Figuring out what you want is tougher than it seems.
The life Jami always wanted isn’t what she thought it was. So she’s on vacation at the Aloha Spa deciding whether to commit to her career or change.
Mak loved his life in New York, but ohana called Mak home to care for his recovering alcoholic father. Mak isn’t happy with the life he has now because it isn’t what he thought he wanted. Unless what he really wants comes to him.
Jami’s phone chirped and her mother’s face appeared on the screen. In the picture, her mother squinted through her reading glasses at something just below the camera. It had taken half an hour to get that shot. Jami had spent that entire afternoon helping her mother set up her phone. They had to do it that day because Jami was moving to L.A. the next day to start her new job with Perry Publicity and her mother wanted to keep in touch. The phone stopped ringing.
“Ohana, eh?” The bartender wiped circles toward her like some kind of cliché secondary character. Except this cliché bartender was also a cliché Hawaiian. Tall, thin, muscular, evenly tanned like he spent all his spare time on a surfboard. He had a broad face with understanding dark eyes and black hair that fringed over his ears. He probably got a lot of tips.
“Ohana.” He angled his chin toward her phone on the bar as he leaned back and folded his arms.
He raised one eyebrow. “Are you the only haole who hasn’t seen that movie?”
Jami blinked. “Pardon?”
He switched to a weird voice. “Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind.”
Of course, Lilo and Stitch. Never could get far away from the movies. “Yeah, I’ve seen it.”
“Most people are happy when they get here.” He leaned his elbows on the bar and gestured toward her phone. “Your mom?”
Jami glanced at her phone. “Yeah.”
“That why you’re not smiling?”
Jami pushed away her empty glass. “I’m sure this song and dance gets you lots of tips, but I already wrote your tip in.”
“I know. I just don’t have a lot else to do.” He waved his long fingers at the empty bar. “And you looked like you could use an ear.”
Jami glanced at her phone again and swallowed. “I have two weeks to make major life decisions.”
“You could be in a worse place to do it.” The bartender folded his rag into quarters. “What decisions?”
“My mom wants me to come home and marry the very nice young man working for my dad. My boss wants me to become a full publicist or stay an intern for the rest of my life.” Jami swirled her drink. “When I moved to L. A. three years ago I thought I had it all figured out, but now… What the hell do I want from my life?”
He nodded. “Big questions. You want another?”
Jami peered into her glass. The Blue Hawaiian was pretty and bright and if she could just make her mood match this would be a great trip. “I shouldn’t. It must have a million calories.”
“So who is this guy your mom wants you to marry?” The bartender leaned against the back bar again.
“Kurt Olson. He started working for my dad not long before I left home. My parents already talk about him like he’s their son. I guess he’s nice.”
“That doesn’t sound so bad. What about being a—what did you say you did?”
“I work for a publicist. We make famous people look good.”
He nodded. “Is that what you do now?”
“I’m an intern. I don’t work directly with the clients much. I’ve been an intern for three years.” Jami chewed her lip. “I can’t stay where I am. My boss called this my Shit Or Get Off the Pot trip.”
He laughed. “Your boss sounds interesting.”
“She’s super ambitious.” Jami studied her empty glass. Should have gotten another. It would only take an extra hour or two in the gym to work it off. Working in Hollywood, she’d never be able to have that second drink or that first dessert. She hadn’t eaten a french fry in three years.
“And you’re not.”
Jami opened her eyes. Daydreaming about fries again. She should be deciding the course of the rest of her life, not fantasizing about food. “I thought I was. I just can’t get excited about dressing an actor for a red carpet event or dealing with the blowback when some stupid actress opens her mouth on national television.”
“But you can’t get excited about Golden Boy either.”
Jami groaned. Down that path lay decades of running the office at her Dad’s company, having kids, organizing company Christmas parties, Junior League with her mother. She needed a bigger drink. And a basket of chili fries.
“Enough said.” He straightened and started wiping down the bar again. “Those’re some big questions you have to answer.”
“Thanks, Captain Obvious.”
“Hey, I call ‘em like I see ‘em.” He grinned that big, sunny Hawaiian grin.
Jami smiled back. “At least I’m doing it in Hawaii.”
“That’s the spirit.”
Jami finished her drink. “I should go. I have a thing at two.”
“You staying at the Aloha Spa?” he asked.
“Yeah, how did you know?”
