Tales from TEKville by TheEvilKaren

Photo stories featuring 1:6 scale dolls

Maile

One evening as she returns home from the sushi bar, Etsuko notices the light on her answering machine blinking.

Curious, she presses the "play" button and is surprised to hear the voice of her friend and distant cousin, Maile.

"Suko?  Hi, it's Maile!  I'm on the mainland and would like to come to see you.  Will you be home next week?  Call me!"

On the mainland?  Etsuko thinks to herself.  As far as I know Maile has NEVER left Hawaii!  What in the world . . .

She dials Maile's cell phone number from memory.

"Maile?  I would love to see you!  What are you doing off the island?"

"It's a long story, Suko.  Is it OK if I come on Tuesday?"

"Of course!  I have not seen you for such a long time!  We have a lot of catching up to do, hai?"

"We sure do.  I'll see you on Tuesday!"

Etsuko is left staring at her phone at Maile's abrupt disconnect.  How odd, she thinks.  Maile did not sound like herself.  I hope she is all right.

**************************************************************************************************

True to her word, Maile arrives the following Tuesday afternoon, which fortunately is Etsuko's day off.  They hug fondly, and Etsuko gets Maile settled.  

Her apartment is not large, but Maile is adaptable and her own home on the island isn't exactly palatial.  Finally, once they have made themselves comfortable on the couch -- which will be Maile's bed for the duration of her stay -- Etsuko pours them each a cup of tea.

"This is hilarious, Suko!  Japanese tea in an American mug?"

"I am becoming an American, Maile!  Some traditions are best forgotten."

Once the tea has been poured, Etsuko broaches the subject that has been on her mind ever since receiving Maile's phone message.

"Maile?  Why have you left the island?

Maile looks uncomfortable and does not meet her friend's eyes.  "I felt that it would be in my best interest to make myself scarce for a while.  The owner of the plantation began making . . . improper advances.  Papa was afraid that he would get fired if he confronted him."

"Maile!  That is awful!  What did the man do?"

"At first it was just little things that could be explained away as accidental, but when he cornered me in the warehouse and tried to . . ."  Maile shudders at the memory of the leering middle-aged Japanese man's hands on her body.  " . . . well, I was lucky that the warehouse manager came looking for him.  I was able to get away, but I knew that it wouldn't stop.  I was afraid that Papa would be fired if I made a scene, so I packed my bags that night and left the plantation.  Papa gave me money for an airplane ticket, and . . . here I am!"

Etsuko hugs Maile tightly.  "You are welcome to stay as long as you like, Maile!"

"Thank you, Suko.  If I decide to stay here in TEKville, I will find my own apartment.  I should have no trouble finding a job.  IT geeks are always in demand!"

Etsuko giggles.  "You are hardly a 'geek', my friend!  You are going to drive the men in this town wild!"

****************************************************************************************************

The next day as Etsuko is cleaning up after the lunch crowd at the sushi bar, Ranger enters.  One look at his face tells Etsuko that all is not well at Rangeman Construction.

"What is wrong, Ranger-san?"

"That obvious, huh?"  Ranger smiles.  "Keeli's computer is giving us fits.  She and Rob have been working on it all morning, but they haven't been able to figure out what's wrong.  There is some critical information on that computer!  I don't know what I'm going to do!"

"Here, Ranger-san.  Perhaps some tea will improve your mood."

"Domo arigato, Etsuko!"  Ranger winks as he performs a slight bow.  Etsuko blushes prettily.

"Ranger-san?  I think I may be able to help." 

Ranger looks puzzled.  "You?  But . . ."

Etsuko smiles shyly.  "Not me personally, but my friend Maile.  She is from Hawaii and is visiting me.  She is a computer technician.  Shall I ask her if she can look at it for you?"

Ranger shrugs.  "It sure couldn't hurt, especially if she knows something about computers!  I'm completely hopeless, and even though Rob and Keeli are at least a little more computer literate than I am, they obviously don't have the skills to fix what's wrong.  Can your friend -- Mylie, is it? -- come today?  I have a big job that I need to bid this afternoon."

"Hai, Ranger-san.  I think so.  I will call her."

Etsuko pulls out her cell phone and dials Maile's number.

"Suko?  What's up?"

"My friend . . ." Etsuko blushes, ". . . I mean, my fiance' . . . is having computer problems at his business.  Can you help, Maile?"

"I can try!  Where's his office?"

Etsuko provides an address and instructions on how to get there, then hanges up and turns to Ranger.

"She will be at your office in an hour, Ranger-san.  I hope she can help!"

"Me too, Little Flower!  Thank you!  Now, before I go back to the office, can I have some sushi to go?"

Etsuko smiles indulgently.  "Of course, Ranger-san.  Sit.  I will bring it."

***************************************************************************************************

After lunch Ranger returns to Rangeman Construction to find a very distraught Keeli being comforted by his foreman, Rob. 

