“Mind if I shower?” Kirby asked.
“You looked like you’d been swimming earlier. ” Kumai said to Kirby. “I thought the ocean wasn’t your favorite.”
“True. But today was for work.”
“Waimea’s closer to the ocean than to the volcano.” Kumai agreed.
“Close to Hapuna Beach. The island’s number one C4-C5 injury spot.”
“You do have a way of looking at the world. Beaches rated by neck injuries?”
“Rose-colored glasses. Sorry, work hazard.” He changed the subject. “Where you want to go tomorrow?”
Kumai smiled, “I was thinking of a fall-injury zipline. Or maybe a ride the flume blow to the head. If we wanted to be spendy we could do a helicopter brain-shearing tour.”
“Well, really,” Kumai said, “Susan just buried her husband after he fell in the shower. Life is risk, just by being alive.”
Kirby thought for a moment, then admitted, “It does get to me, all the things that can go wrong. If it worked to just stay inside, maybe stay in bed, to keep us safe, life might be less uncertain. But hibernating has other health risks.”
“So I say Let’s Go For It.” Kumai raised her arms like a runner at the starting line.
Kirby laughed, “Okay. What are we going for tomorrow?”
“I’ve heard of a great hike along the old coastal railroad bed. It runs from Mahu Kona to Hawi.”
“Yeah, it’s bikeable too.”
“Do you have a bike?” Kumai asked.
“Hey, we could rent eBikes.”
“I think they’re for pavement, ” Kirby winced.
“Serious TBI. Sorry. Off-road is not as bad, less serious injuries than head trauma but still has the possibility of some broken bones.”
“Hokay. And there are caves up Kohala somewhere.”
“My partner, Hugh, knows where. I could ask him.” Kirby offered.
“If he won’t set a trap for me, that’s fine.”
“Why would he trap you?” Kirby asked. “He likes you.”
“He just likes you more.” Kumai answered.
“Come here.” Kirby patted the small sofa where he sat. “I’d like to hold you.” Kumai smiled and sat. Kirby wrapped both arms around her in a gentle bear hug. She took a deep breath, felt her heart slow, and sighed.
“Better?” Kirby asked.
“That calmed me.”
“Deep pressure stimulates neurological integration…” Kirby started.
“We’re not on the job here.”
“Oh?” He grinned.
He was so adorable it took her breath away. She leaned in to kiss him, wondering what his extensive knowledge of anatomy and physiology could lend to their time together.
He gave her a little peck and stood up. “I’m pilau. It’s embarrassing. I want to shower before we do any more…”
“Talking?” Kumai asked.
“I was thinking more like, chatting, but okay.” He grinned again and walked toward the bathroom. He pulled off his t-shirt as he walked away while Kumai restrained herself. His back was a sculpted butterfly of muscles, but not so much that he looked like a caveman. His backside was as inviting as his front.
Just as Kumai thought about taking a shower too, her phone rang. Caller ID showed DAD.
“Hello.” Kumai chirped. “How’s Oahu?”
“Little L.A. The whole bloody island is a city.” Her father complained.
“Well, the Big Island misses you, Dad. You know you’ve got a place here…”
“Just no work.” He finished. “Anyway, I got your message about wanting to know your ancestry.”
“Yeah? So what can you tell me?”
“Well, I gotta say that our Hawaiian heritage isn’t what people expect.”
“Yeah, you know, everybody says they are related to the Ali’I and somehow linked to Kamehameha?”
“We’re not. At least, not in any of the research I did. What I found was an indication that we were from the slave caste.”
“Slaves to whom?” Kumai asked.
“Other Hawaiians.” He said. “And the records are sparse cuz nobody thought slaves needed ancestry records.”
“Geez.” Kumai started pacing again.
“I have all my notes I can photocopy for you.” He offered.
“Thanks Dad, that would be great. If you have a camera phone you could snap a picture of each page and just email them to me.”
“So akamai, you. Will do. I’m surprised by one thing, though.”
“Oh?” Kumai asked.
“Yeah, in your message you said that your mother suggested asking me about your heritage. I got the sense that she didn’t tell you about hers.”
“She said it didn’t matter, that people valued Hawaiian descent lines.”
“It does matter, even though she’s right about what people value. But, her family is the one descended from Ali’i. Aztec chiefs, I believe.”
“Whoa.” Kumai said.
“Worth asking about.” Her dad said. “I’ll get these photos sent to you. Everything okay otherwise?”
“Sure, yep.” Other than two dead neighbors, a few bombs and some dangerous dives. “Thanks for getting back to me, Dad. I love you!”
“I love you mi chica.” He said and hung up. Kumai smiled at his use of her mother’s term of endearment for her. When they disconnected, old sadness at their divorce descended.
Kirby came into the room with a towel wrapped at his waist. “Bad news?”
“Not really.” Kumai brushed at the air by her head as if bothered by a flying insect. “I need to shower next.”
Kumai decided to take that as an invitation to enjoy Kirby as all hers. She walked over to him and rested her hand on the center of his chest in the valley between his pectoral muscles. He placed his hand over hers, turned her to the door frame and pressed her against it in a deep warm kiss. His upper body was still wet as her free fingers slid over the curves of his shoulder. His phone chirped.
“Oh for pity’s sake.” She grumbled.
“Gotta take that .” He apologized. “It’s Hugh’s ringtone.”
“You have to take texts from Hugh?” she asked.
“If I’m asking him to cover work for me and he’s letting me know the answer, yes.”
“Oh.” Kumai blushed. “Sorry, I’ll just…” She pointed toward the shower and dashed off.
