Chapter One: The First Few Days
The accident happened over there, outside the high school gymnasium. It was late and the ball was just about to wrap up, nearly midnight actually which I thought was really late, for the junior ball. What an awesome time though. Martin had asked me to be his partner, I didn’t even know he still liked me and it was a bit of a surprise, a pleasant one at that. He may not have been the hottest boy in school but he was a nice guy and I had known him since our kindergarten days, so I knew he could be trusted. And to see him up there on the stage with the other kapahaka’s, doing the welcome haka before it all started, was electric! I had to control my squeals at the sight of this powerful, bronzed god, unlike some of the twelvies’ there, at the ball! Gosh, they let it all out sometimes! I was so glad I was not one of them anymore; giggly, immature things! OMG, surely, I was never like that?
He had his shirt off, like all the boys (although I only had my eyes on him) and he was slapping his chest and thighs, then thumping his foot as they called out in unison, a team to be reckoned with…
Ā, tōia mai,
Ki te urunga,
Ki te moenga,
Ki te takoto rungai,
Te waka! Hi!
They were reaching down to Rangi and pulling up to Papa, the earth and sky gods of Maori legend, all the while drawing us, the attendees into the ball, as if it were a dramatic scene from the days of old.
His chest was getting quite red from the constant slapping — two handprints — upon his chest! Beautiful. Soon, they were pulling us in like a virtual waka, that would have been dragged up onto the shore with an imaginary rope, during each ‘Te waka’ call, and they welcomed us in… to the evening that would change my life permanently.
As I sucked in my breath and then blew it out, exhilarated, I was imagining my hands pressing upon those two pink marks that glowed shiny from his heaving chest and I let my mind wander – exploring this magnificent boy – lifting away the pink bruising from him and absorbing his passion into myself.
He was popular enough to be a good partner, and could even dance well, better than me actually. Besides, most of the popular guys were jerks. They only wanted one thing, and I was just thirteen (I would have been turning fourteen in a few months). Besides, that was way too young to be doing that! However, I liked him and I didn’t care what the boring adults thought of us anyway. Dumb adults, probably don’t think we even know anything about such things as SEX.
Well, I needn’t worry about that sort of thing anymore. It will never happen, and I will never, ever be able to walk down the aisle to be given away by my Dad. I will never be able to wear a pretty white dress and mean it – you know what that means – wearing it as a sign of purity. Heck, I won’t even be able to walk down the aisle and not mean it; not anymore anyway!
Well, at least I had a kiss, even if it was only one – one kiss, which was wonderful! I had not kissed a boy like that before so I was nervous, but I was dying to give him something he would never forget. I wanted to know what it was like to be a woman, not just a silly girl. Our lips brushed together and I felt an aching inside me, a sensation I had not realised was there before. It was a burning desire, to be further awakened in a little while. Sadly, it never will be.
It all changed then – my life that is – behind those trees between the gym and the cul–de–sac. The cul–de–sac is where the school buses drop the kids off in the morning and then collect them at the end of the day after school.
I heard it first, before I felt it; that menacing roar of an engine. I don’t know how, but some of the boys had managed to get a bit of booze into the ball, or maybe it was their older brothers, coming to pick their younger siblings up, who knows. Whoever they were, they were stupid-drunk.
They were spinning the tyres up on our school tennis courts. Boy, if they had been caught, they would have definitely been expelled. Suddenly the roar was pitched louder and then it was nearly upon us, tearing between the gym and the bush, right at us. So much for hiding! At least it worked, no one even knew we were there. But perhaps it might have been good if they had known.
Boom! Suddenly we were flying through the air and pain shot through my body like an explosion. My limbs were out of control and then they were snapped out of shape against the ground, into a twisted mess. It was the headlights that I noticed next, blinding me, before I was forced face down into the dirt. After that, it all became a blur. However, I do remember some of the things that went on during those moments… it was becoming cold and I was sure I could see blood over my own eyes. I wiped it away and just lay there for a moment until the ambulance came. It seemed to arrive incredibly quickly, and the police came too.
The paramedics picked Martin up and lifted him into the back of the ambulance on one of those folding stretchers. I jumped into the ambulance and plonked myself down, next to him. He was the one I yearned for and I hoped he was all right.
Before I got in the ambulance, I remember looking around at the scene of carnage and confused teenagers, all swapping their various stories of what they had seen. I thought I was looking at another girl, lying on the ground near the bushes, where me and Martin had been. I thought it might have been Elizabeth, but I couldn’t tell, as her back was towards us and the boys were surrounding the car, trying to pull it off her.
Elizabeth had got on my goat that evening as she had worn almost the same ball gown as I had. It was a peacock-style, in green waffle fabric, and sleeveless. What an incredible dress it was, with six buttons in a row holding in all of my 8AA boobs! Now that was embarrassing! Not the dress, it was amazing; no, my non-existent boobs.
