Sydney Kalili flipped her long black hair over her shoulder and charged into an oncoming wave. It was a big one, and it swallowed Sydney whole. She felt the cool water engulf her body and sting her eyes, and she accidentally swallowed a mouthful of sea water. She tumbled onto the sandy shore and faced her sister, Miranda. Miranda shook her head.
“Sydney, you know I can do better than that.” The sisters waited until a big wave arrived, and this time Miranda ran. Sydney watched her older sister as she jumped into the wave; her sister made it look effortless. Several seconds later, Miranda jogged back to where Sydney was and said, “Bet you can’t do that.”
“But… but mine was good, too,” protested Sydney. She was sick of Miranda being better than her at almost everything. Miranda rolled her eyes.
“Sydney, if you want to prove yourself, go ahead and do it.” She paused. “Hey, here comes a big one now!”
Sydney ran into the wave, but her try was no good. She barely reached the wave before it crashed ashore, but it did knock her over. Sydney did somersaults on the sand and blinked back tears. Miranda was laughing like her sister’s failure was the funniest thing in the world.
“Stop it!” cried Sydney. “It was a mistake!” Miranda shook her head.
“Sydney, I have way more experience than you. I’ve been doing this since I was, like, four. I’ll always be better than you.”
Sydney could not listen anymore. She ran to her house, which wasn’t that far from the beach. Her mom was cooking shrimp with her “special” sauce, which both the sisters knew was just a mixture of soy sauce, ketchup, coconut milk, and a little olive oil.
* * *
“Aloha, Sydney dear. What’s the rush?” asked Mom as she poured special sauce over the shrimp. Sydney didn’t answer. She ran into the room she and Miranda shared and lay down on her bed. She could hear the door opening, then closing, and she heard her sister’s footsteps.
“Mom, is it OK if I enter this surf contest that they’re having tomorrow?”
“Yes, Miranda, but…” Her mother was interrupted by Miranda.
“Awesome!” Miranda exited, and Sydney came out of her room.
Mom eyed her and said, “Sweetie, go play outside before the shrimp is done.” Sydney trudged outside to the shore. As usual, the beach was packed. It was summer vacation, and tourists from all around were visiting Hawaii. Sydney noticed that a large banner was up. It read, “Hibiscus Surfing Contest Tomorrow!” Hibiscus surfing competitions were not just any type of surfing competitions. They were Hibiscus surfing competitions. These competitions were held once a year, and there were many rules in order to enter. You had to be over twelve years old. You had to have been in at least two surfing competitions in your life. You had to have lived in Hawaii for at least four years. You had to own a surfboard… the list goes on and on. Miranda was fourteen years old. She had been in a total of eleven surfing competitions in her life. She, Sydney, and the rest of their family had been living in Hawaii forever—this was where Sydney’s ancestors had come from. And Miranda owned a beautiful surfboard—it was deep purple and had her name on it. Miranda had never been in a Hibiscus surfing competition before.
Oke, the lifeguard, noticed Sydney strolling around and called out, “Sydney, Miranda just signed the Hibiscus papers! She will be in the competition! Kela’apopo.”
“I heard,” sighed Sydney wearily.
“And you’re not happy. Why are you not happy? Kaikua’ana will be in the surfing contest… I would be excited.”
“Never mind, Oke,” said Sydney, “why I’m not happy about this.” She strutted away. Miranda was gone now, and Sydney supposed that her mother’s shrimp was done. Sadly, she walked back home.
“Aloha and welcome to the seventy-third annual Hibiscus surfing competition! That’s right, friends, this special contest has been going on since 1938—and look how far we’ve come!” These happy words were said by a cheery announcer out of Sydney’s sight. Sydney looked at her sister, who was wearing a light blue water suit and nervously leaning on her personalized surfboard. The announcer continued talking, but Sydney didn’t listen. Before she knew it, Miranda and her surfboard were paddling to a large wave. She rode the wave beautifully. She kept her arms out for balance, not that she needed it. The whole crowd was in awe of her. Sydney turned away. Miranda was showing off again. Of course, she would never be as good a surfer as Miranda. Never. Tears burned her eyes. Just as she was prepared to run back home, she heard a high-pitched shriek and everyone gasped. Sydney turned to where she expected to see Miranda, but her sister was gone. Her purple surfboard was floating on the surface of the water. Instantly, Sydney ran to the ocean. She wasn’t dressed for swimming (she had on a thin cotton tank top and a pair of shorts), but she ran into the water. She didn’t know how deep she was in the water. She didn’t know if people were watching her. All of her thoughts were mixed up in her head like soup. She knew just one thing. She needed to get to her sister.
