THE INVASION BEGAN - as it always did - in the last days of December. Our little town of five hundred would soon swell to two thousand. The boats would come as surely as one day follows the last. It’s not as if we didn’t have the room or need the money. It’s that our idyllic and nearly perfect lives were about to be disrupted. Our island paradise needed a shot in the arm and every year at this time that’s what it got.
As a practical matter, we had to pay a price. For the next month our penalty for eleven months of fishing, gardening, puttering, dreaming and making love in the sand during wonderful, warm nights under bright, quiet stars would reduce us to servitude.
Twelve years ago when Becky and I arrived on the island, although still remote, the closest five neighbors came calling. They came as a casual Welcome Wagon, and one even asked, with a broad smile, to borrow a cup of sugar. Becky and I got a kick out of that. For the rest, smiles and handshakes and “Welcome to Beautiful Island,” worked fine. We looked them over and they looked back. We decided they were the salt of the earth and they decided we were salt enough for them.
Becky, my bride of twelve wonderful years came to the door and called. “Lance, come in to lunch.”
I squinted, a hand above my eyes, looking west over our private bay, past the white sand and across five hazy miles toward what I thought of as the “mainland” one last time before I turned to go in. Five miles of deep blue, gently white-capped ocean separated heaven, not from hell, but from busyness, crime, burgeoning populations, and people a lot like me frantically trying to live well.
In my mind I saw scurrying ants doing their thing; building, moving, polluting, dying, and they were as remote and separate as though we were on another planet.
Today the haze almost obliterated the eroded cliffs and sharply vertical mountains. I loved them. They were a distant part of the ambience I appreciate every day. The bright pall told me the jet stream had dipped south and it meant a change in the weather. It made me think of the hazy fog that dissipates my nightly dream, how it passes like a gauzy wave and melts away as I emerge from sleep and I pictured rolling into the softness of Becky, who asleep or awake moves into the contours of my body.
The hot sun beat on my forehead. The errant thought came to me that I didn’t think about brow or face or any part of me often. Well, perhaps when Becky took my hand and led me into bed at night, perhaps then I did.
My parents and my only other sibling, an older brother, were killed in a private plane crash, God rest their souls. It’s a very distant hurt now. Dad had instilled in me a love for what nature provides and the desire to care for it, to be one with it. The mission and the attendant activity had toned me up, while my active designers mind reshaped our home.
Mom and Dad had owned the place before us and their parents before them. The will gave me the property and love gave me Becky.
I headed up the wooden steps. The eight foot deep porch ran the thirty-foot length of the building. I’d replaced the thatch roof over the porch earlier in the year and it looked good. A couple of nasty storms hadn’t ruffled it much, not since I added wire mesh over the top. I’d gotten quite expert at what I called "chores." For me it meant everything that needed doing on the fourteen-acre property. At the screen door I focused on the few flying insects in view and gauged when I could jump through the door. I batted at a lone mosquito on a wrong trajectory, and then opened the screen and passed through quickly. I enjoyed outwitting hungry bugs.
“Hi Honey.” She turned her lips up for a proper kiss, which I dutifully gave.
“Waiting for the first one?” she asked.
“No. Dreading is more like it.”
“We have to eat.”
“You know how I feel.”
She smiled at me.
From king of my private domain, essentially living a perfect life alone with my wife, I must submit to noise and confusion and demands of house-guests who would crowd my beaches and eat my food. There would be damage - kids will be kids - and I crossed my fingers as I did every year. Maybe not this time. Becky was fond of saying that it was part of the price and she’d shrug and I loved her gesture.
Dad’s grandfather bought two hundred acres on the three-mile long island eighty years before. He’d been a lawyer and speculated in land when nobody even considered Kauai’s outlying islands on the east. He’d told his family they were part of paradise, too. Dad told him Grandpa had vision and means - the best combination - and he got it for a song. Over the years the two hundred acres shrunk to fourteen. I still considered it a lot of property to care for.
Becky said, “Sit.”
Her tone wasn’t imperious, but mischievous. She loved me, no doubt, and I loved her, not only because of her passion and sensibility, but because she completed me. Her sandwiches, simple fare prepared from Gram’s great bread recipe, sliced thin and served with mayo, Swiss cheese and salami with a dill pickle on the side looked terrific. I waited until she sat down and picked up my first half.
“You finish that last hut?” she asked. Becky’s small oval face peeked from around the nut-brown frame of her hair. It glistened with a recent washing and her usual hundred strokes. She primly bit into her sandwich and chewed reflectively.
“What are your plans for the rest of the day?”
“Ah! The invasion starts with the Sandersons tomorrow. I want to suck up as much peace and quiet as I can. You figure a way to bottle it yet?”
“Didn’t you promise?”
“I’m the one who suggested that last year, remember?”
“Oh, yeah. Well, okay. What you doing?”
“I plan to set my knitting aside, refuse to read a book today and spend some quality time with my husband.”
“Now that I like.”
“Let’s walk up to the inlet and down to Frank’s place. I owe Julie some sugar.”
“You’re kidding. You’re repaying her after twelve years?”
“No, silly. They are girding for the influx, too, and she gets like you. You’re not alone, bucko.” She tried to look stern, but failed. As usual.
“Yeah, I know.” I felt a little selfish, but we were all of a type on the island and Becky was such a leavening experience.
“And,” she said, “since you need fortifying, we are going to sit on a blanket on my favorite stretch of beach with a bottle of that wine I saved from my birthday and we’re going to watch the sun go down. After that…don’t disappoint me.”
Never refuse an invitation! I said, “No chance in hell!”
We sat and sipped chardonnay kept cool in a shallow stream that ran from the middle of the island, across the sand and into the ocean. We watched the end of another day and when the evening clouds piled up against the tops of the western mountains and turned pink, I turned to Becky and gently took her in my arms. Our lips met and we found fire in our bellies and for a brief, wonderful moment we exalted as our spirits melded with the fire in the sky.
We returned home, arms around each other, her head resting in the crook of my shoulder.
In the morning the Sandersons arrived.