She was homesick for her twenties and her old cat.
The hometown is not so sweet anymore, it’s punch town. There’s liquor stores on every corner, five bars on the main drag and the best blues bar turned into a titty show. South-side piss, porn and pokies.
The girls were all over at Moody Bluez because Deach and Pieter T were rumoured to be doing sets in-between the titty shows. Huia tried to avoid the place. She’d gone to school with the chick who’d been killed at Moody Bluez three months back by her shitty ex just cos she was stripping. They’d hadn’t been besties or anything but the sister had never done anyone any wrong. Why couldn’t that prick have killed a child molester or some other arse hole? Huia had hoped the girls would change their minds and hang out with her at the rugby club fundraiser instead. Yeah right!
There was a hāngi for dinner, batons-up and the All Black Test, followed by a DJ after the game. The clubroom was fairly full. It wasn’t bad for South Auckland. Flash as common room and bar upstairs, changing rooms, showers, gym and public toilets downstairs. People were huddled around low tables or hunched around bar leaners while staff hustled around serving at the bar. Poi E was thumping out of the speakers with people swinging to the beat where they stood.
Shit. Her ex was there squeezing his brother’s ex just on the edge of the dance floor. Huia didn’t want to know and back tracked to retreat. An arm wrapped around Huia’s shoulder and pulled her in to his side before she could side-step or avoid the hooker on the blind side. ‘What the fuck Stan?’
Her ex-sister-in-law pulled at the tall, gorgeous man with the blood-shot eyes and snarled at Huia. Her panda eyes were narrow slits.
"She still can’t get her tough bitch
look down even when she does
her best Chinese drawback"
Huia elbowed the offending chest as hard as she could. ‘So how’s your bro? Hemi should be out around Matariki, eh?’ Bastard had dumped her ages ago and he still wanted a free feel.
He just laughed at her nutting off, kanohi ki te kanohi. ‘Don’t be so hostile Huia, where’s the love? Just being friendly kare, not trying to get you naked on the dance floor.’ He made a big show of letting her go.
‘Here by yourself whaea, no new man in your life yet?’ The ex-sister-in law Misty scoffed at Huia. She posed like a leading lady in a movie, leggy and slim with firm olive skin and sexed out in a scarlet mini dress, white moto jacket and red booties.
‘Ho, ho, ho Misty. I’m only five years older than you,’ Huia bitched back, pissed off over how scruffy and old she looked in comparison. Even on her best day she’d been unable to compete. Idiot. I’m being mauled and bloody worrying about looking nice. She jabbed Stan in the stomach and pushed off.
He scowled, ‘Girl, you just sad.’ He rubbed a hand over his puku.
‘Yes. I miscarried four times Stan.’ Shit, why had she said that? Her head started to ache.
‘I never wanted kids anyway you know that,’ Stan looked hurt.
‘So you left me after I miscarried then banged Ana and got her hapū?’ her voice arched up like a fire siren. She bit down on her bottom lip to hold back more pointless words.
Stan stepped closer. ‘Ana lied to me.’
‘She lied three times before you finally realised,’ Huia laughed out loud. ‘You lied to me, you cheated on me. Fuck it all,’ she broke off angrily. ‘Time to get out of here.’ She’d fallen down the rabbit hole again.
‘I was stupid, young. Ana swore she was on the injection and I was just a dumb young buck.’ Stan looked away, ‘Besides the last one is not mine.’
‘Next you’ll be telling me that Hemi is the father and Ana had an affair with Misty,’ Huia muttered in a tired voice.
Misty hissed and slapped at her. Stan grabbed Misty.
Huia stared at both of them and heard herself say slowly, ‘That means in order to complete our partner swapping circle, I’d just need to have a revenge fuck with Hemi.’
‘Why the fuck did you say that for?’ Stan scowled at Huia, his face was tight.
Is he hurt? ‘Because, shit, I’m always the last to know.’ Huia threw them dirty looks and fled. Why the fuck had she come back from Oz?
She walked to Moody Bluez trying to shake her daze because she has to be careful, have some smarts as a chick out alone on the street. Notice what’s around, be cool, don’t look like a target. But she still can’t get her tough bitch look down even when she does her best Chinese drawback.
The friendly dude with the product in foil got surly at her negative head shake. ‘Straight up man, I haven’t got the green for dak,’ and just felt stink when she got hit up by the cuzz down on the street. ‘Sorry man, I don’t have a dollar or smokes, aroha mai.’
No-smoking laws throws nicotine users out on the street so you’d think it would be safer because there are more people around. But these include drunk people, what the fuck you lookin’ at? people and any female is just a cunt. Even wāhine would step you out if they decided they could take you down for smokes.
