Kiss of the Sun

byILmonamour©

She quickly realized that the house didn't exactly offer a livable environment. Even though the walls were all enclosed, it had remained without anyone living inside. The floors were covered with dust and dirt, and the rooms all without furniture. Stale air lingered like a boyfriend that wouldn't ever go away. Nearing the road was a small unenclosed carport that could easily hold two vehicles. From the looks of it, the carport had been cared for more so than the actual house. The floors were cement, and off to the side was a tiny room that must have been used as a shed originally. Keeping a broom close at hand, she opened the door and was surprised by the little nook. It was dirty, but with a little tender loving care and a lot of disinfectant, it could easily fit an air mattress.

During one of her many phone calls with the lawyer, Lilly was told repeatedly that she could stay at a hotel or resort while the renovations were being completed. Still in the unknown about the timeline for a house, she couldn't imagine it being anywhere under three months and refused to waste money at a hotel for that stretch of time. It was either the carport, or rent an apartment, until the construction started. She chose the carport.

At the start of the second week, she began making calls out to general contractors. By talking to the lawyer and probing him about anything he knew, as well as reading up at the library, she knew she needed to start there. On the first call, she was clueless and didn't know where to begin. The contractor didn't have time and took her number for a call back. The second call was a little better, she at least got to ask a few questions and have a few answered. By the sixth call, she had become a pro and felt comfortable. Lilly sat outside just at the spot where the grass and the sand met and tapped her pen lightly against the notepad on her thighs as the telephone rang.

A deep voice answered gruffly. "Cole Construction."

She was ready for this, squaring her shoulders she found her voice. "I would like to speak with someone about a potential contracting position."

The man blew a gust of air into the receiver. "You're looking for a contractor or you are a contractor looking for a job?"

Strike one, she smiled. "I apologize. I am in need of a contractor; do you work on home renovations?"

In the background, Lilly heard a lot of paper shuffling around. The man's voice seemed distracted. "Of course, what type of renovation are you looking for?"

His question threw her off-stride because she didn't even know what type of renovation it was yet. She figured that finding a contractor would be like finding a hairdresser. Once you sat down in the seat, the stylist had full reign over the creative aspects. Completely forgetting about the remainder of her questions, Lilly found herself blurting out to the man. "I need the house gutted, built and completed by the first of August, is this something your company can do?"

Never mind the history of this man's business, the cost of his fees or what the house should look like, all she could envision was a finished house sitting in the far corner of the cove. The rustling papers on the other end of the line stilled, the man remained silent. Nerves bunched in the back of her neck as it became clear to her just then that she sounded like any other overeager woman without a plan. One thing that was as sure as the hair on her head, this project needed to be finished by the end of the summer. She couldn't explain why, but it had to. After an eternity of silence, he finally spoke.

"I'll need to stop by and take a look, examine the property and see what all has to be done. I've got a few other projects that I'm working on, so I can't guarantee anything."

"When will you be available to come out to the house?"

Again, she heard the rustling of papers. "Tomorrow afternoon there's a couple of free hours. How does three o'clock sound?"

Mentally she knew her shift at the floral shop ended at one, giving her enough time to get home and change. "That would be perfect; the address is forty-two eighteen Lliili Road." Inwardly she winced at the horrible pronunciation of the street.

He whistled at the address. "The south-side of Maalaea Bay, it's a nice area. I've worked on a few projects in Lahaina so I should be able to find your place, Mrs. ...."

"Hammond. Lilly Hammond."

"All right, Mrs. Hammond. I'll see you tomorrow and we'll go from there."

"I'm sorry, but before we hang up, what was your name so I know who you are?"

The man grunted, "Cole. Jason Cole. See you tomorrow." That was all he said before he disconnected. Lilly put the telephone down and raised her face to the sun. Of course his name was Cole, it was his own company she had called. Like a fool, Lilly shook her head as if she were shaking away the ignorance that came from all of the calls that afternoon.

****

"Well, I have to admit this is going to take a helluva lot of work to get done by--when did you say?"

