Ahu was near the time for the arrival of her new baby but as with all Maori women it was a natural process that did not disturb their usual work in digging the vegetable plot, going into the forest for leaves or picking up shellfish from the shore.
Ahu had wandered along the shore with Hatiti who was now great friends with her. Hoata, Hatiti's step mother stayed behind looking after her half brother Paikea and Ahu’s son Tangaroa as they played together.
Hatiti loved Ahu and Ahuahu and spent much time with them now that her sister Hinewai was married and living with her husband Tui. She knew she should not look on Ahuahu with desire but she said to herself that she must find a husband like him soon or burst with frustration.
She had been to see Hinewai living in her new home in the village close to the big river and was envious that they appeared happy, especially as Hinewai kept asking her when she would be married too. She looked on every boy of marriageable age in the hope that a spark of desire would inflame her, but she could only remember Ahuahu carrying her back after rescuing her and remembering the feel of his bare skin against hers and his voice as he spoke reassuring her that she would be safe.
As she and Ahu waded in the shallow waters of the outgoing tide watching for air bubbles from the shellfish in the sand she noticed that Ahu was walking much slower, then stopped altogether.
“Hatiti,” Ahu said, “The baby is coming very quickly, the waters have broken, and I must find a safe place in the trees up there.” She pointed to the dense woodland above the dunes.
“Should you not try to get back so the midwives can help?” asked Hatiti. “I can run back for them now,”
“This little one is in a great hurry. Mark where I go into the woods and run back for help.” She gasped with the need to find a safe spot. “Tell Ahuahu if you see him.”
Hatiti ran off along the beach and when she turned to see if Ahu was still there she had gone from the beach. As she ran along the beach she saw Ahuahu working on his canoe.
“Ahuahu, Ahu is having the baby!” She paused to get her breath, “I am going back for help.” She then ran on.
Ahuahu stopped what he was doing, stowed his tools in the canoe and set off up the beach to find Ahu.
He found her tracks in the sand and entered the undergrowth, and called out to her. “Ahu, it is your husband. Where are you?”
There was only silence apart from a slight rustling of the wind in the leaves. He stood very still and listened very hard. He could hear her panting a little way away. “I can hear you Ahu, I am coming.”
As he approached her, she looked up from her squatting position. “Ahuahu, you are here, you should not be. It is tapu…for women only.” She panted again then let out a little cry, turned to him. “The baby is nearly here; do not ever tell anyone, what you have seen.”
Ahu breathed heavily again, screwed up her face and pushed again. Her face relaxed as the baby was delivered and she let out a deep sigh.
“Ahuahu, come closer and see the baby. See it is a little girl.”
Ahuahu knelt down beside her and stretched out his hand to touch the baby. Ahu shook her head, “No, not yet, she must be cleaned up first,” She said. “Can you get me some fresh water and a shell to cut the cord later? And listen very carefully if the women are coming, you must disappear. You must not be seen.”
Ahuahu nodded then touched Ahu on the shoulder. She looked up at him and then said with a little smile. “And do not let anyone see you have been crying.”
Ahuahu returned to the beach, but it was deserted so he found some shells and filled the larger ones with water from a stream a little way away. When he emerged on to the beach again he could see Hatiti running back.
He couldn’t make up his mind whether or not to tell her that he had seen Ahu, so he kept quiet.
“What have you there?” She asked.
“You can give Ahu some water if you find her,” he said.
She looked at him a little strangely. “Have you seen her?”
He looked into her eyes, hers were laughing as she said. “Men should see, but don’t tell anyone that I said that. Come on let’s find her, the women will take ages to get here, and you will have gone by then.”
They rejoined Ahu; her face fell when she saw Hatiti and looked up at Ahuahu with a quizzical look on her face.
“Go now, Ahuahu, unless you want to be a real woman and bury the afterbirth too,” said Hatiti.
“Ahuahu, you must act surprised when we get back to the village,” called out Ahu as he went away through the woods back home, avoiding the beach. The women then started to clean up the baby.