“We flew over blowholes spouting sea foam up through the rocky coastline. And whales! And dolphins! Then we turned back to soar over the lava fields. There were flows of rock all shades of brown, red, and black, depending on the ages of the eruptions. The formations looked like long fingers of rock gripping the island. When we crossed the dry to wet demarcation, it was straight as a surveyor’s line…” Susan paused to breathe.
“So you liked the ultralight?”
“Loved it! Jeff gave me a lot of hands-on flying. My hands were sweating like crazy. The ease and steadiness of the aircraft as it glided along gave me a surreal feeling of being a veteran pilot. When I came back and paid the bill, I felt like I wasn’t paying enough for what I got. My arms and shoulders are shaking from exertion. What a workout.”
“Did you see your ranch?”
Kumai reluctantly released this success to consider that she may no longer be working as a concierge. She wondered what other jobs would give her the delight of helping people get what they want or need. Maybe she could dive more deeply into a career on the boat. Or she could be done with Hawaii and move on to her next adventure. Maybe Europe? Or New Zealand.
“Let’s get home so we can be made to look like something we ain’t.” Susan said.
“Sounds like a plan.”
Beehive updo’s and Tammy Faye cosmetics were Kumai’s perspective on makeovers. Usually she liked the before photos in magazines way more than the after. She was uneasy about this transformation. Whenever she visited a cosmetics counter, she came away less super-model and more cross-dresser. Her silent fantasy was that today’s end result would render her unrecognizable.
Lilio, their aesthetician, was early for their appointment. She joined the shoe selection process after setting both the women’s hair in industrial-sized PVC rollers. Kumai was pretty sure that Elena was nipping into the pantry for a guffaw at their expense. Susan settled on a pair of bling-laden sandals with elephants for heels.
Susan looked at Kumai’s shoes from home, plain white flat sandals with wide front and back straps, and said, “Huh uh. Too 1980’s. What size do you wear?”
“7 ½ or 8.”
“Some of these are running big. Try them, please.”
Kumai was starting to feel like a living dress-up doll. She would put up with it for tonight, but then it was going to need to stop. She put her foot into a few of the delicate sandals and felt even more like a troll.
Susan was just outside her bedroom resting her feet up on a lanai chair. Her soft chuckle trickled in through the open French doors.
“What?” Lilio asked.
“I was admiring these shoes in the sun, but then the blonde hairs on my feet and toes got lit up too. I have hobbit feet!”
“Go shave.” Lilio said, slightly disgusted. “Now. Hurry.”
After that, Kumai felt much better about her own awkward attempt at cleaning up. She found a pair of sandals that fit, with a reasonable kitten heel. As Susan walked by, Kumai asked, “How about these?”
“Asymmetrical, leafy, delicate. Perfect.” Susan said. “My gift, since you refused on the dress.”
“Sexy!” Lilio said.
Kumai smiled. Then she looked at the price on the shoe box: $598.97. She pulled off one shoe and looked closer to see if the crystals tucked in the gossamer flowers were actually diamonds. At least the shoes didn’t cost $600. That would be ridiculous. Her stomach clenched. She couldn’t tell if she was nervous or hungry. Or both. Like Cinderella, her shoes were tangible evidence that she was entering a new environment tonight.
“Tell me about your skincare routine.” Lilio said.
“I wash my face.” Kumai said.
Lilio said, “Uh huh.” as if for Kumai to continue.
“Pretty much daily.”
“Uh huh.” More waiting. “Oh, that’s it?”
Lilio’s eyes bugged out. Apparently she had forgotten that even if she was standing behind her Kumai could see her in the mirror .
“HoKay. What about your everyday makeup?”
“I use lipstick.”
“And… that’s it?”
“Oh, okay. And the other times?”
“Chapstick? I tend not to wear makeup most of the time.”
“You know, don’t you, that women actually work very hard to achieve the natural look?”
“That’s what I’d like for you to do with me, please.”
Lilio lipped ‘Oh My God’ and said a cheery, “Sure!”
Kumai’s phone rang. The caller ID showed Peter Yelley. “I gotta take this.” She apologized and left for her room.
“Kumai, it’s Peter.”
“We’ve got another dive tonight. Launch at nineteen hundred.”
“Oh thanks for the invite but I can’t. I’m at work tonight.”
“That new client?”
“She wouldn’t be one of the two unidentified female witnesses who left the scene of a homicide last night in Kawaihae?”
“Don’t think so.”
“Okay, good, cuz the police are looking for a Susan Winters who called 911.”
“Okay, the client may have been there.”
“And the Blue Dragon reported a rez under ‘Kaimana’ who showed and then left at the exact time of the murder.”
“I didn’t kill anyone.”
“I know that. Do you have any idea how many favors I had to call in to keep Hawaii police from arresting the two of you?”
“Don’t be a smart ass. They still haven’t agreed not to bring you in.”
“What do you want, Peter?”
“I want you on that dive tonight.”
“I told you, I can’t.”
“Then I can’t promise you my continued protection.”
“Listen, Yelley, don’t try to strong arm me. If I could go, I would. But I cannot.” Kumai felt her anger escalate and stopped herself before she went too far. The silence on the other end said she may have already crossed an invisible line. Maybe it was time to see New Zealand.
Peter broke the silence. “Does your Ms. Winters know about your narc history and Florida?”
“Don’t try to threaten me.” Then Kumai decided to lie, “And, yes, she does. But unlike you, she understood. Not fake-understood.”
“Kumai don’t do this.”
“This what? Calling a bully’s bluff?” Kumai sat on the edge of her bed and debated whether to resign from the dive boat. She couldn’t see how that would help anything. “Peter, don’t make another call to me with these coercion tactics. Ask me for whatever you need and I’ll go out of my way to help – if I can. I have other commitments tonight. I’m sorry.” She hung up.
Her hands shook. She walked back into the New Me campaign feeling like an old zombie.
“Everything okay?” Susan asked.
“Yup.” Kumai sat down to face Lilio and let her paint away. “Another client needed my help tonight. I declined.”
“Thanks.” Susan said.
Lilio removed the jumbo rollers, ratted Kumai’s hair, and pulled it back. Then she patted and rubbed colors on Kumai’s face as she sat there caught up in a decision impasse. Was it time to reveal her illicit curriculum vitae? Maybe her other sources for work needed to stabilize first.
Susan would appreciate warning that they might be fugitives. However, Kumai made it her practice not to play the role of messenger, especially when the message was bad news.