Kumai woke up in her own bed. She had slept well despite the strange day yesterday with Bradon.
Last night she greeted Sage, Tom, and Bonnie then excused herself without any chat. Bradon’s boat lingering offshore and a pressing need to be left alone drove her to bed early. She fell asleep with the familiar comfort of a tawdry romance novel from the secret drawer in her bedside table.
Not much of a homebody, it disoriented her to be so glad to get back to her hale. Someone had put line-dried sheets on her bed. She found herself relaxed and restored by kind touches around the room. In the morning light she noticed a pottery vase of fresh orchids and fern on her bedside table. Last night a cold sparkling water was waiting at her bedside.
Maybe she could face her full house today. She got out of bed and put on her favorite linen robe, buttery soft from use. The romance novel went back into hiding. Out above the ocean she noted clear skies marred only by the masts of Bradon’s sailboat still parked out there, taunting her with questions. She groaned and padded her bare feet out to the lanai.
The first thing she noticed was how light glinted on the glass jalousies. She knew that people didn’t bother cleaning those things. But not only were the glass panels clean, the mechanisms and screen were also devoid of gekko poo.
“Whoa.” Kumai whispered and looked around. Her lanai was orderly, with candles placed between shells, pillows fluffed, and surfaces swept or wiped down. Even the lawn looked like a green blanket pulled taut for inspection.
Pockets of impatiens and lilies gathered in shady corners. The stone wall had a new fern flounce. It looked lush, botanical, and alluring. Kumai sat down and sighed.
Sage came out from the kitchen, two mugs of coffee in one hand and a plate of something in the other. She set down the plate, “Ora Nacha or something like that. Nut bread. Walnuts, cinnamon, nirvana.”
“You bake?” Kumai asked.
“Not me! Huh uh. Bonnie. She’s done all of this.” Sage made a broad gesture to take in the yard and lanai. Kumai’s eyes went up to the eaves where she had needed to sweep down cobwebs. Gone.
”How long have I been away?” Kumai asked.
“You’ve been gone six days. Bonnie’s only been here for four. She’s amazing. Didn’t I tell you? Wait until you see inside.”
“Inside? I thought I slept inside last night.”
“That was your room. I wouldn’t let her change anything in there.”
“Change?” Kumai squeaked.
“Relax. She didn’t do half bad out here, did she?” Sage sipped her coffee and gestured for Kumai to do the same. “Besides, you came in the living room last night and didn’t notice anything, right? And that room got a makeover. Take a few swigs of your coffee and let your mind settle.”
Kumai groaned and picked up her coffee. She was feeling peeved, but that could have been due to Bradon’s boat in front and center of her view. What were they doing out there? She didn’t really want to know, but needed to know for decision-making purposes. She believed that she had some choice about what went on in her life. Lately that premise had been tested.
She mindlessly picked up a slice of the spiral bread and took a bite. The nut plus cinnamon fragrance and eggy texture of the bread yanked her into the present moment like she had been flung off of an airport moving sidewalk.
Sunlight sparkled. Birds sang. Her mouth had a vacation to bliss. She licked her fingers, sipped more coffee, and breathed. She stretched her legs then stood up and went inside.
She greeted Bonnie in the kitchen. Tom was sitting at the breakfast bar with his back to Kumai. She looked around. Offense at having her stuff changed had a shoving match with not wanting anything changed back. A strange combination of feeling pleased plus invaded wrestled inside of her.
“Morning, Bonnie. How are you, Tom?” Kumai asked.
“That was stupid of me.”
“I took a lot of unnecessary risks.”
“Please forgive me?”
“Done.” Kumai said. “But you’re not borrowing my car if that’s what the apology is about.”
“I know, geez Kumai.”
“Alright you two. Breakfast is ready. Out to the lanai with you.” Bonnie ordered.
Kumai chose a seat with her back to the ocean.
“Geez, Kumai. How long are you gonna stay mad?” Tommy complained.
“Huh?” She asked.
“You always sit over here where you can look out to sea. Today you’re sitting as far away from me as possible.”
“No, it’s not you, Tom. I’m almost not-mad at you already. It’s that sailboat out there.” Kumai pointed back over her shoulder without looking that way.
Sage came out to join them and asked, “Bradon’s boat?”
“What’s it still doing here?” Sage asked.
Kumai nodded agreement, “And there’s a young lady aboard. A naked young lady.”
Sage raised her eyebrows.
Tom got up and went for the binoculars beside the punee bed. Kumai noticed that his T-shirt had four large words printed with a line for each,
“Why would anyone wear a shirt saying that?” Kumai asked.
