#

 

#THE END OF EDEN

A string of islands stud the clear Pacific, projecting above the waves like the rocky fingertips of some undersea colossus, groping hopelessly toward the light. All of them, at one time, have exhaled noxious fumes and spat wads of flaming magma upwards in defiance of the blue skies above. But over eons they quieted, save for one, which still seethes and smoulders from mighty twin vents.

People came here a long time ago, but not before plants and birds had already colonised the islands in great abundance. Witnessing the plumes of fire that seemed to progress from island to island across the generations, the people spun a tale of a fire goddess they named Pele. This Pele, so it was told, lived first in a fire pit she dug in the westernmost island, called Kauai. When eventually this redoubt was sundered flooded by the relentless ocean, she fled east to Oahu, excavating herself a new pit until at length this too was flooded. And so across eons she moved from island to island, living on Molokai, Lanai and Maui each in turn, until at last – or rather, at present – she settled upon the most easterly, and largest of the islands: the one called Hawaii. Here she dug two pits, in hope of finally achieving permanence.

Other people, different in skin and attitude from those first ones, came eventually to the islands, and with ill-concealed contempt they listened to the story of Pele. For they worshipped other gods; told other stories; and followed an agenda all their own…

 

Hawaiian Islands, 1893

 

I: OAHU

 

With a triumphant blast of pure white vapour and a noise like a demi-god breaking wind, the polished and bunting-bedecked royal steamer nudged magisterially into Pearl Harbor. The quayside was strewn with bright and fragrant petals; chieftains and warriors preened magnificently in feather cloaks and helmets; and a hundred native dancers exploded into song and swaying movement, grass skirts and leis shimmering, bare breasts swinging in unison like a wave rolling up a beach. Knowing it would be some time before she was permitted to disembark, Aloula Oahela joined the crush on the aft deck, peering down to spot a familiar face, or familiar body, in the gyrating lineup. She envied their freedom, for her own breasts were tightly constrained in a whalebone corset, and the rest of her discreetly perspired under her travelling dress. She had been so long abroad that such things had begun to seem natural to her, but now, presented with this panoply of exposed brown flesh, she realised just how confining the white world was.

Aloula was possessed of a wide, softly rounded face with delicate cheekbones and a sharp, but slightly flattened, nose. Her eyes were big and bright and greenish-brown, and her thin mouth broke easily into a smile, which was the best way to display her perfect pearl teeth. She was crowned by a voluptuous mass of dark, auburn-tinctured hair that had gone unpinned since leaving the western coast of America. Her skin, what little of it was on display, glowed pale sepia; her figure was full, indeed positively curvaceous, but her lack of height made her seem stocky and unsuited to the prevailing hourglass fashion – her own hourglass had a very solid middle. She was twenty years old, and almost home again.

Flanked by her immediate retinue, Queen Liliuokalani disembarked. There was a joyous surge at the dockside, mirrored by a smaller push on deck. Afraid of being crushed, Aloula retreated from the rail, disappointed at not being able to pick out her sister in the dancing throng. As she backed into space, she stepped on a discarded newspaper. It was an American paper, with an altered front page pitched at the expatriate community on the islands. “Native Queen to tour Kingdom” read the headline, curiously, and Aloula spent some moments gazing down, trying to work out if this constituted an oxymoron. Then the subheading caught her eye: “Will Announce New Mahele”. Aloula felt the pride well up within her – this was what it was all about. There was indeed a New Mahele - and she was a part of it all.

By the time she’d got off the boat, the main show had moved inland, and activity on the quay was winding down. Natives milled about in brilliant bands, while here and there were dotted a few uncomfortable looking whites.

