Why was Kai’ali’s marriage bothering Tawhiri so much? He knew it was a possibility that Kai’ali would pass the initiation and move on. It would have been selfish to wish she was stuck with him forever, stagnating like swamp water. What good would it have done. As a child, he couldn’t take her into his hut.
He had learned to be content but with just a few twists of fate, it had been stolen from him. Not fate. Kai’ali. She had been the one who dragged him back to the ocean. He had forgotten how much joy it brought him, and now without it every blow seemed that much worse.
A snake raced away as he climbed over a fallen tree. He was getting deep. Maybe he should be more careful. There were always dangers in the forest. Not just snakes and sharp volcanic rock to attack his feet, but here and there the ocean still broke through the land. There were many deep pits hid well under dead branches and downed trees. Some were small enough to break a leg that landed in it the wrong way. Some would swallow him whole.
He had seen a boy of only seven fall in one before. This one had been long dried up, and ended in only sharp rocks and a few salty pools. The boy had never walked again, and his mind had been very different. He too, still lived in his family’s hut.
Voices echoed through the tree trunks as Tawhiri neared the gardens. Woman giggled and sang as they turned the ground and dug up yams and kaukau. Children’s screams followed as they chased each other over the tilled earth. Tawhiri paused for a moment and peered through the vines.
The sun beat down on the glistening bodies of the woman. Some now wore their fresh tattoos, hard won from their initiations. Their portion of the produce would be their own now, not just for their families. And soon, many would bear the marks of marriage and move into huts of their own. Huts that Tawhiri would probably help their husbands build.
Why hadn’t Ooma ever married. She never spoke of it with him, which was odd because she told so many other stories. Stories about her adventures as a child, about her parents, and about how she learned to tattoo. She’d told him the story of how she’d found him a hundred times. Maybe it wasn’t that important, but it just seemed odd. There were many odd things about Ooma.
Tawhiri turned back into the jungle and pressed on. His feet longed to turn and follow his heart back to the sea. Instead he betrayed the desire and went deeper.
Sweat collected on his brow as the sounds of the village faded away, replaced by the hoots and screams of birds. He had to hack through bush occasionally, but mostly the jungle bent and shifted as he passed. Long, slim branches of Hibiscus, who’s woody stems made excellent childhood bows and fishing spears, slapped his arms and chest. He ducked under a few banana trees, letting his fingers trail along the cool branches.
As the day wore on, he paused by a bread fruit tree, picking through its branches for the fleshy bounty. He was well into the interior now. The ground sloped up, steeper with each step he took. The volcano of Mona Loa had been asleep for generations, but it had built up the island in a great hand, wrinkling the land into hundreds of creases. Many warriors had died, trying to climb over them. There was little reason to explore, though. The volcano, and the land around it, was the tribe’s enemy. The Ocean it’s mother.