By now, Leilani had been in the Kingdom of Simoa for a couple of weeks. She still hadn't heard anything from her father, and she was getting increasingly worried. There wasn't anything she could do about it, though, so she tried to settle into a daily routine.
She had been taking her showers at the local gym, since her trailer didn't have hot water. The lack of privacy was unsettling, but she did enjoy using the showers as decompression time.
As it turned out, she thought back, her little encounter with Filepi Tapuwhai hadn't earned her a date with the guillotine. Her heart had done a triple lutz when she was introduced to her boss at work earlier that week -- none other than King Henry Tapuwhai I, regent of the Kingdom of Niua Simoa. Before she could bow her head in apology, though, the King had laughed it off.
"Filepi is always like that," he said through a hearty belly laugh. "Always arguing with his mother and trying to pick fights with Junior. Trust me, though, despite what he said, that kid would never have to balls to come to me and tell me to deport someone."
King Henry threw his arm around Leilani in the board room. The touching made Leilani uncomfortable, but she was hitting it off with her boss. Later that week, she got a call from HR saying she'd be receiving a raise.
Over a light meal from the vending machine, Leilani watched the other patrons of the gym working hard on the equipment outdoors. She had met a couple of guys here during her regular visits. After about a week of moping, Leilani started to feel her hormones working again. She wouldn't have minded some companionship.
Unfortunately, she hadn't had much luck. She had found herself rather attracted to the scruffy policeman-in-training Tim Chin, but it didn't take her long to figure out that rainbows were straighter.
As if that wasn't bad enough, she had just started to turn on the charm with the cute Robert-Michel Gao when she found out that he was engaged, to Tim's sister, of all people.
So Leilani Kealoha was beginning to get a little frustrated, and had definitely figured out what the worst part of living in Simoa was. It wasn't the fact that she had to schmooze with a creepy monarch for pay that barely met minimum wage, or that she lived in a trailer without a shower. No, it was that this and this entirely was her social life. Eating prepackaged bread at the gym and checking out gay Asian men.
* * * *
Though it took some doing and produced much wringing of hands at the Postmaster's office, Leilani had managed to get a copy of the LA Times delivered to her house daily. The issues came on a three day delay, but it was adequate -- every morning, she flipped to the crime and obituaries sections, not sure what she was hoping to find.
Today, again, there was no mention of her father or anyone resembling him. But then there weren't many people who would miss Johnny Kealoha, and a shady dude 'disappearing' wasn't exactly news in LA anyway. Still, Leilani kept this ritual, feeling increasingly like it was one of the only things still tethering her to the States.
* * * *
It was another typically oppressive Simoan morning when Leilani got a phone call from an in-country number she didn't recognize.
The voice, though, she did -- the lisping tones of Robert-Michel Gao came in disorted but recognizable.
"Robert, you've never called me before, what's up?"
"Sorry, sorry," he said. He sounded unsettled. "I don't really know a lot of people here... I was hoping we could talk."
"What's on yo--"
"My wife just left me."
"What? Oh my God. Robert, I don't know what to say." Of everyone she had met in Simoa so far, she was definitely fondest of Robert.
"She found out what I did in China, and I guess she couldn't live with me after that."
"What you did in-- Robert, what the hell are you talking about?"
"Can I come over?"
"Absolutely; I'm off today. Come right now if you need to."
"Okay. See you soon."
Leilani heard him put down the handset, and she hung up her phone and rubbed the bridge of her nose. What am I doing getting involved in something like this? she asked herself.
Robert showed up at her doorstep not even wearing shoes, and looking distraught. It wasn't long before he was crying, and before she knew what she was doing, Leilani was holding him in her arms.
She told herself to pull away, but somehow, she didn't want to let go. Robert's hand migrated from her shoulders down to her thigh, and Leilani let it happen. She knew it was wrong, but she felt like a pebble being swept downstream; there was nothing she could do but let that stream run its course.
"I shouldn't have done that," Robert said, planting his head in his hands.
"You're emotionally vulnerable. I understand. It happens."
"No, I mean, it wasn't fair to you. I'm sorry."
Leilani just shrugged. She was more worried that they may have deformed the wall of her trailer than anything. She definitely wouldn't be afraid of Mae Chin-Gao, in any case.
"So, I guess you probably want to know, huh? What I did in China that made my wife leave me."
Leilani shrugged again, but took up a seat beside Robert and put her arm around him.
There was a very long silence where Robert simply rubbed his face and Leilani held him. Then, without prompting, he spoke.
"I killed someone, Leilani. In China."
Leilani hadn't been prepared for that. She felt her body tense up, but tried not to recoil.
"It was self-defence, but you know the authorities in China aren't exactly charitable, especially not to journalists they think are stirring the pot. Some of my American friends smuggled me out of the country. The original plan was to seek political asylum in the U.S. via American Simoa, but that didn't work out. So I ended up changing my name and coming here. The Kingdom of Simoa is much more concerned with their business assets than with extraditing foreign criminals."
Leilani didn't know what to say.
"When I met Mae here, I thought she was a gift from God. We got married and I thought I might be able to turn over a new leaf, even if it was in a run down backwater like this. But it's hard to keep something like that from your spouse. I started having night terrors and apparently was talking in my sleep. She did her own research -- Mae is a smart woman -- and figured everything out."
"We have more in common than you think," Leilani said gently.
She continued: "I actually fled my country, as well, though for a different reason. I'm still not entirely sure what happened; I don't know if I ever will. But I'm trying to cope and settle down here the best I can."
Robert looked up at her with eyes full of tears.
"I'm surprised you can cope with living in this trailer. This is smaller than a budget flat in Beijing."
"It really is awful, isn't it?"
Leilani giggled, and this coaxed a laugh from Robert as well.
"What're you laughing at?" said Leilani, now grinning. "Is my terrible living situation really so hilarious?"
She pulled a pillow off the ground and threw it in his face.
"Hey, I'm actually jealous! I'm practically homeless now!" he said, his fragile smile now spreading into a grin in its own right. He took the pillow and bopped Leilani over the head with it.
"Oh, now you've asked for it," said Leilani, taking up her other pillow and holding it aloft as if a deadly weapon.
It was lucky that there wasn't another house within earshot on Waka Island, because their pillow fight stretched on and on into a battle of pillow attritrion. With a sweat-soaked forehead and a fine coating of goose down, Leilani couldn't help but be struck that for the first time, she felt like she had a reason to be in Simoa.