This should be interesting
“Hi, mum, how are you doing?” I ask as the video call starts.
I can see her sitting in the lounge, her hair is up in a messy bun, and she has a cup of tea on the side table.
“Hi, sweetheart! I’m good! How are you?” She says a little bit too loud, like we’re miles away.
Which I guess we are. This is the first time I’ve ever been so far away from mum, and seeing her there at home while I’m sitting alone in a bedroom I don’t know... it feels a little weird.
“I’m good, really good,” I say.
“Are you sure? How are you coping with this change of schedule?”
“It’s okay mum, you don’t have to worry,” I say. Even though I told her a thousand times, I feel like she still doesn’t believe me.
“Sam…” She trails off and bites her lip.
“What is it, mum?” I ask, already feeling worried by her tone alone.
“The lawyer called again, and I wonder if you want to know what he said.”
She’s still chewing on her lip as she looks at me, and a part of me wishes this wasn’t a video, because I don’t like the look on my own face. I’m not sure if I want to or not, and I don’t have Emma here with me to help me decide, or help me deal with whatever mum might say.
“Is it good or bad news?” I ask after a moment.
“Depends on how you want to look at it, I guess,” she says. She grabs her cup of tea, and takes a long sip. I play with the cord from my hoodie; I tie a knot in it, and then undo it. I repeat the process over and over as I work through my options.
Which are basically just yes, or no. Do I want to know?
“I think I should tell you,” mum says after I’ve been silent for too long. “I think it might be good for you to know while you’re still there.”
I know I’m probably being unfair with mum, leaving her with the responsibility of dealing with this in my name while I just ignore the matter. But a part of me thinks it’s fair enough, considering how she kept information from me for so long. But that’s just me being resentful, and that’s not the kind of person I want to be.
“Okay," I say, "Just rip the bandage off quickly, please.” As soon as the words are out of my mouth, I hold my breath.
“Your grandfather was an investor, and he was into real estate,” mum says. “Which means that most of your inheritance is in the shape of properties... Houses, terrains, a beach house, and he’s got actions in a few hotels… Sam, are you okay?”
I don’t think I breathed since she started talking, so I release all the air really slowly as I process what I just heard. I feel a little dizzy, lack of oxygen probably messing with my brain.
“Yes, yes,” I think I am. “I’m fine,” I say.
“I can send you an email with all the information the lawyer sent me, there’s an address book there, and a whole bunch of information, I believe it won’t be under your name for another couple of months as they need to wait 6 months to release assets, but I thought you might want to look at some of them while you’re there.”
“Thanks, mum,” I say
After a few more words and a little goodbye, I hung up. I check the time, and see that it’s just after 11 in the morning. I check my phone, but there’s no messages there. I ponder what could possibly be taking Emma so long.
I type a quick text and ask her how she’s getting along with the rental. She’s meant to pick me up as soon as she has it so we can go out for some lunch, and then we’ll enjoy the day driving around the city and going up Mount Eden. Early in the morning tomorrow, we will drive over to the Coromandel peninsula, where we will stay for 2 nights at a cute beach house before starting the road trip due South.
My phone vibrates, and I check the message.
Em: Hey girl, it’s all sorted, but you should come over, I’m just down at the café in the corner of Queens and Victoria Street.
Well, that’s odd, I wonder why she’s not picking me up.
Sam: All good? Why the change? Don’t you worry me!
Em: Just come over, everything is good. A little change of plans won’t kill anybody. xoxo
I open up the map on my phone, and see that the cafe is literally a block away. So weird, why wouldn’t she just come up and get me? I put my computer away, grab a jacket, put on a woolen scarf and head downstairs.
I get to the street and see that the city is busy with people rushing one way and the other, big crowds of teenegers and young adults loudly talking and laughing.
There’s such a variety of cultures merging around the place. I spot a group of Indian gentlemen walking past with suits on, some white blonde kids running around their parents legs and wearing shorts despite the cold, and a multitude of asian teenegers that walk past me holding notebooks in their hands, probably heading to uni if I’d have to guess. I realize it has a nice feeling to it.
