seventeen: heau


Kumai wondered how she was going to get out of the lounge with a lock that required a key on both sides.  She pounded on the door and called out.  Her cell phone was in her backpack in Annamae’s quarters.  She scanned the back bar for a telephone.  




She found the switches and turned on all the lights in the lounge.  Maybe someone would notice and come around to turn them off.  The light illuminated some wear and tear on the velvet seats, wooden railings, and carpet.  No wonder public spaces used low lights.  




She found a small ironwood warrior club behind the bar and tapped on the door with it at random intervals in case anyone walked by.  Meanwhile, she explored for anything that might help her pick a lock.  Even though she had never picked a lock before.


In the bar refrigerator, she found a sparkling water and threw in some maraschino cherries.  For some reason, this made her think of Snoballs and she found herself wishing for her backpack.  Maybe she needed to start carrying a purse.


“Kumai!  You’re awake.  Good.”  Annamae pushed through the lounge door, keys jangling.


“You locked me in?”  Kumai gasped.


“For your privacy is all.”  Annamae hugged her.  “Let’s go!  I can’t wait for you to see this place.  You are soooo going to want to work here.”


Kumai set down her drink, fished out the cherries, and ate them.


“It’s even better from the deck.  Pure magic.  Can you believe it?!”  Annamae dragged Kumai by her elbow out of the room. “That,”  Annamae pointed to Kumai’s outfit, “might work for pj’s but not for work.  First stop:  Lost and Found.”


“Hold on.”  Kumai stopped in the hallway.  “The GPS coordinates you gave me aren’t for open water are they?”


Annamae giggled, “No, silly!  When clients land there and they start asking questions, our people know to send the transport ship.  The clients are well cared-for while they wait, I assure you.”


Kumai groaned.  Susan was going to kill her.  “You needed to tell me that before I sent a client there, Annamae.”


“Oh, that’s part of the fun and mystery!”  she giggled.


“Knock it off.”  Kumai stood her full height over Annamae, which was still several inches because they both were wearing heels.  “No more ditzy act.  You are messing with my friend and my livelihood.  From now on, you tell me things straight.  Got it?”


“Geez.  You need breakfast.”  Annamae pouted and stepped back.


Kumai realized she still had the club in her hands. They walked down to a small room used for storage and lost items.  Tired of wardrobe issues, she grabbed a filled bin from the Lost and Found shelves without looking through anything, covered it, and carried it out.


“You’re fast.”  Annamae sifted through jewelry collected in a case under the front counter as Kumai emerged carrying a storage bin.  “Want to try on anything?”


“Nope, this is good.”  Kumai might end up wearing a pareo for a while, but that felt better than scrounging for something to wear.


“So, one of the incoming clients had to delay arrival until next week, which means I can put you in his room for a few days while you learn about the place.  Follow me.”  


Kumai would have followed Annamae to anywhere that she could get settled.  She made a promise to herself never to travel again.  She felt jetlagged from the Europe trip, jolted by hurrying to Oahu, and disoriented by being on a boat she did not know.  And the cherries had stimulated her appetite.


They exited by a portal like the one that they had entered in the dark last night.  In daylight, she could see that the metal doorway opened onto a vast deck covered in plant life and greenery.  Above them danced a netting of blues and whites, making the sky seem to swim.  If she guessed, she would say this was a retired pre-World War II aircraft carrier outfitted into a tropical oasis.


“Camo.”  Annamae explained.  “For aerial privacy.”


“Geez.”  Kumai muttered.


“Yeah, we don’t want any intruders onto our resort.”


“On to?”


“Yeah!  Isn’t this cool?  The ship is the island!”


“It would have been even cooler to know that before I sent a friend hunting for it.”  Kumai walked away to calm down, following a sandy path between palm trees.  It led to a pool with wave generators gently stirring a surf in the shallow end.


“Is that how everyone gets here?”  Kumai asked.  “Like I did?”


“Nope.  Most people arrive via Lanai, then ride a tender to the Dusky Maiden.”


“‘Dusky Maiden’?  Seriously?”


“Yeah, cool, huh?  And this deck is called Tiki Island.  You’ll see why over there.”


“Wait.  This ship looks like an old aircraft carrier.  Is there a landing strip somewhere?”


“Oh, well, the whole deck is an island now.  Except for the helipad up there.”  Annamae pointed up behind the bridge deck where a tower pierced the blue netting.


