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Is this love? Baby, Don't Hurt me.

19TH OF JULY

Emma

I’m trying to recap on the events of the last couple of days and mostly the last few hours, and the truth is, I’m struggling to keep up.

The dude we’ve been traveling with turned out to be a God, not only that, but he saved my best friend’s life when she was only a child. Say, what?!

To make it all a bit more weird, his brother standing awkwardly in the corner of the room at the moment, is also a God. While Tane claims to be the Lord of the forest, keeper of birds and I don’t know what other crap, Rongo has said he is the God of peace. He is a mediator and peacemaker, and as if that wasn’t odd enough, he was the one to preside over his brother’s trial. The one where his brothers decided to turn Tane into a human, strip him of most of his power, and while at it, steal some of his memories so he wouldn’t know at first who Sam was.

Right, that would make a pretty good plot for a movie. At least it explains why these two guys are out-of-this-world-hot. Cliché, I know, but I can’t picture a God that’s not good looking. I guess at least stories got that little bit right.

Only because things can always get weirder, Tane explained that the reason why shit when tits in the woods, was because the Gods were trying to test Sam, so she would prove she was worthy of the fact that Tane saved her life… When she was barely a child! For fucks sake, Gods are fucked in the head.

Apparently, the one that had the idea was their brother Tu, God of war. Go figure, that was the only bit in this bucketload of craziness that didn’t surprise me. Men are always so damn violent. If I remember correctly, he’s the same one that suggested killing their parents in the story… I wonder if that part is also true.

Fuck, I wish I could give that Tu a piece of my mind.

“So, one thing I don’t understand,” I say after being in silence for a while listening to them talk while Sam and Tane stood awkwardly close together the whole time. “You said this other brother of yours.. Taw.. Something, he was the one to warn Sam and try to help her remember, right? Hence why she was having all those weird flashbacks?”

“Yes, Tawhiri,” both Tane and Rongo say at the same time.

“And he’s the God of weather, the one that causes storms and thunder?” I ask.

“He’s the one I saw in the sky on the plane, and then in the woods,” Sam says, and I still can’t believe she’s being so chill about all this weird shit that’s going on.

“The one who tried to kill you!” I yell, completely losing my shit. Tane takes a step back, but Rongo takes a step forward, towards me.

“He warned us because he didn’t want to do it,” Tane explains.

“Maybe we can go for a walk?” Rongo asks dubiously almost at the same time, offering me a hand. “Maybe we should leave Tane and Sam to talk about what happened?”

“Talk about-” My insides feel mushy, and a sense of calm washes over me.

I should go for a walk with Rongo.

“Stop doing that!” I yell at Rongo as soon as I realise what he’s up to. Tane explained how they can manipulate our feelings and memories, because that’s how he managed to make Sam forget about what happened in the woods back then; how he made her forget they’d ever met, how the God of the weather (Tahiti?) tried to return her memories. He said Sam completely forgetting about who her father was, was collateral damage. Pff, more bullshit.
I don’t know how I can tell that’s what Rongo’s doing to me, but the invasion of my personal self makes me feel even more outraged. I can see the guilt in his eyes as I pierce him with a death-stare.

“I will go if that’s what Sam wants,” I say as I look at my friend.

“You can go,” she smiles a little, clearly trying to reassure me that it’s okay.

“Fine, you do anything stupid,” I point a finger at Tane, “And you’ll regret it.”

With that, I walk out of the Marae, Rongo following a few steps behind me.

“I can answer any questions you might have,” he says after I’ve only taken a few steps.

“No, thank you,” I try to sound as polite as I can. “I need a dose of real world, the non-fantastical kind, you know,” I add with a grunt. With that, I leave him behind and walk away, fishing my phone out of my pocket and clicking onto the dating app.
There’s a few messages from Miguel already waiting for me, and I smile a little as I text him back and apologize for disappearing. It’s probably around 3 in the morning in Buenos Aires, as it’s barely past 7 in the afternoon here, but I’m hoping he had to work today and is still awake.

My answer comes 30 seconds later, as a message blinks on the screen.

Miguel: Hey! I’ve kind of missed you, how are you?

Emma: I’ve been better.

Miguel: Hmm… Do you want to talk about it?

Emma: I wouldn’t even know where to start.

I can’t just tell him what’s going on here, and to be honest, I need some normalcy. I don’t want to hear about Gods and punishments and trials anymore. I need a break from such craziness, all this godly shit making me feel tiny and insignificant.