"The first of August, please." Lilly piped up from just behind Jason.

"I don't know, there's a whole issue with the foundation around the back. Permits have to get approved not to mention the fact that you have no idea what you want it to look like."

Standing next to him, she felt so dim-witted and unlike herself. Upon arriving, Jason Cole had parked his truck in the gravel drive and held back a laugh at the state of the shack. The roof was sinking in, for which he pointed out. The wood floorboards needed replacements, and the house stunk. Looking around he figured there was a dead animal somewhere out back, but didn't want to go on an expedition. Lilly nodded at him as he made his way into each of the small rooms to check out the square footage.

As Jason walked away she took a fine assessment of him. The voice from the phone did not match the man that was nearby. He must have been a few years older than she, and was definitely rugged around the edges. The sun had flirted with his dark brown hair, giving the ends golden highlights. The afternoon sun was blazing, but he remained in jeans and a button-up shirt. From a distance he looked like a man who didn't have the time to deal with the smaller things and rather focused on the bigger picture. Whenever he spoke, his tone was clipped and he had an annoying habit of cutting her off. Then again, what did she know about building houses? She acquiesced easily and silently checked another strike, figuring the following morning would be filled with calling other contractors.

"How many stories are you wanting to put up?" He shouted from a room. The sound startled Lilly from her thoughts.

"Only one." When he came back into the kitchen area, she inhaled lightly. With one hand, Jason ran it through his thick hair to itch the back. The other held a small sheet of paper and a pencil. He walked over to her with a stubborn glint in his hazel eyes.

Laying the sheet on the dirty countertop, he spoke with determination. "Mrs. Hammond—"

"Ms Hammond."

He nodded at her correction. "Ms Hammond, where do you want me to start?"

Her heart sank. "Wherever the very beginning is, please."

Itching his ear, Jason continued. "I can't tell you what to do, but from the looks of this place you're better off with a complete remodel. Have you looked over any house plans that you are interested in?"

"I've seen a few but haven't found anything that is perfect. All I know is that the back of the house should show off the view."

"Start there. Find what you want most and build around that."

"That doesn't help me at all."

"It helps more than you think. I can't build you something if you don't know exactly what you want. When you figure out everything, let me know."

"So that's it? I'm supposed to magically find some random house plans and then present them to you?"

"I'm not a magician, but yes. Look, go check out some of the other houses in the area. See what similarities you find. Look at magazines, anything to help you understand what you want."

"But I don't know what I want!"

"Take some time and you'll figure it all out."

Numbly, Lilly walked Jason out and didn't even care to see him drive away. She was confused, frustrated and lost. She wanted to curse Charles for this burden he cast down on her, but couldn't find it in herself. Racking her brain, she tried to think back to all of the conversations she and Charles had over the years. He often talked about villas he had stayed in with a back patio that was open and faced the ocean side. Start there. From her little room in the carport, she grabbed the notepad and pen and made her way to the back of the house to get down and get serious about the house plans.

Over the next two weeks, rain fell over the island and still she had never felt more productive. There was a small leak in the carport that she managed to cover with a blue tarp. On a walking outing, she met one of the neighbors who was very curious about her and quickly invited her in for drinks. The house was immaculate and an absolute gem. Lilly barely heard a word the woman was saying and mentally took note of the deeply stained wood flooring, the crown molding and the curves of the ceiling. The minute she got home, she wrote everything down on a list that seemed to be expanding.

The days she worked in the floral shop proved to be some of the better ones that gave her smiles. Often she found herself laughing at the silliest things with each customer, and agreeing to everything they suggested she do. An older man buying for his wife was adamant about snorkeling off of Kaanapali Beach. Another woman had practically volunteered herself to dine out with her at Koiso for sushi. Lilly couldn't believe how friendly and kind everyone was to someone as new as she. She took up a few of the offers for the dinners and even ventured out with Dana and tried tuna poke for the first time. It took a few bites, but once she got used to the taste, the flavors consumed her. Lilly had never experienced food in such a way. It was as if the people knew what they were eating and appreciated every single bite of it. They understood the seasonings and passed the enjoyment on.

