Easier for you to read a PDF or a better format as well.
I don't want to hijack the authors story. But reading it as he writes it works best for me. Short segments like this match my attention span better than a long book would ;-)
Liz walked with Heather back to their cabins. Liz showered, puzzling with how to prepare, naked, for what promised to be a fairly formal evening. She decided on a necklace, and spent some care drying her hair, then went to check on Heather. Afitu had come and gone; Heather was applying a salve Afitu had brought her. "How about if I powder over that?" she offered, seeing Heather's reddened sand burn, relieved at how minor it seemed to be. "I use a walnut-shell powder that shouldn't irritate it too much." Liz went to fetch it, and came back to find Heather outside in the fading sun. "Time to dress for dinner!" With that, Liz rendered the redness more or less invisible, and went back to her own cabin to find James there, resting on his bed. She stretched out on her own, unfocused eyes barely registering the ceiling, until she heard steps approaching the cabin.
"Hello," Afitu called from the foot of the stairs. It took Liz a moment to gather herself into a response. "Afitu? Be right there." She saw James stirring on his bed in crumpled disarray as she went to the door. "James is just waking up from a nap. Time for dinner?" "When you ready. I come back in soon." When he came back, Heather was with him. He conducted the three of them through the coconut grove surrounding the resort, emerging in a direction opposite the path to the village, following a narrowing spit of land. A stretch of open water, just a stone's throw across, lay in front of them.
But waiting on the lagoon side was the double-hulled canoe. Two naked young men, sandy and wet up to their knees, were waiting with it, and steadied it as Afitu assisted Liz and James into one hull, and Heather into the other. The paddlers then jumped in, and in a minute or two had them across the narrow channel, on the lagoon side of another island. Malia was there to meet the canoe. With her was a big, very well-padded fellow, whose big belly made it hard for Liz to visualize how he could keep his pants up, if he were wearing pants. As hard, she thought, to visualize a naked person clothed as it is to visualize a clothed person naked. He was strong, and agile despite his size, and assisted the visitors onto the sand. Malia led them up a slight rise, over toward the ocean side of the island. As they reached the spine of the island, they saw the house.
James' appraising eye noted immediately that it stood very solidly, a bit back from the ocean, on a massive poured-concrete foundation. "Wow," he half-whispered to Liz, "That's the one building here that is absolutely never going to blow down or wash away."
"Mr. Nakamura house," Malia announced. They continued along the island's high ground until they came to the walkway that led to the house. The walk sloped slightly up, the ground under it more steeply down, with the walk becoming a bridge, head-high and then double that, until it gave onto a large flagstone terrace sitting, apparently, on a solid block of cement. James noticed tiny windows and an inconspicuous door below them, and guessed that there was in fact a basement space. Scattered at the periphery were small roofed spaces; directly ahead, toward the ocean, was a glass wall about waist high, and to the right the house proper, a single story whose extent was hard to judge, the terrace leading directly into a dark, barely visible interior, the structure made of more poured concrete, roofed with tile.
They were met by a raven-haired beauty, tall as most of the islanders were, wearing only a braided anklet and a flower in her hair. Malia gave their names. "Mr. and Mrs. Edgerton, Miss Green."
"Welcome," said the greeter. "Would you like to go to the bar?" Her exotic looks were accompanied by an equally exotic accent she spoke English with the crisp exactitude of an educated New Zealander. No other answer being possible, James said "Of course." They walked toward the glass wall and a cluster of chairs and tables set partly beside it and partly under a roof, where there was a bar. "Derek and Sarah Bradford," Liz said to James as the couple sitting at one of the tables came into view. Heather, who had shared their flight to the island, stepped ahead to greet them. Liz and James followed. The greeter gave their names - "Mr. and Mrs. Edgerton" - and quietly disappeared.
Derek Bradford stood. "James, please," said James as he extended his hand. "Derek," said Derek, no other answer being possible. "How do you do?" As the round of introductions proceeded, James sank into self-consciousness about his own English accent. Derek and Sarah were audibly posh Londoners. James was an audibly not-posh northerner. Having gone to school in America, he'd never bothered to upgrade his accent. All English accents were very grand among Americans; being told you sounded like the Beatles was always meant as a compliment. Not so much at the top levels in Britain, and in his line of work, in whatever country, he needed to be comfortable at the top levels.