“Susan has a jet, not a helicopter.”


“She sees this place, that’ll change!”  Annamae quipped.  “C’mon.  Let’s get you settled.”


“Stop.”  Kumai ordered.  “Annamae, where did you send Susan?”


“The island of Lanai, of course.  We will get word when she lands there and asks about us.  Then she can tender over.”


“This is not okay.”  Kumai gritted her teeth.  “I need to get to my phone.”


“Sure.  We’ll go next to your temporary suite.  I’ll run back to my quarters and grab your pack and the confidentiality agreement.”


Annamae did not look like she ran anywhere.  Kumai wondered if they should just go get her phone first.  But she wanted privacy when she talked to Susan.


The receiving area narrowed toward a hallway and ladderwell.


“I hope we don’t have to go down a lot of levels.”  Kumai huffed.  “I’m probably too late to reach Susan but I’d like to try.”


“We’re not taking the stairs, silly.  Those are for emergencies.  Do I look like I take the stairs?”   Annamae asked.  “Even in an emergency?  I just showed them to you last night so you’d know how to use them.  Actually, staff is supposed to use the stairs… at the aft.”


Kumai raised her eyebrows but her eyelids remained squinting in distrust.  Annamae stopped where the stair disappeared into the floor below, and there on the backside of the landing was an iron art-nouveau elevator cage.  It opened onto an elevator from the industrial era.


Annamae pressed the button for fourteen.  Kumai wondered if this fourteenth floor was like most hotel’s:  actually a thirteenth.  The elevator opened onto another long curving hallway, this one with alcoves and doors along it.  They stopped at room 1404.  


Annamae explained, “After this guest arrives, you’ll be in crew quarters.  But I thought you’d like to see how folks live here. So you can let your clients know.”


“Thanks.”  Kumai said, not meaning it.  After this introduction, she had no intentions of recommending Annamae’s floating island to any clients.  


She stepped into the sprawling suite.  Outside her glass wall, the ocean breathed and lulled, bits of life showing the water’s movement.  An octopus was working its way across the outside surface of her window, suction cups massaging from the underside.  


Kumai yearned to sit and watch this ballet of movement.  But the bin of lost items grew heavy and she needed to get her phone.  She set the container on a luggage stand.  Then she turned to see the room.


The space was luxurious and spare, both at the same time.  It took a minute for Kumai to understand what she was seeing.  Other than small accent tables and a dresser, most of the furniture was suspended from the ceiling, including a round bed.  This left the floor clear and open, like a seabed.  The hanging furniture moved gently like curtains in an open window as the ship rolled on the breathing seas.  The effect was breathtaking and soothing.




“Right?  Didn’t I tell you?  And there’s an atrium, and we passed the pool, and there’s a bowling alley, and…”


“Is there a map?”


“Oh ha ha!  Yes.  Just check in the desk drawer.  Need anything right now?”


“Just my phone.  Maybe I should go with you to get it.”  Kumai noted a fruit basket on the desk.  Even if it was for the incoming guest, she wouldn’t make much of a dent in it.


“I’ll get it.”  Annamae air kissed Kumai on each cheek.  “Settle in.  I’ll be right back.  Later I’ll show you around.  It would be best if I escorted you around the place.  Too easy to get lost, you know?”  She looked at Kumai for understanding.


“Did you get into trouble by my sleeping in the lounge?”


“No trouble.  Everyone let me know where you were.  But it’s a little different at this resort than most.  Client privacy is of the utmost.”


“Got it, no wandering.”


Annamae looked back from the door and left.  Kumai waited, then opened the door to see if she was locked in.  The door opened onto an empty hallway.  She closed it and let go of her held breath.  She headed directly for the shower.  


Her restroom was surrounded by glass walls, which made her feel exposed to the outside world, even though her room was only visible to the ocean.  She squirmed as she undressed and tried flipping off any lights in the bathroom.  One of the switches made the glass wall turn opaque.  Kumai snorted.  The shower had a waterfall head trickling from the center, and massage jets from three sides.  Switches turned on music and LED lights.  She played with the bells and whistles, then finished shampooing and stepped out.


Her hair tied up in a towel, she dug out a map of the ship.  Annamae was right.  A tour would help.  She set the map on the desk and waited for Annamae to come back with her backpack and phone.  She peeled a tiny apple-banana from the fruit basket, then another, and walked over to rifle through the box from Lost and Found.  