Outside Moody Bluez there were three bouncers and a herd of smokers yakking in the warm night. She caught a glimpse of the girls in a tribe of wanna-be groupies grouped around Pieter T. She cracked up at the thought of over thirty-somethings screaming My Baby at a teenage heart throb. Sitting on old bikes out on the footpath were five boys, who looked about 12-years old. Three small children in pyjamas stood in a half circle around a dark blue Mitsubishi.
"Even wāhine would step you
out if they decided they could
take you down for smokes"
The bar doors were wide open. Huia squinted through the dim lights towards the bling and blare of pokie machine and poly-reggae music pounding out, heavy on the bass. The smell was beer, smokes, toe jam and Impulse deodorant.
But her gaze was caught by the bright lights and crowd next door at the Chinese takeaway, a palace of fried fattening food sold cheap. The kai place was busy with brown people walking out with boxes of takeaways, mountains of food that smelt bloody good. Straight away, she was hungry and her puku was growling at her to go get some of that food sizzling under those dazzling lights. Yes, the kai would soothe the upsets of that night.
What’s a sad Polynesian girl to do? She followed the other sheep for fattening. Fried chicken wings, chips, won tons, lamb flaps, fried rice, potato, kūmara, pumpkin, fried noodles and stir fry vegetable, heavy on the MSG. She spent six dollars and walked out with a decent feed.
Sal and Tūī took one sniff of her kai and tried to tāhae it. She told them to keep sucking on their cancer sticks and let her eat her obesity diet. But no, in between puffs they were sticking their stinky hands in her feed; they stole the spoon and started gobbling up the 3 for $4.50 dish. When Huia finally got it back and wiped off their goobies, the kai stunk and tasted of smoke. Yuck! She threw it at them and went back to the kai palace to buy another feed, this time she decided to eat there.
Huia turned her face away when Sal and Tūī walked up to her window laughing and waving at her to come out. No way, she lifted up a crunchy chicken wing and munched it slowly in their faces. They banged on the window and flicked a picked nose. She stayed there eating; they were still smoking and couldn’t come in. Ha, ha.
"She cracked up at the thought of over
thirty-somethings screaming My Baby
at a teenage heart throb"
As she sat there like Princess Puhi, one of the kids hanging around the blue Mitsubishi walked up to the bouncers. The little girl in bright pink pyjamas with blue and green hearts whimpered and the biggest meanest looking bouncer walked back into the bar and reappeared some minutes later ushering a pretty brunette decked out in a slim fitting Rasta-coloured dress and low heel black boots.
The brunette walked towards the car as the kids rushed up towards her with relief on their faces. She asked a question of the biggest girl. The kotiro gazed at her with tree green eyes and pointed down the road. The woman threw up her hands, while the two smallest kids hugged her. She looked back towards the bar then sighed and hugged them back. Her friends came out and freaked.
Huia sidled out and over to join Sally and Tūī in eavesdropping.
The woman was resigned. ‘I didn’t bring them, I dropped them off to my fucking ex for the weekend.’
One of her friends, a bottle blonde in black jeans, red boob tube and ice pick heels, asked, ‘Did Stan just dump them?’
‘Bastard must of, there’s a fundraiser at the rugby club for the All Blacks game.’
‘Just leave them in the car for now, ‘til we go home,’ the bottle blonde said.
The mean looking bouncer coughed, crossed his arms and shook his head.
‘The bouncer already told me to take the kids home,’ rasta dress said.
‘Shit. Okay, I’ll grab a JD’s. Go get some kai for your kids and let’s just go home to party. Muz and some of the others will probably want to come too. Easy.’
The bottle blonde walked off to the liquor outlet. The mother grabbed the two smallest kids and turned to walk over to the kai palace and beckoned to the older girl to follow. She caught sight of Huia and stopped. ‘Oh, Huia!’ They stared at one another warily. ‘I thought you were still in Oz? When did you come back?’
‘Ana.’ Huia struggled for words. ‘Yeah, about a week ago.’ She looked at the three children and a heavy weight settled around her heart. ‘Umm . . . do you know Sally and Tūī?’
‘No, I don’t. Hi nice to meet you both.’ Ana lifted the hands of the two children she was holding. ‘You’ve never met my kids. These two are Paris and Cornell. Autumn is my oldest girl.’ The children nodded solemnly.
"Huia wanted the children
she had never been able to have"
Huia cleared her throat. ‘Kia ora koutou, hi. Pleased to meet you all.’
‘Huia, we need to talk. There’s lots I need to say.’
‘Okay Ana.’ Say something else dummy. An awkward silence ensured.
‘It’s been a long time Huia. Please come over sometime so we can talk.’
‘About what Ana?’ Gorgeous children with dark hair and green eyes.
‘We used to be friends Huia. I’ve missed you.’
‘Really? You had an affair with my tāne, got hapū to him. Did you miss me then?’
