A HAWAIIAN DATE

'Kaaloa's Kitchen' wasn't as crowded as Nani once had known it to be. Her parents used to take her there, along with Lilo. But apart from being their favorite place for family celebrations, it had also been the restaurant where their parents used to date. Nani still remembered their stories; their fights over the bill, her father's allergy in mango that he discovered he had after ordering the fruit combo, the failed wedding proposal with the ring in the drink ending up in her mother's stomach…

Nani had not been there in a while. Celebrations were not much of an option lately. She noticed the different decoration, the new waiters and the new courses on the menu. She didn't like changes, but she knew that, no matter what, that restaurant was going to have a special place in her heart.

David knew. Probably that was why he had suggested it for their date. He always had a way of making Nani happy, even if it was difficult recently.

Everything was as Nani had imagined. The soothing music, the relaxing atmosphere, their table next to the window overlooking the sea, it was all amazing. The perfect date. If only she could enjoy it, for her mind was totally elsewhere.

"Nani? Are you okay?" David's voice interrupted her worried thoughts and brought her back to reality.

"I'm sorry, David. I was lost in my thoughts. Never mind, let's order" she answered with a forced smile.

"You know, maybe we should leave. It's completely fine if you don't want to do this right now. You must be tired after all" David said with a compassionate and caring voice.

"No, it's alright! Besides, I'm so hungry I could eat a whole whale".

"I'll check if that's on the menu, but I don't think so" he awkwardly tried to make her laugh.

It was true that maybe she would prefer going to sleep, but that was the perfect occasion for the date. Lilo had practice at school for the upcoming hula festival until later in the evening, and the store Nani was currently working at would be closed the following day. Besides, she had already declined David's invitations many times, due to her responsibilities. It was indeed a wonder he kept asking her out! He had also said various times that Lilo could come along with Nani, which Nani thought was very sweet of him, but she had enough of her sister meddling in her romantic affairs, reading her diary and making fun of her descriptions of David.

Suddenly, a loud sound echoed. Nani's eyes left the menu, saw a firetruck running in the street and widened.

"Oh my, do you think something happened in—" she shouted rising from her chair and grabbing her bag ready to leave.

"Nani, relax" he cut her off and calmed her down, grabbing her calmly from her shoulders and making her sit back again.

"But what if the firefighters go to—"

"Lilo's school is in the other direction. So is your house" he smiled, trying not to laugh. Then his voice became more serious and he reassured her: "Everything is fine", to which Nani could object, but she just sipped her mango juice instead.

It didn't take long for the waiter to come and take their order. It felt good to Nani that she was at last going to eat something she hadn't cooked poorly herself.

"So, I heard there is going to be a surfing tournament next week" David said enthusiastically. "Maybe we could go watch. I can also bring my board, show off a little bit and then let you borrow it. It will be fun, they said in the TV that we are going to have good waves this season".

That would make Nani very happy, at least it would distract her from her thoughts. She used to love surfing, even wanted to be a professional. But all that was left from that dream was a broken board in the corner of her room and some dusty, forgotten trophies.

Surfing was actually the reason she had gotten to know David better, since they both loved the sport and all of their summers were spent in the beach, swimming, surfing and building sand castles. Their boards were their homes, whether they were surfing or just laying on them in the sea and talking for hours, until the sunset, when she would realize that the time had passed and she had to return home immediately before her parents could scold her. David always thought that he was a better surfer than her, but Nani was winning all the competitions and was riding the bigger waves. And all those times she would tease him for some falls of his without any grace, he would answer that it was either the wind's or the sun's in his eyes fault. Her lips formed a smile when all those memories came to her mind.

"David, that would be lovely. But unfortunately I will be very busy next week. Yet another social worker is coming and the house is a mess" she sighed with a tired expression on her face upon remembering all the chores that had to be done and with which Lilo was never eager to help. The exact opposite: she was making everything worse with her untidiness.

"No problem. Maybe some other time. I'll be sure to tell you everything about it. And maybe I could come and help in cleaning up, if I'm not going to get in your way. My ex-boss said I was an excellent sweeper".

"That's very kind of you, but you don't need to bother yourself with all that. I can manage".

"I know you can. I'm just saying that it will be more fun. They say 'the more, the merrier', right?"

Nani smirked.

"I don't know, it's really a lot of mess. You know you are welcome at our house any time, but it won't be a very pleasant sight to see. Half-finished plates everywhere, clothes on the floor, dust on the shelves and so on. The only thing missing is an alien invasion!"

"I'm not a stranger, Nani. You don't have to feel ashamed if I see your place is dirty. I can pass by on Monday for a few hours, what do you say?"

