I couldn’t stop apologizing. To Lokelani, to Paolo, to Kala, to his mom. Why did Gary have to act like that?
He stomped off and never came back. I am assuming he went back to our motel but I really don’t know. I texted him and called him. He’s not responding. I’m staying here with Kala. There’s no way I am leaving him to tend to Gary after his blow-up.
Kala and I are sitting on the sand looking at the moon shining over the ocean. There are a million stars reflecting off of the water. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many stars in the sky in my life.
Kala reaches over and takes my hand, giving it a gentle squeeze.
“You alright?” He asks, turning in my direction.
“I’m just happy I’m here with you,” I say. “I don’t want to go home.”
“I’m going to miss you,” he says with a smile.
He pulls on my hand, motioning for me to scoot closer.
“Come here,” he says.
I move in close so we are side-by-side and I look up into his eyes. The night sky frames the top of his curly ponytail and face like a painting. I’ve never been good at drawing or painting, but I’d be willing to try to capture this image so I could have it forever.
“You know we’re going to be together, right?” He asks me.
“We are?” I ask, surprised he just came out and said it.
“You heard what Lokelani said,” he says. “Our families are meant to meet over and over. It doesn’t stop with us.”
“But how?” I ask. “You live here and I live in California. That’s so far away.”
“That’s just for now,” he says. “We’ll figure it out. This is meant to be.”
I smile and lean in to hug him. I wrap my arms around his body and nestle my face into his shoulder. I’ve realized there’s no better feeling than hugging him and being close to him. It calms my mind, and the tentacles lashing in my stomach.
I think he’s right that I will get used to the tentacles moving around. Maybe someday I won’t feel them as intensely as I do now. Especially if I spend more time around him. I really hope that happens more than anything.
I pull away from the hug and look him in the eyes.
“Kala,” I say. “What did we do the other night after I sang at Da Nui? What was that connection thing?”
“It’s pili,” he says with a shrug. “I’ve been waiting for a long time for the one I would experience pili with. I felt it was you from the minute I first saw you. Did you feel it?”
I think back to when I met Kala in the little shop in China Young Village. That’s the first time I ever felt the tentacles. And I’ve only felt them when I’m around him.
“Yeah,” I said. “I felt it in my stomach. I never felt that before. But it wasn’t just that feeling in my stomach. I think you’re the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen.”
Kala smiles wide.
“I agree,” he says, poking me in the side. “I am the most beautiful boy you’ve ever seen.”
“Oh no,” I joke. “Don’t get too confident now.”
We both laugh. But honestly, he can get as confident as he wants. I’ve never felt this way about anyone, and I can’t see anything changing that.
“I never felt that feeling in my stomach before either,” Kala says, looking out at the dark ocean. “I thought I did a few times because I was anticipating it. My parents prepared me for pili since I was a boy. But I knew it was real when we met.”
“Is that why you told your parents about us connecting the other night?” I ask.
“Yes,” he says, looking down at the sand in embarrassment. “I’m sorry that Paolo brought that up in front of your uncle. I didn’t know my mom would tell him. That was a disaster.”
“Yeah,” I say. “It was. I still don’t understand why Gary acted that way. I’ve never seen him so angry before.”
“You’ve got to know,” he says. “Pili is something that’s freely talked about in my family. It’s not a big deal. I didn’t stop to think that it would be so sensitive with you and your uncle.”
“I really didn’t either,” I say. “I mean, Gary and I never talk about me having boyfriends or anything like that, but his reaction was out of bounds. He’s so overprotective. I’m getting really sick of it.”
“Boyfriends?” Kala asks.
I giggle a bit. I can feel heat high on my cheeks.
“Are you asking if I’ve had boyfriends before?” I ask.
“Maybe,” he says coyly. “Have you?”
I let him sweat for a few seconds. I can tell he’s on the verge of some jealous feelings.
“No,” I finally say. “I’ve dated a few times but it never felt right. I’ve never felt this way about anyone but you.”
He smiles wide again. I see relief in his eyes.
“What about you?” I ask.
“I’ve dated but it’s never been anything long-term or serious,” he says. “I could always tell it wouldn’t last because I never had the connection my parents told me about. I’ve only felt that connection with you.”