He shrugged one shoulder. “Lucky guess. Let me know what you decide.”
Jami snorted. As if he really wanted to know. He lived in paradise. Why would he care what some tourist was doing with the rest of her life? “I’ll do that.”
Mak watched the woman stroll out to the sidewalk and peer down the street for the trolley. She’d used tap pay, so he hadn’t had the chance to skim her name off her credit card. She was pretty, long blond hair expertly cut, denim mini skirt showing off nice round hips and a white tunic mostly covering her flowered bikini top. She reminded him of the polished women he used to chase in New York, but she had a casual air about her.
Of course, she’d be leaving at the end of her vacation and he got to live in paradise for the rest of his life.
“What’s that scowl for?” Lani stopped beside him at the bar and leaned to see where he was looking. “You have a cranky haole?”
“No. Just thinking.” He handed her the rag. Time to go to his full-time job. “If Kai is late, yell at him.”
“He’s never that late.”
“Yesterday, he was two hours late because the waves were good. We lose customers when they can’t get service.”
“The tourists need to relax.”
Mak walked around the end of the bar. “That’s why they come here. To relax. And they don’t relax when they can’t get service. I should fire him and make him go work for one of the hotels. Then he’d have to learn to be on time.”
“He’s your cousin.”
“Who isn’t my cousin?” Mak stomped through the kitchen to the car he’d parked out back four hours ago. The afternoon stint covering his dad’s bar wasn’t a job. It was a break.
He drove up the mountain to his dad’s house, mostly hidden by the foliage. A UPS truck sat in front of the house and Sam jumped out. As soon as Mak saw the three boxes in Sam’s arms he leaned his head against the steering wheel.
“Hey Mak, I knew you’d be home soon, so I figured I would just wait. We sending these back?” Sam put the boxes on the trunk.
“Yes, we’re sending them back.” Mak climbed out of the car. He signed Sam’s pad and then the two of them went to work opening the boxes and filling out the return paperwork.
“I thought your aunt was canceling Prime,” Sam said, sealing the last box.
“So did I. Thanks.”
“No problem.” Sam carried the boxes back to his truck. “See you tomorrow.”
No doubt. Mak dialed his aunt as he opened the house. “Lola, I thought you canceled Dad’s Prime membership.”
“I was, but you know he loves it so much.”
“No, he doesn’t. He buys crap he doesn’t need and I have to send it back. Prime just means it all happens faster.”
“So what’s the harm?”
Mak leaned back against the door. His dad glanced up from the television. He had the laptop so he was probably online shopping again. The couch was piled with boxes. Those were harder to return. Once dad saw his treasures, he wanted to keep them. “Lola, his credit cards are maxed out.”
“So he will get another one.”
Mak closed his eyes. Years of alcoholism and depression had left his dad with cognitive impairment. His aunt didn’t have any excuse. “Just cancel it please?”
“You should respect your elders.”
“I do. That’s why I came home. Please, Aunt Lola.”
Lola sighed. “All right. But I don’t know why you would punish your father like this. Shopping online is the only thing that gives him pleasure.”
“I need to get dinner.”
Dad stood and walked to the couch to search through his boxes.
“You should come here. Shona is coming over. You remember Shona.”
“I remember.” Shona had been his girlfriend in high school, but after graduation, Mak had gotten a full ride to the University of Michigan and Shona had stayed on the island and was married with two kids before he got his degree.
“She would love to see you again. You need to take a break. Relax.”
“And I might be able to do that if Kai showed up for his shift on time. Maybe another night. Bye, Aunt Lola. Don’t forget to cancel that thing.” He hung up before she could say anything else.
“Makoa, I got something wonderful today,” Dad said, unraveling bubble wrap. It looked like a crumpled plastic bag, but it was made of glass.
“That’s great, Dad.”
“I got one for each of your aunties for Christmas.” Dad beamed, thrilled with his purchase.
Never mind the fact that they had Christmas presents for every member of the extended family for the next decade already or that it was March. His next called needed to be to chew out his cousin Jessa. He’d put a hold on the mail so he could intercept these things before they got to the house, but Jessa worked at the post office and was oh so helpfully delivering everything behind his back. “What do you want for dinner?”
Mak nodded. “I’ll get on that then.”
Last year he’d had a good job in New York. Lots of money, nice restaurants, beautiful women. And now he needed to figure out how to sneak six identical glass plastic bags out of the house and return them. Paradise indeed.