Two men, one rather elderly, thin and small, the other in robust middle age, stood behind the bar. "Can I get you something?" James asked Liz. "No, you go ahead, I'll get something in a minute."
James asked for a martini, which the elder bartender prepared in classic style with silent efficiency. When he turned back to the open terrace, he saw the greeter walk to meet more visitors at the entrance. Helen, Mark, and Wolf had arrived.
Helen bolted across the terrace, scattering hellos without stopping, to the low glass wall facing the Pacific, spread her arms wide on the rail along its top, and exclaimed "It's so beautiful." James went to join her there, sauntering carefully to avoid sloshing alcohol out of the broad martini glass onto his bare skin. "Yes it is," he said, before pausing to take in the view. The terrace on this side of the house was much higher above the ground; they stood at the edge of a concrete cliff. James peeked over, his free hand clutching the rail. A moment's vertigo made him afraid of spilling his drink; he stood up to take a careful sip, then leaned over again. The house was set a sensible distance back from the tide line, but unless he looked straight down, he fell into the illusion that it sat directly on the water. Everything was open ocean, reflecting a scattering of pink clouds lit by a sun that, over the island itself, was obscured by the dense afternoon clouds that gathered over the land. Helen turned back toward the gathered visitors; reluctant to do the same, James lingered over the view.
"Canapes?" A server came up beside him with a tray. "Thank you." James lifted something unidentified by its toothpick and nibbled at it, allowing himself to lean against the glass wall. Once he had cleaned the toothpick, he glanced around the terrace for a place to put it; reluctant for the moment to go back to the bar, he walked across the terrace to another roofed area. Here was a long dinner table, with a small floral centerpiece, four chairs on each side and one at the head. Under the eve of the roof along one side was a row of palms in wheeled pots experience, James thought, had overruled the architect and installed a wall here after all. There was no trash can; James took another sip of his martini, stashed the toothpick in the olive, and set the drink down in what he hoped was an inconspicuous corner. A restroom would be nice. He walked toward the house.
There was no door. The terrace simply extended under the roof of the house into a wide hallway, doors on each side. The woman with the canape tray came up behind him. "Could you direct me to a restroom?" James asked. "It's the second door on the left." She then disappeared into the clatter of kitchen activity through open double doors on the right. Walking past, James saw an indistinct number of workers, and although the server was naked, the cooks were in ordinary kitchen-workplace dress short-sleeved shirts, long pants, closed-toe-shoes. Coming to the restroom door, he looked further down the hall, his eyes now better adjusted to the relative darkness of the interior. There was an elderly man, naked, slumped barely standing against a wall. With an undirected gaze, the man stared at nothing, unaware of James' presence and indifferent to the bustle of the kitchen. James had intruded too far. But he had been pointed to this door, and he turned to enter the restroom.
Ready to retrieve his martini, James returned to the dining table out on the terrace. It was small, he noticed now, relative to the size of the roof under which it sat. The staff and facilities were clearly suited for entertaining on a grander scale than the eight people here today. That group, he saw, were mostly standing in conversation, and they were being joined by two musicians. One man stood with what looked like a miniature guitar, and in a chair at his elbow was Anjelo, the bartender from the resort, with a standard guitar. Seeing Anjelo comforted James. Among the visitors he was on guard, trying to do a job he did not entirely understand. And all the staff were strangers, but he felt he knew the boy. He went to rejoin the group.
