ForumsArt, Music, and WritingHer Name was Honolulu [Young Adult Novel]

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I've started writing a story and I'd appreciate some feedback on the first chapter.

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9,447 posts


Her Name was Honolulu

Chapter 1: The Ides of May

With her new binoculars raised to scan the horizon, Honolulu stood atop the highest hill. “Wow, everything looks so far away! Even you, Polly.”
Close-at-hand, her sister Pollyesther grunted in mild annoyance, “They’re backwards, ya dingus.”
“I know that. I’m just messing with you,” Honolulu said, smirking as she lowered and turned them. “This is a great gift. Thank you.”
Polly stifled a smile as her eyes drifted downward, “Sure thing, LuLu.”
“Is something wrong?”
“Well, it’s just… there’s been a lot going on lately. Studying for finals and doing projects. And, I mean, and then you’re leaving for summer camp soon,” she sighed, “I just thought we’d have more time together.”
“Hey,” Honolulu softly held Pollyesther’s hands, “I know it’s been tough and it won’t be the same, but I’ll write you every day I can. I’d text but there’s no signal there.” She smiled, “No matter what, we’ll always have eachother.”
“Yeah.” Polly inhaled sheepishly and shook her head, “I’m sorry. This is your birthday. I shouldn’t be making it about me.”
“No no, it’s okay. I’m glad you told me. Now we can be sure to make the most of the time we have left.”
“Okay, what would you like to do, Lu?”
“Anything you like,” Honolulu beamed in anticipation.
“Well,” Polly’s lips curled up hopefully, “We haven’t walked through the woods in a while.”
“Let’s go!”
They scurried down the hill at a joyous run and entered at the edge of the forest on a gravel path that led eastward. On such a calm day with little breeze as the late-afternoon sun baked openly behind them, the shade was coolly inviting where the thick canopies betrayed the daylight to an eternal evening. A squirrel darted away into tall grasses as they neared. The trill of red-winged blackbirds distantly filled the open air. There came a sudden rat-a-tat-tapping above.
“Look!” gasped Polly, “A woodpecker!”
Honolulu brought up her binoculars to better view its gravity-defying perch on the bole of a tall decaying birch. Its red-crested head bobbled, the slender beak steadily drilling into the peeling white bark. “Neat.”
Polly grinned, “Did you know they can live up to 13 years? That’s as old as me!”
They continued their trek among the trees, enjoying the peaceful rustle of mingling leaves. A brief gust tickled the umbels of Queen Anne’s lace that lined the track. Polly almost began to forget her deafening thoughts, but blurted “I guess you’ll be going on lots of hikes at camp.”
“Yeah, but they won’t be as good as with you!”
Pollyesther’s cheek twitched as she parsed LuLu’s exaggeration, “I really do want you to have lots of fun.”
“I’m sure I will,” Honolulu said neutrally. “And I wish you could come. But at least you’ll be old enough next year.”
“Yeah. I’m always waiting to be older.”
Honolulu stopped. “You know, being the oldest doesn’t just mean getting to do things first. It also means having to. There are more responsibilities and not a lot of guidance. There’s more expectations and… obligations.”
Pollyesther faltered, “I’m- I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to complain and upset you.”
“I’m not upset,” said Honolulu sternly, “I just… It’s important that you enjoy how things are right now because you might not be able to later. I don’t have as much free time as you anymore, and soon you won’t either. Understand?”
Polly nodded in appeasement and they resumed their stride in mutual silence while the trail wound fairly straight and level. As their journey continued deeper toward the heart of the forest, shrubs and ferns became plentiful, and the dirges of cicadas droned without end. Soon they came to a clearing with an unmarked crossroads of three diverging paths: Northeast, Southeast, and South. In years past, they had most often taken the South because eventually a branch curls back toward their entrance.
“Do you want to keep going, Polly?”
Pollyesther timidly replied “Only if you do.”
“Do you want to turn around?”
“Not really.”
Correctly inferring that her sister meant ‘No, please keep going,’ Honolulu asked “How far do you want to go?”
“As far as you.”
Honolulu pointed to the Northeast and Southeast paths, “These will take longer, but it’ll be more of an adventure.”
“Which one?”
Pollyesther indicated the Southeast and they marched abreast.
This path was curvy and went slightly uphill, though there were plenty of dips in the natural landscape. At the edge-of-sight, a loon warbled and wailed while they crossed a wide wooden bridge over a narrow stream that trickled quickly and noisily from the north. Along its channel, the break in the trees gave them a clear view of slanted shadows signaling the sun’s descent toward the treetops.
Honolulu scoffed, “We’ll really have to hurry. We should be back home before dark.”
“Can I borrow the binoculars?” Polly asked softly.
“Sure,” she ducked to lift the leather string off her neck.
“Thanks.” Elbows on the parapet, Polly scoped the loon circling in the shallows. She smiled at its melodic cries, which were faintly answered by a sharp lament. Their tremolos faded as the ornately patterned black-and-white bird slowly followed the rivulet around a corner upstream beyond the embankment. Polly handed the binoculars back. “Okay, let’s keep going.”