I walk out and spot another crowd that tugs at something inside me as my attention focuses on them. It’s a group of teens standing a few meters away, leaning over their bikes and chatting loudly. They are all wearing hoodies, hats and loose sneakers, and as their conversation drifts over to me I notice I can only understand half of what they’re saying through their thick accents. I’m pretty sure one every other word is slang, because I really have no idea what they are talking about. But that’s not why I’m staring at them as I walk past... It’s the familiarity of their features, and how much they look like… Well, me. Or maybe I look like them. They’re only a few years younger than me, and I can’t help but think if that’s how my life would have looked like if I grew up here.
They all have beautifully tanned skin in various shades, from light caramel and olive hues all the way to a dark rich brown. They all have wide and flattened noses and dark hair. I’m so used to always being the odd one, the one that doesn’t fit in, the one that looks different... But here and now, I realise I feel almost invisible instead of feeling like all eyes are on me. It’s a weird feeling, and it makes me wish I grew up in a country with a richer cultural mix, one with more tolerance. One where kids were taught from a young age that being different is not a bad thing, one where diversity was encouraged rather than frowned upon.
I finally reach the corner and walk into the café. I loosen the scarf as the heating hits me right on the face and warms me up instantly. I look around the crowded room, looking for Em’s blond curls.
I have to double take when I see her. What? Em is sitting at a table by the opposite wall, laughing as she talks with a tall Maori guy, who’s sitting with her. My feet feel cemented to the floor for a moment. I don’t know what to think of this or what to do, but then Em is looking at me, waving her arms in the air excitedly.
“Sammy! Come over!” She says happily and loudly as she stands up.
I walk slowly towards them, confusion still clouding my thoughts. The guy almost looks a bit uncomfortable when he looks at me, his eyebrows slightly tucked together. But he softens his features when he realises I’m looking back at him.
He stands up, his tall body towering over me and Em, and he smiles at me. His shoulders are broad, and I can’t help but think that he’s built like a football player. He’s got a sincere looking smile though, and I find myself staring at his plump lips, which have a perfect cupid’s bow. He looks a couple years older than us, but that could easily be due to his size.
“Sam, meet Tane,” says Em as I stand there waiting to figure out what’s going on, words still trapped in my throat. “Tane, this is my friend I talked to you about, Samantha.”
“Hi, nice to meet you,” he says in a casual tone, like we were meant to meet here or something… Like I know what’s going on.
He stretches his arm and shakes my hand. He’s warm to the touch, and his handshake is strong. I can almost feel electricity shooting up my arm, so I let go, and not knowing what to do, I put my hand in the back pocket of my jeans.
I feel like I’m meeting who seems to be Emma’s first crush from this trip, and I don’t know how to feel about it.
“Sit down,” says Em happily, obviously trying to subdue the weirdness of this moment. “Let’s get acquainted.”
With that, the three of us sit down. Em and Tane were facing each other before, which means I end up sting awkwardly in the middle. At least it’s a round tale, so I can scooch closer to Emma.
“So, who’s this?” I say as I finally manage to string some words together, and decide to ask the obvious question.
“As I said, this is Tane,” says Em in a happy tone. “He has kindly offered to share this trip with us.” The effort it takes to keep my face neutral is monumental. He, what? “He is from here, from New Zealand, but he has some family business to attend around the country, which is why he was heading on a little road trip. We’ve been chatting for a while,” she adds as she smiles at the guy. “His itinerary was not really planned, but he was thinking about going to both Rotorua and Christchurch, which is perfect for us, so I thought this was meant to be!” Em is talking pretty fast, and despite the fact that she’s trying to seem calm, I can see the nervousness hiding underneath her cool mask. “He agreed to follow our itinerary, so we can all enjoy this trip together and share the road! We don’t have to do the same activities or anything, but we can share the load of the driving as well as the cost of the car rental, which is amazing, right?”
