“First chickens, now geckos. Are you sure you had a cockroach infestation at your house and they aren’t actually fumigating for ladybugs?”
“Oh ha ha,” he says dryly. “I’ll have you know in the Yukon, I grew up wrestling wolves and bears.”
I fold my arms across my chest. “Oh really. Let me guess, it was essential for hockey practice.”
“I’m just saying, no sane person lets lizards stay in their house, let alone gives them names.”
“Geckos eat mosquitos and cockroaches,” I tell him. “We’d be more screwed without them than with. Now, if you’re really that afraid, I can remove him for you but if he wants to, he’s going to come right back in here.”
Kessler closes his eyes and takes in a deep breath. To see him with his massive arms and wide chest and shoulders like boulders, all six foot two of this sweaty burly hunk of man meat, shaken up because of a gecko is probably the most amusing thing I’ve seen all year.
“Just think of him as the Geico gecko,” I tell him, grabbing the door and starting to pull it shut. “Imagine him talking to you in a British accent.” I clear my throat and do my best English impression. “Don’t mind me, Mr. Rocha. I’m just your friendly neighborhood gecko, stationed here so you don’t get eaten alive by mosquitos at night. Nothing to fear here, just a little lizard to watch over you and sell you car insurance.”
“You can go now,” Kessler says, shooting me a dirty look as he throws back his bed covers.
“Are you sure?” I continue in the accent.
“Good night, Nova.”
I grin at him. “Good night, Kessler. Don’t let the geckos bite,” I tell him right before I shut the door.
I’m practically giggling all the way to bed.
I barely slept last night.
I didn’t even know I had any sort of reptile phobia until I saw that miniature dragon hanging above the doorway and suddenly it was like some switch got flipped in me. Perhaps if I hadn’t been accosted by chickens and cockroaches over the weekend, I wouldn’t be so jumpy about the thing but the fact is, I’m not a fan of geckos.
And for the life of me, I don’t get how Nova can stand them either. I mean, she lets it live in her house. She’s given the little Godzilla a name.
Dwayne Johnson. I mean what the fuck?
Suffice it to say, when I finally did succumb to sleep it was the middle of the night and my body was too tired to pretend that there weren’t lizards running all over me.
Because I’m staying with Nova now, something I’m already regretting thanks to her lizard friend, she’s the one who’s driving us to work this morning. Thank god, because I am way too rattled by everything to think straight and the whole North Shore of Oahu has me totally turned around.
I mean, it’s a gorgeous place but it’s completely different than Honolulu. It’s the place where you want to sit back in a hammock and have a beer and let your mind run free. Perhaps run naked through the jungle. I can see why Nova wants to live here, but I’m not so sold.
After I’ve said goodbye to Hunter and Loan, and Nova has given Loan the low-down on the area and where to go and what to see, we get into Nova’s Honda Civic and head through a small town full of quaint and colorful buildings before we pull onto a highway.
It’s a grey morning and humid as fuck and I’ve already downed a bucket of water so far, so it’s no surprise when I tell Nova to pull over so I can take a leak.
“Can’t you hold it?” she says distastefully, as if I have zero control of my bladder.
“I can, I’m not Hunter,” I tell her. “I would rather not sit here uncomfortable for the next hour.”
It’s already bad enough I’m exhausted, I’m stuck in this car with you, who hates me one minute and hates me a little less the next.
“You better not make us late,” she says, pulling the car down a narrow dirt road bordered by fenced cow fields where we bounce along pot holes for a few feet until she stops by a bunch of wild bushes with white flowers. It’s almost too pretty to piss on. Almost.
“Late?” I say with a snort as I get out. “We’re on Hawaii time, we’re already late compared to the rest of the world.”
That was one of the annoying things about working for the company in California. If you waited for corporate to get anything done, you had to wait a long time. When they started work at nine, it was already eleven or noon on the mainland.
I’ve just finished pissing when I hear some shaking from beneath the bushes. Not wanting to stick around and see what it is, I zip up my pants and hurry back to the car. I’m over getting caught with my pants down.
I get in the passenger seat and Nova pulls away, heading down the long road, reddish dust flying up behind us.
“Highway is back there. Where are you going?” I ask as we’re heading toward a barn. “Going to take me cow-tipping?”
