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0635: Honolulu, the Davidson Residence

Laura was actually several miles away at the home of Louise Davidson, whom she considered her mother-in-law. Instead of the beach, she was racing for the bathroom, due to a violent attack of nausea. It was a race she almost won.

Bob Davidson, Grant’s squadron commander, and his wife Louise were Grant’s godparents and had raised him since his mother’s death when he was twelve. They had opened their hearts to Laura, and Louise had taken the new bride under her wing, to ease her into the arcane world of the navy wife. Through the navy wives’ grapevine came information, supposedly highly classified, that Enterprise had been due in yesterday but delayed by weather. Louise invited the disappointed new bride to stay.

Anxious to make a favorable impression, Laura was mortified to have desecrated their spotless bathroom. Before she could attempt to clean up the mess, Louise was tapping on the door.

"Laura … Laura, dear. Are you all right?"

"Just a moment," Laura called back. Making herself and the bathroom as presentable as possible, she reluctantly emerged to face her concerned hostess.

"Oh my goodness, you poor thing. You don’t look at all well. I hope it’s not the flu."

"No, but I do think it’s a little something I caught from Grant."

"Has he been throwing up, too?" Louise asked, before she caught herself. "Wait, you mean…?"

"It’s too soon to go to the doctor, but I’m pretty sure. I never get sick to my stomach like this."

Louise squealed delightedly and hugged her. "Oh my God, I’m so happy."

"Glad you feel that way, because I’m depending on you to help me through this."

"Me? Bob and I wanted children, but it never happened. I don’t know the first thing about having a baby."

Laura shrugged. "Neither do I. I guess we’ll learn together."

"One lesson is from my mother," Louise said, taking Laura’s arm and steering her toward the kitchen. "She swore by mint tea for queasy tummies."

As she put the kettle on, Louise asked, "would you like to call your mom with the news? It’s almost midday in Wisconsin, and I’ll treat for the long-distance call."

Laura shook her head. "This is classified top-secret between you and me and nobody else, until the rabbit makes it official.

"Nobody? Not even Grant?"

"Nobody period, especially Grant. He’d be crushed if it’s a false alarm."

The mint tea actually worked. "Thanks, your mom was right." Laura looked thoughtful before continuing. "I’m going to miss Jo Dene, especially now."

Louise’s face clouded with anger. "I’m furious the way the Navy stuck her on the Lurline, without time to pack properly or even let Manny know she’d be gone."

"Every liner going stateside is being crammed with dependents," Laura said.

"If Bob had been here," Louise said, "he would have known how to stop it."

"It’ll be hard to break the news to poor Manny. I’m counting on your moral support."

"I’ll be with you. All the wives are upset."

"Could the same thing happen to me or you?" Laura asked earnestly.

"I don’t think so, at least for now. Bob has seniority, and your job’s too important. But who really knows."

"I can’t lose you, now. You’re all I’ve got."

"What about Gloria? Don’t you two have lunch together every day?"

Laura took her seriously, until she caught the twinkle in Louise’s eye and suppressed a giggle. "Gloria’s not in favor of motherhood. She prefers to sow her wild oats and then pray for a crop failure. Besides, she’s a little too interested in Grant to be a real confidante."

"Now this I haven’t heard before," Louise said eagerly. "Tell me more."

"Not much to tell. She and I used to sometimes swap boyfriends, but I let her know that Grant was different and to keep her cotton pickers off."

"What made Grant so different?"

"I’m not entirely sure. I mean he’s good-looking enough with his black hair and those dreamy green eyes. But there are lots of nice looking guys in the Navy." She shrugged. "Why’d you choose Bob?"

Louise smiled. "I’m not sure I ever did exactly. We grew up next door to each other and played together since diapers. There really never was anyone else."

"My mom thinks it’s because Grant’s so much like my father."

"Think she’s right?" Louise asked. "That’s not unusual."

"I remember Daddy’s lap made my world safe and happy. Grant gives me the same happiness and security. I just wish he got home for dinner every night like Dad."

Louise laughed. "I see you’ve met their other ‘love,’ their gray mistress. That’s why ships are always called ‘she.’"

"I sometimes feel jealous of that hulk of steel. Do you ever get used to sharing?"

"You do if you’re smart, and you’re grateful when she brings him back to you alive."

 

0645: Honolulu, Queen’s Hospital

Josh’s wife, nurse Suzanne Lee, preferred the early Sunday shift at Queen’s Hospital, unlike most of the nurses. She arrived fifteen minutes early to visit the hospital cafeteria for some coffee. In the nearly empty dining room, she spotted the white hair of Dr. Brannon, an obstetrician who had seemingly delivered half the population of the Islands. He was also Suzanne’s one close friend on staff.

