Kumai woke up hungry.
Rain drizzled off the roof of the open-air boat terminal creating a wet curtain between her and the dark night. The pavilion hummed as passengers signed up for tenders to return to their vessels after a day of exploring windward Oahu. She stood up from the molded plastic chair and stretched. Her stomach growled.
Annamae’s squeaky voice echoed through the facility. “Kumai! Gawd, girl, you look rough.”
“Come on.” Annamae grabbed Kumai’s arm and dragged her toward the Wahine room. “We can’t let them see you like this. They’ll think I’m desperate or I’ve lost my mind.”
“The clients. You look homeless. Where’s your stuff?”
“Coming on the plane tomorrow. I left it in Honolulu. I’ve got my backpack.”
“Oh yeah, that’s right. Well, with the rain we’re not going to be doing much swimming after all, so you’re going to need real clothes. I have things you can wear. No worries.”
Somehow, Kumai felt worried. Maybe it was the overstretched screen-print dress that Annamae was wearing. Paisley swirls alternated with Grateful Dead tye dye colors. Animal print left tracks in random splotches. The length indicated that the designers intended it as a shirt. Kumai felt glad that she had no luggage for Annamae to bend over and carry.
“Here, wet down your hair.” Annamae dragged Kumai to one of the sinks and dug through her oversized handbag. She shoved a brush at Kumai. “And here’s some lipstick, the latest shade. Put a few dots of it on your cheeks too.”
Kumai wet her hair and smoothed it, skipping the brush which would frizz it. She smoothed on the lipstick and squinted at the bright orange color. “Ack!”
“You just need your cheeks to match.” Annamae asserted and dotted Kumai’s cheeks with the neon.
Kumai looked in the mirror and started laughing. “No.” She went to a stall and rolled out some tissue to scrub away the blazing colors. But they didn’t lift.
“It’s kiss-proof.” Annamae said with smug satisfaction.
“You’d better have another color in that bag to cover this,” Kumai growled.
“But it’s the latest shade!”
“It’s insane. Give me something to cover it.”
Annamae pulled out a tube of concealer in a pale flesh color. Kumai scowled. She tried dotting it over the orange spots on her cheeks, making it look like chicken pox. As she rubbed, the tissue crumbled.
“Kiss-proof concealer?” Kumai asked.
“Oh, yup.” Annamae giggled. “Wait, I have hairspray.”
“I want this crap off of my face, not more crap.” Kumai’s eyes darkened.
Annamae started trembling. “Right, okay, that’s what I’m saying. Try putting hairspray onto it and then rub.”
“Hairspray removes permanent marker. It’s gotta work for kiss-proof makeup. Here, let me try.”
Kumai groaned. Annamae pulled out a small aerosol bottle of BedNet. “Close your eyes.”
Kumai closed them and then Annamae sprayed. She rubbed at Kumai’s cheeks with more tissue and cheered, “It’s working! Now, just your lips, and we’re back to the start.”
Annamae sprayed Kumai’s lips without warning. She inhaled some of the fumes through her nose and fought a cough. Annamae rubbed at the color, “Stop fidgeting. Are you going to throw up? What’s wrong with you?”
Kumai needed to cough, but her lips were sealed. She tried to open her eyes, but they were sealed shut too. Kumai started flapping her hands and feeling for the sink.
“Are you okay?” Annamae squeaked. “Kumai, talk to me! What’s wrong? Are you okay?”
Kumai got warm water running and stuck her face into the sink. She rubbed with water until crumbs loosened and rolled from her skin. Her eyes burned, but they opened, glowering at Annamae. She sputtered. “You.”
“What, me? I’m trying to spruce you up.” Annamae took a step back, “Whoa, look at that! Your cheeks and lips are all rosy now. Well, that worked.”
Kumai looked in the mirror. “My eyes are pretty rosy too.”
“I’ve got drops for that.” Annamae dug in her purse, but Kumai walked out while drying off.
Annamae followed a little later, with the orange lipstick carefully applied to her lips. For some reason, it looked less garish on her. Maybe it was the dress. Still, when Annamae said her next words, Kumai found that she could not take her eyes off of the orange movement.
“See?” Annamae giggled. “The clerk said the color was trending. Said it’s mesmerizing. You can’t take your eyes off of it. And I won’t have to reapply it all night, maybe not even in the morning. Imagine waking up with this color still on your lips no matter what you did the night before!”
“What?” Kumai asked, coming out of a lavalamp-like trance.
“Girl, what is wrong with you?”
“Hungry,” Kumai said as an excuse. And it was true.
“Oh, I forgot how you like to eat. Wait until you see this buffet! C’mon.” Annamae grabbed Kumai’s elbow and led her outside onto the gangway in the dark and rain. “And the dance troupe they hired? Well, let me just say that you won’t look at the human body the same way again.”
The walkway glowed from party lights strung for illumination. Annamae turned right down the gang plank to a covered tender. They were the only passengers on the small transport boat. Various small boats out from shore reflected light on the blurry scene.
Shrouded in darkness their vessel waited offshore beyond all the others, probably requiring deeper water. Kumai wondered if they lit the decks when they got underway.