Em finally runs out of words, and an odd silence settles over us. Tane was nodding a bit while she talked, but I think he can sense my unhappiness because now he’s just looking down as he fidgets with his cup of coffee. A ghost of a smile tugs on his lips as his eyes dart to me, but he remains with his head down. I look away and stare at Em, who's looking back and forth between me and Tane, like she doesn't know who to look at. Not knowing what I’m supposed to say or do, I decide that it’s the perfect time to fight or flight.
“I really need to go to the toilet,” I say as I stand up, “I’ll be right back.” And with that, I get up and flight.
The bathroom door hasn’t even fully closed behind me when Emma enters the room.
“Are you all good, Sammy?” she says as I hear the door shut. I have my back to her, but I can hear the uncertainty in her tone. And she only calls me Sammy when she needs a favour, or when we’re arguing about something.
“Am I-” I can’t even put my words together. “Am I good?,” I finally spit. Am I? I don’t even know how to feel or what to think. I’m pissed off, yes, that’s what I am. I turn around and look at Em, she looks worried and lost for words. “I don’t know Em, I’m confused, can you explain to me what’s actually going on here?”
I simply can’t comprehend why she would invite a random guy onto our trip. She knows how much this matters to me, and I’m already on edge. I don’t need a guy getting stuck in the middle. I don’t need to feel vulnerable and broken in front of someone I don’t even know.
Em looks ashamed as I stare, and I think for a moment that I can see tears pooling in her eyes, but then she blinks and composes herself.
“I’m sorry Sam, I suck,” she says as she lifts her arms in apology, “I fucked up, big time. The rental place had no more cars, and I freaked out for a moment, but it was meant to be!” she says, now sounding a little excited, “Tane was there, in the right place at the right time, and he was heading the same places we are... He has rented the car for a couple of weeks, and ‘cause he’s from here, I thought maybe we could have a better insight on the culture?”
I struggle to keep my face neutral. It’s so hard to be mad at Em when I know she’s always trying her best.
“I just think this is all too weird, Em,” I say.
“Sam!,” Em is beaming now, “Have you actually looked at the guy?! He is the kind of hot chocolate I like!” She says as she smiles widely.
“With three spoonfuls,” I say in a resigned tone, but then I can’t help but laugh.
“Exactly! Imagine his abs,” she adds, “More than a 6 pack, I’m sure it’ll look like a whole delicious chocolate bar!” she says as she nudges me in the shoulder.
I have to laugh at that, and some of my annoyance goes away. I try to think the way Emma does, what’s the worst thing that can happen? We end up kidnapped and dead in a ditch… Yeah, okay, maybe that doesn’t work for me. But it’s two of us and only one of him… One big, muscly guy. Okay, I can do this. I can give this a chance, a tiny little chance at least. It’s the whole idea of this trip after all, letting go of my worries and actually doing something that I normally wouldn’t do.
“Okay...” I say after a moment. “We can give your plan a go,” Em starts to clap excitedly, so I cut her off. “But,” I say abruptly, “If it feels weird or doesn’t work out, if anything seems fishy at any point, then we’ll find another rental car in some other city. Even if it means being stranded there for a day or two and fucking up my perfect itinerary.”
Emily shrieks excitedly and engulfs me in a bear hug.
“I’m so proud of you!” She says as she lets go. “Let’s go get to know this guy a little better, shall we?”
As I lie awake at night, I have more questions than answers.
I don’t know what I was expecting when I went to rent the car, but encountering Emma and Samantha was definitely not what I had portrayed in my mind. After our weird chat at the café, I'm left with jumbled feelings.
Emma is a bright and happy girl, at least on the surface. There was something puzzling in her eyes that I couldn’t quite pinpoint as well as a weird feel around her. She talked a lot, which was good, as it provided me with a lot of information about these girls. And Samantha… She is definitely a riddle.
As soon as I think about riddles, my hand automatically darts to my pocket and fishes out the piece of yellowish parchment there. I unfold it slowly, and look at it without reading, as the words are already branded in my brain.
The Moon will find you,
If you just let it be.
A journey will take you,
close to the sea.
I think Moon already found me, so I guess it’s time to head to the beach.