*Hawaiian for 'flower crown'.
Nanea doesn't really think that Flossie and Aulani understand her. But she loves them so. And besides. How do you know they don't?
"The water was as smooth as glass when I got to the edge of the lagoon. No little birds on the shore digging for crabs. No seagulls singing that ear-piercing, screeching song of theirs. I was thinking about dinner, though, and not paying much attention to what was going on around me. Yep, you're right, man. It WAS the first thing I taught you. NEVER lose sight of what's going on around you when you're in the water. The ocean -- yes, even our quiet lagoon -- is teeming with dangerous creatures. And you can dive every day without having an encounter. But you never know what's lurking out there, watching your every move . . ." Raito was there, in his mind. The setting of the sun, the clear blue water with not a ripple in it. No birds.
"That's when I saw it." "The shark?" "No, the pearl." Benny's voice lowered in awe, remembering his first glimpse of it. "This pearl. The one hanging around my neck. The great black pearl of the lagoon. It was just sitting there. On top of a piece of coral, like it had been waiting on display for me to find. All I could think about was Nanea's face when I brought it home to her. I no longer felt tired and hungry but knew that I couldn't go home until I had that pearl. Can you see it? Just waiting to be picked like a ripe mango? And all I had to do was reach out my arm and lift it into my pearl bag."
"We grappled together, boy and shark as one, for what seemed to be hours. Each time I struggled to free myself, his teeth dug deeper into my body. Blood filled the warm water all around us, making it difficult to see even the outline of my enemy. Inflicting blow after blow on the head of the Great Tiger Niuhi, I hoped to slacken his viselike grip and escape those jaws of death. On and on we fought over that pearl. But even an experienced diver like myself can't go on forever with a niuhi attached to him like a remora on a whale. Alertness had dwindled, and I desperately needed to surface for air. All seemed lost in the epic struggle. And then, when all seemed lost . . ." Benny drew a deep breath. Raito was too engrossed in the mystery of it all to even offer his friend a drink of the lemonade.
"The pain was gone. The struggle had ended. The warm body of the enemy was no longer pressing on my head and chest. The bloody water continued to roil around me, as I instinctively dove to the surface for that lifesaving breath of air. Then I remembered the pearl. The beautiful black pearl that had been waiting for centuries for ME to find it. Unmindful of the possible danger still lurking below, I made one final dive to retrieve the treasure. Hoping against hope, I searched through the shadowy water for the reef. There it was! Waiting for me! I snatched the pearl and put it in my bag (which was tattered but still unbelievably full of the day's harvest). This time, however, I was alert and watchful, as a good diver should be. The enemy was nowhere in sight, so I made a quick retreat to the shore of our lagoon, acutely aware of God's having smiled on us that day." Benny takes his brotherly responsibilities very seriously and knows that his well-being is directly linked to that of his sister's.
"The closer I got to shore, the more alive I became to the pain in my middle. Freedom from the enemy's mouthful of sharp teeth had wiped all thought of pain from my mind. As calm and thankfulness returned to my whole being, the concentrated pain under my rib cage heightened. It was then that I noticed that the water around me was still clouded with a redness that meant only one thing. I stopped long enough to look around for the niuhi, knowing full well that the water was too shallow for him to have followed me in that far. What I saw astounded me! What? No, man, not the great enemy. Three dolphins were swimming back out to open water, swiftly chasing a dark shadow that never surfaced. Funny how your mind plays tricks on you. It reminded me of Harold's dog, Alton, when he's herding the sheep. I saluted my rescuers and dragged myself to shore, where a darkness came over me. A darkness mixed with pain. As I lay there, waiting for help or recovery, I groped to find the pain. The last thing I remember was the realization that the niuhi, in his speedy retreat ahead of the dolphins, had left behind one of his great teeth. Had left it embedded in my body. What a great souve . . . n . . . i . . . r . . . Blackness enveloped me."
SPOILER ALERT! For those of you who don't believe Benny's story about his scar (even though he does have TWO pieces of proof), Nanea would like to tell you what really happened. "Benny was born with Pyloric Stenosis, and the scar is a result of the surgery they did on him when he was one month old. Every time he tells the story, it gets grander and crazier. He did get the black pearl while diving in that part of the lagoon. And I think he found the shark's tooth out there, too (lying in the water near the shoreline). Boys . . ."