She joined him in the coffee line. "Good morning," she greeted him. "Looks like another Sunday for us."

He smiled warmly. "And a fine morning to you. With this cup o’ Joe, I’ll be ready to face it."

Suzanne nodded towards an empty table. "Would you join me, or would you prefer the lounge?"

Dr. Brannon shook his head. "Unfortunately, I have to rush off for an appointment, but I do need to talk to you. Could you come by my office later … say, around 8:00, before rounds?"

"Certainly," Suzanne replied. She was curious; they usually met on the wards. Obviously he wanted to talk to her privately … oh my God, could it be? She wondered. She refused to finish the thought, in case she was in for a disappointment.

 

0700: Honolulu, the Davidson Residence

"Laura, you still want a ride to the beach?" Louise called up the stairwell. "Wasn’t sure you’d feel up to a swim today."

"I’m fine now," Laura called back. "It’s a nice morning, and I brought my beach bag and bathing suit with me."

She picked up her lauhala bag to check that she had a fresh towel. Her name in pink reminded her of that day at Waikiki. She had returned from visiting the ladies’ room, and Grant was holding the little bag. She was captivated by his boyish shyness when he gave it to her. Flyboys were usually cocky and full of themselves. Somehow, this modest gift, presented with sincere affection, moved her, while extravagant presents and polished courtship had failed.

She hurried down the stairs, so she wouldn’t keep Louise waiting.

"Do you want me to stay and give you a lift home?" Louise asked.

"Oh, no thanks, your mint tea did the trick," Laura assured her. "And I enjoy the walk home."

The beach was deserted this early on a Sunday morning. Laura liked it here when dawn’s warm palette set the sky aglow, reflecting off the sapphire blue and emerald green Pacific. She slipped off the white summer dress she wore over her bathing suit and tucked it in her bag. Running across the white sand, she went crashing headlong into the inviting surf with the unrestrained joy of a child.

Laura had always been a free spirit who reveled in the sheer joy of life. The romance of tropical isles drew her to Hawaii. The ocean and the climate kept her here. In her native Wisconsin, December was something to be endured. In Hawaii, the friendly trade winds made it just another month, with only the changing blend of scents from native hibiscus, sweet plumeria and a thousand other tropical flowers to mark the change of seasons.

Even tropical adventures require money, so Laura had taken a minor clerical position at the Navy base headquarters. There Lt. Commander Joseph Rochefort, head of the Station Hypo code breaking office, noticed her. Brilliant and hardworking, Rochefort was notorious for wearing a red smoking jacket and slippers when he worked late in the damp basement office. He also had a remarkable gift for discovering talent and quickly recruited her. Once she proved able to keep secrets, she became his indispensible Girl Friday. She completely reorganized his office and developed the knack of anticipating exactly which misplaced item she would need to locate for him next.

 

0725:

The nine fighters Chutai from Kaga flew an eastern arc on the approach to Pearl Harbor. Yoshimi Okazaki spotted landmarks through the clouds including Diamond Head and Waikiki. He was impressed with the beauty of the place, but not understanding the nature of Sunday, he was surprised at the lack of activity. He was disappointed that no fighters rose to oppose them. He saw no aircraft other than the attack force, very few vehicles moving and no people.

 

0730:

Laura reluctantly emerged from the surf. She used the morning sun and breeze as her towel before slipping the white summer dress back over her swimsuit. As she started walking back, she wondered if her mother was right about Grant being like her dad. It was as good a reason to fall in love as any, but still, whenever she picked up the little lauhala bag, she seemed to feel some magic.

0745:

Laura had almost reached their apartment when she heard the sound of many aircraft engines approaching. She knew it must be the overdue Enterprise air group, and she ran into the open park to wave.

Across the street in the Model A truck, Manalani saw Laura enter the other end of the park, just as she herself heard the aircraft. She cursed her mistake in not realizing that Laura had spent the night elsewhere, most likely with Grant’s godmother. Unlike Laura, she knew that the approaching aircraft were not from Grant’s ship. They were the black vision that had troubled her sleep. Manalani hurried across the street to warn Laura. In distant days, she had been very fit and much admired at Hula Kahiko. Now her ancient legs betrayed her, and the aircraft drowned out her cries.