“Aloula! Over here!” called a bright, familiar voice in bubbling Hawaiian, and she duly rushed into the welcoming arms of her sister, Leola. They had, in the past, frequently been mistaken for twins, though Leola was by a year the elder. They shared the same short stature but also the same generosity of figure; indeed Leola’s free hanging breasts, crowned by vast pale russet nipples, were a sight to behold. Likewise she had the same big round eyes, and a riotous mane of hair, though slightly more coppery in colour. The detail differences between them were small but salient: Leola’s eyes were a definite hazel; her face was a trifle squarer, her mouth fuller, the chin solidly pronounced; and her nose was much more delicate. Each sister considered the other by far more beautiful.

After formal kisses on cheeks, Leola looked her sibling up and down with amused disapproval.

“For shame, my sister – why are you trussed up like something about to be slaughtered? You are on home soil now, why not let your flesh breathe free?”

“I am sorry,” Aloula shrugged. “In America, there is such an emphasis on covering up, it’s taking me a while to get back into dressing properly.”

“Better get used to it quickly, little one,” Leola chided gently. “Soon it will be the rule that all women in the islands bare their breasts, even the Whites. Can you imagine it, all those pale, shrivelled boobies on display?”

They giggled briefly, and Aloula regarded her sister with wide, loving eyes.

“Oh, it’s so good to see you again. And you were magnificent just now – best dancer of them all.”

“I bet you couldn’t even see me from up there, but thank you anyway. Wait ‘til Her Majesty gets to Hawaii – there’ll be dancing like no-one’s ever seen before. But tell me, how did Kauai go?”

“Did someone mention Kauai?” said a third, soft voice in English. “Kauai was a disaster.”

Slightly startled, Aloula turned, and was confronted with a most remarkable face. It belonged to a tall woman, swathed in the chicest of American fashions, and evidently perfectly comfortable in them. It was broad and faintly delta-shaped, with the faintest definition of the cheekbones, tapering into the most elegantly rounded chin. The eyes were as big and brown as the sisters’ own, but almond shaped and faintly oriental; the black, sharply inclined brows above giving them a dark, slightly sinister air. The nose was straight and very dignified, the mouth full and subtly voluptuous; the hair was a precise shoulder-length mass of sweeping burnt chestnut curls that glinted strangely here and there with stray threads of silver, and her skin gleamed gold-dusted ivory. She was undoubtedly of mixed blood, but a more refined blend of characteristics Aloula could not imagine.

“It rained incessantly,” the stranger continued. “The grass skirts all turned to pulp, the warriors couldn’t move for their sodden cloaks, and the petals turned to multicoloured slime beneath our dear monarch’s feet. Still, what else can you expect of the wettest place on Earth?”

“Well, it wasn’t that bad,” Aloula stammered, lapsing unconsciously into English herself.

“Do you know this mongrel?” hissed Leola, not quite under her breath. The stranger snapped venomous eyes in her direction.

“I do not speak Hawaiian fluently, my dear, but I understand it well enough. Please keep your misconceptions about my parentage to yourself.”

With a slight flick of her head she effectively dismissed Leola from her perception, and continued to talk pleasantly and exclusively to Aloula.

“I hope you don’t mind my interrupting, but I was wondering if tonight’s reception was being held at the Aloha or the Pearl

“The Aloha,” Aloula responded automatically.

“Excellent. Well, perhaps I’ll see you there: thank you very much for your help.” She started to walk away, then glanced back. “By the way, in case your sister doesn’t understand English, tell her she may have a nasty tongue, but her bosoms are magnificent.” She winked, then sashayed elegantly along the dock and out of sight.

“What a strange creature,” breathed Leola. “Can she possibly have anything to do with the Mahele

“I don’t know,” replied Aloula, emptily. But she hoped to find out eventually.

*

The Aloha hotel, lit up in all its white colonial magnificence, shone bright enough to scorn the shimmering moon and stars above. Within, the old empire of the English and the new empire of the Americas conspired to produce something stiff and formal and suffocating. No dancing here, just restrained music, interminable speeches and grandiloquent toasts to the Queen, who demonstrated her contempt for the whole process by bolting before the buffet, en route to Honolulu.