Miguel: I just got out of work, I can call you if you want? We can just… talk about the weather?

Emma: …

Emma: Okay.

My phone rings, and my heart flutters as I pick up almost straight away.

“Miguel...” I play with a strand of my hair, twirling it around my index finger.

“Hola, Emma,” his tone is sweet, and hearing that one single word in spanish, brings me back to Buenos Aires in a second.

A tiny part of me wishes I could just take it all away, take this whole trip away and go back to being clueless about the mysteries of the world.

Maybe I took my adrenaline addiction too far. After what happened with Lucas, then Tane, now this whole brotherhood of godly brothers… I thought adventures were the best part of life, but I’ve never wished for some normal crap as much as I do right now. Watching Sam almost die at the hands of a God must have taken a toll on me, as I don’t even recognise myself.
Maybe I just need an hour to gather myself together, and then I’ll be fine.

“Tell me everything about your day,” I say into the phone. “I want to hear about your work and the horrible customers you had to deal with today.”

“Do you really?” Miguel’s voice asks from the other side of the line, and I can hear the noise of cars in the distance.
“I do, I want to hear it all.”

As I lay down on a patch of grass looking up to the sky and the few stars starting to show up, I wonder if he’s looking up too.

✢✢✢
Samantha

There’s still things I don’t fully understand, questions I should probably be asking. But standing here, my eyes locked with his, there’s only one thing that worries me.

“What’s wrong?” I ask him as I feel my brows tuck together.

“You seem… Like a new girl, Samantha Tutaki.” His tone is so soft, and hearing my father’s last name in his lips makes my heart jump a little.

A new girl? I guess I do feel like a new girl, like the truth has given me something I didn’t know I was missing. Something shifted inside of me when I woke, it’s as if... I feel whole again. And I can’t remember the last time I felt so calm, even with everything going on, with the craziness of the news, I feel more myself than I ever have.

“Maybe I am, I feel like you’ve given me back a piece of myself.” I say as I take another little step towards him.

His eyes are full of emotion, and he flinches, almost as if I’d slapped him. He composes himself back quickly though, and shakes his head slightly.

“I’m sorry I ever took it away from you, I shouldn’t have taken those memories from the accident away,” he says full of regret.

“Why did you do it?” I ask, finally voicing the question that has been burning a hole in my throat for the past half an hour, but one that I didn’t want to voice in front of anybody else.

“I just…” He runs a hand through his hair and looks up into the ceiling. “After the accident, I went to visit you a couple of times. I knew this was completely out of bounds, but I just couldn’t let go of you, there was something that kept calling me to check on you. Maybe I was just curious, but, I don’t know.”

I think I understand what he means, I felt compelled towards him since the first time I saw him, and I could never understand why. It was like there was a magnet pulling me towards him.

“You used to have nightmares,” he explains. “Every single night for a straight week, you cried yourself to sleep, and then you’d wake up screaming in the middle of the night. You remembered all of it, and watching your father die when you were so young, I was scared it’d corrupt you. I… I saw your soul, Sam, even from that tender age, you cared about others. You always did. You seemed so pure, so gentle in a way. I was also scared remembering me might put a target in your back.”

I step a little closer to him, slowly closing the gap between us. I could stretch an arm and touch him if I wanted to.

I want to.

“Are you the reason why I always felt so connected to Earth?” I ask instead.

“I’m not sure, it could have been the Koru, but I think it could’ve been my mother’s influence as well. The caring was all you though, you’re the one that wants a better world, that wants to help nature, that’s in your heart, Sam.” The way he says my name makes me take another half step closer. We’re so close together that I can feel his breath brushing my face as he speaks again. “You’re the sole reason for it. But, that feeling you get when you’re in the forest? I think that’s my mother, it’s her way of thanking you for caring about her.”

I think about everything that’s happened, and I decide I’m ready to ask the last question, the one no one was ready to ask before. The one that matters the most.
“Is it over?” I ask, and then I hold my breath, even if just for the second it takes for him to reply.

“I think so,” he replies gently, “You survived the test they put up for you, I think… I think you’ve proved yourself.” He doesn’t sound sure, but for now, it’s enough. It needs to be enough.

We look into each other’s eyes, our faces only a breath away and I can’t stop myself anymore. I lift a hand and place it against his chest, feeling his heartbeat under my palm.

“What will happen with you? Do you go back to your godly form now? Is this the last night we have together?” I tilt my head back a little bit more so I can read his expression.

