“Who would name their son Connie?” Susan exited the lounge saying, “I thought you knew him, the guy I’ve been dancing with.”
The door closed. “Kah-Nay.” Kumai said. But then she decided that Kane deserved to be called by a girl’s name for as long as possible. She wasn’t going to chase after Susan and straighten out her pronunciation right now because Kumai needed to follow the man with the limp. Catching him would make her the pursuer and she could reverse this chase.
She scanned the powder room for anything that might serve as protection. There were no Kevlar dispensers, bulletproof towelettes, or complimentary pepper sprays. Anything could be used for attack, as the victim stabbed by a realty sign had discovered last night. Realty stakes were a strong weapon, to which even the lava had succumbed.
A rectangular koa wood tray corralled hand towels on the vanity. Kumai turned out the contents and took the tray. A chiffon monstera-leaf motif curtain was tacked up in one corner of the room. A strip of cloth could strangle or bind, maybe even confuse someone. She pulled it down, draped it over her like a shawl, and dashed out of the lounge in the direction that the man had gone.
The hallway turned left for the men’s room. Beyond, a right turn offered double doors. She listened, pushed open one door a crack, and saw a darkened room for storage. Stacked chairs, folded tables, and racks of white linens looked especially sterile stowed beside Kahili. The Hawaiian standards were brilliant red or vibrant yellow, while some in natural feather colors could easily be mistaken for ceiling dusters.
She let the door close and wondered, did she wait by the men’s door to see if he would come out of there, or hunt further? The idea of watching and being seen watching a bathroom had zero appeal.
Adrenaline pushed her through the double doors into the storage area. On the opposite side of the room were two more doors. She dashed across the space to hide behind a stack of chairs. A small brown person was standing there, holding his hands out, palms up. Kumai let out a gasp of surprise then realized he hadn’t moved. She put out her hand slowly to feel the carved face of a tiki.
She tried to slow her heart rate and gave up. She creeped forward to the second set of doors and peeked out. The door slammed back into her, reminding her of her tender nose. She jumped back just as the door pulled open to the other direction and Taka appeared. He held a handgun pointed at her chest.
“Where’d you get the cape?” Taka asked.
“Restroom?” Kumai squeaked.
“It’s nice.” He said, releasing his stance and putting away the weapon. “Makes your eyes pop.”
“Thanks?” Kumai said.
“I thought you were taking a Super Snake for a spin.” Taka put a hand on her shoulder and held open one of the doors for her to go through.
“Are you following me?”
“Oh. Well then. My test drive was over too soon, like a carnival ride. You know?”
“Nope. Hate roller coasters. They scare the crap out of me.” Taka steered them into the banquet hall. He gently removed the koa tray from her vise grip. “You’re safer in a crowd than alone with this.”
“I almost had him.” Kumai protested.
“I know. He was running scared when I lost him.” Taka said, “Manya would like to talk to you. Sit in my chair?”
“Oh please no. She hates me. Why would she want to talk with me?”
“She has some questions for you.”
“Questions like, ‘How do you want me to have you killed?’ She’s scarier than a roller coaster with your hands full of throwing stars.”
“Manya is like a roller coaster, actually.” Taka looked lost in thought.
“How about you just answer her questions for me? Tell her I decided to die by you shooting me. We can go back to that room and get it over with right now.”
“Manya isn’t wanting you dead. Just the opposite, she wants you to come to life.”
“Oh great. Please tell me she’s not some sort of evangelist…”
“Nope. Just remember, ask her questions. And listen.” Taka gently pulled Kumai’s elbow toward their table. Susan was on the dance floor. Dr. Ching was nowhere to be seen. Taka held out his chair and Kumai sat down.
“Can you get us more champagne, Taka?” Manya asked, keeping her eyes on Kumai.
Manya said, “Taka tells me that you no longer study under Lani.”
“That’s correct.” Kumai’s back straightened. She realized that she had hunched over protectively.
“That’s for the best. Do you think you will see much more of her?”
“I was thinking of visiting her soon.” Kumai mindlessly felt around her necklace.
“Kumu Lani is an organic…”
“I want you to approach Lani with eyes rinsed of the veil of knowing.”
“How do I do that?” Kumai put her elbow on the table, rubbed her eyebrows with one hand, then felt her fragile nose. Nothing broken.
“When you visit Lani, observe how she interacts with the aina, the land.”
She doesn’t. Her students pay for the privilege of working the soil.
