Finding Aloha By Jennifer Walker
General Release Date: 22nd February2022
Word Count: 80,011
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Her mother is having a baby with a man who is not her father, and her best friend has been secretly dating her boyfriend. Seventeen-year-old Jess Kennedy desperately needs a new life.
When her father accepts a job offer in Maui, Jess feels like this could be the fresh start she craves. The island’s beauty and charm provide a stark contrast to her home back in Canada. But the elite social hierarchy of Maui Gardens Charter School proves to be a thorny world to navigate.
Then in swoops Kai Kamealoha, a surf-loving Maui local with a fierce loyalty to his family and a passion for preserving his home’s natural beauty. Kai shows Jess that Maui is much more than the sun, surf and sand of tourism brochures, and he introduces her to an authentic look at Hawaiian life.
Jess can’t help but fall in love with Maui—and maybe with Kai Kamealoha as well. So, when she discovers that a real estate developer is forcing Kai’s family to sell their ancestral farm, she’s determined to help him find a way to save it. But digging deeper exposes a duplicity within her own family. Her presence there may be putting Kai’s family in jeopardy. Leaving the island for good may be her only option.
Reader advisory: This book contains mention of divorce, infidelity, racism by a secondary character, and a brief scene of sexual assault.
The garlic from Dad’s Caesar salad clings to my breath and burns my eyes as I hide away under this stifling blanket.
Crap. I should’ve brushed my teeth. Why didn’t I think about brushing my teeth?
I rack my brain trying to remember where I might have put a pack of gum or a Tic Tac, or God, even one of those disgusting cough drops. But my mind comes up blank.
My chest burns, forcing me to do some of those short, panicky breaths dogs do when they first show up at the vet. It’s been forever since I’ve taken a fresh breath of air. All I want to do is toss these suffocating blankets off me and smooth the frizzy mane my hair has become. But I’m paralyzed, terrified someone will barge in without knocking and my nightly rendezvous with Marcus won’t be able to continue.
In one desperate move, I pop my face out of the covers and gulp in air like it’s water from an oasis.
Sweet, sweet oxygen!
My brain starts functioning again and has a chance to fantasize about what’s about to take place. How thrilling it’s going to be to see his face again…to kiss those lips, press my body against his. The deceit… The sneaking out… I’m not going to lie. It makes this all feel so…so…badass. And lately, well lately, I’ve enjoyed a bit of badass.
As if he knows right this second that I’m thinking about him, there’s a buzz in the pocket of my jeans, and it sends a deeper buzz through the rest of my body.
Without rustling the covers, I carefully slide my hand under my butt and pry my phone out without allowing my bed to creak and groan. The screen lights up and buzzes again, making me smile with what’s written. It’s from Marcus.
You coming? I’m already here. Can’t wait to see you. Brought a little treat for us too.
He sends an emoji of two people kissing, followed by a leaf emoji. Meaning he’s brought a joint, but I giggle because it looks like he’s brought us a salad. Is there a weed emoji? Probably better he didn’t use that anyway, just in case Mom and Dad ever creep on my phone. No one can get in trouble for sneaking out to eat a salad.
I expertly navigate the screen with my thumb as I text him back underneath the covers.
Yeah, I think they’re both asleep. Coming now. Can’t wait to see you too—and eat salad with you lol.
In one swift movement, I throw the covers off and roll over to sit up. As I stand, I reach around to return my phone to the back pocket of my jeans, but it slips through my hand and lands with a crash on the hardwood floor.
I’m not sure whether it’s loud enough for my parents to hear. I still my body and hold my breath one more time, listening for any sign of footsteps through the hall.
I’m sleepwalking. That’s what I’ll tell them. Yeah, if they ask, I’ll just mumble something incoherent about algebra, then wander back to bed, pretending not to remember in the morning. I might have a tough time explaining why I’m sleeping in jeans and a T-shirt, but whatever. It’s not like I can get in trouble for sleepwalking. I mean, how could I get in trouble for something I don’t even remember?
I wait for a few more seconds, then exhale a slow and relieved breath, because all is silent other than the faint sh…sh…sh…of my dad’s CPAP machine in the other room. Alleluia for sleep apnea! It has made this whole sneaking out thing way easier. The only downside is that Mom has recently made the spare bedroom on the main floor her own personal refuge. She claimed Dad was just too noisy to sleep beside, which was weird at first. He used to snore louder than a train whistle before the machine, and she didn’t seem to have a problem with it then.
But when I started questioning why they were sleeping in separate rooms, it got me thinking about Tamara Lindsay. Poor Tamara Lindsay, who accidentally walked in on her parents in a very compromising position—position number 69 if we want to get real about it. And now Tamara is damaged for life. Seriously. The details Tamara gave? No one needs to see their parents doing that.
So, I figured whatever. If Mom and Dad no longer want to sleep together, it just means that at least I won’t ever have to worry about walking in on things Moms and Dads should not be allowed to do. What it does mean is that I have to be a little more careful about creeping past Mom’s bedroom downstairs.
I crane my head toward my bedroom door and don’t hear any footsteps coming up the stairs. I’m positive Mom is asleep by now.
I peer at the clock as I reach down to retrieve my phone.
Yeah, they’ve both got to be asleep for sure.
My jacket is draped over one arm, and I hold my pair of red Converse with my other hand as I inch my way across my room. I open the door soundlessly, grateful that I convinced Dad to fix the creak in it last weekend. After a quick glance across the hall and into the front room, I gently close the door behind me and tiptoe all the way down the stairs, making sure to skip the step third from the bottom because of the groan it makes. My heart gallops like a racehorse the whole way. I’m convinced Mom and Dad are going to barge out of their rooms any second to pounce on me.
But somehow I slide past Mom’s bedroom without incident and make it to the back patio door. I don’t dare creep out through the garage or the front door. That would basically be suicide. But the patio door is quiet, discreet and leads to a perfect escape route just left of the house. There’s a large pine tree there, wedged between the fence and the shed. It creates cover and forms a darkened shadow, despite the glare of the porch light that is always left on. All I need to do is inch my way down the length of the shadow, all the way to the far corner of the yard. The fence is old and needs to be rebuilt, and sharp slivers dig into my bare arms as I slide along it. But I’m eternally thankful for my parents’ procrastination in fixing it so my nightly escapades can continue.
Once I reach the end of the yard, I pry loose the third board from the left, the one I wedged back in last night. I lean it against the neighboring boards and squeeze myself through the ten-inch gap in the fence.
Crap, my T-shirt snags on a rough edge of wood as I squeeze through, and I swear under my breath. I just paid full price for it at H&M. Oh well, this is worth it—totally worth it.
About the Author
Jennifer Walker is a teacher and writer from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She lives with her husband Ian, her two children Everett and Kennedy, and her impossibly sweet Bernedoodle puppy Leo. When she’s not teaching, writing, or reading, you can most likely find her in a yoga studio, in the kitchen baking muffins, or running off the calories of the muffins she’s just baked. She’s famous for publicly embarrassing her family by singing terrible show-tunes and practicing 90’s dance moves, and if this whole writing thing doesn’t work out, she’s pretty sure she could make it as the fifth Wiggle.
You can find out more about Jennifer at her website.
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