The difference though between my dress and Elizabeth’s, was that she had something behind those six buttons! Actually, she had too much. We had always teased her about her huge breasts. We called her Elizabreast! Nasty eh? I wished that we hadn’t. She was a nice girl, just – well – too endowed. I felt awful, once I figured out that it might have been her lying there under that car, and not me. It was all so sudden and confusing, hard to imagine.
The ambulance officer checked her vitals over and then I realised something, they did not put her into the ambulance for some reason. Was she dead? Maybe another ambulance was on its way, I didn’t know. All I could think of was how badly Martin had been hurt.
I sat next to him and saw how bloodied his head was. He looked a mess with dirt and blood running down his bronzed, broad nose and tracing round his gorgeous full cheek bones. Some bones in his body would have been broken, for sure. However, I didn’t seem to be broken. In fact, I didn’t feel much at all, just cold, really cold. Martin must have swung himself around to bear most of the impact, protecting me. My knight in shining armour, well in this case a longer tailed – gorgeous deep green, perfectly matched with my ball gown – tuxedo.
I kept talking to him, with tear filled eyes, “You’re going to be okay. The paramedics are doing a great job. Don’t give up. I don’t want to lose you!” I felt tears stinging my eyes. I was shivering, I couldn’t keep warm; it was like heat was seeping out of me and dripping away, along with my tears.
In the hospital, he was in and out of consciousness. I felt better when he spoke with me. However, I only got bursts of conversation with him on the first day. The next day, I didn’t get anything but I stayed with him, while he was recovering. It took me a while to get anyone’s attention. I suppose the doctors and the nurses were so busy, and more concerned with his injuries so, I guess mine were of no significance. I never got any of their attention actually. Curious.
After I got bored and had had enough of waiting for my knight to speak with me, I wandered the corridors and some of the other patients spoke with me – just basic chit chat – but it was only the really knocked up patients; those with smashed in heads, or the others who were emaciated, as if they were starving to death and some old folks too. No one else spoke to me, not even the doctors.
I went into one area of the hospital. It must have been the surgery theatre because there were only patients being wheeled in, while they were on their beds, all sterile looking. One woman I followed, was wheeled into a room with all these bright lights and she had medical instruments wired up to her and around her. I just walked right in and no one stopped me. It was like I wasn’t even there. Anyway, the doctor did some surgery under a sheet, that I couldn’t see over the top of. I heard the sounds of a vacuum and a baby crying, really stressed like. After a few minutes of the heart wrenching raucous noise, she stopped. I could tell by the cry, that it was a baby girl – I’m not quite sure how – and then I saw her, looking at me. Yep, she was a girl. She was so tiny and her eyes were blue, bright and intelligent. She even gave me a cute little smile; that was before they plonked her broken up pieces onto the stainless-steel table. They were not even concerned about hurting her and then they just wheeled her away.
I followed and wished I hadn’t; it made me sick to see what they did with her. They just scraped her into a bucket! “Oh no! What have you done?” I rushed over to have a look into the bucket, but there was a huge flash of light, like the glint of a sword or a mirror and it stunned my eyes. When I recovered, she wasn’t there anymore, just lots of meaty stuff, fresh and warm. I had to get out of there and fast, it was disgusting. That was the first time I asked myself – am I still alive?
I saw those totally banged up people again, on my way back to Martin’s room. They looked at me as if wanting to chat again. One person who had a screwdriver stuck into his temple, spoke with me though, a lot. He was in the same room as Martin, so I couldn’t exactly ignore him... gosh, I’m not that rude.
He was telling me about his ex-girlfriend and how much he loved her, but she went off with one of his friends. He was peeved off, as can be expected but seriously hurting too. He seemed to be a nice enough guy. I think he was trying to chat me up, but someone with a screwdriver sticking out of his head, just didn’t do it for me, I don’t know why, lol! Finally, the doctors came and pulled the screwdriver out, which seemed to give him huge relief. He didn’t look too bad, minus the hardware. They wheeled him away and then he got up and walked out with them, next to his own bed. Weird; so, there I was left wondering, what the heck is going on? I didn’t know, nor did I want to know. But it was becoming obvious.
Eventually, any bursts of conversation faded and the doctors departed, leaving me to continue my silent vigil next to Martin, hoping and praying he would recover safely.
Martin’s parents came a couple of times, but didn’t even see me. Mind you, I don’t think they knew about us anyway, or about our first (and only) kiss. Oh, if only we’d had more time together, maybe we could have gotten even further. I don’t think they knew of my interest in their amazingly gorgeous son, at all. Sure, they knew me from kindergarten but we hadn’t spoken for a few years.