"I hate computer problems!  They make me feel so helpless!  Ranger, what are we going to do?  That job has to be bid this afternoon or we'll lose it!"

"Never fear!  Help is on the way!  And from the unlikeliest of sources -- Etsuko!"

Rob and Keeli both stare at Ranger in astonishment.

"Etsuko??  She knows about computers?"

Ranger smiles.  "Not exactly.  She has a friend -- from Hawaii, I think she said -- who is visiting her, and she is apparently a computer technician.  Can you beat that for luck?"

"Oh, thank goodness!  Is she coming here?"

Ranger consults the clock.  "Yes, and she should be here in a few minutes.  Go wash your face, Keeli.  I brought you guys some lunch."

Keeli's face brightens.  "Hooray!  Sushi!  My hero!"

***************************************************************************************************

As the trio finishes up their take-out, the office door opens and a pretty Asian girl tentatively enters. 

Ranger looks up.  "Mylie?" 

"Yes, I am Maile.  You are Ranger?"

"Yes.  Thank you so much for coming!  Do you think you can salvage this piece of junk?"  He winks.

"Let me take a look!"

"I can't bear to watch.  I'll be in my office if you need anything."  Ranger closes his office door behind him. 

Keeli smiles at the stranger and sticks out her hand.  "Hi!  I'm Keeli.  Any friend of Etsuko's is a friend of mine, even if you can't fix this blasted thing!"

Maile shyly takes Keeli's hand.

"And this hunk is Rob, Ranger's foreman."

Rob blushes and thwacks Keeli playfully across the back of her head.

"Stop that!  You're going to embarrass Mylie!"

Maile smiles at the interplay between the two, who seem like squabbling siblings, then gestures at Keeli's laptop.

"Is this the problem child?"

Keeli sighs.  "Yeah, that's it.  I keep getting the blue screen of death, and the last time I couldn't get it to come back."

Maile looks concerned.  "Rut row.  BSoD?  That's not good.  Well, let's take a look."

Maile sits down at Keeli's desk and closes her eyes for a moment with her fingers hovering over the keyboard.

Rob and Keeli exchange puzzled glances over her head.  Rob shrugs, and their attention returns to Maile as her fingers being flying over the keyboard.

Every once in a while an inintellible mutter comes from Maile, but she is so completely focused on her task that she is unaware of making any sounds.  Eventually Keeli tires of watching and excuses herself to poke her head into Ranger's office and ask if she can go out and run some errands while her computer is being worked on.  Ranger has no problem with that, so she grabs her purse and waves to Rob, knowing that Maile is totally oblivious to her surroundings.

Rob, however, is fascinated by Maile's expertise and pulls up a chair next to her so he can watch what she's doing.  Eventually her expression brightens and she turns to Rob.

"Cool!  I'm making progress!  I'm glad you stayed, Rob.  I'm going to need some assistance with restoring some of these files."

Rob kneels next to Maile in order to get closer to the screen.  Heads close together, they collaborate on resurrecting Ranger's more critical files.  As he reaches out to point at something on the screen, Rob's arm accidentally brushes against Maile's breast. 

She stiffens and looks sharply at Rob.

"Mylie!  I am so sorry!  I didn't mean . . ."

"It's all right, Rob.  I know it was an accident."

They return their attention to the computer screen, but both are thoughtful.

I must get over this!  If I'm ever going to have a real relationship, I can't continue to let what happened in the warehouse make me fear a man's touch!

She is really cute, and there is something so sweetly vulnerable about her . . .

Rob shakes his head sharply to jar himself out of his reverie.

No way, he tells himself.  You're with Harmony.  Stop thinking about how Mylie's breast felt against your arm!

"Rob?"

"Sorry, Mylie.  I was thinking about something else.  Now, what about this file?"

***************************************************************************************************

Their work continues until a couple of hours later they are satisfied that everything important has been restored.  Rob calls Keeli to let her know that she needs to come back to the office, and Ranger is notified so he can begin working up his bid.

"Thank you so much, Mylie!  How much do I owe you?"

"Oh, don't worry about that, Ranger.  I'm happy to help out Suko's fiance'."  She smiles.  "But if I do decide to stay here in TEKville and open up a computer repair business, I'd appreciate a reference!" 

Ranger smiles back.  "Of course!  Hey Rob -- why don't you take the rest of the day off and take Mylie back to Etsuko's apartment?  It's the least we can do to repay her for saving our bacon!"

Rob pauses imperceptibly, then holds out his hand to Maile.  "Great idea!  Good luck with that bid, Ranger.  I hope we get the job!"

As Rob ushers Maile toward the door, he asks, "Did you get lunch, Mylie?"

"No.  I was just about to make myself a sandwich when Etsuko called."

"You must be starving!  Let me buy you lunch.  There's a great diner just down the street that is famous for its burgers."

