Ahu was spending some time alone in the forest gathering leaves and herbs for medicine. It was one of her guilty pleasures to be able to get away completely from her normal tasks leaving the children in Ahuahu’s care when he chose not to go fishing because of the choppy sea. Hoata had taken Paikea back up to the hot springs to see Hatiti so Ahu was all by herself. She had already gathered a few roots from the Karewao vine whose sap was good to stop bleeding from a wound, leaves from the Horopipo plant which helped toothache and was good to put on rashes and the breasts of nursing mothers. She had collected these for Hatiti. She still was looking for the Akakura vine whose sap could be made into an antiseptic. Mainly though she had taken time to drink in the solitude of the forest with the wind whispering to her in the trees and the birds calling to their mates of her passing. She wanted heaven to be like this free from all the cares of life. She remembered her childhood before she was orphaned when her mother told her of the spirits in the woods and how precious life was. She tried to recapture that fairytale world as she went about gathering the plants she needed.
About midday she settled down with her back to a tree well off the beaten pathway and searched for the fruit she had brought with her to eat. She ate that quietly then closed her eyes and listened to the sounds around her and wondered whether she dare sleep a little while. She decided against that, so opened her eyes again and watched a giant Weta insect sitting quietly as she was on a tree observing her in its turn. In the distance she heard a laugh and a squeal of delight. A boy and girl must have met in the woods in secret. She scanned the distance but could see no movement. So she turned back to the Weta but it had gone. I must go too she thought and reluctantly got to her feet and started to make her way back to the village.
She had not gone but a few paces when the laughter was heard again. Ahu was cross now as she might have to take a different route home. She stood still for a moment and decided that either they would see her or not, it mattered little and walked on. Clearly they didn’t hear her for she heard the couple laughing again close by. He bit her lip in frustration and then sat down again so that she would not walk right upon them. They were very close. They were talking and this time Ahu recognised the voice of the girl; it was Hinewai. Ahu slunk back into the bushes and fumed with irritation. She could hear some of their conversation.
“Why must I do it this way?”
“So you do not bruise me and my husband will see.”
“But I want to see your face and touch you.”
“No, you mustn’t. You may touch my hair.”
The boy moaned with annoyance but after a few complaints, he continued,
“So you prefer a younger man, Hinewai?”
“Not if he moans all the time”
“You are so beautiful.”
“Just don’t stop.”
“I will have to soon.”
“Then you better send someone else to take your place.”
By this time Ahu had put her hands over her ears. After a few minutes she uncovered them to hear the boy say.
“Thank you for choosing me, Hinewai.”
“I may pick you again, if you promise to talk less. Say nothing about this or I shall tell my husband you took me by force.”
Ahu glanced up and saw them through the bushes. Hinewai was smiling at the boy who was now allowed to stroke her breasts before she covered them. She then hit him heavily on the face with her clenched fist. He half fell to the ground.
“Why did you do that? I thought I made you happy.”
“You did but that is so that your friends can see I refused you.” She said as she bent forward and touched his bruised face in affection. “Do not follow me out of the forest.” She then released him, turned and walked away.
It was some time before the forest resumed its natural sound of sound of chirping of birds and the buzzing of insects. The breeze rustled in the tree tops again and Ahu wept silently as though she had lost something valuable but would never find it again even though the butterflies were settling on the flowers as if nothing had disturbed them. She now had a very deep secret to keep.
Ahu thought about what she had seen for a long time. Should she tell Ahuahu? How could she not tell Ahuahu?