He leans in and kisses me, and time seems to stop. I’m not sure how many minutes or hours goes by, or what happens around us. I vaguely here small waves lapping several feet away, but I’m temporarily lost in the energy field we’ve created from our connection. I feel the tentacles push through my skin, but I know if I look down, I’ll see nothing but the pink tank top I’m wearing. I move closer to Kala and gently push him over to lay on top of him while we continue kissing. Our tentacles connect as we lay there and I finally feel peace from their thrashing.
“Kala!” I hear faintly in the distance, but it has no effect on our movement on the sand.
My face and lips are starting to chap from the light stubble on his cheeks and chin.
“Kala!” I hear again, but this time closer.
I pull away from his kiss and look up to see two figures approaching.
“Kala,” I whisper. “Someone’s coming.”
I push myself off of his body and back onto my seat in the sand. My tentacles disconnect from his with what feels like a “click,” but thankfully no howling in pain like I’ve experienced before.
Kala sits up and looks at me dazed.
“Who is it?” He asks, turning to look at the people approaching.
“I’m not sure,” I say. “I heard them calling your name.”
I feel drunk and sleepy, sort of like I’m inside a dream. I look around the dark beach and it has a soft glow. I feel peaceful and content, even though I know in the back of my mind I’ll have to deal with Gary soon. And that we are going back to California soon.
“Brah,” one of the voices says. “I been trying to find you. Ohhhhhhh, what are you guys doing over here?”
The man says that last part with a teasing laugh. Oh boy. Who’s this?
“Nothin’ man,” Kala says. “What you up to?”
“Oh, hey Josie!” the man says enthusiastically.
I realize it’s Paul and the drummer from Mele, the band I sang with at Da Nui.
“Hey Paul,” I say.
I can’t remember the drummer’s name. Shoot.
“Hi,” I say to the drummer.
“Dude, did you ask her about Da Nui?” Paul says excitedly to Kala.
I guess he’s talking about me like I’m not sitting right here?
“Ask me what?” I say.
“Not yet, man,” Kala says. “I haven’t got the chance.”
“Ask me what?” I repeat.
Paul and the drummer turn in my direction. Paul is jangly with excitement, hopping from foot-to-foot on the sand.
“The other night when you sang with us, we got the best response we ever have,” Paul says.
“Really?” I ask with astonishment.
Because of me?
“Yeah, brah,” he says. “People loved you. You wanna do it again?”
I look over at Kala doubtfully. I feel so flattered. I think I’m smiling involuntarily. This is totally unexpected. But the look on Kala’s face isn’t excitement. Is he scared?
“Come on, what do you think?” Paul asks again.
He’s pretty insistent.
“I, I don’t know,” I stammer. “Can I think about it?”
I look back at Kala, and he looks like he doesn’t think it’s the best idea.
“Josie,” Paul says. “You gotta do this! It’ll be so cool. I’m telling you, it’s going to be so worth it.”
“OK,” I say with a laugh. “I get it, I just haven’t done this very much. It makes me nervous. I just need to think about it more.”
Of course, there’s also the issue of a possibly scary spirit lurking around if I sing. But I’m not bringing that up in front of Paul.
“No, don’t be nervous, girl!” Paul exclaims. “It’s going to be great!”
I laugh at his enthusiasm. This actually sounds pretty cool.
“Paul,” Kala says flatly. “Are you going to tell her the whole story? Don’t you think she should know before she decides?”
Paul laughs in an awkward way.
“Can’t you see she’s nervous, man?” Paul says. “I don’t want to make it worse.”
“Make it worse?” I ask, with a laugh. “What are you guys talking about.”
Kala silently stares at Paul.
“OK, OK,” Paul says, putting his hands flat against the air in front of him. “So, when you sang the other night, there was someone pretty important in the audience. You know there’s a lot of rich haoles that have houses on Kauai?”
“There are?” I ask. “No, I didn’t know that.”
“Oh yeah, like Julia Roberts, Mark Zuckerberg,” Paul says before Kala cuts him off.
“Paul,” Kala says. “Finish the story.”
“Oh yeah,” Paul says. “Sorry. Anyways, there was this music guy at Da Nui when we played. He came up after you guys left and asked to see us perform again with you singing. He said you had the most original voice he’s ever heard. I think he could help us get signed!”
“What?” I ask. “Are you serious?”