"That's very nice of you, Rob.  It so happens that I have a weakness for burgers and fries!"

*****************************************************************************************************

When Rob and Maile arrive at the diner they find it nearly empty with the exception of a couple of mid-afternoon regulars, so they attract Spencer's attention immediately.

They seat themselves immediately at an empty table and are greeted by Etsuko's friend Spencer. 

"Hey, Rob!  What's up?"

"Hey, Spencer.  I'd like you to meet Mylie.  She's a friend of Etsuko's who just saved Rangeman Construction from losing a major job!"

"Mylie?  Nice to meet you!  How's your name spelled -- like Mylie Cyrus?"

Maile smiles.  "Nice to meet you, too, Spencer.  It's a Hawaiian name, and it's spelled M-A-I-L-E, like the leaves used to make leis.  Thanks for asking!  It didn't take me long to figure out that on the mainland, not many people know the term."

"Well, any friend of Etsuko's is a friend of mine.  Welcome to TEKville, Maile!  If it's OK I'll take your orders, then come back and sit down to chat.  I'd like to get to know you better!"

Rob orders a basic burger and is astounded when Maile orders the diner's specialty, the Jumbo Burger with everything . . . and then orders a huge plate of fries and onion rings on top of that!  After delivering the order to the kitchen Spencer returns, and true to her word, pulls up a chair.  She and Maile spend the next few minutes getting acquainted.

When she hears the bell indicating that her order is up, Spencer jumps up and returns with two plates laden with burgers, then returns with another laden with fries and onion rings.

Knowing that they will be otherwise occupied for a few minutes, Spencer begins cleaning tables and refilling condiments to give them a chance to savor their lunch.

Spencer keeps an eye on the couple in the event they need anything, and being an astute observer, she notes that Rob seems unable to keep his eyes off Maile.  Surreptitiously she watches more closely, and soon reaches the conclusion that Rob is completely besotted with this newcomer.  A slight frown furrows her brow as she recalls the frequent head-clutching that was such a trademark of Harmony St. Clair before Rob arrived in TEKville and swept her off her feet.

Hmmmmm.  Watching this play out is going to be interesting!  I can't wait to tell Etsuko about this.

Several minutes later, stomachs taut, Rob and Maile both sit back and simultaneously give a contented sigh.  Both laugh.

"I can't believe you ate that entire burger . . . and all of those fries and onion rings!  Where on earth do you put it all, Maile?  You're so . . . tiny!"

She smiles.  "Thank you, but I assure you, I'm hardier than I look.  I can always find room for a burger, and this one was particularly delicious.  I'm not entirely sure how I'm going to be able to waddle back to Etsuko's, though!"

Impulsively, Rob blurts out "Would you like to go next door to the New York Bar and have a drink?  That'll give your lunch a chance to settle for a bit before we start back."

"Why . . . yes, I'd like that, Rob.  I'm interested in seeing more of TEKville.  So far I like what I see -- very much -- and I'm thinking more and more seriously about moving here."

Rob is very much in favor of that plan.  He pays the tab and takes Maile's elbow, steering her out of the diner and next door to the NY.

****************************************************************************************************

As Rob seats her at an open table near the door, Maile takes in her surroundings with interest.  "What a great little bar!  It's small, but I like the intimate feeling.  And I love the New York theme!" 

Rob sits and gestures toward the back at a handsome African American man. 

"The owner, Darius, is originally from New York, so it makes him feel at home.  On weekends a local band called 'Shepherds Pie' plays, and Darius sometimes brings in other entertainment.  It's a fun place . . . one where 'everyone knows your name'."  He winks.

Maile grins, recognizing the reference.  "Well, they don't 'know my name' yet, but hopefully it won't be long before they do!"

Rob fetches a beer for himself and a fruity tropical drink for Maile, and they resume getting acquainted.  Gradually the after-work crowd starts to filter in, but Rob is so captivated by Maile that he fails to notice the bar beginning to fill up.

Only when he senses familiar eyes on him does he look up.  His eyes meet Harmony's and he is abruptly thrust back into reality.

 

He lurches to his feet, almost knocking over his chair.

"Har . . . Harmony!  I . . . . this. . . ummmm, I'd like you to meet Etsuko's friend from Hawaii, Maile.  She came to Rangeman's rescue today when Keeli's computer crashed." 

 "Maile, this is Harmony St. Clair."

Harmony looks sharply at Maile as she slowly puts out her hand.  Maile searches Harmony's face and feels a pang of disappointment as it confirms her suspicion.

"Hello, Harmony.  What a lovely name!  Have you lived here long?"

"For a couple of years, yes.  It's nice to meet you, Maile."

Uncomfortably, Rob says "Please sit with us, Harmony.  I was just . . . ummm, I was showing Maile around TEKville before taking her back to Etsuko's apartment.  Can I get you a drink?"

He barely waits to hear a response before he escapes toward the bar, leaving the two women alone together. 