It contained three sweaters, all with sequins or pearls, one cashmere.  It also contained several spanx.  Who would leave behind their support undergarments?  She threw those in the trash.


Folded neatly was what she hoped was a dress because of the iridescent design.  It turned out to be a painted neoprene mermaid tail.  Sage would love it!  Thoughts of Sage brought up thoughts of home.  What was Bonnie doing now?  Making one of her breakfasts out on the lanai?  What had Sage wanted to talk with Kumai about?  She sighed and pictured the ocean, just steps away from her back door.  Why did she think she needed to sail to be on the sea?


She set the costume down on the edge of the bin and took a break from her task to look out into the water.  No octopus now.  No fish swam by.  Just bits of this and that drifted back and forth on the currents, making slow progress to somewhere else.  A jellyfish ballooned by.


Kumai looked up to see if the ocean’s surface was visible.  She could see wide beams of blue light, so maybe they were not as far underwater as she initially thought. Anything growing around them would tell her if they rested below the 200-meter mark, the level where photosynthesis becomes impossible.  Her view of indigo depths left her with few hints to gauge her place in the water.  She was sure that one way or another, she was deep in it.  Especially with Susan.


She finished searching the bin for anything to wear.  Meanwhile, she wore the pareo wrapped as a dress.


A knock sounded at her door, and Annamae entered with the backpack.  Kumai used a belt from the bin to cinch the waist of her makeshift dress.   She let her hair drop out of the towel and fingered through the curls.


Annamae sat in one of the suspended chairs and gestured for Kumai to sit in the other.  “I have your contract here if you want to look it over.”


“Sure.”  Kumai thought she needed to see the place first.  “How deep are we in the ocean here?”


“A hundred feet or something like that,”  Annamae said.


Kumai had dived below the recreational scuba limits many times in her free diving ventures.  The deepest she had plunged before she stopped competing was five hundred feet, 156 feet shy of her 200-meter goal.  Now out of practice, she knew she would have to start all over again if she wanted to free dive.


She pulled out her phone.  No signal.  The battery warned of low charge.  She could go above deck now and try to call Susan, but she might run out of power.


She plugged in the phone at her desk.


She took the contract from Annamae, a cup of water in her other hand, and tried to sit down.  But the chair pushed away from her like a swing.  Kumai huffed, set down her cup, and held onto the ropes suspending the chair.  Once settled, she leaned for her water but could not quite reach it.  Annamae stood up and set the cup on a little shelf attached to the side of Kumai’s seat.


“Why didn’t they suspend the tables too?”  Kumai asked.


“They tip and spill things.  They tried it.”  Annamae pointed to the papers in Kumai’s hand.  “Read.  Let me know what you think.  They’re open to negotiation, within reason.”


“Okay…”  Kumai scanned the contract’s opening language, the typical legal orientation to what the document was about.  She got to the page where they talked about pay and gasped.  A sign-on bonus of $32,000.00 waited for Kumai, today, if she agreed to the contract terms.  Her salary was three times the sign-on bonus.  “How can they afford that?!” she asked.


“Have you seen this place?”  Annamae laughed.  “But don’t sign now if you don’t want to.  Wait until after the tour.”


Kumai thought about it and read on.  She would only need to stay for six months to retain the bonus.  Any travel expenses she incurred were also covered by the contract.  


If she signed, she could buy her boat.  She could visit her family.  She would not have to keep the Four Seasons job or guide wonky divers on tour boats.  


She was ready to sign now, except that she wanted to see the clientele in action before she decided.  What if this was one of those hedonism resorts?  While curious, she would not want to work in an environment that differed too much from her comfort zone. Although… a few months of discomfort might be worth it to get her boat.


She carried the contract to the desk and sat down to think.  She guzzled the cup of water and stood.  “Let me call Susan.  Then I’ll meet you at the elevator and you can show me the place.”


“Here’s the confidentiality agreement,” Annamae said, standing to place another document on top of the contract.  “Can’t show you any more without it signed.”


Kumai looked it over, found nothing troubling, and signed.  Then she stood and got her phone from the bedside.  “See you upstairs in twenty or so?”


“Wearing just that?”  Annamae gawped at the belted pareo.


“I’m Polynesian.  It’s expected.”  


“Oh, silly me.  Of course.”  Annamae responded as if a rare butterfly had landed on her finger and she was preparing to capture it.


Kumai put on her flip-flops while a shiver crawled down her back.





…and then?

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