Aloula sat with her sister and another of the afternoon’s performers. Her familiarity with the turgid ceremonial of American educational establishments was such that she had no problem coping with this event. Indeed, she found it strangely comfortable, far less an issue than the fact that Leola and her friend insisted, along with some others, on remaining bare-breasted throughout. This seemed to Aloula somewhat disrespectful, in ways she couldn’t precisely define.

The girl’s name was Gaiea. She had a bright, round, smiling face with eyes like shiny jet buttons, a voluptuous mouth and slightly prominent front teeth. Her bushy black hair was piled high round her head like an aurora, in classical native style. Her breasts hung full and tremulous as teardrops: pert, high nipples showing dusky brown against her dun-coloured skin.

“Look over there,” said Leola suddenly. “That’s Alissa Doleman.”

Over at the buffet, a tall, slim and elegantly dressed young blonde woman held court with a group of rich white worthies.

“Old man Doleman wouldn’t lower himself to come here,” Leola added, “so he sent his prize pup instead.”

Sanford B Doleman was the richest, and therefore most influential, American in the islands. A plantation owner with myriad political connections, he monitored and controlled the pecking order of his community by publishing the so-called ‘Annual’, a who-is-who of non-native wealth and influence. The white community regarded him as their natural leader, Queen Liliuokalani notwithstanding. His daughter had not yet achieved great notoriety, although the projected cost of her stateside education was already legendary. She was considered, by white standards, extremely beautiful.

“Look at that disgusting pale skin,” continued Leola, warming to her theme, “and that hair – she looks like a labordia flower.”

“They’re poisonous,” chimed in Gaiea, and both girls giggled at their cleverness. Aloula smiled uncertainly – for what she was, Alissa seemed attractive enough: she couldn’t help being white.

“Wait a minute,” hissed Leola, suddenly serious. “Isn’t that your crossbred friend talking to her now?”

Aloula peered over her shoulder. Sure enough, the knot of people had shifted, and there was the mysterious stranger, sumptuously draped in a glittering red gown and chatting amiably if briefly with the scion of Hawaii’s most powerful Caucasian family. The stranger, alone, continued on along the buffet tables as Aloula watched, sucking thoughtfully on her lower lip.

“Excuse me a moment,” she said, standing quickly. Gaiea and Leola paid little attention, engaged as they were in another vicious dissection of the flaws of pink-skinned women. She crossed the floor confidently and touched the woman lightly on the arm.

“So, you found the right place,” she said, in English. Those extraordinary eyes regarded her with faint amusement.

“Yes, thank you. I noticed you earlier, but I didn’t relish another run-in with your waspish sister. I see she has one of her hip-swinging companions with her – any particular reason they’re still displaying their upper ramparts for the world to see?”

“They’re just upholding tradition,” Aloula protested, “that’s what the Mahele is all about. Besides, it’ll be law before long.”

“Ah yes, our dear monarch intends to flex her garlanded muscles, doesn’t she? Well, we’ll see about that. In any case, I don’t see you exposing yourself – surely your breasts are as worthy as any?”

Aloula found herself blushing, which was a novel experience. She hurriedly changed the subject.

“How do you know Alissa Doleman?”

“I don’t, not really. She attends my alma mater, but I was already a senior when she arrived, so we’re barely acquainted. She’s invited me to some sort of shindig that’s being organised for the end of this tour. It would appear the Dolemans are poised to try and eclipse our dear Queen’s climactic celebrations.”

Aloula raised a quizzical eyebrow.

“You know, you’re a very intriguing person: somehow, you’re on the Mahele, and yet Alissa Doleman seeks you out as a guest. Who are you that can move between two worlds so effortlessly?”

“Well, as your sister so caustically pointed out, I am a mixed-blood, a mulatto – I can move between the native and white worlds because I don’t belong in either.” She thrust out a hand. “Lorelei Milne: at your service.”

“Milne? You mean, Milne who ran the trading post in Hilo? Milne the painter?”

“The very same. Of course, my father is in splendid retirement now, but what a wonderful blend of artistic and mercantile skills he possessed. He’s still quite a character, you know.”