 

Harmony takes Rob's chair.  The ensuing silence begins to become strained.  Maile attempts to break the awkwardness.

"What do you do, Harmony?"

"I'm a paralegal.  So I gather that you're in IT?"

Maile smiles.  "Guilty!  Yes, I'm a geek."

That breaks the awkwardness of the situation, and soon the girls are chatting away like old friends.  Rob is keeping a close eye on them from the bar and breathes a sigh of relief at their obvious success at overcoming the initial strain. 

He returns to the table with Harmony's drink and pulls up a chair.  The threesome talks on into the evening.

*****************************************************************************************************

With the contacts she makes through Etsuko, Ranger and Rob, Maile spends the next few days feeling out TEKville's market for a computer technician.  She soon becomes confident that there is a need for her services in this charming little town, and decides to put down roots.  For now she will remain at Etsuko's apartment, but once she gets her business on its feet she will look for a place of her own.

Maile prints up business cards and flyers and is seen all over TEKville, tacking up flyers and handing out cards.

TEKvillians are starved for on-site computer support, so Maile's budding business quickly grows.  She meets many of the town's long-time residents and thoroughly enjoys helping them with their computer crises.

 

Maile doesn't exactly avoid Rob, but she doesn't go out of her way to seek him out.  It's not her style to set her cap for someone who already has romantic ties, much as she might regret it.  Rob is the most interesting man she has met in a long time, but she admits to herself that it could be because he is so different from the type of men she dated in Hawaii.  She is also self-aware enough to realize that part of the attraction might be because she knows her parents would not approve of this blond-haired, blue-eyed Midwesterner.

*****************************************************************************************************

One evening after the dinner rush at the sushi bar, Maile and Shakira keep Etsuko  company while they wait for her to finish so they can go next door to the NY to hear Shepherds Pie. 

The door jingles and all three girls turn to see who has come in search of sushi this late in the evening. 

At the sight of the man who enters, Maile jerks to her feet in surprise.  "Yu . . . Yutaka!  What . . . how . . .?!"

The handsome Japanese man smiles.  "Hello, Maile."

"Why are you here?" she blurts out, puzzled as to why the son of the plantation owner in Hawaii where she used to work would be here in TEKville. 

"Maile, I spoke to your father.  I know why you left the island.  I've come here to . . ."

Maile interrupts.  "No!  I won't go back!  I can't!"

The stranger smiles gently.  "I understand, Maile.  Your father told me everything.  I am very sorry about what happened.  I just need you to know that my father . . . my father is no longer the owner of the plantation.  You need not fear him any longer."

Maile frowns.  "No longer . . . the owner?  How can that be?"

"I am ashamed to be the son of such a man, but he cannot harm you or anyone else any more."

Maile searches Yutaka's face, puzzled.  He sighs.

"My father transferred his attentions to another young woman at the plantation after you disappeared.  He forced himself on her, and she was not as fortunate as you were.  There was no reprieve for her.  When she told her father what had happened, he came for the man who dishonored his daughter."

Yutaka pauses, then continues softly.

"Maile, my father is dead.  My brothers and I now own the plantation.  Will you not consider returning?"

Maile's eyes grow wide with shock.  She stands motionless for long seconds, considering all of the implications.  Finally, she speaks.

"I thank you for delivering this news, but I still don't understand why you had to come all the way here to do it."

"Do you seriously not know?  Maile, I have loved you for a very long time.  Because of my father's interest in your I wasn't able to make my feelings known, but I have watched over you for years.  Did you think it was coincidence that my father's last attempt to force himself on you was interrupted?  *I* sent the warehouse manager to look for him.  I could not interfere directly, knowing my father's temper.  I would have been disowned if I'd attempted to cross him, and then who would have protected you?" 

Yutaka, his eyes hopeful, approaches Maile and takes her hands in his.

"Will you come back, Maile?  Please?"

Maile's eyes are troubled as she looks up into Yutaka's.  "I like it here, Yutaka.  I've made friends, and I've started a successful business.  I don't want to give that up to go back to working in the plantation office."  She pauses.  "I thank you for everything you did for me, but I don't really know you.  You were my boss's son!  I never dreamed . . ."

Yutaka is crestfallen, but he does not give up easily.

"Then I will give you a chance to know me, and to love me in return.  I will stay.  My brothers are perfectly capable of running the plantation without me.  Will you . . . would you allow me to take you to dinner tomorrow night?"

This is all a bit much for Maile, but she doesn't dislike Yutaka and sees no harm in getting to know him better.

"Very well.  You can pick me up at Etsuko's apartment at 6:30 tomorrow.  I assume, since you were able to find me here, that you know where she lives?"  Maile can't resist getting in a little dig.

Yutaka smiles wryly.  "Hai, Maile.  I know where she lives."  He faces Etsuko and bows ever so slightly, then turns back to Maile.

