When Leilani woke at 2 A.M. with a horrible crick in her neck, she briefly thought -- hoped -- that she was dreaming. When the dream didn't fade, though, a horrible certainty settled in the pit of her stomach: I'm stuck here in Simoa for the forseeable future.
She pulled her wallet out and thumbed through the money her father had given her. Her father. Dad. She tried not to wonder if he was already six feet under back in LA. Three hundred U.S. dollars would probably go a long way in Simoa, but she couldn't exactly live on this inheritance. She'd have to find work.
Leilani sighed. She'd never worked an honest day in her life to this point, but now she had no choice. First thing's first, I guess, she thought, may as well check out the township.
* * * *
Tapuwhai Town was remarkably charming. This was probably the only part of Simoa that foreign guests would ever see, and it was clear that the government tried to keep it spic and span. Particularly obvious to Leilani was Tapuwhai Tower. A consultation of the directory showed that most of the floors belonged to a company called Tapuwhai Securities... All these names were the same: the name of the royal family of Simoa. Just how much did the royals have their fingers in, anyway?
Leilani decided to not worry about politics for the time being and went in to ask the receptionist if there were any job openings with Tapuwhai Securities and, lo and behold, they were hiring. Leilani didn't much like the idea of lowering herself to making coffee runs for stuffy executives, but she also knew that she was going to have to reevaluate most of her worldviews if she spent any amount of time in this country.
Leaving the tower with an extra bounce in her step, Leilani spotted a familiar face across the street. It was that same snappily dressed young man from the ferry, Filepi.
She crossed the street with a brisk step and reintroduced herself.
"Filepi, am I glad to see you!" she called.
"Ah, it's Leilani, isn't it? How has your first day in Simoa been?"
"It's been awful, to be honest, Filepi. Somehow everyone neglected to tell me that the so-called Kealoha Estate is practically abandoned. I'm in a real rut."
"A rut? You are getting the title to your land, aren't you?"
"Filepi, I'm living in a trailer right now! Is there anything you can --"
Filepi's friendly face, up until now wearing a pleasant expression, had slowly morphed into one of disgust.
"Listen, American woman. Do you have any idea how lucky you are? To have a piece of property like that? Do you have any idea what almost anyone in this country would do to own a piece of property like that?"
"A big empty lot isn't much use to--"
"Get over yourself! You're probably the luckiest person in Simoa right now. Pull the stick out of your ass. You're not in the States anymore."
By now, Leilani was pissed off.
"That's the problem, you brat!" she shouted, finally feeling comfortable condescending to the kid, "I don't know where you get off saying I'm lucky to be living in a house that doesn't even have a freaking shower--"
"I don't know where you get off, Kealoha!
" Filepi shouted back. "Frankly, you're lucky I don't have you deported this instant! Our country was glad to be rid of your family sixty years ago and we'd be glad to be rid of you again!"
With this retort, Filepi turned on a heel and marched to a black sedan that was waiting in the parking lot. He got in the back seat and the car drove off, its heavily-tinted rear windows inpenatrable, leaving Leilani confused and gesticulating on the sidewalk.
"Wow, you've got some brass balls. Not that the kid doesn't deserve it."
A petite Simoan girl walked up to Leilani looking fairly impressed.
"Who does that kid think he is, anyway?"
The girl laughed.
"You're pulling my leg, right?"
"Humor me. I only got here today."
"That's Prince Filepi Tapuwhai, second in line to the Simoan throne," she said with a laugh. "He's the most popular of the Tapuwhais, but he's still riding his high horse like the rest of them. Everyone's got it rough here; there's no need to get into a pissing contest about who's worse off.
"Prince Fi--" Leilani was so shocked she couldn't spit out the rest of the words. Her head swam. She'd just told off royalty? Her American brain tried to figure out just what that meant -- would she be beheaded at dawn the next morning?
In her panic, she almost didn't notice the girl laughing at her.
"Don't worry your pretty little foreign head," she said, "No one really gets on well with the royal family. Unless you have money. I promise, most Simoans are a lot nicer than them. I'm Sisana, by the way."
"Leilani," she answered with a nod of the head.
"My mom is waiting at the market so I gotta go, but hey, if you ever need anything, just holler alright?"
The young girl ran off, yellow dress swishing against her legs, and she turned and gave Leilani one more big smile before disappearing around a corner.
Her head had cooled off a little, but the reason she had gotten so angry in the first place was because Filepi was right. Still, the way he had reacted with such venom so quickly had left her off-balance.
Leilani was feeling her natural curiosity kick in. She went and bought a notebook at the corner store and when she got home, began to put into words everything she knew about the political situation in Simoa, especially as it related to her family's history in the Kingdom.
Somehow, she thought she wasn't getting the whole story.
It didn't take her long to conclude, though, that she didn't have nearly enough information to draw any kind of conclusions, though, so she unfurled her new sleeping bag and spread out for a wonderfully unsatisfying night's sleep.