“Then note her relationship to the plants. Does she nurture them in accord with their tendencies, allowing each plant to show her what it needs? Who directs how it is treated, Lani or the plant? Is she growing in order to bring them into the fullness of their being or only to derive from them whatever she can get?”
“Okay. Then what? You want me to report her methods back to you or something, right?”
“Nothing needs to come after your observations. When you see, you’ll see. Ask yourself what Lani teaches about how to be as human beings.”
“How to be …with plants? And this Adoptions person?”
“Tane. Of Adaptations in Captain Cook. Tell him that I sent you. Go visit him and make the same observations.”
Kumai didn’t want to commit, so she made no sounds of agreement, mostly because Manya had been so openly hostile to her at first. But her curiosity was growing. She might look for the Tane person if one day she had extra time during a visit to her ohana.
Manya shifted the subject, “As a Polynesian, Kumai, you have a responsibility to the ancestors who live inside of you.”
Here we go. “Yup.”
“It is a particular challenge to grow up in one culture and have your heritage from another.”
“You will find your way.” Manya smiled. “The ancestors will guide you to be with life as it is. They are strong inside of you.”
Kumai pictured a bunch of grey-haired people wrestling under stretchy fabric. Only that fabric was her skin. She shivered.
“Thanks.” She took the card. “I can be reached through the Four Seasons Resort.” I think.
“Taka knows where to find you.” Manya said as he returned from his errand with a new bottle.
Kumai rose, took the bottle, poured for Manya and said, “Thanks for the chat,” She skipped Taka’s glass and raised the bottle, “and the champagne.”
She went back to her seat and poured herself a glass, removing another of the doctor’s empties from the ice to put in the new bottle. She stared at Taka across the table as she raised her glass to enjoy. A voice behind her said, “Not many ladies know how to take on Carroll Shelby’s creations.”
Was everyone out back when they had left in the Cobra? To heck with courtesy. She took a hearty swig before acknowledging this stranger. Then she endured a coughing fit from aspirating the bubbly. She rinsed down some water to ease the champagne burn, and said, “Hi.”
Kumai tried to discern if this guy was talking about his living room furniture, or captaining a car, or just using the worst pick up line ever. She gave up. “I can’t say I have.” She turned back to the table for more champagne.
“I’ve got one.”
The silence that followed would have been awkward if Kumai wasn’t beyond caring. Maybe he would take it as her being impressed rather than ignorant of his car’s make and model.
“What d’ya say we take her out some day?”
“Who?” Kumai asked, looking at him to see if he meant Manya, or maybe Susan. He was a spray-tanned, white-toothed, and younger version of Peter Yelley. His tuxedo was cut to perfection, a crisp white linen ensemble, complete with silk velvet cummerbund and satin tie. His white eel-skin shoes almost made Kumai fall in love with him.
“Haha!” He laughed. “How about next Tuesday? Do you know where the Honokohau Marina is?”
“What just happened?” Kumai asked Taka.
“You had more champagne.” He answered.
Kirby came over and sat down in Dr. Ching’s chair. “Your doctor friend is asking to see you.”
“Uh oh.” Kumai frowned. “I just met him tonight. I suppose that means we’re not going to be friends after all. He saw the car?”
“Yeah. He’s out back.”
“Can Taka come along?”
“My friend.” She pointed across the table. “Taka, Kirby. Kirby, Taka.”
“Howzit.” They said in unison.
“Manya, Kirby. Kirby, Manya.”
“Nice art.” Kirby said.
“Thank you.” Manya replied. “Go ahead, Taka. I’ll be fine.”
Yeah, Taka, she can scare people all by herself.
“Lead the way.” Kumai stood and followed Kirby on the route he had shown her earlier when she was running from trouble. Now she wanted to run in the opposite direction.
Bradon stepped out of the men’s room just as Kumai was passing by with Kirby on one side and Taka on the other. She wanted to tell him that this wasn’t as bad as it looked. It was worse. But she just smiled, waved, and went on to have her chewing out.
Dr. Ching was lying down in the back of an ambulance parked in front of Lightning. An IV hung above him, giving a slow drip. Kumai wondered if it was a painkiller or sedative, or both.
“He took it worse than I imagined.” She said.
Kirby laughed which made her angry. He could laugh because he wasn’t paying for damages.
“This young man told me what you did.” Dr. Ching said.
“Yes.” Kumai stepped closer. “I’m very sorry.”