I look over at Kala. I feel exhilarated, but he still seems unsure of this whole situation.
“Yeah,” Paul says. “It’s like a dream come true. It’s like you’re our good luck charm!”
I am? That’s what Gary always says, too. I’m his “good luck charm.” But thinking of Gary brings a stinging to the back of my eyes. I push those feelings down. Gary’s not ruining this moment.
“This is so exciting!” I exclaim.
Paul’s enthusiasm has somehow infected me, and I’ve got stars in my eyes and in my mind.
“You wanna do it, girl?” Paul asks. “Come on!”
“Yes,” I say. “I do! When?”
“Awesome!” Paul says, giving a high five to the drummer. “Tomorrow night, baby. Let’s talk about the set list. You wanna do more blues stuff?”
“Yeah, that’s a great idea,” I say enthusiastically.
I suddenly picture myself singing on stage at Da Nui. I never thought this would be something I would want to do. People actually like my singing? An important music person likes my singing?
“What are you thinking?” Paul asks.
“Hmmmmm, maybe some Amy Winehouse?” I say. “What do you think?”
“Oh yeah!” Paul and the drummer say in unison.
I’ve really got to figure out what the drummer’s name is.
“Can you practice tomorrow morning?” Paul asks.
“Sure,” I say. “Where should we practice? Kala, can you come?”
“Oh yeah, wouldn’t miss it,” Kala says.
He seems a bit more into the idea, but I can tell something is bothering him about this situation.
“Kala, text me her digits so I can call her tomorrow,” Paul says. “I think we can practice at Da Nui, but I’ve got to find out if it’s OK.”
“Yeah, I will, man,” Kala says.
“Alright, this is cool!” The drummer says.
“Thanks guys,” I say to them both. “This is gonna be great.”
“Yeah, cool, let’s talk tomorrow,” Paul says, tapping the drummer on the shoulder and pointing in the direction of Kala’s house.
“See you brah,” the drummer says to Kala.
“Later, man,” Kala says to both of them.
I turn my attention back to the ocean and try to absorb that I’m going to sing tomorrow, and that someone important is going to be watching. I’m nervous but I’m also feeling pretty amazing at the moment. Like I’m special in some way. I briefly think of my dad and the google search I did on him. Maybe my singing came from him and not the god, Lono? Maybe singing is the other part of my mo’olelo that Lokelani couldn’t tell me about?
Kala interrupts my thoughts.
“Josie,” he says. “I’m kind of worried about you singing. We need to have a plan if something, um, appears again like last time.”
Oh shoot. He’s right, I guess.
“Yeah, I agree,” I say reluctantly. “But as long as you’re with me, I’m protected, right?”
“Yes,” he says with some hesitation. “I’m pretty sure that’s how it will go, but I don’t know for sure. When I protected you at Da Nui, that was the first time I did it. It seemed sort of easy, but I don’t know if it will be every time. I could barely walk afterwards. We need a plan for getting me out of there.”
“Oh yeah,” I say, a bit deflated. “Good point. I didn’t really think about that. Do you think I will have time to sing more than one song?”
“I’m worried about that, too.” He says. “Last time you barely finished the song before that lapu tried to approach you.”
“Lapu” I think. That’s what my aunt Halani called the spirit that was on me. And Manu too. My arms and legs start to tremble and I’m suddenly cold.
“You, OK?” Kala asks, pulling me close to him on the sand again. “Let me warm you up.”
I lean into his body and feel heat radiating from his arms and neck. It’s not helping my shivering, though.
“I think I’m scared, Kala,” I whisper. “I wasn’t thinking. I was too excited.”
“It’ll be alright,” He says, stroking my hair. “We just need to think this through.”
“Kala,” I say, pulling away to look in his face. “I have to tell you something.”
“What is it?” He asks, tracing my cheek with his long finger.
“When I first came here about a week ago, I had a ‘lapu’ on me,” I say. “I didn’t know what was happening to me. I sang at Gary’s art show in Venice, and saw a man that followed me home and then, I guess, he disappeared into me. He slammed into me. Then, I got sick. My stomach turned all black and I was seeing things that weren’t there. Like, I thought I saw hands that weren’t mine. When we came to see my aunt Halani here, she wouldn’t let us in. She said I had ‘lapu’ on me.”
