A/N: All restaurants, hotels, and other locales are entirely fictional with the exception of the Maui airport.
EARLY MORNING—SEA-TAC AIRPORT
"Finally," Mum said as we made our way into the airport. "Now, hurry up! We don't want to be late and miss our plane. I need a break, and somewhere sunny is just what I need. For God's sake, Daphne, are you coming?"
"I'm right here!" I said impatiently. "And we have plenty of time!"
"Well, I wasn't sure," Mum answered with a sniff. "I didn't know if you were coming or if you were just going to stand around snogging Niles."
I smiled at this, remembering how sweetly he had kissed me goodbye and whispered: "I'll miss you so much."
"Are you coming? Or am I going on this trip by meself?"
I hurried after my mother, feeling a sense of foreboding, as she was not in a good humor.
"No, I don't have any hazardous items to declare!" Mum shouted at the luggage check clerk. "I'm just an old woman, do I look like I want to blow up the—,"
I elbowed her sharply.
"Mum, please! You can get detained for saying things like that!"
"Hmph. And here I thought this was a free country," Mum grumbled. "Miss, can we go before me daughter embarrasses me again?"
"You may proceed," the clerk replied, forcing a smile. I gave her an apologetic look as we continued.
We soon joined the throng heading to security check. I groaned when I saw how long the line was—nothing but other people as far as the eye could see. When I heard a nearby agent tell a passenger that the wait would be an hour long, I wondered if I'd have my sanity intact by the end.
"This is ridiculous," she nearly shouted.
This is going to be a hellish vacation if she continues like this, I thought desperately.
By then, we approached the security station. I braced myself to intervene if Mum had another outburst like the one at luggage check, but the TSA agent's military demeanor seemed to have quelled anything she might have wanted to say.
At last we were through, and Mum and I headed for the gate, with only moments to spare. We were soon settled into the first-class cabin, and I sighed in relief as I sank into the roomy seat. Next stop, Hawaii.
"Thank God that's over," Mum whined six hours later as we hailed a taxi at Maui's Kahului Airport and hailed a taxi. "I can't wait to get some rest. I swear, these old legs are about to give out after running around like maniacs at the airports and sitting in a plane for over five hours!"
"You'll be fine," I said through gritted teeth. "You just need to relax and take it easy for the rest of the day, and everything will be back to normal."
"How uncaring you are about your own mother's health," she sniffed. "I don't hear you talk like that to Martin."
"You haven't been shot in the hip," I pointed out.
Mum fell silent at this; even she realized the severity of Martin's situation.
"Well, at least he's had an excellent physical therapist doing wonders for him."
I nearly choked on the water I'd been sipping. An actual compliment from Mum? This trip was doing wonders for her already.
"Here we are, ladies!" the taxi driver soon announced with a smile, pulling up in front of a grand hotel. "Palila Resort!"
She helped us with our luggage and then left us to stare at the enormous resort, which was nearly all sea-blue glass on the outside, with floral designs on the sliding doors.
An attendant in a colorful uniform greeted us as we passed through the doors, and Mum and I found ourselves in a huge atrium filled with tanks full of exotic fish and pots of tropical flowers. Scattered among these was comfortable furniture.
"Come on, let's get checked in. The sooner we put our things away, the sooner we can look around," Mum said eagerly, heading to the reception desk at a fast walk.
I couldn't help smiling at her childlike enthusiasm. It was nice to see her smiling again after what had happened with Dad. And it would be fun to kick back, check out the room, and—
Niles had originally booked one room, of course, when it had been just the two of us going. Now I'd have to share the same room with my mother! So much for peace and quiet. Mum's good humor couldn't last.
Look on the bright side, I coached myself as I caught up with her. You're in HAWAII, in a beautiful hotel…
"Your rooms are eleven twenty and eleven twenty-two," the receptionist was saying to Mum.
The receptionist smiled at my surprise.
"You must be Daphne. Your fiancé called and explained that plans had changed, and we just happened to have two rooms still available!"
Thank Heavens, I thought. But I should've known Niles would come through for me, even on a simple matter like that.
