hair making sure the French braid is okay and the tail is still rolled under and pinned up in the back. I squish my bare toes into the powdery red dirt. I hear the song change and look back up. All eyes are on me.

I hold my bouquet of white bougainvillea in both hands at my waist and step forward as Uncle Jimmy starts on the first verse of Higher Love.

J.D.’s smile shines like a beacon as I make my way to him. His delight is infectious and a wide smile spreads across my face.

I reach the wedding party and pass my bouquet to Brad then turn to J.D. and take his hands. The pastor welcomes everyone and launches into a sermon on love and marriage. His words swirl around me trying to break in as I attempt to listen but I’m swimming in two mesmerizing chocolate pools.

“James, you have something to share?” the pastor prompts.

J.D. squeezes my hands and uses his thumb to play with my engagement ring. “I never thought when I asked you to dinner a year ago that we’d be here right now. You humbled me by giving me a second chance. You honored me by saying yes. I can never match your grace, but I will love you with my whole heart the rest of our lives.”

“Ariana,” the pastor says.

“It’s always been like I found a missing piece of myself I didn’t know was missing with you. I’m a better person with you even when we disagree. You are patient when I am stubborn. You support me when I lose strength. You understand even when I don’t. I will love you with my whole heart for the rest of our lives.”

We exchange rings and the pastor announces, “James, you may kiss your bride.”

J.D. clasps my neck in his hands and runs his thumbs along my cheeks. I circle my arms around his waist and close the distance between us. Our lips play wantonly then breakaway. J.D. has a cockeyed smirk when I open my eyes and I cannot help but laugh.

The uncles play Just Can’t Get Enough. I keep my left arm around J.D. and I turn to Brad, taking my bouquet.

“I present to you, Mr. and Mrs. James Devlin.”

Everyone applauds and hoots.

You’re like an angel and you give me your love.

The photographer takes pictures of us with our family while the sun drops lower, painting the sky with pinks and lavenders. Everyone leaves and the photographer takes pictures of us with Brad and Tommy. The last pictures are of the two of us alone on the beach as the sun makes its final descent.

Cheers erupt when we enter the Mitchel Pauole Center. Tables with attached benches covered in butcher paper fill the room, except for space in front of the stage for dancing, tables for the food near the kitchen, and a table to the side for me, J.D., Brad, and Tommy. The four of us lay our maile leis across the table and I set my bouquet in the middle.

I call to Patrick, George, and Mundo. “Grab one chair and sit with us.”

Lolo uses the microphone on the stage to bless the food. A din of scooting chairs and people rushing for the food fills the large room once he finishes.

Tommy and Brad are called to the stage at the end of dinner. Maile and Derek run to our table with fire in their eyes and their smiles. Derek climbs into my lap giggling and Maile throws herself at J.D. He lifts her into his lap and cuddles with her.

Tommy speaks first. “Jack was euphoric when he met Ari. He was completely miserable when he broke up with her. I understood why when I finally met her.” He swallows. “She’s the North Star and she changed our family for good.” He raises his bottle. “Mabuhay!”

We lift our drinks and shout with the crowd, “Mabuhay!”

Brad takes the microphone from Tommy. “Patrick and I met Ari almost five years ago. She never failed to look out for us or make our swim meets to cheer us on even if she was the only spectator there. When she and J.D. got together he brought her to life. When they started dating again, she blossomed. They have always complemented each other.” He holds up his beer. “Mabuhay!”

“Mabuhay!” Everyone yells again.

We step out to the floor for our first dance. I place my left hand on J.D.’s shoulder and he wraps his right arm around my waist as our free hands find each other. The uncles play Faithfully with Uncle Mick singing. J.D. sings along on the last chorus.

Two strangers learn to fall in love again

I get the joy of rediscovering you

Oh girl, you stand by me,

I’m forever yours, faithfully

“Can I run away with my bride now?” he whispers.


“We still have the cake to cut and we have to finish the dance.”

“It’s the end of the song.”

“Money dance.” I tip my head to the line of guests forming. The uncles segue into Leather and Lace.

Auntie Bernie tucks a folded bill just inside J.D.’s collar. I lean in, taking the money between my teeth and dropping it into the basket Auntie Lori is holding on my left.

Rick tucks his money into the spaghetti strap of my dress. I tilt my head a little to the left. J.D. bends over and says hushed, “I’m liking this.”

The money exchange continues through five more songs. Three year-old Shay runs over halfway through Love Is and holds her arms up. J.D. squats down and she wraps her arms around his neck as his arm circles her thighs. She plops her head on his left shoulder and smiles at me. He wraps his right arm around me and I slide my left hand up his back to his shoulder and run my right hand through Shay’s black curls.

Lola beckons us to the cake, white with vanilla icing and a small grouping of blue roses on each tier, at the end of the song. I hold the cake knife and J.D. wraps his hand around mine. We cut into the soft cake and pull out a small piece then slice it in half.

“Ready?” he asks with a gleam in his eye.

“Ready.” I grin playfully.

I smash the cake in my hand into his face while he smears his along my face. Flashes go off around us and I let out a peal of laughter.

I present my bouquet to Karen after we clean up.

“What this for?” she asks taken aback.

“Because you and Dad deserve the same second chance, Mom.”

“Oh, Ari,” she coos with tears welling in her eyes and pulls me into an embrace.

We sneak out while everyone is on the dance floor doing the Electric Slide.

We walk from our rental car to our condo with an arm around each other. I hold the screen door open while he unlocks the door, then he sweeps my legs out from under me while I catch him around the neck. He carries me over the threshold and nudges the door shut.


I wake to J.D.’s arms wrapped around me from behind, his lips trailing kisses along my shoulder.

“Mm,” I murmur.

“Good morning, gorgeous.”

“Morning, baby,” I say sleepily.

“Auntie Bernie wants to know when we’re coming over to open presents.”

“What did you tell her?”

“After a few more rounds.”

“Not!” I exclaim turning around.

“Joking,” he chuckles and grazes his lips under my ear. “But it could happen. When on Moloka`i, run on Moloka`i time.” He runs his hand down my thigh to the back of my knee and draws my leg over his.

“Whenever we want to show up? You are a very tempting distraction, Mr. Devlin.” I caress his cheek.

“As are you, Mrs. Devlin.” He tilts his head down and our mouths meet voraciously.

©Debi Smith, 2013

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Posted by on July 19, 2013 in Uncategorized


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