Liz turned away from the bar with the tall glass of soda water she'd ordered. Helen, white wine in hand, stood speaking with Sarah Bradford. Liz watched Derek bring Sarah a tropical fruit drink of some kind, then retreat to a table where Heather soon approached to ask if she could sit with him. Mark and Wolf stood looking at the ocean. Odd person out in James's absence, she hesitated a moment and then approached Helen and Sarah. "It is so beautiful," she said, echoing Helen's words. "I can see why you like to visit here. How often do you come?" "We've been here three times," Sarah answered. "It's such a long trip from England. Helen - you've been here quite a lot, I think. Helen and I" - she turned back to Liz - "met here last winter. Derek had to go back for work. I stayed for a month." "A dance group came in from Tahiti," Helen remembered. "Exciting to see. There were so many people here!" "Usually more than now?" "Sometimes every cabin is full, of course." "Liz," Sarah asked, "this is your first time? How did you find your way here?" "James suggested it. He heard about it through his work; he travels a lot for work." "Like my Derek; such a pleasure to travel. What does James do?" "Resource management, they call it. Mostly helping mines sell what they dig up, I think." "Where's he disappeared to?" "Probably off to inspect the plumbing. He's been very curious about how things here are built and how they work." "Derek's been fascinated by that, too. I think it's just a miracle how we get by in a place so far away from the world."
Their attention was caught by the two musicians carrying instruments across the terrace. Helen pulled away to greet Anjelo, then returned to say "Come, sit." But no one sat. Helen went to catch Mark and Wolf's attention; Derek rose to join Sarah, and Liz, scanning the space, saw James coming into view, still nursing his martini. Anjelo exchanged smiles with those he knew, but spoke only to the elder musician, in a whisper, then positioned a chair and sat with his guitar. He picked a few notes and sat silent until the elder man repeated them and began to play. They were situated to provide background music for a cocktail hour, but there was nothing casual about what they were doing; it was clear that there was meaning in the music, and it commanded silence. Everyone settled into a seat. The music accompanied the setting of the sun.
As the sky faded from pink into bright silver twilight, the music stopped, or better said, concluded. In the language of music a story had been told, and was now at an end. Silence continued as the musicians sat for a moment lost in thought, then walked away with their instruments. James thought about Anjelo, who could gleefully riff on movie cliches and perform outrageousness at the bar, but who was so plainly rooted in this place, among these people. How fragile a place to be rooted, and how difficult, drawing life out of speck of coral rock.
Across the terrace strode a man plainly in charge of the two younger women who hung back behind him. He was older, with the taught, trim body of an athlete who had lost muscle without gaining fat, erect, purposeful. Helen rose to greet him. "Kenji how good to see you!" "Helen, welcome. Always a pleasure to have you here. I'm glad you could come." He then picked out her two traveling companions, who stood when he extended his hand. "Mark and Wolf. You are...?" "Mark," the first of them identified himself. "Wolf." "I hope you are enjoying your stay. Take good care of Helen, will you? I've heard of some of your projects. Helen's very impressed with your spirit."
He did not give his name, nor did he need to. The remaining visitors stood to be greeted. He extended a hand to Derek. "Derek, good to see you. I'm glad you could get away. Let's make some time to catch up. Sarah..." She extended her hand, which he took in both of his. "Sarah, it's a long trip; I trust you've had time to rest from it?"
It surprised James that he did not have a Japanese accent, but the placelessly correct English of an educated European.
"Heather. Heather Green, what a lovely name." She'd heard that many times before, but smiled as if it were new, and offered her hand. "How have you liked the place? I want to show you around; let's find a time."
"Liz, welcome. Malia tells me you've been exploring, I'm happy you've had the chance. It's an interesting island, isn't it, and good people."
He turned to James. "Mr. Edgerton, James, hello. I'm sorry Peter could not come." Just that. "I'm sorry Peter couldn't come." James flushed red, embarrassed, feeling unwelcome, angry at Peter for setting this up, realizing that he should not show surprise that his boss had been expected, recovering with a lie, "He sends his regrets."
"Shall we eat?" With that, the two women who'd come with Mr. Nakamura ushered the group to their seats at the table.
James was the last guest seated, and looked back to notice that Mr. Nakamura had retreated somewhat, to allow the others to be seated before he came to the table. James saw an unguarded gesture or a moment's relaxation in posture, something just below awareness, that made him wonder if he'd met this man before. There had been, after all, some level of business connection, perhaps some crossing of paths.