“Your family is almost as rich as the Dolemans,” Aloula observed idly.

“Ah yes, but what is wealth without status, my dear? Status is something you’d know about, Aloula Oahela, O daughter of a mighty chieftain.”

Aloula blushed again, vividly. “You know everything, don’t you?”

“Not quite, but I’m working on it.” She looked airily around her. “You know, it’s become awfully stuffy in here, and the food is dismal. What do you say to a stroll outside?”

They emerged into the cool, fresh night. A light breeze rustled the leaves of the pandanus trees that grew all along the shore, sweeping in a dense arbour down to the twinkling docks. Beyond, the ocean shimmered discreetly.

“So tell me,” Lorelei began, “what is your role in the great Mahele project? And why is it you have a place on the boat, while your sister is relegated to chorus girl?”

“I don’t know why they invited me, to be honest,” Aloula responded. “I suppose it’s because I’m studying English in the States, although there’s others they could’ve chosen before me. As for Leola, it was my father’s decision that she be educated here, in the traditional way, while I was sent abroad: I think she’s delighted to be one of the dancers. Anyway, what about you

“My function in this circus is to maintain the family’s artistic traditions, as best I can. My father taught me many of his skills, though unfortunately I did not inherit his lucrative ability to depict dusky maidens in all their natural glory. My talent is more in the way of illustration, and I have been co-opted to paint some the islands’ more elusive birdlife – Honeycreepers in particular.”

“Are you planning to go up into the forests?”

“Good lord, no. There is a wealthy and extremely mad Englishman known as Baron Rothschild, who is obsessed with rare animals and birds. He has collectors working all over these islands, heck, all over the Pacific for all I know. I am supposed to intercept one of these gentlemen and sketch the specimens before they’re shipped back to the Mother Country. But I missed my contact on Kauai – probably he was drowned in the rains – and it doesn’t look like I’ll have any better luck here. Hawaiian organisation is truly a wonder to behold.”

“Most of us feel it’s a great honour to be part of the Mahele,” Aloula frowned. “I don’t see why you should keep carping about it.”

“Forgive me, my dear – perhaps it’s just my cynical English blood coming through. It’s just that I’ve read my island history, and I know the Great Mahele, for all its pretensions, was simply the means by which the Natives were robbed of vast tracts of land to further benefit the plantation owners. You must admit, the word doesn’t have the best of associations.”

“But don’t you see, that’s why Her Majesty has reclaimed it,” replied Aloula earnestly. “We’re taking it all back: our culture, our mode of dress, our language. Everything the Whites have tried to take from us is going to be renewed and reinforced. The islands and their people are going to be restored to their former glory, and if the incomers don’t like it, well they don’t have to stay here.”

“And what about us mongrels?” asked Lorelei wearily. “Do we have a place in the reclaimed Eden?”

Aloula fixed her with a long, level gaze.

“Of course you do,” she said quietly. “After all, you were invited.”

They were at the dockside now, walking past a long line of tethered vessels. Shining among them like a polished ornament was the royal steamer, simmering softly in repose.

“I don’t know about you,” said Lorelei, “but I’ve had enough ceremonial excitement for one day – I’m turning in. Care to visit my cabin for a nightcap?”

“I shouldn’t – Leola leaves tomorrow morning, and I won’t see her again until the tour reaches Hawaii.”

“Suit yourself. Be sure to give your sister’s bust my fondest regards.’

Aloula watched her sway elegantly along the gangplank. She drew a deep breath, then said as much to herself as anyone, “Well, I suppose one drink couldn’t hurt.”

Lorelei’s cabin was sufficiently luxurious to fill Aloula with envy. It had its own separate facilities, a spacious bed and sumptuous furniture: Aloula wondered if the Queen’s own suite could be any more opulent. By contrast, her own tiny box had barely enough room to stand up.

“It’s funny,” she mused, “you being on the ship all this time, and us not meeting ‘til today.”

