This is a wee cookie from my next book, The Shattering, introducing one of the three narrators, Sione Felise.
Spoilers, of course, apply.
Sione inched a bit closer to the bus window and wished, for approximately the 912th time, that heâ€™d had the guts to say no to Janna.
â€œSo youâ€™re traveling alone?â€ the elderly white woman sitting next to him persisted. â€œItâ€™s a real family vacation spot, I thought.â€
Sione nodded. Sheâ€™d been talking since the bus left Nelson, and he had managed not to say much, which was almost as good as not having to speak at all. She probably thought she was being nice, but conversation with strangers was hard and small talk was torture.
â€œYou kids are all so independent these days,â€ she said. â€œIâ€™m always surprised by what your parents let you do.â€
Me, too, he thought, but managed to come up with, â€œIâ€™m meeting friends.â€
â€œAhhhh. A group of you, is it? Are you going early or late?â€
â€œFriends who live in Summerton.â€ Well, Janna was his friend, sort of. This Keri girl was an unknown quantity. If Janna was wrong, and Keri thought they were nutcases and started talking, it could ruin everything. Mum would be on the next flight back from Samoa.
But when Janna suggested bringing Keri in, he hadnâ€™t said no.
â€œThis is beautiful, isnâ€™t it?â€ the woman said, and leaned over Sione to stare out the window at the intricate shades of green that made up the view. â€œIs this your first time, too?â€
â€œNo. Iâ€™ve come with family before.â€ Mum and Dad in front, and he and Matthew in the back, up and down the road that wound through the Karamea peninsula, over the hill to its tip, where Summerton, the most beautiful place in the world, was nestled in the bay.
Matthew would have been able to talk to this lady. Heâ€™d have charmed her and flirted a little, but not too much, and by the time she got off the bus, sheâ€™d be eager to tell all her friends about the nice Pacific Islander boy whoâ€™d been so polite.
Instead of the sullen P.I. boy who kept staring at his fingernails.
â€œAre you going for a holiday?â€ Sione said, and then wanted to put his head through the windowâ€™s glass. Of course she was going for a holiday. Retired old ladies didnâ€™t go to vacation spots for business.
Stupid, stupid, stupid. Sione Felise, total spaz.
But she gave him a kind look and nodded. â€œYes, dear. With the lawn bowls club. Iâ€™m heading down a little early to make sure everythingâ€™s prepared.â€
Sione nodded, aware that his cheeks were hot with embarrassment. She was probably being nice because he looked so awkward. Which meant that she would have to be nice to him until the end of time, because he was always awkward. He could try to make it up to her, though. â€œWould you like to swap seats? The viewâ€™s best as you come in.â€
â€œOh, no, Iâ€™m fine, dear.â€
But she leaned over him anyway as the bus rose and then dropped over the last big hill, the bay spread out before them. The entire bus held its collective breath, staring down at heaven.
By the time he could blink, his eyes were stinging, and nearly everyone on the bus was wiping away tears. The Summerton magic, the tourism videos called it, though it never looked that good on TV. In person, it was nearly impossible to look away.
He felt wrong about it, though. It should have been less beautiful, now that Matthew was dead.