The shack still terrified her and, as the tarp began to make enough racket above the carport during a rainstorm, she decided to stop procrastinating and make the plans. That night she hardly slept a wink and mapped out the house, using all that she had learned. When the sun began to rise, her excitement finally peaked and for a change she was anxious to make the call to Cole Construction. Lilly wondered if the man would remember her and all of her flighty questions during his visit. Who was she kidding, it had been a couple of weeks. He was bound to have moved on to another project and she'd be stuck finding another contractor.

****

From the looks of him and sounds of his rueful laugh, Jason Cole seemed impressed with Lilly's house plans. She leaned against the small bar in the dusty kitchen as he silently waved his hands around, calculating where things would get torn down and re-built. Her palms were itching from anticipation, but she waited patiently for him to make his assessment.

"You thought of all of this by yourself? Didn't hire anyone to draw out the house?"

She shook her head no. It was true, she had scoured over magazines looking for small beach houses until she found the perfect one. Jason held the sheet of paper that had been torn out of a notebook showing a darkly sketched picture of a one-level house, which focused on the oceanfront view. Pencil markings were scribbled all over the sheet serving as his guide. Lilly wanted the back of the house to have floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors that would enclose the patio should a storm or high winds approach. The front entranceway would be wide with dual glass doors that, once opened, could look straight into the house and out beyond to the sea.

She was hesitant to say anything, but at the same time she was very proud of her fantasy house. "What are you thinking?"

"To be honest, I'm wondering why you aren't an architect." She smiled pleasantly up at the rugged man, who stood in the standard jeans and button up shirt she remembered from his first visit. Jason walked outside from the back door and surveyed the land. Because of the warmth, he rolled up his sleeves and started to shout over the waves crashing against the beach rocks.

Her flip-flops tossed up sand as she came up next to him. It was the first time she paid attention to his physical stature. While she wasn't short, she wasn't an amazon, and only came up to his nose. The wind blew past them and made his shirt ripple against his perspiring skin.

"There's more land out here than what you drew out. If I'm reading this right, you've got the master suite over there, and if you look over to the side, there's enough space within the property lines that we can put in a private lanai. Maybe even throw in another set of the sliding doors to keep the styles in sync."

The way his shirt clung to his chest distracted Lilly and when her eyes lingered at the base of his throat, she blushed furiously. The color accented her honey gold hair. Luckily, Jason turned away to look at the surrounding houses, saving her embarrassment. The trees and shrubs blocking much of his view, his eyes scanned the perimeter and then came back to Lilly. "The first of August, eh?"

"I was hoping so, but now it doesn't seem realistic."

Glancing down at his watch, she watched as the corner of his mouth curled. "The permits are going to be where the hold-up is, but as soon as those go through it could work."

"You really think so?" Hope that she hadn't realized she had placed on the house surged deep within.

"I've got to talk to a few other people and organize a crew, but for the most part yes I do. It's a small enough house, and you aren't asking for a whole lot once the foundation is set. It's going to take about two months for the paperwork to go through...."

"Two months! That's crazy!"

"Welcome to Maui, where building anything is a luxury. Approvals take a little longer. I've got to go over the plans with a draftsman...."

As Jason was talking, Lilly tuned him out. Her initial excitement about the house plans were crushed and being taken out to sea with each frothy wave. She desperately wanted to check a third strike against the property and her ridiculous notion that building permits and the government's involvement would be a piece of cake. Something deep inside of her said to leave it be, let the time pass and wait. That slowed pace that eluded her before was being forced upon her and all she could do was bite her tongue. A short while later, Jason left with her drawing and told her he would call her in the morning about the paperwork. Considering they were going to have to bulldoze the shack in order to put up the beach house, several permits were in order.