“Credit the vagaries of English design, dear: this vessel was once a British liner, and its cabins and decks are as rigidly stratified as that poor country’s social order. This would have been First Class, whereas I suspect you are domiciled in what would be called ‘Steerage’. Just one of the benefits of being rich.”

She filled two glasses from an anonymous bottle with cherry-coloured liquid. Curious, Aloula sniffed at the concoction, then took a sip. It tasted very sweet and fruity, but by the time it reached the back of her throat it had begun to burn. Swallowing, she coughed as discreetly as possible, and winked sudden tears from her eyes.

“Wicked, isn’t it?” grinned Lorelei. “It’s my mother’s own recipe.”

“Your mother must be quite a woman,” exhaled Aloula, her voice sounding a trifle strange.

“Oh, she is. That’s her there...”

On a bedside table was propped an exquisitely rendered miniature of a noble-faced native woman, staring proudly out at the world.

“Did your father paint this?”

“Naturally – that’s how my parents met. Father always used to say he started painting Hawaiian women just so he could find his perfect face, and when he did he married her. By the way, those other doodlings are mine.”

Aloula picked up a small sketchpad, and leafed slowly through. Delicately rendered scenes filled the pages: views of islands; scenes on deck; detailed renderings of seabirds, but no sketches of people.

“They’re very good,” she commented, glancing across at Lorelei who now stretched cat-like along her bed, head propped on one elbow, regarding her with dark amusement.

“You know, you never answered my question earlier,” she said casually.

“What question is that?”

“Why you haven’t gone bare-breasted since returning to the islands. After all, as you yourself pointed out, it is to be law soon.”

Aloula shrugged. “I don’t know, it just doesn’t feel quite right. I suppose I’m still caught up in the mores of America.” She took a generous sip of her drink, and relished its slow burning descent.

“But wouldn’t you like to be as your sister, an unfettered dancing delight?”

Aloula nodded, and giggled. She was feeling somewhat light-headed, and girlish.

“So why not do it? Why not do it right now?”

Aloula started, then blushed, then laughed out loud.

“What, you mean – here?” she blurted, incredulously.

“Of course I mean here. I’d love you to dance for me.”

Aloula stared, open-mouthed, waiting for the joke; but Lorelei’s expression never wavered. She giggled again, but nervously this time.

“I don’t really remember all the moves,” she protested, feebly.

“So? I’m hardly the most discerning audience. And I hope you’re not going to tell me you’re shy: after all, this is your heritage we’re talking about. What would Leola say?”

“I’m not shy,” said Aloula defiantly.

“Then dance for me,” Lorelei countered, coolly sipping her drink. Her eyes were unreadable; they seemed to be reflecting the light, like a cat’s. Aloula thought a moment, then summoned all her dignity and began to undress.

Giddy with alcohol as she was, she nonetheless felt strangely self-conscious as she unfastened her dress, sliding it down around her feet with a rustle of taffeta and lace. Her hands trembled slightly as she divested her corset – she wished that Lorelei would not gaze upon her so intently. But at last it was done, and her bosom hung free and unfettered. Aloula knew that she was even more magnificently endowed than her sister, and it was a source of secret pride. Her breasts were slightly elongated, like marrows; cleaved close together on her chest before diverging in gloriously sustained, elliptical curves. Her nipples, broad and ripe, glowed deep russet haloed with the faintest fringe of violet.

She had to admit, it felt good to be finally free. Joyously she swept her hair back from her shoulders, stepping in petticoat and stockings from the ruins of her evening wear, and began to move. It felt awkward at first, even foolish, but she persisted. Shutting her audience from her perception she swayed left and right, pushing her arms and hands through the cabin’s dead air. Tiny eddies across her bust were like kisses of liberty: she closed her eyes and surrendered to innate motion. She needed no music – innumerable celebrations and feasts and festivals had imprinted these dances upon her from the earliest years, and she summoned them without conscious effort.