"Come on, Stilts!" Mum said impatiently. "I want to see everything! We'll take a swim in the pool and after that, we can have dinner. The hotel restaurant is supposed to have a lobster bisque that's to die for!"
"Sounds good!" I replied. "I just have to call Niles and let him know we're here in one piece."
I relaxed into a huge lounge chair on the pool deck just an hour later. Mum was doing laps across the pool, but I was content to gaze out to the beautiful beach that was just steps away from the resort. Palms dotted the white sands, and the turquoise blue water seemed to stretch to infinity. It was the most beautiful place I'd been to since Belize.
Smiling contently, I settled deeper into the cushions and read a guidebook I'd bought in the hotel gift shop, eager to find things that Mum and I could do together. I wanted to make the most of this vacation.
"So, what do you have in mind for tomorrow?"
Mum's voice startled me and I looked up from the book. She was asking me for an opinion? I grinned.
"I thought in the morning we could go bird watching," I said. "There's a nice preserve not too far from here. And then we'll have lunch at could have lunch Apapanae Grill. It's supposed to have the best local fare."
"Keep going," Mum said happily.
"In the afternoon we could try out more of the amenities here and then finish off with a fish grill and luau on the beach. But for now, why don't we have dinner?"
"I'm in," Mum agreed, and I struggled to conceal my surprise at her approval.
A short time later, I was putting the finishing touches on my evening outfit, a form-fitting but elegant black-and-gold dress I'd bought just for this occasion. I had modeled it for Niles the night before, and he'd called me "stunning" at least twice. A wave of longing washed over me as I remembered how much Niles and I had planned to do together—romantic dinners, swimming in the surf, making love on a secluded beach…
My thoughts were interrupted by Mum knocking on my door.
"Daphne, are you ready to go?"
She met me in the hall; she was also wearing a new outfit, a matronly but flattering dress in a deep shade of maroon.
"So, what do you think?" she asked with girlish innocence.
I gave her a thumbs up and she smiled an oddly shy smile.
"Thank you. And you look nice, too," she said generously.
Another compliment from my domineering mother? Was there some magic in this tropical paradise? Ever since we'd gotten to Hawaii, we were actually getting along. Maybe this vacation wouldn't be so bad, after all.
I should have knocked on wood.
The top floor of the hotel was occupied almost entirely by the luxurious Hibiscus Bistro. We were swiftly ushered to a table overlooking the ocean. The sun was beginning to set, spreading pink jets of light across the sky and tinting the water a shade of violet. It was absolutely breathtaking.
"Daphne!" Mum hissed, drawing my attention away.
Mum was staring at me, looking almost…angry, disdainsfully dropping the menu on the table as if for emphasis. I wracked my brain, trying to figure out what I could possibly have done wrong.
"Anything wrong, Mum?" I asked nervously.
"We need to eat somewhere else!" she declared.
"I thought…you wanted to eat here," I said, thoroughly confused.
Mum sniffed and tapped on the menu.
"Not anymore. These prices are ridiculous!"
I smiled and patted her arm. "Mum, it's our vacation. Get whatever you want."
Her expression darkened even more, and I steeled myself for one of her tirades. Stupid, stupid Daphne, I scolded myself. Did you really think we could get along this entire trip?
A server came by to take our orders, but Mum shooed him away. She gave me a petulant glare and spoke to me in a voice full of resentment.
"Maybe Niles is used to throwing money away, but I hate feeling like a freeloader," she snapped.
"Don't 'Mum' me. I'm shocked that you've forgotten the value of money, considering how we counted every pence when you and your brothers were growing up. But, I suppose, it's just another result of you acting on your ridiculous attraction to Niles Cr—,"
"Enough!" I shouted. "I love Niles, but I was too blind to realize it before I found out long he's loved me. If you can't accept that…"
I whirled and raced out of the restaurant, fighting back tears as the other patrons looked on in shock.
Fighting back tears, I ran out of the restaurant, never looking back. It wasn't until I was in the sanctuary that was my room that I collapsed onto the bed and finally gave vent to my emotions.
Not even a tropical getaway could change things between me and my mother.