Her mind was spinning with all of the information, but at the same time Jason seemed calm and in control of the project. In between her states of shock, she barely heard him say that there were a couple of other projects his company was working on but would be completed by the time the paperwork went through. Never in her wildest dreams did she ever think of all of the steps that were involved in the process; the complexity was staggering and nearly caused her to doubt her decision of going ahead with the plans. Just as that doubt broke through, she would hear Charles' voice whispering to her. All of her life she moved at a rapid pace, where as she commended him on taking it easy. This was her time to go with the flow, to step back and let life happen so she could actually see it around her.

****

As Jason had predicted, the permits took almost two months to get approved. Those days flew by without a moment's thought. The flower shop was keeping her busy, but also kept introducing her to several of the locals who were rich with stories. Her little nook in the carport was comfortable, but nothing to brag about when so many others were living in luxury homes. Lilly kept that little secret to herself when asked how she was enjoying staying at Charles' house. Many had begun referring the property as hers, but in her mind it would never truly belong to her. The island itself was vast and she managed to take advantage of each day and explore some of the beaches and swim in the salty water. Any weather beat the Chicago chill her body knew all too well.

Jason called her every week, letting her know the progress of the permits and if she needed to do anything to help the process. Their telephone conversations were stressful at first, but after the initial update was over, she found their conversations began to get a little personal. Jason had asked how she was getting along, if she had seen a few of the pools or gone to a national park. Somewhere in the beginning she confessed to him that she moved from Chicago, and was stunned to find out that he was originally from Toronto. Together they laughed about the stark differences in climate and temperatures.

When the news of the approval came through, the following week was nothing short of a whirlwind. Lilly found herself standing in the background as several trucks lined the private street, and men, part of a large crew, mobilized to start the new project. That first week would be all the more interesting. To build a new house, the shack had to be torn down. Several safety units were close by on the day the shack went down, including several nosy people who lived down the street. The loud crashes startled her, but she couldn't tear her eyes away from the destruction. Something warm unfurled inside her, comforting her when she saw that Jason had chosen to stay at the site during the demolition.

Clutching the delicate gold chain at her neck, Lilly spoke with much apprehension. "You're positive the carport will be okay?"

Jason nodded, the motion causing his hard hat to shift. "It's all of the way at the top of the property line, it will be fine. We can easily tear that one down and put up a sturdier garage for the cars."

"No, it's perfect. Some part of that old shack should stay on the property."

"I'm sure your neighbors would say differently about that heap of a garage."

"It's a carport, Mr. Cole, and suitable to cover any vehicle. There's no harm against wanting a little vintage flair on the property."

He waved his hands and laughed. The sound was a low rumble, bringing a delighted smile from Lilly. "Hey, I'm not arguing that at all. But seeing as this street is loaded with million dollar homes, your house may get a few complaints."

Turning, she looked up into his eyes and shook her head, the sun beaming on her face. "They won't mind. I think all of them are more curious to see if the house will blend with theirs."

"It will look great and fit right in. You did good with it, Lilly, I think you missed your calling."

Given a few rough blows, the shack went down without much of a fight. It took more time to clear the rubble than it did to tear the actual structure down. When one of the crew members drove the forklift around the land, clearing the debris, Lilly shocked herself by crying. She didn't know if it was because the property was getting a fresh start or if she was losing some small piece of Charles. Her hands lightly dusted the tears from her cheeks, leaving a small dirty smudge in its place. When she made her way back over to one of the construction trucks, Jason took a look at her and quickly offered her a paper towel.

Not thinking, Lilly accepted it and blew her nose even though it wasn't runny. Jason smiled as he walked over to her. With his thumb, he brushed the pad of his finger over the smudge, cleaning it in the process. Their eyes connected briefly before Lilly dropped her gaze to the ground. Embarrassment flooded her for reasons she couldn't understand. Sensing her shift in mood, Jason stepped away and went to talk to the foreman. For a first day of construction, she wanted to believe it was rather successful. The crew created a covered workspace before the end of the day. Several neighbors had begun walking by the rubble and mess at the end of the street. Lilly felt she needed to walk over and talk with everyone and found herself enjoying every minute of it.

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