“How were the two tribes different?” Tawhiri blew on a steaming piece of fish, watching as emotions flashed over Ooma’s face.
“Our people see that woman and men are different. That we all have our own roles to play to support the village. And while we are each blessed with different gifts, no one person is better than another. A man has no more value than a woman. The same as a strong adult has no more value than a child or an elder. One who is a burden with fishing might be a sharp mind in farming. One who cannot climb the mountains might swim the reefs. Our gifts are as varied as the fish in the ocean but each is important. But to the Malo, the most important members of the tribe were the warrior. And to them, the women of the tribe were seen as a different race altogether.”
Tawhiri caught a laugh before it burst out. A different race? Did they think they were animals or something? How did they imagine that men and women could create new life together if they were of different origins. It was purely ridiculous.
“In our village, men and women both work very hard, and the one who is lazy is shamed. But the Malo, men viewed the work as shameful, and left it all on the shoulders of the women. If it was not finished to their liking, they would beat them. And the woman were given no choice in whose huts they would live in. The men would take girls into their huts without permission from the girls or even from their families.” Ooma lowered her head, hiding her face in the shadows. “When the elders of our village told Oakia he couldn’t have me, he came to my hut late at night, and he stole me to his village to be his wife.”
Tawhiri frowned as his chest tightened. Why had Ooma never told him any of this? Forget about Ooma; someone in the village should have said something. There were far too many gossips with too much time on their hands for this to have been a secret.
“Did you cut his head off?”
Ooma grinned “I should have. But I wasn’t scared when it happened. I thought I loved him. Even if I felt like he was being disrespectful to me and to the elders, my foolish young heart told me that he only did it because he desired me too much to wait.”
“You should have cut off his head.” Tawhiri tried to keep his tone disinterested.
“Life with the Malo was very strange. Like any people, there are things about them that are very good and many things that were very evil. But when a people is not yours, it can be easier to see their flaws.
I was unhappy in many ways, but in other ways those days were some of the best of my life.”
“Someday you will have to tell me more about it.” Tawhiri pulled some of the flesh off a fish and knocked a bone into the fire.
“Yes, some day. But for now, I mean to tell you about the ax.”