“Yes, if I had listened to you and not driven when I’d had too much to drink, my car would not need repair. Even that is small trouble compared to what could have happened. I could have killed someone, or myself. You saved my life.”
“I did?” Kumai sat down on the back step of the ambulance just in time to see Taka patting Kirby on the back. They walked away to chat.
“Yes. You are the only one who could talk reason into me. You made me turn back. You are very brave.”
“Wow.” Kumai said. “So, are you okay?”
“Yes.” Dr. Ching nodded, “These electrolytes are restoring me. Thank you, Kumai Kaimana. I will not forget my debt to you.”
“Oh, I wish you would.”
“That young man said you would say that.”
“Kumai?” Bradon stepped out the back door. “Everything okay?”
“I’m fine, Bradon.”
“What’s going on? Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Bradon, I appreciate your concern. My friend Dr. Ching was in need of some vitamins. I just came out to check on how he’s feeling. You can go back in and enjoy the Benefit. I’ll be in soon.”
“How about that dance ya owe me?”
“Your timing needs work. So does your wording.”
“Do you have any idea how frustrating all of this is?” He waved his arms to take in the world around Kumai.
“Okay, I’m sorry about your frustration. Really. Just give me some space, I’ll get a little air, and then I can come back inside.”
As Bradon opened the door to go in, Kirby’s waitress came out. Instead of going to Kirby she walked over to Kumai.
“Kirby deserves better than you.” She hissed at Kumai.
The EMT attending to Dr. Ching looked up and stared.
She continued. “You toy with him and all those other guys but I know who you really care about.”
Oh phew. I’m glad somebody’s clear on this.
“Yourself. Why don’t you just go date yourself.” The waitress stalked over to Kirby and Taka.
“Sheesh.” Kumai muttered.
“And you are…?”
“Kirby’s engine-mate. And friend. Hugh. Hugh Barnes. You need to leave Kirby alone.”
“Alone?” Kumai squeaked. “What are you talking about? I like Kirby. If I want to date him, I will.”
“Even though you’re dating McCandless.”
“We’re not an item. Besides which, this is not your kuleana.”
“It’s my business because I care about Kirby.”
“Well, so do I.” Kumai shook her head as she headed back inside, seeing from a glance that the waitress was resting her hand on Kirby’s shoulder as he spoke with Taka.
Kumai paused in the hall and fenced with an urge to use. Her phone was in her purse back at the table, so trying to get online for her support group would require her to go back out there. However she could be in the restroom and having her spirits lifted in a matter of moments. She wasn’t deriving the pleasure she’d expected from the White Benefit, so maybe it was time to manufacture some fun.
Kumu Lani entered the hall and Kumai’s hand reflexively went to her throat for Susan’s necklace. Lani didn’t see her and entered the Wahine’s room. So much for fun in there.
Kumai sighed and returned to her table. She was the only one there. She sipped tepid champagne, poured out her glass into Dr. Ching’s, poured herself a chilled glassful, and wondered what meal course they had missed. It better not have been dessert.
Bradon looked toward her. She almost looked away but the waitress’s words were causing her to question herself. She patted Dr. Ching’s chair next to her.
Bradon came over and sat. “I’m sorry. I don’t know why I push so much. I just really like you and would like to be with you.”
“It’s okay. Maybe it’s time we officially were dating. People think we are anyway.”
“Are you serious?”
“Yeah, an EMT just told me so.”
“No, really, you mean this, about us? Well, happy day.” Bradon raised Dr. Ching’s glass to toast.
Kumai clinked and sipped and third-guessed herself.
“Did they serve dessert yet?” She asked.
“The most recent course was cheese and fruit.”
“Was that dessert?”
“In Europe it would be but I heard a server mention an American dessert next.”
“Don’t suppose the word ‘chocolate’ was in there somewhere?”
“I believe it was.”
“Yes.” Kumai stood. “Now I can dance.”
“That’s more good news.” Bradon guided her through the dancers and relaxed his grip as they got into step. “What do you think of the White Benefit?”
“I don’t know. I’m completely disoriented by the money represented here.”
“I would think a concierge would be accustomed to rich people.”
“There are levels of vastness to wealth.”
“A person can lose their bearings.” He agreed. “But they’re fine seas to be lost upon.”
Kumai knew the ocean was much too powerful for comparison to ultra-affluence. Some who knew money like she knew the ocean would say that she was dangerously underestimating money’s deeper currents.