It was several months since the pakeha had been seen. Ahuahu said it was enough to be fighting each other without pakeha in huge ships to contend with. Despite this, there was a number of haka or war dances to prepare the village for further visits which were thought to come at any time. But that was not the case and gradually life returned to normal.
Babies Tangaroa and Paikea were growing and crawling and trying to pull themselves up when placed on the ground. However both mothers kept a careful watch on them as they seemed to delight in putting everything their hands touched in their mouths. While they were breastfeeding both mothers believed they would not become pregnant again. Ahu did not care whether that was the case or not and had already given Tangaroa tiny pieces of cooked white fish to eat. Even Ahuahu laughed to see his face as he tried to work out what to do with it.
As much as she looked after her baby Ahu knew that many babies died when small. Her cousin Aio had lost two babies before they were two years old and she remembered in the burial ground at Gannet Island village there seemed to be more burials of babies than adults. She hoped that the god of the sea wouldn’t want little Tangaroa swimming in the sea with him, but she dare not say it.
Ahuahu was always attentive to Ahu. He could not believe how lucky he was to have her. At night he would try to find new ways to please her. Laying down by her side he would draw pictures of boats at sea on her back and tell her of the waves and the fish and the whales in the ocean. Then he would trace a line of seabirds flying over her shoulders. He would blow on her hair and tell her there was a storm at sea and put his arms around her to hold her tight. Ahu would melt for him and turn around and insist he draw on her front as well.
They turned over and he snuggled down with his head between her breasts and softly traced his fingers over her tummy.
“We will have many babies Ahuahu.” she murmured, but Ahuahu did not answer he had fallen asleep. Ahu smiled; tonight I laugh alone she thought as she clasped him tight in her arms.
The next day Ahu and Hoata went back to the forest where they had seen the pakeha they were very careful to be quiet and did not take the teenagers with them. When they spoke they did so in whispers and both took weapons with them. After they had gathered all the leaves and fruit they needed they sat down to rest and talked. Their voices were but murmurings on the breeze as they talked of their childhood and growing up. Hoata had her chin tattooed and her lips were pricked with blue dye to make them full. Ahu wanted to look the same and asked who in the village would do it.
“Old Hokaka will do it” said Hoata, “She did mine. But surely Ahuahu does not need to love you any more than he does now?”
“I want to show I am strong for him” replied Ahu.
“Strong for him?” laughed Hoata. “You are one of the strongest women in the village, everyone knows that. Talk to Ahuahu first, or has he said it is what he wants?”
Ahu shook her head, “Did Kamaka want you to have the tattoo?”
Hoata nodded, “He married me when his first wife died, to look after him and the two girls: I am just a replacement wife including the tattoo on her chin.”
Ahu went up to Hoata, reached out and touched her hands and then hugged her looking directly at Hoata but Ahu’s eyes could not hold back the tears.
“Don’t cry for me Ahu. I have given him a son; he is pleased with me but…”
At this point Hoata also cried as the two mothers hugged each other but spoke no more.
Ahu decided to walk back home out of the cool forest and on to the beach in the hope of finding pipis on the shore. There was a gentle breeze blowing there and the waves were coming ashore languidly.
When they had gathered enough for a meal that night they wandered back along the sands to the village.
“I love the summer, living is so easy,” said Ahu.
Hoata nodded but said, “Loving is so much harder.”
Pipis - cockles