 Yoshimi Okazaki suddenly spotted a lone figure dressed in white, standing in a large, open green area. His fervid imagination convinced him it must be an American Navy Officer; they wore white uniforms. His blood was up, and his obsession overcame his training and discipline. He dove towards the figure.

Laura stood waving both hands in hopes of being seen and never noticed the old woman entering the park. As the planes came closer, their silhouettes and formations seemed strangely unfamiliar, but it wasn’t until she saw their rising sun insignia that she realized the awful truth. One plane had broken formation and was diving directly towards her. The screaming engine announced the pilot’s intention to strafe the park. Laura realized her terrible danger. She screamed and ran for cover, but there was none in the open park.

By the time Yoshimi was close enough to see that his target was just a woman, his hand was already on the trigger of the two 7.7 mm machine guns. When she turned to flee, instinct rebelled at seeing his quarry escape, and he fired a short burst.

 Laura felt a sudden crushing impact as though hit by a truck, and she was tossed aside like a ragdoll. Oddly, there was no pain. She was numb from the shock and couldn’t move, but something was terribly wrong with her body. A fierce burning sensation started building in her back but before the real agony came, a veil of unconsciousness mercifully enveloped her.

Manalani sent sleep to end Laura’s torment, before hurrying to her side. She knew immediately that the wounds were fatal. Despite her ability to heal, she was powerless to take back a life that death already held. She stayed with Laura to keep her from waking up to pain.

Residents drawn by the noise gathered on the street. They were afraid to enter the park in case the planes returned. One woman hollered that she had called for an ambulance.

0800: USS Enterprise

Grant leaned on the rail enjoying the warmth of the rising sun. He watched the plane spotters bring up aircraft on the elevators from the hangar deck and spot them for launch. Their movements were as tightly choreographed as a Broadway show.

He recalled when the planes in their colorful peacetime garb of yellow wings and bright silver fuselages stood in elegant contrast to the natural wood flight deck. Now, a few months later, the warplanes were a dull blue-gray and sat upon a deck stained dark blue. The Enterprise and her flock had discarded their civvies and climbed into uniform. The only bright colors were provided by the uniforms of the deck crew. Their varicolored haberdashery identified specialties at a glance: blue for plane handlers, red for ordinance, purple for fuel and yellow for plane directors. Such visual clues and hand signals were essential in a world dominated by unmuffled cylinders, fourteen per aircraft, which rendered voice commands useless.

Grant’s reverie was interrupted by the familiar voice of Commander Bob Davidson. "Buck up, Grant. We’ll fly in later today, and Laura will be waiting for you."

"I know, Skipper. I’m just anxious to see her. She wasn’t expecting us to be gone this long, and she might be worried."

"I’m sure she is, but we’ll soon be going out for a hell of a lot longer than nine days. She might as well get used to it. This could be our last peacetime mission."

 

0800: Queen’s Hospital

Suzanne knocked on Dr. Brannon’s door, and he called for her to enter. His smile gave it away, but she carefully gave no sign, not wishing to spoil his chance to deliver the news.

"Congratulations. The test results say you and Josh are going to be parents."

Suzanne hugged him, so happy she couldn’t think of anything to say.

Dr. Brannon motioned towards his desk. "You want to call Josh and give him the news?"

"Thanks, but let’s keep it under our hats. I’ll surprise him next week on vacation. He’ll be over the moon."

The kindly doctor let her enjoy the news before looking at his watch. He gently reminded her that they needed to start morning rounds. He took a big gulp of coffee. "Boy, I needed that," he said.

"It’s a quiet Sunday, so far." Suzanne said.

"It darn well better stay that way. We’re shorthanded due to illness, and the cupboard is almost bare in the blood bank."

"I thought there was a big blood drive scheduled," she said.

"There is. It starts tomorrow morning, but for today, let’s hope no one gets anything worse than a paper cut."

The phone on his desk rang. The old physician answered it, and Suzanne saw his face turn white. He hung up and shook his head in shocked disbelief.

"Let’s go. Apparently the Japanese are starting the war today, and the emergency room is filling up."

"Oh my God," she cried as she followed him out. "What about the blood supply?"

"Unless the Japs are dropping paper bombs, I have no idea. Just do whatever you can."

 

0800:

The ambulance arrived quickly, and attendants took the unconscious woman. Manalani returned to the little truck that her nephew had pulled up directly behind the ambulance.

"Is she alive, Auntie?" he asked anxiously.

"She is alive, but I do not think for long."

"Shall I follow them?"

The old woman nodded as she slumped in her seat, weighed down by the unfamiliar burden of an unkept promise. "Yes," she said, her voice subdued by defeat. "I can ease her passing. I do not know what else I can do."