After the third day, I saw a beautiful Maori girl who could actually see me and she walked right up to me. Her brown skin was smooth, almost shining. Her dark eyes, were piercing and looked aged but freakishly young; she had a typical Maori moko, tattooed on her chin and was dressed in the traditional Maori costume with the red, white and black designs all over her pari, or bodice. She didn’t wear the traditional pui pui, or grass skirt though, but wore a plain, pleated black skirt instead, she was barefoot. Around her locks of raven hair, she wore a narrow tipare, with the same sort of colourful designs as her pari, it had two huia bird feathers poking up out of it. Her hair was long and looked like the pitch black of dark waves, that an enthusiastic surfer could only dream of tunneling. She wore a tiki made of deep, jade green-stone, which looked amazing around her neck; her hair danced and embraced it with coarse, yet slender fingers. She beckoned me to come with her, to follow her. Martin hadn’t spoken to me for two days by then and I was feeling pretty lonely. It was like he didn’t seem to recognise me, or even know I was there, fat lot of good that did to my self-esteem.
The girl was urgent and began to run down the corridor. “Haere mai. Come on, come,” she mouthed. What? Why? Anyway, I was bored and so I got up and ran after her, following her. What did she want? Who was she anyway?
She disappeared, through the window at the end of the corridor. How could I possibly follow her through there? I stopped near the thick glass and wondered where she had disappeared to, then she startled me, as she poked her head back through the glass at me. Her full red-brown lips mouthed again, “Come along silly girl, follow me. You’ll be all right.” How rude! I wasn’t silly! Still, I was curious where she wanted to take me. The only trouble was the window had been fixed into its frame, five–stories up! How could I jump down there, how could I even get through the glass, without smashing it with a chair or something? Now who was the silly girl? I thought. But no, she was suddenly down there, on the street perfectly fine and looking up at me… beckoning for me to keep following. I pushed my nose against the glass, to try and see the emergency fire-stairs she must have taken. Suddenly, I was on the other side of the glass and falling! Well, if the car hadn’t killed me earlier on, I thought, I was about to die then!
There was not a splat, a bang or any crunching impact that I was expecting. I simply landed on my feet as delicate as any feather would have landed. What was it with this hospital, and that girl? What was it with me? I stood there, totally confused. I must have looked like a bright button... not! Had I lost the plot? Did I take a hit to the head that had left me in some dream–like state, or was I really gone? Dead!
Suddenly, we were running but I couldn’t keep up with her. I ran faster, trying to catch up, while she waited. As we ran along the road we passed cars and trucks that were driving up the hill. It seemed like she had disappeared into one of the cars. Where had she gone? There was a fork in the road and I didn’t know which one to take. Freakishly, she reappeared again, from out of the mirror of the car directly in front of me. I nearly ran right into her, but she simply spun to my side and ran on again with me.
We took the left fork, and ahead of us the road arched further, round a bend. The roadside became a bank, covered with thick bush along the top.
“We’ll take the forest,” she said to me in a musical tone, “It will be a nicer route.”
“Route, where to?”
“Oh, don’t worry, I’ll look after you. I remember my first few days too, so long ago.” First few days, first days for what? We scaled the bank effortlessly and plunged into the thick bush. It was exhilarating to breeze between the trees. I thought the branches would smack me, in the face or trip me over, but they didn’t touch me. We just kept on running, swiftly.
I lost track of the beautiful girl again as I slowed and noticed another girl, with a boy. Both of them were nearly naked, lying on a red blanket, they were kissing each other. I stopped to watch them for a moment and they didn’t even notice I was there. Why wasn’t that Martin and me doing something like that? I broke away, feeling like a pervert and then it started to rain, lightly.
She caught me by my arm, “Come on silly girl, keep running. We’re nearly there.” Nearly where?
We broke out of the forest, into an area where the grass was well cared for. It had been mowed, regularly around mounds and headstones with memories and words scoured into them. Names I did not know, of people I’d never heard of.
Over the far side, I saw a group of people I did know. Aunties, uncles, cousins and friends. Mum was there too, and Dad. He was holding my little brother in his arms. I also saw my twelve–year–old little sister standing next to them.
There was a large pile, of something I couldn’t quite see, stacked next to them and it had been covered in a blue tarpaulin. What were they doing? Who were they looking at?
The girl, with her raven hair (oh why can’t I have hair like that?) was already over there, as they all stood, solemnly dressed mostly in black.
“Come on, hurry up!” she beckoned. As I got closer I finally knew what was going on. Next to the pile was a deep hole in the dirt. On poles above the hole, sat a box, quite a pretty box too. It was painted in lovely royal blue (my favourite colour), with brass poles running along each side and flowers all around.
Just as they were about to put on the lid for the final time, I caught a glimpse of what looked like my ball gown, inside the box and some lovely young, redheaded girl was dressed in it. At first, I couldn’t quite recognise her, although she looked a lot like me – but her hair was brushed wrong and she looked more sort of – empty. Her face wasn’t right – it was caved in a little – with the teeth, pressing too close to her thin, painted lips. Makeup had been applied, but it wasn’t the correct tone, too pink and less creamy white, it was all wrong – unnatural.
My hands came to my mouth, holding in sobs as tears began to flow freely, and I looked at the girl who’d brought me here. I fixed my watery gaze full into her brown, moko–tattooed face and asked, a dread filled question, “Is that me?” The answer she gave me, had my head reeling.
“Well, that’s your body in there... but you’re still here.”