I can’t place the emotion that passes quickly through his eyes, as it’s gone once he blinks.

“I think I can stay for a little, after all, you still have a little less than a week left in here, right? What kind of travel buddy would leave you now?” He has that cheeky smile that I’ve learned to love.

I smile back at him, my heart so full to think that we can spend at least a few days together, and I swear the world dissolves around him as a sudden rush runs through my veins when he places his hand on top of mine. I think I’m smiling like a child with a new toy as he holds my hand in his and leans down to kiss my knuckles.

“I would love for you to join us for the rest of our trip,” I say, almost out of breath.

I can feel something crack inside of him, his eyes going dark as he leans down once more. I’m glued to the spot when he rests our joined hands back against his chest and closes the distance between us. He presses his lips against mine sweetly, and my eyes close of their own accord.

I don’t think I move at first, too stunned to react as I feel his free hand resting against my waist tentatively. But then I part my lips slightly and I kiss him back. He lets go of my hand and moves to caress the side of my face with his thumb, making me feel like electricity has replaced my blood and is pumping through my veins.

I stand on my tiptoes and wrap my arms around his shoulders as I run my tongue across his bottom lip. His hands hold my waist and he lifts me up unexpectedly, making me gasp as I wrap my legs above his hips, our faces now at the same level, his hands holding me by my thighs.

I kiss him again, as if he’s the air I breathe, and the sensations running through my body are like nothing I’ve ever felt in my life. My heart is so full, it hurts.

“Sam,” he breathes into my mouth as our lips part only a few inches, “I…”

“Shhh,” I say as I caress his cheek with my thumb the same way he did mine only a few minutes ago.

I kiss him again, hungrily, as my hands tangle in his hair, and as a deep groan rumbles in the back of his throat, he walks backwards towards the bed until he falls into the mattress and I fall on top of him.

I giggle a little, feeling like a 16 year old again, and roll over to be by his side.

“No,” he says almost in a whisper as he wraps his arm around my waist and pulls me back up on top of him. “Right now, you’re in charge Sam,” he says.

As I look into his eyes, I know exactly what he means.

It’s as if words are not needed anymore, and everything I need to know about him, about us, is written in his eyes. He’s been in charge all his life, in charge of decisions, in charge of protecting me, in charge of saving my life, in charge of erasing my memories and keeping secrets from me. And I just know, like it’s something I’ve known forever, that in this little gesture, he’s giving all of that back to me. Giving me back the power to be in charge of my own life, in charge of the things I want to do. And see. And know.

His eyes are my window to the past, and a glimpse of the future.

And I think I could lose myself in those eyes forever.

I stretch upwards and he closes his eyes as if reading my intentions, allowing me to kiss his eyelids. First one, and then the other. Then I scoot back down and kiss his lips once more, shortly and softly as a I sit down, straddling on top of him.

“I’ve seen the world through your eyes, I’ve seen myself through your eyes,” I say. “You have given me back what I didn’t know I had lost.”

“I thought you’d hate me for it,” he whispers against my lips.

“I could never,” I say, and I mean it.
And then he kisses me passionately, as if this was the last day we had left on Earth.

✢✢✢
Tane

“Are you sure about this?” Rongo says in a whisper.

We’re standing by the door of the marae, both Sam and Emma soundly asleep on the bed, curled against each other.

“No, I’m not sure about anything, but what else am I supposed to do? I have no other options.”

“There’s always options, brother.”

I look back at Sam, at her body that’s curled up in a little ball on the bed, at the strand of orange hair falling halfway across her face. At the beautiful full lips that I got to kiss only a couple of hours ago. I sigh heavily.

“But this is the only one were she doesn’t get hurt.” I thought about every possible option, and if I could, I would put her in a plane and send her back to Argentina right this second, but I have no way of doing that.

“Tane,” Rongo sounds serious, but there’s a little sadness in his tone too. “You know I’m not allowed to vote, but I would have voted against it.”

“I know,” I say in a murmur. “I know.”

As Rongo walks away into the night, heading back over to the space between realms, I look back at Sam and walk slowly to her side. I wish I could offer her more. Wish my existance and stupid choices hadn’t put her in danger. I wish I had a way of protecting her forever, but I don’t. This is the best I can do.

I kiss her forehead one last time, before running out of the marae and losing myself in the darkness beyond the forest. If I’m lucky enough, I’ll outrun my brothers for a while.

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