Despite her father’s worries about practicality, Sarah had majored in art with a dual focus in photography and painting. She’d actually now sold two photos to the Advertiser and one to the Star-Bulletin, but the money was not exactly rolling in yet.
Currently, she had assigned herself the task of documenting the changes that were going on in Chinatown. This, she thought, was a brilliant idea. Big changes were happening, whole blocks were being bulldozed down in the name of progress, and residents and businesses were being displaced, in most cases turned out to find their own way to some other part of the island.
Growing up, Chinatown had been a kind of Saturday playground for her. She and her mother, and her maternal grandmother before she’d passed away, were regulars at shopping the open markets, tiny grocery stores, and herbal medicine shops. Lunch was always a kind of nifty adventure. Where to eat was a decision held off for the end of the shopping morning, so it came as a kind of exciting surprise for all three women when they randomly chose whatever place looked interesting at the point where their shopping concluded on that particular Saturday.
Up until her mother’s death, Sarah had happily participated in this Saturday ritual, but once her mother was gone, Sarah rarely visited the Chinatown area, and it was quite by chance, once she applied for a job at Wo Fat’s Chinese restaurant, that she was drawn back to the area where she’d spent so many happy Saturdays. Going into Chnatown every day, she’d begun to notice the changing landscape, and her nostalgic feeling for the days spent there many years ago had prompted her desire to document what was happening.
Now on her free mornings she was there all the time shooting photos, to her mind preserving this place, the people and the commerce there, all of it vanishing very quickly. She envisioned a book, perhaps a one-person showing somewhere. Maybe even at the Honolulu Academy of Art.
Until the time when her photography would generate any kind of substantial income – and she fully realized that this might never actually be – Sarah needed a job. Fresh out of the University Hawai’i at Mānoa, and now on her own in a small Moili’ili studio, she had applied for any kind of job she could find, and the first positive response had been at Wo Fat’s, a Chinatown restaurant where she now worked full-time, waiting tables 40 hours a week.
It wasn’t that she didn’t get along with her father, but since her mother’s death, her dad had withdrawn himself from everything and everyone, including her, throwing everything he had into his work. Being with him was a constant reminder of how much she missed her mother, a kind of sorrow she thought similar to her father’s own, and it was to escape this perpetual funereal feeling that she moved out of her house and into the tiny one-room apartment as soon as she’d graduated college.
He father had not made much of a fuss about her leaving. In fact he put up so little resistance to the idea that for a while after the move, Sarah was even more depressed than she had been when she was living with him.
But getting the waitressing job had helped bring her out of her funk, and going out with college friends didn’t hurt either.
And then there was Jason Yu.
Jason Yu was without doubt the most handsome man she’d ever met. He came to the restaurant often, and he was known to flirt with many of the waitresses. He seemed, however, to have taken a special interest in Sarah, and she was not averse to this attention.
He dressed well, always in expensive black suits and ties, and with this impeccable taste in clothes, his beautifully styled black hair, mesmerizing black eyes, and his smooth, witty conversation, Sarah was pretty much in love before he even asked her out.
On their first date, he’d taken her to the Kahala Hilton for dinner, and they both very much enjoyed return visits to the La Ronde, a revolving restaurant at the top of the Ala Moana Building with a stunning view running from Diamond Head out to the airport.
In the few months they’d been together, although Jason had learned all about Sarah, Sarah could figure out very little about Jason. For instance, she could not get out of him what he did for a living, nor could she determine where he spent those nights when he let her know he’d be too busy to get together.
It never occurred to Sarah that a relationship with Jason Yu could be dangerous. She was in love, and one night when they were done with dinner, he asked her if she’d like to see where he lived.
Of course she would. They drove to his home, a virtual palace on Kahala Avenue, and Sarah was dazzled by the bright lights, high ceilings and chandeliers, and the number of beautifully decorated rooms that seemed to serve no real purpose other than to be there to admire.
Jason lived there alone. As alone as a person could be who had servants. If Sarah thought he seemed well off before this, she now understood that he was not just doing well. He was wealthy.
And after they were served drinks by a tiny, silent Hawaiian woman, although she’d wanted to press him again about what he did for a living, the next thing she knew, she was waking up and it was morning.
Sarah’s head was pounding. She opened her eyes to a few rays of sun seeping in around blackout curtains, and to Jason Yu sitting by the side of the bed, watching her.
“I,” she said, “oh man, did I pass out?”
“You did,” he said, his voice sounding a tone that she’d not heard in it before. It was tight, cold.
And that icy cutting voice scared her. He continued watching her, those dark eyes she’d loved even more chilling than his voice.
“I, I think need to go.”
“I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.” He smiled <snip>
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