She opened her eyes suddenly, and stopped. Across the bed Lorelei was now standing, glimpsed in the act of shimmying out of her expensive scarlet.

“What are you doing?” Aloula gasped.

“Merely abandoning myself to the ambience you have created, my darling. Your sumptuous display has stirred my native blood, and it cries out for expression. Besides, as you keep pointing out, this will be the law soon.”

Before Aloula’s fascinated yet rather disturbed eyes she pulled away intricate layers of busk and chemise that bolstered her ornate glory. Aloula had never seen anyone with the slightest trace of white blood disrobe, and despite Leola’s earlier comments, there was nothing ridiculous about it. Lorelei’s breasts were sumptuous, hanging ripe and rounded as mellow fruits; and a deep and perfect delta of cleavage carved between their generous, divergent arcs. Rigid tawny teats jutted haughtily from areolae of burnished bronze; they shivered slightly as Lorelei slowly and sensually peeled off her long gloves. Her arms were long and slender, almost thin, and it seemed just a contrast to the heady voluptuousness of her bosom – like her face, Lorelei’s body was a perfect blend of delicious contrasts.

“What do you think?” she asked, eyes sparkling amusedly.

“You look beautiful,” Aloula stammered, and felt another desperate blush flood her cheek. Lorelei stepped daintily across the carpeted, looming over her up close. She raised her arms above her head.

“Dance with me,” she whispered, and to Aloula’s astonishment she glided into a native dance of friendship. It was not well executed, lacking key subtleties, but it was done with verve and an elegance of movement that spoke of white formality, especially ballet. All through it those dark almond eyes bored inscrutably into her own, such that she found herself almost unconsciously mirroring the woman’s moves.

“You dance well,” she commented, admiringly, and Lorelei bowed slightly in acknowledgement.

“My father made sure I had an English education – compulsory colds, ballet & posture. But it was my mother who taught me this.”

As the dance built Lorelei swayed closer to Aloula by almost imperceptible degrees, so that their bodies touched fleetingly. Just as gradually, Aloula retreated, all the while in thrall of the unheard rhythm that seemed to be coming from inside of her. She could feel perspiration beading on her brow; flecks of hair fell across her eyes, but she was too bound up in the dance to brush them back.

“What else did your mother teach you?” she asked, a trifle breathlessly.

“She taught me all about Pele, the fire goddess,” came the matter-of-fact reply. “She taught me some of Pele’s magic – how to set fire in the blood of others, and bend them to your will. She imagined I would use it to conquer men, but from an early age I had something different in mind.”

Aloula’s back bumped against the cabin’s cool wall. She stopped moving suddenly, left panting in the aftermath.

“I think I’d better go now,” she gulped. “I must say goodbye to Leola.”

Lorelei ceased dancing with a controlled, precise slowing of motion, like an automaton winding down. She gave a peculiar half smile.

“Very well. But if you leave now, you’ll never know what happens next.”

She stepped close to Aloula, so that their breasts were touching ever so slightly. Aloula gazed up at her with wide eyes, her mouth open in puzzlement. Lorelei dipped her head a fraction, and kissed her.

Aloula was momentarily stunned, her senses overwhelmed as if she had just looked straight into a blinding sun. She was aware of nothing save the faint brushing of lips: the dryness fringing into tangy moisture. Heat seemed to rise from deep within her, rushing up to fill her breasts and cheeks, making her lightheaded. She couldn’t move, couldn’t think; even breathing seemed a lost skill. And then Lorelei raised her hands to Aloula’s breasts, gently lifting them with her fingertips and stroking her thumbs across the bronze orbits of her nipples. Aloula could feel them readily engorging, and the sensation was at once shocking and strangely comforting. She made a faint, birdlike sound in her throat, but any words that might have issued were stolen by that luscious mouth still pressed relentlessly upon her own. Lorelei’s tongue ran slowly along the seam of her lips, pushing wet and unstoppable as a Waikiki breaker. Aloula let her mouth open, yielding to the warm honeysuckle intrusion. Behind her closed eyelids a vermilion glow flared like a tropical sunset: the breath through her nostrils was hot and laboured as a colt’s; her temples throbbed to unheard drumbeats. All the while the implacably soothing touch was on her breasts, melting and moulding her to the spot as though she were carved from candle wax.

