For a long time, the ocean yawned deeper and emptier than Hannah had ever known it. She took wide detours around a few tiger sharks and marveled at the blue flash of the long, skinny ono who passed her by, but she was as surprised as she was pleased one day to see another turtle swimming right in line with her. In her excitement, she forgot to be shy. “Hello!” she called. “I’m Hannah.”
“Sam,” said the other turtle. “A pleasure.” He looked curiously at her, and she was briefly reminded of the funny human.
The same whisper that had sent Hannah into the open ocean now urged her closer to Sam. He was a handsome Honu, his face gentle, his broad shell gleaming brown. “Did you have a dream, too?” Hannah asked him.
“Ah,” Sam said. “It’s your first return.”
“My first return?” Hannah was puzzled.
“To Mokupapapa. Where the silver monk seals swim and the coral grows wide as a ray.”
“Yes!” exclaimed Hannah. “That’s the place of my dream.”
“You’re headed in the right direction,” Sam told her.
“I know,” said Hannah. But she was glad to hear it all the same. “Mokupapapa. What a beautiful name.”
Sam cocked his head in a silent invitation, and Hannah happily joined her journey to his. They swam together for many days. Though Sam rarely spoke, he looked out for Hannah. “Dolphins,” he’d say, and steer her clear of the speeding pod. “Pa`imalau,” he’d say, and point his chin toward the surface, where a glamorous man-of-war draped its long tentacles like a poison curtain across her path. He shrugged off Hannah’s thanks: “Don’t worry about it. You’d do the same for me.” And he was right, she would.
Hannah had been amazed to find Sam in the middle of the open ocean, but every day more turtles appeared. Their deep memory of Mokupapapa pulled them like a magnet through the water—they swam and swam without tiring. On the very day that Hannah had begun to wonder whether they would ever reach their destination, Sam motioned with a flipper toward a shadow in the distance. “Nearly there,” he said.
Hannah awakened from her swimming trance and noticed that the ocean floor was quickly rising to meet them. After miles of blue, a rainbow of corals sprouted before her eyes, alive with fish and urchins and eels. There was the strange flat coral she’d seen in her dream! And there was the silver seal with its smiling round face!
In Hannah’s dream, she’d been alone, but here the Honu crowded around her. That would have been fine if they had behaved with their usual courtesy, but some were downright rude. The closer Hannah and Sam got to where the reef broke the skin of the water, the more frequently a strange male tried to swim between them. “Back off,” Sam would say.
They'd ignore him and slide in close to Hannah. “Come fly with me” was about the nicest thing she heard from any of them.
“You can do better, baby,” said one, but she didn’t think so.
Another told her, “You gotta be cracked, knocking shells with this guy.”
Hannah gave him a hard nip, surprising herself.
“Ow, hey!” he cried. “You don’t gotta be like that.”
“Get a life, leatherback,” Hannah replied. She saw Sam smiling. “Go chew barnacles for all I care.”
“Whatevs,” said the tactless turtle before he swam off. “You two deserve each other.”
“Yeah, maybe we do,” said Sam. Hannah smiled back at him.