Author’s Note: This piece has been edited and now appears in “Angel Songs, 20 Christmas Short Stories and Poems, plus Recipes” by Dona Watson. Click here for more info.
At first, this little piece of flash fiction may not seem very much like a Christmas story, but I’ve always thought that someday it would be fun to go to Hawaii the week before Christmas and fly home just in time for the holiday. And that is where this tale began.
My husband and I did visit Kauai some time back (many more years ago than I care to admit) and out on one of our excursions, we found a little trail of sorts leading up through the bushes. We thought it might be fun to see where it led, but after only 20 feet or so, I decided that I really was not prepared for all the mud and mosquitos we had already found. So we turned around, slipped our way down and spent the next 10 minutes or more trying to get the mud off.
But…I’ve often wondered where that little path led and if it would have been worth it to press on.
A Beautiful Sight
by D.L. Watson
Kayla grabbed at a nearby bush, grasping for a handhold as her feet slid out from under her on the muddy slope.
“Come on, girl! You can do it!”
She glared up at Jeremy as he coaxed her on. Four more feet and she’d be able to grab his hand.
“Remind me again why I agreed to go on this hike with you?” Her legs were scratched, she was covered with splotches of mud, and the smell! Ew. The air was filled with the moldy stench of the rotten swamp off to one side of the path–if this narrow rut through the jungle could even be called a path.
Jeremy chuckled. “Because I promised you it would be worth it.”
“Can’t you even tell me why?” One more lunge and Jeremy caught her wrist just before she landed on her face. Hand to arm, he pulled her up to the top of the mudslide.
“It’s better as a surprise. Just trust me. You’ll like it.”
Kayla puffed a breath of air through the lock of hair hanging in her eyes. It had escaped from the ponytail holder long ago but she didn’t dare touch it and get handfuls of mud in her hair. She slapped her arm as yet another mosquito settled down for a midday snack and left a muddy handprint behind.
“I already put on mosquito repellant!” she moaned. “Why isn’t it working?”
Jeremy grabbed her elbow and helped her up over a large boulder. “Just imagine what it would be like if you didn’t use any.”
Kayla shuddered at the thought. As it was, she’d probably be covered in welts by the time she got back to the hotel. “How much farther do we have to go?”
“Not far. We’re almost there.”
“But you said that three times already.” Kayla knew she probably sounded like a whiner, but she honestly didn’t know how much further she could go. When she had decided to come to Hawaii the week before Christmas with her two girlfriends and their friend Jeremy from church, she had been thinking more along the lines of laying in the tropical sun on the beach, not tromping around in a steamy jungle full of bugs and mud. But when her two girlfriends decided to go hang gliding, she announced she’d rather keep her feet on the ground. Then Jeremy, a former native of the island state, offered to take her on an amazing hike, and she’d agreed.
Jeremy grinned at her sideways. “Come on, be a big girl. Like I said, we’re almost there. Do you need to stop and catch your breath?”
Kayla paused and looked up the next short incline. It didn’t look any worse than the ones they had already climbed. She took a deep breath. “No, let’s keep going.”
He regarded her with raised eyebrows. “Are you sure? We can rest a bit if you need to.”
“No, let’s just keep moving.”
“That’s my girl,” he said and plunged ahead.
Kayla noted wryly that he didn’t have any mud or scratches on him. But then again, she wasn’t the triathlete that he was.
Scrambling and sliding up the next hill, Kayla took one slippery step at a time and tried to keep her complaints to herself, telling herself that he was right. She could do this. But one glance ahead showed Jeremy cresting the next hill and disappearing from sight. Gamely, Kayla gritted her teeth and clawed up the last few feet.
At the top, she leaned over, hands on her knees and gasped for air.
“Here we are, Kayla! You made it!”
Kayla couldn’t help but smile at his congratulations. She straightened up and opened her mouth to reply, but the sight that met her eyes took her breath away. They stood on a rocky ledge overlooking the center of a dormant volcano. The sides plunged down, verdant green plant life covering every inch of ground. Here and there, white waterfalls plummeted down, disappearing into the jungle far below. Birds of red, green, blue and orange flew from tree to tree, their calls echoing through the air.
“This is amazing!” she whispered, unable to take her eyes from the incredible sight. “It’s like paradise.”
“Yeah.” Jeremy’s voice was calm, almost reverential. “I knew you’d like it.”
“How did you find this place?” Kayla darted a glance his direction.
He flashed a lopsided grin and shoved his hands in his pockets. “My dad showed it to me years ago. We used to come up here every now and then, just the two of us–father and son. It’s a bit of a hike, but I think it’s worth it.”
Kayla nodded. “Definitely worth it.”
The two friends sat on the rock for about an hour, just chatting and enjoying the incredible view. Then the time came to go. Going down was still a bit slippery and difficult to negotiate, but Kayla made the trip with a much lighter heart. She couldn’t wait to get back to her sketch book. She knew she’d never be able to draw it to perfection, but the sketch would always remind her of the amazing sight. Yes, Jeremy was right. The difficulty, even pain, of getting up the trail was definitely well worth the prize.
This story is part of a Writing Challenge I have undertaken to write something every day in the month of December on a pre-selected list of topics. Photographer Jacqueline Ashford is keeping pace with me on the same list of topics, her with a camera and me with a keyboard. You can see Jacqueline’s gorgeous photos here. We’re having way too much fun with this mutual challenge. (You can see the list of topics here.)
Tomorrow’s Topic: Family
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The photo at the top, courtesy of: By brewbooks from near Seattle, USA (Palm Jungle – Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons