I'm Kona Love You Forever (Islands of Aloha Mystery Series Book 6)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’M KONA LOVE YOU FOREVER

 

 

 

 

 

By JoAnn Bassett

 

I’m Kona Love You Forever

Copyright © 2014 JoAnn Bassett

All rights reserved.

 

No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the written permission of the author.

 

This book is a work of fiction. Places, events, and situations in this book are purely fictional and any resemblance to actual persons, living or
dead, is coincidental. 

To Kaye & Rocky, because the title says it all.

 

CHAPTER 1

 

In early January
it fell to me to tell the bride she was dead. I wasn’t looking forward to it, especially since my diplomacy skills have been likened to those of Vladimir Putin. If there’s something that needs doing, I’ll get ‘er done. But my direct approach doesn’t serve me so well when I’m the bearer of bad tidings.

A
side from my lack of tact, however, the news made no sense. Just three days earlier the teen-aged girl had been flitting around my wedding planning shop, “Let’s Get Maui’d,” talking a mile a minute. She’d tried on every sample I owned—headpieces, veils and sequined thong footwear—and she’d flipped through my wedding cake album with eyes as wide as a twelve-year-old boy catching his first glimpse of an air-brushed centerfold.

“Are you
positive?” I said to the woman who’d called with the grim report. She was a friend of mine who worked at the Maui County Vital Records Office. Her kid took lessons at the Palace of Pain, the same
kung fu
academy where I train. We had an understanding: she’d bend the bureaucratic rules for me every now and then and in return I’d make sure her kid was well-prepped when he went up for promotion. I hold a black belt so I’m often asked to judge. I don’t condone cheating, so I’d never vote to promote a kid if he didn’t deserve it, but I wasn’t above passing on tips of what our
sifu
, or head instructor, was looking for. 


’Fraid so,” she said. “Seems the birth certificate number you gave me is linked to an infant death certificate dated four days later. The death certificate shows the little girl died from respiratory failure. I checked for other female births in the same area within a week of the date, but the search came up empty. Sorry.”

The bride
and groom were both a few months shy of eighteen, which meant the State of Hawaii required certified copies of their birth certificates to issue a marriage license. The would-be groom had produced his without a problem but all my bride could come up with was a crumpled Xeroxed copy.

Last week w
hen she’d first come in, I’d told her the copy wasn’t sufficient. “I’m afraid this won’t do. It’s got to be
certified,
” I said. “From the Vital Records Office.”

She
’d stared at me as if I were speaking in tongues.

“Look,
” I said. “It usually takes more than a month to get a certified copy from the state office in Honolulu, but I’ve got a friend in the local records office. She can pull strings and shake loose a copy in about a week.”

The
kids had requested a wedding date three weeks away. When I met them, I suspected the under-age bride might be, as my auntie Mana would’ve put it, “packing a little coconut” but the girl was stick-thin. In this day and age, the scandal of having a baby before bothering to have a wedding was so ho-hum I wondered why the big rush to the altar.

I also wondered what was going on
with their families. The bride’s parents lived in the upscale neighborhood of Sprecklesville, only ten minutes from my shop, but both the bride’s mother and father had been conspicuously absent. The groom’s parents apparently lived on Hawaii Island, commonly referred to as “the Big Island,” but nary a word from them either.

N
ot only were members of the older generation nowhere in sight, the parental consent forms the kids had given me featured signatures with such childish handwriting I’d half-expected to see the “i”s dotted with little hearts or smiley faces.

Since t
he young bride and groom were locals—what we in Hawaii refer to as “
kama’aina
”— I’d given them the Hawaii resident discount. But they still couldn’t come up with the twenty-five percent retainer specified in my service contract. I asked if they might be able to borrow it from their families and they’d exchanged a furtive glance. I offered to waive the retainer but told them we’d have to keep things pretty basic.

So,
it appeared the marriage didn’t have the blessing of either side of the aisle. I chalked it up to a “Romeo and Juliet” situation. I didn’t dare turn them away because we all know how the Romeo thing turned out. In the past couple of years I’ve dealt with more than my share of unfortunate events and I didn’t want to risk getting involved in another.

I hung up
from Vital Records and called the bride.

“Can you stop by
the shop later today?” I said.


We can, but it’ll have to be right now. David has a two o’clock flight to go back home. His school started the new semester this week and he’s already missed a day.”

“How about you?
” I said. “Shouldn’t you be in school? I thought winter break ended yesterday.”

I don’t have any kids, but I keep up with the local school calendar. It’s important for me to know
the dates of things like prom and graduation because it impacts my business. Tuxedo rentals, limo service, flowers—at some times of the year it takes everything short of hand-to-hand combat to get the goods I need to do my job.

“I
quit school,” she said. “I’m gonna start studying for my GED. Anyway, we can be at your place in ten minutes.”

I met
them at the door and got right to the point, “Lili, it seems we’re going to have a problem getting the wedding license.”

“Problem?
What kind of problem?”

I gestured for the two of them to take the guest chairs across from my desk. The groom plopped down
in the far chair as if his bones were connected by slack rubber bands. He sat slumped with his head lolled to one side. I recalled Auntie Mana barking at my little brother to “sit up straight” when he’d gone through the slouchy teenage years. Seems this kid hadn’t gotten the memo.

Lili spoke first.
“You told David and me we had to bring in notes from our parents. Then you said we had to get our birth certificates.
Now
what do you want?” Her irate tone made her sound decades older.

“Yes,
so far you’ve done everything I asked. And I appreciate it. But when the State of Hawaii checked their records it seems…well, it seems there’s a problem with your birth certificate.”

Her faced darkened; her eyes now mere slits. “What kind of problem?
My mom has always been straight with me. I know I was born in Kona and raised
hanai
here on Maui. If they’re saying the last name on my birth certificate doesn’t match the name I have now, it’s no big deal.”

Hanai
is the traditional Hawaiian custom of open adoption. It involves no formal paperwork or court approval. For centuries the Hawaiians have recognized the “it takes a village” approach to child rearing. In earlier times, relinquishing a child was often a sign of respect to the receiving couple. Sometimes a child was given up so it could enjoy a better life with more prosperous relatives or to give a childless couple a chance to be parents. The word,
hanai
, literally translates into English as “to nourish.” Surrendering a son or daughter to be a
hanai
child of another family isn’t viewed as being uncaring or neglectful. In fact, quite the opposite.

“My mom said I was named Lili’uokalani for
our last queen. Queen Lili’uokalani was a
hanai
kid too, you know.”

“I know,” I said.
No one born and raised in the islands got out of high school not knowing Hawaii state history. Mainland American history classes probably skip over the part about wealthy plantation owners plotting and scheming and ultimately convincing the United States government to back the overthrow of the monarchy of Hawaii, but it’d been drilled into us. And even though with my light hair and hazel eyes I look a lot more like the schemers than the vanquished, I still carry a grudge. 

“So
, what’s the problem?” she said. “Are you prejudiced against us because we’re Hawaiian? Maybe you only want to marry white kids.”

I took a cleansing breath and centered
myself. Martial arts training had been crucial in bringing me this far in the nearly five years I’d been coordinating weddings, and it looked like I’d be calling on a few tactical skills to get me through this conversation.


No, ethnicity isn’t a concern. What’s at issue is when they looked up your original birth certificate they found a discrepancy. The girl on your birth certificate died a few days after being born. There’s a death certificate on file. So, as far as the State of Hawaii is concerned, you’re dead.” Kind of harsh, but Putin probably wouldn’t have handled it any better.

She scrunched up her
forehead. “That’s impossible. As you can see, I’m not even close to dead. In fact, I’m in better shape than most of the lard ass mainland girls you see around here. I do hula. That’s how I met David. And at school I was on the outrigger team. And I wasn’t the diva steersman, either. I was the stroker at the front of the boat.”

The groom’s mouth twitched into a lop-sided smile.
“Yeah. In arm-wrestling she even beats me.”

Lili
flexed her bicep to reveal a well-defined upper arm. “No sh—. Uh, I mean, no lie.” She reached over and entwined her fingers in her fiancé’s. “David doesn’t like it when I cuss.” He leaned in and their lips met. It wasn’t the first time I’d noticed what an amazing couple they were, especially physically. They were both a beautiful shade of golden brown, with shiny black hair and taut lithe bodies. At thirty-five I had to work out nearly every day to keep myself in decent condition. These two could probably eat plate lunch with rice and double mac salad at every meal and still model for Honoloa Bay swimwear. Me? I’d be lucky to land a gig modeling his and hers aloha shirts for Hilo Hattie. 

They were a great couple emotionally, as well. Both
were languid and laid-back, and they seemed to communicate on a level that went way beyond mere talking and listening. I was hyper-aware of their tranquil rapport because recently I’d been aware of my own rather clumsy communication pattern with my boyfriend of almost two years. Why is it that some couples never seem to misunderstand each other while others spend way too much time explaining and apologizing?

I took a deep breath and leaned forward.
“Yes, Lili, you’re very much alive. But according to Hawaii birth records, it seems you’re not who you think you are.”

CHAPTER 2

 

My name is Pali Moon. I own and operate a wedding planning
business in Pa’ia, Maui. Pa’ia is one of those quaint hippie-style surf towns everyone loves to visit but few people call home. I don’t even call it home. My home is up the road a bit, in Hali’imaile, the former site of a big pineapple plantation. The houses in my neighborhood were built by the pineapple company for their local workers, so that gives you an idea of how la-de-dah they are, which means “not much.” You won’t find a golf course, an ocean view, or a circular driveway anywhere in sight. What you will find is a cluster of clapboard bungalows housing hard-working folks who wait tables, work construction, or drive tourist buses. They raise their kids the way I was raised, in a bubble of love by parents and guardians trying to make ends meet in a perennially hyper-inflated economy. Those of us born and raised on Maui feel we’re “special” and we are. Perfect weather, smiling people, and over a hundred glorious beaches. Life doesn’t get much more “special” than that.

Even though I’m fortunate enough to own my house
outright, I still share it with a roommate. A guy roommate. When I posted the room for rent I was a bit apprehensive when a male called to inquire if it was still available. I wondered if we’d squabble over gal/guy things like whether the carpet needed vacuuming or which TV shows we’d record on the DVR. But my roommate, Steve, isn’t your typical mainland guy who came to Hawaii to surf, work as little as possible, and pick up giggling bikini-clad girls on the beach. Steve’s not much for beach pick-ups, but if he were, he’d be more likely to zero in on some guy whose naked chest could adorn the cover of a bodice-ripper romance novel than a cute girl with a Brazilian bikini wax.

Steve’s hard-working. He’s my
go-to guy as a wedding photographer and, when things get dicey, he’s even been known to pitch in with styling a bride’s hair or doing her make-up. At one particularly dark moment he leapt to my rescue by stepping in to assist a stressed-out caterer whose sous chef got snapped up by a local Michelin star restaurant two days before a two-hundred guest wedding I was doing. Since Steve moved in I’ve learned the only roommate better than a “girlfriend-who-gets-you” is a “gay-friend-who-gets-you.” We’re more than just two people who share the same roof. We’re two people who share the same world view. 

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