Waves came up and threatened to crash over her, but she swam through them using the trick that Miranda had taught her. Sydney had barely reached her sister’s surfboard when she felt strong, cool arms wrap around her. She squirmed around and saw that they were those of Oke, the lifeguard. Instead of trying to escape from Oke’s strong grip, she cried out, “Kokua! Help! Help!”
“It’s OK, Sydney, you’re OK,” Oke said, trying to soothe her.
“No, Miranda, Miranda! Help her! Not me, her!” But Sydney’s pleas were of no use. Oke still held her. Several other lifeguards were swimming toward where her sister had gone down. Oke held onto her and brought her to the shore.
“Sydney, are you OK?” Sydney was sobbing now.
“Just help my sister! I’m fine!” The lifeguard wrapped a towel around the shivering girl and swam to where Miranda had gone down. And right now, the sky was beautiful and the air was warm. Sydney watched as Oke grabbed an unconscious Miranda, held her so that her head was above water, and swam toward the shore.
“She’s breathing,” he announced to the tense bystanders. They all breathed a sigh of relief, but Sydney was still worried. She flew to her sister’s side. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she examined her sister.
Miranda’s eyes opened slightly, and she said in a whisper, “‘Oma’ima’i, help me.” Sydney desperately looked around for her parents. Finally, she spotted them as they raced across the beach to Sydney, Miranda, and Oke.
“Mom, Dad, get Miranda to the hospital. She needs help. I’ll stay home until you return. “‘Olelo-pa’a, ‘olelo-ho’ohiki.” Sydney’s parents did not even hesitate to put Miranda in the car and drive her to the hospital. Sydney waved solemnly as the car drove away. Realizing that she was quite drowsy, Sydney jogged back home and fell asleep on the sofa.
“But, Mom, I love surfing!”
“Miranda, you’re lucky that you’re OK. The doctors said that your accident could have been fatal.” Sydney heard the voices of Mom and Miranda. Miranda groaned.
“But I can still swim and stuff, right?”
“Right.” Mom sounded exasperated at her daughter. Now Miranda spoke again.
“Dad, will you do me a favor and…” Sydney went back to sleep.
* * *
Sun streamed through Miranda and Sydney’s bedroom, sending buttery streaks over the sleeping girls. Sydney awoke before her older sister. She remembered what she had heard last night. Was that conversation real? She gazed around the bedroom. Dad must have carried me in here late last night, she thought, because I had fallen asleep on the sofa. She noticed Miranda’s surfboard in the corner of the room. However, for some reason, Miranda’s name was not on the surfboard. Sydney stood up, stretched, and strolled to where the surfboard leaned. Instead of “Miranda” on the surfboard, there was her name, “Sydney.” There was also a note taped to the board. Here is what it said:
My surfboard is now yours. Mom and Dad don’t want me to surf again because of my “fatal” accident. Last night, I asked Dad to re-paint it and put your name on there. I’m sorry that I was such an awful older sister. You tried to save me, even though you knew that I just made your life miserable. I’m going to change. I won’t be such a bigshot anymore. Someday, all we may have is each other. Thank you so much for trying to help me. I passed Oke on the beach when I came back from the hospital, and he told me what you did. Aloha Aula ‘Oe. I love you.
As Sydney looked at her sister, she saw Miranda’s eyes open and her lips form a smile. And for once, Sydney felt love for her sister. Love. And she felt herself saying “Aloha Aula ‘Oe, Miranda.”
Glossary of Hawaiian Words
Aloha – hello; aloha can also mean goodbye and love
Kela’apopo – tomorrow
Kaikua’ana – older sister to a girl
Kokua – help
‘Oma’ima’i – not feeling well
‘Olelo-pa’a, ‘olelo-ho’ohiki – promise
Aloha Aula ‘Oe – I love you