The kiss seemed to last an eternity, and when it finally ended Aloula felt physically drained, stranded by a tidal wave of unearthly emotion. She clung to Lorelei in trembling helplessness, hands pressed tight to the smooth marble of her back, face wedged into her shoulder, gasping for air.

“What are you doing to me?” she panted.

Lorelei’s catlike eyes burned fiercely into her, making her quail inside.

“I would have thought that was obvious, my darling – I’m seducing you.”

Her hands went to Aloula’s sides, pressing just above her waist. They descended slowly, gripping the band of her petticoat and beginning to pull. For all she had been lulled into submission, Aloula felt a sudden surge of panic.

“No,” she gasped, “you mustn’t – it’s taboo...”

Lorelei’s counter was to kiss her again, fiercely, lips taut and tongue lancing into her head, driving breath and reason from her. She swayed and clung on, her eyes closed automatically and the red glow blazed once more beyond her perception. The petticoat slid monumentally down over her wide hips like the lowering of a flag: she felt cool air between her thighs, and with a seething rush of shame realised she was exposed. Dark silk pooled around her ankles, leaving just her black stockings – Lorelei took a slight step back and coolly perused her as if she were a figurine. Aloula hung her head, unable to meet those mesmeric eyes, and thus was utterly unprepared for the hand that brushed lightly against her mons veneris, rustling the nest of jet-black curls and sliding into her pudenda. She started violently, with a squeal of shock, and looked up at Lorelei with moist, pleading eyes.

“Don’t,” she pleaded, but her voice was faint. “Please, don’t.”

Lorelei smiled down at her, and for once it seemed devoid of irony. With a single fingertip she lightly traced the outline of Aloula’s labia, and the girl shivered. She was still unable to move: her arms, her breasts, her stomach had become molten lead; and now her legs began to tremble uncontrollably.

“You want it, don’t you?” breathed Lorelei, staring her down

Aloula shook her head, more in confusion than dissent: she opened her mouth to form a sound and Lorelei seized the moment, unleashing her fiercest kiss yet. At the same moment the fingertip pressed home, sliding between the retracting labia into the bubbling magma of Aloula’s repressed desire. A powerful spasm like an eruption jolted through Aloula, shattering the crust of her nascent excitement and threatening to vaporize the last of her reticence. She clung to Lorelei’s shoulders, back arching out from the wall and straining on tiptoe; her body taught as piano wire and poised upon that single digit like a resonating gyroscope.

“Please, I beg you, stop,” she pleaded, burying her face in Lorelei’s frothing, night-and-pewter curls; but her voice was a dry, dying murmur, betrayed by the mighty exhalations that wracked her. Lorelei made no response; instead, with that same, precisely mechanical motion, she began to lower herself. She slipped slowly from Aloula’s arms, her wet mouth trailing silver across the hollow of the girl’s throat and upper thorax. The tip of her tongue slid between her breasts like a canoe navigating between mountains; the feathery brush of Lorelei’s hair upon her taut nipples made Aloula throw back her head and gasp – she muttered something in fractured Hawaiian that might have been a prayer.

Lorelei’s tongue continued the inexorable descent, flowing stolidly like lava, leaving both heat and cool in its wake. It swirled the outline of Aloula’s deep, shell-like navel, making her moan. Not knowing what to do with her hands, Aloula put them first at her sides, then on her breasts – this felt at once delicious and depraved – then finally to her head. Tangling her fingers in the softness of her own dark locks, she tried to brace herself for the inevitable unknown.

