Nobody smacks a relative on the rump like that. Kumai was certain that there were laws against it. But she was too far away from Bradon and whoever that was to tell anything for sure.
Nothing much else had happened since she started watching them except for that friendly pat on the backside. She didn’t know what to think. Bradon did say yes to sailing with her today so that must have meant something. Only, Kumai didn’t know what it meant.
Walking would clear her head. She set out her credit card to pay for the mahi and beer. Time for a stroll to turtle cove on the park side of the marina. The small protected bay had the official name of Kaloko-Honokohau beach park, but she had seen hundreds of honu there over the past year so she named it turtle cove.
Headed in that direction across the sunbaked pavement was Chaz with his slow rolling walk. He was barefoot, wearing a pair of the new shorts. Kumai wanted the company of someone who was exactly what he seemed to be. She gathered her swim wear and phone in its waterproof case and dashed after him.
“Good morning!” She called out, “Or, I guess it’s almost afternoon.”
“Hello, hello.” Chaz said. “Kaipua, is it?”
“Ah yes. The midwife of the aina.”
“Oh, no. That must be someone else.” She felt disappointment creep in.
“No, that’s you.” He stopped and studied her through random grey eyebrows. “Where’s your dog?”
“Oh, well, yes. He’s at home.”
“Too bad. Beach here is perfect for dogs. S’why I come here, to visit the pooches.”
Kumai chuckled. “I come to visit the turtles.”
“Can’t pet ’em like I can dogs. Wouldn’t really want to touch ’em if I could, though.”
“Yes, cold and hard. A turtle is a sort of anti-dog.” Kumai agreed. “Mind if I walk with you?”
“Not at all, not at all. D’ya find your papers?” Chaz asked.
“My papers?” Geez this guy is confused.
“Yeah, you said there were maps or something.”
“Oh! Those. I don’t really expect to find them.”
“Well they won’t come looking for you a second time. You might have to look for them.”
“I wouldn’t know where to start.”
“Maybe you just don’t want to believe what you already know.” Chaz said.
“Believe? I think of beliefs as something we formulate from emotions more than from rational thought.” Kumai grumbled.
“And you might know where to start looking if you put some rational thought to it.”
Not going to be doing that, wacko guy on the beach. “Okay. Thanks. Well, I guess I’ll go see a honu or two. Enjoy the dogs.”
“Happy hunting!” Chaz said then laughed uproariously.
Kumai checked her phone. She had ten more minutes before she needed to walk back to Bradon’s slip. She kicked off her shoes and waded into the ocean to get a dose of the sea, just in case the sailing didn’t happen after all. Not prepared for the shock of the cold that greeted her feet, she wondered if there was a shock waiting for her at Bradon’s boat that she might prepare for.
Pretending to let all the confusion from this morning trickle down through her feet to dissolve in the water for fish food, she relaxed her body and looked around. Sea turtles appeared similar to the mossy rocks that they fed on, so Kumai searched for them by observing the water rise and fall. Whenever it swelled and a wet mound of “rock” lifted with it, that rock was a honu.
Slippery as slimy spinach, the rocks offered Kumai no safe access to get a closer look. Instead, she walked through the shallow water where sand collected between the shore and the ancient fishing ponds.
Wading in knee deep, she was gradually surrounded by sea turtles floating with the currents. Eels lived in the submerged rock walls of the fishing ponds so she didn’t press out any further.
Down the shore she saw a familiar tread pattern in the sand and waded toward that direction. She followed the sculpted track out of the water to a sunbathing turtle up on the hot bank of sand. She let it rest undisturbed and walked back to her shoes and the marina.
Thick clouds formed south of Hualalai, promising a break from the building heat and maybe some rain for her ohana upcountry. She hoped for cool and rainy weather when she visited their coffee farm later this week, mostly because she was overly hot right now.
“Kumai!” She said.
“Kaandi?” She asked.
“Yes! I was so excited when Bradon said that you wanted to sail today. I thought I might never see you after you left the gardening class.”
“Well, me too. Except I was going to come to your wedding, remember?” Kumai smiled.
“Oh? Oh! Ha ha.” Kaandi blurted and glanced toward Bradon, “That was funny.”