One side of the table was guarded by potted palms; the other side was now flanked by torches which provided most of the light and a bit of warmth. Places were set with plates and silver, bread and butter, a glass of water without ice, and an empty wine glass. A server appeared, one of the men who had tended bar, to pour a few ounces of wine into each glass. Mr. Nakamura strode in and stood behind his chair at the head of the table, gesturing his guests not to rise. With his hands on the back of the chair, he surveyed his guests, then picked up his wine glass, broke the increasingly uncomfortable silence with a "Welcome," and raised his glass for a toast. "To this place, and to its people." James raised his glass with the others, and the toast was drunk. A server appeared to pull out Mr. Nakamura's chair and seat him.
"I have enjoyed this beautiful retreat for many years. Some of you," he nodded to Helen, and to each of the Bradfords, who were seated opposite each other "have known it and come to love it as I have. Others of you," he nodded to Heather and James, "are discovering it for the first time. I hope you will come to appreciate it as I do.
"Life faces me with many challenges, as you are aware, and I cannot know the future. I don't know that I will ever be here again. But life has brought me many blessings, and I am content."
James was reminded, by the valedictory tone of Mr. Nakamura's speech, that this was an old man, facing ruin at home in Japan. And then a flash of realization. Of course, he had seen Mr. Nakamura before. This was the same frail elderly man he had glimpsed an hour ago inside the house, slumped insensibly in the hallway. He was now costumed in an assurance and posture no longer quite his own, hanging like borrowed clothes on his naked frame.
"Let us enjoy our time here together." With that, Mr. Nakamura took a sip of his wine, and signaled Derek to do the same. Helen followed, and after these two most-honored guests, James joined the rest. Food was arriving, one server on each side of the table putting out bowls of soup.
James found himself sitting next to Wolf, whose English, he discovered, was on a par with James' German. Wolf was interested to know that James' working language in Poland had been German. James was interested to hear from Wolf the story of the increasingly disturbing state of the arts scene in his hometown of Vienna.
Liz sat between Derek and Helen. Helen asked her, "Have you had a chance to explore a bit?"
"A bit. It was a surprise to find this house here. I guess I had never come this way. I've been across to the edge of the village. Malia took me over there to dive for water."
"Yes, before tin roofs and rain barrels and before bringing in water on boats, they used a freshwater spring that comes up under the ocean. You have to get down there with a water container."
"You are very brave to go diving. Even at your age I wouldn't do that."
"I had a good guide."
Derek, who had been silent at the edge of the conversation, told Liz, "It looks as if Malia has really taken to you. She's the wife of the local host, isn't she."
"Oh, you know her!" jumped in Sarah from the other side of the table. "She met us at the plane. She's always the one in the little office there."
"Ah, yes, so she is." And then to Liz, "You are learning a great deal about this place. I have to say I have been incurious until this visit, with circumstances changed so much. Do keep me up on your explorations."
Who was she exploring for? She and Derek were not just tourists sharing information about a destination. Were they? Neutrally, she responded "I hope to have time to get in the water again."
Liz turned to her soup. Service was discreet, the food unostentatious, the portions sparing.
Mr. Nakamura listened to the talk, saying little. Heather cut into his silence with a question. "What's your take on the conceptual art scene in Europe? I've heard from Mark that you're a connoisseur."
"Brilliant people, some of them. It's all commentary."
"Mark tells me it can get very dark and dangerous."
"Everyone's first novel is about death. They're young, they explore that. If you make a painting and you don't like it, you don't sell it. But with concept and performance, your juvenilia has to be public. We watch the artist develop in real time."
"Are you still collecting paintings?"
Mr. Nakamura laughed. "Still? You have done your research, young woman. No. I have more than enough things. I haven't been in that market for years. One of the pleasures of conceptual work is that you don't have to find a place to store it. That," he said, pointing to the fluorescent blue cubes that had just arrived atop a serving of sorbet, "is dragon fruit. Do you have that in California?"
"I'm not familiar with it. How large is your collection now?"
"Do try the sorbet before it melts."
Hearing this, James realized that talking about art with Mr. Nakamura, now his assignment from Peter, was not going to be easy.