Glancing down briefly, she saw as if in a dream Lorelei knelt before her; her own stocky thighs slightly parted in helpless anticipation; that torrid, tormenting tongue slithering through her stiff curls. And then all was consumed by fire as Lorelei licked the length of her vulva with slow, agonisingly controlled strokes. She closed her eyes instinctively, saw glowing red spume splash up behind her lids, and knew what it was. The fire – Pele’s fire – had been set: it burned within her body, within her soul. Abandoned now to the flame, she relaxed, her body melting in abject surrender. She was now only dimly aware of what Lorelei was doing to her – the tongue curling up to push deep between her labia minorae, then flicking back, across the engorged bud of her clitoris. There was an uncontrollable fluttering deep in her belly, and she knew she was about to erupt, conclusively, discharging herself like the dead craters of Haleakala. The notion filled with her with last-second panic – she snapped open her eyes, wildly staring.

“O gods and goddesses,” she cried, in frantic Hawaiian, “I commend my soul to – to – I, oh...” and the rest was rendered gibberish by an unquenchable cry torn from her throat as her body convulsively vented its very essence into this strange woman’s exquisitely compliant mouth.

In the event – and it was a mild surprise – she didn’t die. But there was blank moment at the peak of her ecstasy where she seemed to lose consciousness: next she knew, she was lying on the floor in a sweating, shuddering heap, tangled up with her own underwear and Lorelei’s enfolding arms. She felt wanton, slightly soiled, and blissfully relaxed all in one: the press of a warm body against her own was a wondrous comfort; the light kisses raining down upon her cheeks and throat were like a baptism, conjoining her to a hitherto unimagined world of secret female pleasures. For if she had indeed died a little, she was reborn now – her eyes filled with tears as she looked around, for everything seemed sharper, deeper, the colours vibrantly renewed.

“How -” she whispered, voice thick with emotion, “how can you know such things?”

“As I said, I had an English schooling,” replied Lorelei, stroking her hair. “You would be amazed what teenage girls find to do in dormitories on wet afternoons. And of course, I did attend an American university – I already had the magic, I just needed the physical skills to put it to best use. I have been fortunate to meet many attractive ladies willing to show me their favours.”

“You’ve slept with white women?” Aloula could barely articulate the notion, but nonetheless it stirred a fresh, electric tingle between her trembling thighs.

“God, you Hawaiians are such prudes. Of course I’ve slept with white women: lithe Californians with tanned skin and golden hair; voluptuous Midwestern redheads raised on corn; haughty, dark-haired Eastern roses full of intelligence and wit – all have welcomed me into their beds. A vast universe of pulchritude lies beyond the confines of these little islands.”

“Am I,” began Aloula hesitantly, “am I your first Hawaiian?”

Lorelei snorted in amusement, kissing the top of her head.

“Dear me no, my darling. Remember: my father had his studio attached to the trading post all through my youth. I helped him there from as soon as I could walk, and I witnessed the constant stream of brown-skinned beauties that fell before his brush. While he was teaching me the intricacies of his art, I was falling in love with each and every one of them. And once I was old enough to do something about it, well, let’s just say that everyone from a slave-girl to a princess tastes equally sweet to me.”

“So,” said Aloula wearily, her heart suddenly heavy, “am I just another conquest added to your list?”

“Not entirely,” Lorelei replied, running a finger softly across her cheek. “From the moment I first laid eyes on you, I sensed something within you – it drew me like nectar draws the Kamehameha butterfly. For all that native nonsense you spout, you are not like your sister, or those others. There is a potential in you, and I intend to realise it.”

The finger slipped down the side of Aloula’s neck, over her shoulder, through the intimate valley that lay between her rising breasts and on, in measured descent, over her stomach. Aloula gazed up into that remarkable face – it seemed to fill her perception, like moonlight over an empty beach. She did not know if she loved that face, desired it or merely feared it: only that it had taken possession of her utterly. She moaned and shivered softly as the finger slid into her vulva, stirring the embers of her passion, but she did not break her gaze.

“Say it,” spoke Lorelei, her expression sharp.

“I want it,” Aloula whispered, voice husky with renewed desire. “I want you