Sage rolled her eyes. “He still doesn’t look at what she gets for him. He just wears them.”
“Yeah, but why did the first person choose a shirt with that on it?” Kumai pressed.
“Well, that’s an interesting question. But I think it’s a women’s T-shirt if that sheds any light.”
Sage considered. “What you’re suspecting is that there is a male-bashing woman roaming around who outgrew a size large T-shirt.”
“Exactly. Let’s hope that the outgrowing was psychological.”
“It’s the best that we can hope for.” Sage agreed.
Tom sat back down and worked the focus on the glasses while the women ate.
“See anything?” Kumai asked.
“No.” Tommy said, disgusted.
Sage sighed and stopped eating.
“Boy, you’re starving yourself.” Bonnie said and nodded toward Sage, “While you have a feast right in front of you.”
Tommy lowered the binoculars and looked at the food and then Bonnie. She had to throw her eyes toward Sage again before he got it.
“Oh, sorry Sage.” He squirmed in his seat, then set down the binoculars. “I was looking so I could report to Kumai.”
Sage lowered her chin and looked sideways at Tom.
“Okay. Sorry, Babe.” He said it this time more sincerely. He piled scrambled eggs and fresh fruit onto his plate.
“I was gonna make something else.” Bonnie said, “But the basting brush I swear I saw in there has disappeared.”
Tommy blanched. “I used a brush from the kitchen to clean the sand from my skateboard wheels.”
Sage turned toward Kumai, “Tom and I are gonna hele-on today. Unless you need us to stick around.”
“This stint went longer than I expected.” Kumai said, “I owe you’s.”
“No you don’t.” Sage laughed.
“Are you kidding?” Tom added, “This place is like a resort.”
“Better.” Bonnie added.
“Except for the grumpy maid.” Tom said and dodged a swat from Bonnie.
Bonnie added, “And the mouthy Cabana Boy.”
Sage chuckled. “Call me soon. We need to go play in the ocean.”
Kumai agreed, then asked, “What are your plans, Bonnie?”
“She, uh…” Tom started.
Bonnie put up a hand toward him and looked at Kumai. “I need a place to stay. Could you use a housekeeper?”
“And interior decorator?” Kumai added.
“Any of it can change back.”
There was a long awkward silence. Everyone had stopped eating. Kumai put her pressed linen napkin on the table beside her plate. Who uses cloth napkins at home? She took in a huge breath and pushed her chair back from the lanai table so she could cross her legs. She also crossed her arms to think. What do I need? Solitude. But this is nice. She scanned the anxious faces around her table.
“Maybe we should go now, Tom.” Sage said.
“No way.” Tom said.
Bonnie patted his hand.
Kumai gave him a look but said, “It’s fine with me that you stay, unless Bonnie would rather this be a private conversation. I’m just thinking about logistics.”
“I can pay rent. I have the truck money you gave me.” Bonnie said.
“You could pay rent anywhere. I do like how you have cleaned my place and made it home, only better.”
“Yes.” Tom said, pumping his fist.
“However, I need my solitude.” Kumai said.
“I could work in the garden when you are home.” Bonnie said. “That would help me not bug you if I can work outside.”
“Sometimes I need to be alone completely.”
“I’d be running errands.”
“How?” Kumai asked.
“She’s been using the Hele-On.” Tom said.
“And hitchhiking.” Bonnie added.
Kumai frowned. “That still doesn’t help though, because I’m going to want at least a week each month that I am completely alone here at home.”
“Oh.” Sage said.
Tom frowned and looked at Bonnie.
“This morning I asked the universe for a sign,” Bonnie said, “about whether I should bother visiting my husband in jail or let him go.”
“Did you get a sign?” Tommy asked.
“One week a month out of the house is my sign. I’ll go to Hilo during those times each month.”
Kumai nodded. “That might work okay. But I still need some time to think about all of this, Bonnie. Are you able to head out when Sage and Tom leave today?”
“Kumai…” Sage started, then fell silent.
Tommy frowned to no one in particular and left his food uneaten. “Guess we better get Kumai some quality alone time. Ready to go?”
After they had left and Kumai cleared the table, she returned to the neighbor’s pier to look at those marks. The scratches were very fresh, less than a week old. She couldn’t read them. They almost looked like tapa designs, or a basic tribal tattoo. She wondered what they meant, as someone had been careful to make them clearly.
She thought about who might know these symbols. Maybe she should tell Peter about them. But her confidence in him had eroded a little more with each interaction.
Manya probably could read the marks. But she was too scary. Taka, however, wasn’t so fearsome. And he could decide whether it was something to report to either Peter or Manya to further the investigation.