"I will see you tomorrow night, then.  Thank you for giving me a chance."

He turns and leaves the room with as much dignity as he exhibited when he entered.

Maile turns to Etsuko and they stare at one another.

Finally, her eyes sparkling with amusement, Etsuko begins to giggle. 

"Maile, he is HOT!" 

Maile looks at Etsuko in astonishment.

"Suko!  Since when do you talk like that?"

"I have lived here for a long time, my friend.  I am becoming an American girl!"

Maile bursts out laughing and hugs her friend tightly.

"Oh, Suko!  I have missed you so much!"

**************************************************************************************************

Yutaka communicated by phone the next day that he would be taking Maile to the nicest restaurant in town, so Maile takes pains to dress accordingly.  When the doorbell rings and Yutaka enters the apartment, he is stunned, never having seen her dressed up before.

"M . . . Maile!"  The normally self-possessed Yutaka is suddenly rendered speechless.  "You look . . . absolutely amazing!"

"Thank you, Yutaka! Do you really think so?"

"You are breathtaking!  Are you ready to go?  Come.  I know you're going to love this restaurant."

"Thank you again for giving me a chance, Maile.  You won't regret it; I promise."

****************************************************************************************************

Maile is very impressed by the restaurant, and glad she took pains to look her very best.  The elegant hostess seats them in a secluded alcove containing only two tables.

Always the gentleman, Yutaka does his best in the limited space to push in Maile's chair for her.

The hostess leaves the menus and acquaints the diners with the evening's specials.

"Everything looks so wonderful, Yutaka!  I can't choose!"

"Do you trust me, Maile?"

Maile hesitates, puzzled.  "What do you mean, 'trust' you?"

"Will you let me order for both of us?"

Impulsively, Maile hands her menu to Yutaka.

"I feel like living dangerously tonight!"

When the waiter brings their water and asks if they are ready to order, Yutaka hands him the menus and orders for both of them.  Maile is surpised and pleased with his choices.

Maile is equally impressed by the wine Yutaka orders.  She recognizes it from the wine list and is a bit taken aback by the cost.  I hope he doesn't think that wining and dining me is going to get him into my pants.

"Excellent choice, sir.  One of our finest vintages."

"Thank you.  This should do nicely."

The waiter takes the subtle hint that he should take a hike.  Yutaka raises his glass to Maile. 

"To us!"

Maile shakes her head almost impercepibly.

"To TEKville!"

Almost in spite of herself, Maile finds herself enjoying Yutaka's company.  He is a man with varied interests and has many stories to tell of his travels around the world with his wealthy family.

Yutaka has taken Maile to the upscale restaurant at which Coco is the head chef, so the food is sure to be outstanding.  Coco has a flair for Asian cooking and her presentation is always artfully done.  Her desserts are masterpieces, and it is rare for a diner to depart without raving about them.

When the appetizers are delivered, Maile is astounded at the size of the shrimp. 

It's one of her very favorite things, and she savors every bite.

Things are progressing so well between Maile and Yutaka that they almost don't notice when the hostess seats another couple at the table across the room.

When the man takes his seat, however, Maile's eyes meet his and the rest of the room suddenly fades to gray.  Their eyes lock.  Rob's expression reveals his inner torment.  Maile's gay smile fades.

Rob is grateful for the tablecloth as he eagerly anticipates Maile taking a bite of the enormous prawn in her hand.

Suddenly Maile becomes aware of the waiter at their table, delivering their dinners, and the world snaps back into focus.  Yutaka removes his jacket and hangs it on the back of his chair.

Maile steals one more look in Rob's direction, but finding him still staring at her she quickly returns her attention to the food that has just appeared in front of her.

"Is this all right, Maile?"

"Oh, yes!  The fish looks perfect.  Yutaka, how did you know that I'm a vegetarian?"

He smiles.  "Remember, I've been looking after you for years.  You'd be surprised at what I know about you!"

Maile studiously avoids looking in Rob's direction again throughout the course of the evening, but she feels her eyes on him often, even as she and Yutaka linger over dessert.  

Rob is unable to concentrate on Harmony's inconsequential chatter and keeps finding his gaze drawn back to Maile's table as if by a magnet.

Even after his food is delivered, Rob is unable to focus.

Finally Yutaka signals the waiter and pays their bill.

Yutaka pulls his suit jacket back on, and with his hand on her back, directs Maile toward the door.  

 As they cross the room Rob's eyes follow them every step of the way.

This does not go unnoticed by Rob's dinner companion . . .

**************************************************************************************************

Maile and Yutaka become an item over the ensuing weeks.  She introduces him to the new friends she's made since her arrival and they all take to the soft-spoken Asian man immediately.

Some of the introductions become a little awkward.

"Giselle, this is my friend Yutaka."

Rachel is concerned.  "Uh oh.  Francisco, look.  She's about to introduce her new boyfriend to Jes.  Not a good idea in Jessy's current frame of mind."