I stop talking and notice that Kala’s face has gone from comforting to something that looks like fear.
“Kala?” I say. “What’s wrong?”
“How did you get it out of you?” He asks, his voice insistent and heavy.
“I saw a man here called an ‘eater,’” I say. “I know you guys don’t like that name, but that’s what he was called. He helped me. He was very nice.”
“And that’s where you got that belt I saw when we surfed,” Kala says, pointing to my torso.
He doesn’t ask like it’s a question. He already knows the answer.
“Josie,” Kala says in a more serious tone that I’ve heard from him. “This is different. The ‘eater’ you saw exorcised a spirit from your body. It probably attached itself to your soul. I didn’t know that could happen to you, or that it had ever happened to you. I don’t know if I can help you if something like that happens again. Maybe if you sing somewhere else instead of Da Nui, it will be safer?”
“Kala, I don’t think it’s Da Nui, or the art show I sang at,” I say in a small voice. “I think it happens when I sing. But when I sing outside to help Gary catch waves, nothing’s ever happened to me. I wonder if it’s when I’m around a lot of people?”
“Maybe,” Kala says. “I don’t really know. How did your tutu conjure spirits?”
“I don’t know,” I say. “And Gary doesn’t seem to want to tell me. He’s the only one left who knows this stuff.”
“What about your aunt Halani?” Kala asks.
“She doesn’t want to see me,” I say.
I feel sad speaking those words aloud.
“She’s scared of me,” I say. “Scared that I could infect her or something.”
“Maybe my mom or dad could talk to her?” Kala asks. “They said they know her.”
“I guess,” I say with hesitation. “She was just so mean to me. Being around her again would be hard. I’ve never been treated that way by family before.”
Kala touches my arm, and then puts his muscled arm around my shoulders.
“I’m sorry,” he says. “Maybe my mom can talk to her.”
“Halani said that my grandparents left Kauai for the mainland to protect their family from their abilities,” I say, recalling the conversation that feels like a month ago. “I don’t understand.”
“I don’t either,” Kala says, shaking his head. “Everything I’ve been taught is that our ohana make us stronger. That we help each other with our mana. I don’t know why your family would leave here.”
“Well, it’s a bit more complicated than that,” I say.
I’m thinking about my dad and his parents. How my grandparents, mom, and Gary left Kauai to “help” my dad and his parents on the mainland. Do I want to get into everything about my dad? It feels scary and overwhelming. I think I’ll keep it to myself for now.
“Maybe practicing at Da Nui tomorrow isn’t the best idea,” I say. “Maybe we could practice somewhere else while your mom talks to my aunt Halani? Maybe outside? I’ve never had problems singing on the beach with Gary.”
“You really want to do this, Josie?” Kala asks. “Are you sure?”
Isn’t that obvious? I do really want to do this.
“I do, Kala” I say. “I think it might be my mana to sing and share what Lono gave me. Gary thinks so, and now I’m starting to think so, too.”
“You seemed so hesitant the other night at Da Nui, though,” Kala says. “What changed?”
I pause for a beat to think. I look up at the starlit sky. And then I know. Finding out about my dad is what changed it. All this talk of destiny and fate hasn’t included my dad, but that’s just because no one here knows my dad. Wouldn’t they think that following in his footsteps would be an important part of my future?
“I can’t explain it now,” I say. “But things have changed. Maybe it was hearing about my mo’olelo. I don’t know but it feels like it’s what I’m supposed to do.”
Kala sighs. Then he cracks a small smile. It’s a relief to see.
“I get it and I don’t want to get in the way of that,” he says. “I’ll talk to my mom tonight about your aunt Halani. Maybe we can figure something out before tomorrow night.”
I look back out at the starry sky and smile.
“That makes me so happy,” I say, pushing myself into him and sneaking my arms around his waist.
I’m not going to think about being scared. I’m going to think about my mo’olelo and enjoy being with Kala. I can save the fear for tomorrow.
I bury my face into his chest full of yellow t-shirt and breathe in deeply. He smells like laundry detergent and a shampoo I’ve smelled before but can’t place. He tilts my head up and kisses me. Everything starts to disappear again and I’m locked in a ball of energy that’s created a force field around us. In my mind, no one can see us or hear us. The world dissolves as we kiss and move together on the sand.