Kumai wondered where she put the contact card that Manya had given to her at the White Benefit. Odds were she tucked it into her white clutch which she had left in her car with Tom.
The sun warmed her back and the bottoms of her feet as she stayed lying on her belly. The warm boards of the pier pressed into her torso. She let her head hang over the edge a little while longer and watched yellow tang dart around the rocks through the clear water. A sea cucumber curved around the lava contours like the result of an unexpected bodily function. Risking a sunburn on the bottoms of her feet would almost be worth it to stay gazing here a while.
In the distance, the hum of a boat motor grew until it came into sight. Even with the fathomless depths just offshore, small craft were safe because of the gentle seas. This skiff sliced a line straight to Bradon’s sailboat. Kumai held still and watched.
Two people climbed onto Bradon’s boat. The woman was dressed like a Kumu, similar to Lani. Kumai wished she had those binoculars. There was movement on both boats, so someone had stayed behind on the little one. Everyone on Bradon’s deck disappeared below.
She pushed herself to her feet, walked back up the pier, and returned to her manicured yard. Viewing home from the ocean side revealed just how much Bonnie had accomplished in four days. The place sparkled. It looked fresh like the first homes that realtors list. Bonnie must be exhausted. Guilt elbowed her.
Around the side yard she saw the trampled impatiens. For a gardener, the menehune really had been destructive. Maybe it was time to cut that tie to Lani as well. Kumai would need to find a way to honor the generous offer while respecting her own boundaries. She decided to wait for the right opportunity. It would help that she was home now to monitor the gardening contributions.
Inigo was looking even more derelict, with leaves bunched in the jagged metal of the trunk. They tore when she tried again to free them, leaving ragged plant debris still wedged between the bright blue paint and now-rusting metal. She sighed and opened the car door to search for her belongings and Manya’s card. A wave of scent whooshed out of the sun-warmed vehicle. The aroma reminded her of holidays, maybe even birthdays, or maybe it was camping? A small alarm went off in her head. A car doesn’t smell like holidays.
She searched for a hidden car-freshener. Instead, she found on the dash a blown-open package of Snoballs. Tommy must have left it for her as a peace offering. It took a minute for her to realize what she was looking at because the marshmallows had expanded in the heat, burst the package, and toasted onto her dash. It smelled divine.
It looked impossible to clean up. So, she didn’t. Instead she gathered her belongings and took them back into the house.
She went into her bedroom with her assortment and tucked the White Benefit garb and shoes into her packed closet. I need to consign stuff. She saw the line-up of cheerful Jams World tops. I need to contact the new resort boss. She dumped the contents of the white clutch onto her bed. Three business cards were in the melange of lipstick, a cork, a skeleton key, and tissues in various stages from fresh to trash.
She gathered the cards and was relieved that Manya’s was one of them. The other two she didn’t remember receiving. One was from Dr. Ching, Cobra owner of NELHA. The card had a stylized wave with blue tribal designs bursting into white foam. The other card was from Skip Summerbourne and had a photograph of the yacht she had seen anchored in Kailua Bay, complete with helicopter.
She tucked the men’s two cards into her wallet and saw a tooth-gap where her credit card belonged. She immediately suspected Bonnie, then felt ashamed of herself, wondered if Tommy took it, then really felt ashamed of herself as she realized she probably had left it at the Harbor House restaurant. She grabbed her phone, called, and confirmed that her credit card was there. They would hold it for her to pick up.
She hung up and felt a need to apologize to Bonnie and Tom. Instead she dialed the number on Manya’s card and held her breath.
“Manya Hau’ofa.” A deep voice answered.
“Manya?” She asked.
“Kumai?” He asked.
“Taka?” She asked.
“Yeah.” Taka said.
“Okay. Phew, I didn’t remember Manya having such a deep voice.”
“You wanna talk to Manya?”
“No, no. Thanks, no. No, thanks. I was actually calling for you.”
“I have something here at my house, well, my neighbor’s house, well, their pier actually… I have something to show you.” She felt like she had just asked him to come see her etchings. Well, in a way that was what she was asking. Then she wondered why she even thought that.
“I take it you mean Puako?”
“Give me a couple of hours.”
“Oh, it’ll only take a minute.”
“I mean, to get there.”
“Oh, of course. Silly me. Heh heh.” She felt like an idiot mostly because really she would like to give him a couple of hours. She sighed.
“Are you okay?” Taka asked.
“Yes, you are.” He said and hung up.
Kumai smiled. She went out to the lanai to see if Bradon’s boat was still out there. It was. She mentally flipped the bird in that general direction and said, “I’m fine.”