Hands on his hips, Danny glowered at the ocean as if it was mere seconds away from personally offending him. Even after a dozen years of island living, (not to mention six little whipper-snappers who seemed more dolphin than human), he couldn't truly say that he'd ever come to love the water the way his family did.
"Daaaaaaaad, you're blocking the doorway."
With a deep sigh, Danny shifted aside, letting five members of his troop slide past and into the sunshine. They scurried out like a line of exuberant ducklings, naked feet dancing through the grass and then padding into the morning-warm sand.
For reasons beyond Danny's understanding, they always seemed to travel in a pack, tallest to shortest and eldest to youngest. Grace, easily inches above even Danny himself, was the team captain; behind her, and having somehow been roped into carrying all of their beachy accoutrements, skipped Kai. Next, came the twins - arguing, (as always), over who was taller. Sophia, a mere four minutes older than her brother, posited that she deserved the honor of walking third in line. Lio disagreed vehemently. They tangled their feet together, trying to trip each other up and then catching each other when they fell. Last but not least, bringing up the rear, came little Leilani, bedecked in her blue polka-dot swimsuit and big floppy hat.
(After an impressive squabble over what to call their first child, Kono favouring Aleka and Danny favouring Thomas, they'd instituted a system wherein the parent who guessed closest to the baby's weight, received naming rights. Sophia and Lio had long ago learned to brush off curious looks at their extremely different names).
Danny was militant about sunscreen with all of his children, but Leilani in particular burned quite easily. She tottered about on wobbly legs, hands flapping this way and that for balance. She'd been walking for well over a year now, but the sand shifted easily and she tended to get overexcited at the sight of the big blue ocean.
"Sweetheart, slow down!" Danny called, but it was too late.
She fumbled, falling forward onto her outstretched palms. There was a second of perfect calm - the children silent, the ocean frozen, the trees still. Her little face scrunched up, contemplating tears and theatrics.
Danny knew her well enough to watch and wait. He could see her thoughts play out across her face, assessing that she was not hurt, realizing that she could get up by herself, deciding that she wanted to play in the ocean, not sulk and sob in the shade.
With her next breath, life returned to the beach, noise and wind and surf. She pushed herself to standing, scuttling forward to wrap around Grace's shins. At the tender age of three, the knowledge that she was not allowed in the water unattended was as familiar to her as breathing. Only Grace and Kai were allowed out by themselves, and even then, only together.
For years, before they'd married and had children, Kono had been amused by Danny's sharp and unrelenting paranoia regarding the beach. When she'd fallen pregnant with Kai, he'd finally shared with her the tragic death of his boy-hood friend. He'd pressed his hands to her big belly in the middle of the night, as if trying to keep their unborn son safe and reveling in the faint feel of a small elbow against his palm. Kono had sympathised, understood where he was coming from, but he knew that her own childhood had been so different to his that they'd never quite feel the same way at heart.
Nevertheless, she worked hard to enforce his strict rules, even when her selkie-like cousins rolled their eyes at her husband's city-boy sensibilities.
Today, however, was one of those rare days when Danny felt excited by the prospect of swimming. His prior glowering had been mostly for show, his gaggle of surf-crazed dolphins always enjoying their cantankerous mainlander of a father. His heart felt light, eager to get into the water and get things started. This would be the last time he'd get to do this, both he and Kono deciding that six, (Grace staying with them every Wednesday-Thursday and second weekend), under the one roof was more than enough.
Trusting Grace to watch her brothers and sisters with an eagle-eye as they played on the sand, Danny turned at the sound of his baby girl's soft gurglings. Audrey, (Danny had been right on the money at 6lbs 9 ounces, much to Kono's eternal annoyance), was tucked closely to the curve of her mother, all big eyes and soft skin. Danny reached out, tucking her wild dark hair under her sun-hat and smoothing his thumb over her nose, rubbing away a remaining smudge of sun-screen.
Deeming her sea-worthy at last, the three of them stepped out into the sunshine, making their way down to the sand and the waiting troop of Williams/Kalakaua-Williams.
"Alright, guys, off you go!"
At Kono's command, Kai, Sophia and Lio thundered into the water, splashing madly and sluicing through the gentle surf like penguins on parade. Leilani tucked herself to Grace's hip, tugging her goggles down over her eyes and scrunching her nose up until the suction felt comfortable. She nodded when Grace inquired if she was ready, and then they, too, were off into the spray.
With his fingertips pressed to the small of Kono's back, Danny followed his wife into the water, their pace far more sedate and steady than their children's. Finally coming to a stop when the gentle waves lapped at their hips, (well, Kono's hips, his belly-button), he scooped Audrey up from her mother's chest. She stared at him, an odd mixture of startled and worried and trusting and curious and excited, before turning away at the sounds of her brothers and sisters drawing closer.
They moved gently, taking care not to splash her. Leilani, now tucked safely under Kai's chin, looked perplexed. She was the last one they had done this for, never having witnessed her older brothers and sisters meeting the ocean for the first time - nevertheless, she seemed to pick up on everybody's reverent mood. They all formed a ring around their parents, Sophia and Lio treading water with ease.
Smiling comfortingly, Danny shifted his hands to Audrey's belly, laying her down on his palms and slowly lowering her to the swirling blue currents. Her eyes went as wide as saucers when a gentle swell tickled her toes. She shrieked, half in fright and half in delight. Danny pressed on, lowering her further until she was tummy-down, cradled in his hands and swaying gently this way and that.
With his palm smoothed over her small sternum, he kept her head tilted back from the spray, lifting her up and away when larger swells rolled by. He was entranced by her expressions, changing a mile a minute between every emotion under the sun. As she grew bolder, more at ease, she began to smack her tiny fists against the surface, clearly enjoying the resulting splashes and noise.
When she eventually began to tire, Kono reached forward, curling her hands around her daughter's little belly and shoulders. After years together, she and Danny were well practiced at the delicate art of passing a child between them. She nodded, as if to say, I've got her, and Danny let his daughter slip from his grasp to that of his wife's.
He watched, content, as Kono tucked Audrey under her chin, slipping a little deeper into the water and bobbing along gently. "Hey, baby girl," she whispered down into the gentle curve of Audrey's ear. "Welcome to the world."