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Here's to Us(11)
Elin Hilderbrand

She read the card again: Forever love, D. And then, although she really didn’t have time, Laurel dropped her face into her hands, and she cried.

HAYES

Sula’s brothers wanted to take him spear fishing; the Australians wanted him to surf the left break on the far side of the reef. Hayes wanted to lie in the yellow sand with Sula and shoot up. The dope was plentiful on Nusa Lembongan; there was a drug lord on the other side of the island who intercepted shipments from Lombok to Java and skimmed off the top. The drug lord wanted American dollars; Hayes wanted to stay high for the rest of his natural life.

His father had been dead for a month and a half. He’d had a massive coronary, a phrase Hayes found chilling. The death had been sudden, unexpected, violent.

Hayes’s mother was destroyed; his sister Angie had been rendered bloodless, limbless, blind, deaf, and dumb; and Buck had called insisting he needed to talk to everyone “as a family” about “Deacon’s affairs.” At first, Hayes had thought Buck was referring to Deacon’s actual affairs, which seemed indiscreet, but then Hayes decided he meant the will, money, and stuff, which might have been a beacon of hope except for the ominous tone of Buck’s voice. Scarlett was still in Savannah, apparently—at least, that was what Hayes thought Buck had said. The reception had been poor.

The upshot was that Hayes was flying out tomorrow. He would land in New York after a twenty-hour journey and drive Angie up to Nantucket.

He didn’t want to go.

And so, he would ignore it for now.

Hayes and Sula lounged in her bedroom, one of six teak buildings in the family compound. In the room was a mattress on the floor sheathed in a white silk sheet that was rapidly growing grubby with their sweat, and a Buddhist shrine in the corner. The room smelled like dying flowers and rotting fruit.

Sula’s family—her father and her three older brothers—was the second-wealthiest family in Nusa Lembongan, after the drug lord. Sula had been to university in Australia and spoke perfect Aussie-accented English, which charmed Hayes. She had suede-brown skin and syrupy brown eyes, and she shot Hayes between the toes with the sweetest dope he had ever known short of the pure opium he had smoked in the Jiangxi Province of China. The old Chinese man who had offered Hayes the opium pipe had done so with a few words of warning (Hayes had been unable to understand the dialect, but he could tell from the man’s inflection that it was a warning). Probably: Once you try this, you will be its slave.

Slave.

Addict.

Dope fiend.

Deacon’s death should have been Hayes’s wake-up call. Get clean! Take care of yourself! We are given only one body per lifetime, and Hayes was systematically poisoning his. He should be eating more green vegetables, practicing vinyasa yoga; he should quit all controlled substances and limit his alcohol intake to a glass of red wine on Saturday nights. After all, Hayes had a life that most people would murder for. He traveled the globe reporting on the world’s finest hotels. He had arrived at the Six Senses in Oman via hang glider; he’d taken high tea at the Mount Nelson in Cape Town at a table next to Nelson Mandela; he had breakfasted on fried rice and fresh watermelon juice on the banks of the Chao Phraya River at the Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok. He’d written features about the Palácio Belmonte in Lisbon, the Gritti Palace in Venice, La Mamounia in Marrakech, Hotel D’Angleterre in Copenhagen. Hayes could one-up just about anyone anywhere. That should have been a high in and of itself.

He had to be so, so careful. If he was careful, he’d be okay. This was the rationalization of an addict. Hayes recognized this even as he used the words to reassure himself.

He was functioning, or sort of. He could go six or seven hours without, until the itching started. He had scratched himself so fiercely on the left shoulder blade that he broke the skin. All of the bespoke shirts that Hayes had tailored in London were now speckled with blood.

Sula rose from the bed. She went to the kitchen to prepare the fish that her brothers had speared; she would serve it with satay sauce for dinner. Hayes wrapped a batik sarong around his waist and ventured outside to smoke a hand-rolled cigarette. (He should, absolutely, quit smoking. He and Angie agreed on that.) Hayes watched the Australian surfers loping down the shore toward him, their wet suits hanging off their torsos like shed skin. They looked exhilarated as they checked their GoPros.

“Hey, mate!” one of the surfers, a kid named Macka, called up to Hayes. “Epic day, man. You should have joined us.”

Hayes felt a pang of regret. He should have gone out today. Or he should have fished with Wayan and Ketut so that he could have claimed a contribution to dinner; the smell of ginger and sesame oil from the kitchen where Sula was cooking was insane.

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