Kumai thought that this whole situation was rather funny. Funny as in odd.
“How do you know Bradon?” Kaandi asked.
“I met him at his antiques store. And you?” Kumai asked.
“Everyone ready?” Bradon called from the helm.
Kaandi looked to Kumai who nodded yes, then yelled, “Heave away.”
Once clear of the mouth of the harbor, Bradon opened up the engine and navigated them well out from shore where the winds were making small white caps on the water. He shut off the engine. Despite the mesmerizing stillness, everyone got busy unfurling the sails.
Kumai wondered why he decided to go out so far and sail rougher waters. Maybe he liked the feel of a strong wind in the sheets.
Soon they were under full sail headed South past the Kailua Pier. The boat was leaning hard to the port. Kumai hung on as they whipped sea foam along either side of the hull, splashing up and onto the deck on the low side and making footing treacherous.
Bradon tacked the mainsail at Kumai’s back. She turned at his voice which reached her about the same time as the beam. She ducked from a near hit. At this speed, the timber would have knocked her unconscious into the water, and certainly broken something, maybe even killed her. She scowled at Bradon.
He signaled with two fingers to his eyes, then the sails, then her, to say, “Keep your eyes on the canvas.”
She gave one short nod. Aye aye, Captain.
He slowed their speed and the boat righted. Kumai sat down to rest her legs and decided to study the land rather than invite a chewing-out from Bradon.
Off shore of Kailua town, a massive yacht sat anchored with a helicopter parked on the top deck. Kumai tried to read the vessels’s name using binoculars but couldn’t hold steady. All she could discern were some capital S’s.
She went below, changed into her scrounged-up swimsuit, found sunscreen and put on a layer of it. Moving around was difficult because the hold was stacked full of bags and boxes, most containing food and bottled water as if for an extended sail. Maybe it would be best to ask Bradon straight out what was going on. Her uncertainty about Bradon’s plans was a non-problem. She didn’t need to make it into one. But Kumai didn’t understand where her unease was coming from.
Fact was, she sprang the “let’s date” announcement, and now the “let’s sail” request with no notice. If things seemed kapakahi, she only had herself to blame.
Changed and refocused on being sociable, she returned topside.
Bradon was sitting at the wheel to steer with one hand while the other held a martini.
“So, hello.” Kumai said.
“Hello to you.” Bradon said. “Nice suit.”
“Thanks. HICO. And thank you, Bradon, for being willing to sail with me today.” She stepped closer to be available to kiss and start over.
“No problem.” He remained facing the front. “We had similar ideas.”
“You and me?”
“No. Well, yes, I guess so. But Kaandi and I had just talked about going sailing.”
“Where is Kaandi?”
“Up there on the forward deck.” He lifted his martini glass toward the the front, as if toasting it, and grinned.
She stood on tip toe to see Kaandi stretched out in front of them getting a tan without lines. Kumai looked away. She rubbed her temples and tried to calculate how many years ago she would have looked like that. Twelve? She massaged either side of her jaw in circles while her thumbs held her mouth firmly shut.
When she reclaimed her restraint and unclamped her mouth she asked, “Mind if I eat something?” Might as well celebrate that I’m never gonna need to maintain a figure like that again.
“Not at all. Help yourself. Kaandi put a ton of stores below. Hey, if you cook, save some for me.”
“Sure.” Kumai answered, deciding that cereal sounded good. A headache was threatening to erupt, due to any number of possible influences. She hadn’t had enough caffeine for her usual dose. And she had only eaten Snoballs, but maybe not enough of them either. Maybe it was a general lack of collagen, as evidenced by her reduced elasticity compared to Miss Sailboat up there. It was probably a hunger headache. Or tension from her confession, weirdness at Lani’s, having a stoner friend and questionable boyfriend, or maybe just the threats of bodily harm by a tree trunk.
Huddled over a bowl of Cap’n Crunch in the galley, she wondered if she wanted to stay aboard once they reached Puako. Her hale called to her. Today had been full of mystifying interactions. Sunset would be as lovely to watch from her deck as from a boat’s. Perhaps lovelier without a nude goddess to distract or confuse.