She climbed aboard and entered through an oval port with a raised metal threshold on the bottom. The artful metal work reminded her of designs from the Victorian era. The hatch itself was pressure-resistant steel with a roller dog to seal it like on submarines.
The interior fascinated Kumai. Steampunk-inspired decor invited guests into the hallways with intriguing railings that curved in octopus arms supported with spokes. Mirrors dotted the walls, framed by repurposed porthole hatches. Warm golden light flowed from bare Edison bulbs surrounded by black metal cages. The flooring was distressed bronze polished to a dull sheen with walking areas cushioned in rich persian rugs.
Annamae led her along a narrow passageway, into a ladderwell with steep stairs leading both up and down. They went down. So far, they had encountered no one else.
“Where is everyone?” Kumai asked.
“Getting dressed for supper, I imagine. Wait until you see this buffet! I’m telling you. But,” Annamae turned and looked at Kumai, “We gotta get you into something from my closet.”
Kumai tried to imagine what something would look like from Annamae’s closet. “Isn’t there a duty-free shop here somewhere, or a boutique?”
“Girl, don’t shop there. You can get anything you want from those stores for free.”
“At the Lost and Found. People just leave stuff here all the time. Too hard to carry it all home when they overdo it, you know? And some women don’t want to haul home the evidence of their indulgence. Besides, everything you’d buy here is really only good for wearing here. I’ll show you tomorrow.”
Annamae turned backward and dropped down the ladder steps, letting her heels hang over the front edge. Kumai grabbed the rails and followed facing forward but her flip flops made descent awkward. She tried to turn around mid-ladder and found that she could not. Maybe she needed to follow Annamae’s example around here.
“Oh no. Nope, no.” Kumai said when she saw the contents of Annamae’s closet.
“Is your closet a good surprise or a bad surprise?” Kumai asked.
“Good, of course.”
“And this resort is a good surprise too?”
“Better than good.”
“Oh no. Is it too late to disembark this boat?” Kumai moved toward the door, but in answer, the vessel clanked and rumbled as it pulled away from its moorings and started underway. “I can leave anytime, right?”
Annamae pulled out a sparkling black shirt made of spandex. “This dress would sing on you.”
“Do you have any other clothes?” Kumai refused the offered garment and crossed her arms.
“Oh, good idea!” Annamae pointed to drawers below the bottom bunk. “Lingerie. That’ll show off your amazeballs figure.”
“I’ve got some details to take care of,” Annamae apologized. “Get yourself ready for dinner and I’ll come back for you. I’ll bring the paperwork for you to sign too.”
“Paperwork? I’m just looking at the place, not agreeing to work there.”
“Of course. This is simple stuff like confidentiality agreements, the usual. You can sign your work contract tomorrow.”
“If I decide that I want to.”
“Yeah?” Annamae beamed, “They make working for them very worthwhile. You’ll want to!”
Kumai wondered about confidentiality agreements. They must have some famous clientele.
She opened the first drawer under the bunk and shut it with a gasp. Her eyes were trying to process black lace, red satin, and whatever was that neoprene thing. She almost skipped the second drawer but took a deep breath and peeked. Soft fluffy pajama bottoms and flannel nightgowns lay folded neatly. Her body relaxed.
She fingered through the layers and found a rayon pareo wrap which she pulled out with the black fleece pants. Then she went back to the scary drawer and felt around for anything resembling an athletic bra. She gave up and returned to the closet for the tank dress that Annamae had offered. When she put it on, she decided that the tight fit provided needed support on top. She pulled on the pants and unrolled the hem. They dragged.
In Annamae’s closet were a pair of wedge sandals that worked to raise the hem from the floor. Kumai skipped trying any stilettos. The ladders would make everything harder. She tried the pareo as a shoulder wrap and after a few tries found a way to make it almost into an outfit.
One more check in the small mirror, she fluffed her hair, sighed, and left Annamae’s quarters before she had to sign anything.
Their deck seemed to consist mainly of crew quarters, with a locked bulkhead toward what she guessed was the front of the ship. Below deck, she felt disoriented.
One ladder well revealed more decks below. She listened for the mess hall or a gathering spot. Sounds drifted up from far below. It seemed strange that the crew might be housed in upper decks. She followed the noises, remembering to back down the ladder.
Three decks below, the landing grew noisy with Tahitian drums and clinking glassware. Soft laughter carried through the passageway as she walked along it following the sounds.
At last, she entered into an upper mezzanine lounge, with an underwater panorama illuminated in front of the open railing. Echoes of dishware drifted up from an open area below.
Viewing deep ocean water would normally capture her attention. Tonight the attire of the others in the room distracted her. Men in boxer-like satin shorts or silk shirts with draping collars untucked from lounge pants were attended by women in boy-leg shorts and tank tops or lace jog bras. Kumai felt completely overdressed in her pajama pants, and the wrap made her downright dowdy. She removed the pareo and draped it over her arm.
People stood at bar-height tables and drank glowing beverages of various colors. Her first thought was that can’t be good for you.
Her second thought she said to the bartender, “I’ll have a blue one.”