"And this is Jes."

"Another scum-sucking, bottom-feeding male?  Really, Maile -- are you sure you want to open yourself up to that kind of hearbreak?"

"Groan"

As Maile urges Yutaka toward the bar, Jes looks at Giselle.

"What!?  I was just warning her what to expect!"

Ayumi is less than discreet in her admiration of Maile's new beau.

Maile makes that particular introduction very quickly and urges Yutaka on to meet Rachel.  At least with Francisco sitting next to her, hopefully she won't shamelessly ogle Yutaka right in front of Maile.

Maile and Yutaka spend many evenings together at Etsuko's apartment, making a convenient foursome with Etsuko and Ranger.

"Ranger, you are seriously whipped.  With a capital "P".

::::Giggle::::  "Etsuko, I can NOT believe you got Ranger to wear that smiley face shirt!"

"Yutaka, if I make Maile happy, Maile makes me happy.  Get my drift?"

"Ranger would do anything I ask.  He knows that it will be worth it."

"Seriously, is it worth it?"

"Every second of it."

"Thank you, Ranger.  Would you and Yutaka get the table from the kitchen while Maile and I clear a space for it?"

Once the table has been set and everyone has drinks, Etsuko brings the appetizers.

After the appetizers are consumed, she dishes up the main course.

"Suko, you've outdone yourself!  This looks amazing!"

And there is more!

After dinner, the table is cleared and the foursome engages in a rousing game of Monopoly.

"OK, I'll sell you these two properties.  Fork over the cash, Ranger!"

Other nights they settle in for pizza and football.

"I never thought I'd like these weird pizzas, but they're really good!"

"Etsuko got the recipes from Coco, so they should be!"

Maile finds herself liking Yutaka more and more, even though she still thinks often of Rob with genuine regret.  There had definitely been something between them, but her first meeting with Harmony St. Clair had quashed any lascivious thoughts she'd been having about Rob Thompson.  Rob, for his part, continues to be distracted and unfocused, to the point at which Ranger has even noticed.  Having been there pretty recently himself, he immediately recognizes the signs and cuts Rob some slack, knowing that he just needs time for the situation to work itself out -- whatever the situation might be.

***************************************************************************************************

Things continue in this vein for weeks, until the day that Rangeman's computer is infected with a virus.  Ranger is out inspecting a job site and Keeli has taken the afternoon off.  Rob is almost elated when the computer begins to act up, knowing that it means he'll have an opportunity to see Maile alone.  He calls her immediately, not mentioning that no one else is in the office, and she agrees to come right away.

She is slightly uneasy when she discovers that she and Rob are alone, but her discomfort quickly disappears as she focuses on what she does best.

She is only vaguely aware of Rob's proximity and is completely unaware of the emotions emanating almost palpably from his troubled countenance. 

Suddenly Rob can take no more.  Grabbing Maile by the arm and yanking her up from her chair, he crushes her to him and kisses her passionately. 

Maile is taken completely by surprise, but not so much that she doesn't notice the obvious physical evidence of Rob's lust.  For a moment she is almost betrayed by her body into melting into his embrace . . .

But when he bends her backwards over the desk and thrusts his knee between her legs, she quickly comes to her senses.

Pushing him away roughly, she snaps "Rob!  Stop it!  What has gotten into you?"

Rob pleads, his arms still reaching out to her, "Please!  Maile!  I want you!  I need you!  I want you so much I can't stand it!  I can't think about anything else but being with you!"

"Are you out of your mind?  What if someone comes!"

"I don't care!  Come with me -- we'll use Ranger's office."  He grabs her by the arm and starts to drag her toward Ranger's door.

She breaks free, beginning to panic.  "No way!  Rob!  Snap out of it!"

Grasping for some way to bring Rob to his senses, she blurts out the one thing that she hopes will make him pause. 

"What about Harmony?"

"I don't care about Harmony!  She has nothing to do with us.  Please, Maile!"

Rob tries again to embrace her.

"Rob, NO!"  She slaps him, hard, and he falls back, clutching his face.

The fog caused by his attack of lust begins to clear and he looks at Maile, horror at his actions written plain on his face.

"Oh my God.  Maile.  I am so sorry!  I don't know what came over me . . ."

Maile keeps her distance, still wary.  "I don't either, Rob, but I don't think it's a good idea for me to stay here.  Have Ranger or Keeli call me and I'll come back when one of them is here to finish clearing out your virus."

Trembling as the adrenalin ebbs from her body and leaves the fear behind, she snatches up her bag and flees.  Rob collapses into Keeli's chair to contemplate the repercussions of his ill-advised actions.

***************************************************************************************************

Maile holds herself together until she returns to Etsuko's apartment.  It is a Tuesday, Etsuko's day off, and she looks up from her book in surprise when Maile enters and leans back against the door, still trembling. 

