sixteen: e manahalo ā ʻike i ke ʻau



Sipping her Blue Hawaiian, Kumai walked to the railing and looked down.  Round banquet tables below hugged the glass wall.  She faced a wide underwater curve.  


Hidden speakers filled the spaces with a quiet dance beat thrumming behind the sounds of Tahitian drums and a woman’s voice singing in Hawaiian.  Kumai found herself nodding her head in rhythm with the compelling music.  


Below, soft light reflected from illuminated aquarium globes resting in the center of navy blue tablecloths.  The windowed wall framed thick glass in curving metal lines from the art deco period.

She looked out to the water and saw glowing bits of sea life approach and deflect, meaning this was the forward section of the hull.  Looking up through the glass, she could not see the surface of the water.  But with how rainy it was when they left, it made sense that it would look like they were completely under water.




“If you think this is something, wait until you see the deck in daylight.”  A velvet male voice said to her.  She turned to see one of the men from the bar table now standing at the railing beside her.  


“Too bad it’s raining tonight,”  Kumai said.  If in doubt, talk about the weather.



“You’ve never been here, I take it?”  He smiled with perfect teeth.


“Where exactly is here?”  Kumai asked, avoiding his eyes.


The man took a step back.  “Oh. You’re not a client?”


“No, I’m a visitor.  Potential concierge.”


“Oh,” he said.  “My mistake.  Sorry.  You seemed so, I don’t know, comfortable.  Listen, just forget we talked.  I didn’t think you were… you know.”


Kumai raised her eyebrows.  “No, I don’t know.  I was what?”


“Um.  Interviewing.”  He said and extended his hand to shake hers, “Good luck.”  He exited the mezzanine.


“If there’s any interviewing going on, it’ll be me interviewing them.”  Kumai said to no one.


Heat radiated from her skin after a day in the sun.  Everywhere cool air touched her felt even colder.  She threw the wrap around her shoulders again and found a stairway down to the dining area.  A vast buffet spanned the back wall.


Bites of strawberry papaya slices whet her appetite, so she grabbed a plate from a stack and thinned a platter of sushi.  She peeked under the steam covers.  Just as she was putting a perfect filet of opakapaka on her plate, a server stepped through the swinging doors with a filled metal tray.  He paused and stared at Kumai before continuing with his task.


“Howzit?”  She asked.


He nodded to her and scurried back into the kitchen.  A more senior server came out the doors and asked, “May I help you?”


“Oh thanks.  I think I’ve got it.  But I could use some salt.”


“Dining will begin in ten minutes Ms…”  This guy looked more like a bouncer than a waiter.


“Oh, I’ll be out of your way by then.  It’s amazing how fast I can eat when I’m hungry.  Where do you want me to sit?”


“Er, ah.  Are you a guest, Ms….”


“Kaimana.  Yes, I am.  For the time being.”  


“Oh, ah well.  My apologies but I don’t recall your name from the client list.”


“That would make sense.”  Kumai nodded without clarifying.  


“Yes, right.  Why don’t you take the table at the far left of the windows?  Those diners have a later reservation.”


“Perfect.  Thank you, Mr….”  He sucked at being a bouncer if she could bounce him back so easily.




Kumai coughed, then caught herself.  “Mr. Skipper.”


“Just Skipper, Ms. Kaimana.”


“Got it.”  She smiled and walked toward the table he indicated.


She did her best to ignore nervous glances from serving staff.  Clients drifted in and started to mill through the buffet and seat themselves.  The clientele appeared to be thirty-somethings and older but not necessarily couples.  She watched trying to figure out who went with whom and then gave up, focusing instead on her meal.  Within fifteen minutes, she had polished off her third plate and was debating going back for salad.


With the wall of water outside, Kumai imagined that they looked like a reverse aquarium.  


“Ready for dessert, Ms. Kaimana?”  Skipper poured more water into her glass.


“Got dessert for my second course, Skipper.  I didn’t want to run out of room.  Thanks for the excellent food!”  She stood, drank one last draught of the ice water and fought a brain freeze.  She nodded to the server and left.


Once back out in the passageway, she held her stomach and groaned.  The food had been excellent, world class.  The resort must be amazing if they served this kind of food on the transport vessel.  Pondering these thoughts, she paid little attention to where she wandered.


Double doors swung out into the passageway as a server dashed ahead with a large tray of covered plates.  Kumai got a glimpse into the steaming galley.  Annamae sat there in a back alcove with several people in white uniforms.  Maybe that was the Captain’s table.  Except their dishes looked like cafeteria trays.


Kumai ducked away before Annamae could see her.  Sleepiness crept up on her alongside increasing awareness of her full belly.  She thought about going back and asking for directions to her room.  But instead, she decided to explore some more to get an uncensored feel for the ship.


The spa was locked, as was the supply closet.  She had hoped to grab a shampoo or two just in case.  Maybe a disposable razor too.  Oh, and a toothbrush.  She ran her tongue over her teeth and sighed.  


The distinctive musk of old cigar smoke drifted from a warmly lit chamber.  Small tables with cards and chips sat ready for games.  Of course, they could gamble on international waters.  Kumai flashed on thoughts of Kirby in Vegas and tried to silence them.  She scanned the room and found a crystal decanter and cut glass snifters.  She poured herself three fingers of whatever it was and downed it.


Fatigue closed in on her from the day.  


She went up another deck in hopes of finding the passageway to Annamae’s room.  If all else failed, she could find someone to help.  For now, she wanted to avoid contact with anyone.  Kumai needed to get a rest before she arrived at another a new place.  She started trying door handles along the hall.  One latch opened onto a library and piano lounge.  No one else was in there.  Through portholes in the wall, she could see a stream of bubbles trailing from somewhere below.  She curled up along a curved wall of cushions and fell asleep.  Engines droned at a steady deep frequency.


A drop in frequency of the engines woke Kumai and signaled the ship’s slowing.  She wondered how long she had slept.  Everything around her looked the same.  


She stood up and scanned the water outside the portholes.  A dim glow of daylight fingered down through the water.


Kumai wondered how Susan would like the resort.  Annamae better not have given them coordinates for the open water.


She was going to need help from Annamae to find where she was staying.  She walked toward the door and pulled on the door handle to leave the lounge.  


It was locked.





…and then?

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