Mr. Nakamura addressed the table. "There will be coffee at the bar for those who want it."
Mr. Nakamura stood, invited Helen up, and thus adjourned the meal.
The roofed area of the bar was now flanked by torches, As the arrived, the couples, separated by their assigned places at the dinner table, now sat together. Wolf, and Mark took a table with Heather at the table nearest the two musicians who occupied one corner of the square of light. Liz and James - Liz with her coffee, James with a sherry sat close.
Liz edged her chair even closer, and into James' ear whispered "Did you hear that Derek Bradford asked me to tell him what I'm learning about this place?"
"No. What's his interest?"
"I was talking about diving for water with Malia. Until then, he'd been very standoffish. He said he didn't know much about the island, and wanted to know more."
"Don't we all. Except Peter, who wasn't interested. I'll get back to Peter tomorrow morning on the radio. Just hold off..."
Derek and Sarah Bradford appeared from the darkness. Liz and James dropped their conversation and said hello. Then they turned their attention to the music.
Some time later Liz heard more people approaching, and looked up expecting to see Helen and perhaps Mr. Nakamura. But it was Malia and Afitu. They stood in the line of torches until the musicians reached a stopping point, then Malia stepped forward, caught Liz's eye, and Sarah's, and knelt among the tables, to say "We here when you need ride. Stay long as you like, OK?" She signaled the musicians, who began another number, and retreated to the shadows. Afitu conferred quietly with the bartender and did the same.
"I'm ready to go," Liz told James.
"Go on ahead. I'll stay for a while."
Liz walked out through the line of torches. The evening clouds had cleared and a round moon low in the eastern sky cast long shadows across the terrace, its silver light brightening as Liz's eyes adjusted from the flame yellow of the bar. Malia and Afitu sat at a nearby table. They invited her to sit with them. Wolf found them there, verified that they would wait for him, then returned to the bar. Sarah joined them, and Wolf returned with Mark. The group assembled, Malia and Afitu led them across the terrace and bridged entrance, and onto the path to the water. The path's white coral surface glowed in the moonlight, six naked walkers in single file easily finding their way. Afitu carried a flashlight, but did not use it.
At the shore, a group of paddlers idled by a fire. Three of them took Mark and Wolf across, leaving one of their number with the visitors on the on the other side of the narrow channel. The remaining two returned for Liz and Sarah, Malia and Afitu. Once across, Afitu offered to walk Sarah to her cabin. Malia addressed Liz. "I walk you to cabin?"
"I'd appreciate that." Walking easily in the moonlight, more cautiously in the shadows of the coconuts, they made their way. "I'm impressed with Mr. Nakamura's setup. It's quite a house. And so many people working there I wouldn't have thought that many people even lived here."
"We there for him when he need us."
"Do you have to go back tonight?"
"No, I off work, " Malia grinned. "Go drink..." She stopped midsentence. "You drink kava?"
"Kava?" Liz was not sure she'd heard the word. "Kava. I've heard of it. No, I never have."
"You like come?"
"Over to the village?" Malia nodded assent. "What should I wear?"
"What you like. I wear skirt."
"I have a pareu at the cabin?"
At the cabin, Liz wrapped the rayon cloth around her waist. Malia, still naked, walked them to the pavilion, from whose back room she produced a wrap of her own. The water washed only ankle-deep across the low ground between the resort and the village. On the other side, Liz found the path difficult as they relied on moonlight to climb to one of the houses. Attached to the tiny frame structure was a porch, larger than the house, low-roofed, thatched with coconut fronds. Dim electric light underneath barely outshone the moon.
Malia called a quiet greeting as they approached. Not in English, Liz realized. Malia took a few steps forward. Liz was suddenly self-conscious, standing there bare-breasted in cheap beachwear, unable to understand the language, alien to the culture. She for a moment considered a retreat, but could not have found the path back. She would just have to let herself be led. She followed Malia under the thatch. On mats on the bare earth, around a small, low, table, sat a circle of women. Malia addressed one very elderly woman with a few sentences, of which Liz understood only one word - "Liz."