"Maile?  What . . .?"

"Oh, Suko!  He . . . Rob . . . he attacked me!"

Etsuko rushes to her friend, consoling her with a puzzled frown between her brows.  "ROB???  But . . ."

"It was so frightening, Suko!  He is so strong, and I . . . I . . . I almost . . ."  The sobs increase in intensity.

"Come, Maile.  Sit down and cry it out."

Etsuko guides her friend to the couch, where she continues to sob uncontrollably for several minutes, Etsuko quietly handing her tissues as needed.

Finally, with a last shuddering breath, Maile begins to pull herself together.

She blows her nose one last time and looks at Etsuko with stricken eyes.  "I'm sorry, Suko.  I shouldn't have reacted quite so violently, but . . ."

Etsuko nods.  "I know.  Yutaka's father."

Maile nods gratefully, pleased at her friend's understanding. 

"Rob called about a computer virus at Rangeman.  I didn't know that he was alone.  I was working on the computer when . . . he just lost it, Etsuko.  I've never seen anyone so out of control.  He grabbed me and kissed me and . . . he . . . he was obviously very excited."

Maile blushes, still having trouble believing that her friend is as innocent as she was when they last saw each other as teenagers.

"I . . . I almost gave in, Suko.  There has been a spark between us since we first met.  I've been avoiding him because of Harmony, but he . . . it's almost like he's been stalking me.  Everywhere I go, he's looking at me with those hungry eyes.  It's . . . it's actually very . . . "  She glances sharply at Etsuko and decides against telling her that Rob's eyes on her have been making her weak at the knees and have been causing other . . . physiological changes.

"Anyway, I quickly came to my senses and pushed him away, but he wouldn't stop, he wouldn't let up, he kept coming at me, pleading, grabbing . . ."

Maile draws an unsteady breath.  "I hit him, Suko.  Hard.  It seemed to bring him out of it, but I was so frightened!  I grabbed my purse and ran all the way here.  Oh Suko, what do we do now?  It's a small town and I can't avoid running into him.  How can we ever be friends after this?"

Etsuko sits quietly, stunned by Maile's revelation but understanding far better than her friend believes.  She looks calmly into Maile's eyes. 

"Do you want him, Maile?"

Maile's face registers shock at Etsuko's question.  "Yes.  No! . . . I don't know!"  She lowers her face into her hands.

Etsuko lets Maile absorb the question and her indecisive answer for a moment, then puts her hand on Maile's arm.  She is too private a person to confide in Maile about the night she and Ranger became engaged, but she says with the conviction of someone who has lived it, "You must decide, Maile.  Go with your heart, and let nothing stand in your way."

************************************************************************************************

Maile continues to spend time with Yutaka, but for her, the joy has gone from the relationship.  Still, in spite of his wealthy upbringing and her relatively modest one, they have a lot in common, and she grows to like and respect him.  Unlike Rob, Yutaka is always respectful, but the light in his eyes whenever they are together suggests that his feelings for Maile have only grown stronger.  Gradually Maile begins to relax again and take pleasure in Yutaka's company.

Rob, however, continues to be plagued by guilt and by his unresolved feelings for the lovely Hawaiian girl.  Eventually Ranger loses patience and takes him aside.

"Look, Rob.  I don't know what's going on with you and I don't want to know, but it's affecting your work and that makes it my business.  You're distracted and forgetful and have been screwing up on the job.  I can't afford to have a sloppy foreman.  Do whatever you have to do, but get it together, man.  If you need to take some time off, say the word.  Harley can take over for you until you get back."

Rob hangs his head and mutters, "Thanks, Ranger.  Yeah, a few weeks off would be good.  I'll get it together, I promise."

Ranger puts his hand on Rob's shoulder.  "You're a good man, Rob.  Call if you need anything."

For several days Rob sits in his room at the boarding house shared by several of TEKville's bachelors, brooding over his situation. 

He does more than brood.

Finally, seeing no other way out, he grabs the yellow pages and looks under "P".  He makes a random choice and dials the number with his cell phone, making an appointment for the next day.

***************************************************************************************************

Nervously Rob enters the office at a few minutes before his appointment, and is immediately directed to an inner office where he is greeted by a beautiful raven-haired woman.  She stands and greets him.

"Hello.  Rob?  I'm Dr. Von Weiss."

Rob looks around the office, confused about where to sit.  Dr. Von Weiss smiles.  "For now, why don't you take this chair.  Let's get to know one another."

Tentatively Rob sits, and the doctor follows suit.  "OK, Rob.  Why don't you tell me why you're here?" 

Exceedingly uncomfortable with the whole situation, Rob begins haltingly to tell the psychologist about his obsession with Maile.  Gradually he begins to relax, and as Dr. Von Weiss asks occasional leading questions, he opens up and tells her his life story.