She stood up, washed her bowl and spoon, and dug around for her phone in the sealed case. A massive dive knife rested on the small table in front of her. Next to it she gathered her items in a bag that could wait for her at the marina office rather than being dragged through the water when she swam home. She found her phone, ate a mango, curled up on a bunk, and fell asleep.
The boat had been even-keeled for the remainder of the sail. When they stopped, the hull rocked and bobbed like heads at a political rally. Kumai bumped against the side wall and woke up. She went topside and found Kaandi in the navigator’s seat, one hand resting on Bradon’s leg. The blonde was wrapped in a pareo Tahitian-style like their Kumu would do.
“Hey.” Kumai said.
They turned to look at Kumai without any chagrin. Kaandi removed her hand from Bradon and reached for her phone.
“You really zonked out.” Bradon said. His phone buzzed and he reached for it.
“Yeah.” Kumai said. Bradon texted. Kumai studied their choice of tie-off spot. It wasn’t too far from her home. Kaandi looked at her phone, rolled her eyes, and texted.
Kumai started to feel like a canoe paddle on this sailboat. “I think I will go ahead and swim to my house sooner rather than later.”
“Oh?” Bradon said.
“That way you’re free to stay or go whenever you want. I left a small bag of stuff below, if you could drop it at the harbor office whenever you’re back there.”
“Okay.” Kaandi said.
Bradon was silent.
Kumai climbed over the back rail to the step and felt the ocean lap at her feet. The thick liquid was like a welcoming cat, weaving around her calves and drawing her closer. The water was warm out here, away from the cold spring-water that drained from high in the mountains down through the land to the shore. She dropped herself gently into the bright aqua.
Enjoying the deep water, she dove and went under the hull. As she kicked to come up on the other side, her shallow breath began to run out. She hurried to surface. Her foot was abruptly wrapped in rope.
Several thoughts flared in her mind. Foremost was the dive knife on a table less than two yards away from her through the bottom of the boat, and therefore miles away. Her heart started racing. She calmed her rising panic. She gulped down the air she had just planned to release.
Her lungs resisted constraint as they worked to find a breath of fresh air. She released her jaw and folded forward to work her foot free of the cinched rope. Visions of Kate surfaced. She shoved them down. She wondered if this was how it had felt in Kate’s last moments. Spikes of terror needled her. She felt desperate to breathe. Hysteria surged again and she yanked in desperation to free her foot. Nothing budged.
Tiny lights danced around her forehead. Her temples felt like they were bleeding from the pressure in her head.
She bent at the knee and slid her tethered foot up the opposite leg to rest her ankle on her thigh. With her whole body, she pulled up on the rope, loosening the tension that encircled her foot. She wriggled her foot free and slapped the hull to push away from it and reach the surface.
Gasping for air, she floated and willed herself not to lose her equilibrium now. She still needed to swim home.
Slowly, carefully, she began a gentle back stroke in the direction of land. As she gained distance from the boat, she could see Bradon on the far side at the front talking with Kaandi. He was pulling up a rope from the water and coiling it neatly on deck.
A combustible mixture of anger and fear fueled her swim until her muscles threatened to give out. Pausing to float again, she let her muscles relax and reflected on how strange to now be borne peacefully on the water that moments ago would have pressed the life out of her.
She made a weird hiccup whimper, rolled over, and did a lazy breast stroke in the direction of the most obvious landmark on Puako: her neighbors’ glass cube house. They had a small pier that would make her exit from the sea easier.
The regular rhythm of her breaths and the strokes made her drowsy. Sun warmed her back. She wanted to roll over, float, and drift to sleep right there on the water. Except that she would drift… several leagues south of Maui. And she would probably go unnoticed in her deadman’s float right past the little boat of bewilderment that still sat out there on the water behind her. Every few minutes, she would turn to check if it was still there. It was.
After what felt like an hour’s swim but was less than twenty minutes, she approached the pier. She circled the small boardwalk and swam to the pipe ladder on the shadow side. The sun was getting low and bright across the water, shining into her eyes.
Underneath the structure she could barely see what looked like tattoo marks on the boards. They felt as if they had been freshly scratched into the wood by something rough like coral. She pulled a small splinter from her finger and saw that it was fresh brown wood, not greyed like the surface.