Sleepier than before her nap, Kumai extracted herself from Hawaii’s most comfortable bed and walked Mana outside. They explored the hale grounds and stumbled on an overgrown rose garden hiding two bronze deer. Globes of watercolor hydrangea dotted the hillside. Air moss draped Koa trees with robed arms. Impalpable mists fingered the grey-green tendrils and lifted their strands as if breathing. Cool air added to the remote surroundings to awaken all her senses. The woods were startling in their quiet. Two wild parrots screeched from up the mountain. Shushing drifted up from hidden waterfalls below.
A light went on in the kitchen, spilling yellow light into the lavender twilight. Kumai whistled for Mana, checked his feet for mud, and reentered the house.
“Ready for a powwow?” Susan asked.
“Red or White?” She had a hand on a box of each wine.
“Black? I think I need coffee.” Kumai said. “Wine would put me back in that heavenly bed for the night.”
“You know? Me too. Wait until you try Elena’s chocolate chip cookies. Coffee will pair nicely with them.”
Kumai took a cookie and held it in her mouth while she filled the coffee pot with water. Susan delved into the pantry and came back with a can of Yuban. “Seriously?”
Kumai said, “In coffee country.”
“We’ll have to remedy that before tomorrow morning.”
“I’m thinking that we need to go out tonight for dinner. Maybe somewhere with dancing.” Susan said.
Kumai thought, Isn’t there a Mr. Winters anywhere that we could ask? “Did you have somewhere in mind?”
“I read on Yelp about a live music place called the Blue Dragon.”
“Okay. That’s not far. It’s in the shipping harbor town of Kawaihae. They call the place a ‘musiquarium’.”
“Is it wet?”
“Driest spot on the Big Island – it has no roof, only walls, because it so rarely rains.”
“And they have excellent food. Their chef, Noah Webster, has won many awards.”
“How’s the music?”
“Do I need to change?”
“No,” Kumai looked down at her own shorts from yesterday. “But I do. I’ll get a shower. What about Mana?”
“I’ll call Jorge and see if they want to dog sit. Feel free to use the clothes washer.”
“Thanks. I’ll call the Blue Dragon and make reservations.”
“Do you want to invite anyone?” Susan asked.
“I think not tonight.” Kumai pretended to think. She was actually thinking about if she would be able to buy dinner with a twenty. She had some coins in the truck. Maybe she would just order a pupu.
After she showered and changed into jeans and a tribal-print top, Kumai returned to the kitchen to pour herself a cup. “Did you already get some coffee?”
Susan answered from the sofa by raising a cup and nodding yes. She had a mouthful of cookie. Kumai appropriated two more cookies, a paper towel, and her mug. She sat down in a fur-covered club chair.
Susan nodded toward the coffee table. “Envelope there for you.”
Kumai opened it. Several hundred dollar bills peeked back at her. “What’s this?”
“Money for the past several days. You’ve gone above and beyond without reimbursement.”
Kumai felt her shoulders relax. “I’ll deduct this amount from your invoice.”
“I don’t have anything planned for tomorrow, if you want to head out after breakfast.”
“Do you think you’re all set after tonight?”
“All set up.” Susan said.
Kumai sipped her coffee, observed Susan in the silence, and perceived that this new client had a need she would not ask to be met. How could Kumai invite Susan to express her need? And what if her request was for drugs or a ‘grey area’? Maybe it was time for her to back away from some of her vendors, with the CIA and FBI around. But then, Peter had been CIA all along.
“One of the things I love about my work,” Kumai said, “is getting to meet new people, like you. My favorite part is doing what I can to get people what they want or need.”
“I’m probably too self-focused to excel at your job.” Susan said.
Kumai decided that more work could only help the boat fund. “So… what is your self telling you that you need in the next few days? It would be my pleasure to help you.”
“Oh, well… You’re not busy tomorrow?” Susan asked.
“What do you need?” Kumai wondered if Bradon would forgive her if she couldn’t make the dance.
Susan picked up a frosted envelope. “I could probably use some social introductions. You’re the only person I know on the island, other than the estate agent who sent me this.”
“Okay.” Kumai said, “What’s the invitation?” As soon as she said it, she recognized the logo for the White Benefit. Susan had received one of the coveted banquet seats. That fete would be the perfect place to meet who’s who in Hawaii.
“It’s a fancy dress hospital fundraiser tomorrow night. Called the White Benefit. I want to go, and I’d rather go with someone who is familiar with… everything.”
“That I can do. But…”
“I don’t have a white dress. Or flowers.”
“I’ve ordered flowers. We have time now before supper to shop, right?”
“I guess we do.” Kumai agreed. “What’d Jorge say to dogsitting?”