She gives me a sharp look, as if I’ve majorly offended her. “Who told you about that?” she hisses.
She frowns at me and then pulls the car around in the turnaround. “It was too narrow to turn around back there,” she says, ignoring me.
We’re heading off back down the road toward the highway, the car bumping along the potholes at a steady speed. I’m about to tell Nova that maybe she should slow down when we pass by the bushes I pissed on earlier and a chicken comes darting out across the road in front of the car.
“Ahhhh!’ Nova screams, immediately swerving as if she’s trying not to hit a child and as she whips the wheel around, we go careening off the road right into the fence pole.
The impact is sharp and the seatbelt cuts into my neck just as the airbags inflate and slam me in the face. Everything comes to a stop.
“Are you okay?” I ask Nova, frantically trying to battle the air bag but it’s like hitting a dusty balloon.
“I guess so,” I hear her mumble through it all.
The impact was pretty gentle as far as car crashes are concerned but even so, I’m worried. “Are you sure? Don’t move, I’ll help you.”
I open my door to get out, the airbag practically punching me in the face, and quickly survey the damage as I make my way behind the Civic. The fence post is at an angle, the front of her hood is pushed in a bit and a headlight is broken. We’ve also attracted the attention of all the cows.
I open her door, peering at her.
She glances up at me, face against the airbag, covered in fine white dust. To my relief, she doesn’t look hurt but her pride sure does.
“You look like you had a massive cocaine party,” I tell her, gesturing to the powder from the airbag that’s all over her face.
She gives me a wane smile. “So do you.”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” I ask and as she’s nodding, I hear a familiar squawking sound from the front of the car.
Suddenly the same chicken that ran across the road and caused us to swerve is staring right at me with beady yellow eyes, seemingly unharmed.
“Oh sweet Jesus, it’s him,” I say.
“Who?” Nova says, trying to see around the airbag.
I point at the rooster. “It’s that motherfucking chicken!”
“Is he okay?”
I glare at her. “Is he okay? Why the fuck didn’t you hit it? That’s the same fucking chicken from the office.”
She rolls her eyes. “Oh my god, Kess.”
“It is!” I look back at the chicken and he flaps his wings several times, stirring the dust in the road before putting his head back and letting out a familiar battle cry. “It’s him! Did you hear what he said? That’s his war cry!”
“It’s not the same chicken,” she says, attempting to get out of the car. Her movement scares the chicken, which then darts back across the road and under the bush. “There is a mountain range between us and Honolulu and there are millions of chickens. They all look the same.”
“They do not,” I say, helping her undo her seatbelt and carefully pulling her out of the car. “That one has white spots on his chest and I looked into his eyes and those eyes told me everything I needed to know. That motherfucking chicken is out to get me.”
She stares up at me and it’s only then that I realize we’re just inches apart. The proximity to her does something to my brain, unraveling it, and for a moment I’ve forgotten all about the chicken. I reach out to brush the powder from her hair which she’s pulled back into a ponytail and her eyes widen at my contact.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” I ask her, wishing I could let my hand drift down her head, down her neck, across her shoulder. Wishing I could just continue touching her for no reason at all other than nothing has ever felt better.
She nods, slowly, as if she doesn’t want me to stop touching her either.
I can feel the sweat prickling at the back of my neck.
It’s hot out and it’s getting hotter.
Then she abruptly moves to the side and my hand falls to nothing. She goes to the front of the car and then puts her hands over her face, taking in a deep breath.
Oh right. The car.
“It’s not so bad,” I tell her.
“I can’t drive this now,” she says through her hands. She lets out a muffled shriek. “Ahhh, we’re going to be late.”
“Late? Who cares. Nova, we were in a car accident, work should be the last thing on your mind.”
But as her hands fall away and I see the sharp line between her brows, I know it’s everything that’s on her mind. “You don’t understand, I was supposed to pitch an idea for the holidays with George, some newsletter discount.”
“George is a nice guy, I’m sure he’ll understand that his employee has been in a car accident. Hell, I was just in this car accident too. What the hell were you doing swerving like that?”
Her eyes fly, sharp as knives. “I’m sorry I don’t like running over innocent animals.”