Nani smiled and nodded affirmatively full of gratitude. That was one of the times she was thankful for having David in her life. She would often feel guilty because she couldn't help him in the same way he did and she knew she couldn't pay him back for all of his support and caring, but then his kind smile would tell her that he didn't owe him anything and what he was doing was all out of pure concern.

As soon as their dishes arrived, they devoured them. Nani always loved good food. And especially sharing it with good friends. She decided at that moment that she would try to be a better cook.

"Do I have sauce around my mouth?" David asked after he had finished his course.

Nani began to notice him. She hadn't realized before: his face had hardened. His jawline had become stronger, his eyebrows were thicker and little facial hair had begun to appear in his dark cheeks and his chin. Nani had always found him handsome since they were little, but now it was different. He was no longer a cute boy, but a man. A charming man with a more mature and direct look in his eyes. And his hair… "So fancy!" Nani thought to herself.

She had forgotten how beautiful he was. She was meeting him on such a frequent base, yet she hadn't taken a single moment to just stop and look at him. That attractive man was her date. And for a moment she felt like the luckiest woman in the world.

"No sauce, David. You are fine" she replied in a soft whisper, her eyes still fixed on him.

But then a sudden thought led her eyes from David's face to her watch. She had to pick up Lilo from school at nine and the time was passing by so fast when she was around David. She couldn't be late again. A sigh of huge relief followed when she realized they still had some time left.

"I'm sorry I have been looking at my watch countless times tonight. I don't mean to be rude" she apologized.

"Don't even mention it! I know it's for Lilo. Relax, we will be there on time. Do let me know of the festival's time and place when you learn, please".

"Of course. She will be thrilled to see you there. She says she made a huge progress lately. She will tell you all about it when we pick her up. I just really hope she didn't get into a fight this time…"

"They are just kids, Nani. It's normal to have a few… aggressive disagreements".

Nani rolled her eyes and continued eating her dinner.

….

Soon they left the restaurant and went to Lilo's school. Kumu fortunately didn't make any complaints about her, but Nani didn't like the sad and lonely expression she noticed on her face when she came out, later than the rest of the girls. However, she cheered up when she saw David along with Nani and ran into his arms.

Nani was worried that her sister would still be angry at her for yelling at her about her dirty bedroom before the lesson, but Lilo had obviously forgotten all about it.

It was such a lovely night. Nani didn't want it to end. There was a full moon and a light summer breeze. A perfect set for the romantic souls and a much wanted break from her routine. The stars were shining so brightly she could almost hear them dance.

As she was walking next to David, his hand accidentally touched hers. They both drew back and blushed, continuing listening to Lilo's experiences from today's lesson, pretending nothing had happened. Were they in daylight, the little girl would undoubtedly make fun of their rosy cheeks.

Then they arrived at their house, and David had to continue alone.

"Goodnight, David! It was good to see you" Lilo said with a yawn, pretty tired.

"It was good to see you too, Lilo! Sleep well" David replied and gave her a warm smile.

"Um, baby, don't you go inside, now?" Nani asked Lilo.

"Why? So I can leave alone and you two can smooch smooch?" she teased cheerfully and made kissing sounds.

David blushed and looked at the ground, while Nani was red with anger and embarrassment and started chasing her.

"How dare you! Listen up, you little—"

"Goodnight!" Lilo shouted as she escaped from her sister and ran inside the house rapidly, although Nani was absolutely certain she would spy on them through the window.

"I'm so sorry about that, David!"

"No, it's alright" he responded in awkward laughter and then they stood in silence for a few moments. "Nani" he continued, somewhat shyly, "I… I had a very good time tonight. Thank you for the date. I mean… it was a date, wasn't it? Well, I know you are very busy and it means a lot to me that we spent the afternoon together".

"Thank you too. It was indeed really nice" she said, much more confident than him.

"I'm glad you see it that way. And whenever you are available, we could repeat—"

"I am not sure I can do this frequently" she interrupted him. "It's not that I don't want to. It's just a little difficult with so many things going on right now".

"I know. That's what I wanted to say. I understand and I am not going to pressure you. I don't mind waiting. I just want you to know that I'll be here. Right here".

Nani's heart skipped a beat. Those were some words she had longed to hear. And she knew David truly meant them.

"Thanks" she whispered deeply touched.

Much to Lilo's disappointment, she didn't see a kiss or even a hug.

"Lame!" she murmured when she saw David leaving and Nani approaching the door.

But Nani's thoughts were far different. It was undeniably an amazing evening.