‘I’m sorry but no matter what, please know that I’m a good mother.’
Huia was unable to fill the silence and the kids started squirming.
The bottle blonde came back with a bottle of JDs and a six-pack of mixers, shaking them like maracas. ‘I got heaps of party pills, we going to go all night.’ Then she finally noticed Huia. ‘Shit, when did you get back?’
Ana spoke with forced cheer before Huia could reply. ‘Jax, take it easy, we all used to get along.’
Jax swore, ‘No we didn’t. What the hell, is this a private party for narcs?’
Huia threw back some ugly. ‘Only if you’re selling to minors.’
Ana’s face fell. Jax scowled at Huia and hefted the bottle of JDs. Tūī flicked her ciggie at her and growled, ‘Don’t even think it.’
Jax pushed the youngest girl away roughly. ‘Come on Ana, we gotta go.’
Huia was instantly contrite. Don’t hurt the kids! ‘Yeah, Ana. Yes whānau is important. You probably are a good mother.’
Ana gave a sick smile. ‘Come and see me, I’m just over in Barnard Place.’ she said as they walked into the takeaways.
An hour later, Huia found herself on the foot path outside a brown weatherboard state house. The lawn needed cutting, there were no gardens and it had a sliding door without curtains. It seemed strangely quiet but the outside light was on so she knocked. Three small bodies ran to the door.
"Huia breathed in their pain,
their need for their mother
and felt it sting far deeper than her old sorrow"
Huia gulped and introduced herself through the glass. ‘Kia ora, hi, remember me, I’m your Auntie Huia from Oz. We met earlier tonight.’ Paris, Autumn and Cornell stared at her. ‘Ah, could I talk to your mother please?’
‘Mummy’s not home,’ the oldest girl replied.
The simple statement hit her like a brick. ‘Is anyone home?
‘We’re not supposed to talk to anyone.’ The smallest child had started to cry.
‘You’re Autumn? Right?’ Huia asked.
The girl nodded.
‘I’m one of your Mum’s oldest friends. Back in the day we were besties. I’m an Auntie, can I come in and talk to all of you?’ That did the trick, they were lonely and scared and desperate for a mother figure on a lonely night.
She watched over them on an uncomfortable armchair as they fell asleep on the blanket-covered couch in front of the huge television. Huia ached the whole night, wishing they were hers, wondering how she would explain her being there to Ana.
The next morning Ana didn’t come back, the kids were confused and upset. Huia fed them, bathed them and decided to clean the house. She cooked plain meals, tried baking cookies, washed the huge stinking pile of laundry and pretended she was their mother, not Ana. The three children waited in front of the big living room window to watch for their mother.
But it was Stan who turned up in the afternoon. He was sober and sombre, a sign something was wrong. ‘Ana’s dead, both her and Jax. Some bastard they were with stuck her and Jax with a knife. I don’t know what to do or how to tell the kids. You’ll have to take care of it, I can’t.’ Like a thundercloud he dumped his misery and left.
She didn’t believe him, so she rang the cops to make sure. When asked if she was whānau, she replied ‘I’m her whāngai sister minding her kids.’ They informed her they had managed to leave a message with Stan but were unable to find her family.
‘She lost her whānau to a drunk driver over fifteen years ago, just before they were meant to move to Oz,’ Huia replied. ‘So it was just her.’ Ana had been seventeen and alone.
The kids were listening with terrified faces. Huia knelt before them on the bare living room floor trying not to sob as she told them. Autumn screamed no, no, no. Paris the youngest kept asking, ‘When’s Mummy coming home?’
Police turned up, social workers called, people came around, arrangements were made and Huia’s family arrived in silent reproach. A hui was held to arrange the funeral.
Ana came back two weeks later in a hearse and her kids crumbled into discarded petals. Their faces twisted in agony as they watched the coffin being laid on a mattress on the living room floor. The three huddled up to Ana, talking to her and shaking her, trying to nudge her awake. They suffered through those days like frail blossoms in a drought.
Huia wanted the children she had never been able to have. ‘I’m going to stay with you as long as you need me.’ She wove herself into their life story. ‘I came back from Australia to look after you three. Your Mum knew you would need me. Remember how she kept saying to me, we need to talk.’
They kept weeping. ‘We want Mummy,’ they begged and never stopped, desperate for their mother and scared of her being dead.
It had been the same for Ana when she had lost her whānau. But when she stole the boyfriend of her then best friend, Huia had demanded her family break all contact with Ana. She wanted Ana to be punished and ignored her Mother’s advice to forgive.
She held Ana’s motherless children, clasped the small bodies that trembled and heard the voices break. Huia breathed in their pain, their need for their mother and felt it sting far deeper than her old sorrow. I never grew up or forgave. But I’m home now. She looked at her one time bestie. ‘Thank you e hoa, they’re mine now.’