“Well, there was the Shephard I started working for. The Shephards, I should say. It was Logan and his wife that started the hotel. I was one of their first hires. Then she died, drunk driving accident just around the corner from the hotel. Wasn’t her fault but her car went over the edge and…well, he hasn’t been the same since.”
My fingernails are digging deep into my palms and I’m trying to breathe normally. “I haven’t seen him in a long time…not since the funeral.”
He looks at me with a guilty expression. “Ah, shit. I had no idea you were that close. I’m sorry for your loss. I knew they sent her…well, that the funeral was out east, but we had a little vigil for her on the beach anyway. She was a great girl, lady, you know, really nice. Always had the right thing to say. Just…perfect, I guess.”
The thought of a vigil on the beach makes my heart feel like it’s imploding in my chest. “So Logan’s different now,” I say, switching the subject slightly.
“Still has his sense of humor, but yeah. I don’t blame him. Angrier. Moodier. We call him the grump. Habut.” He pronounces the last word like ha-boo-t. “That’s local speak for all that stuff. But I mean, he still has his sense of humor, right, so he doesn’t mind the nickname. It’s only fair since he has nicknames for all of us.”
I want to ask more about him, but I’m getting more anxious than I already am. Why oh why did Logan even agree to hire me? My mother says it was his idea, but he’s never been known to be all that charitable. In fact, our relationship has been strained for a long time (if you can even call it a relationship), which is why this whole arrangement has been a shock. It’s either he’s that hard-up for cooks here, or this was my mother’s idea. My parents have shares in Moonwater Inn, so for all I know they could have threatened him.
Great, I think to myself. I’m probably being forced upon him. A charity case. Logan doesn’t want me here as much as I don’t want to be here.
To get my mind off of things, I make myself pay attention to the scenery of the cute town we’re passing through called Kapa’a, with its old-west style storefronts, the people milling about on the streets, the coconut palms as they sway lightly with the breeze.
And chickens. More and more chickens, strutting their stuff down the sidewalk with the tourists.
Charlie pulls over on the side of the busy road. “Want a coffee?” he asks me, nodding to the quirky-looking coffee shop called Java Kai.
“Sure,” I say and the minute I do I’m hit with a wave of jetlag, as if the distance has finally caught up with me across the Pacific.
The coffee shop is absolutely adorable, with a turquoise exterior and a few tables and chairs that seem to meander over to the equally charming Mermaid Café. But inside it’s chaos, completely full of people, with a long-line snaking toward the counter.
It takes at least five minutes before we finally get to the front of the line, and I take the opportunity to soak up the local atmosphere. There are some couples peering over their laptops, others that are deeply tanned and chatting to each other, adhering to the same barefoot policy that Charlie seems so fond of. I'm guessing they're locals.
When we finally reach the counter, I order an iced banana mocha from the red-headed barista. She's nice to me, as she's been with all the customers ahead of me, but when she starts talking to Charlie, it's like the sun has just broken through the clouds.
Charlie is a flirt, I can tell this much already, and this girl seems head over heels for him. I make a note to ask him later on about her but she's already addressing me.
“Are you the haole?” she asks.
I give her a look, wondering if she just called me some Hawaiian version of asshole.
“Haole?” I repeat. “I don't get it.”
Charlie nudges me with his shoulder. “It means outsider. Not from here.”
Well that doesn't sound very nice. Haole to you too.
“I guess,” I tell her, my smile feeling forced now. “I'm the new cook at Moonwater Inn.” I wonder if she even knows where that is.
“Oh, I know,” she says, smiling again at Charlie as she hands me my iced coffee. “Charlie fills me in on everything. The restaurant is one of my favs.”
I think she means to say that Charlie is one of her favs.
He gives her a wink goodbye to which she nearly melts, and we head out of the crowded shop. Despite all the fans that were whirring in there, I’m covered in sweat.
“Is she a friend of yours?” I ask, stepping around a clucking chicken before I get in the truck.