 

0800: USS Arizona

General quarters sounded as Lieutenant Josh Lee was preparing to leave the Arizona at the end of his watch. "Air raid, air raid, this is no fucking drill," the PA barked over the constant gong of the alarm.

Josh ran forward, his first priority to see that the explosive and powder magazines were secured.

His confidence in the invulnerability of the battleship was about to be tested by an ingenious enemy. The Japanese converted battleship shells that were designed to penetrate armor, into bombs by adding fins. It was a surprisingly simple but elegant solution to the problem of aerial bombs penetrating armored decks. Four of the first ones dropped hit Arizona. The first two struck aft, and moments later, two struck forward.

Josh Lee was about to seal off the last open magazine, a small one with a thousand pounds of old fashioned black powder that was used to catapult seaplanes from the stern. The fourth bomb penetrated three armored decks and exploded, rupturing fuel tanks. A tidal wave of fire roared through the steel passageways.

The concussion of the exploding bomb knocked Josh to the deck. Momentarily stunned, he recovered enough to rise to his knees just as a wall of flame burst into the compartment.

He rose to his feet and tried to get to the open magazine. His life was already forfeited, but he hoped to save the ship. The fire fought him, reaching out, burning the hair from his head and robbing his lungs of oxygen. His uniform started to burn and the pain was overwhelming as he was roasted alive. He gasped for air but got only superheated gasses and smoke that seared his lungs.

Josh felt consciousness slipping away, but he resisted the welcoming embrace of oblivion to end his agony. He used the last of his strength and will to stagger a few more steps in a race with the fire…

The USS Arizona, the preeminence of the battleship, 200 years of naval tradition, 1,177 of a crew of 1,731, and Lt. Josh Lee were obliterated in less than seven seconds.

0820: Queen’s Hospital

Laura opened her eyes. Stark white walls and a powerful disinfectant smell told her she was in a hospital. Battered by bright lights and loud voices shouting orders and crying out in pain, she retreated temporarily into herself to escape the overwhelming sensations.

She felt like red-hot daggers had been thrust into her back. The pain, while excruciating, seemed slightly dulled, and she worried about drugs harming the new life growing inside her. It didn’t matter, because she knew that she was dying, beyond all question or hope. Her unborn child was doomed to share her fate. She began to weep for her child and for Grant, who would never know he had fathered a child.

She felt a hand and opened her eyes. A harried nurse had paused to check her pulse. The nurse said nothing, but her eyes confirmed what Laura already knew. She sat down on the edge of the bed and took Laura’s hand.

Laura tried to speak, but a weak, tremulous whisper was all she could manage. The nurse leaned over closer and said, "My name is Suzanne. Can I do anything to help you?"

"I’m dying," Laura whispered. It was a statement, not a question, and Suzanne didn’t dispute her. "Can you get a chaplain to pray for me?"

Suzanne had seen one, but she looked around, in vain. When she turned back, an ancient Polynesian woman, a luahine, was standing on the other side of the bed gazing at Laura. Her hair was pure white, and her dark skin weathered by years of tropical sun, but her blue eyes were bright and clear. Suzanne had never seen a Hawaiian with blue eyes.

"I am called Manalani. I am a holy woman," she said. "I am Christian, though I also honor the old ways. May I pray for you?"

Laura nodded, grateful for the offer.

"And I will pray for your Keiki, your child," the old healer said.

Suzanne looked at Laura with questioning eyes.

"Yes, I’m with child," Laura whispered. "But the father will never know."

"Do you want to give me a message for him?" Suzanne asked. "I’ll make sure he gets it."

Laura hesitated; it was difficult to think. Blackness was creeping into her brain, like fog under a door. She shook her head. To know he had also lost a child could only increase his pain. She clung to the nurse’s hand and slowly moved her right hand to reach for the wrinkled one that belonged to the old woman.

Laura saw Manalani’s eyes suddenly shift to Suzanne, who lifted her head and met the old woman’s gaze. "I will pray for your husband and Keiki as well," Manalani said.

"Only Dr. Brannon knows …" Suzanne began, then was startled into silence.

The holy woman prayed in the Hawaiian way, standing upright, head high and eyes open. Her musical chant, though soft, somehow rose over the din of the hospital and brought Laura comfort that medicine had failed to provide.

Finally, the ancient woman looked down and spoke with a strength that put her words beyond all doubt. "Be at peace, my child. In time, all will be put right, and everything will be again as it was meant to be."


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