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They departed from the bridge and continued at the swift pace Honolulu led over the meandering incline until Polly exclaimed “Look! There’s another path here.” A narrow inlet of trampled greenery led westward. Her eyes widened as her voice dropped to a whimsical whisper, “Maybe it’s a shortcut.”
“Short cuts can make long delays, but it is in the right direction,” LuLu bit her lip in contemplation and glanced over at Polly’s eager eyes, “Alright, we’ll risk it,” and added, almost only to herself, “If it’s no good, we can always go back.”
This route was rough with sudden staggering drops obscured by the brush. A felled elm had landed over the trail. Burdock burrs clung to their clothes with a prickly grip; silky gossamer net caught Polly’s face while she was preoccupied picking them off. Despite the setbacks, they made good progress. When the thin slits of sky above began to dim toward tepid faded-denim, they were certain the sun was setting.
Honolulu spoke up first, “So, how’s the shortcut so far?”
“Worse than I thought it would be,” candidly replied Polly, tugging a twig from her tangled hair.
“We’re probably over halfway by now, but there’s still time to turn around.”
Polly was indignant, gesturing broadly. “All of this effort can’t be for nothing. Besides, that was hard enough going over it the first time.”
“Well,” Honolulu inhaled sharply through gritted teeth, “In for a penny, in for a pound.”
The tumbled trail draggled on-and-on as deeper dusk drifted toward the depths of night. A weak waxing crescent was extinguished by the dense canopies while Polly took out her cell phone to use its flashlight, a bright beacon to find their way forward in defiance of darkness. Its beam brought them a shred of comfort in this miserable place. Minutes and acres later, it shut off on its own.
“Dead battery,” Pollyesther sighed, slowing her pace to stow it.
“Figures,” Honolulu gloated irritably, “At least I always keep mine… charged?” She patted her pockets frantically.
“What’s wrong?”
LuLu frowned in full embarrassment, “It’s on the charger in the car.”
“FiGuREs!” mocked Polly. She would’ve laughed harder, but she knew it meant they’d be ceaselessly stumbling.
And they were. They tottered-about in the timeless forest, only growing more exhausted each moment. The occasional piercing screech of a barn owl kept their senses sharp. As their eyes adjusted to the deepness, finding their way became easier and their usual stroll resumed. Distantly ahead across a steep ditch, a gap in the trees became more apparent.
“The South path!” cried Honolulu, “We made it!”
“Yay! Let’s get out of here!”
With their eyes fixed on their more-frequented path, they hurried forward. But by neglecting their footing, the toe of Honolulu’s right shoe slotted into a deep divot and her figure fell forward with a hideous thud. She failed to restrain a yelp of pain as she began to feel the extent of her injury.
“Oh no!” Polly spun to Honolulu’s side. “Are you hurt?”
“Yeah- mmfh, it’s my ankle.” She rolled to her back and sat up. “My foot caught a hole and it’s twisted it.” Her breath quavered as she shuddered. “It’s bad.”
“What do we do?” Polly asked quickly.
“Help me up.”
Polly gripped LuLu’s hands and got under a shoulder to serve as a crutch. “Can you walk?”
“I’ll try.”
Instant regret.
Pollyesther had never seen her sister in such agony, though she barely saw her now in the blackness. She’ll never forget that scream. Tears welled in her eyes.
Honolulu lowered back to the ground in frustration, breathing hard. “No. It must be broken.” She looked straight at Polly’s anguished face, “Listen, I need you to go t-“
“I’m not leaving you here!” wailed Polly.
“You have to. There’s an emergency kit in the trunk of the car with first-aid and flashlights and stuff. My phone’s up by the cup-holders. Call home. Tell mom what happened. Here’s the keys.”
Polly nodded slowly and shook with tension, clenching the keyring in a palsied grip.
Honolulu continued in a less-commanding and more-reassuring tone, “That’s the path we used to take all the time, remember? You’ll know where you are, even in the dark.”
Sniffling, Pollyesther offered, “I- I could at least h- help you up to the path.”
LuLu shook her head, “Save your strength. You still have a long way to run.”
They hugged tightly, hearts pounding with adrenaline.
“I’ll be back soon!” Polly hurdled over the ditch and bolted up the slope, disappearing into the night.

Then she sprinted back into view, “What’s your phone’s password?”
Honolulu managed a wry smile, “Oh-Five, One-Five; my birthday; today.”

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