When she came out, Kirby was in his shorts and stretched sideways on the sofa watching YouTube on his phone.
“Did you get off?” Kumai asked him.
“Our kiss didn’t last long enough.” Kirby said, setting aside his phone and turning both hands up. He shrugged.
Kumai snorted in surprise, then nodded her agreement. “Okay, so were you able to get free from work tomorrow?” she asked.
“Yes.” he said, “Yes I was. Which means that I am all yours for the next 24 to 36 hours, depending on your needs.”
“I got a lotta needs.” Kumai said as she walked toward him. He stood up. She murmured as he drew closer, “I’ve been thinking about where you could sleep tonight.”
“Am I going to sleep tonight?” He asked.
“I know just the thing for insomnia.”
“Show me your thing.” He said.
“You first.” She smiled, hands on hips.
To her surprise, he did.
She pulled him over to the bed. As it turned out that they had many things to show each other.
A knock sounded at her door.
“Good thing we didn’t dawdle.” Kirby said.
Kumai laughed and folded the top sheet over him. She tied her pareo back up under her arms. “Yes?” she called as she walked to the door.
“Food.” Peter’s voice announced. “You want a coupla plates in there?”
Kumai looked at Kirby who nodded halfheartedly.
“One plate would be great, thanks.” Kumai said to the door. “I’ll be right out for it.”
“I didn’t expect that.” She whispered as she walked back to Kirby.
“Food will help us keep up our strength.” He whispered back.
“I didn’t mean the food.” She smiled. “I haven’t been with someone since I got clean.”
“Me either!” he exclaimed.
She scowled. “You haven’t had a drink for what, one day? Seriously, I used to think that drugs enhanced everything. But all they did was make me less inhibited. Eventually they just helped me not to care. Kirby, now I care.”
“S’okay, I care too, don’t worry.” He stood up and got his shorts. “Care to try that again in a little while, only slower?” He walked to her and wrapped her in his arms.
“I’m down for that.” She smiled.
It wasn’t until the next day when they were on the road together that Kumai became concerned about how much she cared. Every song on the radio had sweet messages about the joys of love, every thought she had was filled with how to include Kirby. What happened to all the done-wrong songs? “Is this a country station?” She asked Kirby.
“Yeah, why?” He asked. “Oh, that’s right, you hate country. Sorry.” He reached to change the dial.
“No, the music is okay. It just sounds too happy to be country lyrics.”
Kirby laughed. “There are happy country songs out there.”
She hated feeling this obsessed. So she tried to distract herself by imagining what Taka might have left for her that was silver. Maybe it was a necklace with a petroglyph paddler. Or a spearfisher? Something close to a diver, probably.
If she hadn’t seen the black Hummer fly by when they entered the highway, she might have been able to shift her obsessing onto Taka, even though Kirby was the one driving right beside her. Bonnie was right, again. Love the one you’re with.
“I think that’s Kane.” Kumai pointed as the dark vehicle took a right at the intersection to go toward Waimea instead of Kawaihae.
Kirby turned left. “And?”
“It’s just that he seems to be involved with a lot of, I dunno…”
“Questionable endeavors?” Kirby asked.
“Yeah.” Kumai said. “How’d you know?”
“I know Kane from Vegas.”
“Las Vegas Vegas?” Kumai asked.
“Yeah. I go there to blow off steam. Love that town.”
Kumai rolled her eyes. She hated Vegas. It was the armpit of Hawaii, the supposed Eighth Island. “Oh.”
“I don’t go to the strip. I go to the older places, on the back roads. Play some poker, be a Hawaiian cowboy, and scoot a boot. Then I come home from vacation.”
“Vegas is your vacation?” Kumai asked, trying not to sound as incredulous as she felt.
“Yup. I come back to paradise restored. Especially my faith in humanity. Except Kane. I’m sorry if he’s a friend of yours, but Kane is bad news.”
“He’s not my friend.” Kumai said. And then she got the bonus of seeing Bradon’s Volvo, another not-friend, parked where they were going to start their hike. “Do you suppose there is another access to this hike further along the road?” She asked.
“Sure.” Kirby backed out and got back on the highway. “Kumai, what’s up? You’ve been terse, and not exactly silent, but I don’t know. I mean, is it about last night?”
She realized he was right. Every nerve in her body was on end. She tried to figure out why, and all she could tell was that her internal alarms were going off to indicate that she was in danger. Only thing was, she couldn’t tell if that was because she was falling for Kirby or because she was in danger. “I’m fine. Last night was fine. No, better than fine. Everything is okay except for this whole dead-neighbors thing I’m looped into. I feel like I have a target on my back.”
“Okay.” He ran a hand over her knee. “I get it. And I’ve got your back.”
Kirby suggested, “Do you wanna skip the railroad hike and just go to the caves that Hugh told me about?”
“I think I do.” Kumai said. I like the idea of disappearing into a cave. “Where are they?”
“A little farther on this road toward Hawi, on the mauka side. Look for the word ‘lunk’ in white coral on the lava field.”
“For spielunkers, Hugh told me. You know, cave explorers.”
“Okay.” Kumai watched. She asked, “What about the word ‘clunk’?”
“What?” Kirby asked.
“Somebody added a C. That can’t be a coincidence.” Kumai pointed to the word spelled out in white minerals against the graphite landscape.
Kirby hit his turn signal and pulled over. “I think you’re right. Let’s check it out.”
They turned off the highway and rattled along the lava road, heat drifting up from the ground as the sun began to warm the day. Little did they know that back at the highway, a black Hummer had also turned to follow them.