“He sounded both wistful and willing.”
“Then I know where to look for dresses.” Kumai said, pleased that she had money.
The Shops at Mauna Lani included a few boutiques. Tommy Bahamas offered some linen pieces, but were too casual. Kumai found a sassy short dress in Rift Zone but it was clubby and too young for her. Susan pointed to Cache`.
“Yes.” Kumai said. “Really, the more artsy garments are in shops and galleries either North or South of here. But we don’t have the luxury of time. Besides, by now most of the white pieces will have been purchased. Except… Let me call one place that others might not have thought of in Kona.”
She dialed HICO and Hele answered, “Hawaii Consignment, Hele speaking.”
“Hey, Kumai here. Do you have a minute to do personal shopping?”
“It’s a calm moment. Shoot.”
“Oh you lucky woman. Or, oh, is it for a client? Men’s or women’s wear?”
“Me and another woman.” Kumai smiled.
“I’m jealous. Lemme look.” Hele set down the phone. Frou Frou came on the shop music and Kumai recalled her ‘day off’ snorkel before everything went nuts.
It was hot standing in the sun. Kumai gestured for Susan and her to move into the shade while they waited. “No luck?” Susan asked.
Susan nodded and went into the next shop.
“Kumai?” Hele asked.
“I have a pair of white palazzo pants, chiffon; a white sequined bolero, sale rack; and a white silk velvet scarf wide enough to be a shawl – a burnout pattern of daisies.”
“Can I pay you when I see you?”
“I know where to find you if you don’t.” Hele laughed.
“Now the tricky part.”
“Lemme guess. Delivery?”
“Puako? Four Seasons?”
“Oh! That’s easy. My uncle’s here shopping at Costco. I’ll text him to stop by and I’ll send them with him tonight. Where should he leave them?”
“You are a wonder. Hele, the clothes aren’t size 3X or zero-minus-two, right?”
“In the medium range.”
“Thanks!” Kumai said. “See you before too long.”
“Enjoy the event of a lifetime for me!” Hele said as they hung up.
“Nothing in there.” Susan reported. “I got scolded for waiting to shop so close to the date of the event.”
“Nice. Let’s try Waikoloa. It’s getting late but we have time before our reservation.”
As they entered the highway from the resort drive, a large hand-painted sign on the road side pointed North with the words, “G-SALE.”
“You know,” Susan said, “I have a feeling about that garage sale.”
Kumai pulled over and did a U-turn when the highway was clear.
“But if we find something, you cannot tell anyone where we got it.” Susan warned.
“I never reveal my sources.”
The sale was down Puako Road. It gave Kumai a strange homesickness to be this close to her house and not be able to stop there. She knew she wasn’t the nesting sort but two nights away had given her a new appreciation for the grounding influence of a home base.
Fluorescent-colored children’s toys lined the driveway of the sale. Sometimes it was hard to tell which house was selling and which was just piled-up with life. But this was clearly where they were having a sale with housewares stacked on folding tables in the driveway. The garage had a clothesline strung across the middle which drooped with the weight of garments on hangers.
“I think I see some white!” Susan said.
Kumai went past, turned around, and parked on the side grass.
By the time Kumai walked up and plucked out all the whites from the laden line, Susan had stacked Monkeypod bowls, tiki mugs, metal art fish, and palm tree candle holders by the cash box. The owners were packing and calculating as fast as Susan could collect.
“Not gonna find things like these just anywhere.” She told Kumai.
It was true. The marts may have taken over the islands, but for unique pieces, nothing beat the neighbors. “Garage sales and consignment stores.” Kumai agreed.
“I love consignment stores.” Susan said, “Both for selling and buying.”
“Like any of these?” Kumai asked. She was trying to be casual about several of the dresses she had found that were perfect for the ball.
Susan’s eyes lit up. “How much are the clothes?”
“Between fifty cents and two dollars, depending.” The woman said.
“Let’s get them all and decide at home.” Susan said. “Good thing I have a truck.”
On the drive to the Blue Dragon, Susan explained, “I tend to buy at both extremes. I’ll buy super cheap and then a few select items at top price. For New Year’s 2000? I dropped 27K on a dress. Since a millenium party only comes once every thousand years, that made the dress just $27 a year.”
Kumai laughed. She was glad for the joke because she didn’t know how to respond to this information. She said, “Some of those dresses we just bought would cost hundreds of dollars new.”
“And no one’s the wiser. Consider your dress and dinner tonight a finder’s fee – on me.” Susan smiled.
“I can’t let you do that.” Kumai felt in the ashtray for two quarters. She handed them to Susan. “Let me at least buy my own dress.”