Rob is not normally much of a talker -- especially in the presence of women -- so he is taken by surprise at how easy it is to spill his guts to this lovely doctor.  He is astounded at the passing of time when she looks at her watch and says, "Well, Rob.  That was an excellent beginning.  Why don't we make you an appointment for next week."

She ushers him out of the office to the receptionist's desk, where another appointment is made.

Rob continues to see Dr. Von Weiss for several weeks.  Impressed by her beauty, he begins to dress a little nicer for his appointments.

And he notices that her mode of dress has changed as well.

Little by little he begins to let go of his obsession with Maile.  Even Harmony -- not normally one to be overly in tune with other peoples' emotions -- has noticed that he appears to be more relaxed and less distracted.  He has not confided in her that he is not working, of course, nor has he mentioned that he's seeing a psychologist.  In fact, he hasn't let slip that little piece of information to anyone.  First, it's embarrassing, and second, it would require an explanation, and that isn't something that he wants to share -- for any number of reasons.  Let Harmony's bliss continue in ignorance, especially since he has begun to fantasize about someone else entirely . . . .

*************************************************************************************************** 

Meanwhile, without Rob's eyes constantly following her everywhere she goes, Maile is gradually able to relax in Yutaka's company and has come to truly appreciate his finer qualities.  She begins to look forward to their frequent dates with keen anticipation.  One sunny morning he phones to suggest a picnic, an idea that meets with her enthusiastic approval.  Maile offers to cook, but Yutaka indicates that he will take care of everything.  He makes arrangements with Coco to provide a very special meal, and recruits her and Darius to set everything up for his all-out attempt to finally secure his position with Maile.

He picks her up at Etsuko's apartment -- an address that he fervently hopes to change in the near future -- and drives her to TEKville Park.  Once there he guides Maile to a secluded glen and proceeds with his master plan.

Maile is stunned by the beauty of the destination he has chosen, as well as by the effort it must have taken to arrange all of this in advance.

"Oh, Yutaka, how lovely!  How did you know about this spot?"

Yutaka simply smiles as he helps to settle her comfortably on the blanket.

"You were the one thing this setting was lacking, Maile.  This is all just a backdrop for your loveliness."

"These are for you, Maile, although their beauty pales next to yours."

Yutaka settles himself on the blanket next to Maile, reaches into the cooler, and offers her a platter of fruit, knowing that it's a favorite of hers.

"Oh, Yutaka!  This is . . . amazing!"  She tucks the rose he plucked for her into her hair as he reaches for the bucket of champagne.

"I know you'll like this champagne, Maile.  It's your favorite."

"To us!" he toasts with more confidence than he feels.  Maile is in a very mellow mood and returns his smile.  "To us!" she echoes, and they simultaneously take their first sip.

"Mmmmmm!  This is wonderful!"

She removes her jacket as the sun and the champagne begin to warm her.

Yutaka can't seem to stop smiling.  He selects a strawberry and feeds it to her.

The warmth of the sun and the champagne conspire to make her feel languorous.  He follows the strawberry with a chocolate, and then a bite of honeydew, noting the slight flush that suffuses her pale cheeks.

He can resist no longer.  He leans forward, cupping her face in his hand, and gently kisses her.

She returns his kiss with unexpected fervor, and after a moment he draws away just far enough to look searchingly into her eyes.

Satisfied with what he sees there, he kisses her again, shoving the painstakingly organized plates and food aside.

The kiss continues as she shifts position on the blanket.

Yutaka traces a line from her neck to her cleavage, and then, ever so slowly, traces a circle around her nipple.  He is rewarded with a tiny moan of pleasure as he feels the delicate bud harden to his touch. 

Emboldened by her response, Yutaka continues with the slow unfolding of his plan to seduce Maile.  Eventually their garments lie in a pile next to them as the sun warms their naked bodies.  They soon lose all awareness of their surroundings, losing themselves in the magic of the sensations coursing through their bodies.

Later, as they lie sated, lettiing the sun dry the sweat of their exertions, Yutaka begins to chuckle softly.  Roused from her euphoria, Maile raises up on one elbow and looks at him enquiringly.

He motions slightly toward the coolers and picnic basket next to them.  "Coco will have my head if she finds out we didn't eat this!"

Maile smiles and touches his chest lingeringly.  "Shall we eat, then?  You need to keep up your strength, you know," she says suggestively. 

Yutaka's eyes warm with renewed desire and he leans toward her.  She laughs and pushes him away.  "Plenty of time for that, my love!"

Yutaka goes completely still, not wanting to move lest he had imagined what he just heard.  His eyes seek hers, hope dawning.  Her smile widens.  "Yes, you heard me.  You finally wore me down, 'Taka."

She rises to her knees, takes his head between her hands, and says, softly, "I love you, Yutaka Kawase."

Their hearts sing in joyous harmony as they embrace, all complications melted away in the heat of their love.

The End.  For now!