Ahuahu had not made love to Ahu for some time. He knew that she would need time to recover after the birth of baby Tangaroa. Everything about their life was dictated by custom and tapu. Tapu were the many rules and regulations regarding behaviour with people, places and each other. There were places that special respect had to shown, places where men were not permitted and some where women were not. There were many rules about speaking to and walking by other members of the village. As he was a stolen child he had no rank but was respected because he was a good fisherman which benefited the whole village.
Ahuahu knew all this but knew little of women’s law. He thought it had something to do with the moon that prevented her from making love. She would tell him the right time, but he wanted her to tell him soon. Her body was blooming with health, and he wanted to do more than hold her.
Ahu was busy all day long, with Tangaroa slung up upon her back as she went about her life as usual but with her little tama jogging up and down, fast asleep as she gathered vegetables, fished in the sea and chatted to the women in the village. She felt she had got rid of the feeding child name she had had when she lived with her aunts. She was no longer their responsibility. She belonged to Ahuahu.
She knew what Ahuahu wanted. The moon was would be full tonight and then she would make him happy and they would laugh together. But did he know what Ahu wanted? Now she had one child she wanted another, a tamahine or girl child. She loved her Tangaroa but could imagine nothing better than lots of laughing babies filling their hut.
That evening Ahuahu was late in returning, he had been with the other men, discussing their business. Usually it was talk about disputes and arguments to be settled. His face was serious when he sat down but he remained silent.
“Would you comb my hair for me tonight, Ahuahu?”
He nodded with delight at the thought of touching her hair, oiling it and combing it through, while she sang a song of love. But his face was still darkened. She knew better than to ask him what the men had talked about. So she changed the subject and handed Tangaroa to him and said “Talk to your son on where to catch fish, while I get your food.”
Tangaroa should have listened to his father, but his eyes were closed and he was fast asleep. He was full and contented. Ahu nevertheless told him of the fish to be caught around the islands out at sea. Of how he must look in the sky to see the birds to know where the fish were and what bait to use on his line. Once or twice Tangaroa seemed to murmur his understanding. Meanwhile Ahu was laughing quietly in the darkness.
She returned with his food and then took Tangaroa from him and looked into her husband's eyes. He shook his head and looked as though he would cry with sadness. “The men are going up the coast to the kainga under the rocky outcrop. They have been fishing around our island and have stolen two children from the village in the fern gully” he said pointing inland.
Ahu bowed her head, and remained mute. He should not have told her, so she appeared not to hear. There had been fighting between neighbouring villages many times over fishing rights in the past. Rocky outcrop was a large village and the attack was not viable. Blood would be spilled. Women were particularly vulnerable as they might be stolen and traded on. She feared a revenge attack as she knew they would not try to get her back if she was taken as she was of a lowly rank. Attacking that large village was not a good solution but she must say nothing.
She fed Tangaroa, prepared him for bed, and then knelt down waiting quietly. Later Ahuahu came up to her and combed her hair, the oil running down her back and shining in the moonlight. This night Ahu did not sing but only hummed a sad tune. She turned to face him, pushed him on his back and brushed her hair over his body. He buried his face between her breasts and breathed in their milkiness. The full moon lit up the room as they held each other.
“Never let me go Ahuahu” she whispered as he gasped with joy at their reunion. But she knew the joyful tears he cried tonight were also of great sadness.
kainga - village
tama - boy
tamahine - girl
tapu - taboo